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Egoraptor explains something SMW hackers seem to be missing.
Forum Index - SMW Hacking - SMW Hack Discussion - Egoraptor explains something SMW hackers seem to be missing.
Pages: « 1 2 »
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FpigqfcvlM

Watch this: And then ask yourself a few questions:

"Did I convey the game mechanics in a good manner?"

"Did I make the progression feel natural?"

"Did I assume the player knows something they might not know?"
It depends on the designer's target audience as to whether those questions matter or not. A kaizo hacker's not going to care about any of them, for example, because either the player is expected to already know all the mechanics or the game is intentionally throwing a curveball to screw them up.


For more "normal" SMW hacking, different hacks still have different difficulties and expected knowledge on the part of the player. I built mine expecting the player to be able to beat the special world in the original SMW, for example, so I'm not going to bother "easing" the player into any of the mechanics shown in the original game. New stuff, sure.... but I still have some expectations of my players.
Last edited on 2012-01-18 11:05:13 PM by Kaijyuu.
After watching both episodes of Sequelitis about a few dozen times each, it did make me realize how lacking the level design in my hack was. I'm so thankful that he made that series as a result. Egoraptor really knows what he is talking about when he makes those videos, and they are remarkably helpful for design, especially how in his Mega Man X video, he essentially analyzes methods of teaching the player controls.

While it could be easily found from that video, I think that it's also worth posting a link to his first Sequelitis video, that of Castlevania (1 and 2). It's pretty helpful to understand how to convey a feeling in a game with gameplay, extricated from music or art design.
Originally posted by Deeke
After watching both episodes of Sequelitis about a few dozen times each, it did make me realize how lacking the level design in my hack was. I'm so thankful that he made that series as a result. Egoraptor really knows what he is talking about when he makes those videos, and they are remarkably helpful for design, especially how in his Mega Man X video, he essentially analyzes methods of teaching the player controls.

While it could be easily found from that video, I think that it's also worth posting a link to his first Sequelitis video, that of Castlevania (1 and 2). It's pretty helpful to understand how to convey a feeling in a game with gameplay, extricated from music or art design.


And good enemy placement, and great use of bosses.
Damn man that video was funny as hell! Also I never really thought about teaching people the game mechanics, I just always thought everyone who ever visited this site knew how to play SMW lol. Maybe an intro level would be cool, huh? Oh well, I will make my hack as it is.
Funny, I was more interested in how he pointed out how the developers worked at getting the player to feel the same emotions as the character they're controlling, though that might just be because I've always held the opinion that an element of a game should always be introduced in a non-threatening and intuitive manner with as little text as possible. Show, don't tell, as they say.
Originally posted by Kipernal
Show, don't tell, as they say.


There's a corollary of that phrase in video games known as "Do, don't show." After all, games are interactive, and nothing should be shown exclusively through cutscenes or something.
Originally posted by Deeke
Originally posted by Kipernal
Show, don't tell, as they say.


There's a corollary of that phrase in video games known as "Do, don't show." After all, games are interactive, and nothing should be shown exclusively through cutscenes or something.

Just to continue to play devils advocate:


Visual novels. They're 100% show, and are still widely considered games. I consider them choose your own adventure books, personally, but still :P It's undeniable they accomplish what they set out to do, so they won't care about that particular guideline either.



----



Maybe I'm just being pedantic and argumentative, but in these type of threads that attempt to be a public service announcement on game design, I feel the need to point out there are no rules that need to be followed. Save "don't bore your audience," I've yet to hear a rule that's applicable everywhere. Guidelines are great; different game types can benefit from doing things a certain way. However, I don't want anyone to get the idea that there are hard rules that must be followed to make a good game. You make good art by following the guidelines; you make great art by knowing how and when not to.

I didn't watch the original video, but I'll trust you guys that he made good criticisms.... for megaman X. Said criticisms may or may not apply to any other game. Not to discredit the value of the video; stuff like this can be quite educational, even if you're not making megaman X, but any knowledge you take from it (or anything else) needs to be selectively applied. Otherwise, you could very well be applying it when inappropriate. Knowing when it's appropriate, and when it's not, is the art of making art.


[/pedantic and pretentious speech]
Kai, not saying that every hack needs to follow this. However, there are hack where the only way new things are explained are via message box. That to me always felt like a lame way of explaining something to me. I'd rather see what Pitching Chuck does than be told what it does for example
Originally posted by Atma
Kai, not saying that every hack needs to follow this. However, there are hack where the only way new things are explained are via message box. That to me always felt like a lame way of explaining something to me. I'd rather see what Pitching Chuck does than be told what it does for example

That's a good point, I think that confusion exists because it's often brought up in hack removal logs that you should have a message box telling you what something does. This isn't meant to mean you should have a message box saying what everything does, it's usually meant to mean you should have a message box if you do something like make green blocks kill you or something of that nature. However, that can easily be thought to carry forward to things like having certain blocks fall through if you are the wrong character, or on/off style blocks, which can then in turn be thought to mean that you should introduce absolutely everything through message blocks. So maybe that distinction could be made a little more clear in removal logs?

Also; very entertaining video, with some good points made. I laughed really hard when he kept telling roll to shut up because he could figure out how to play the game by himself.
I've watched both episodes, and it is very clear that Egoraptor knows good level design when he sees it.

As to the use of message boxes, it really depends on what obstacles you're using and how you're using them. For example, if you are placing something like a Pokey on a hill that the player can't jump over, not everyone realizes you can actually defeat them by running up and sliding near one. In fact, many players don't realize sliding in general makes you invincible to many things, so a Message Box can be useful for explaining this.

To get right down to it though, anything with a visible behavior, when introduced in a nonlethal manner, shouldn't require any explanation to the player. It's the designer's responsibility to make these proper introductions whenever they build their levels around a new obstacle.
@Kaijyuu: I think you're trying too hard to wave your arms and say "There isn't just one way to design games!" Look at the overall quality of hacks on this site, and look at the video. I think it's going to do more good than harm.

I mean c'mon, that kind of apathy is one reason why there's been such a scarcity of level design guides on this site. I'd rather tell people "do this" than tell them "I'm not going to give you any advice because there's more than one way of doing things." People aren't going to learn game design by prevaricating about the bush; they're going to learn by trying things out and deciding for themselves whether those things work for them or not. If they apply things inappropriately, they'll learn from it and move on.

Having just watched the video, I can vouch that the lessons taught are in fact quite applicable across a wide variety of genres and games (and certainly a great number of SMW Hacks). The fact that it might not be appropriate in every single situation does not, I think, merit a speech that seems to put its validity into question.



@Atma: I've been meaning to touch on such points in my level design guide- thanks for reminding me by bringing this up :b
I just watched both videos and found them very enjoyable (and very true) - sadly games today aren't like that anymore because everything seems to get explained and spoken out in the game in the most stupid way which makes you feel stupid too. But it's a different time. Back in the days games had the tendency to be harder, and as the reviewer shows you had to have a strategy for a lot of places, but in the end it felt more satisfying if you could get past that obstacle. Sometimes patience is needed as well. You have to stand still a second to watch the enemy, to see what it does, it's movements and attacks and so on. I think something like that is totally lost in present games, but I don't know if it's the fault of the game developers or the gamers.

Let me try to explain... ;)
On occasion, I happen to spend some time on YouTube watching videos from people playing my hacks, this usually helps me a lot to figure out what works in the hack and what not. Well, and you get a bit of every possible gamer there, really. Some try to really do it without savestates and anything like that and overall they do a pretty good job, because they do what they are supposed to do: figure out the game, come up with strategys etc and sometimes they even have to think to move forward but hey, it actually really works. :D

And then there are the other guys... who hit the rewind button every time Mario gets hurt, and usually they screw up themselves during that because the rewind puts the player in a stupid situation, so rewind one more and more and more... besides that they run mindless through the stage and every single obstacle seems to be the hardest challenge every because the keep getting hit by the most simple placed enemies ever. But they don't care either. They have their almighty rewind button and savestates so why bother? They can try to do the most impossible (and not needed) jump or something and loose everytime because they keep pressing rewind instead of doing the right thing: figure out that doing an impossible jump here might not be the solution, so they should look for another strategy or something. Learning from something in the game doesn't help to these guys - they really need that "Megaman! Megaman! Watch out there's an enemy on the left!!!!! You have to shoot him to proceed!" and they need it again and again and all the time because they don't understand the game/hack/whatever at all nor do they care about anything really. Why they bother playing the hack? I honestly don't know.

But hey, when it comes to SMW-hacks, it might be the hackers fault after all. Sometimes the gamer in the video tries some really crazy shit to solve something and I go like "What?? Why do they think they have to do this crazy, impossible and sometimes even unfair shit?? Do they really think I want them to do this???" and then I realize they needed this strategy in another hack they played or something.
I also noticed that many people love to carry p-switches throughout the whole level (usually making it harder because when you carry an item Mario can't do all this fancy shit he can usually do) while sometimes the solution would be to hit the switch where you get them. So, they have a hard time carrying an item through a level which sometimes gets ridiculous and they get frustrated and thanks to rewind, they try again and again carrying the switch trough something they are not really supposed to and in the end they blame the game because it's so super-fucking hard and unfair, damnit.
People who don't use savestates on the other hand do this right, because even when it's hard to figure out where to use a switch they try it on different locations in the level every time they get there (after loosing a life for example) - "Rewinders" could do this too, even better ironically, but from what I've seen they don't come up with that idea. They just try to carry the switch through the whole level and at the goal tape they say "Oh it's over, damn I still have the switch what to do with it I haven't seen anything damnit?!" "Rewinders" also try to use the same (not-working) strategy over and over to get past an obstacle. People who don't use savestates on the other hand try a different strategy on a spot they died earlier.

So, in the end I'm not sure if Mega Man or Castlevania's game strategys would still work today, because I fear that most players today wouldn't get all this because it's really subtle (and how it should be really). Today, you have all these "in your face"-tutorials and so on.
On these videos above I really like the point about "storytelling through the game, not through endless cutscenes". I try to archieve something similar in TSRP2R but I'm not sure yet how or if this will work, because I tried something similar already in TSRPR, and my impression from watching videos on YouTube is that no one really gets anything until a cutscene comes up and explains whats happening. For example it's told throughout the game that these Roboxx came to Bowser and helped him and so on, and the Roboxx of course have their base you can visit and this place shares graphics and structures similar to the "Orbital Station"-level and what did I wanted to say with that? That the Roboxx were the ones who build all this crap for Bowser, but as I said, from what I've seen no one gets that even if its partly explained in the cutscenes. Most people don't even recognise that similar structure in both levels.
I for one know if TSRPR would have been an official game I played as a kid, the first thing I would have done after castle 4's destruction cutscene would be to go back to the volcano to see if what's been told in the cutscene is really true (that the castle crashed inside the volcano). I'm not sure but I might be alone with that. :p


I'm not really sure what exactly I wanted to say with this wall of text... maybe just that "old game rules" don't apply that much anymore because there's a new generation of players out there who don't know this old (and hard) games so they don't know how to play it or something. That has not much to do with the point of the initial post of course, because new games of course tell you what to do as well... just differently, so similar questions as posted above apply no matter what. :)
Now, let's not get too caught up in nostalgia--remember that games like Mega Man were the clear exceptions in the NES era, and that the majority of games tended to lean more toward what we see in the example of the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde game seen in the videos, where the player is likely to have no idea what to do if they haven't read the instruction booklet, or even quite possibly if they have. And it's not just forgotten the rubbish titles that do this--even some very good games suffer from this problem. The Legend of Zelda is a prime example of this--in order to progress through the game even on the most basic level, the player is frequently required to perform a number of decidedly non-intuitive actions, many of which are not hinted at in the slightest, or a best in an absurdly obscure manner ("Grumble, grumble..."). That sort of thing would never fly today, and rightly so.

I think a very significant factor at work here is a change in popular conceptions as to what exactly video games should be like, and what sort of audience they're aiming for. In the NES era, the reigning idea was that video games were aimed targeted squarely at children, rather than the much broader and more diverse audience they have today. And the interesting think about children is that although they tend to quickly become bored in most other areas of life, they have a surprisingly high tolerance for repetition in their games and entertainment. Looking back, I'm astounded to think that I had the patience to play certain games (especially our dear Castlevania) from beginning to end (and legitimately at that), even though if I were to play the same games today, I'd be savestating with reckless abandon, even though I'm by all measures a significantly better player than I was back then.

What's more, like the videos suggest, longevity was a very important aspect back then, regardless how it came about. As a child, I always considered length to invariably be a good thing, and if I found myself apparently coming close to the endgame a bit too quickly, I would tend to either backtrack and wander around aimlessly like a ninny, intentionally not making any progress, or even stop playing the game altogether for a few months. The important thing was that it not end too quickly--after all, one likely didn't have all too many alternatives, and we wouldn't want one of our dear, reliable sources of entertainment to feel as though it had been exhausted completely, with nothing new left to experience, would we?

What's more, the idea didn't necessarily exist then (at least to the extent it does now) that a game should be entirely self-contained. An important part of NES video game culture was trading all sorts of cool secrets (real or invented) with your friends on the playground--in fact, I'm pretty sure that's the only way anyone ever got through The Legend of Zelda in those days, short of calling the Nintendo help line. And certainly things like getting 100% were considered the neuroses of an obsessive compulsive rather than an essential part of truly finishing the game, and tended not to even be kept track of by the game itself, let alone open up new stages/bosses and provided alternate endings, as is considered the norm these days.

So I think what we need to take account of here is that despite the few shimmering counterexamples, video games back in the classic era quite frequently had a very real issue of not explaining essential elements to the player, and the sort of excessive hand-holding often seen today is the result of developers trying to avoid that very real issue which existed in the past. The problem is simply that they tend to take things to something of an excess, good-naturedly adopting the motto of "err on the siding of caution", neglecting, however, to notice that in their caution, they are indeed erring, and often quite noticeably so.
I didn't watch the video (a high concentration of swearing out loud = automatic dislike and close the window), but from reading this thread, it reminds me of some things from recent Zelda games... Like in Skyward Sword, why does Fi need to tell you to hit a certain switch, right when the camera has just focused on it? Isn't it obvious? You'd think they would have learned considering Navi's reputation (though I never really found Navi that annoying actually), but it seems they managed to create an even more annoying "helper" character... Or sometimes, even the camera focusing on a certain obstacle in the first place makes it way too obvious what the solution is, removing the need to explore. And this happens not just early on in the game, but is still common even in the sixth dungeon.

Sometimes I wonder whether the Zelda series is even supposed to be puzzle-based anymore... Not that I like the ridiculously unfair original Legend of Zelda (or most NES-era games for that matter for reasons Rameau's Nephew stated) either, but you can have puzzles that give away a lot less than many recent Zelda games do while still being fair.

By the way, regarding what FPI said, the connection about Orbital Station and the Roboxx wasn't evident to me, even though I've thought a significant amount about the TSRP series and its storyline. (The similarity between the structures in Orbital Station/Starlight Road and Chaos CompleXX was indeed pretty obvious, but I saw it as building up mystery for TSRP3, along with the rest of TSRPR's Thirdspace events (other than the Zycloboo ones that better explained the plot of TSRP2).)
Last edited on 2012-01-22 02:00:13 AM by Zeldara109.
Well, allow me to play devil's advocate here: While I think he made a lot of good points (albeit with more profanity than necessary), I don't think that's really much of a problem for SMW hacks. I mean, I could come up with plenty of things to complain about with respect to how most hacks are designed, but I've very rarely come across cases where I felt that poor design choices were the result of poor explanation or progression of game mechanics. I don't really think games nowadays explain things too much either, for the most part (although when they explain the same mechanic in multiple places, such as the motion controls and minigames in NSMBWii, it can get slightly annoying).

Also, just because somebody puts in the effort to get past an obstacle doesn't mean that it's necessarily fair or reasonable. Look at Battletoads, for example. Sure, it's challenging, but in a good way? Or how about Touhou on Lunatic mode? Or I Wanna Be the Guy, which is deliberately unfair, yet has been beaten even on the hardest difficulty setting? Then there are the abominations we know as Kaizo hacks...
Originally posted by FPI
And then there are the other guys... who hit the rewind button every time Mario gets hurt, and usually they screw up themselves during that because the rewind puts the player in a stupid situation, so rewind one more and more and more... besides that they run mindless through the stage and every single obstacle seems to be the hardest challenge every because the keep getting hit by the most simple placed enemies ever. But they don't care either. They have their almighty rewind button and savestates so why bother? They can try to do the most impossible (and not needed) jump or something and loose everytime because they keep pressing rewind instead of doing the right thing: figure out that doing an impossible jump here might not be the solution, so they should look for another strategy or something. Learning from something in the game doesn't help to these guys - they really need that "Megaman! Megaman! Watch out there's an enemy on the left!!!!! You have to shoot him to proceed!" and they need it again and again and all the time because they don't understand the game/hack/whatever at all nor do they care about anything really. Why they bother playing the hack? I honestly don't know.

I've noticed the exact same thing watching RttC playthroughs on Youtube, which thankfully have been fairly numerous as well. People rewind and then try doing the exact same strategy that just failed them a second ago, because, thanks to the power of rewinds, they can try that strategy again and again until the cows come home, without ever having to pause and think, "hmm, maybe I should try another way?" Then, some (including the viewers) might make accusatory remarks about the hack being too hard, repetitive, boring, etc. It seems like every single jump is a chore for them. Now, I don't particularly care if these people want to play like that, but I'm not going to pander to them as a designer.

Originally posted by FPI
But hey, when it comes to SMW-hacks, it might be the hackers fault after all. Sometimes the gamer in the video tries some really crazy shit to solve something and I go like "What?? Why do they think they have to do this crazy, impossible and sometimes even unfair shit?? Do they really think I want them to do this???" and then I realize they needed this strategy in another hack they played or something.

In fact, this is what kind of gets to me- the fact that other designers, especially some modern studios, are pandering to them, and this affects the way players go through my hack. Yes, sometimes the hack author doesn't account for something, but there are also times where the player just has incompatible expectations coming from other games, and that can be frustrating for both sides.

Originally posted by FPI
So, in the end I'm not sure if Mega Man or Castlevania's game strategys would still work today, because I fear that most players today wouldn't get all this because it's really subtle (and how it should be really). Today, you have all these "in your face"-tutorials and so on.

I agree- I think in a way it's just as much about the players' mindset as it is about the way the game is designed.



Don't get me wrong- NES games had their own problems (and I think NES Zelda was a bad game, by the way)- I'm just saying that the question of how to properly introduce gameplay mechanics is an important one, which is why I think Egoraptor makes good points, regardless of how much he likes Mega Man X.



Originally posted by imamelia
I don't think that's really much of a problem for SMW hacks. I mean, I could come up with plenty of things to complain about with respect to how most hacks are designed, but I've very rarely come across cases where I felt that poor design choices were the result of poor explanation or progression of game mechanics.

I've seen a lot of it in SMWCP1 and 2; it's not just basic controls we're talking about here, but also new sprites, platforms, and anything else players have to get used to. If no thought is given to how to introduce and follow through with all of this stuff, the end result tends to be clunky design. There's also the issue of just shoving everything into a message box when there are more elegant alternatives.
When it comes to the tutorial stuff, I think the best we to go about it is to briefly show what the controls are. For example, in The Binding of Isaac the controls are always painted on the first screen of actual gameplay.

Actually, I'll have to play some more recent games to get a better understanding of the problems with tutorials. However, I do remember quite a few modern games that had boring introduction levels with little action in them.
Originally posted by Rameau's Nephew
So I think what we need to take account of here is that despite the few shimmering counterexamples, video games back in the classic era quite frequently had a very real issue of not explaining essential elements to the player, and the sort of excessive hand-holding often seen today is the result of developers trying to avoid that very real issue which existed in the past. The problem is simply that they tend to take things to something of an excess, good-naturedly adopting the motto of "err on the siding of caution", neglecting, however, to notice that in their caution, they are indeed erring, and often quite noticeably so.

I think Rameau's Nephew has hit the nail on the head here, although I would add that it seems like as games become more and more advanced, the hand-holding has increased at least in part as a result of the available technology. Cutscenes today can certainly be unbearably long, but imagine the same thing back when just generating text would slow the game down noticeably. I mean, the evolution of video games from the 1980s to the late 1990s could almost be summed up as Pac-Man -> Pitfall -> Super Mario Bros. -> Sonic The Hedgehog -> Doom II -> Super Mario 64. It's not until you get to the Nintendo 64 and CD-based systems that cutscenes and all sorts of extra explanations are even viable options outside of an RPG game, almost simply due to the limitations of technology and loading times.

Originally posted by Zeldara109
I didn't watch the video (a high concentration of swearing out loud = automatic dislike and close the window), but from reading this thread, it reminds me of some things from recent Zelda games... Like in Skyward Sword, why does Fi need to tell you to hit a certain switch, right when the camera has just focused on it? Isn't it obvious? You'd think they would have learned considering Navi's reputation (though I never really found Navi that annoying actually), but it seems they managed to create an even more annoying "helper" character... Or sometimes, even the camera focusing on a certain obstacle in the first place makes it way too obvious what the solution is, removing the need to explore. And this happens not just early on in the game, but is still common even in the sixth dungeon.

While egoraptor (an appropriate name) raised some good points, I'm not all that sure he is as smart as he thinks he is. I'm no prude, either, but if he had spent more time talking about game mechanics than cussing and reiterating points for attempted humor this video would have been a lot more interesting to me. But I digress. I mainly wanted to comment on Zeldara's points to share a video that Ersan linked* to me.

So yeah, I guess it seems as though modern games have the hard job of straddling the line between not being cryptic messes (try playing a random Atari 2600 game without instructions sometime) and not being walls of boring and meaningless text (or worse, bad voice acting) that would put the most meandering RPG game to shame. The fact that some of it can be pretty subjective doesn't help matters, either.

I think a happy medium would be to allow the disabling of the tutorial-style dialogues.

* no pun intended
People need to stop worrying more about swearing than substance.

The perfect tutorial is something like the first level of SMB1. The stage is designed to make you learn the basic maneuvers, one at a time, to proceed. No hand-holding required. However, games like Mario and Megaman X has the advantage of having each button have one clearly defined function. Many games today are more complex and require knowledge of arcane button combinations that can't be reliably found out by just experimenting.
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