A Dangerous path


#1

Continuing the discussion from The workshop design:

I want to start off by saying I am a contributor, fan, and I have great respect for what Tom and Tony are doing here. Although the team has made a good decision about workshops I have a bit of a concern with the comments @Tom made above. I understand that the game has to be accessible for new players but very often a game is destroyed during it’s design in order to make them accessible. The big developers are the worst for this. An example being Spore. Spore was originally going to be an incredible game with complex game-play. You were originally going to be able to design different tools for your creatures, which would have different attributes, as well as many other aspects that would have added to the complexity and quality of this title. These features were developed for the game but then removed during testing in order to make the game “accessible”. In the end they turned what would have been an incredible civilization type game into a “toy” where you play a chain of very simple puzzle games with lots of variety in the look of the game being the only thing that is complex.

I just want to make a comment in order to voice my concern about this type of thing happening to what seem to be an amazing game here. Of course you need to consider new players and people’s first games when designing the game. Intelligently designed hints, and mouse-over text can do a great deal to improve accessibility without sacrificing design. With workshops they were going to use a solution that was changing the games design in order to make it more accessible. The original plan of making workshops a “Designation” would have been a big mistake in my opinion. This would have been an example of game design which sacrificed complexity and freedom for accessibility. There are much better ways of solving the accessibility problem with workshops. I’m sure that they must have come to see some of these in their brainstorming as they came to the correct decision. My hope is that the desire to make the game accessible won’t cause the removal or non inclusion of essential elements in other areas.

Like I said, I am a fan, and I know this game is going to be good, I just want to bring this concern out in the open a bit to hopefully have the team think of this perspective in future decisions. Keep up the good work guys.

Edit: I removed a bit of @Tom’s text that wasn’t relevant to what I am talking about.


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#2

I can understand why you would be concerned, especially if you feel that the game will suffer due to efforts to make it more accessible, but my personal opinion is that the accessibility will not hinder the game becoming a very rich and deep experience in any way.

I honestly don’t feel that the decision regarding workshops is really that game shattering or altering. My understanding is that it will probably be something along the lines of having options greyed out, or just inaccessible until you have met the requirements for such; so you can’t build a magma smith workshop, use all of the resources you have gathered, and then realise you don’t have one aspect of it, probably the magma smith himself, causing you to ‘lose’.

I also don’t think these decisions impact new players exclusively - movable workshops is something that just seems like a good design call, with such an emphasis placed on the city building aspect, making workshops immovable would seemingly be just plain odd. As a player I’m gonna want to shift my buildings around from time to time.

I think concerns are natural when you have nothing tangible to get to grips with, you’ll hear something or come across a comment, and you might not perhaps agree with it, and indeed worry about what the meaning behind it is, but when you actually get to witness it in action it all becomes clear and fine.

Honestly I wouldn’t worry, the team seem to be pretty on the ball in regards to what they want, and taking on board the feedback we provide them.


#3

I think you might have misunderstood me slightly. They did come the correct (in my opinion) decision with regards to workshops. They were originally going to make them static which would have been much less than ideal, with the reason being to make the game more accessible.

I like everything I’ve seen so far. My post is just a little ‘nudge’ for the team so that they don’t start going down “a dangerous path”. It’s an easy one for developers to follow, the “low road”. I’m just here to keep encouraging them down the “high road”.


#4

You’re right, I misunderstood and thought you had an issue yourself.

Either way I’m standing by this:tongue:


#5

@2_Zons … you do make a very good case, but i am curious if you have had a chance to participate in any of the live streams? radiant is showing time after time just how much they value their supporters input… i dont believe i have ever seen this level of community engagement before…

point being, yes… there may be some design directions that some folks will be concerned with - but radiant is nothing if not willing to listen to a compelling counter design argument… :+1:


#6

I have seen every single live stream… (religiously). And I understand the team has been excellent with listening to their community. That is the reason for my comment, to let them know one of the communities concerns. It has to do with all the decisions they make in game design, especially the ones we don’t even know anything about. They were about to make a decision regarding game play that would poorly affect the game for the purposes of accessibility. The fact that they listen to the community allowed them to go with the correct choice, and that is wonderful. My concern is: the reasons they were going down that line of thinking in the first place.

All that being said, I have complete faith in these guys (and girl) to make a great game.


#7

precisely… while they dont need to clear each and every decision with us (well, me… but not the rest of you), i have complete faith that radiant would pose a particularly vexing design decision to us if they felt they were at a crossroads…


#8

Let’s be very careful not to confuse depth with complexity.

Complexity is bad. In a complex game, you have lots of choices, some of which are meaningful, some are pointless, some are outright bad ideas that a player should never choose (example: starting a Dwarf Fortress game on an aquifer, building underpowered units in an RTS); and it’s not clear which is which. Complexity and accessibility are mutually exclusive, because complexity leads to frustration for all but the most hardcore gamers.

Depth, on the other hand, is a good thing. With some effort, it can be accessible as well. The key to a deep, accessible game is limiting a player’s options. You first want to identify and remove bad or duplicate decisions (removing is not necessarily deleting them; you could also tune them so they no longer fit in that category), and clearly label pointless/cosmetic decisions. Then you slowly introduce more options and let the player learn for themselves which options are good in which scenarios and which ones match their playstyle.

The key thing is that, in the endgame, a deep yet accessible game looks exactly the same as a well-polished complex game. The difference is that in the former, a player understands the game. Take Plants vs. Zombies (the only casual game I really like): if a new player was dumped into the final level, they would be utterly lost and confused - it’s a highly complex game at that point. But if they play through the entire game as it’s meant to be played, they get to use one new plant at a time, and they’re deeply familiar with every single unit by the time they reach the end. The best part is that they learn these things through experience - they didn’t have to look up anything on a wiki or in the manual (I call this “homework” in game design). Advanced players may discuss build orders on community sites, but a more casual player will go through the game without knowing that the most complex tactics even exist.

The problem with “dumbed down” games is not accessibility, but lack of depth, which is a real shame because you can have your cake and eat it too with accessibility and depth. I really like what I’m seeing in Stonehearth so far and I trust the developers to strike the right balance.


#9

Very well said sir (@MrKrazy) , and exactly what I was trying to get at. I accept your correction of my terms. Depth is exactly what I am talking about and you are bang on with how you introduce depth without removing it completely from the game. I know exactly what you mean when you talk about complexity with no purpose, and it is one of my peeves in some games.

Putting it into perspective with my original post, the team was about to omit some depth in the game in regards to workshops for the purpose of accessibility. Having to place a completely furnished workshop is extremely limiting. Having only one size of inbox and outbox, having no way of incrementally upgrading it (starting off with a real small one, and expanding it when you have more resources). Since the carpentry shop is the first workshop required, and the key to creating starting objects for other workshops / classes, it will be used to teach players the basics of creating a workshop. For new players it’s easy to introduce. They have stated that the workshop will be required to create a carpenter, a change from when they were going to have it be a tool (saw for carpenter) that allows workers to be upgraded. So in whatever interface you upgrade your worker, all of classes will be disabled until you have their workshop requirements. In the beginning the carpenter could be highlighted (but still disabled). Mousing over it would give you the message "requires workbench, tool-table, Input stockpile, and Output stockpile). Also the building interface for a worker will be very limited as they are the base unit, the workbench, tool-table, and stockpiles icons could have some flashing text saying “required for carpenter workshop”. These things pointing the players to building his first workshop. If all furniture in the game is movable, as would seem by the icon versions of furniture shown in several of the live-streams, then the workshops could easily be optimized or moved after their initial construction, which would be very difficult with a fully packaged workshop.

Obviously there is no need to argue for custom workshops as they have already said they are in. My point is to illustrate that depth can be put in while keeping the game accessible.


#10

The system is working as intended. (ha)

We had a bad idea. It came with the best of intentions, but it was bad. You guys called us on it, and together we came up with a much better idea. High fives all around!

I think we all share @2_Zons 's options on depth, and none of us want a dumbed down game. The trick is to keep it deep and accessible at the same time. You should not need to browse a wiki while playing the game to learn how to play, and we don’t want to “educate” the player with a bunch of annoying prompts either. The player should learn by playing.

Right?


#11

That video is perfect for this topic. Its also worth pointing out that the entire time I was screaming “Fire Emblem” in my head… I love those games, but the tutorial levels drive me nuts…


#12

That is truly a good way to way to teach a player the game play mechanics. But I am not sure if the same thing is possible for a building/RTS game.
It is also, that in this type of game you really have to make some goals for the late game. What I think of it the difference between the titels and there learning curve in ANNO.
In the first ANNO the start was pretty hard and later on nothing was that of a challenge, like the first hour or so. In the 1503 they made it wore. But in the 1702 they learned and gave the player a little more help at the beginning and also the late game was more challenging.
And then 1404 came, were the beginning is just very easy but the mid and late game offer some challenges and then there are the big buildings which are a really nice late game addition and keeps you playing for hours and hours.

With a non frustrating beginning and challenges at the end.


#13

Ah, I see the point you’re trying to make (although I watched the same livestream and I’m a little fuzzy on how the narrowly averted “dumbed down” workshops worked).

I just wanted to throw out my two cents and help preserve some sanity in this conversation, because while a great many would-be-deep games have been ruined in the name of accessibility, accessibility is not a bad thing, nor is it always a warning sign of a “dumbed down” game. In fact, the trend toward accessibility in games is good! It’s just that big companies seem to go too far to try to reach a market that’s not interested in what would make their game great.


#14

That is an excellent video @Tom. That guy knows what he’s talking about. Although the games he references came out after my childhood video game years. I think most of the “old school” gamers here including @tom, @Ponder, and others are about 1/2 a generation younger than me.

I got my first video game addictions on my brothers TRS-80 (original, not color).
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The graphics resolution was 128 X 48, 2 color (the big white blocks) in order to make the stars in this game they used period text characters.

Later my best friend got a Coleco Vision.
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The quality of the graphics on that, blew my mind. “Just like the Arcade” it was the highest form of praise you could give to any home video game, as that was the standard that everything was measured by.

And a little later we both bought Commodore 64’s with our summer job money.
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The Commodore was to Coleco Vision, what Coleco Vision was to the TRS-80. *That International Karate Screenshot is early fighting game reference for @Tom and @Ponder. It was an amazing computer for it’s time, and I believe the single best selling computer model of all time. Of course we would only be playing games on our home systems after we had spent all our paper route money at the video arcade. I still remember the fist time I played “Space invaders” (long before coleco vision).

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By the time the NES came out, I had already graduated to PC games (back when PC meant personal computer, not a reference to what OS your computer used). My PC at the time being an Amiga, and then later to a DOS machine. I’m getting a bit off topic, but that video made me reminisce. Ahh the good old days, spending 30 min to copy a 170Kb floppy disk using the latest copy protection duping disk copy program. Having parties where we could all bring our 1541 disk drives, daisy chain them together and have multiple destination drives writing simultaneously (we had 10 at one game copy party). I digress…


#15

@2_Zons RUN AWAY IT’S A DINOSAUR!!!

but seriously how old are you?


#16

Darn you Tom. Ever since yesterday, I can’t seem to get “MEGA MAN MEGA MAN!” out of my head. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


#17

Not that old, only 43. I’m one of those guys who can remember waiting in line for Star Wars, before it had a episode number and it was just “Star Wars”. I was seven.


#18

I grew up with so many games and skipped most of the early PC’s though I am one of thosen ot referring to Windows when using PC as I am old enough to have experienced more than one with Comodore64 the most important one.

International Karate… memories… fighting with my best friend using joysticks… though all in all available games and consoles had been hard to come by due to living “behind the wall”, not to mention that many games and hardware never were made available in Germany so it is now (the last maybe 10 years) that I experience some of the most awesome games, many named by @Tom in the first Streams.

@Topic:
I lo0ve accessibility in games, I even like tutorials… if they not stop me from gaming and best would be to be able to skip them and tooltips without loosing anything. Today most games are clearly more complex, attempting to use all kind of controls and so on.
If I look at Gnomoria, Towns and Timber&Stone… they explain nothing when you play, you get this frustrating moments but then it just comes to you and you know what to do. The first 2 of them are still kinda frustrating as in Towns my Townies just keep starving as it is impossible for me to plan a good foodproduction. In Gnomoria I have the problem with enemies spawning which are simply to strong for my poor gnomes which is thanks to the way how the game calculates when you are ready (you need more wealth to attract gnomes, more wealth means stronger enemies).
Still, in all 3 games you just need to know how to start… that first step and all else is simply impossible. If youn ot have the first workbench which is needed to make maybe planks… you can not produce chairs at that same workbench which are needed for everything after it and so on. Once you know how it works… fine. In addition there might be tutorials which are optional, you can go through them or just say “Let me do my stuff!” and not even look into the option in the menu.


#19

I don’t want to harp on this point. I definitely don’t want to come across as negative or that I think the game will be bad. Quite the opposite, I know this game will be good. But this is a forum and it is the place for people to spew their thoughts in an effort to help the developers understand their community.

Although the video @Tom posted is brilliant the methods used in Mega Man do not necessarily transfer to a game like Stonehearth. Mega Man is a side scrolling platform shooter. One of the simplest games you can play. It’s one thing to teach a player how to run, jump, shoot, slide, climb, charge shots, and upgrade, an entirely different thing to teach players how to manage resources, production, population management, military unit training, defensive structures, etc. That doesn’t include the concepts at the same level as what Mega Man teaches it’s players, which for Stonehearth would be: moving the camera, selecting workers, upgrading workers, basic building, etc.

If the team tries to make Stonehearth so accessible that it does not require tool tips or a tutorial, then they would need to “dumb it down” quite a bit. Which I don’t think they are going to do, at least I pray to all the gaming gods that they don’t do. I’m sure I am a pretty typical gamer. For me, any type of sand box building type game (Sim city, Anno, Civilization, Rome, Minecraft, I could go on) the first game I play is never the one I end up putting allot of time into. With any of these type of games I always start a game and after a few hours of play I realize I now understand the game much better, and that I’ve made quite a few mistakes due to my lack of knowledge of the games mechanics. I inevitably start over at some point so I can put into practice all that I have learned. In fact in games that I consider the best of these types of titles, I end up starting over several times due to my learning curve. I don’t see this is a detractor to these games at all. It is part of the magic of computer games. You can always restart and do things differently. If only life was like that.

With all of that being said games still have to be accessible. The difficulty needs to increase with time, allowing players to learn as they go. I can think of examples of building type games (I won’t mention them to avoid digressing again) that are horribly designed as far as accessibility. If you cannot advance because the game seems too difficult with out it being apparent as to what you are doing wrong, then the game has completely failed and only the extremely dedicated player will struggle through, by reading forums, and wiki’s to try and figure out how to advance @2_Zons <- guilty as charged. Even though I play these types of games, I recognize they are broken, and shake my head at the developers (not Stonehearth developers) sometimes in fits of rage thinking how can you be so retarded to design your game like this. The worst possible game design is when the game lacks depth and accessibility. I’ve played some of those and they just make you want to throw your monitor through a wall.

All of that being said, Everything I’ve seen so far leads me to believe that the Stonehearth team “gets it”. I just want to remind them that its OK for a game like this to take a few play-through’s to get down. You can’t expect with an incredible game like this, with depth and complexity and sandbox free form play style, that players will be able to get it the first time out. Learning how to play from trial and error is half the fun. A game that just points you to the right way to play is not the game that @Tom and @Ponder describe in their video, comparing it to Lego and creating your own Dungeons and Dragons modules.


#20

my apologies for boiling down your entire post into one quote, but this seemed to be at the heart of it (for me at least)… and i would agree, i dont think radiant intends to water down the game in any way, but rather remove the “unfun” wherever it rears its ugly head, and leave the player with a deep, yet approachable game…