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Connective Games, Part 3: Help!
by Neil Sorens on 04/25/10 09:21:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutraís community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


Unlike the previous two posts in the series, this one is not about a new, unexploited idea, but one that's already been put into practice: use of connectivity as a help system.  I was planning on writing about this type of feature last year, until someone put it in their game! It's still worth a mention, since a) it's really cool and b) it fits in perfectly with the topic at hand

In the game Demon's Souls, players can leave messages for other players to stumble upon as they traverse the game in single-player mode.  These messages are rated by the players who read them.  Highly rated messages have longer persistence and give their creators a reward in the form of healing for their characters.  Although the messages are highly constrained in format and vocabulary, they are generally a welcome aid in a deviously difficult game.

The game also generates bloodstains that, when activated, show you the demise of another player.  This foreknowledge of hazards ahead gives you an advantage in overcoming them.

Microsoft seems to have been working along the same lines, as well.  This patent application, also from last year, is for a system that shows players user-submitted tips for their current game context. 

It seems a little less exciting to me, perhaps because it would be difficult for game developers to integrate such a general-purpose system into their games as smoothly as Demon's Souls has done with their custom system.

This type of system seems very useful in preventing players for seeking out spoiler-style tips on the web.  When players are stuck, they may go to GameFaqs or elsewhere in order to get past a challenge. 

There, players typically are exposed to more help/information than necessary to overcome that specific challenge, lessening their enjoyment of other parts of the game.  Thus, context-specific help that provides no more information than necessary seems like a very useful feature. 

Anyone else have clever ideas on how to use connectivity to provide player guidance in single-player games? And are there any other games out there already doing something similar?

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Mike Caudle
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The ability to view someone else complete the scenario you are stuck on. The player having the difficulty would request another person to join their game (in place of the player) and complete the mission. After seeing the other person complete the challenge the player would then have the chance to complete it themselves. I think it would also be good to show what buttons are being pressed. After that the player can rate the helper-outer. Rewards could be given such as unlockables for helping another player.

The only downside to PvP hints is that it will be overloaded on release date, and depending on the game, a year later may not have anyone to help you. I think it would be best to store the highest rating solutions and play those for players seeking help years after the game's orginal release date.

I also believe this system will be worthless on a normal game. However, with a VERY difficult game, this hintline would be almost required by it's users.

Chuan Lim
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Might be interesting to think about what it means to be 'stuck' in a game in terms of purpose, and the consequences of that instead of adding features like this to get players through challenge. It's a limitation of the game design and how goals are set that causes these problems and encourages players to 'cheat' and avoid exploration [ & discovery ] on their own in order to overcome obstacles or reap a reward.

This mentality continues to be re-enforced by desiging almost exclusively for "flow" and "intensity" with a linear progression in mind instead of a more granular [ or modular ] approach to how the meaningful content in a game is experienced by a player. I suppose Far Cry 2 comes to mind though its personally not a game that I felt was successful with providing an emergent experience due to recognisable repetition [ of being attacked ] and a lack of different responses or impactful outcome.


The idea of a heavily connective multi-player game sounds interesting, and from what I've heard Matrix Online tried to do some cool things such as having groups of employees creating some of the scenarios inside of the game world. Of course, Sleep is Death is also worth checking out if you haven't already. I suppose when you mention the idea of having somebody real enter a game space then I'm thinking content & choice rather than purely as a service.

-- Chuan

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In order to achieve a better way to provide or find guidance in a single player game, firstly I think there are some elements should be focused on by designers:

1. The way to provide or search information in the game should be simple to use. Thatís the reason why players want to find supports in the game, rather than google the information they want.

2. The reward for those players who has provided solid tips to other players should be attractive enough. Then the reward will attract or force players to share their gaming experiences with other players. Therefore, I donít think the reward in the game ďDemonís SoulsĒ is a decent reward, as players may have many other easier choices to healing their characters.

3. The game should also provide chances for those players who need help to seek assistance. Sometime you may be frustrated when you canít find any information related to the difficulties you encountered in the game. So the game should enable players to post requests in the game.

4. The last thing is adding fun. The ideal situation is that integrate this guidance staff as a part of the game, which means players can play and have fun during this process, and the outcome of the process is that players get what they want to know. But it would be extremely difficult to design and apply.

Thus based on those elements I mentioned above, I think the platform which Microsoft is working on is not a bad idea, which is easier to use. You donít need to stop game or switch the window and find something useful in the web browser, and then restart the game.

For the reward, a random system should be used. For example, players who provided useful information could randomly get a weapon, a armor, or something like that. So players have chances to get very good things although they get less useful things in most cases. This will keep players submitting useful information just like the popularity of lottery tickets.