Buy Resonance

Vince is a good listener

January 23rd, 2008 @ 10:28 pm
by Vince Twelve

…as long as you’re talking about me.

Since you will (hopefully!) be paying me for this game, you are, in effect, my bosses, and I intend to listen to all your concerns to please as many of you as possible.

Most people have probably missed the exchange that’s been going on between myself and a mysterious masked man named Matt over in the comment section of Dev Diary 6. He brought up some very valid points about the rewinding system I’ve implemented in Resonance, and through this conversation with him, I’ve come to realize a better way to handle things to please more players.

I thought it would be an interesting read, so I’ve reproduced the conversation below:

Matt Says:

Personally, I’m confused as to what this “rewind points” system is achieving. Isn’t it essentially the same as the old save / load method? The player is still interrupting the story to go back and do something over. In fact, your method sounds more intrusive – as if the game was automatically asking you to reload after making a mistake.

I also think that points really belong in arcade games and shoot-’em-ups. It sounds like you’ve created a detailed, realistic story with high emotional stakes – wouldn’t a points counter just spoil that atmosphere?

I appreciate that you’re trying to make a player’s actions have consequences that count, which I think is a wonderful idea, but wouldn’t it be better to have those consequences play out in the story rather than on an external scoreboard? There are several adventure games out there in which solving – or failing to solve – one puzzle one way has in-story repercussions further along (”Zack McCracken” and “Fate of Atlantis” are both good examples of this).

Sorry if I sound very opinionated – everything about “Resonance” so far sounds fantastic. I’m truly impressed by what you and your team are doing, and I’m only offering my 2 cents because this points system would seriously dissuade me from purchasing and playing what otherwise sounds like an amazing game.

Best of luck!

Vince Twelve says:

Thanks for the comments Matt! I definitely appreciate your direct criticism. I hope that I can adequately defend my design choices here. If I can’t, let me know, and I may have to go back to the drawing board.

You are right that this system is, in essence, the same creature as a save/load system, interrupting the game with a meta-game action in order to repeat a section of the game. However, this system is intended to work in a way similar to that familiar system, but apply penalty to the player for a different set of actions.

I want to have the possibility of the character’s death always on the table for the reasons stated above. I want the player to feel the tension associated with peril. So, with death a possibility, the game usually forces the player to take a very pro-active approach to saving, doing so every few minutes just to be safe. In this way, a death is punishing the players who don’t save often more than those who do. I don’t agree with this philosophy and was hoping to find a way around it. I’d rather punish for poor gameplay than poor saving habits.

This system allows the player to die a limited number of times before having to resort to the old reload. It also gives the non-active saver a chance to save (perhaps immediately after dying once). Also, players that have been playing the game well, solving alternative puzzles, being more thorough in their exploration of the world, will have amassed more points and therefore, will have more chances to pass the danger before exhausting their rewinds.

Furthermore, the rewind system fits more organically into the story than the usual save/reload system, which really sits above the game in an outer layer of meta-game actions. So, combined with having to use the rewind less than you would have to save the game in the absence of a rewind system, it adds up to less of an impact to the player’s immersion.

As for the point system. I agree that points are much better relegated to action/arcade titles. In fact, even in those types of games, I’m highly unconcerned about score, focusing more on just getting through the game itself. The point counter is relatively unobtrusive (I suppose I could even make an option to turn it off…) and isn’t really a “point counter” in the usual sense. As mentioned above, it only counts up to 99 and there are an abundance of points to be had. If you get 99 points, the counter will just stay there until you use the points for a rewind. It’s more of a stock than a counter, and since there’s no penalty for low points (other than having fewer chances at rewinding a section) and no reward for high points (no better ending, no high score list), you might as well use them.

As for making the player’s actions have consequences later in the game via plot and character interactions, you’ll definitely find a lot of that in this game. It’s death that becomes tricky. If you kill off one of the main characters early in the game… it’s tough for me to write what the rest of the game is going to be. Stuff like failing to catch the bad guy’s henchmen in order to get the bad guy’s location out of him is possible in the game. It just leaves you with another puzzle to solve in a separate story branch to figure out where that darn bad guy is. These things have in-game consequences. It’s only when you decide to walk into that electrified puddle of water that we have to involve the meta-game rewind or save/load features.

Obviously, there are flaws, and it’s not a perfect system. But I think that for players like me, who get lost in stories and wind up only saving right before I quit a game, this will be a much better system. For those, like potentially yourself, who don’t like the system, you can ignore it all together. If you die, just reload your last save. The rewind won’t be a mandatory thing. The old save/load system is there as well. Don’t let this dissuade you from trying the game out!

Let me know if any of this isn’t floating your boat yet!

Matt says:

Hi Vince,

Thanks for responding to my comments in depth and with such good grace! I appreciate the absolutely colossal amount of effort that everyone on your team is putting into this game, and it’s all too easy for someone like me to shout comments from the sidelines. You’ve obviously put a lot of thought into this system, and I’m sure that will come across in the final product.

As long as the rewind option is only automatically cued *after* a *fatal* event, and if – as you say – the save / restore system is still in place, then I think I could be at peace with the rewind system, even I chose personally not to use it.

I would strongly suggest, however, that the rewind is *never* called up automatically, and that the points counter only visible if the player makes it visible, or maybe only when they access the rewind interface. You might even allow the player to disable the rewind mode entirely.

I see what you’re saying about the rewind option being more “organic” to the story, but I think I disagree. After all, you’re still engaging with a UI in order to interrupt gameplay and restart it at a different point. Some people (me included) might even find the fact that it’s prompted *automatically* after you die to be invasive. It would never be *truly* organic unless it was a geniune part of the story – e.g. if your player character was Hiro Nakamura from “Heroes” and actually possessed the ability to rewind time. (Now there’s a thought …) I guess my point is, since I’d have to interrupt gameplay either way, I’d rather interrupt it with a system with which I’m already familiar.

I’m also not sure you’re really punishing poor gameplaying, since – if the points are so easy to earn – it might almost be as easy to blunder into a mistake and rewind as it would be to blunder into a mistake and reload. Adversely, if the points *were* hard to come by, then you’d be unfairly punishing players who were quicker to overcome their obstacles. However, this is more a matter of personal perspective and gameplaying technique.

Ultimately, as long as you leave the option in the player’s hands, then that’s all that matters. I think it was the “automatic” and “always visible” part of the idea that really bugged me – anything that robs me of the decision to play the game the way *I’d* like to play it. (Like most gamers, I’m immensely selfish that way :)

I should take a brief moment to add that everything else you’ve mentioned – multiple puzzle solutions, in-game consequences – plus the graphics and story I’ve seen / read about so far – all sound absolutely amazing, and I can’t wait to see this game completed.

Best of continuing luck!

Vince Twelve says:

Ok, I’ve been thinking about this. I’m considering adding an option when you start a new game to choose how you want to play:

1) Classic mode. This is just like the usual adventure. If you die, you must start from your last save. There is no point system.

2) Safe or “Rewind” mode. If you die, the game will allow you to rewind an unlimited number of times until you get it right. Players will not need to save except when exiting the game (though they may still save at any time). There is no point system.

3) Limited Rewind or “Rewind Challenge” mode. In this mode, the point system is implemented, accumulating points when you achieve certain tasks in the game. If you die, you must spend a certain amount of points to rewind the game and try again. If you run out of points, you must restore from a saved game. The player may still save at any point during the game. (Though I may possibly disable saving during the critical scenes during which death is a possibility.)

I think having these three choices at the beginning of the game will benefit everyone, and each player can find a mode that fits their playing style. What do you think, Matt?

And what do you think, other readers?

10 Responses to “Vince is a good listener”

  1. Deirdra Kiai Says:

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head right there, particularly since your having multiple options available also echoes the multiple puzzle solutions you’ve implemented for different play styles. I’ll personally be going with the “safe” mode, because I’m a total wuss, but then, I also realise that some players are looking for that tiny bit of masochism. This way, everybody wins!

  2. TheJBurger Says:

    Sorry if I don’t have this straight, but I still have trouble understanding the rewind option after all this time.
    So basically, the rewind is an autosave that can only be used while the “point meter” still has points?

    Regarding the 3 choices, in my humble opinion, I have always somewhat detested (although that is a strong word) multiple difficulty modes at the beginning of games, particularly adventure games. I just feel that there should be one set level of difficulty for the player, specifically chosen by the designer. Although this is a somewhat different example, In Curse of Monkey Island, I didn’t really like having to choose between two puzzle options. I chose the latter, harder version, and then I just am left wondering if I should’ve chose the easier version since I didn’t really feel like completing 10 puzzles to do 1 mundane task.

    Anyway, I don’t really know what I’m saying. Maybe if you could allow the player to switch between modes during the game after he/she’s figured out if it’s too hard or easy for him/her.

  3. Pod Says:

    I’ve only just read this (or even found out about this game. I’m very exited! Thanks, Gnomes Lair!) but I think the originally proposed idea is great. These new changes are a definate improvement. However, whilst reading the original descritption I formulated the following idea:

    * A player starts with 30 points
    * The game is only saved when the player closes the application (prompted, of course.) Naturally reloading is there to resume a game.
    * When a player dies, they lose 5 points.
    * If they “finish” the dangerous situation the points are reset back to 30
    * If they run out of points (they die 6 times on the same puzzle) then they “lose”. Whilst not as harsh as “hit the eject button before your robot explodes” it still is quite a severe (and properly forwarned) punishment.

    Also, in regards to mutliple modes: Firstly, it might cause confusion and panic that a player is missing out on something. If it was toggleable ingame then this would be avoided. But then the player could just switch it to unlimited when he’s running out of points ;)
    Secondly, 3 seems like overkill. Why not just have rewind mode and classic mode?

    How about the game starts in rewind mode, the player dies in that basement situation you mentioned THEN is asked “did you like the way this was done?”. If they tick yes, you leave it enabled. If they tick no, they must rely on saving themselves.

  4. Pod Says:

    I wish I proof read my comments for spelling missteaks.

  5. Notwithabang Says:

    To take a different tack on this issue, I’m curious about the “later consequences” aspect of the game. While the choice between “creep n’ save” and “be kind, rewind” styles of play is clearly animating folks, the effect this choice has on the *content* of gameplay, rather than the *mechanics* of gameplay seems to be a more substantive question. That is to say, with the current system of points/rewinding, is there value in playing the game after making a mistake at a critical juncture?

    If failing a particular puzzle, or losing a character early on, etc., yields content that is substantively different from the “ideal” storyline, thereby enhancing the player’s experience of the story, then I think that there is good reason to implement a system of play in which consequences are more permanent (and it sounds as if that is what VXII has in mind). Such a system could add a lot of replay value, as even the most adept players would try different solutions to puzzles, in order to see the many ways in which the story could play out (e.g. Fallout). However, if making a mistake during the game merely results in a more negative ending, then I think that omitting a straightforward save-function would really just boil down to keeping a score, if not in name.

  6. Vince Twelve Says:

    Thanks for the comments Pod and Notwithabang!

    The three modes are just meant to accommodate different play styles. Some players, like Matt, prefer the old Sierra way of doing things (save, die, reload) and I want to respect that. Others, like myself (and apparently Deirdra) prefer to go through a game without having that nagging feeling that I need to save every few minutes to prevent having to replay a bunch of the game if I die. For people, who just want the safety net, there’s the safe mode. The third mode is for people who want the safety net, but still want the threat of losing.

    To respond to Pod’s comments about multiple modes, I hope not to make the player feel like he’s missing something. I’ll have to make it clear at the beginning that the only difference is the way the game handles death. I’m quite adamant about not implementing better endings or some such thing for players using a harder mode, or never dying. So players should choose the style that best fits them without worry.

    Recently, I played Hotel Dusk for the DS, and in that game, if you fail at something, the owner will kick you out of the hotel and you lose the game. It then gives you the option to quit or jump back to the scene before you failed (quite similar to Resonance, actually). However, if you use the automatic restart option, the game won’t let you see the full ending. It’s reserved for those players who never failed. Of course simply quitting and reloading your last save keeps the game from knowing that you failed, so you can continue on to the full ending. I have three major problems with this.

    One: They’re punishing the player for using a game feature. That feature is now worse than useless.

    Two: The fact that it stops you from seeing the full ending is nowhere documented, and the only way you would know it’s doing it is to check a walkthrough or something. How many players have played the game and seen only the half-ending and thought that was it?

    Three: Having the use or non-use of a meta-game feature effect the flow of the story, something that should be completely separate, just doesn’t make sense. Is there some mystical connection that knows that the character made a mistake in some alternate timeline and thus prevents an important conversation at the end from taking place?

    As such, you will not have any penalty for using any of the modes.

    I will consider just using two modes. The first two may be the only ones needed and that the point system may need to be thrown out entirely. I’ll throw that question to the play testers, and we’ll see if the point system actually adds value to the game as I intended it to.

    And regarding Notwithabang’s comments, there will be some later consequences for failure in some aspects of the game, but not regarding death. The rewind system is entirely in place to help handle the issue of in-game death. Unfortunately, it would take a lot of time to write different scenes for whether or not a certain character died previously. Each of the characters must survive the tasks laid out for them as their survivals are necessary for the game’s story.

    If a character dies as a consequence of the players’ actions or inactions, the game will force either a game over or a rewind, depending on the game mode.

    However, failing in other tasks, like pissing off a filing clerk when you’re trying to talk her into giving you some confidential and important documents will not offer the player the chance to rewind and will instead allow the game to continue and lead to some branches in the story and/or puzzles.

    As for making a mistake leading to a worse/different ending, I’m not currently planning to add multiple endings to the game. I feel that the planned ending is tight and appropriate for the game and don’t want the player walking away with anything else! However, some choices in the game can effect the relationships between the characters and have a slight impact on things. Hope that clears it up!

  7. Notwithabang Says:

    Wow, you really weren’t kidding with that posting title….

  8. Mortis Says:

    This is most interesting.

    Normally, I would say that the inherent nature of adventure games is that one does not return to them over and over again due to its narrative structure that resembles that of a movie or a novel; The only adventure game that I truly go back to is Monkey Island 2, and that is completely between me and MI2 – it really has nothing to do with its two gameplay modes :D Thus, it feels that three meta-game modes like outlined here would sound somewhat redundant. Why?

    Firstly, Vince said that “I’ll have to make it clear at the beginning that the only difference is the way the game handles death. … So players should choose the style that best fits them without worry.”

    I feel there is a clash here related to the way Resonance seems to offer, to the player, several possibilities of “failing” during the narrative of the game, yet all this seems to have no impact on the endings of the game. I feel this could take away from replayability – how will we know exactly when we failed? How will we know which things to correct in order not to fail – and ultimately, why should we bother with this?

    Should I rewind when I choose wrong dialogue? Should I rewind when I pick up the wrong item? My concern here is this: How can you be sure, as a designer, that the player makes an educated decision regarding his/her play style and chooses the appropriate method? Similarly, if a choice is actually being offered in this vein, would not most everybody just home in on the “normal” mode, true-and-tested?

    Against the backdrop of no alternative endings, but still potential failure within the game, if the only reason for such an in-depth, special rewind mode is to slightly alter “the way the game handles death”, how do you really sell this to a player? Vince might have outlined this very well somewhere else so if I’m repeating a theme I apologize.

    I’m not sure if I’m making sense as I do find myself struggling to vocalize the doubts that I have related to the choice of offering players different modes. There just seems to be some disparity between the rewind feature and its manifestation in the actual game.

  9. Vince Twelve Says:

    Thanks Mortis, for the comments. I think, however, that I may not have been clear on something. The rewind will only be possible after a character’s death. If a character dies, the player has failed and the screen will black out, revealing the rewind option. At that point, the player can rewind or quit and load a saved game. You CANNOT continue the game past this point having lost a character as all characters are essential to the story.

    If the player fails in another way, such as failing to coax the filing clerk from the example in my last post into giving you the documents, the game will continue and the player will not be able to rewind. Later, when you come to the point in the game when you would have used the information contained in those documents, you’ll have to find another solution to the problem instead. The rewind feature will ONLY be used after a character death. Thus, the player will never have to worry about deciding whether or not they should rewind and try a puzzle again. Failing in a non-fatal way will always provide the player with another means of proceeding.

    In this way, there will be the possibility that a player may want to play the game again, to try passing these non-fatal scenarios in various ways, but for the most part, Resonance will be similar to other adventure games in that there won’t be a lot of replayability. But them’s the ropes when you want to have a strong and moving narrative.

  10. Mortis Says:

    Oh, oh, I do apologize – you were indeed clear about it, I should have been able to derive that information from the previous discussions/posts available here on the website. Indeed I even quoted you saying just that, but somehow I instinctively applied the feature to non-death occurrences as well. That’s probably what overall made me feel uncertain about the concept.

    I’ll have to try and look up at all the previous posts here to get a better grip of the whole discussion. The screenshots in the previous posts were of high quality, of course, but the discussions in the blog are what have really sparked my interest towards the project now :)