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Play, Graphics, Depth or Story?

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Seemingly fair challenge and progress are a big part of what could be defined as "fun"


 I play Skyrim because starting gameplay feels risky but rewards are frequent and useful.  Late game the rewards are not useful (as you are overpowered) and deaths are caused by unfair situations and/or bugs.


The trick is: maintaining the balance of challenge and reward throughout the entire game.






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22 hours ago, John Van Ryzin said:

Story makes me try it.

Play makes me play it.

Depth makes me play it again and again.

Graphics as long as they are not horrible.

Thinking back to the games I played the most...


Story doesn't matter much. The game setting or concept may get me to try it initially, but I have played thousands of games, with "stories," that are are over the place. How well a game controls is generally important. Though I have played some of the crappiest games with horrible controls just to "beat," them. If a game plays poorly I am unlikely to replay it, especially if I have already seen all there is to see in the game.

Depth is one of those hard things to measure. Are there a whole lot of meaningful choices in a game like Tekken or SF2, or Mario Kart? Some of the games I have put the most time into are two player simultaneous games, even if the optimal play and meaningful choices are limited. Graphics are important, but not the most important. They need to look competent, and if they look great all the better. so...


Play controls, Graphics, Depth, Story


1980s (a800) Archon, MULE, Ultima, Kronos Rift, BallBlazer, Star Raiders, Alley Cat,  Brice Lee ...

(VCS) Warlords, Indy 500, Ms Pacman, Adventure of Tron, Robot Tank, Combat, Quick Step, ...

(Astrocade) Checkmate, Red Baron, Gunfight, 

(NES) SMB, Double Dragon 2, LoZ II, Lifeforce, Jackel, Punch Out, Castlevania, Super Dodgeball, Baseball Stars, Mega Man 2



(PS1) Dark Stalkers, FF7, Crash Team Racing, Tenchu, Hot Shots Golf, Destrega, Tekken 2 & 3, Soul Blade, Armored Core, Carnage Heaet, Driver, Tomb Raider, Castlevania SoTN, Metal Gear Solid, REsident Evil 2, ...

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14 minutes ago, John Van Ryzin said:

Thanks for your input. The controls part seem super important to me also.  But players do not know that until they try the game.  Seems what makes a player try a game has nothing to do with them actually liking a game.  Strange.

Not strange, very pragmatic. There are hundreds of thousands of games and only 4000-5000 or so weekends before you die. 

You absolutely should choose a game based on its Title, recommendations, and it's Cover. Reasons for trying a game and liking a game are unlikely to be related, since you cannot know gameplay/depth/story/graphics until you play it first. (I suppose for story you could watch a Let'sPlay, similarly with graphics)


Take for example, Heroes Hour



The Title was well chosen, hinting at the game genre that the title is based on HoMM. The blurb gets right to the point. Recommendations note the similarity to the HoMM series, but instead with Real Time combat between the AI controlled units. Anyone who tries playing it is going to do so because the liked HoMM or like Medieval fantasy settings, or like Turn Based Strategy town building games. For Liking it trying it, is a necessary but insufficient condition.


A fast turn-based strategy RPG with real-time combat. Develop your cities and armies, level up your heroes to gain new, powerful spells and skills, and explore the wonders and dangers of the procedurally generated maps as you aim to conquer your enemies before they do the same to you.



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  • 2 weeks later...






With few exceptions I'm pretty much "exclusively retro" in my gaming tastes and that's reflected in my list here.  By a wide margin, the most import thing is that the core mechanics of the game are exciting and fun, which can be achieved by simple means.  


For depth, IMO, the adage "more is not better" applies.  There is a sweet spot.  A game like Laser Blast or Space Invaders is not deep enough to maintain my interest.  But throw in some interesting scoring systems and strategies and techniques that can be learned and mastered over time, and that is just the right amount of depth.  


Graphics have to be pretty bad to be a deciding factor in disliking a game for me, but certainly well-executed graphics can help with enjoyment.  And "well-executed" doesn't mean "the higher-res and more realistic, the better."  It means just what it says - well-executed for the task at hand.  Great examples would be Neo Geo titles like Metal Slug and Baseball Stars - pleasing to the eye, charming, fun to look at, etc. 


For story, I could not possibly care less.  I understand I am very out-of-touch with modern gaming so maybe there are examples where the story really elevates the game to heights that would not be possible otherwise, but I've played a few AAA titles up to the PS3 era and my take is, if I can just skip through or outright ignore every cutscene in the game and just go back to shooting things and going to certain spots on the map, then the story is inherently pointless. 


The absolute worst is when they try to put thick layers of story on old game styles like shoot-em-ups.  I downloaded Raiden V on my daughter's Switch and the game looks nice with some nice touches, but there is this constant dialogue going on with these "background characters" and it never stops, even when you're right in the middle of playing the game.  They even have a section on the right of the screen where there are transcripts of these stupid conversations, as if you can pay attention to that crap when you're trying to dodge and weave through hundreds of bullets and enemies at a time.  It is so stupid, it's baffling... like, who play tested that and thought it was a good idea? 






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Those items shuffle around depending on the genre of game. RPG's are useless if there is not a great story and world to explore. But I don't need much of a story to go racing around 500 miles per hour in a space tube. I want controls to keep me on the road and stunning visuals to whizz by. 


For me, I'dd add a fifth item in there for audio, because that is what ultimately separates great games from the rest. 

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