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frd_neko
07-11-2006, 02:42 PM
Okay then folks, you're all experienced gamers, I thought it'd be cool to chat a bit about some of your best and worst gaming experiences. What I'll do is kick off a series of discussions on a variety of topics so we can all chat a bit about what things we like and dislike. This stuff is of relevance to HAZE although in each case I may or may not say exactly how!

First up, friendly characters in games, i.e. non-player controlled characters, either those who are part of the gameplay or just the plot. Which friendly characters have you most felt an attachment to? Which ones have annoyed you the most? What things do they do that annoys you? What things don't they do that you think would make them feel more human, or make you feel more of an attachment to them? My tuppence worth:

I don't think they've often been done well! The character I've probably most felt an attachment to would be Yorda in Ico, mainly because of the simple protection game mechanic and the holding hands thing. (Man, I'm such a wuss!) I thought Alyx in HL2: Episode 1 was done pretty well too, particularly things like when you have to hold the torch for her to be able to shoot enemies; nice feeling of cooperation.

But as I say, they're often done so badly. The sort of guys who mutter one of three stock phrases that bear no relation to what's going on and then run right into your line of fire or get in your way. I think those last two are simply really hard problems to completely solve in a complex gaming environment, however the fact that they don't give you any reason to give them the benefit of the doubt (by looking and sounding stupid the whole time) means it annoys much more than it would otherwise. Case in point; in the aforementioned HL2: Ep1, Alyx did occasionally stray in front of my gun wholst trying to shoot, but rather than getting annoyed it simply seemed to be a result of her more aggressive, adventurous character. In other words, because she actually felt like a genuine character, not just 'some NPC', I created my own explanations for her actions rather than just seeing it as being a bug. Which is really quite cool.

So...anyone else any thoughts on the subject?

Neko.

frd_neko
07-11-2006, 02:42 PM
Okay then folks, you're all experienced gamers, I thought it'd be cool to chat a bit about some of your best and worst gaming experiences. What I'll do is kick off a series of discussions on a variety of topics so we can all chat a bit about what things we like and dislike. This stuff is of relevance to HAZE although in each case I may or may not say exactly how!

First up, friendly characters in games, i.e. non-player controlled characters, either those who are part of the gameplay or just the plot. Which friendly characters have you most felt an attachment to? Which ones have annoyed you the most? What things do they do that annoys you? What things don't they do that you think would make them feel more human, or make you feel more of an attachment to them? My tuppence worth:

I don't think they've often been done well! The character I've probably most felt an attachment to would be Yorda in Ico, mainly because of the simple protection game mechanic and the holding hands thing. (Man, I'm such a wuss!) I thought Alyx in HL2: Episode 1 was done pretty well too, particularly things like when you have to hold the torch for her to be able to shoot enemies; nice feeling of cooperation.

But as I say, they're often done so badly. The sort of guys who mutter one of three stock phrases that bear no relation to what's going on and then run right into your line of fire or get in your way. I think those last two are simply really hard problems to completely solve in a complex gaming environment, however the fact that they don't give you any reason to give them the benefit of the doubt (by looking and sounding stupid the whole time) means it annoys much more than it would otherwise. Case in point; in the aforementioned HL2: Ep1, Alyx did occasionally stray in front of my gun wholst trying to shoot, but rather than getting annoyed it simply seemed to be a result of her more aggressive, adventurous character. In other words, because she actually felt like a genuine character, not just 'some NPC', I created my own explanations for her actions rather than just seeing it as being a bug. Which is really quite cool.

So...anyone else any thoughts on the subject?

Neko.

deded999
07-11-2006, 04:46 PM
Hmmm, nice post.

I haven't played HL Ep1 (yet!), although I take your good points about Alyx from playing HL2. I would also add that NPC's doing things and talking to each other is surely as important as them talking to you, giving a sense that they exist in a universe whether you are there or not.

The trust device (in and of) your companions in The Thing was a great idea, where you had to rely on them for assistance, had to be wary of them in case they turned on you, and had to keep them from getting too scared and going booloo on you, (although it sucked slightly as NPC's only 'became' The Thing at certain points - you could never 'predict' when they were infected and get the jump on them). An underated game that one.

Yorda is a damn good starting point actually - I know we're talking about FPS mainly, but lots of good ideas can be found in different genres, so it's worthwhile discussing them, if only for their use in another genre.

To Yorda I would add the horse in Shadow of the Colossus: your transport and your best friend all rolled into one. Although he was pretty indestructible... (http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/sadeyes.gif) I always felt fear for him while playing, especially when fighting on horseback against some of the Colossi, (the geyser one immediately springs to mind). Both these characters were NPC's you relied on - Yorda to keep you alive (by not dying!) and to progress further, and the horse to get places quickly and help you fight the Colossi. Both were uniquely sympathetic characters and familiar to any player, ('young girl' and 'powerful horse' archetypes) as were their inate abilites and weaknesses. They also gave the player a sense of power within the game, both by the ability to control their actions (to an extent - their actions on their own also helped their conviction) and the strength felt in helping Yorda and riding the horse.

And what of the biggie? How much is Aeris' death still talked about as a monumental moment in gaming? Why? Because: you had spent probably 25-30 hours with her, hours spent talking to her, learning her backstory and character, fighting and developing her skills and inventory, maybe even falling into a romance with her, and then she is brutally killed (the most innocent character in the game) by your arch-nemesis right in front of your (helpless) eyes in an apparently pointless death. Oh the humanity! http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/sadeyes.gif Okay, I didn't blub, but it was a close run thing there for a minute! (Nearly blubbed at SOTC though - those cold-hearted B******s).

To the general discussion I would repeat two points I've already made elsewhere: in a combat game NPC's really shouldn't get in your line of fire, BUT, often I imagine this happens because the player is moving around and trying to get a better shot instead of holding a position as they probably should do. Simulating real combat, (ie. making things like intelligent movement/flanking and fire superiority important) would be likely to improve this situation I would think; having squad play certainly makes such options viable.

The other point is the characters in Full Spectrum Warrior. Although the NPC's were uninspired and there was actually no central character in the game, (the squads were controlled by cursor, so strictly speaking it's not an FPS), the device of two wounded men (of four) being Game Over certainly helps concentrate the mind, and having a wounded man means getting him out of the line of fire and giving medical support become a vital task. Not only does Man Down! lessen your firepower, you also need to drop your fire squad to two so one man can help the wounded. This makes helping him doubly dangerous, but the reward of healing him is being back to full strength and fighting fit. A great (and 'realistic') game device.

Xylaquin
07-12-2006, 02:34 AM
USually, there's this really annoying tutorial character who states the obvious. Ahem,

Press the square button to crouch, and you can duck incoming bullets and sneak up on enemies. Try it now.
*Player has already done it*
Try it now.
*Player goes back and does it again*
You're getting the hang of this!

As for most attached to, it really doesn't matter in game were you have a squad- because usually you can tell them what to do and they'll do it. So, and let's take an example from a previous FRD game:

Let's say in TSFP Mansion of Madness there was no Jo-Beth Casey and instead you got 3 Private Hicks. Now these guys used the command system like in SOCOM II, in which you could tell them what to do and they'd do it, and they'd also defend themselves (thus defending you if you stand near them). Now let's say we're at that ladder bit, (you know, "You go first!"), now stop laughing imagining Cortez looking at Hicks. Anyway, what if Cortez simply order his squad to go first, then wait a few seconds untill he didn't hear any gunfire anymore.

Now that's what you can rely on. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/crackwhip.gif Although there are hints soldiers in Haze won't be so willing...

deded999
07-12-2006, 03:50 AM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by Xylaquin:
As for most attached to, it really doesn't matter in game were you have a squad- because usually you can tell them what to do and they'll do it. So, and let's take an example from a previous FRD game:

Let's say in TSFP Mansion of Madness there was no Jo-Beth Casey and instead you got 3 Private Hicks. Now these guys used the command system like in SOCOM II, in which you could tell them what to do and they'd do it, and they'd also defend themselves (thus defending you if you stand near them). Now let's say we're at that ladder bit, (you know, "You go first!"), now stop laughing imagining Cortez looking at Hicks. Anyway, what if Cortez simply order his squad to go first, then wait a few seconds untill he didn't hear any gunfire anymore. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

I see your point Xylaquin, but that's what you would do if you weren't attached to your squad. If you a) cared about them as characters, and/or b) valued their support and abilities, then you damn well wouldn't send them up that ladder without having a think about it first! (Maybe a couple of grenades through the hole before hand?) Just from the view of the gameplay itself, if they died (in your ladder room) you may very well meet some nasty boss right after and be really quite cut about your dead buddies then!

Having skilled NPC's is a great way to make them more valuable to the player. For instance, imagine a squad with a character like Private Jackson from Saving Private Ryan - he's your specialist sniper, and can often be heard reciting the Lord's verse while pinning down the enemy as you flank them. That's a good NPC - distinctive and useful.

Eggy_Joshua
07-12-2006, 07:58 AM
TBH i have always hated tag along characters in games. The first thing i usually do in a game is shoot them to test if they will die or not and whether i will fail the level/mission.

I dont play a lot of RPGs and such so im mabey missing out there on the attachment to characters. The first thing i would do in socom (A GAME I HATE) is tell my squad to sit still and then fire a single bullet in to there heads.
In socom 3 they became clever and turned on you so i told one of them to chuck a grenade at the other lol.

Timesplitters seemed to handle this problem well by using comedy and even temting you to kill them. Like in the first level of tsfp
"Cortez hold your fire" lol. Or being able to shoot a harpoon through jo-beths head and laugh as she continued to talk. Although in saying this the character Anya was was one that was a good helper because she was built up through conversation and all the other stuff.
Oh yeah and of course you had to feel sorry for that R110 robot.


Although all this stuff worked fine for timesplitter you couldnt apply the same method to Haze and this is where the problem lies.

joey_melons
07-12-2006, 11:18 AM
I *really* disliked the girl in Ico - it was like trying to coax a particularly slow-witted dog round an obstacle course! More a hindrance than a help, it was easy to resent her company rather than enjoy it. Especially when that game mechanic essentially *killed* any prospect of exploring Ico's world freely. Let me put the cat amongst the pigeons and say that Prince Of Persia: Sands Of Time = Ico done right! http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_wink.gif

I agree that the trusty steed in Shadow of the Collossus was pretty great though. When he takes a dive late in the day, it really grabs your attention: "Whoa, the game's playing for keeps now!" Good to see him return at the end (er, that may be a spoiler).

Ashley in Resident Evil 4: they made the stupidity of the A.I. fit in with her character - good work http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif! This aspect of the game was really well judged though. The "Ashley doing stupid things" element worked to make the game tense without becoming annoying.

The Zelda series has done the "sidekick" thing well several times. I have to admit, I was sorry to see the back of The King Of Red Lions (talking boat!) and Ezlo (talking hat!) at the end of their respective games. The same goes for the lead character's glamorous assistants in Phoenix Wright.

To summarise, I would say any *likable*, *useful* character that the player spends a good portion of the game with has a chance of winning them over! http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

deded999
07-13-2006, 10:21 AM
POP:SOT was a great game, and the understated relationship built between the Prince and the Princess/girl was charming. (The whole game was great, pity they butchered it for the sequels...).

I'd agree with joey_melons about Ashley in RE4 and likable characters in general - good points there. Makes me wonder what it would be like to play with a NPC you rely on, but hate with a passion, something like if you were Sgt Elias teamed with Sgt Barnes in Platoon.

Now if the devs designed it so that any attempt to kill Barnes directly would end up with the player getting killed by Barnes' squad, and/or even better Barnes 'miraculously' surviving the attack, grabbing the player, holding a gun to his head and threatening him, or a subtle threat if you point your gun at him even, that would create a real sense of threat within your team and a sense of powerlessness in the player, not something that happens often in games, (it could be seen as undesirable, but this would be a different kind of thing altogether). I get the feeling this is something we will see, sooner or later... http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/halo.gifhttp://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_wink.gif

Another game I'd like to mention would be Deus Ex, (Very Minor Spoilers!) a FPS view action RPG with the player as a genetically-enhanced agent and it's an absolute classic. There are many characters that can help or hinder you in the game, dependant on what you do and whose side you're on. Although it tailed off later on, the way you fought the enemy affected the way you were received by your fellow agents and other people which was a nice touch. The real point though is that your brother Paul is also such an agent. Initially you fight on the same side, but later he changes sides and you appear to have to fight your own brother. The fact that he is a relation makes it more difficult for the player to think of him as an enemy and this complicates what would otherwise be a simple scenario. This change of sides also complicates the players relationships still further and made the plot very exciting and pulled you right in to the story.

Later you are offered several choices regarding the fate of your brother, (and other major characters), and unusually the game allows you to take different actions which result in different results, (often games seem to offer such things but eventually force you to avoid real choices). It doesn't change the storyline massively overall, but at the time you feel like your decisions made a difference. This kind of choice about characters rather than plot may prove much more interesting to players in the long-run, as long as the NPC's are interesting and capable of surprising the player.

joey_melons
07-14-2006, 10:56 AM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by deded999:
POP:SOT was a great game, and the understated relationship built between the Prince and the Princess/girl was charming. (The whole game was great, pity they butchered it for the sequels...).
</div></BLOCKQUOTE>

Yeah, Prince Of Persia 2 was pretty rotten. Or was it? Perhaps if you could look past the hideous nu-metal, angsty re-styling, it was actually a decent game. I dunno - I couldn't, and turned it off after 15 minutes. http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_wink.gif

But I can thoroughly recommend number 3, The Two Thrones, as a return to form. Excellent game, and criminally overlooked. It's far better than the overrated God Of War, in my book. In fact they appear to have pinched the chain-swinging from POP3 for God of War 2. Gah.

SteamBot
07-22-2006, 04:40 AM
I absolutely loved the NPCs in Deus Ex, but I get the feeling this is more about co-op NPCs such as in TS:FP or parts of PDZ. I really liked how in TS:FP it wasn't just hardcore space marine buddies, but people like a hardcore oldskool brit invade a Scottish castle; a cute little teenage girl through a haunted mansion etc. It just gave it more of an adventurey feel, like an Indiana Jones movie not a James Cameron movie.

What I don't like about the help you get in PDZ (and Halo) is that they feel completely ineffective. When I'm working with 6+ other marines, I don't want to feel like the hero, I want to feel like part of the team. I want to be called on for support ("Gun's dry! Gimme your secondary!") as well as be helped out ("Sniper!" *NPC shoots sniper* "Alright I got him!").

For Haze, it'd be really cool if each marine had a very distinctive personality so that you really felt like you were getting to know them. Maybe the best way to do this is give each one a distinguishing sense of humour, but at the same time maybe that's not the best fit for the mood of the game. But making a believable character that responds to each situation in-character would be a pretty big task. So maybe one guy is too proud to ask for help and will treat you like a ***** when you do help him because his pride is hurt. And another will be eager to please and will give you a clip from his primary if you run dry. And maybe, like in John Woo's A Bullet in the Head, you'll find the ugliest side of your closest friends become apparent in only the most heated battles.

deded999
07-26-2006, 03:22 AM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by SteamBot:
I absolutely loved the NPCs in Deus Ex, but I get the feeling this is more about co-op NPCs such as in TS:FP or parts of PDZ. I really liked how in TS:FP it wasn't just hardcore space marine buddies, but people like a hardcore oldskool brit invade a Scottish castle; a cute little teenage girl through a haunted mansion etc. It just gave it more of an adventurey feel, like an Indiana Jones movie not a James Cameron movie.

What I don't like about the help you get in PDZ (and Halo) is that they feel completely ineffective. When I'm working with 6+ other marines, I don't want to feel like the hero, I want to feel like part of the team. I want to be called on for support ("Gun's dry! Gimme your secondary!") as well as be helped out ("Sniper!" *NPC shoots sniper* "Alright I got him!").

For Haze, it'd be really cool if each marine had a very distinctive personality so that you really felt like you were getting to know them. Maybe the best way to do this is give each one a distinguishing sense of humour, but at the same time maybe that's not the best fit for the mood of the game. But making a believable character that responds to each situation in-character would be a pretty big task. So maybe one guy is too proud to ask for help and will treat you like a ***** when you do help him because his pride is hurt. And another will be eager to please and will give you a clip from his primary if you run dry. And maybe, like in John Woo's A Bullet in the Head, you'll find the ugliest side of your closest friends become apparent in only the most heated battles. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

Nice post Steambot, (especially the BITH mention!).

The effectiveness of your buddies is a tough nut I would imagine - you need to feel they are useful, but on the other hand you can't be able to leave it all up to them, (The Thing was definetly a game where NPC's were highly valuable and worth helping/defending, but could also prove a liability). Fire superiority is one area where NPC's can be useful here, allowing you to plan tactics mid-battle, reload or flank with some sense of 'safety', but keeping them to more of a supportive role. As you are the sergeant of a squad, you aren't the hero, but you are the leader, which is a useful way of doing this.

As for NPC's as people, to go back to Deus Ex again, the quartermaster (and others such as the medic) in the UNATCO base was a great character - he was a mentor-like character for you, and the way you handled yourself influenced how he reacted to you and what upgrades you could get from him. He could disapprove of your methods and the 'rewards' available made his opinion of you matter in-game. This is important because your actions need to have NPC consequences beyond what they say, but also what they do and in gameplay terms.

(Another nice Deus Ex touch was that if you picked a fight with the 'friendly' Agents early on, (just to see what happened!), they utterly whooped your *** in seconds, making it a much greater feeling of danger and threat when you went up against them for real later on. Foreshadowing like this is a great way of building tension for later).

Sandwarrior1990
08-06-2006, 12:26 PM
The horse from Shadow of the Colossus was awesome http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif

Farah was a good character from SoT, not so good in he 3rd PoP game though &gt;_&gt;

LeadSquirrel
08-23-2006, 10:56 AM
I also though Farah and Yorda worked pretty well. Can't really think of anything to add though.

Maybe Cortana in the Halos. You didn't have to worry about her getting killed because she was inside of you. Plus she helped you through the game.

I don't like to feel like I'm going through the game on my own during single player. It's better when the character has a companion to travel and discuss things with. Gears of War looks like it's making a good job of that. Pity it's a third person shooter. Could still be good I guess...

Korath36
08-23-2006, 12:59 PM
I guess my favourite character in game was the female medic (forgot her name) in Metal Gear 3 Snake Eater. She had a personality and would talk about random movies. In the game I was about to head into the water, but before I could she contacted me to talk about a movie about a evil water monster. (Which I tought was foreshadowing) From that point forward when ever I went it to the water I threw in a few gernades in 1st. I also never got a leach from the point forward.

cob_shaw
09-01-2006, 06:47 AM
The only way to get people to feel attatched to other characters is to make the characters as human as possible. In most games the friendly (or unfriendly) characters are like machines, they have no emotions and no feelings.

Take squad based shooters for example, most of your comrades just do what you want, without saying a word (or perhaps just repeating a small phrase, "Yes sir, sergeant" or "Right away"). In real life they wouldn't always obey, they might answer back or refuse to do something (this may not be the case with all soldiers, some may be loyal and willing to die for a cause). Perhaps if the characters were seen to break down, start crying, yell or swear a bit or just show signs of stress and emotions, then people would begin to think of them as real people.

Enemies as well could have different effects on the player. For example you might sneak up on an enemy soldier, who is confidently patrolling the area. When he turns around, his expression could change from that of a confident soldier to that of a frightened man. Why? Because he knows you are going to kill him. Then perhaps the player will feel pity, we are only human after all!

LeadSquirrel
09-04-2006, 11:08 AM
Soldiers are trained to follow orders, the comanding officer would probably have the soldier court martialed for disobeying orders.

I see your point though, the characters need to be really human like. It really helps the atmosphere.

cob_shaw
09-04-2006, 12:47 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by LeadSquirrel:
Soldiers are trained to follow order </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

But they are still only human, people get afraid, when they get afraid they break down. There isn't much that can prevent it from happening, not even becoming a soldier can stop you from being afraid.

Korath36
09-05-2006, 04:34 PM
Heh that would be cool if your soliders break and you have to shoot their squad leader in the head to rally them with fear tatics! Just like the comasair in Warhammer 40k. In that game if you have a comasair in your unit and they ran, the squad leader will auto die and your squad would rally. That would put more feel into the game. In a sadistic way. "DIE YOU COWARDS!!"

deded999
01-31-2007, 08:36 AM
Having just completed Zelda: TP, I thought I'd just add Midna to the list - wihtout dropping lots of spoilers, the constant companionship and extra skills she gives you, along with an interesting look and feel to the character, make it one of the better examples of recent NPC's in my book.

<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by frd_neko:
Okay then folks, you're all experienced gamers, I thought it'd be cool to chat a bit about some of your best and worst gaming experiences. What I'll do is kick off a series of discussions on a variety of topics so we can all chat a bit about what things we like and dislike. This stuff is of relevance to HAZE although in each case I may or may not say exactly how!

Neko. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

You thinking of continuing this some time Neko?

BuddyFlashheart
01-31-2007, 10:29 AM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by frd_neko:
First up, friendly characters in games, i.e. non-player controlled characters, either those who are part of the gameplay or just the plot. Which friendly characters have you most felt an attachment to? Which ones have annoyed you the most? What things do they do that annoys you? What things don't they do that you think would make them feel more human, or make you feel more of an attachment to them? My tuppence worth:

I don't think they've often been done well! The character I've probably most felt an attachment to would be Yorda in Ico, mainly because of the simple protection game mechanic and the holding hands thing. (Man, I'm such a wuss!) I thought Alyx in HL2: Episode 1 was done pretty well too, particularly things like when you have to hold the torch for her to be able to shoot enemies; nice feeling of cooperation.

But as I say, they're often done so badly. The sort of guys who mutter one of three stock phrases that bear no relation to what's going on and then run right into your line of fire or get in your way. I think those last two are simply really hard problems to completely solve in a complex gaming environment, however the fact that they don't give you any reason to give them the benefit of the doubt (by looking and sounding stupid the whole time) means it annoys much more than it would otherwise. Case in point; in the aforementioned HL2: Ep1, Alyx did occasionally stray in front of my gun wholst trying to shoot, but rather than getting annoyed it simply seemed to be a result of her more aggressive, adventurous character. In other words, because she actually felt like a genuine character, not just 'some NPC', I created my own explanations for her actions rather than just seeing it as being a bug. Which is really quite cool.

So...anyone else any thoughts on the subject?

Neko. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

I experienced a surprising level of connection with Jock, of Deus Ex fame. There were actually a number of characters in that game that I in one way or the other "connected with", including an artifical intelligence "character" that is never given a physical presence but still manages to feel entirely "real". But Jock is definitely the most noteworthy, due to being my primary ally as the plot twisted and turned. And that's actually about the only character I have genuinely given a damn about. Other characters in other games may provide support, be needed to fullfill the tasks at hand, or they may be important to the plot and story progression, but I can't say I've ever actually cared about their survival for any other reason than to in one way or the other provide support.

So in general, I'd say developers still have some ways to go in terms of making me connect to characters. This is of course made all the more obvious with the emergence of more and more games that feature squad mechanics. I like the idea of a squad, but when a game forces this format on me, it had better be good. And it rarely is. Ghost Recon still stands out as the best and worst example of squad mechanics at work. On one hand, the game did make you feel as if you had real support in the field (and giving me the ability to manually assume control of any given team member meant that any technical issues with path finding and such were effectively defused), and I did attimes care about my team. On the other hand, their habit of dashing straight into my line of fire at every opportunity made for some real frustrating moments, especially during the more technical missions. Nothing like setting out on a mission that requires a demolition specialist, spend half an hour carefully taking out enemies and avoiding taking hits, only to have the demolition specialist run in front of my machine gun.

And then there is Gears of War. Now that's one game that should have been a lone wolf mission from start to finish. I genuinely despised the personalities of every one of my team mates, and they never felt crucial to the completion of the mission. But worst of all, their field performance was absolutely atrocious, which effectively made them feel more like liabilities than support.

What I primarily want out of a squad based game is a squad that puts up a decent fight, gets out of my way and my line of fire when needed, and missions that actually call for the existance of the squad in the first place. I would think that making sure that all of the above requirements are (as far as possible) met would go a long way in creating a solid foundation for connecting with your squad on a "deeper" level. Ghost Recon passed the first and last requirements but completely failed to meet the second requirement, but in its defense I can't name a game that has covered all three points without fail.

<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by deded999:
As for NPC's as people, to go back to Deus Ex again, the quartermaster (and others such as the medic) in the UNATCO base was a great character - he was a mentor-like character for you, and the way you handled yourself influenced how he reacted to you and what upgrades you could get from him. He could disapprove of your methods and the 'rewards' available made his opinion of you matter in-game. This is important because your actions need to have NPC consequences beyond what they say, but also what they do and in gameplay terms. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

I liked that touch, but I also felt that it was a bit... preachy? A bit too calculated on the part of the developer, basically trying to interfere with the open choice format by offering a prefered peacenick solution. Then again, I guess that was a refreshing change from the purely one-sided warmongering of other first person shooters, so maybe it was a needed component.

Krunkmaster_K
01-31-2007, 02:00 PM
Seeing how this about having friendly characters in games, how about the ability to put actual friendly character in the next Timesplitters' Mapmaker. Also, can TS4 let ppl play as non-Cortez characters, please.

deded999
01-31-2007, 03:10 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by BuddyFlashheart:
I liked that touch, but I also felt that it was a bit... preachy? A bit too calculated on the part of the developer, basically trying to interfere with the open choice format by offering a prefered peacenick solution. Then again, I guess that was a refreshing change from the purely one-sided warmongering of other first person shooters, so maybe it was a needed component. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

I see what you mean, but as you say it's a refreshing antidote to the usual warmongering attitude in most FPS'. I didn't feel he was quite the peacenik though, with his ex-marine gruff attitude - more the voice of experience IMO. Another great feature of Deus Ex is that the (spoiler!) switch from one side to the other later in the game means that you have already met and are familiar with many of your later opponents, Anna Navarra et al, which makes the later fights with them more interesting, and infinetly more satisfying, (especially setting up a string of booby-traps for Navarre to run through in the UNATCO base http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/icon_twisted.gif).

Jock was okay, although I didn't think there was enough interaction with him for a real sense of character to develop - it has been five years since I payed it though, so maybe the memory suffers...

Re: squad play - I can't say I've played enough squad-based games to really comment, but your observations sound reasonable. Funnily enough, though they aren't controllable, your companions in the flashback sequences in Second Sight were quite good company IMO, if lightly sketched. I certainly don't remember them being completely useless anyweay, and the general banter worked well. Being the lesser part of the team was quite different too.

UbiRazz
02-02-2007, 03:17 AM
I'm months late but here I go:

The mention of Alyx earlier is quite an interesting one as, although she's certainly got personality, I never quite got on with her. She was persistent, nice, focused, and always caring about me as I go through Half Life 2 but I never quite cared about her in the same way. Maybe it was literally a case of personality differences but I really didn't like her that much. She was too close for someone I didn't know but seemed to know me.

A group of characters I did get one with, however, were the ones from Final Fantasy VI. It could be down to my age (I was like 14 at the time of playing it) but I empathised with the emotions that each character was going through - from finding out who you really are, to finding your half brother, to desperately trying to find a way to bring your loved one back from the dead. With so many hidden moments which aren't noticeable unless you really care, little secrets which you don't know about unless you spend many hours learning about them, it's hard not to relate to them and try to understand where and what they come from. These characters were fighting for their own survival at times and went on an epic journey from small time rebels to having their entire world destroyed, literally, and then having to pick themselves up with such incredible determination to continue and then save everyone. The burden which was seemingly randomly placed on so many shoulders, for people who just wanted a better life, was huge and yet they continued on. Most with their own desires and hopes but always together. Every character had a strong personality, even if they were weak, and a vast and engaging back story – each one of them following through with that engaging personality throughout the game.

Then there is good old Aeries from FFVII. Like someone said earlier, spending hours upon hours building her up, taking care of her, learning about her past and her goals for the future, teaching her and generally having a huge emotional connection but then losing her in an incredibly fast and brutal way is obviously a hard way to lose someone you genuinely care about. Like real death, it's often very fast and unpredicted – this is the same and it hits you hard.

Another one I liked was the woman in Outrun 2 on Xbox. She's there, loving, carefree, easy to manage and always supportive. Lovely lady. You don't know a thing about her but she always projects exactly what you need (support, chastisement, happiness, etc) but without confusing the senses with extraneous information.

frd_neko
02-03-2007, 05:23 AM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by UbiRazz:
Another one I liked was the woman in Outrun 2 on Xbox. She's there, loving, carefree, easy to manage and always supportive. Lovely lady. You don't know a thing about her but she always projects exactly what you need (support, chastisement, happiness, etc) but without confusing the senses with extraneous information. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

I dunno; she never seemed to be too happy with my tendency to ram the car into large stationary objects. http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif

Neko.

UbiRazz
02-05-2007, 09:10 AM
Exactly! She's brilliant!

AvianAbsolute
02-06-2007, 01:46 AM
What sort of characters are we talking about? I mean, somebody in an RPG is gonna have more personality then an ally in a fps. Take Baldur's Gate 2, which had a 100 hours of gameplay and lots of time to develop characters. In fact a large part of (imo) good RPGs is developing a relationship to the characters in you're party. On the other hand, it is very hard to do something similar in a fps, and often it would seem out of place.

Anyway, characters I liked shooterish games that were ingame and not only cutscenes:

Ashley from RE4. Finally a character who doesn't get in you're way! Everytime you pulled a weapon, she would duck and let you kill the enemies instead of getting in you're way. Rescuing her never did bother me, it really added another level of tension to the game that made it really cool. As a bonus, she sometimes pointed out things, like barrels I could blow up.

Marines in Halo 1. Man, I really liked these guys; why? Because you didn't need them to succeed, but it made the game feel more epic. Hearing them curse the enemies, hearing them get scared (we're all gonna die!), or the way they react to you; all of that made them seem very "alive". The fact that they could die often made me try and see how many and how long I could keep them alive. It was also always fun to stick them with a plasma and watch them screem and run around before they explode http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif .

Somehow the marines in Halo 2 never were as cool. Perhaps because the level design was very poor in that game, perhaps because they were a lot harder to kill. And then there were the invulnerable marines (Johnsen etc.) which was no fun.

UbiRazz
02-06-2007, 02:53 AM
I was thinking about this a bit more last night and I love the Outrun girl even more. She reacts exactly how someone should, depending on your actions - dazzle her with your speed and drifts and she cheers and whoops for you; crash the car or go flying off the road and she gets all scared and angry; don't finish the course in time and she goes a bit crazy and starts hitting you. Perfect.

Where as, in something like Half Life 2 if you spend the game shooting rebels and killing all of your ˜allies' Alyx is still your best friend and seems to care a great deal. It doesn't matter how much time you spend doing ˜evil' things, she still loves you regardless. Which either says there's a lot about her character or not much!

Similarly in something like Halo, you could be the Pacifist Master Chief and bolt through all the levels, avoiding the enemies and only hurting them so you can just get past. It'd be tricky, but possible. Despite this, you'd still be hailed as a hero and destroyer of the enemy!

deded999
02-06-2007, 03:06 AM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by UbiRazz:
Where as, in something like Half Life 2 if you spend the game shooting rebels and killing all of your ˜allies' Alyx is still your best friend and seems to care a great deal. It doesn't matter how much time you spend doing ˜evil' things, she still loves you regardless. Which either says there's a lot about her character or not much!

Similarly in something like Halo, you could be the Pacifist Master Chief and bolt through all the levels, avoiding the enemies and only hurting them so you can just get past. It'd be tricky, but possible. Despite this, you'd still be hailed as a hero and destroyer of the enemy! </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

That's a good point you make, but designers must surely be careful; if they add lots of 'Gordon, be careful!'-type sound-bites, getting progressively more angry as you waste your alllies, that may make it more realistic, but it may both serve as an incentive for some - obviously twisted http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_wink.gif - players to do it to see how far they can push it, and if you get Alyx angry enough at you that she ignores you, but then come to a point in the game where you need her help, does she still ignore you and stall the game? Or go back to being friendly and break her character? They probably thought it better to ignore any friendly-fire incidents and avoid such quandaries, likewise Halo.

I do agree with Avian re: the Halo marines, although as with the enemies in Haze, I do wonder how much of a part audio played in all of their realism - it seemed to me that Halo did some great things with audio, whether it be the sometimes-legible-mutterings and cries of the enemy, (Utinni!), which made them seem probably more intelligent than they actually played, or your marines shouting out info, encouragement or death-rattles. Audio seems to be something that should be thought of even more than AI in some ways - whatever you do and wherever you look in a battle you can hear it, unlike friendly AI. You could even relate this audio thing to the Outrun girl, who basically can't move much but can cheer, whoop, get scared and go a bit crazy.

quicksilver_502
04-03-2007, 08:43 AM
well, i always hated carmine from gears of war as he kept whining. was very pleased when his brains got splattered across the ground.

deded999
09-02-2007, 10:41 AM
It's a blast-from-the-past and not to do with Haze, but I thought this was worth posting anyway:

<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content"> Interview with Derek Littlewood, Project Lead HAZE, about ICO & SotC [ Edited ]

I had a very interesting interview with Derek Littlewood, who's working on upcoming FPS HAZE, about ICO and Shadow of the Colossus. Many thanks to Derek for his time.

[AR] Hello Derek. Can you tell us a bit about yourself, and what you do?

[DL] I'm project lead on HAZE, Free Radical's new shooter that's headed to PS3 at the end of the year.

[AR] In ICO the focus of gameplay was that of holding hands. Everything in the game revolved around this simple action - you, the player, taking care of an AI character by leading her through the various puzzles and battles scattered around the castle. This, subconsciously, made the player actually grow an attachment to Yorda. The same thing can be seen, to some extent, in Shadow of the Colossus with Agro. Do you think that there is still room for improvement and what can be done to take this 'Player/AI' connection to the next level?

[DL] There's still enormous room for improvement, but as far as good examples go, Yorda is still perhaps the best. It's very interesting to look at why that's the case though, because fundamentally the game mechanics that define your interactions with Yorda are nothing new – it's about protecting an NPC. We've all played 'protect the NPC' missions in games before, and they're usually a bit annoying, so what is it about Yorda that elevates her above these other examples?

For me, the main factor has to be her characterisation. On a very superficial level, her animation is absolutely superb, both on a technical level and in terms of artistic direction. Everything she does, from the slightest glance to her most energetic moments, exhibit the same nervous, vulnerable personality. If you lead her by the hand you feel almost sorry for rushing her, as she stumbles after you, and when you ask her to jump a gap, her halting, nervous steps as she approaches it makes your heart leap into your mouth every time, in fear that this time she'll fail to make it. Imagine if she were able to navigate the environment effortlessly - it'd make you feel somewhat redundant. Everything about the way she moves and looks screams at you to protect her, and that's a fundamental part of getting the player to connect with her.

There's a slightly more subtle, but equally important aspect to her characterisation, too – she's infinitely patient. She never complains, she never pesters – even when she's under attack from shadow beasts she manages just the barest whimper as a call for help. And because she's happy to let you do what you want, at your own pace, she never irritates. Pretty much every other NPC I've ever had to protect in a game has spent the entire time moaning at me, telling me I'm doing something wrong or bawling for help, and the usual result is that you'd rather let them get killed than have to listen to their incessant whinging the whole time!

It's impossible to not mention the mechanic of holding hands, too. Just as in Shadow of the Colossus, Fumito Ueda shows us that controls can be used to not only govern the player's interaction with the world, but also to increase their involvement in it. By holding hands with her, our connection to her is visually communicated, and every time we press the button to take her hand, that connection is reinforced.

As for what could be done to take player/AI connection to the next level, I think there's a lot that could be done. Much of what determines our connection to people in the real world is contained within the subtleties – a glance here, a touch on the shoulder there – and these are actions that even modern games are painfully ill-equipped to communicate, because our animation systems and control methods simply don't have the complexity required to do so.

In the short term, it'd be nice to see more developers prioritising animation and characterisation to increase our involvement with their characters, and rather than simply relying on the fact that keeping a given NPC alive is the only way for the player to finish the level as a tool for making the player 'care' about the NPC, actually asking what it is about the character that the player will connect with, what it is that will make us care.

[AR] One of the things Shadow of the Colossus is best known for is its minimal approach to storytelling. Instead of assailing the player with cutscenes and plot details, the designer decided to leave almost everything up to the player's imagination, making the game feel very personal. One of the reasons why there were only two instances where the player was given information as to what was happening (beginning and end), was that more cutscenes would just lessen the time the player has control over the main character. Do you think there is any way to find some sort of compromise where the player is actually briefed about what's happening while still given control?

[DL] Yes there is, it's just incredibly hard to do. The problem with leaving the player in control the whole time is that the number of possibilities for what they could possibly be doing at any given time escalates at an exponential rate the longer you leave them alone. Cutscenes and narrative sequences generally need the player to be focussing on one event, or piece of information, at a certain time, but players quite rightly do whatever the hell they want whenever they're in control and so that makes it very easy for them to miss what's going on – which is why you see so many developers falling back on scripted cameras and control-free cutscenes.

I'm a firm believer that the story of a game is told as much by the player's experiences in the game as by the narrative exposition in the game, and so personally I think a game world that is rich and interesting doesn't necessarily need much in the way of 'traditional' storytelling to hold it together – as shown in Shadow of the Colossus. But at the end of the day, it all depends on the individual game – Final Fantasy games are always stiched together with lush, exciting cutscenes, and yes, this makes them more movie-like and non-interactive, but hey, movies are fun too!

[AR] Do you feel that ICO and Shadow of the Colossus influenced you in any way?

[DL] Absolutely. As both a gamer and a developer, I'm strongly of the belief that every good game contains lessons I can learn from, regardless of whether they share gameplay, narrative or thematic elements with a game I'm working on or not. So from that point of view, both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus have influenced not only what I'm working on now, but also will continue to influence every game I ever make.

But that said, there's definitely an element of Shadow of the Colossus – the theme of exposing the player to the consequences of their actions, that HAZE touches upon, too.

The fascinating thing about Shadow of the Colossus is that it does something games rarely do – it lies to you. As gamers, we're very used to carrying out the instructions we're given, to achieve the goals we're given, without questioning whether the result will be positive or not; we just assume it will be because we are succeeding at the game.

Videogames are funny like that – real life is rarely so reliable in delivering a defined result of a series of actions, yet in a game we always expect it. And SotC plays upon this by not only promising something that it doesn't deliver (in terms of plot resolution), but actually places the player in the position of having caused a negative resolution to the plot because of their blind acceptance that they are doing the right thing.

In HAZE we explore a similar idea, in that we really wanted to put the player in the position partway through the game of asking 'Am I doing the right thing? Am I even on the right side of this war?', and as in SotC, the lead up to that is all about reassuring the player, making them feel like they're doing the heroic and right thing, before pulling the rug out from under them.

The idea of making the player think more about the consequences of their actions in a virtual environment is fascinating to me, simply because games are traditionally so consequence-free.

[AR] All we know about what Fumito Ueda and the team are working on right now is that they're doing 'something.' There was also the rumour that they might be developing not one but two games - one of which would be a PlayStation Network title. What are you expecting?

[DL] Y'know, I have absolutely no idea. That's what I love about it.

[AR] Derek, thank you so much for your time. It was a pleasure making this interview. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

Link (http://boardsus.playstation.com/playstation/board/message?board.id=shadowofcolossus&thread.id=39852)

A good interview about two classic games.

Rasomaso
09-02-2007, 02:59 PM
Nice. http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

Tesseract
09-02-2007, 04:22 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">I see what you mean, but as you say it's a refreshing antidote to the usual warmongering attitude in most FPS'. I didn't feel he was quite the peacenik though, with his ex-marine gruff attitude - more the voice of experience IMO. Another great feature of Deus Ex is that the (spoiler!) switch from one side to the other later in the game means that you have already met and are familiar with many of your later opponents, Anna Navarra et al, which makes the later fights with them more interesting, and infinetly more satisfying, (especially setting up a string of booby-traps for Navarre to run through in the UNATCO base ). </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

Pish. I have four words to say:

Flatlander Woman,
Laputin Machine. (Wah?? I am not a machi... *poof*)

As to the quote regarding ICO and Colossus, I whole heartedly agree. I loved how it was just you and the environment. No HUD (well.. For the most part), No bloody onslaught... Just you , the (stunningly beautiful) environment and a bunch of puzzle rooms. It put less between you and the experience, which is the key to immersion.

deded999
09-02-2007, 05:03 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by Tesseract:
Pish. I have four words to say:

Flatlander Woman,
Laputin Machine. (Wah?? I am not a machi... *poof*) </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

I'm sure that means something poetic and profound on your planet.

Tesseract
09-02-2007, 05:55 PM
Flatlander Woman = Navarre's killphrase
Laputin Machine = Gunther's killphrase

If you learn these in-game, you'll have the option to say them when you face off against them later on. Instant kills against two of the toughest enemies in the game.

Just.... don't stand too close.

deded999
09-03-2007, 08:36 AM
Well remembered, I'd forgotten about those. http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_cool.gif

Toad17
09-03-2007, 02:41 PM
This might be a stretch but when I first played Yoshi's Island (God knows how many years ago that was) I genuinely felt guilty whenever I heard baby Mario crying whilst floating around in that little bubble.

Tesseract
09-03-2007, 04:58 PM
Odd... I had the exact opposite viewpoint.... I threw eggs at the whiny runt. It's hard to concentrate on rescuing him within a short amount of time when he just wouldn't shut up (http://www.vgcats.com/comics/?strip_id=203).

Same with Navi (http://www.vgcats.com/gallery/linkdesktop.jpg) in Zelda: OoT...