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05/24/2005

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Dr. Zaius

I'm still only half-way through the previous Fire Emblem because of this. I found out half-way through playing about how these sub-plots work so, naturally, I had to start all over again. I carried around these sheets of paper I had cut-out of a character faq, they listed every possible combination of characters to further plots.

so playing became geometrically more complicated... Not only do I have to factor in which character to fight which enemy AND maximize my bonuses for the level, NOW I have to make sure I maximize the time each player stands next to another player in the "friend matrix" ie. "A" can be friends with "B" and "B" can be friends with "C" but "C" and "A" can't be friends so I have to arrange that B is next to both C and A......anyway....it get very complicated to finish even one level.

Oh yeah,. everyone has to stay alive as well. Needless to say, I've played some levels more than 30 times to get it just right.

....am I being obsessive? just a tad, perhaps?

but it is because I honestly care about developing the relationships of these little fake people inside my gameboy.

MSTIRLNG

Personaly, I think its rather fascinating.

I dont know if I would agree with you on people being programmed to actually feel. To me, that implies that there is something that has programmed us (society, deity, etc). I prefer to belive that its just human nature to feel, i.e. its natural, and comes just as easy as breathing.

But things that INFLUNCE those feelings (which are naturally given) is where the mystery really lies, i.e. how things influnce YOUR feelings. Well, how do they?

I would say one way is involvment with the characters. If you are not invloved and attached, then you have no reason to FEEL. A good example would be, you hear on the news that a train wreck killed 20 people somwhere. Maybe you think, "20 people died, that sux" and you go about your day. But what if you knew one of the people that died, or you survived the accident, or you were working at the train station near where it happen. Wouldn't you be more effected? I know I would; because my degree of involvment was greater. In the game, you get invloved with the characters by taking a more active roll in their lives (sic). You explore their lives as their mini-plots unfold. You spend time wiht them developing their skills and abilities. You get invloved. (The Sims takes this to heart.)

I think another good way is identification. I personally think this one is more powerfull than involvment and has been working its magic LONG before video games. Going back to my train wreck example, what if you lost someone in a train wreck once. As soon as you hear about 20 people dieing in a train accidnet, you may feel bad, because you know what its like to lose someone in that way. I think in games indentification is sometimes harder to pull off now a days. When was the last time you were attacked by psychic ninja vampire zombies on your way to work? Never the less, there is a good deal of identification that goes on, especially in narritive RPG's. You may not know what its like to use your +3 Sword or Endless Doom on griffins as you wander the lands, but you do know what its like to go through hard times with friends, make new friends, lose people that you care about, want to succede in what you are doing, know what failure feels like, and I could go on and on but I wont.


I am sure there are many other factors besides indentification and involvment. Emotions are very very very complicated most of the time. In the end, these "crude, artifical and simulated" emotions become what we know. The "simulated love" ceases to be simulated when it gets connected with your reality. I think one of the keys to makeing a great game (movie, book, etc) is to use what the audience already knows to help pull them into characters and story. However, I fear this is a dieing craft now-a-days. Benchmarks such as HL2 (with its "stunningly realisitc graphics") go to show how its becoming easier and easier to get people involved in some form of reality and at the same time lose their identitiy. Maybe thats why you keep going back to FE Jane, because you "know it," it connects with your reality.

I could write all night about this, but I will stop.

koam

I have yet to play Fire Emblem but just to pick up on HL2, immersion and involvement. I was extremely disappointed by HL2, and after stewing on it for a while I think that its due to Valve completely failing to effectively use much of there newfangled shiny "stunningly realistic graphics" by ripping out, instead of building on, what made the original a great game.

That is the involvement, the actual interaction, with NPC's (and through them the game world). Yes the HL2 characters have "40 individual facial muscles" (blah blah) but there role in the game is reduced to that of cutscene, leaving the player powerless other than to watch the prescribed designer approved interaction unfold without any involvement on there part.

In HL1 the player could, if they chose, lead a innocent scientist into the path of a automatic turret and use him as a human shield, strive to keep the poor white coat alive or just leave him behind. The player could have a Barney or two along for some of the action scenes or simply kill them and stock up the ammo. Of course often the players hand is forced by the conditions required to advance the narrative (this Barney HAS to open the door, this scientist HAS to reach the control room etc) but then these conditions would be met through direct player interaction, (go forth and find the scientist and bring him to the door). This shows the player that there actions have consequence within the world, which makes the interaction seem worthwhile, enriched.

In HL2 Alyx pops up, looks nice, does her bit, goes away again. Barney pops up, looks nice, does his bit, goes away again. Dog pops up, looks nice, does his bit, goes away again. All independant of the player. The only role the player is given is that of protector, which is enforced and never an option. The only characters the player gets any direct interaction with are the nameless, faceless resistance fighters who come, go and die with no consequence. In HL2 all you do is shoot and occasionally move boxes. The connection to, and immersion within, the game world is lost because I'm reduced to only watching the actions and interactions unfold and then blasting the poor sods who spawn afterwards. Yes its a standard FPS action game, but with HL1 as the precursor it could have been more.

By simply giving the player a choice and allowing them to invest something (simple commands - follow or stay, time, items, customization and so on) in the characters around them and then see the consequences of those choices, goes a long way to creating the right conditions for involvement, attachment and emotion to develop independant of the particulars of the games story. Methinks anyway.

seth

I have to be honest, I have played the first Fire Emblem released on the GBA numerous times and could never quite get the companion/friend effect going. It seemed like it would only work at certain times though it is more likely that I just didn't dive deep enough into that feature. I was looking at the box, tempted to pick up The Sacred Stones yesterday, but I hesitated knowing how much time I would sink into it. I'm sure I will happily give in especially after reading these posts.

I still think it is amazing how few titles have a gameplay mechanic where your characters can die and cannot be given a Phoenix Down to "Rise [them] from your grave." The ability for your characters to die, is the most intriguing and engrossing element of this series. Combine this element with the addictiveness of characters development, discovering hidden characters, and great character design and you have a tremendously involving and engrossing game play experience.

In my first play through of Fire Emblem, I let Fiora die rather early and as I was getting towards the end of the game, for some reason I began to regret that. To me, she was an underdog of sorts, because she started with relatively weak stats and required additional attention. I had to restart. In the second play through I devoted my attention to her. I carefully made sure she was protected, yet could move in to finish off a battle and gain the needed experience. She become tough and a leader in the ranks of my growing army. I saw her rise to the level of a Falcon Knight who rivaled the strength and battle testedness of the likes of Marcus or Wallace.

Brilliant game! One of my favorites in the last few years.

Fuzzy Gerdes

I, too, am only halfway through the first GBA Fire Emblem. When I first started playing the game I had just come from playing a bunch of Advance Wars 2, where you use up your faceless and nameless troupes like, well, like cannon fodder. I was playing Fire Emblem that way as well for a few levels until I realized that my defeated characters weren't coming back.

So I restarted the game and began to pay attention to the characters as individuals. Now when one of the characters dies, I do a little half-joking melodramatic "Noooo!" and fist-shake at the sky, and then switch the GBA off and on again to restart the level. Never leave a man (or Pegasus Knight) behind.

Club

I think that's why Final Fantasy VII was one of the best or at least most involved games yet, because literally every character had a deep story, and each of them was interesting. I really cared about the majority of the characters because of this and their unique personalities.
I haven't played any of the Fire Emblem games, but I definately understand the involvement you can feel with certain games and characters.

Zild

A great topic with some interesting comments. Two questions, though.

Firstly, do you think such a system is suitable for everybody? Does it have a place at all for people who just want to blow things up? Or what about people like myself, who want to unlock every little snippet (and, in games like the Final Fantasy series, do this all in one go, as they don't have the time to go back a second time to get everything else?) I fear that the second group would find it in their best interests to get out of that mindset, but trust me, it's easier said than done.

Secondly, would you think such a feature would have a place in a strategy game? Would the relationships of major units (such as generals and leaders) vary according to how they behave and interact with each other over the course of the entire game (not just one mission)? Would this be too abstracted from the original idea to actually make players care? Could the extent of the connection be increased by cut-scenes or other methods, maybe even including in-mission behaviour?

I ask because in many strategy games the player is actually the general, with a unit in battle. It would be nice to have a greater connection than just 'The general died, you lose', as seems to be the current extent of such a connection these days.

Not that I mean to say the idea of connecting to players is bad - I think it's great. I'm just wondering if you guys feel it has a place elsewhere, and ideas for how you think such an endeavour might work.

MSTIRLNG

Zild,

I would say that sometimes, people just wnat to blow shit up. I know, becuase sometimes I am someone like that. And when I get in that sort of mode, I could really care less about the characters or the story. Often, however, I find that my urge to make something 'splode is satisfied while I play a game that has a lot of character development etc etc. But sometimes, people just want the eye candy; the fancy graphics and big explosions. When it comes to online play where there is no characters worth mentioning (Counter-Strike for example) I find I enjoy the social interaction (if you can call having a 13 year old tell you what a L00z0r you are and how he pwned j00r 5!573r and /\/\ 0 /\/\ last night social interaction). So I think there are times when the story and characters are not what you are lookin for, and people you have more of those times than I.

As far as strategy games are concerned, I think that character development is something that has been going on for a while. A recent example would be Warcraft III. All the hero units and their storylines all intewtwine and mingle together. There is also plunty of story and character development that goes on as the game progresses. (I personaly didnt like WarIII, too RPGish for an RTS, not my style). I also thought of the original C&C Red Alert game when you mentioned strategy games. I remember one mission in particular with Tanya, and she got captured, and I was rather upset because I liked her character, how she was portrayed in the game, and how she acted in the cutscenes. (I wasnt upset for long, she managed to escape, leaveing a couple of buildings as rubble in her wake).

Zild

I appreciate the comments there. I haven't played Warcraft III yet (problems with computer power only recently solved, and the utter detestation of paying 40 for a brand new game that may well turn out to have more bugs than an ant colony), but it's nice to hear this is getting included more.

Before Total War, C&C was my favourite series, but I must admit I do not remember Tanya being captured. But what you said did remind me of the part in the Tiberian Dawn (the first ever game) where one of your subordinates, a soldier out in the midst of the action, delivers a briefing covered in sores and clearly unwell, due to exposure to Tiberium. That was a moment Wetswood should be proud of.

blue yonder

" I think humans are programmed to feel love and caring, and even crude artificial simulcra can wring real feelings out of us."

I agree. Humans are programmed that way. There is so much programming around us which points to a designer or Deity. When we look at the simplest computer code, we know it was programmed. So also, when we look at the complex structures of life all around us and the complex balance of nature, it is evident that a programming was needed.

Great quote and I agree wholeheartedly!

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