The gameplay that wasn’t there AKA should gameplay make sense?

If you take a look at the few reviews in Enola (the good ones, that are actually worth reading, not the stupid one that reads DIS FEMINIST SHIT GAEM SUX, DE GRAFIX SUX” that’s currently the most voted one), many mention something I had already thought of: the gameplay needs improvement.

The biggest question on my mind all the time was if the “adventure/hidden object” mechanic was the best, if it would have been better to use a different set of mechanics, or even no mechanics at all and make the game purely an exploration game (what some call a walking simulator). In the past, I’ve shared my thoughts on Dear Esther and why I didn’t like the game. Simply put, for an exploration game it required too little exploration and too much “hold W key.” I considered making Enola an exploration game but I knew I wouldn’t be able to make some compelling exploration. Besides, Enola has a big problem: the story is massive, so it would have been difficult to deliver it solely on exploration and hope people would find all the information to understand the story (don’t pay attention and you won’t understand many things).

At the end, my idea was to link gameplay to one of the characters, and turn many puzzles into “death traps” because one of the characters “is good at building things” and uses those things to kill you. The idea sounded good on paper, but after finishing the game I’m still not sure if that was the best choice.

But then remembered a game called “Catherine” and that made me wonder if the gameplay part of a story-driven game should be related to the story in some way or not.I haven’t played Catherine (I plan to, as soon as I can) but while the story is about a guy cheating on his girlfriend, the gameplay is about solving cube-based-pyramid-puzzles, and there’s no explicit or physical relationship between the two. Note that speaking about “gameplay as a metaphor” is completely unrelated to this because I’m not talking about gameplay “meaning” something (Silent Hill) but gameplay directly presenting the story (insert generic shooter here).

After all, there’s no logical reason why you have to limit your gameplay to the kind of story you’re delivering, or limit your story because the gameplay doesn’t allow for something more complex.

Even if most expect games being about punching, shooting, hacking or slashing, there’s no logical reason to make a game with a story that only gives the protagonist a reason to punch, shoot, hack or slash.

Right now I know what story I’d like to tell next, and now I need to figure out what kind of gameplay to use, even if it “has nothing to do” with the story. This is not about “what else can games be?” but about “storytelling.”

Or I could simply make a game about one of them soldiers “saving the world.”

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~ by nemirc on October 5, 2014.

2 Responses to “The gameplay that wasn’t there AKA should gameplay make sense?”

  1. “Even if most expect games being about punching, shooting, hacking or slashing”

    Illogical. Why would most assume this? No justification.

    • It is not an “assumption” without justification when you have math:
      For every comment where someone says games need more and deeper stories, and “kill gameplay,” there are many saying those games with more and deeper stories and minimal gameplay need weapons and something to shoot.
      Games that are more action oriented sell more than games that have slow-paced gameplay. Action oriented games where you shoot, hack or slash are more likely to become top sellers while adventure-ish games (and this includes flat out adventure games and story-driven horror games, puzzle games, etc) are considered “a niche.”

      If most people wanting action-oriented games was not somewhat of a good bet, we would see more story-driven non-action games that sell extremely well, but it is very unlikely that you’ll hear the new [insert adventure game here] sold more than Destiny or COD.

      Citing games like Minecraft with its 24M copies or Amnesia with its 1M copies is an exception but not the rule.

      You also need to wonder if developers adding more action to games is justified, and why. Dead Space turned into an action franchise, and the new Tomb Raider had a gazillion enemies to kill when the original games were almost exclusively about platforming.

      The real question is if people buying story-driven action games buy them because they include familiar gameplay scenarios (action) or because they have great stories. For example, did people buy The Last of Us because it had a great story or because it looked like a good action game that happened to have a great story? Also, if The Last of Us had been a point and click adventure and not an action game, and was developed by a studio that was not Naughty Dog (less known, not proven, etc.), would it have sold so well too? Those are totally valid questions based on things we can observe every day.

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