Sunday, January 30, 2011

Biweekly Poll - Minigames

Hey, all! Look what I got in the mail the other day. Deji drew me like the prettiest thing ever. ::hearts:: It's up on my mantle now next to my Lelouch figure and my sonic screwdriver. I call it my mantle of yay.*

Anyway, this poll clocked in 255 votes, and I haven't seen this level of division before. I asked your thoughts on minigames in visual novels, and they really ranged the gamut.

Skippable
159 (62%)
Replayable
137 (53%)
Frequent
23 (9%)
Moderate
137 (53%)
Rare
42 (16%)
Not in visual novels
31 (12%)

I've been reading your comments and thinking about it, and I think I've hit upon an idea. What if the game allows you to choose between "novel mode" and "game mode?" In game mode, you'd be presented with a mini game in which you open a puzzle box. In novel mode, minigames are automatically skipped, and replaced with text like "After wrestling with it for a few minutes, I managed to open the puzzle box." That way people who want to just read don't have to be bothered to skip puzzles, and people who want to play will be able to. Beating all the minigames might unlock a hidden arcade or something so that you can go back and replay the games any time you want. Does that sound good? Any suggestions on other features or content?


*I never claimed to be good at naming anything.

20 comments:

luminarious said...

That sounds perfectly reasonable.

J-chan said...

Makes sense to me. o: Although, maybe there should be some tiny bonus to playing in "game mode"? Not so much that people who don't do the puzzles feel like they're getting ripped off, just enough to make it feel more rewarding. Even if it's just, I don't know, the character looking pleased with him/herself and cracking a dumb joke or something. xD

Noor said...

I think it's a very good idea ^^

noor said...

Oh and you have a lelouch figure? That's so cool!!! ^^

jack norton said...

Yes, that's what I'll do too in some of my next games. Call it "easy mode" or "novel mode", but is always good to have non-standard stuff like minigames skippable :)
Many people complained that they'd rather skip some minigames in Vera Blanc, so...

Little Ramyun said...

Would I have to switch every time I play? Sometimes I feel like doing them and sometimes I don't, so I'd rather have something that allowed me to skip each individual instance. But I'm probably making it harder for you. D:

Kiri said...

I have to agree with Raymun... I sometimes just want to read the story, but other times I might like the puzzles. I'd rather there be a skip option then have two different game modes. ^^;

Anonymous said...

I'm one of those who dislike "modes". I feel like if the mini-games are not necessary then don't add it. If you decided to add it, it better be something fitting to the overall gameplay. If the overall gameplay are enhanced with mini-games, then making a mode without it sounds like a huge waste of time, since the creators take time to make them.

I don't know. I just never like the idea of "easy mode". Feels more like cheating. I personally prefer seeing the creators ideal look of a game, than them catering to the players whim.

ebugle said...

That sounds like a good idea, really.

I'm going to have to disagree with our annon friend here and say that catering to players is exactly what a game designer should do (and it's how I look at things when I work on making them. "Will this be fun?" etc.). Games are supposed to be fun, but different people have different tastes, which means if you want to cater to a larger audience, you should try and adapt your game to suit multiple tastes.

The specific brand of game you make is rather light on gameplay, judging by Jisei (which is not a bad thing, just an observation), so you're bound to get people looking more for a fun interactive story than a puzzle game, so giving them an option to not have to play is a smart move. But that doesn't mean you should just leave out the mini games. Again, some of us like the puzzles (different tastes, remember?) and would rather work on solving them, even if it means delaying the story for just a bit.

But ultimately... it comes down to you. Do you want multiple modes? Do you feel that the mini games are an essential part of the game and shouldn't be excluded from a player's experience? Either is fine, really, and you'll probably get about the same number of people interested in the game either way.

But if you're looking for a recomendation, I'd suggest going with the multiple modes, if it isn't too much extra work (and from my experience, it wouldn't be too much... but I don't know the engine you're using as well as you do, so maybe it is?). This'll give more people the best possible experience they can get from your games.... and ultimately, isn't that the point of making games? To share fun with others?

ebugle said...

Oh, incidentally, none of your options really fit me on your poll... I'm a primarily a game designer/game scripter... which isn't quite the same as a programmer. Just figured I'd point that out.

I might just put down writer, though, since I do write.... though not for video games. Huh, well, I don't know!

Anonymous said...

I am not the anonymous above, but I am the anonymous who left a comment on the last poll. (Note: I in fact never voted, because after thinking about it some more I still had no idea what option to choose).

But more to the point, in a way I agree with the anonymous above. I really don't like the idea of modes. If my mini-games are placed in the story, I want them to be a part of the story. I know I commented previously that I would be okay with something that didn't interrupt the story, but I meant something interrelated but separate . Think like the protagonist coming across an arcade, and being able to play in it (I know that's a bad example for Kansei).

Acquiring "a puzzle box" sounds like something from Professor Layton, but that WAS half their feature. They were all unique, specific riddles that was even incorporated into their story. It was not something you could shove into another mode. Skipping it would be like blasphemy, and that is why I suck so bad at it. I do not wish to play Professor Layton again. Unless it involves Phoenix Wright.

The modes feel too much like a compromise for two different types of players. It will disjoint your game. I understand where Ebugle is coming from, but a game isn't meant to be fun for everyone. People who play Halo may not want to play Okami. That's the way it works.

Uggh. I feel like I'm not adequately expressing myself here, but I'm going to post anyway, because I know you appreciate feedback. I personally really like light game play with heavy story a la Ghost Trick, where the game play is heavily involved in the story and original. While I don't claim to know what you are trying to incorporate into Kansei, I really dislike puzzle games where I can get the same experience anywhere on the web. If the mini-games that you are making are so far uninvolved with the story that you can put them in another mode without it changing the story at all, why bother? I want interactivity in my visual novel, but not that kind.

ebugle said...

I guess I just don't get your point, anonymous #2... this wouldn't attract completely different audiences (people who play Halo vs. people who play Okami), but very similar audiences (people who play Okami vs. people who watch people play Okami for the story). Playing through the game without puzzles would be very similar to watching someone else play the game- they're there for the story more than the gameplay. Why is that a bad thing?

And it's not to say the mini games wouldn't be an important part of gameplay just because they're skippable. I mean, you wouldn't say that skippable cutscenes aren't important in a game with those, would you? It's essentially the same thing: content that many people want, but some people would rather avoid. There are tons of people who play games and avoid the story like the plague, skipping it ASAP. Likewise, there are people who will play games ONLY for story, and continue to play the game even if they dislike the gameplay simply because the story is that good.

Basically, I just don't see how the ability to skip something makes it significantly less important.

Anonymous said...

I concede that my comparison about Halo and Okami is a bit too much of a hyperbole in this context.

That doesn't change the fact that, no matter how similar, Sake-bento is trying capture to two separate audiences by splitting the game into modes: those who like to play mini-games (in their visual novel) and those who do not (in their visual novel). Now, as admitted game developer yourself, you must realize how precious time is when you are making a game. You have a deadline. If you're making mini-games, you have less time to work on the story or the interface or the art.

And if I was the portion of that audience that was playing only for the story mode, what the heck man. I just got shafted! I could have had another hour of story. Having two modes, two audiences divides a developer's time trying to satisfy both. This is not good for either audience.

Granted, I know nothing about how long it takes to make mini-games. But I assume making a good complex one takes quite a while.

While I agree that the ability to skip something doesn't usually make it irrelevant, in this case it can be, since the context is mini-games in Kansei. It's a visual novel. It's about the story. It's about making choices to solve a murder. It's not about a completely random puzzle that suddenly jumps out at you. So if you have the ability to skip said random puzzle, and it has no effect whatsoever on the outcome of the game, it does not supplement the story, it does not develop character, then it IS irrelevant. It's even more irrelevant if you have a whole mode where you can play without it.

My original comment was really this: I think it is pointless to spend time developing mini-games that have no effect on the game other than to add interactivity. Especially if x percent of your audience is never even going to look at it. Like I said, that time could be used to make a longer story.

It's not that I want to take mini-games away from the people who like to play them. I like mini-games. Just not the kind being proposed. I think it would be really awesome to have a game with mini-games that are incorporated into the story (cooking mini-games that effect the outcome in a game about chefs for example). That way people who like to play for the story never have to step away from it. It adds good interaction. And those who like to play mini-games get their opportunity. Why is that not an option here?

ebugle said...

Hmm, alright, I can see why they might not be wise in a visual novel (I was unfamiliar with the medium until Jisei, actually... to my knowledge anyway). I don't think they'll be devastating, but I can see where you're coming from.

I completely disagree with the deadline argument in this circumstance, though. I might agree with you were Sake Visual actually under time constraints, but to the best of my knowledge, they are completely independent. This means no no deadlines, and that the game won't be released until it's done (with or without mini games and the like).

I also disagree with the argument because different people handle different things (for example, I refuse to touch anything art related because I know that any art I make would be utter trash and not help the game out at all >_>). The person in charge of mini games (typically) isn't the same person in charge of story (though that might not be the case in a small independent developer's case, I know). So working on mini games might not take away an hours worth of story at all, even with an enforced deadline.

Still, though, I am beginning to see why skipping them might not be a good idea...

But then I think of Professor Layton... The result of the puzzles in Professor Layton ultimately is the same no matter what, right? The story doesn't change based on how you solve the puzzle (and in many cases, solving the puzzle is mandatory for progression). Professor Layton handled this fairly well, wouldn't you think? Would the game be drastically worse off if you could skip the puzzles you couldn't solve (in fact, you almost can what with the hint coin system)?

I don't know. I could still see it going either way. I'd be satisfied either way, but then, that's not the point, now is it? Something to seriously think about.

Chensterrain said...

I have to admit, I pretty much agree with the anons here - if the minigames can be skipped without any detriment to the game as a whole, I'd question the reason they were put in in the first place. I wouldn't say I'm a massive minigame fan either way, but I do enjoy games that are integrated into the story somehow and aren't just of the 'hey, you're probably getting bored of all this text, have some unrelated puzzles' variety.

Also, depending on the number of puzzles in the game (and on how the game is marketed, I guess), I probably wouldn't be too interested even if I was given the choice to skip the sort of minigames I don't like - I wouldn't buy something like Mass Effect, for example, if I could skip the shooter sections because I've always thought of it as a shooter with a lot of dialogue; similarly, there are quite a few OELVN I haven't bought because of the puzzle sections that I still wouldn't buy even with the option to skip them, as I'd feel like I wasn't getting the full game, if you know what I mean.

...But maybe that's just me. :B

Anonymous said...

Ebugle, I'm not sure what you mean when you say "they" might not be wise in a visual novel since I was arguing against two things: mini-games that don't relate to the story in some fashion and the division of the game into modes. Unless corrected, I'll just assume you meant both.

I would like to point out that being completely indie doesn't mean you don't have a deadline. When you are indie and you don't have another job (as Sake-bento has mentioned she is), you really want to stick to your deadlines so you can eat.

According to Jisei's official site, she was the writer/scripter. So yes, it's possible that for Kansei, making mini-games would take away from the story in this case and at this point in time. But I'll admit I don't know if she's hired another programmer for Kansei and go mum about this point.

So. Professor Layton. Besides the fact that I brought it up earlier only to express my dislike of this type of mini-game, let's assume that Professor Layton had 2 modes like Sake-bento is proposing here, one where you can skip the mini-games entirely. Could you play the skip mode and still be playing a game?

No. Professor Layton is a puzzle game at heart. It's for people who enjoy solving puzzles, which is why I disliked it so much. Skipping the mini-games would ripping away any satisfaction the player gets out of playing the game. There wouldn't be gameplay and it wouldn't be a game. The linear story would be like reading a book.

Yes, I know that is what you said the "story mode" of Jisei would be like in your comment a while back. However, the assertion that visual novels are like watching another person play the game without any sort of mini-game gameplay is wrong.

As I said already, visual novels (that are not kinetic) are about making the correct choices. In a murder mystery like Kansei, deducing the right choices. That's the core gameplay. I wouldn't want to watch another person play Phoenix Wright. Hell no. Then I wouldn't get the satisfaction of watching Von Karma bash his head repeatedly into the wall because, I, the player, just beat him in a game of wits.

So without this tacked on "mini-game mode" you already have a game. A game that I must insist you should focus on polishing before you decide to go making another mode with mini-games that are so irrelevant to the core gameplay that the game can be played without them! They're are more relevant ways to add to this choices kind of gameplay than random skippable puzzles. Add more interesting interaction into that game, make it one, smooth product, instead of two.

That's all I really can say without risking starting to repeat myself. I think I already have. Modes and this type of skippable mini-game to me just feel like they're a bad idea all around.

ebugle said...

Yeah, the more I think about it, the more I'm agreeing (as I said).

I probably just over thought the Prof Layton thing, really... Because, yeah, it's a puzzle game with a story, not the other way around (as Jisei would be in these discussions). Dur. Don't know what I was thinking there.

I will contest, though, that watching vs playing a game is really a matter of taste =P My sisters, for example, love watching me play PW, though they'd hate playing it themselves. But again, this is really a moot point as games are -primarily- made for the players, so the experience should be devoted to them. Again, I don't know what I was thinking.

Also, I suppose you're taking the literal interpretation of deadline there, then =P I suppose "finish game or starve" is a deadline, but I'll maintain that there still isn't a hard and fast deadline. THat's one of the beauty of indie games: they're finished when they're perfect, not when they're told to be finished, and that's still an important distinction. I don't know why I'm arguing this point, though, since it really doesn't have any bearing on the discussion anymore since I've conceded your point.

I think I'll cut this short before this discussion turns into an argument.... because while fascinating as a discussion, I wager an argument would just be bad news.

Anonymous said...

We have come to a consensus where we can, and we have agreed to disagree where we can not, then.

It has been a great civil discussion, sir. :D

*salutes*

ebugle said...

o7

Time Keeper said...

The first thing I thought when I read this was "OMG Sake has a sonic screwdriver!". It is good to find another Doctor Who fan ;)