Game Philosopher

The philosophy of games and gaming

Do you really want realism?

Posted by gamephilosopher on September 12, 2006

Every time a Role Playing Game comes out, someone is screaming about realism and how it’s not realistic when this happens and it would be more realistic if that happened. Well let me ask you something. Do you really want realism? Let’s talk about a few things.

Above all, you want the game to be fun, right? Well the problem is that real life isn’t fun in the same way that a game is fun.

Think for a second if you were playing a game based on The Fellowship of the Ring book and it was very realistic. Would you want to spend the day walking? No spiders attacking or magical caves to explore, just walking. That would be realistic, but extremely boring. Part of what made the book exciting was that the plot was being revealed to you word by word, and you feared for the lives of the party members. Think about the beginning of Frodo’s adventure when the 4 hobbits have just left the Shire.

While reading the book, you were excited because you were rooting for the hobbits.

If you were Frodo in real life, you’d be scared to death of the prospect of being found.

If you were playing the game, you would be bored by the prospect of being found.

What I’m trying to illustrate is that there’s a big disconnect between what you may find fun or exciting in real life and what you find to be fun while playing a game.

I’m sorry if I sound a little obtuse – I understand that the lack of mounted combat in Oblivion was nothing short of a tragedy; there definately are exceptions.

The last time I complained to myself about lack of realism in a game I got what is known as a “Fed-ex quest” which is where you are given an item and asked to deliver it to some other person in a different town. All you have to do is take the item and walk over to the other person and give it to them. For that you get some money, experience, or a reward of some kind.

Now that’s not really that realistic, is it? I don’t even know this guy and he’s giving me his sacred vial of angel semen to deliver to the Shaman by the lake, and on top of all that, the Shaman is going to know about this arrangement and have money and/or a reward waiting? Come on people, lets be more realistic.

Ok, let’s talk about how we could inject some realism into the situation.

We could get to know the guy before he trusts us with handling his sacred artifacts!?! In real life, how do you get to know someone? Have a beer with them? Get them hired on at your job so you hang out more? Go bowling? Where does the line get drawn where you stop playing a game and start playing a real life simulator? Would you really want to listen to his blabbering about his wife and kids, lawn, house, dog, whatever or would you just end up clicking right past it?
How about having to go back to the quest-giver for your reward instead of expecting it at your destination? This is actually not a bad idea, but it forces you to travel all the way back to the beginning of your quest to complete it – something some people may find tedious and therefore not fun.

I think the actual solution is to not HAVE Fed-Ex quests at all, but then we lose out on a lot of oppotunities for quests and this makes game designers unhappy.

Also remember that quests in the beginning of a game are designed to be easy and quick so you can finish them in such a way that you are constantly gratified so you continue playing and don’t stop playing.

I’m rambling here, so I’ll sum up. Remember next time you complain about the lack of reality in your game that you may just be asking for something you’re really not willing to play, and that someone probably has thought about this thoroughly before you and hasn’t come up with anything better.


Posted in Principles | Comments Off on Do you really want realism?

Blizzard’s Design Philosophy for WoW

Posted by gamephilosopher on September 8, 2006

I’ve never played World of Warcraft, maybe I will some day, but I did read a great article yesterday that I thought would be a great read for you people.

Its a keynote speech from WoW’s Lead Designer Rob Pardo and it has some really good details about what choices Blizzard made when designing the game. Here are some highlights.

 “Another thing we talked about very early on was the game being soloable to [level] 60.”

In designing a game so that it’s accessible to a wide array of people, Blizzard wanted to capture the casual and the hardcore gamers. The way I see it is that casual gamers are less likely to band together into groups because they’re not online for 8 hours a day cultivating relationships with other players. Therefore, they can’t be made to rely on groups to complete the game or they’ll lose interest. On the other side of the coin, the hardcore players have the ability to go solo or run around with their mates. Both are viable options.

““Killing with a purpose” is the quest philosophy for WoW. With other MMOs, quests were just go out and see that experience bar move.”

I know this from personal experience. I’m currently playing an MMO that doesn’t even HAVE a plot, and about 5 hours worth of missions. The result is going around killing stuff, and then going somewhere else and killing stuff, ad nauseum. People lose interest within weeks because you eventually run out of things to do. In a subscription based game, this is the worst thing that can happen, especially if you can figure out the game sucks within the free trial…

“An example of Tradeoffs: system requirements of Wow versus Crysis, for example. Crysis looks awesome. But we would rather have the broader market. So that forced us to the stylized art style that is resistant to looking dated. ”

I never really thought about this, but since opinions of what graphics are cutting edge changes by the day, it would be very tough for an MMO to last for several years without looking dated. Stylized art sidesteps the age factor so the developers can concentrate on patching flaws and coming up with new content rather than keeping up with the graphical jonses.

Overall, a great article, even if you’re not into WoW. I didn’t forsee me ever trying it out, but after reading this article, I just may…

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Blizzard’s Design Philosophy for WoW

Left brain vs. right brain gaming

Posted by gamephilosopher on September 5, 2006

Friday afternoon I bought two very different games, Indigo Prophecy and Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones. These two games use very different styles of control.

Indigo uses the arrow keys to move the character and the control key to do actions. Other parts of the game require you to play Simon with colors and positions which correspond to keys on your keyboard.

Prince, on the other hand is a straight action game. Press space to jump, left-click to swing your sword and WASD to control your character.

Realizing that the two games had very different styles, I wondered if I should plug in my XBOX 360 controller to play either. Then an idea hit me.

Console games always use a controller where movement is controlled with your left hand and actions are controlled with your right. PC games, before mouse-look used your right hand on the arrow keys to move and your left hand to control actions. Now, spacial movement, like camera control or “looking” is controlled by the right hand on the mouse and actions are controlled by the left hand.

Why am I making a point of this? Because your right hand and eye are primarily controlled by the left side of your brain, and the left side of your brain is more adept at processing certain kinds of information than your right side. (and vice versa).

Check out this chart from


uses logic
detail oriented
facts rule
words and language
present and past
math and science
can comprehend
order/pattern perception
knows object name
reality based
forms strategies


uses feeling
“big picture” oriented
imagination rules
symbols and images
present and future
philosophy & religion
can “get it” (i.e. meaning)
spatial perception
knows object function
fantasy based
presents possibilities
risk taking

Notice that spacial perception is right-brained, which i believe means that its better manipulated by the left hand. Could this be why moving your character has changed from a right handed action (on the arrow keys) to a left handed action on WASD in recent time? Do you think a left handed person who has their mouse on the left of the keyboard has a harder time controlling their character because they do it with their right?

Another thing occurred to me. Many games have information displayed on the screen while you play, whether that be health, ammo, inventory, etc. Some games put that information on the right and some do it on the left.

Take Deus Ex as an example, (hosted on

The game has your health in the top left and your skills in the top right. Since they’re on the extreme of each side, only one eye is picking up that information. Is the correct eye processing the information best suited for the side of the brain it is directly connected to?

A quick look through google images shows Doom 3 health and armour are presented on the bottom left, whereas the Grand Theft Auto series always has that info in the top right.

Perhaps this is why i find myself with my face pressed up to the screen – so my more appropriate eye is able to catch the information presented on the opposite side of the screen.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Left brain vs. right brain gaming

Gaming Principles: Progression

Posted by gamephilosopher on September 1, 2006

Think of every game you’ve ever played and I think you’ll realize that a basic theme is present in all of them. Progression, or progress (however you want to think of it) has a part in every game we play. A game will always present you with something new, whether you’re on a soccer field, playing chutes and ladders or Grand Theft Auto.

Now that we have the basic idea down, let’s think a little about what that effect progression, or perhaps the player’s need for progression affects how a game plays.

The first thing I think of is skill levels. Just about every first person shooter has a level of difficulty which determines how many enemies there are, how prevalent power-ups are, time limits, amounts or difficulty of puzzles and many others. Adjusting this property affects how quickly and easily a player progresses.

Often times, the resistance to progression is the same. You either battle the computer, or since the advent of multiplayer, battle another human. The man vs. man or man vs. nature themes in literature sound very similar.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if you had a game that focused on Man vs Himself? You would have to do something once, then do it over again, but this time, the computer employed the skils, strategies, tactics that you used the first time. This would force you to adapt, to improve on your skills because each subsequent try would require your improvement.

Discuss and don’t be afraid to dig this topic up even if it’s old.

Posted in Principles | Comments Off on Gaming Principles: Progression

Gaming Principles: Introduction

Posted by gamephilosopher on September 1, 2006

The Gaming Principles series has the goal of identifying what makes something a game and why a person enjoys playing it. Without identifying what a game really is, it’s very hard to objectively say what’s so great about a game or why one game succeeded where another failed. Since games are about personal entertainment, it’s very easy to say that a game is crap because you don’t like it, but to discuss the game or write a review about it requires a much deeper understanding.

Posted in Principles | Comments Off on Gaming Principles: Introduction