Save Scummming and Extra Lives

Discussion and analysis of graphics, story, levels, and so on.
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Ceilick
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Post by Ceilick » Tue Feb 25, 2014 9:56 pm

Lemm wrote:It was just a carryover from the arcade machines
This seems the case, it can be easily seen that these were included in the original games because that's what other games did at the time. Keen, ultimately, does not play like an arcade game in which these mechanics are successful (many short, relatively linear levels).

But it begs the question, can we make death functional? What is the purpose of death?

1. The harshest punishment for a challenge.
--A. Incentive to make the player try harder, think harder, act quicker, etc.
--B. To engage and focus the player on the game.

2. Slowing the player's progress.
--A. To engage and focus the player on the game.

Ultimately it's about getting the player's attention and making them focus. Can we engage the player without death?

Let's look at the potential immediate consequences when it comes to challenging the player, from harshest to mildest:

1. Game Over
2. Death/Level restart
3. Repeat an obstacle
4. Loss of ammo
5. Loss of points

Game-over is perfectly avoidable and a 'general consensus' seems to lean toward infinite lives and doing away with it anyway. Whether infinite lives are patched in or via loading the game, Game Over, the highest consequence, is functionally useless.

Death and having to restart an entire level is the next harshest, but again, avoidable and functionally useless by loading the game.

Repeating an obstacle, thus, is functionally the harshest punishment. Death is ultimately reduced to this level of consequence since loading effectively brings the player into the repeat position.

Loss of ammo and points are relatively trivial consequences, one their own.

The dilemma is that we can threaten the player with same consequence for every mistake: repeat. Is death useful at all then? Is it only a mild 'fear factor' that can be circumvented with no consequence except the brief time it takes to load the game and repeat? How can we spice it up and vary our immediate consequences?

By making loading the game 'cost' the player something, we create an optional heavier consequence as opposed to simple load repeat. Death has more value.

What kind of immediate consequences can we have that are less than death but more sutble than repeat, or perhaps demand skill to avoid death?

We can slow them down, and in such a way that they cannot 'brute' force their way through challenges. Commander Spleen makes a point of using pitfalls and 'stunning' the player, a penalty on time and effort. We can have enemies that push keen out of the way, block his path, stun him, and enemies that require unique methods of disabling in order to get them out of the way. How about enemies that can snare Keen in a situation where death is possible, perhaps even imminent, but that it is also possible (and not just by freak accident) to escape. In basic terms, a split second, harrowing 'mini game' of escape.

The most likely means of enacting this that comes to mind is using extra lives as a kind of 'health' feature that lets Keen be threatened just short of death, and we might entertain Lass' patch:
Levellass wrote:By pressing the 'K' key Keen activates 'Extra Keen mode' which is in essence god mode (To which enemies will react, the dog for example runs away instead of towards you.) which gives him 10 seconds of invincibility to sprites but not tiles. EKM can be used to move past lethal obstacles and thus avoid detours or to save yourself if you're about to be hit OR to make killing a bunch of enemies easier (Since you don't have to dodge AND shoot.)
But it seems something more subtle than simple health or the opportunity to god mode and brute force situations would be preferable. Something the player can't just activate as they approach and use to pass through an obstacle, and something that isn't "OSHIT K KEY!", although the later is probably preferable.

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Post by Bernie » Tue Feb 25, 2014 11:53 pm

with the issue of saving, I think the closest thing for me is saving on the world map. its annoying cause you need the usual saving system cause of situations where you played for a bit but, i dunno, have to go to bed or do something else, to continue on later on. (or have the game save when you quit the game, and replace the 'load' option with a 'continue').

best thing is just put a message at the start of the game going "Can you guys pretty please not save the game unless you really have to? Promise?"

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Post by levellass » Thu Feb 27, 2014 4:58 am

Why do players save-scum? It is an ignoble action, and certainly not one promoted by any respectable modding community. Yet, it persists in gaming society, in our gaming society. Without inquiring into its root causes, we cannot expect ourselves to formulate effective methods to remove it from our DOS platform-game fraternity
From A Treatise on Outcome Manipulation via Exploitation of Game Features by A. N. Lemm (2013 p.4)

I mean DUDE, that was some academic stuff!

Nothing about 'good mod design' as you list it: bright colors, large levels, and tilework, suggests to me wanting to replay a level from the start after dying at some point within it, merely having enjoyed playing an instance of what's there so far and wanting to see the rest. You mention replayability, but there are two kinds of this: wanting to replay it in the future vs wanting to replay it immediately. For extra lives to function as extra lives, and indeed for player death to function 'correctly', players must have some desire to replay immediatly, rather than load the game.
I would argue they are if not the same, then linked. If a mod is arduous, encouraging a 'save and scum' mentality then the player is unlikely to want to play it even after some time. Why play something again that was a chore to do the first time?

On the other hand if a mod captures the player's attention, gets them absorbed into its atmosphere and story then they are going to enjoy the act of playing itself; the repetition will take long to become a chore since simply playing through the level it itself a reward. This is also likely to make the player want to play the game again.

In summary the more interesting the basic gameplay is the more likely a player is going to want to experience more of it either by repeating a level from start or replaying the entire game.

I believe I've said as much; situations where a jump ends up being badly timed 9 out of 10 times, or in which an enemy is passable 1 out of 10, should not happen.
On the other hand this raises questions of what a 'difficult' challenge should be. Traditionally a big reward is paired with great difficulty\a large penalty for failure.

This seems an inherent misunderstanding of what an interactive element is; something more than what is simply 'seen', hence interactive.
No I get it; things like the Keen clones I'd still treat as 'neat stuff being seen'; it's not just an interactive element that's important but how it is used; I have played the basic level with the exploding Keen clone cyborgs, but there's a passageway up left I didn't need to explore. If I have come across interesting uses of the clones I will be tempted to explore to see if anything more interesting can be done there. But if they have been used in a dull and straightforward manner then why bother? It is not just how interactive an element is but also how interesting, intuitive and neat it is to use.

Who here hasn't tired of the escort mission where your partner is very interactive but so dammably stupid? Is not a good point and shoot level more fun than one of those treks?

You're right that saving isn't the issue, but loading is. Unless extra lives function as something other than extra lives, loading renders them, and death, useless.
A problem being that *some* players will avoid save scumming so we can't just abandon lives. (I have had endless complaints based on doing this.)

And if our extra lives function as something other than extra lives, we must question the purpose of death at all in the face of loading.
The problem there arises in that some players will not know to take advantage of loading. It is hard to find a good game that does not have some sort of 'death' mechanic somewhere.

Possibly the route would be that of Chip's Challenge or Jill of the Jungle where lives are pretty much infinite. However these games are also quite linear.

Minimizing death and creating lesser setbacks is effective but players must be willing to accept the setbacks rather then just circumvent them via loading.
This is in effect just lowering the bar, it doesn't change the nature of the problem.

bonuses should be worthwhile; the secret level is a great example, but not every mod can do this, the same goes for an alternate ending. Does every mod wishing to overcome this need to turn it into a unique gimmick?
WIE offers a bonus level for explorers in every level (In normal difficulty or above.)

On the ideas of gimmicks, that's taking a rather linger view of game development than I think is warranted. Every mod is already filled with 'gimmicks'; each galaxy mod has keygems of 4 colors and 100 collectables these are worked into the story time and again with little alteration, especially the gems. (I have had chance to see mods that tweak the gem dynamic and it is glorious.)

If a mod has a 'gimmick' then it has already failed. What a mod must do is take a mechanic and make it its own, use it in a way that is new and interesting. After all, what is a mod but the same old thing made to do new tricks?

However, this also penalizes not playing in one sitting, albeit in a friendlier way than life detraction.
Make the map level an exception. Easy enough.

It was just a carryover from the arcade machines, which is why the early ID games had the mechanic, but it was removed for Doom and beyond. I think that John Carmack mentioned this in the Wolf3d playthrough he did a few years ago on Youtube.
He did mention that the Game Over sequence in Keen 5 was an attempt to make the player actually G.O. instead of loading to save lives. In a similar vein Crash Bandicoot had its multiple deaths. (And in Keen 10 there are 4 different ways to die.)

1. Game Over
2. Death/Level restart
3. Repeat an obstacle
4. Loss of ammo
5. Loss of points
Game Over is really a holdover from the second generation of games, the 'Nintendo hard' generation where saving was rare death was common and you could expect to regularly encounter losing all your lives.

In the more modern era it is seldom something to be concerned about since checkpoints and saving have made it a rare occurrence, often one it is harder to access than avoid. It has taken an air of boogeyman about it a distant fear something you avoid without really thinking about it but which has no practical consequences.

Death however CANNOT be so easily brushed aside. It is deeply ingrained in the fabric of gaming culture. Be it a K.O., fainting or actual obliteration the 'death' is THE threat in gaming. Repeating a section, loss of items, these are setbacks true, but they lack the sting of death of 'losing'

Neglecting the G.O mechanic death should just be a send back to the level start, a bigger version of the 'repeat obstacle' punishment, but it often feels like so much more. The reason I think is because we play a game and we take on its story. If a story does not have high stakes, a real chance at failure, then it is of little interest to us. It matters not what guise it has there must be a death of some sort somewhere.

Paradoxically loading does not rob death of its effect rather loading IS an effect of death. Look at what happens when God mode is enabled, saving stops. Why save if you're never going to need to? It is not that with loading their is no death, rather there is no loading without death.

Indeed I wonder... how many save scum when activating the cheats is more simple? Do we even know? Is scumming the problem we think it is or is it the cheats?

But it seems something more subtle than simple health or the opportunity to god mode and brute force situations would be preferable. Something the player can't just activate as they approach and use to pass through an obstacle, and something that isn't "OSHIT K KEY!", although the later is probably preferable.
Ah but that's the thing; there's not enough lives about for it to be used like that for long. The player can squander lives to pass through a level, but what will they do for the next level when their counter is at 0? A player must ask themselves 'Do I use this here and save 5 minutes or should I accept the penalty and keep this ability for when I might need to use it more?'

In my experience gamers are a conservative lot, often keeping valuable items 'for later' and never in fact getting around to using them.

you need the usual saving system cause of situations where you played for a bit but, i dunno, have to go to bed or do something else, to continue on later on.
Checkpoints have been mentioned and in fact I worked briefly on a system that allows Keen to do everything usual, but be sent back to his last checkpoint when he dies. (Think jazz Jackrabbit 1)



Reframing the situation in terms of loading being the problem with death being vital to that (Removing death will remove loading, otherwise you've just reinvented death by another name.) then I think what is required is simply a small but persistent penalty when loading your game. The player then CAN save scum but at a constant cost to themselves, one that builds up the more they abuse the mechanic (But is mild enough not to inconvenience those who split their game up even into level-by-level plays for brevity.)

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Post by CommanderSpleen » Thu Feb 27, 2014 6:23 am

levellass wrote:Possibly the route would be that of Chip's Challenge or Jill of the Jungle where lives are pretty much infinite. However these games are also quite linear.
Crystal Caves and Secret Agent did this also, and their map levels are as non-linear as any Keen game.
levellass wrote:A problem being that *some* players will avoid save scumming so we can't just abandon lives. (I have had endless complaints based on doing this.)
One complaint I read at PCKF was about points becoming "pointless" if they don't contribute to acquiring extra lives. On the contrary, linking points to lives renders the high score table redundant as you can effectively achieve infinite points such that the highest score goes to the player with the most spare time.

Well, in Vorticons maybe not infinite points as such, as the Next Keen At keeps doubling, and careful level design can help reduce such exploitation. But there is inevitably a point at which careful balancing of deaths and point collection (for example, acquiring at least 1.1 lives in a relatively low-risk level, and then dying) will achieve the highest possible score, rather than simply playing the levels well and finding all the secret areas. I guess this could be seen as some kind of achievement to unlock, but I'm not a big fan of that mechanism.

In Galaxy the life items, and secret stashes of 1UPs (and Keen 6's replayable BWB level containing underground points) negate the balancing effect from doubling Next Keen At.
levellass wrote:I think what is required is simply a small but persistent penalty when loading your game.
Could work. Though some players will probably just make a copy of the save game before loading and then replace it with each launch. Or at least every 10th time. Or a batch file that makes a copy of the directory and launches from there. Not something an average gamer might bother with, but we're talking about Keeners here. It's still only treating a symptom.
Ceilick wrote:Minimizing death and creating lesser setbacks is effective but players must be willing to accept the setbacks rather then just circumvent them via loading.
I suppose it doesn't quite solve the problem in Galaxy. At best it might persuade a certain Keener demographic to play fair, but there will still be many who will just take the easier way.

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Post by XkyRauh » Fri Feb 28, 2014 5:17 am

The Wii game "Kirby's Epic Yarn" was impossible to lose. A player never lost a life or was kicked out of a level for failing to meet an objective. In each level were point-like items the player was tasked with collecting, and at the end of the level, the items were tallied and a reward was given based on the point total.

Getting hit, falling off the bottom of the screen, or otherwise taking damage in a traditional sense result in the points collected being dispersed, much like Sonic's rings when he gets hurt--but they are not as recoverable. Inevitably, the overall total is diminished.

Ideally, to get the best scores, unlock all the content, and 100% complete the game, a player needs to complete the levels rapidly without getting hit.

The challenge, then, came from devising a way to navigate each level while avoiding obstacles, defeating enemies, and collecting point items. There was an easy option to restart any level, and although checkpoints were offered at the half-way point in levels, they were rarely mandatory for success.

The way I see it, this would be a relatively ideal system for a KeenMod. As the creators of content, we really want everything to be seen. From the most mundane scenery introducing a world, to the most secret hidden bonus, tucked away behind a deviously cunning trap... we don't make these things so that they go undiscovered. :) We WANT them to be found!

Originally, with arcades, death was a system of punishing the player for making mistakes. Levels weren't as varied: Donkey Kong only has three or four level layouts, with the bulk of the challenge coming from ever increasing game speed, and ever decreasing time limits. There comes a level, after many rounds, which is literally impossible to clear within the time limit. There is no real "end sequence" to the game; a player's only limit is their skill.

As games evolved, end sequences became more commonplace, and the "continue" system evolved. Then came checkpoints, quicksaves, and bookmarks.

Savescumming is, by definition, scum. A tool used to stretch a player's skill to access content beyond their limitations.

If a person designs a mod with that ability in mind, (maybe a KeenRush-level slugfest, for example,) the "savescum" becomes an expected part of gameplay.

But a person can similarly follow Lemm and Ceilick's advice and design a mod to be accessible without need of the "savescum," even though it is technically still available.

I like the bent on larger game design theory the thread has taken. :)

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Post by Ceilick » Fri Feb 28, 2014 5:08 pm

Levellass wrote:On the other hand if a mod captures the player's attention, gets them absorbed into its atmosphere and story then they are going to enjoy the act of playing itself; the repetition will take long to become a chore since simply playing through the level it itself a reward. This is also likely to make the player want to play the game again.

In summary the more interesting the basic gameplay is the more likely a player is going to want to experience more of it either by repeating a level from start or replaying the entire game.
Play the level all the way through once certainly. Play the game again certainly. Unless the player has an existing desire to play through the level without saving (which is uninspired by nearly any combination of gameplay in its default, as I see it), I don't see repeating the level from the start taking place and don't see the ideal being to just let those players inspired to repeat to do so. Incentive, or on occasion, necessity, is what I'm looking for.
Levellass wrote:On the other hand this raises questions of what a 'difficult' challenge should be. Traditionally a big reward is paired with great difficulty\a large penalty for failure.
Indeed, and why I've brought up the lack of balance and scale for challenge and failure; when every failure is limited to mere repeat all we have is the number of times players might repeat and possibly making a challenge long and with no opportunity to save while traversing it. Next to just being lost in a level, rampant repeats seem to be the biggest frustration element to mods. While trying to create importance and consequence in death, it's imperative that death, as the intended ultimate consequence, be treated as such and not the most frequent consequence.
Levellass wrote:No I get it; things like the Keen clones I'd still treat as 'neat stuff being seen'; it's not just an interactive element that's important but how it is used; I have played the basic level with the exploding Keen clone cyborgs, but there's a passageway up left I didn't need to explore. If I have come across interesting uses of the clones I will be tempted to explore to see if anything more interesting can be done there. But if they have been used in a dull and straightforward manner then why bother? It is not just how interactive an element is but also how interesting, intuitive and neat it is to use.
I don't see the difference between this and what I suggested, but a statement that an interactive element that isn't used interactively isn't and interactive element.
Levellass wrote:A problem being that *some* players will avoid save scumming so we can't just abandon lives. (I have had endless complaints based on doing this.)
A penalty mechanic that relies on the player's willingness to accept/use it is dysfunctional. Modders can ignore this issue if they wish, it's not as if it makes the entire mod dysfunctional.
Levellass wrote:The problem there arises in that some players will not know to take advantage of loading.
This is an exception and reliant on player ignorance of what they 'should' know, and can't be a problem as such. This is also a rather alien player base to the community in general.

Levellass wrote:
Ceilick wrote:Minimizing death and creating lesser setbacks is effective but players must be willing to accept the setbacks rather then just circumvent them via loading.
This is in effect just lowering the bar, it doesn't change the nature of the problem.
If lowering the bar can create variety and additional penalties, what's wrong with that? How isn't that a partial solution to the banality of repeat? Unless you're associating this with one of the other problems discussed.
Levellass wrote:On the ideas of gimmicks, that's taking a rather linger view of game development than I think is warranted. Every mod is already filled with 'gimmicks'; each galaxy mod has keygems of 4 colors and 100 collectables these are worked into the story time and again with little alteration, especially the gems...If a mod has a 'gimmick' then it has already failed. What a mod must do is take a mechanic and make it its own, use it in a way that is new and interesting.
I'm not useing the word gimmick suggest a negative, and if anything I'm suggesting the opposite of what you seem to leaning on; that whatever 'fixes' the extra lives dilema should be useable in any mod and not just a unique particular of one or one 'kind' of mod. 'Kind of of mods' meaning mods that require keen coin collection to win (whether woven into the story or as an arbitrary objective), mods whose secret levels require item accumulation, etc.

I disagree entirely with the notion that every mod should have to, if desiring to 'fix' the extra lives element, turn it into something unique to itself or resort to giving it end-game function of some sort. I have no issue with something immediate and as vanilla a mechanic 4 key gems and 100 collectables IF it actually functions.
Levellass wrote:Death however CANNOT be so easily brushed aside. It is deeply ingrained in the fabric of gaming culture. Be it a K.O., fainting or actual obliteration the 'death' is THE threat in gaming. Repeating a section, loss of items, these are setbacks true, but they lack the sting of death of 'losing'

Neglecting the G.O mechanic death should just be a send back to the level start, a bigger version of the 'repeat obstacle' punishment, but it often feels like so much more. The reason I think is because we play a game and we take on its story. If a story does not have high stakes, a real chance at failure, then it is of little interest to us. It matters not what guise it has there must be a death of some sort somewhere.
This is all sentimentality. Death is functionally absent when load/repeat is possible as the only consequence.
Levellass wrote:Paradoxically loading does not rob death of its effect rather loading IS an effect of death.
Yes, it is an effect of death, but I cannot see how it doesn't rob death of any functional effect when the only impact is the standard repeat.

I am reminded, though, of the one saving grace of death: watching Keen go through his death throws. While this isn't a consequence with bearing on future play, this little sideshow can be a consequence of amusement and possibly worth looking into expanding.
Commander Spleen wrote:Some players will probably just make a copy of the save game before loading and then replace it with each launch. Or at least every 10th time. Or a batch file that makes a copy of the directory and launches from there. Not something an average gamer might bother with, but we're talking about Keeners here. It's still only treating a symptom.


Right; any new system must be acceptable to the player and perceived as fair.

I feel this means that if there is a harsher penalty for death (a loading penalty, or having to repeat more or the entire level) death must be rarer, and we need challenges (possibly thought of as time vacuums in which progress isn't being deterred but moving forward at a slower rate than, say, Keen walking and/or jumping straight down a corridor). In Keen Vorticons we see this, typically, as simple jump/pogo maneuvers around blocking tiles.

Here's an idea, the non-traditional checkpoint:

An item keen must collect, or a sprite/switch Keen must touch/activate in order to complete a level. Loading the game resets this item or feature--Keen must backtrack to this feature to reactivate it. Depending on the level difficulty, this item may appear 1/3 to 1/2 of the way through a level, or there may be multiple of this item.

To be interesting, this requires a couple of things:

1. Levels must be capable of backtracking. Easy enough, but potentially limiting to level design.

2. Backtracking must be interesting. Perhaps enemies respawn, or dynamic situations to pass back through (goplat guantlets, for example), switches/bridges and/or goplats getting reset, or SOMETHING to make the reverse path more than just the road already travelled.

In such a system, loading is only penalized after a certain point in the level (the checkpoint item) and essentially becomes a heavier and heavier penalty the further toward the end of the level the player has saved. While this is a form of repeat, it is nonstandard and is capable (the more creative we are) of creating new situations for the player while still a setback to progress. Alternatively, player's can just decide to merely play from a save at the location of the checkpoint item.

This is also a 'fix' to the save/load feature that doesn't necessarily effect the extra life item, which can be 'fixed' or altered in it's own right.

Edit: Part of the beauty of a system like this is it could be limited only to certain levels.

Imagine Keen 5 and the omegamatic passcards; if the player loads a game the passcard is removed from their inventory and they must backtrack to regain it. However, levels which contain one of the four machines, longer, harder levels, do not impose such a penalty.

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Post by levellass » Sat Mar 01, 2014 12:36 pm

On the contrary, linking points to lives renders the high score table redundant as you can effectively achieve infinite points such that the highest score goes to the player with the most spare time.
Only if you can gain more than one life in a level AND die after getting them. This is why I like the reset points patch (Though on reflection it encourages save scumming...)

In Galaxy the life items, and secret stashes of 1UPs (and Keen 6's replayable BWB level containing underground points) negate the balancing effect from doubling Next Keen At.
Wait... in Vorticons doesn't it go up by a regular amount instead of doubling? 20K, 40K, 60K...? I thought only galaxy had the doubling.

I would argue too that in the default games it's very hard to cheat like this, Keen 6's BWB gives a smidgeon of points for definite death risk (Though later in the Control Center you can abuse the secret passageway at the very start over and over.) In other games like Keen 4 large life stocks can only be got once (Try cheating in Slug Village, you can't get out of the life area after you get them.)

Points have always been rather arbitrary; why is the smallest amount 100 in many games? Why not 1? because we like to see all those zeroes, it's a pointless counter going up and up like in Flappy Birds (I got 29! Hurrah!) with maybe a token achievement of a place in the HST, but what does THAT matter?

Could work. Though some players will probably just make a copy of the save game before loading and then replace it with each launch. Or at least every 10th time. Or a batch file that makes a copy of the directory and launches from there. Not something an average gamer might bother with, but we're talking about Keeners here. It's still only treating a symptom.
You fail to understand; when loading a game you would be less something compared to that game. As such if you load and die then load again you'd get the same result not an extra penalty for having loaded once.

As such there would be only a 1 penalty if you had to reload 20 times to do a difficult jump. The penalty adds up if you load, pass, then save your (cheating) success. This would affect save scummers as they would tend to load->save->load in many situations for each level.

However it is also possible to keep track of loads in a level and increase the penalty each time. This would not affect the saved game so it couldn't be circumvented that way. (The only way would be to close the game (the executable!) and relaunch dosbox, a tiresome thing to do indded.)

This new idea of yours intrigues me. I must now ask more knowledgeable keeners; is there any other way to bring up the pause window besides loading a game? Because I'm thinking of limiting the number of loads per level to say, 5. The pause window would count down your remaining loads.

I don't see the difference between this and what I suggested, but a statement that an interactive element that isn't used interactively isn't and interactive element.
I define interactive and inactive elements as 'neat stuff to be seen'; content, part of the game. Just because something is interactive does not mean it will awe the player and make them want to extend their playing experience. A poorly designed interactive element may even frustrate the player.

WIE has boxes and bombs, but if the player must collect a box and place it each time he wants to jump up somewhere rather than having an inactive solid block there then he will quickly learn to save after placement. In that case replacing an inactive element with an active one makes the problem worse, not better.

So the question to me is not shoving more interactive stuff in but rather making ALL the stuff as engaging as possible.

Just look at ROIB and TFOS; I don't know about you but I play them over and over just for their graphics. I mean wow. movable robot blocks be dammned (Least favorite part of ROIB.) I love the atmosphere!

A penalty mechanic that relies on the player's willingness to accept/use it is dysfunctional. Modders can ignore this issue if they wish, it's not as if it makes the entire mod dysfunctional.
So, there goes the cheats then? What about the difficulty levels?

Th alternative is all penalties being mandatory, straitjacketing the player so they always suffer the maximum punishment for a situation. A mechanic should IMKO have some lenience, even a way to circumvent. Save summing is one such way and in a way a use of skill to overcome a penalty (Not much skill and that's the problem.) When I see a player use door invincibility I don't think 'Not fair1 You've made the game dysfunctional!' I think 'Now that is skill! My playing experience has been enhanced!'

This is an exception and reliant on player ignorance of what they 'should' know, and can't be a problem as such. This is also a rather alien player base to the community in general.
Alien? HA! You've no idea how many complaints I got for various mods THAT WERE EXPLAINED IN THE HELP SECTION! Do people not read them anymore? I feel for those who are not aware of things and am constantly amazed at how many newbies come across Keen mods (They don't usually join the community, but they do occasionally play.)

whatever 'fixes' the extra lives dilema should be useable in any mod and not just a unique particular of one or one 'kind' of mod.
I don't see why; we don't demand that all patches be general enough for every kind of mod (Though I try!); what's wrong with a unique approach for various mods?

This is all sentimentality
A lot is, as I mentioned with pints, what IS the point? It's really just something that tugs on our ;big numbers' love and completionist instincts. Without sentimentality mods have no atmosphere, no feeling.

Here's an idea, the non-traditional checkpoint:
In Keen 10 the laser control switches will reset if you reload too much. This doesn't stop Keen completing the level, but makes things harder if you've turned the switches off. (And if you've shot them and can't turn them on again...)

This is certainly patchable.

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Post by Ceilick » Sat Mar 01, 2014 7:30 pm

Levellass wrote:
Ceilick wrote:A penalty mechanic that relies on the player's willingness to accept/use it is dysfunctional. Modders can ignore this issue if they wish, it's not as if it makes the entire mod dysfunctional.
So, there goes the cheats then? What about the difficulty levels?

Cheating is not penalty mechanic. Cheating is cheating, which by necessity of its function is player choice.

I'm not sure what you're suggesting about difficulty levels; players must choose which difficulty they want to play and thus how much content vs challenge they want. The game does not rely on their willingness to pick a difficulty level; they must pick one.
Levellass wrote:Th alternative is all penalties being mandatory, straitjacketing the player so they always suffer the maximum punishment for a situation.
This conclusion in no way follows the premise. Player's are not forced to suffer the MAXIMUM punishment at all unless the maximum punishment is what is always being threatened (which in most mods, unfortunately is: Death-Load-Repeat, DLRs hence forth). If all penalties are mandatory, we must, as I mentioned, have lesser penalties than the maximum--things less than DLRs.
Levellass wrote:When I see a player use door invincibility I don't think 'Not fair1 You've made the game dysfunctional!'"
This doesn't make any sense. Door invincibility is an instance of the fine tuning required by penalty mechanics; it is not itself a game-broad penalty mechanic. You could suggest that door invincibility renders a certain, and rare, circumstance of death dysfunctional, but we can both see why door invincibility is a valuable feature and ultimately outweighs the particular 'dysfunction' it might create.
Levellass wrote:
Ceilick wrote:This is an exception and reliant on player ignorance of what they 'should' know, and can't be a problem as such. This is also a rather alien player base to the community in general.
Alien? HA! You've no idea how many complaints I got for various mods THAT WERE EXPLAINED IN THE HELP SECTION! Do people not read them anymore? I feel for those who are not aware of things and am constantly amazed at how many newbies come across Keen mods (They don't usually join the community, but they do occasionally play.)
Firstly, yes, exactly. Not reading the help file amounts to not playing the game correctly. However, unlike save scumming, the player isn't taking advantage of a situation by failing to do so.

Secondly, features you may change or add to Keen are not things a player already knows (I used the word 'should' in my above statement, but it was intended to indicate what the player of Keen already knows).
Levellass wrote:I don't see why; we don't demand that all patches be general enough for every kind of mod (Though I try!); what's wrong with a unique approach for various mods?
Because that's what I propose to investigate :P It is the harder question, and we have demonstrated how creative we can be in creating or imagining particular and unique approaches to the similar question of what can be done at all.

I don't think it's strange to want what is basically a universal mechanic in Galaxy games to be 'fixed' in a universal manner.
Levellass wrote:A lot is, as I mentioned with pints, what IS the point? It's really just something that tugs on our ;big numbers' love and completionist instincts...Without sentimentality mods have no atmosphere, no feeling.

You're absolutely right that point items fall into this area of sentiment vs actual effect. I've got my own theories on point items, and perhaps that's a thread worth digging up again (I know there is one in this subforum).

I would point out, however, that sentiment and functionality (or 'better functionality', if we choose to frame it that way) can coexist with no problem. My issue is leaving it the hands of sentiment, although perhaps if MORE sentiment can be issued that would abate the dysfunction to an extent as well.

I mentioned Keen's death throws before; a patch that forces the player to sit through these, not allowing the game to be loaded until after return to map or retry level are chosen, creates some consequence (albeit in time as opposed to gameplay).

Great to hear the checkpoint idea sounds patchable. Non traditional checkpoints seems like the most vanilla answer to save scumming for modders wanting to mod against that. The vanillaty of it is suggested to me in how apparent it could be featured in Keen 4, 5, 6 and even Dreams without much alteration at all while maintaining in each the integrity of the story, theme, and minimizing arbitrary goals (keys to access council members, omegamatic key cards, the world map items of Fribbulus Xax, Boobus Bombs).

Edit:
Levellass wrote: Just look at ROIB and TFOS; I don't know about you but I play them over and over just for their graphics. I mean wow. movable robot blocks be dammned (Least favorite part of ROIB.) I love the atmosphere!
Not to make this about specific mods, but I haven't beaten ROIB and dread getting back to it, graphics as great as they are in most cases. TFOS is holding my attention better, but the DLRs are doing a number there as well.

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Post by levellass » Tue Mar 11, 2014 2:26 am

This article I think illustrates my feelings on death in games, it's also an interesting read. Do you know there are people who have a natural godmode cheat out of physical pain? http://aeon.co/magazine/altered-states/ ... s-we-play/

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Post by Ceilick » Tue Mar 11, 2014 8:25 pm

The main features of the article 'Lass linked, as I see them:
In Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals (2003), Eric Zimmerman and Katie Salen define a game as ‘a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict, defined by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome’. In physical spaces, playful conflict leads to the agonising exertions of sport. In the more abstract arenas of video and board games, conflict arises from constraints that produce irritation and frustration and the intellectual pain of failure. As the game critic Jesper Juul observed in The Art of Failure (2013): ‘Some failures hurt more than others do.’ But what exactly is this pain of failure? It is simply an experience of personal shortcoming – and, as Juul notes, it is odd that we choose to subject ourselves to it.


In summary, challenges in games can only be considered challenges if we are threatened with real failure and consequence 'of some kind', and it is the nature of video games that the failure produced amounts to irritation/frustration. Absence of irritation/frustration due to failure negates the experience of a challenge.

While Keen is an exploration game, it is also a challenge game (inherent in the presence of having to repeat areas otherwise passable due to mistakes), therefore irritation and frustration must play SOME role in it to maintain genre sanctity.

Repeat is often due to death, but not necessitated by it. In a game where Keen can never die, player's can still miss the last platform in a chain of 10 and have to repeat the set.

This article, then, really isn't about death in video games; it's about something that death typically, but not necessarily, accomplishes: failure and repeat, irritation/frustration and why we continue to play or stop.
Yet games exercise their peculiar hold over us precisely by offering both the unpleasant experience itself and its antidote in one package. Games, Juul argues, ‘motivate us to play more in order to escape the same inadequacy, and the feeling of escaping failure (often by improving our skills) is central to the enjoyment of games’.
We continue to play games, despite irritation/frustration, because there is a reward for enduring them. The article seems to indicate that escaping failure is the thrill/reward for facing it.

However, Keen is the type of game (as we've seen it, and represented exaggeratedly in mods) that avoidance of single possible failures is rarely a thrill (jumping over hazards, stand and shoot, etc) and a reward only in the sense of a step in the journey of progress through the game. Occasionally we experience 'great escapes', where avoiding death is it's own reward (who hasn't experienced this with Robo Red suddenly opening fire on them?).

This brings me to realize explicitly what I feel I was on the edge of in a post prior: while I still think player failures need to be diverse in degree and consequence, so do our rewards for avoiding failure. A step in progress, some point items--these aren't enough to sustain the player through every potential failure. We need avoidance in and of itself to be a triumph. This seems, as I had mentioned before, to rely on more diverse enemy behaviors and the ability to interact with them beyond shoot/jump over. And while this doesn't help resolve the player's ability to simply retry ever challenge on their own terms, it does, I think, improve the player's tolerance level for repeat.

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Post by levellass » Wed Mar 12, 2014 2:00 am

I have come to the realization that I myself don't much care if people save scum through my mods, I just want the play to be fun.

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Post by MoffD » Fri Jan 16, 2015 3:16 pm

Reading through this, I have some thoughts as to how this relates to my mod.
Lass is implementing for me a point burn system for the use of an ability. In my mod, score is going to be more important than merely getting on the highscores table.

That being said, what are the community thoughts on applying the score reset idea, when score that has been gained previously in the level is needed in order to finish? (causing an unwinnable situation which requires dying to reset and not a save load)

I am not sure if I would put this in the game anyway, but I was wondering if this would be considered "fair"

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Post by levellass » Sun Jan 18, 2015 2:12 am

I'd say unfair, you'd need something to balance it. At no point in the game should a player have to go 'Rats, I can't win and to go on I'll have to hurt myself' unless they were very, very stupid. (See: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/M ... ByInsanity) Keen is good with this, every level usually contains everything you need to get through it, even if you had nothing at the start.

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Post by MoffD » Sun Jan 18, 2015 4:05 am

Well.. you still have the possibility of not having enough score to finish if there was low score to begin with that was completely used.

If you think it's unfair though, I'll probably not use it.

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Post by CommanderSpleen » Sun Jan 18, 2015 6:35 am

Given my attention span for mods these days, that would probably place the mod in Meh I Will Play This Through One Day Maybe When I Have Time Oh No It Is 2050 Already I Will Just Post On Keen:Modding About Something Instead territory.

Maybe if the point items themselves were somehow implemented in an interesting way it could come across well. But it seems about as sensible as hacking Jetpack to subtract from your score to use the jetpack instead of giving it its own separate fuel variable.

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