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Jan 2005 02

Creativity in modern games

Rants!

One of the main issues with games today is that they are all striving very hard to simulate reality. Gone are the heady days of playing games with huge pixilated sprite based characters running down a two dimensional scrolling map dodging mushrooms and grabbing floating coins..

Most games have embraced the power of 3D and have gotten so good at it, in fact, that sometimes you can't tell the game engine screen from reality.. Anyone that has played Half-life 2 can attest to that.

The problem with most of these games that strive to simulate ultra-reality is that they forget that they are doing so in an extremely unrealistic medium.

First person shooter style games are very bad about this in that they will usually strive to deliver weaponry that is based on the real world equivalent..

But all games suffer from the same issues here, you can't simulate reality with a monitor and some speakers.. There is no way to get true surround sound or peripheral vision which goes a long way to inform us about our reality.

Try walking around for a couple hours looking through toilet paper tubes. This would pretty accurately reflect what you're doing when looking at a game reality through the use of a monitor.

Unfortunately, at this time there is no real worth while solution to that..

But another problem that comes up there is a solution to -- if you care enough to try;

In any game, if a problem or situation arises, you only have so many ways to deal with it. You can only do those things that the coders of the game programmed in as solutions.

That's very much unlike reality where if a problem occurs, you can think and be creative about how you want to solve it. And the solution you use to deal with a real world issue isn't going to be the same solution that someone else would come up with. It might be, but doesn't have to be.

In a game environment you can only solve issues the ways in which the programmers gave you to solve it. The more vast the game, then the more likely it is that there is only one solution to your particular issue simply because the coders don't have a lot of time to program in all the various ways to finish one thing. Thus, the solution you figured out for a problem in a game, is most likely the exact same way someone else will deal with it..

No creativity required.. infact.. no creativity allowed..

This is a huge barrier to every game out there and goes a long way to hurt every game there is simply because the programmers solution may not be intuitive to someone else..

If a game engine could be created that would allow players of the game to be creative.. allow them to try things, ANY thing.. things that the programmer had never intended in the first place.. And do it in such away as to not break or exploit the game.. I believe that game would blow the rest of them out of the water..

This change in mind set on how games work and allowing players this sort of freedom would bring a whole new level of "reality" to games. While it doesn't solve the monitor issue.. it does allow that creativity that has been otherwise stifled up to now.

Everquest2 is a good game but very much suffers from the "no creativity {thinking} required" problem.

Quests are given to you by NPC's and you run around "solving" the quest. But "solving" to these people doesn't entail puzzles that change and it certainly doesn't allow you to be creative about the answers, but rather it means that you have to go one step at a time doing something and then run back to the NPC to update it to the next step.. Etc.. Sometimes it's hard to not drool.. They are completely scripted.. There is typically only one answer to each step..

For some reason, this is a popular system.. Everquest2 has thousands of such quests. "No creativity required".

I'm not picking on Everquest2.. I have played it from the beginning and will for the foreseeable future.. All games suffer from this.

I find it funny that most massively multiplayer online games call themselves role playing games. And yet if you seriously play you realize that role playing in games like this is all but dead. Mostly because creativity is stifled by the game engine itself.

This is something that will have to be addressed at the very core of the game engine.

There are many solutions to every problem in the modern day world, so why do we limit everyone in a game to one solution only? This harkens back to the days of M.U.D.'s when everything was text based and you had to type in exactly what the programmer had typed in to get something to work. "Open the chest with the large skeleton key."

When we went to a graphical interface they simply gave you a single button to push, as opposed to allowing for something more..

No key? Try your foot.. try hitting it with a hammer.. try tossing it off a cliff.. A suitable application of explosives might work.. How about a laser?

So how do we go about addressing this?

How do you let a person be creative in a game?

I think first of all you have to start at the micro level in the game environment.

A player needs to be able to manipulate EVERYTHING in the game environment. Everything in the game environment needs to have a "physical" presence and react accordingly when fiddle with by a player.

This alone is a huge undertaking.

From there, you provide players with very simple abilities.. Pickup, put down.. move.. gather.. push.. pull.. lift.. drop.. throw.. hit.. kick.. etc..

Those abilities combined with a physics engine and a reality engine would do the trick.

The physics engine would know that if you dropped a rubber ball from x height it would behave in y way. Standard physics..

The reality engine is the other trick -- and there is no reason you couldn't combine the two.. but I say keep them separate that way when the PPU's (Physics processor unit) come out in a couple years (and I believe they will) you can easily adapt..

The reality engine says.. if you drop this object, made of metal on these two wires one of which has electricity running through it.. it will cause a X reaction.. In this case a short.

That way if the solution to the player is to complete that circuit.. ANY metal object would do.. unless that metal object is a bomb.. then the reality engine would punish the player with a nice explosion.. etc..

See it's actually very simple.. you go down to the very core basic abilities that all humans have to manipulate things.. then apply the logic of what those things are and how they behave..

Boom.. You have creativity. Or at least you have the starts of a system that would allow a person to be creative. Allow a player to think.. Get rid of the canned / scripted solutions.. Allow the players to devise their own clever solutions.

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