Friday, March 5, 2010

Demon's Souls, pt.7: Feedback

The following comment on the Demon's Souls review seemed worth a larger post:
Elias: Interesting. Do you think its more original mechanics would work well in a less daunting, more accessible game? Maybe some but not others? Which?
Hum. Off-handedly, of the most novel systems:

Messaging System
Unless you had a narrative reason for reading messages from other players, this system might pop you out of the experience. If you care about context, you also need some type of message-choosing if you want it to keep in your narrative, else 1337-speak beware. Finally, the presence of this system depends on how much of your game is difficult enough to warrant hints. This wouldn't be my first choice for a system to port.

Joining Games to Assist
The novelty of this system came from how it strongly encouraged you to play with strangers but still felt like a single-player game. I might describe the basic requirements as (a) the host is in a special position to host (e.g., is alive, or found a random drop), (b) adding players helps you accomplish a highly desirable goal that is difficult to accomplish otherwise (e.g., stay alive, or access special powers/content) (c) players disappear after helping you accomplishing that goal, (d) added players can't subtract from your experience (e.g., no audio support so players can't disrupt things with their blather, or no real way to trigger bad events), (e) and players gain something desirable for helping (e.g., life, or the ability to pick up players too). As long as these goals were met, it could be a positive addition to a any game. Your goals needn't prevent a negative (i.e., dying).

Interestingly, you could probably recreate the exact setup for Demon's Souls including its death focus, without actually making the game a hardass. For example, if you pass a level without dying, you get a "leader bonus", and the more players join your game when "leading," the more bonuses you and your party get; you can also become a leader by helping a leader with some task. This would mirror Demon's Souls' experience without needing to making the base experience overly challenging, so long as "leader play" is important enough that it provides incentive toward this kind of use.

Invading Games
As a rule of thumb, this would be too stressful for a casual experience, but if you have a "versus" multiplayer component you want players to experience, the "play as someone else's boss" idea is an awesome way to introduce it, provided (a) it feels like part of the single-player experience, (b) is infrequent enough (e.g., once), and (c) something about the situation makes your opposition less stressful (e.g., less health in Demon's Souls, or easy repeatability and early occurrence in Guild Wars).


  1. That sounds about right, in my opinion. I think a game themed around alternate universes would lend itself well to the assist mechanic without needing to be difficult, and if done right I think the messaging could also be interesting for something like that. I kinda have the feel of the anime Noein (although it gets weird at the end, but then again so do most animes) in my head as far as the alternate universes thing.

    It could feel kind of like a "massively single-player" game, not really in the way that Spore meets that description, but more that it's sort of a single-player storyline-based game but you have the sense that almost the same events are playing out in parallel for others out there. Perhaps have a limited selection of characters involved in the story that are playable, and when the assist players are brought in they are alt-universe versions of the character they chose, so you would end up with more than one of the same person... I dunno, that sounds kinda cool to me. : )

    Now I'm imagining the characters would have the same basic face for every game but clothes and hair and tattoos and stuff could be customizable so the alt-universe versions would look like alt-universe versions... anyway, kind of a tangent. : )

    I agree that the thing about being able to invade a game at any time wouldn't work so well for a more accessible game, but maybe the player-as-a-boss thing would if, as you said, it only happens once in the game and stuff. There are a lot of games where toward the end you have to fight a mirror or evil version of your character... this would make that fight a lot more interesting.