Gameplay and flaws

I’ve read a lot entries on this month’s round table and I would like to expand on my previous post.
It’s clear by now that some of us are interpreting the word gameplay in different ways. I used that term to refer to a set of mechanics, to how the player interacts with the game. Think of it as the programmer point of view. In this sense, a flaw is easily viewed as a handicap the player can expectably perceive as forced.
Then, we have the reactions, the intentions, the reasons for why we are doing what we are doing. These are the things that bring context to the game and are basicaly instruments of storytelling. Character flaws that shine through the context are the ones that make the game interesting to play and the characters believable.

In a recent post on Man Bytes Blog, Corvus talked about Max Payne’s bullet time. From the programmer’s point of view it really can’t be seen as a character flaw since it helps and rewards the player with a neat mechanic. But then, Corvus said something I’ve never thought of before: Max is so focused in revenge that time simply dilates around him. Honestly, until now I’ve seen “bullet time” as just a mechanic and maybe there’s a reason for that. Why time slows down is never explained in the actual game, its designated name doesn’t have any indication of having anything to do with max’s state of mind and the player is the one triggering the mechanic which doesn’t really make sense since this would imply that max can enter bullet time anytime he wants. I can forgive this last one since it doesn’t make sense context-wise but it does in a game design way of thinking. The player would be exceptionally annoyed if he enters bullet time when reloading or when no enemies are left alive.

But there are other points of view naturally. In graphic adventure games the player has a set of verbs (most of the time) that he uses on the things that surround the character. These verbs can’t be seen exclusively from either point of view, nor from context nor from mechanics. Somehow they are both. They serve as a functional way to get around the game but at the same time they give insight on the character’s personality.

For instance, the mayority of graphic adventures avoid any kind of verb that relates to violence. This is because the mayority of graphic adventure characters are wimps or irredeemable pacifists. Full Throttle is a clear example of how the verbs can show the character’s personality. The player is welcome to try to punch and kick everything in sight. Ben begins his adventure punching his way out of a garbage container, then kicks down the bar’s door and then almost rips the nose out of the bartender. In this game, sometimes violence is the answer and this shows the main flaw of Ben. Also, this also makes him really cool, but that’s beside the point. Or is it?.

I hope this post sheds a new light on my point of view expressed on this month’s round table entry. I’m more than sure that there are going to be some more, interesting posts submitted and I’m going to feel the need to keep talking about the subject.

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3 thoughts on “Gameplay and flaws

  1. Yes, bullet time was done as a “cool feature” but it actually expresses a lot about the character of Max Payne and his relationship to his environment, don’t you think?

    This is what I mean when I saw game mechanics are storytelling devices–every feature says something about the character, from the running speed to the number of weapons they can hold under their coats. It’s important, I feel, to make conscious decisions about these things from a storytelling perspective.

  2. kimari2

    I… don’t think there was a point in this post, I just wanted to expand on the thoughts of the previous entry and ended up sticking together a bunch of different but related ideas.

    And yeah, I’m still polishing my english so forgive me if some paragraphs are difficult to understand.

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