It's gorgeous & I love the potential that brims here.
What if something was this complex and well built, but the storyline was removed - the player simply builds their own story, ala DF Adventurer mode.
Some games come close though, the Witcher 3 includes choice-based gameplay with real consequences that last thoughout the game. However the developers still had to explicitly write each scenario as it unfolded.
Don't get me wrong, I loved those games, but when I played 3 and that was the big pay off...jesus.
Again: loved the games, had a lot of fun, but I was also disappointing that decisions I thought would matter wound up being relatively meaningless.
Not trying to say your experience playing the game wasn't valid, just that it might not be the best example to point to since that was a rather noteworthy example of what NOT to do for many people.
Well, there was "Invisible War" I suppose, but we don't talk about that one.
Another example is competitive fps games like CoD/Halo/Quake — the story (and singleplayer mode in general) is wholly unimportant; players will continue to have, and create, stories, despite the multiplayer modes offering little more than a setting. Interaction between each other becomes the story you tell.
No man’s sky (NMS) was simply a bad game, and poorly implemented procedural generation (procedurally generated games are appealing in that you’re exploring the system/simulation, and trying to get a handle on it. No man’s sky had a lot of “elements” to its generation, but its system was very basic; it didn’t take long to mostly understand it, and it was sufficiently complex to allow interesting new phenomena to emerge). NMS’s failure says very little about what procedural generation can offer, because it didn’t make a very good attempt at it. Spore is another example of a failed attempt. Borderlands is another, to a degree. None of these games understood that it’s the system thats interesting, not the combinatorial explosion. Thus their procedural generation is totally unsatisfying, and uninteresting.
That's fine and purely procedurally generated games can be amazing (I'm working on one myself), but they are a different type of game play, and often attract a different kind of player. Not everyone wants to be a musician, some people just want to play rock band.
For open world exploration games in particular, in every single example I've seen, mixing in hand crafted world building with systemic game mechanics always provides a better experience.
To donavanm's point that you need writers to create engaging content, as you've pointed out Dwarf Fortress has writers--they're just operating on a different level.
But I still think the learning curve is a big part of it. Just look at how many "Get started with Dwarf Fortress" tutorials are out there.
I'm also not sure its fair to consider DF's writing as similar to donavanm's -- they're not operating at a different level so much as a totally different task. donavanm's writer as I understand it is trying to lead the player through a story, whereas DF's trying to produce a story through the player. The former produces an overarching theme, plot, characters, etc. The latter produces pieces that could fit in a story (or stories), and hope it will occur as an emergent phenomena of play.
It's like writing a protocol versus using one; you could say both are doing software engineering, but they're very, very different kinds of software engineering, and require totally different thinking.
Notably, story-component-writing probably also scales pretty well (the engine develops it out), while story-writing does not. Which of course is true of procedural games in general. You get the engine and the pieces right, and you've got exponentially many scenarios to explore (the problem is that, if you do it wrong, you have exponentially many scenarios that you don't want/care to explore ~~ No Man's Sky)
The genius of Minecraft is that it's a vast canvas for you to shape, not an interesting world to study. The purely procedurally generated world that it generates are fun to build on they just aren't that interesting after you've experienced it for a bit.
I don't think they were only talking about an overarching large scale story, but also the small scale side stories that happen throughout the world. Allowing the player to overhearing the backstory of 2 train robbers right before they start the robbery, or coming up with a back story for an abandoned house and telling it through the items left around. Small additions that add flavor and detail to the world. When you add to that some game mechanics around choosing to aid or stop the train robbers, choosing to find the lost treasure hinted at by a journal found in the abandoned house etc..., and then the game world reacts and changes based on those actions, to me, you're doing exactly what Dwarf Fortress is doing. To me the difference is scale (granted it's a huge difference and I think much more difficult to pull of right). Dwarf Fortress does it on a much grander level that allows for more variation and more genuinely unexpected emergent behavior.
The creators of Dwarf Fortress write small stories that add flavor to the world and then they add systems to make those stories possible. It requires much more human effort to develop than just piecing together systems and hoping that the interactions are interesting, which is what I think donavanm meant by being less scaleable.
+1 for the apt analogy, and another +1 for maybe the best quote I've come across on HN in some time.
But you also have dnd/adnd to derive from, which put much less effort into story telling, and more into setting/emergent stories. Roguelikes, dungeon crawlers, etc offer very, very thin stories wrapping the gameplay (dcss for example boils down to: you want to steal the orb of zot, and its on the 15th floor of this dungeon). Minecraft also gained most of its popularity before it too added a very thin story on top.
But the main thing to realize is that most games don’t have very compelling or interesting stories; at most approaching a marvel film. Yet the succeed regardless.
And even warcraft (I’m assuming WoW), I’d bet good money that 90% of its players don’t have any idea what the plot is, except at the most superficial level.
I think its mostly that the open world genre happened to really only have RPG’s currently available and well funded (I cant even think of any major ones atm beyond bethesda, witcher and bioshock); but there are plenty of games that put zero to little efforts into any kind of story, that it’s not at all obvious to me that its required in open world games.
I’d like to see some of these interviews you’re referencing, if you have links handy.
I’d offer Braid and Bioshock as clear counter examples, where a significant part of the emotional punch of the storytelling comes from the interaction. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons too.
Much like “build your own story” as a genre can’t be judged from the failings of NMS, it’s just as true that games as a conventional storytelling medium as a whole shouldn’t be judged based on the “make it cinematic” approach that a lot of studios aim for.
The difference between a livestream of somebody's house and a soap opera is the storyline.
Without the story, only the world, the intensity is much lower and you would need the world to be much much more detailed to hold any interest. A real fractal of details like in a real world is much more effortful to implement compared to a good story.
And also, Dwarf Fortress is essentially a story building simulator, it is designed to generate interesting stories.
anyway, just some thoughts, people get fun from different things.
Showed the article to my teen son, a big RDR2 fan, who was less impressed, calling it "sad" that someone would play a birder in that world. YMMV.
I didn’t think it would work but it seemed to.
One encounter that stands out in my memory was of driving along a remote road in the middle of the night and coming across a bad traffic collision where a truck had completely crushed a small car along with its driver. Something about the brutal and almost mundane nature of the encounter has stuck with me.
"What was more surprising, though in retrospect it should not have been, was how instantly attached my eight year old daughter became to the game the moment she caught an unlucky glimpse of me playing it. Of course, it makes perfect sense. This is a game where you own a horse, ride your horse, take your horse out into the brush, find wild horses, capture and tame wild horses, and make one of those horses your new horse."
But it's still a balance between reality and the interesting subset of it; having to manually brush your horse with a mouse would be awful, while requiring that you take your horse to a stable every night would be fine.
The main issue is that to design a decent simulator like that though, you have to avoid basically 90% of modern gaming trends. Fast travel, mechanically-intense play, grinding missions, small-but-numerous subquests, etc are exactly what a modern (A)RPG pushes for, and are exactly how you ruin a game like euro truck simulator. It's the mundanity, scheduling and (some) repetition that makes the game satisfying.
That was in Barbie Riding Club.
As someone who brushes a real horse almost every day, it's not that bad with a mouse.
Ofc, if the game was primarily about taking care of your horse rather than maintanence for riding your horse, it might be fine. But my tastes definitely tend towards the latter.
1. Leaving it out altogether
2. A "brush horse" button that you click and that's the end of it
3. Making the player do it with the mouse
In American Truck Simulator you don't have to clean your truck, but you do have to get gas. Since a horse's cleanliness is more vital, maybe a cleaning mechanic (or at least a button/corresponding animation) should be in the game. Then you have to address the timing, which environmental/time factors, etc. would cause the horse to get dirty, if taking the horse into a lake will rinse it off (wait can our horses swim? Need to check with the dev team). I think I'd have a hard time designing a simulator that would actually be fun. So many trade-offs to consider.
Horse cleaning is important for maintenance, but a non-thought in travel. Thus a horse maintenance game would have brushing mechanics and it would be sensible, while it'd be a nuisance in a game emphasizing travel (even slow travel; feeding/housing your horse would be much more appropriate). But the key I think is to realize what the effect you're having on gameplay is pacing, and the mechanic of brushing or feeding or whatever is just an aesthetic/reason around it. So you'd only simulate so far as to render the pace of the game correct, and no more. So you might have feeding or cleaning, but probably not both in a travel game (it'd slow things down too much, and probably be part of the same operation anyways). A maintenance sim would prefer much slower pacing than even a slow travel game would
So the hunting and fishing and birding is fun because the rest of the game contextualizes it.
From the sound of it, RDR2 would be a great starting point to build a modern implementation of Wilderness.
I don't know to what extent you can remove risk-reward loops without making it a product that can't pay for its own development.
Edit: Oops. Make that 1820s, not 1920s.
Also you can ride a horse without the requisite care, cost, time responsibility etc. You can be whoever you want, and when you get bored of that personality, you can just ditch it.
I personally don't really enjoy this game, but it's easy to see why people do.
And of course there just existed more nature. We are destroying our environment and are losing many species. It's getting harder and harder to just enjoy a carefree joke about it...
Keep in mind that evolution is just the name for the mechanism that allows DNA to continue self-preservation by means of replication and recombination, allowing it to persevere in altering conditions.
So in a (sad?) way it is merely natural that many species die off as a consequence of our actions, as it was when the Permian-Triassic extinction hit. After all they are the result of our biology. That doesn't mean we shouldn't try everything to prevent extinctions and counter-act climate change. We do know that permanent loss of life is absolutely a possibility on this planet.
While we might cause Earth to become more akin to Venus with our behaviour, the apparent evolutionary disaster might also pay off for DNA by allowing it to become interplanetary.
Games let you do things you really, really, really shouldn't do in real life.
My worry isn't that lots of people would die--because they would--but I worry that nature would be destroyed far faster. Seeing beautiful locations that were undiscovered suddenly become tourist hotspots, they're completely destroyed in the span of months.
They were extinct in the wild by 1895.
In game there is talk about real places (like New York, Cuba, Tahiti) but there is little context to where those are in respect to where the player is.