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Gameplay patterns - Feanor - May 24, 2002 07:36 AM

What are all of the known styles of game play? We've got some classic categories:
Simulation, military
Simulation, management
Real-time strategy (RTS)

And you could make a case that 3D and 2D and first-person, third-person and no-person (puzzles... or is that a kind of first person) were all relevant aspects of game play.

MMORPG might almost be a pattern unto itself, requiring such different technology, but it's also an extension of the other patterns.

And of course there are hybrids. But what have I missed, and are there any new ones to invent? And do all game types really sit on a spectrum of simulation with full-blown realism at one end and extreme abstraction (Chess or Tetris) at the other?


Gameplay patterns - Jeff Binder - May 24, 2002 08:47 AM

I'd say flight and driving sims should get their own category. They're too detailed to be action, and they don't fit into either of the simulation categories you have.

Gameplay patterns - Feanor - May 24, 2002 09:40 AM

Is that because they are inherently different or because they are specialized? When I wrote "military" I was sort of thinking particularly of "machine operation": planes, tanks, submarines, even boats, as opposed to, say, military strategy.

Side note: the makers of X-Plane just announced they are re-deploying their engine for a ground-vehicle simulation game (I think it's a racing game but the news blurb was tiny and I just skimmed it).

In regards to game play, I concede your point. Driving games are very different than combat games: the physics is different, the A.I. is different... but is this due to fundamental differences, or simply leaving out what isn't necessary? I sort of put all simulation games into the same category, and see each specific example as a refinement or specialization. Hmmm, I just realized that that doesn't necessarily help, since it's possible to see *every* game as a simulation.

But maybe it does. Forget computers are involved and look at actual games: sports, board games, RPGs (regardless of medium: pen/paper, live action or computer), logic puzzles, etc. Do all computer games have non-computer equivalents? FPS's have things like paint ball and laser tag. Tomb Raider is kind of like a decathlon or (exaggerated) obstacle course (no wonder I loved those as a kid -- I knew they'd make computer games out of them Smile. RPGs are just vastly more complicated versions of cowboys & indians (or, if you're like me, you played Empire vs. Rebel Alliance when you were a kid, before video games did it for you). And strategy games are as old as Chess.

So assuming games are inherently inspired by real life, you have the whole group which are a type of role playing, or the logic/puzzle games.

Role playing has two varieties. You can be a particular individual--race car driver, soldier, adventurer, pilot, sports hero. Or be a kind of abstracted general--god games, Warhammer, StarCraft and the like in the strategy genre, which breaks down into turn-based and real-time. Real time seems to require computers to be viable.

Breaking new ground in these categories requires either a new type of character to play, new environments to play in, or new types of units, rules of engagement, and battlefields (think of 3D space combat).

So what do new logic and puzzle games require? I'm very much focussed on RPGs historically, because I love the fantasy world angle, but the best return on investment for game research is totally puzzle and logic games (I include trivia games here too, although maybe that's stretching it--call them all as a group "brain games" or something).

Think of how much it costs to develop or license a 3D engine, build a physics simulator and do collision detection, push the boundaries of 3D special fx, handle advanced sound, real-time sensitive networking -- yikes! Then look at a game like Jewel Toy/Bejeweled or Tetris or Monopoly. Fixed, small assets, simple simulation (if any), and some magic set of rules and difficulty control to make vastly more popular games. Of course, maybe they're easier to rip off, too, but I don't think that's a real problem if you patent your game correctly.

Gameplay always wins, but I'm wondering where the two families of games are going. Simulation seems to be more now about size of environment, realism, and really the artwork, as the choices of gameplay become fixed. I mean, the game is the world, right? For abstracted games, gameplay is still the main focus, and it's much harder to think up a new and interesting game (rules and elements) as opposed to an "environment". Although maybe the future of "realistic" games is actually to get away from realism in favour of completely surrealistic worlds (3D or whatever).


Gameplay patterns - Jeff Binder - May 24, 2002 10:09 AM

My main point was that not all flight sims are war simulations-- look at 'Fly!'. Also, what do you consider the difference between puzzle and logic games?

I think puzzle games are better for smaller developers. Generally FPS and other flashy games sell the best, but they require the most investment. So generally you do whatever you can afford.

Gameplay patterns - Feanor - May 24, 2002 11:07 AM

Jeff I wasn't debating your point. I should not have used the word military. Fly is a simulator, whether or not there are missiles. If the game style is different, that's cool. It's a valid point, because the objectives are totally different. I agree with you.

As for sales figures, I've read that FPS games don't sell the best. Games like "Who wants to be a millionaire?" and those with wider audiences generally sell the best. Tetris sold unbelievably well. Monopoly (board and computer) sells fantastically. Young guys (like me) prefer action and 3D FX and all, but we're not the biggest market. But that wasn't the main reason I started this thread. I'm wondering what NEW kinds of games are going to be coming to market. I'm wondering where the boundaries are that need to be pushed. It can't all be based on technical achievements.

I thought maybe people would be willing to share their thoughts on how to improve games without obsessing over 3D card features as is the trend in most action game marketing. Where will new technologies take us, but more interestingly, where will new ideas about game play take us? If we froze technology where it is, what cool ideas would people have if they weren't distracted by trying to squeeze in more realism and higher frame rates? OR is that the only frontier for games developers?

That's why I'm looking at categories. To see what (if any) general categories are missing, not to debate how two types games are the same or different. I think it's time to invent some new categories -- if that is in fact possible.

Of course, maybe everybody with a cool new idea isn't going to want to share it publicly, but those who haven't got it figured out yet might want to brainstorm a little.

Puzzle and logic games: Lots of puzzle games don't require much logic. Or at least I wouldn't think to call it that. Many of them are twitch games. You need to understand the behaviour and then you use instinct. Logic games (like Myst) require a lot of thinking about the pieces, whereas Tetris just requires a good eye and quick reflexes.


Gameplay patterns - swcrissman - May 24, 2002 12:02 PM

The simple answer to your question is No. There are not any missing 'types' of games. You hit every kind of game there is. New games which are emerging wont be of a new kind, but will put new twists on the classic categories you mention.

As an example, in the 80s, there were the same types of games. Action, RPG, simulation, puzzle, adventure, strategy. I'll leave them at that. At the time, we were extremely limited because we were constantly hitting the tops of what the technology would allow. Thus, we had 2d worlds, and turn based strategy games. Nothing else was possible.

Today, the processing power has increased, allowing technologies to add new appearance to the classic types, but not changing or adding those types. In some cases this is rendering more accurately by adding another dimension (hence the 3d shooter, an action game is born), and in other cases by allowing more rapid input (a RTS is just a turn based strategy game where turns happen really fast and non-moves are skipped). As another example, as the internet takes off, and everything is more connected, the short leap between RPG and MMORPG was made. This is still an RPG at heart, it just allows more interaction than previously possible.

The underlying types themselves have not changed, nor will they, as far as I can tell. What will change, and always does, are the angles and gimmicks used to keep those ideas fresh. We'll continue finding ways to put the latest technology to use, and make things more realistic, more connected, and more immersive, but we're still going to be pursuing the goals that we always have. The types are just here to stay.


Gameplay patterns - DaFalcon - May 24, 2002 12:46 PM

I read about a "game" that involved attatching sensors to your skin and .. relaxing. The more you relax, the better you do. The game has two dragons racing, and if you become completely relaxed, your dragon will start bounding and then take to flight, moving faster. To some degree you could call this a mental game, but it seems to be one of physical constraint and control, too. And while there are real-world equivilents like, I don't know, Yoga and meditation, that is a pretty new kind of game. Maybe the newest ideas won't come so much from something that is impossible in the real work, but in examining new aspects of real life experience.

This is an interesting thread. It is like people who say there can be no fifth dimension, because we can't see, feel, hear, taste, smeel it... we can't sense it. But just because plankton can't sense a moonrise, it doesn't mean it isn't there. And it doesn't mean that it can't one day evolve to experience such a thing, either. So there is no way to disprove the fact that there is some as-yet undiscovered form of game that could be created, even if nobody on Earth could tell you what it might be.

Plankton sensing a moonrise? I need some sleep . . .

Gameplay patterns - Feanor - May 24, 2002 01:50 PM

DaFalcon, that is a cool example (the electrodes).

swcrissman, don't you think it's possible that we've just been stuck in a rut for the last few years? Are you saying that game play style is like colour -- we've found them all? What about the infrared and ultraviolet? That would be DaFalcon's new input method maybe.

Well, I'll be happy if we can delineate the categories, identify the hybrids, and discover if any have been missed. I'm getting bored of the existing kinds of games, but not with the underlying essence of game design.

A game is basically a contrived situation made out of finite components (game pieces), some rules for moving them around, and objectives. Some games have very specific objectives, others have very open objectives. The player's task in replaying a game is to find new ways to achieve the objectives. Within this summary of what a game is, I'm having trouble believing that every type of game that is possible exists already. Maybe in real life, but not in computers.

What are the elements of game play: resource management, strategy, technique, logic, agility (and other physical skills in real life), endurance, psychological understanding of your opponent, exploration, experimentation... others I can't think of. Maybe I should go find a book on this stuff.


Gameplay patterns - DaFalcon - May 24, 2002 03:44 PM

I have toyed with the idea of not an open-ended game, but an open-opened game. What in the world does THAT mean?! Well, it means that every tie a player sits down and clicks on "New Game", the world begins, X number of years passes with the computer keeping track of events and essentially creating a unique "history" of the world, complete with key players, historical events, and so on. This history would then be partially explained to the player in a prequil story type thing that would be the knowledge that the player's character would know from having lived for 20 years or whatever. Then computer controlled personalities (NPCs) would exist with certain personalities and certain situations would exist, so the player will have to talk to them to find out what his place in the world is.

Now that sounds nice and good to me in theory, but for practical purposes there would have to be plenty of abstraction to make it work. And even if you got it to work, the game isn't likely to be any more interesting than real life, and what's the fun in that? So you tweak history, you add in a propensity for certain kinds of things to happen, and you make sure the character appears at a time when there is some great struggle between good and evil when only that player has the power to tip the scales one way or another. You could have the player start the game as soon as a certain set of conditions exists in the world, but then you'd have to deal with different games starting with different evolutions of technology, etc. The best way is just to force that struggle to come into place at that point in time when the player appears.

Is this a good game model? Quite possibly not, at least not with a LOT of refinement. I imagine that a carefully thought out world and backstory will be better than a randomly "evolved" one every time. Except maybe the second time around? That is where this concept shines, is in repeat gameplay since literally no two games are alike. And if it is done right, and that would take more work than I think is possible (for now), it could be fun and original. This still fits in with existing types of games, existing genres, but is a new idea in general, at least for me :-)

Gameplay patterns - OneSadCookie - May 24, 2002 03:47 PM

A lot of the more interesting games in recent years have come from a fusion of existing ideas. For example, Tomb Raider can be thought of as the fusion of a first-person-shooter with a platform game. Oni can be thought of as the fusion of a first-person-shooter with a fighting game like Tekken. The original Wolfenstein 3D could even be thought of as a simple extension of a top-down 2D shooter.

Looking to the (near) future, Warcraft III can be considered to be one possible fusion of role-playing and real-time-strategy games. I'm sure there are other possible ways of approaching that.

So whilst I think perhaps we have seen very few truly new ideas, I think there's an endless possibility for combining existing ones.

And whilst I think that current consumer technology limits the new ideas that are possible, I think we'll continue to see new possibilities as technology advances.

Gameplay patterns - swcrissman - May 26, 2002 07:53 AM

I seem to be the only dissenter here. Argh! Heh.

For the example given about the race game with the electrodes, again, its just a race game with a weird input method. To hit the 'gas' you relax. This is one of the gimmicks I referred to in my original post. These are angles that make old types seem new in some manner, and I think that with creative design, we can come up with lots of gimmicks, but no, not really different game types.

OneSadCookie's point about some games being a fusion of types is a good point, but for the most part, still results in a game of the type of one of the others. I wouldnt call any of the examples made a new 'type' of game, just another take on an old category.

I dont want my post to sound like I'm saying that games will not advance, because they will. Despite there not being new types of games, we're still going to see new things be possible because of technology, and new ways of approaching the old problems due to originality. I just dont think that the resulting new games will manage to escape any of the classifications of the current ones. This is more a function of the existing categories being fairly complete than it is a function of games being un-original.

So, while I think your question of what to look for in an upcoming game is still a good question, I don't think it will be answered by a new 'category' but rather by the new angles being put in them. Answers to this could come from a pretty wide variety of answers. In the case of the dragon game, we're talking about games including more bio-feedback. That would be excellent to see more of! Think of a game like resident evil that monitors your heartrate, and other things to determine how scared you currently are, and what things scare you the most, and changes its gameplay to keep you on the edge of your seat. Bam! Big hit, unlike anything out there. In the end though, its still in the same category of a horror adventure/puzzle/action game despite how cool and original it would be.

Another big thing will be VR, when it improves. I have no doubt. The other day at the bowling alley, I saw they had a new game where there were sensors on a foot bad, and above you to track how you body was positioned, ie, left, right, crouching or not, and controlled how your character was on the screen based upon that information. It was a standard arcade shoot em up, but the sensors and increased range of input really made it seem completely new/different, and more fun. VR will ideally work at these same levels.

So, while I don't think there will be new categories, you can see I certainly have high hopes for new games to remain original and new. I just think you're chasing the wrong answer to find what you're looking for, if that makes sense?


Gameplay patterns - Taliesin - May 27, 2002 12:26 AM

Quote:Originally posted by OneSadCookie
The original Wolfenstein 3D could even be thought of as a simple extension of a top-down 2D shooter.

Like, say, hmm ... Castle Wolfenstein? Grin

Gameplay patterns - Feanor - May 27, 2002 09:12 AM

swcrissman, the main reason I don't want to accept your argument is that it suggests that the only real innovation in games will be technological, which by necessity will leave everybody but the big game companies unable to come up with any ground-breaking ideas. That just sucks.

On the other hand, I guess with some clever artwork and some interesting twists, people can make new versions of existing types of games without as much trouble. I happen to believe in the power of the garage more than in the power of corporations, so I want to believe that there is more to discover in the essence of games, not just in the technical execution.

I guess then instead of true categories I'll have to search for sub-categories. Making a really different RPG would mean a different world, different combat, different character classes or no classes at all. A better RTS might happen with totally different approach to "units" and how they interact.

But I look at something like Warcraft 3 and ask my self, "Is this game really any better?" If I have to make the same kind of game, I'll never get anywhere because I can't compete with the technology. I guess that it's like Hollywood versus the indies. Except that an indie movie-maker can still write a fantastic screenplay and have a great movie without special fx. Why can't games be like that? I suppose that's where mod-making tools come in. Given off-the-shelf tools, see what you can push them to do.


Gameplay patterns - Feanor - Jun 3, 2002 10:47 AM

Because this thread generated so little interest, I will close it off with a segue into a great series of articles, by Ernest Adams, for those of you who like to think about what their games are about as much as how they are made. I've read lots of articles on Gamasutra before, but this series I've mostly missed out on until now.

Anyway, this installment is old, but it's really good and loosely relevant to the concepts of game design versus game technology:

Aside from being insightful and intelligent, he's also an exceptionally talented writer. Quite funny too. Check out the article called "Letter from a Dungeon".


Gameplay patterns - geezusfreeek - Jul 21, 2002 07:35 PM

Sorry to bring back extremely old topics, but I would like to make a distinction here....

Games and simulations are two separate things. A game has specific objectives to be met, whether realistic or abstract. A simulation is just, pardon the rhyme, an emulation.

A simulation is created for the sole purpose of emulating real life. Let's take a racing game, for example. Regardless of whether you can race against other cars or not, just throwing the player into the control of a car is not a game. It becomes a game when you give the player an objective: to get across the finish line before the other cars do.

The quest for finding "new" genres of games is not in finding a new middle ground between abstractism and realism, but in finding a new middle ground between true games and simulations. When designing a game from this standpoint, there can only be two different approaches: "simulation first" or "objective first."

If you are designing your game using the "simulation first" approach, which I believe is the most common path that modern game designers take, you first think of an environment, or the nature of the gameplay. You think of action and graphics. Then, after your vision is thought out, you think of the objective of the game.

When you design your game with the "objective first" approach, you think of the goal(s) that you have in mind for the player to have, then you design the way the player should go about achieving it and the action and stuff. This is most likely the way most new types of games are created.