18 April 2011

Deus Ex: Taking a balanced approach between emotion and gameplay - by Rebecca Phoa

      Posted 04/15/11 04:20:00 pm  

Deus Ex: Taking a balanced approach between emotion and gameplay

In the mid-beginning of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, a newly restored Spock is asked a series of questions by a computer. Of all the intricate questions, he fails to answer a very simple one, ‘how do you feel?’ Perplexed by this, he explains to his mother Amanda that he doesn’t understand the question because it is irrelevant.

Now what does this scenario have to do with Deus Ex? It is not the entirety of the scene that is important, but what Spock said about feelings is. Feelings are illogical; what I feel is personal and therefore subjective. I could feel intensely afraid and conclude the world is dangerous, so I refuse to leave my house. Rationality is going down the aisle, past the altar, and out the door.

This isn’t any different when it comes to gaming. When I talk about some of my favourite games, it is usually a qualitative statement. ‘I felt this way when I did this;’ or ‘I can’t believe they let me play through that!’ I’m not really thinking about the specific mechanics that lead to these conclusions. I am projecting myself into this world and living those moments. It is all about emotion, and I’m not surprised that I think an unearthly amount about it in games.

At last year’s GDC, Richard Rouse III; now of Ubisoft Montreal analyzed five ingredients to make people cry while playing a video game.

I’m going out on a limb here; I think he’s right and wrong. While I care about how story content is presented and the emotions that good games can provoke; at the same time, I won’t take it sitting down if the game developer fails to create good gameplay and tweak poor game mechanics. By developing a game entirely around content presentation, the ‘game’ part becomes obsolete. For example, Xenosaga Episode 1 is a JRPG with a heavy emphasis on story. The thing is riveting, a thrill to watch; spaceships firing off their massive space cannons, frantic yelling and running; people dying. It was epic. But are you ‘playing’ Xenosaga Episode 1? To put it bluntly, this ‘game’ is one long cut scene with 20 to 50 minutes of gameplay segments scattered throughout. It doesn’t mean Xenosaga was a bad product, just unbalanced in its approach.

On the flipside, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion has a thin veneer of a ‘story;’ but you can explore the world for maybe 100 hours and still not be able to finish spelunking all those 200

No comments:

Post a Comment