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Moffat and the Allegorical Doctor Who

Clara_and_TheDoctor

Of all the events that transpired in the Doctor Who episode “The Rings of Akhaten,” the one thing that stuck with me was the moment that the Doctor and his newest companion Clara talked with an alien about renting a space moped. In lieu of cash or credits, the aliens on the world of Akhaten wanted objects of sentimental value. The more sentiment behind the object, the Doctor explains, the more its value, its worth. The episode continues then with all these other concepts like gods, stories, memories, songs, meaning, and “the most important leaf in human history” (and we’ll get to this in a second), but for the most part I kept thinking about this concept of buying a tangible object with another tangible object that has intangible meaning to a single individual. Then it hit me – this really is fucking stupid.

Why? The idea of an alien species valuing an object with meaning behind it is not even science fiction. It’s not even LIGHT science fiction. It’s the hacky, emotional reject of an young adult fiction novel. Of all the goofy, fun moments in The Fifth Element, no one said that the idea of “the fifth element being love” was one of them. As dark as Harry Potter gets, Harry surviving Voldermort’s attack when he was a child due to his parents love is not exactly well-respected.  So when Doctor Who trades Clara’s ring (which was passed down from her “mum”) for the moped, we’re way past a soap operatic science fiction show. We’re entering allegory territory. The problem isn’t that science fiction can’t have allegorical concepts; it’s that the overall show as an philosophical allegory is just not interesting. We’re not watching a show with real characters and crazy plots that build around a theme; we’re watching a show about concepts, ideas, and themes, embodied in random characters and plots. Doctor Who is all about meaning now, and it’s bothering me.

Moffat seems strangely obsessed with myths, concepts, and intangibles. He’s weirdly taken to ideas, ideas so specific that it’s off-putting. His clever-by-half take on the series embodies this, where characters seem perfectly quippy and quirky, speaking in Lost-ian like language that no human (or alien!) would actually, or even theoretically talk like. It’s getting to House-like levels of silliness now, when in it’s final three or four seasons, every character talked like observational theorists, able to suss out the essence and emotions of every other character. Everyone became a fucking detective of human life.

The entirety of Doctor Who is now a “fucking detective of life”. This would explain everything – the lack of urgency, the labyrinthine story arcs, the obsession over the “Doctor Who?” question (which was always played for a joke… until now!), the questionable presentation of Manic Pixie Dream Girls as companions, the ideas of fear and love and song and memory being catalysts for plot contrivances, the nonsensical EVERYTHING involving River Song, the ruination of potentially great monsters like The Silence and The Fallen Angels. All of these plots and characters are nothing but vessels for Moffat and his writing staff to muse on life and the universe’s greatest mysteries, like the meaning of love and fear and friendship and death. Moffat probably decided to avoid returning to Daleks because he couldn’t make them into a metaphor for anything. The Cybermen, though? The cold, mechanical robots with no feeling? Oh, yeah, we’ll see them again.

Beyond this all being questionable sci-fi, the bigger issue is that these themes and his opinion on them are NOT universal. He doesn’t seem to present a nuanced side to these things, nor seem to delve to much into various opinions of it. His arc concerning the Doctor’s death could have been a powerfully dramatic moment for the character. Matt Smith sells it well, but it ultimately leads to nowhere, branching out into bizarre one-note areas, like in “Let’s Kill Hitler,” where he was poisoned and, for some reason, ran back to the TARDIS to talk to an image of a young Amy Pond to… express regret? It’s a nice moment but had absolutely no bearing in the actual plot of the episode and felt rather extrameous. Or in “Vincent and the Doctor,” a dramatically powerful episode to many, but its clear that Moffat wanted to talk about depression and loss, not necessarily create an actual plot-driven episode of TV that supposed to last 52 minutes. (And the less said about “Closing Time,” the better.)

And so we’re back to the “most important leaf in human history,” which – what? The most important leaf in human history gave you a raccoon tail and ears and allowed you to fly. Clara, your leaf being apparently stronger than the history of the Doctor’s travels is nonsense. Even worse, his metaphorical nonsense doesn’t even hold under scrutiny. Moffat (or in this case, writer Neil Cross) holds that history is finite but the future is forever, and somehow the leaf represents infinity but the Doctor’s life doesn’t, despite the fact that the Doctor, presumable, will be living a LOT longer (and his experiences bare more for the future), but the leaf actually represent past events (the marriage of Clara’s parents) and kinda doesn’t bare anything to the future, save for what Clara would believe and — do you see what I’m getting at here? A whole lot of run-around bullshit. And it’s bullshit that lacks the foresight of contrarian and differentiating viewpoints, so it’s not even WELL-THOUGHT bullshit.

I was somewhat pleased with “Cold War,” which gave purpose and agency to the characters, and even allowed Clara to feel vulnerable and unsafe for once. I wasn’t too pleased with the deus ex machina of the Ice Warrior’s arriving ship, and it seemed like Clara’s fears were tossed aside in the end. But at least those critiques come from elements of substance, writing, and character, instead of the broad swath of allegorical ideas that seem to be present nowadays. Here’s hoping that we can see Doctor Who become more character and plot based as the season winds to a close.

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Godspeed, Sly Cooper and mascot gaming

Sly 4: Thieves in Time essentially the last of a dying breed – the high-profile mascot platformer. Can Sanzaru Games resurrect a promising gaming model, or is the genre dead in the water?

Sly 4

It might not seem like it, but there’s a lot of pressure on Sanzaru Games and the upcoming Sly 4: Thieves in Time. For one, Sanzaru took over from Sucker Punch as game developer, so it’ll have a different look, feel, and gaming sensibility. It’s up in the air whether this is a good thing or a bad thing – we’ll see come October. But my bigger concern is that, in this day and age of super soldiers fighting in futuristic wars, alien invasions, or zombie apocalypses, of explosions and shootouts and humans involved in the fray (if we’re lucky, we’ll see some robots or sophisticated AI), Sly Cooper is essentially the last of smart, well-characterized “mascots” – non-human characters involved in a silly yet complex situation, all within a silly yet complex world.

The 3D mascot platformer took off in the wake of Mario 64. Developers and designers followed a very simply template – cute character, items to collect, bad guys to fight – and unloaded a sheer number of them onto us. We went through this before in the wake of Sonic the Hedgehog, substituting 3D for 2D, and very few of them survived or lived on in the collective conscious – Rocket Knight may be the only exception. Likewise, of the sheer number of 3D knockoffs we got, only a handful of them really survived: Jak and Daxter, Sly Cooper, Ratchet and Clank, Spyro the Dragon.

Naughty Dog essentially stopped with Jak and Daxter, especially since their Uncharted property took off. Ratchet and Clank was going strong right up until All-4-One, an ill-advised multiplayer game that sacrificed the wonder of a single-player, expansive adventure for an insular, complicated, too-many-players experience (it also surprisingly narrowed down the expansive cast and focused on a few key character who, while fine, were way overexposed). Insomniac Games claims to return back to basics with the upcoming new game Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault, although emphasis on “tower defense” doesn’t bode well. Spyro had a complex go of it, starting off as one of the many 3D platformer clones (yet still a good game), only to revamp into a questionably dark series of games that many considered okay, but lacked the whimsy fun of the first series. Then there was attaching the name to the Skylander games, and his awful, awful redesign. It was a classic case of burying someone alive.

Sly Cooper wasn’t immune from diminishing returns. The third game of the series was fun but way too wild, although it had a meekly satisfying end. Still, it was a strong series of games, and it’s nice that the fourth game will be a direct sequel, not a revamp or reboot or some way-off-the-mark followup, all things that tainted the franchises mentioned earlier.

Beyond that, Sly Cooper’s success will determine whether the mascot era is ultimately dead and buried, or if there’s still life and energy in the concept. Personally, I think there is: it’s simply a matter of taking those types of characters and settings and building them up to be larger and more detailed, similar to a mascot version of something like Uncharted, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, or even Gears of War. Focusing mascot games on stylized-yet-straight-forward platforming, or as the occasional outlandish RPG, is limiting already, and given the rarity for developers and designers to find inspiration in well-trodded ground, there’s little hope for that road to be in any way interesting. I even over-explained an idea I had here.

So here’s hoping Sly 4: Thieves in Time get the critical and commercial plaudits needed to resurrect a dying breed of games with immense potential. If it fails, I guess I’ll have to learn how to curse like a twelve-year old. Again.

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My Awesome Theoretical Game Idea

Over the past couple of months, I have been thinking about a game that, had I possessed the means, skills, finances, and opportunities, I would totally make. I decided to put my ideas onto this post, just so to have them down, and also so people can see them and comment on the idea, logistically and practically. I warn you – this may run long.

(I won’t get into the specific idea of the story, because I actually have it down as a pilot for a TV series, but I’ll detail everything else.)

I. Overview

Too many games today are gritty, dark, and gruesome. Don’t get me wrong – this is okay, but I would love to see more variety instead of egregious space or war shooters. Indie games may be on the right path, but many of them are about being quirky, retro, or “Art,” whatever that means. What I propose is a AAA game that has the scope of many of these shooters – with their variety of enemies, levels, weapons, and choices – but given a more light-weight, perhaps cartoony sheen. Think if Jak and Daxter 2 was infused with Deus Ex’s blood. More emphasis on a comic story than drama. In some ways, we used to do this all the time, but publishers went to where the money was. I think we can get back to the old PS1 days.

Imagine 3-5 characters, very different from each other, and non-human. Maybe aliens, or robots, or cartoon characters, akin to Conker. They’re sort of a team, but they’re really not; more like a bunch of characters thrust into a situation that they have to escape. Each character has different skills and abilities, but also think and act and control differently as well. Each level, or episode (I will explain this later), has you choose which one you want to ‘play’ as at first. This choice will change depending on the state of your team – let’s say someone broke his or her leg, or got sick. Then you can’t play as them. But for the most part you can choose who to start the level as. This allows for co-op play as well.

II. Goals and Choices

The main goal of the game is singular: keep your team alive throughout the entire game.

That’s it. If anyone dies or is left behind when you jump to the next level, you lose. You have to keep your team together. They can be tired, sick, annoyed, at each other throats – but no one can be killed. This sounds pretty straight-forward, except that keeping your team alive involves more than not getting shot.

Each level-episode involves making decisions that get tougher and more morally challenging as the game progresses. In Mass Effect, you more or less made choices that affected the world around you in order to save it. In this game, you make choices that emphasize the team instead of the world. So, to save a teammate, you have to decide whether you’ll, let’s say, assassinate a leader of a peaceful world, talk your way out of a hostage situation, or torture someone to get answers. The choices you make affect your morale (this also will be explained later) as well as the morale of your teammates. The choices are varied; sometimes, they’re just about idle chatter (very few cut scenes are involved; you participate in most, if not all, plot points), and sometimes they’re about life-or-death. Again, this is similar to Mass Effect, but instead of only choosing for Shepard, you have to choose for the variety of characters you can control.

This sounds dark, but remember, the tone is lighter, so more akin to maybe the first few Harry Potter books, or Ratchet and Clank.

III. Importance of (Understanding) Characters and Dialogue

You have to get to know your characters inside and out. You have to know their strengths and master them; and you have to know their weaknesses and work around them. This encompasses not only abilities, but dialogue choices and decision making.

For example, if one of your characters is very nervous and high-strung, but extremely smart, you’re not good in fighting areas. You have to do more running than combat – but, to be fair, your character can run pretty fast. You more or less dive and hide, and are fairly good at this too. Your dialogue choices depend on who you’re talking to and what you’re talking about. Repairing machines? Solving puzzles? You’re choices are geared towards the getting the correct answer pretty fast (while someone else would have more disparaging, unclear choices.) However, making those choices with a time-limit will make those choices more difficult to answer, as your character can’t take pressure. Another character will have to shout encouraging remarks (or, if the second character is meaner, “tough love” remarks), to control that characters “morale” and keep him relatively calm as he solves the puzzle.

Likewise, you can control a character that’s great at gunfights, but sucks at puzzle solving. You can choose a character that’s awesome at close-quarter fighting, but can’t climb complex platforms. And so on. But you can work at improving those weakness through a variety of ways.

Characters, in this fake game, are more fun and “goofy” then the typical brooding protagonist. They should be expressive and endearing and verbose. They should be “funny” – not in dumb ways, but in a way that makes the player smile. The dialogue and flow of the conversations are geared towards fun instead of angst, but still important to get the plot points in as well as develop the characters. There are definitely dramatic moments in the game, but it is balanced by lighter banter as well. Dialogue that works well enough to keep people from skipping it, as well as important enough to pay attention to.

The second point is important, as to limit hand-holding and tutorials. If the dialogue and characters are strong, there will be no need to have characters repeat directions on what to do or fill the game with in-screen prompts. Yes, it would require playing often and it would discourage long waiting between play-throughs, lest you forget what to do next. But the game should be fun enough to keep the player engaged.

To make dialogue work in this fashion, I imagine the player you control can’t begin the dialogue; NPCs would have to say something, which prompts a dialogue tree or wheel for responses. I suppose there could be some points when you can comment on something first, but those moments would be scripted.

VI. Morale and RPG-Stat Building

Morale is, essentially, the state of your characters’ emotions at the time. Morale is constantly changing, depending on the situation. In a gunfight, the soldier will gain morale when he fights well, or lose it when he fights poorly. The high-strung character would simply lose morale unless he escapes the gunfight. If things get worse, he loses morale faster. Morale effects how your fight, think, perform actions, converse with people, solve puzzles, and gain stats. High morale allows you to shoot better, punch harder, dodge faster, climb marvelously, and solve puzzles with ease. Low morale causes wild aiming, missing punches, slow movements, falling when climbing, making puzzles harder, and slower stat gain.

You start the game with stats based on your character. The soldier has fairly high stats in shooting, but fairly low in problem solving and maybe social communication. The smart guy has high stats in puzzle solving, but practically none in close-quarter combat. The full range of stats have yet to be determined, but I thought about the following:

1) Gun Combat
2) Melee Combat
3) Stamina (length of time you can exert strenuous tasks, like long term climbing, sprinting, critical punches, etc.)
4) Climbing (determines what you can/can’t climb – ladders are low, trees are medium, brick walls being high)
5) Jumping (how far and high you can leap over things)
6) Puzzle Solving (focus on fixing equipment or devices to progress)
7) Intelligence (more about observing the world around you, allowing better uses of the environment, not needed for progress)
8) Social Discussion (ease of talking with people, whether on your team or not; allows a variety of commands)
9) Social Comprehension (observing social cues/ticks/behavior and exploiting them/using them to your advantage, akin to LA Noire)
10) Stealth (ability to sneak past enemies, cameras, etc.)

There certainly can be more.

Morale “trumps” those stats. If you have high morale, and high gun stats, you’re basically shooting head shots all day. If you have low morale, however, your exact gun stats won’t be affected directly, but you’ll have slightly worse aiming prowess in battle. If you have low morale, and you have low gun stats, you’re pretty much screwed in battle. Low morale affects choices in dialogue, stealth, and ability to solve puzzles as well.

Morale is based on essentially everything you do, say, and see. Talking to your team casually, during down time, boosts morale, so you’ll want to talk to them as often as possible. Talk about the past, shoot a few jokes, maybe make a pass at a potential relationship partner (this may make someone else jealous!). The better, empathetic choices in these conversations will boost morale even more (although it may not be the better choice to progress through a level). Again, it requires real understanding of your team, individually, and the state they’re in. You may have to console a teammate who saw his first person killed, ever. You want to be comforting, but if the enemy is coming, you may have to push him harder than needed. That affects his morale, but it also affects yours.

The stats can increase by many means. The more often you put the high-strung person in a gunfight, the more comfortable he gets, changing the amount of morale he’d lose. Give him a gun and keep him shooting, and he’ll get more gun combat experience. Even having him casually talk to the soldier about shooting and gunfights  improves the gun stats, and in the down time you can “train” the high-strung person with weapons. This is across the board, too – talking to other teammates and “training” them can improve all the stats incrementally (what we may call indirect experience), which may be safer and easier that thrusting a character into an area where he has to be forced to use an ability he’s not good at (direct experience). You get more experience with the latter, but you also may get killed, or something could happen that would destroy a huge chunk of morale, which is counter-productive.

V. Levels (Episodes) Breakdown

For this game, it may be better to think of levels more like episodes of TV than chapters of a book. Each level-episode even has a title card and a teaser cutscene, which introduces the threat/issue in an amusing or dramatic way. Then the “level” begins, you choose your initial characters, then proceed.

Depending on the episode, something occurs that you have to deal with. Early episodes are easy. You have to shoot your way into a building, or protect an important device. Later episodes have you tending to a sick teammate during a zombie attack, or deciding whether to simply escape a base that’s being targeted for destruction, or help the people inside. One episode I envision include a complex mind-game with a brilliant psychopath who has a teammate hidden away, and you get to decide whether to negotiate, apply pressure, torture him, or flat out kill him and find the teammate yourself. A lot more complex episodes can be created, which can alter the dynamics of your squad and affect morale quite a bit.

There’s no achievements. There’s no rewards for doing the right thing, especially when “the right thing” becomes meaningless later in the game. There’s only survival, and if you do something wrong, or something you regret, you have to live with it. There’s no right answer, no “Paragon/Renegade” binary point building. Just what you feel you have to do to live.

VI. Gameplay

The game utilizes Cover-Based Shooting, Melee Sighting, Stealth Mechanics, Environmental Observation (Scanning), Dialogue, and Puzzle Solving. I’ll break down each one in detail.

Cover-Based Shooting is fairly straight-forward. One button causes your character to go into cover. Trigger buttons pulls your character out of cover and the other trigger button shoots. There are grenades and variety of weapons. There are also little things, like cover that’s breakable, and cover that’s moveable. You can roll or dive to another cover area as well. You can shout commands OR words of encouragement to other teams, to alter their morale in battle, especially for people who can’t shoot well or are too busy doing something else, like fixing an elevator. Even shouting “Stay down!” can give the morale a tiny boost, making their “puzzle solving” of the elevator that much quicker. Say it too much though, and you become annoying, and morale goes down. Plus, you distract yourself when you need to be blasting away.

Melee Fighting I’m still working on, but it would be a combination of timing-based fighting like Batman: Arkham City and combo-based fighting like God of War. During melee battles, you can run around the area freely, and you can punch, kick, block, grab, jump, and roll, as well as perform combos. This works against most thugs. When dealing with trained fighters, or fighting in REALLY close combat (like, inside a trailer park), this will not work. So you have to get close up with them. Holding a trigger button while unarmed puts you in “fighting stance”. When enemies swing at you in this stance, you automatically dodge. You have a “dodge meter,” based on stamina, that allows you to continually dodge while in the stance. When it goes to zero, you’re vulnerable to get hit. If multiple enemies are swinging at you, or you’re dealing with an enemy that will not let up, your dodge meter drains faster. You have to get in a series of blows, or stand still, to regain your dodge meter.

As you’re automatically dodging in fighting stance mode, you can press the various punch/kick/block/grab/jump/roll buttons to try and execute combos and counters. If an enemy swings a punch and you dodge it, pressing “punch” returns a quick punch to the face or stomach. Grab snatches his arm, and punch begins a beatdown, kick will knee them in his stomach, block will put a squeeze on him (choking him), grab again will throw them, and roll would slam them into the ground. There’s inherently a number of combo moves like this, as well as there being combos for both in “fighting stance” and outside of it.

However, as you deal with more and tougher enemies, they can themselves dodge and block and counter. (This is kinda similar to CQC in Metal Gear Solid, but easier to execute, especially when your stats are high enough). You have to play back and forth with them, attempt to overwhelm their stamina with yours. If your Social Comprehension is high enough, you can “scan” enemies to determine their health and their dodge meter, and use that to determine how best to wear them down.

IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE that a good portion of the game is NOT about winning a gun or melee fight, but surviving it. So you may have to distract a much stronger and powerful fighter until your method of escape arrives. Sometimes you do have to clear out a room, or best an opponent in fisticuffs; sometimes, you don’t. You have to pay very close attention to the story moment to determine what you need to do. And you can use the environment to your advantage, especially with high Social Comprehension stats. Maybe break the floor underneath someone, or have him accidentally punch an electric unit. Remember, the key is surviving, not winning. Sometimes you have to lose gracefully, or surrender to an overwhelming force.

Stealth Mechanics are based on your stealth stats. Someone with low stats will be very noisy even when walking, can’t lean against walls or peek around corners, is loud when jumping and has trouble utilizing environmental objects to their advantage (like throwing cans as a distraction). High stealth stats can do pretty much all of that, plus some pretty nifty stealth moves, like mirror an enemy’s movements behind his back, prop oneself up in alcoves above enemies, and “estimate” the cone of vision for security cameras. Controls are similar to cover mechanics, and you have to stay out of enemies’ eyelines and keep quiet. Nothing too complicated here.

Environmental Observation, or Scanning, is based on the character and your stats. I’m not sure if this should be similar to Metroid Prime or Batman: Arkham City, but there should be a mode where you “see” various objects around you that can be used to your advantage. Like fire extinguishers can be used for melee as well as exploding in shooting-based combat, or pipes that can be climbed in stealth or broken for weapons. (Maybe color code them?) This becomes important in later episodes, in worlds where the environment doesn’t make a lick of sense. You have to pay attention to how NPCs use the environment, maybe scan this, and then you can use them later.

Scanning also applies to objects and people that can be used for dialogue purposes, which ties into Social Discussion/Comprehension. Like LA Noire, you can pay attention to physical actions of people you talk to, in order to determine the best dialogue decision. High Social Discussion stats mean more dialogue options – you can play into gray areas instead of yes/no type responses, showcasing a better understanding of the conversation. That will also open up some fun choices, like telling jokes or asides to teammates, or pulling someone to the side and telling them a different piece of information. It’ll allow for giving toasts, praise, or encouragement, or even taunts, threats, mindgames, and screaming matches towards various antagonists. This can be mixed around. If a teammate says something that bothers the person you control, you have a choice to say something about it or keep quiet. Keeping quiet may keep the other person’s morale up, but it will probably lower your own.

High Social Comprehension allows for observations of the person you’re talking to and the surrounding environment to assist in better responses. If you’re told some piece of information, this may alert you that this is probably a lie, based on the tone of voice or facial tic. You may want to respond with anger; however, those high stats will also alert you to the NPCs around you that may be eager to pull a weapon; you then may wish to diffuse the moment cautiously instead.

Sample dialogue (safe situation): Bob and Mary wait at bus station for the next bus to a further point in the level. You control Bob, who is now bitter from events in previous episode.

Mary: Bus taking a while, huh?

Bob: (Low Social Discussion stats give you only two options – a “positive” response or a “negative” response)

  • C1: Uh, it’ll be here soon, I guess. (Boosts Mary’s morale, may lower yours.)
  • C2: When it comes, it comes. (Lowers Mary’s morale, may raise yours.)

(Medium Social Discussion stats net you some more responses)

  • C3: Wonder if everyone always waits this long. (Boosts Mary’s morale, may lower yours.)
  • C4: You can see if there’s a schedule somewhere. (Lowers Mary’s morale, may raise yours.)

(High Social Discussion net you all 6 responses)

  • C5: Maybe it got lost, like me in your eyes. (Obvious joke, maybe raises both morale.)
  • C6: It’ll arrive in another four minutes. (Only available if you scan a bus schedule beforehand; raises morale.)

Or, you could not respond. Might lower both character’s morale, though.

Sample dialogue (tense situation): An antagonist holds up a gun against a NPC’s head in front of Mary. You control Mary. Here, dialogue is timed. You have to respond quicker or things may turn for the worst. (OR they could turn for the better. Again, totally depends on the situation. Morale here mostly depends on what occurs AFTER the scene is over.)

Antagonist: Give me one reason why I shouldn’t kill him.

Mary: (Low discussion stats)

  • C1: Because you can’t just kill a living person!
  • C2: NOOOOO!

(Medium discussion stats)

  • C3: I can give you a hundred good reasons, if you just let me.
  • C4: Let him go, take me instead. I know you want to.

(High discussion stats)

  • C5: Because you’re better than this.
  • C6: If you let him go… I may make it worth your while.

Or, say nothing, and try your hand at subduing the antagonist yourself. This may be almost impossible to do without getting the NPC killed (which lowers morale.)

Climbing and Jumping might be best mixed with Stamina; or, better yet, Stamina is a better reflector of those stats that separate.

Puzzle Solving (may need a better name) is about figuring out how to, well, solve puzzles that are important for progressing in the game. Things like hacking computers, diffusing bombs, restoring electricity – any encounter that usually prompts some kind of mini-game. In this case, if you have low stats in this, the encounter is presented as is – or as a complicated version to the player. Diffusing a bomb, for example, is just a bunch of wires and mechanisms. If your stats are high, however, the encounter is “re-envisioned” as something easier. That bomb is, to the viewpoint of the character, is a simpler task of, let’s say, easy math problems, or a simple pattern. Intelligence helps here. You can use Intelligence to, lets say, observe books or paintings, or how buildings are built or how cars are designed. That way, if said bomb was attached to a car, and you “scanned” a car prototype, it would make solving the bomb puzzle easier. In other words, Intelligence focuses on methods and ways to understand the world you’re in, but doesn’t hinder actual progress – although it might make it easier.

VII. Set Pieces

Everything listed above is all based around Set Pieces. Imagine the cool, cinematic moments from Uncharted 2; now, multiply that by 100.

Set Pieces are climaxes to various episodes, which requires all the skills you developed for your team and all the information you learned about your world as well as quick timing, thinking, reaction, and communication. Set Pieces are high octane moments of shooting, fighting, and stealth. It’s an all-the-cards-on-the-table moment, when buildings falls and things blow up, where enemies are everywhere and a few random objectives stand between you and survival. You have to shoot, talk, sneak, and fight your way to victory.

Example: an entire level took place on a huge airship, only to realize that the airship has a nuclear bomb set to crash land on a large population. The airship is on its way down. You have to fight your way to the teleportation escape pods as the ship burns hotly with set fuses. Pieces fall apart and (OCCASIONAL) QTEs pop up, in order to dodge some pieces and grab onto ledges if and when they fall underneath your feet. You have to diffuse other charges to slow down the decent; and plead with people not to abandon their posts to keep the ship up as long as possible. Even then, you have a choice – do you even bother to save the ship? Have it change course? Try to just save the people on board? Or only your team? Even your squad is conflicted. Do you pull a teammate away from a device he’s trying to fix or let him finish as time ticks away? Everything comes together at this moment. There’s a chance, a REAL chance, people will have to be sacrificed.

 

Yeah, it’s quite a lot, and it’s completely and utterly theoretical wishful thinking. But I think if a company focused on the core story of a game, and toned down the over-wrought world-building details, the nutso cut scenes, and AVOID FORCED MULTIPLAYER, then this could be doable. A lot of what I mentioned is in place in a ton of other games, so the only thing needed is a universal, direct vision.

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