TGC '10: Breaking the Fourth Wall

TGC '10: Breaking the Fourth Wall

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The trick of great game design is more than just having great ideas and a solid team; it's also about managing your own preconceptions, and focusing on the players experience.

Red Storm's Gary Stelmack has been designing games for ten years, and before that worked in QA, making him pretty well qualified in understanding how players interact with games, and what that means for designers. In his eyes, one of the key aspects of game design is that a player's perception of a game is the whole reality, and what you intended and what you actually delivered are not necessarily the same thing.

"Your first impression absolutely has to be the one you want to make," he said, "just like in real life; you never get a second chance to make a first impression."

Stelmack told the story of Red Storm's 2000 RTS Shadow Watch which had a very complicated AI that would move its forces into optimal positions, but the player never got to see this, and so it appeared that the game was throwing enemies at you at random. The disconnect between what the game was actually doing, and what the players perceived to be happening was sufficient to change the player's perception of the entire game.

Stelmack's solution is a very simple one however, although its execution can be difficult: have a clear vision of what you want a player to experience, and be able to put aside your preconceptions and listen to feedback.

Red Storm's approach is to start with broad goals for feature - Stelmack's example was a game where pistols were only supposed to be a last resort weapon - and then to prioritize those goals, so should something need to be cut or changed, the difficult decision of what has to happen has already been made.

From there it's a case of testing and modifying your game; creating specific levels to test individual systems, but also testing the game as a whole, asking the right questions, and encouraging your testers to be honest with their feedback and once the feedback is obtained, it has to be analyzed and acted upon, and Stelmack said that at Red Storm, the assumption is that it is the developers who have done something wrong, not the tester.

"It's very important to work around your own preconceptions. You put tons of hours into figuring out how all the systems are supposed to work. You know what all the numbers on the spread sheet are and what they're supposed to be. The player doesn't."

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I assume that what this is talking about is games where you know/it seems that the NPCs have unfair advantages to make up for sloppy A.I?

If so, the easy fix is set up competent A.I.

I did read all this, but it just doesn't seem too clear to me, so forgive me if I'm wrong.

I second the above..
I just, don't get it..

And I saw nothing in there about the fourth wall!
Except that reality bit.. But it doesn't count!

I was going to ask about the fourth wall thing too, I never really saw a reference there. Also, I don't see what using pistols as a last resort has to do with AI.

Pronema:
I was going to ask about the fourth wall thing too, I never really saw a reference there. Also, I don't see what using pistols as a last resort has to do with AI.

Same here, if anything it just feels like somethign about intuitive design.

Breaking the fourth wall is more about, emotion, drawing a person in and blurring those lines of reality, and perception.

All this is really saying to me is "We want to make a better shooter"

That was not breaking the fourth wall.

DEADPOOL is breaking the fourth wall.

Misleading title maybe. I was assuming something totally interactive drawning the player into teh action, nothing like this.

And nothing new there every programmer knows what he want the player to experience,
I believe the fourth wall refers to this: "Stelmack's example was a game where pistols were only supposed to be a last resort weapon - and then to prioritize those goals, so should something need to be cut or changed, the difficult decision of what has to happen has already been made."

I think he wants to brake the fourth wall by delivering a game that forces the player to pick a certain strategy! Its like on vanilla wow 2 first raiding instances with so much fire damage from mobs and bosses the only main strategy possible was building caracthers with as much fire resistance as possible and sacrifice other stats.

I am kind of lost here.

Jaredin:
Breaking the fourth wall is more about, emotion, drawing a person in and blurring those lines of reality, and perception.

Not really, if a character knows they are in a work of fiction, or references something that shouldn't exist("press A to jump") then they're breaking the fourth wall.

What this has to do with the article's title, I don't know.

Flour:

Jaredin:
Breaking the fourth wall is more about, emotion, drawing a person in and blurring those lines of reality, and perception.

Not really, if a character knows they are in a work of fiction, or references something that shouldn't exist("press A to jump") then they're breaking the fourth wall.

What this has to do with the article's title, I don't know.

I think what it means is as the player didn't see the bigger picture of how and why the AI was moving units to certain places the player was just assuming that they were being spawned randomly and it took them out of the game.

 

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