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Armchair Game Design Discussion thread

So there’s a lot of threads here that get into the ethics of modern game design, but I don’t often see a lot of mechanical or player targeting discussion along the same lines. It’d be great to see more of it if that’s something you guys would be interested in.

For example, we all know by now that time gating and lootboxes suck etc, but what if you’re designing a free to play title, and you MUST choose a monetization method. Player customization isn’t an option due to the nature of the game, so which one do you think would be a more ethical design modification?

  • Selling Quality of life improvements (remote bank access, gathering crafting automation, etc) as premium features
  • Gating PVP or events behind a rare drop that you can purchase

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hard choice right?

People don’t often think about a game’s features or systems in terms of the design realities, but more often reduce it to like/dislike. I want to start discussions on questions like:

Would removing tail cuts from dark souls improve the game? (the majority of the enemies that incorporate this mechanic are generally far less fun to fight when going for the tail cut item, and none of them are really that great)

How could we revise or improve upon the stealth mechanics in the MGS series?"

How many optional systems can you remove from, say, Fortnite, and still retain or refine the experience in a positive way?

the more we can frame game design as players in terms of the systems that make up a game as a whole, and think about why decisions were made the way they were, the better. Please discuss or propose other questions below.

Is there a way to fix 3D Sonic? Or is sonic a purpose built 2D platformer from the 90’s?

Pizza titan ultra and games like it are pretty much the answer to that IMO

Sonic’s core is momentum, and for some reason the 3d team can’t get the idea that skippable combat targets are OK

Instead of trying to integrate combat into the platforming/runner system, they split it more and more with each iteration until it transitioned from a gameplay loop slowdown to a complete interruption.

You’d have to solve this by either a) de-emphasizing combat entirely or b) making each stage more open and interconnected while keeping the combat, but depriving the enemies of crowd control moves, or making kills generate some sort of momentum bonus.

Sadly sega hasn’t really put a lot of design chops behind the 3d titles past a technical level in the more modern ones.

check this out

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not off topic at all as long as you can at least outline the mechanics and design decisions that make it a solution.

This seems to be a fan game with 1) de-emphasized combat and 2) an “earn your speed” approach to the momentum platforming

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Felt much more like the 2d sonic games with a 3d approach. The way you moved your character with the mouse and gained momentum felt like they were a perfect fit for the series.

Not sure how well you could get all of the mechanics and whatnot to run on N64 era hardware. Texturing everything that you would need to texture to make it look like a sonic game would put the hardware under serious pressure

interesting you bring up hardware limitations, even mario scaled back level size in the jump to 3d. I think this is a core reason why sonic fell off, but the IP did just suffer from team rot at some point too.

3d world tries to get around this by limiting the scope, but it changed the sonic formula too much.

SM64 was only able to be 3d because the art style mostly allowed for solid colors with a few textures here and there.

Sonic also fell off because sega was mostly known as the sports/fighting style of console where if you wanted platformers than nintendo was the way to go.

It also suffered from a loss of direction because 3d was still really new in the gaming space so we didnt know of any best practices for stuff like controllers. Mario is easy to scale into 3d because platformers and the game being laid out on a grid. Sonic is much harder todo because its designed around being 2d. imagine having todo to control sonic with sm64 controls

do you mean 3d blast? I actually kinda enjoyed that game as a kid. But yeah it did change the formula too much to represent a true sonic game.

If we are talking about quality of life improvements like balance patches or balance patches I would rather keep those free, and have devs make money from events instead of premium features

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I wouldn’t put this all down to marketing. I think it’s much harder to transition a title known for its expansive stages to a proto-3d platform than it is for one that’s known for its tight jumping and controls.

also yeah I meant 3d blast

no, I listed some examples in the poll. Things that streamline or lower the time preference on some of the game mechanics, not basic codebase updates

Regarding Game Storytelling, Here’s another question:

Dark souls was never meant to have a sequel, as confirmed by the designers on several occasions. This shows through most in the storytelling, where by the 3rd game, it’s so self-referential as to be bad to the point of unintentional parody. Without changing the setting (from 1) what direction do you think they could have taken the sequels that would make the story better?

Most games are never meant to have sequels. Even when they do they tend to go a completely different direction.

Look at the portal series. Portal 1 had just enough story to tell you what was going on while portal 2 was forced to explore those rather few bits of story and ended up feeling like more of the same

I would argue that this matters far more in games with dense narrative content. Portal is 99% exploration of the original gnarbacular drop mechanic, and 1% humorous window dressing. Portal 2 was a co-op mode prototype that they fleshed out sold as a full title because “hey, we’re valve, we can get away with it”

In contrast, dark souls’ storytelling in the sequels is bad because they don’t take a different direction. Instead of fleshing out the setting in meaningful ways, they iterate on the same design and story arc with heavy references to the previous games in a way that makes them “clapped when I saw it” as possible.

Also with reference to

while this is true, Miyazaki was forced to sign a deal for 2 more titles in the series to become president of the company. the studio was already working on other titles at the time. Case of forced vs. unplanned.

The way I see it, there’s probably only 2 positive directions they could have gone:

Option 1: go big (and back)

If you wanted a bigger sense of scale and power, you could simply set the next game back in time, in much the same way as the DLC. We know the world is dying in the 1st one, so it follows that everyone is more alive/more present/stronger in the past.

Not only that, but the 1st game’s conflict is between the light and dark souls, and pretty much just glosses over the fact that there’s 2 other diametrically opposed forces in the lore (life vs. death, nito vs. the witches) – this could serve as a fresh conflict, as any power struggle between the two would have to happen before the demon corruption and the necromancer’s enslavement of nito. Hell, you could even go as far back as the great trees and dragons if you wanted.

Option 2: Go Small (and away)

We’ve already established that there are different continents (and that time travel is a thing) so why not make the sequel a meta-narrative that revolves around either the impact of the 1st game on the other regions of the world, or a dimension hopping romp where both endings are canon and for some reason your character can jump between the light and dark dominant realities (like majora’s mask phases etc.)

The goal would be to mend the fractured timeline and/or the other region’s broken ways of life. You let the more human narratives shine and let the lore serve as a back drop rather than a product, and play a positive influence instead of a destructive one. This would a) lend some interest to all the random cultures mentioned and b) cast the original protagonist as a crazy asshole, which if done well is a great hook with a human angle

I guess I would have to change my poll answers. My original idea was from a fps prespective(Team Fortress 2, Quake Champions, Overwatch).

I haven’t had a lot of MMO or games from other generes so I guess features that remove grinding can be premium.

In TF2 being premium (usually spending money through the store) allows for players to trade and have a bigger backpack for items.

The crafting system was used more often before trading became big. At the current moment it is far easier to trade an item than it is to craft for one.

In Quake Champions, if you don’t buy the champions pack you are limited to a single champion and you can’t make custom games. If you want to play or own the champions you either buy the champions pack or grind out in game currency(either by completing rune challenges or just from finishing matches).

Overwatch makes most of its money through lootbox purchases for limited time skins and events. Once an event is over the game mode and skins are usually locked up until an the anniversary event or some other event.

the reason I posed that question in the poll is that both depend heavily on implementation, but the ethics remain the same.

You could technically call what mobile games do with freemium in game tokens as quality of life improvements, and you could technically call pay to win expansions pvp/event content.

The point is that the focus here is on good design rather than just the ethics of the situation, and that through good game design, the ethics don’t necessarily have to be an issue.

Typically bad actors in game dev intentionally compromise good systems to monetize rather than building a pay model that enhances existing content.

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It would honestly depend on how the grinding is changed. Is it like your standard android game where you are rate limited on what you can do or is it more like reducing the amount X you need for quest Y to get rid of the grind

that’s why I posed the question the way I did. I want people that play games to think in terms of design rather than just feel and ethics.

e.g. Guild wars 2 and WoW both offer premium items that automate resource collection, that just remove the need to manually pick up nearby drops/resource nodes. this enhances an integral system. Freemium titles throw up huge time/grind walls to get you to buy to circumvent the system they set up.

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They dont even really remove them. They just let you pay to get around some restriction on a one-time use basis. Its not pay $5 to remove wait times, its pay $5 to remove the wait timer on this castle or whatever. I would be much more open to freemium games if they were not freemium to the core. Once you remove the freemium aspect all you are left with is a mediocre game at best and a completely level playing field

that’s what I’m saying. The system is never going away, but it’s so unfun that you’re incentivised to pay your way around it.

The system is still the system though. since you (the player) can’t change the system, recognizing what makes up the system and the motivations behind its features is critical to understanding what makes a game good or bad, and is the base layer for the ethics.

I wouldnt quite say that. either android piracy is going to hit its sweet spot or someone is going to find a creative way to turn free games into profit. Either way its going to force game studios to rethink the strategy on turning a profit

Immovable object (the system) vs unstoppable force ( something kicking off )

the system as in the mechanics that comprise the game design, not the system of software marketing and distribution that promotes freemium systems.

the system that promotes freemium and lootbox stuff is capitalism, and that’s a whole other discussion

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