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  • Game model alterations to relieve the urge to reload after one Marine dies.

    The 'This Mod Rocks' Paragraph
    This paragraph is simply here to explain that I honestly think this is the best single player (and possibly multiplayer) total conversion/modification of any FPS game that has ever been released. Coming from me, this is pretty substantial as I've played hundreds of modifications for both Unreal games and Quake games. I won't gush anymore on my approval of the mod, because I'm sure they already know that they made something very special here.

    Summary of This Huge Post
    In this thread I'd like to point out and discuss different possible game models and how they allow the player to either get very attached to the characters, or even how to allow the player to NOT get attached, in the name of fun game design. I believe the current game model needs some tweaking, and this post is my suggested solutions for said tweaking.

    Here's what the game currently has as a model:

    Current Model: Leave None Behind
    1) Limited marines (8), 2 of each class.
    2) Death is permanent.
    3) Skill points are given to surviving marines post mission which enhance abilities in the field.
    4) You may only save the game state at the end of successful missions.

    The problem with this model is that all 4 of these together mean that the majority of gamers are going to continue to replay missions until they can have all their team members survive. Here's why:

    A limited number of characters you can carry through the whole campaign means that letting just 1 die means you are going into the next mission substantially weaker (at least in looking at the odds). The option to replay the mission is given to the player, so it can be assumed that it is in their best interest to retry the mission and keep everyone safe.

    The use of "role-playing elements" to give players a sense of reward for their passed efforts is definately a grand design feature, but it also causes players to be very attached to the characters... so much so that if the player has spent any skill points on a character at all, they will reload and retry until that particular character survives the mission, not only to save the progress they've made so far, but also to continue to beef up those ability scores. This also means that if a character (even in the first mission) does not survive, then there is wasted skill points that could have been used to increase the power of your Marines.

    And finally, having save games only be available at the end of missions is an excellent way to enforce the importance for players to be careful so that they do not have to start the mission over, but because of the above mentioned points, most players will restart the second any Marine kicks the bucket regardless... which means they may spend a very long amount of time replaying the same early sections of a map over and over (which goes from fun to annoying in very little time).

    All of these premises individually do enhance good gameplay models... but not all in the same game. Here are some alternative uses of SOME of the premises that would help make Alien Swarm Single Player much more enjoyable than it already is:

    Model A: You Are Not a Unique Snowflake
    1) Limited number of characters (8), 2 of each class.
    2) Death is permanent.
    3) Save only at the end of the mission.
    4) Increased player power is through technology, not ability (skill points are not given, but 'items' can be used to increase the abilities of all surviving Marines).

    1-3 are in the current model. The difference, of course, is that instead of awarding surviving Marines with skill points (which make their lives more important than they should be), technology is used to increase abilities of any available Marines in the form of cybernetic inhancements, drugs, and basic equipment (guns do more damage, reload faster, etc.). This means that instead of feeling trapped into replaying every mission until you get it perfect, you can pretend that you have a group of 8 hardcore Marines that are all you have to finish all the missions.

    An added feature to make this even more interesting would be that technology enhancements could be attained monetarily by things that the team finds on missions (this means to get the rewards for future missions, only ONE Marine has to survive the current mission to get the goods out alive).

    The downside of this model, of course, is that it means you'd have to completely rework the skill point system (i.e. destroy it) and come up with a completely new system involving perhaps monetary gains, purchasing equipement, etc. etc. Perhaps something else...

    Model B: Creep and Save to the Rescue
    1) Limited number of characters.
    2) Death is Permanent (unless you reload).
    3) Skill point accumulation based on experience and survival.
    4) Save games are available at specfic points in each level (preferably just before a particularly difficult section).*

    *Or you can go lazy and simply allow players to save ANYWHERE... but that isn't nearly as suspensful.

    Again the difference is the 4th premise here. You can make the savepoints/checkpoints simply a trigger that you cross just before a hard part of a map and autosaves that particular checkpoint, or you can add the idea to the gameplay fiction by making some sort of technological device that happen to be littered throughout the game world that allow you to save your current progress (see Metroid series).

    Downside is that you'd have to create an autosave feature for the checkpoints (easier) or you'd have to devise some cute way to have one of your Marines 'hack' into a save state computer... which you'd likely want to hide in the map to add some flare to the gameplay in general. This means redoing every current map to include these devices, and making creation of new maps more complex.

    Maybe the Keep It Simple, Stupid should be utilized instead...

    Model C: We Have the Technology!
    1) Limited number of characters (8), 2 of each class, but can be brought back to life during 'off' missions (see below).
    2) Skill point accumulation based on experience and survival.
    3) Dead players keep skill points gained on previous missions that they did not die in (see below).
    4) Save only at the end of mission.

    This I think is the best solution, and also the easiest to implement with the current codebase (I can only assume... but hear me out). Here's the fiction behind bringing players back to life: Before the Marines leave for each mission, a DNA sample is taken of all active Marines. If they do not come back from the mission, the process for recreating them from the last saved DNA sample is used (which means they retain previous medals and skills) and it takes an amount of time equal to 'the next mission' for the process to be completed.

    What this does is basically use the functionality of the "Wounded Marines have to sit out next mission" and transfer that all the way into death. Here's an example of possible gameplay:

    Mission 2 has Sarge, Wildcat, Faith, and Crash (all of which were in the first mission, and all have increased skills because of it). Unfortunately something goes wrong, and Crash buys the farm (dies), but the remaining Marines make it out alive.

    Because Crash died, a new Crash is now in production, but will take a mission to complete. This means that for Mission 3, Crash is unavailable... but he'll be back for Mission 4 with all the skill points he gained in Mission 1 (because the DNA sample was taken AFTER that... get it?).

    Conclusion
    There may be other entirely viable models, but the main point is that the current model just doesn't make all that much sense in its current form. There are simply too many reasons for players to not restart the second any of the Marines dies... no matter how late in the mission it is. If you do let one die, you'll likely be crippled for it later on because of both the ability scores and the fact that there are only 2 Marines of each class.

  • #2
    Flexible game rules = good, Clones with memories = bad

    Anything that adds flexibility to how you play is good, but I get the feeling the team is looking to maintain a certain 'feel' in the game... so I'm not sure how well some of these suggestions will be recieved. I kinda like the replacement idea tho... even if dead marines just get replaced by 'Generic Explosives Corporal #42514277G".

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by [theDAN]
      Flexible game rules = good, Clones with memories = bad

      Anything that adds flexibility to how you play is good, but I get the feeling the team is looking to maintain a certain 'feel' in the game... so I'm not sure how well some of these suggestions will be recieved. I kinda like the replacement idea tho... even if dead marines just get replaced by 'Generic Explosives Corporal #42514277G".
      The problem with maintaining a 'feel' is that you can never just use that as a reason why your game has features that aren't really being utilized by the player base. Granted I'm speaking from my experience with gameplay like Alien Swarm has as well as game models that I'm familiar with that attempt to do the same thing. There is an overwhelming urge to do every mission absolutely perfect (no deaths) because I'm worried I'm going to miss something (like a high level tech hack, for instance), and there's just a lot of little mistakes you can make that cause Marines to die.

      It would be one thing if my Marines died because I did something stupid, but basically every time I die it's because a parasite isn't hit by a holded Marine. Come to think of it, I can't remember dying any other way in the last 3 hours. Maybe all that needs to be done is to nerf the parasites in a way that you can save someone that gets infected in early missions (or simply have them do something else to the Marines other than just kill them and make more parasites).

      The parasitic effect is cool and all (I laughed a good minute during the tutorial after they infect the convict then burn the resulting spawn with flamers), but because of my attachment to all my Marines, the second I see "INFECTED!" in green on my screen, I go for the reload button. Plain and simple.

      Comment


      • #4
        i agree with everything you say, currently all i do is replay and replay till we go through missions FLAWLESSLY .. sometimes it takes a while tho lol ... at the moment my and my group of friends have been tryin to beat barracks for over a day :/ so we just decided to replay the campaign for fun.. cant wait for them to change some stuff up (even tho its it a solid kick ass mod )

        Comment


        • #5
          First off, Essobie, I appreciate the effort you've gone to here and i can see exactly where you're coming from. I'll be the first to admit that many aspects of AS can be unforgiving. However, this isn't a game that has been designed so that missions can be done perfectly. Harsh as it may sound, we want marines to get wounded, we want them to die. We don't want every campaign to end with 8 unscarred marines. There are certain types of player who are going to suffer under this design.

          The first is the player who expects to walk away form every game as a winner. As we've said elsewhere, AS is a game about impossible odds and last stands, as much as anything else. We don't want you to win every game you play.

          The second type of player who's going to suffer a bit, is the type who likes to get things done perfectly. Yes, it's possible to get all the marines through the campaign without injury, but it's been designed to be far more of a desperate struggle than that situation. We want the player to make tough choices, to have to lose loved marines and ultimately overcome these odds to achieve victory. A hard fought victory, with marines lost and injured along the way brings a character and history to the campaign which would be completely lost with a series of flawless missions.
          Meow.

          Comment


          • #6
            DusKer: that sounds like a major design flaw to me.

            You want missions not to be done perfectly
            You want marines to be lost when killed.

            From those two points i can assume that you want players to be kicked out of a game when they have died. This is a major flaw in any online game since it pushes players AWAY from the game when the missions should be attracting them.

            Comment


            • #7
              Multiplayer campaign is something of a different issue, which has been mentioned in this thread: http://www.blackcatgames.com/forums/...?t=4114&page=2

              There will be something implemented to keep players in a multiplayer campaign, but it comes at a price ^^
              Meow.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by DusKer
                First off, Essobie, I appreciate the effort you've gone to here and i can see exactly where you're coming from. I'll be the first to admit that many aspects of AS can be unforgiving. However, this isn't a game that has been designed so that missions can be done perfectly. Harsh as it may sound, we want marines to get wounded, we want them to die. We don't want every campaign to end with 8 unscarred marines. There are certain types of player who are going to suffer under this design.

                The first is the player who expects to walk away form every game as a winner. As we've said elsewhere, AS is a game about impossible odds and last stands, as much as anything else. We don't want you to win every game you play.

                The second type of player who's going to suffer a bit, is the type who likes to get things done perfectly. Yes, it's possible to get all the marines through the campaign without injury, but it's been designed to be far more of a desperate struggle than that situation. We want the player to make tough choices, to have to lose loved marines and ultimately overcome these odds to achieve victory. A hard fought victory, with marines lost and injured along the way brings a character and history to the campaign which would be completely lost with a series of flawless missions.
                Some minor problems with the logic...

                In order to complete the harder levels you require *skilled* marines to get the job done, a marine who hasn't participated by mission 3 is essentially useless for the rest of the SP campaign (I know I am on L3 now and unless you've managed to use all 8 characters at least once to get both hackers and medics on L3 for their "special" they are fodder at that moment).

                The levels get exponentially harder, which is good, and the marines, provided you have no major snags, will keep up with the difficulty, however, lose your 1st line hacker or medic on mission 4 and it's very much "game over"

                A recommendation would be to give ALL marines at least one skill point irrespective of whether they participate in a mission or not on the SP campaign, whilst a marine that sits at home picking his nose and training is a lot less likely to be effective, it would at least mean you have a valid fallback option in the event of someone vital like Faith or Bastille (dependent on who you picked) getting iced.

                Rescuables (that stick around) like the Officer in mission 2 would also go a long way to alleviating this possible problem as well, since in much the same manner it means you could acquire people to support your primary team.

                Nova

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by DusKer
                  First off, Essobie, I appreciate the effort you've gone to here and i can see exactly where you're coming from. I'll be the first to admit that many aspects of AS can be unforgiving. However, this isn't a game that has been designed so that missions can be done perfectly. Harsh as it may sound, we want marines to get wounded, we want them to die. We don't want every campaign to end with 8 unscarred marines. There are certain types of player who are going to suffer under this design.
                  You aren't making certain types of players suffer... you are making all players suffer. It doesn't matter what type of player you have; the way you currently have the game set up requires one of two ways to play:

                  1) Perfect play through, or
                  2) Multiple play throughs for the purpose of memorizing each of the maps in order to get a full play through (perfect or not).

                  As Blacknova has pointed out, the skill points lost on two fronts by losing a team member puts the player at a severe disadvantage in later missions (although I believe I heard that all 2+ tech skill hacks are optional hacks... I could be wrong though). I say two fronts because for one, you are down a Marine who had skill points you won in previous missions, and for two, you now have to use a different Marine that does not have those skill points.

                  I know that you guys want to design something that's different and requires something from game players that hasn't been touched on before... but the problem is, your gameplay foundation HAS been done before. A lot. There's nothing wrong with this... the best games ever created can usually be shown to have a direct resemblance to a previous title (look at any FPS game and point to Doom, look at any RTS game and point to Dune 2, look at any sidescrolling shooter and point to Gradius, etc. etc.).

                  My point is that I don't think it's all that fun dealing with your reinventing the wheel on the savegame/skill points/permanent death front. I've basically gotten to the end of Mission 2 on Normal, and can't get any further without at least one Marine dying. I simply don't have time to memorize every nook and cranny of the map and all of the encounter triggers and nuances to continue on, and I strongly feel that I'll miss out on having powerful Marines towards the end of the game, and the only way I can do that is to do each mission perfectly.

                  Furthermore, because I have no idea what is coming up next, I cannot make any wise desisions about who it is okay to let die and who I really must restart a mission for. I think this has to do with both the mortality problem with the current design, and the fact that the mission difficulty does not seem to have a slow ramp up. Why would you put so much work into the skills system and show it to the players as though it was extremely important (tech level hacks, curing infestation, etc.) and then have anything in the first or second mission that can quickly kill any member of the squad immediately through no real mistake other than not knowing the map? It just doesn't make for good design.

                  In my opinion, you should either allow the initial squad of Marines to get a couple of missions behind them before throwing any instant death scenarios their way (not freebies, but definately no parasites or instant death traps... the idea in the first quarter of a single player game is to learn the systems of the game and reward, reward, reward), or alter gameplay in a way that doesn't make losing members all that important a loss so that leaving Marines behind is more of a realistic choice (and a tactical one at that... if you aren't attached to a particular Marine, you may choose to SACRIFICE him/her for the good of the rest of the squad! Now THAT's fun gameplay!).

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I think we're coming at these issues from opposite ends, Essobie =/

                    I pretty much disagree with every paragraph.
                    Meow.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I agree that parasites are way too harsh on the player. Although I do like stuff that is difficult, there is no way to kill parasites sometimes.. if you can't see them. Speaking of game design, I do think there should be an autosave feature implemented. So far I've tried playing through the first campaign mission... 5 times. I've died each time to parasites. They're impossible to defend. I bring my marines along, blow the 1st egg or 2, and suddenly I'm parasited. That automatically means mission failure, which means I have to restart the mission -
                      - which means I have to start from the very beginning -
                      - and fight the same bugs at the same places -
                      - which means it gets boring.
                      A save feature would be much appreciated. Perhaps there's no need for an autosave - how 'bout a limited number of saves per mission, say 3?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I think a server option to allow one auto/manual save per map would not be entirely unreasonable. That and I think the flashlight should do more than add auto-aiming =P

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by DusKer
                          I think we're coming at these issues from opposite ends, Essobie =/

                          I pretty much disagree with every paragraph.
                          I'm assuming that by putting "Designer" under your forum name means that eventually you want to do this professionally (or maybe you do already, who knows?). We are lucky to even have you posting in this thread at all.

                          Granted, I'm not your producer, or your publisher, so you don't really have to argue why you think that your current game model is superior in both theory and practice to any of my suggested alterations. This is your game, no one paid anything for it other than some bandwidth and the cost of UT2K4 (which you didn't see any of), so really you don't have to say anything at all. But, arguing your points might be good practice for you.

                          If you can't argue why you think your ideas are sound, you're going to have a really rough time of it when a producer comes to you and says "Our first 3 sessions of white paper testing show that we are going to need a 'save anywhere' feature implemented. Get right on that, okay?"

                          For giggles, answer this: How do you (personally) decide whether to go on or reload when one of your Marines dies?

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Actually, i am kinda on DusKer's side.

                            This game HAS to be tought, it HAS to give the feel to be imposible to beat, without some of the mariens die. Hell, this game is about WAR, and in WAR there are ALWAYS some people that die.
                            I like the Aliens(second Alien movie)mood in the game, the only thing i not like about it is the normal Shot Gun(to few rounds and clips for my taste), and . . . the way the light is used in this game.

                            The main problem is, the game is WAY TO DARK, i needed to cramp up my gamma FULL to see a thing! For my taste, the maps should have some more light in them, i not mean that there should be no dar place in them, but the places that r bright should be REALLY be bright. The Flares r ok, but the headlight could be brigter(and it could brighten up the vicinity some more too). The flamer should brighten the vicinity as well, and inflamed Aliens should be highly visible as well.

                            One suggestion i would have, for the Alien Eggs, why do you not let them shimer in a greenish light? So that the eggs r visible? And the Infecting Aliens should do some noice that can make the player be allerted that some of them r nearby. For the normal Aliens this work as well, as soon as you her ones sound, watch out for it!

                            ~Momoka~

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Personally I think they have hit the game play on the nose. Yes its hard but that's what gives it the edge, there is a fine line between infuriation and exultation when u finally succeed but imo the guys have found that line and should not bend it too much if at all to please everyone.
                              Multiplay Clanservers
                              [email protected]

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