A Hidden Battle in Game Deveopment Today?

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markkur
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A Hidden Battle in Game Deveopment Today?

Postby markkur » Aug 17 2015, 17:24

Single-player versus Multi-player and the impacts on game design.

For a quite a while, I've been wondering why we have so much conflict around PC-games in general?

It seems no matter which forum I visit and what game, they are loaded with heated debates about many topics surrounding The Game. To some extent this has always been true in the past, even the distant past; i.e. with the differences with HoMM-2 and then HoMM-3, not forgetting the war that erupted with HoMM-4.

Flash-forward a bit and HoMM-5 brings another maelstrom. Also during this time, I heard the same in talks with my brother. He saw the same conflicts erupting around his favorite titles, top-selling games and genres like the TW series.

With the last HoMM game and now the new one about to debut, <imo>the battle over The Game has intensified and chiefly because debates have broadened into many other areas, i.e. Development, OS preference and Servers etc. just to name of few.

To repeat; like here at CH or over at HC, there always will be disagreements between people playing the same game but I think today there is another conflict that is constantly in the mix and in my humble opinion it is not as clearly seen by gaming-communities. I’ll call it…the battle between single-players wanting to enjoy the game in total obscurity and the multi-players that want to battle on-line. I’ll omit personal reasons for either because it’s not the fans I want to highlight but the gaming-companies.

For a very brief time, I played Crusader Kings 2 and that’s when what I’m scribbling about now became clearly recognizable to me. Paradox began changing the game mechanics, options, etc. because of problems and issues within the on-line Multi-player community. Shortly thereafter, the single-player fans came out of the woodwork saying; I.e. “What have you done to the game?” You’ve ruined my save” etc. but most importantly, it was a change that affected how a single person playing at home could play the dang game; in some cases, the game was ruined for the owner of the game. Who should care how a single person plays the game they paid cash for? Who should care if they are playing/cheating or abusing the system etc. as long as they are having their own brand of fun?

That’s the issue to me. Now with the huge growth of fans wanting an on-line experience versus those who want to enjoy the game alone, in their spare time, Companies/Developers are not addressing the needs or wants of both typical types of players. <imo> Decisions/improvements needed for Multi-player are usually not needed or even wanted by solo-players.

Furthermore, if a company (and we know this is true) only has X amount of cash to spend on a game, they will choose what stays and what goes. We see this i.e. when reductions from previous versions and we see that the game has been “dumbed-down”…which usually means the A.I. is not as good as it was but the game’s graphics have been improved.<L> When I have bothered to read developer statements and read between the lines, apparently this last reason is necessary to draw the new market of younger gamers.

Regardless of all that, we will never read anything like this from game-makers; “We cannot have awesome graphics AND an intense A.I. because of the battle between PC-processor requirements and limitations. Further more, the fact that many of our fans have older hardware/software, means we have to find a middle-ground for both visual game-play and game-mechanics.” (btw, Once upon a time in game-land, I think this “could” have been more true than today’s game-world) Anyway, no company is going to admit any of that bit.

I’m not talking rocket-science here and maybe many folks have seen this, but when I recently saw this same battle happen to a game that is not a HoMM-title or a FPS, RPG or any sort of typical game requiring (what I will call) immersion-graphics. This time, with this game, it was the slap in the face to me; because this game is in a genre that is totally about thinking and the visuals that were in the game were clearly understood to represent enough of the world to “navigate deep strategy” and nothing more. In short, the “high-strategy” developer has decided to reduce player choices and A.I. interactions to improve the sprite/map look & actions behind a new 3D atmosphere. But, with this game we have a serious rub; the new look has became a silly requirement that’s totally out of place.

In a game that all previous versions have centered on player-decisions and A.I. execution, it was decided, it is a must to improve graphics to draw the younger folks. However, in this case, unlike the popular genres and titles that are graphic-driven, there is no Total-War battleground level. Meaning, like in TW and HoMM when you are traveling the adventure map and decide to battle, the game teleports you to a true battle arena; not so in my strategy-game. The innovation is all about making one-map, be up-to-date, modern and really cool.(and it does look great) Imagine HoMM3 SoD with a huge Sandro and enormous Crag Hack walking about the map like true titans and you have this new <ahem> innovation for high-strategy BUT you do not go to a battle screen! That’s it…just giants stalking about with info-battles.

TG, HoMM 7 is true to its heritage and is not losing contact with its foundation like other titles. But regardless, <imo> the same issue is present; how much does a company focus on SP versus MP? and will they truly support both? So far, to me it looks like budgets will say NO.

In the same vein of thought, I wish all game-developers would cater to both groups. I.e. It should be easy for the single-players to buy a game-disc and not be forced into Steam’s grip or any other…on-line anything. But isn’t that wishful thinking. Well, maybe not, maybe eventually I can pay more for the privilege of a tangible-disc and avoid/escape all the business schemes and marketing practices of third parties.

Anyway I like CH and thought I contribute a wee bit. Cheers

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Re: A Hidden Battle in Game Deveopment Today?

Postby Pol » Aug 17 2015, 19:19

That conflict is old, reminds me 2D vs 3D plight. Both can be done and it's not primary question of funds but a long term planning. And that seems like a huge issue, above mind of current short development cycles. Also we really lack in game engines choicese, libraries with functions, specifically with AI functions. Probably the only thing what many games have in common are large piles of 3D resource. No rulesets, balance tweaking, AI and vision. And the lack of vision is known feature killer.

But there are good games, always were, like Lords of Magic with Mantera's mod, H3 with Era, Master of Magic in java console and you may count on further.

These may be old but perform by a succesfull formula. Overall theirs AI surpass nowaday brethrens. Blending perfectly between used game environment and development resources. As nowaday AI development is stagnating. Cause you really cannot do any progress within 2yrs or shorted cycles, when the AI is the last developed thing after creating the world and you have two weeks to put it on legs. But above all it is really question of mangement/vision. Check out "For Honor", they decided and they got it.
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Re: A Hidden Battle in Game Deveopment Today?

Postby Pitsu » Aug 17 2015, 20:29

Man, once again you are in a philosophical mood I see. Anyway, nice read.

First, the always online and auto-patching etc are annoying even if they do not mess the SP game up. For instance for me any program that is not required for computer to run but nevertheless installs itself into autorun is kind of offense. And all those smart auto-updates of non-essential programs give me feeling that it is someone else who is controlling my computer not me.

Leaving aside the connection requirements in actual game development I see the SP vs MP issue is largely well-balanced gameplay vs gameplay with potentially gamebreaking but fun events. It is easier to balance fighting sides that are essentially identical. That would be boring however. While the balancing is lower issue in SP, it is more demanding on AI. In real time games human slowness in multitasking can give AI an edge, but in turn based games good AI is even more difficult to make than good balance. Some people see only other humans as worthy opponents.

From historic point the developers attitude has changed too. 20 years ago most game developers did games they wanted to play themselves. There was less feedback from buyers, development teams, market and demands from customers were all smaller. Now it is big business which operates by different rules, and the process is more like a factory line than creative work which is ready only when it is ready. I bet much more compromises need to be done and many more communication errors are in modern game industry than it was before. This means that a game is like a book with many writes and the illustrator not knowing what the writers have written.

Coming to Ubi and HoMM, then the CEO or whoever decides budget and deadline probably cares not if it is a SP or MP game. Those who are actually involved (Erwan etc.) seem to be mainly interested in telling a story - campaign. Since H5 campaigns have been the central game aspect and the related lore has "altered" creature lineups and other gameplay elements. Campaign is SP and in contrary to random SP can be scripted and enhanced to mask the shortcomings in AI. So a good decision for them, but unfortunately the earlier HoMM games have also had reasonable other SP and MP capabilities, and fans are demanding them. SP requires good AI, reasonable gameplay (certain H6 features obviously were not reasonable) and map/mod editor. We know that some effort is put into editor and as far as i know the gameplay design is in lines with H3 and H5. MP does require beside balance also fast gameplay (little time for battles and all the managment), RMG and stable connection. My information is limited, but there is hope that also the MP side will get some attention. Still, I rather believe that H7 will be more a SP game.
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Re: A Hidden Battle in Game Deveopment Today?

Postby markkur » Aug 17 2015, 23:55

Good discussion gentlemen, your points are all well founded. Don't really have anything one comment to Pitsu's about the "scripting in what was missing"...talking about "by the seat of their pants"<L>

For 7? Here's hopin'<wink and a nod>


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