Sunday, April 02, 2006

Are you Ready for SYSTEM 2000?

Pardon the bad english in the title... it is a line from a jap song anywhere.. so its argubly Janglish. Anyway, this week... the set of questions are mind-boggling to say the least, and really got me thinking quite a lot more than most other weeks.. i mean i understand the whole system thing.. but cards as game systems? i thought they were game technologies or something.. oh well...

To answer the questions, i went back to the lecture notes and ripped off this definition of game systems that i will be working with for this entry, of cos... courtesy of the Great Sage himself.. in short, a game system is " A set of components that function together in multiple games." To add to the confusion we got this too, " Even as culture, games are systems composed of designed elements that interact to produce emergent cultural effects ."

So based on what i am getting, my understanding of a game system are the rules, elements and components given to facilitate a game experience. But any of these can be added, removed, or somewhat modified, or even the method of interaction between the various composites can be altered, to create the game experience itself. So based on this understanding of the game system, THE GREAT ONE will then attempt to answer these head-scratchers...

Question #1:
Creating mods (modifications) to existing games is a common practice, not just for computer games, but for any form of games. Does this imply that any game can be considered a game system? Why/why not?

IMO, I would say that not every game can be considered as a game system, but i guess the answer to this question lies heavily on the scope in which we are answering. For me, i am choosing to answer this from a wider scope, as in to have the gameplay varied significantly before it can be considered a different game.

For example, we all know that Sierra created Half-Life 2 as a single player FPS, with a narrative. But at the same time, for this game to exist, they create a system, weapons, enemies, physics, narrative, etc, and more importantly, the interaction between these elements to create the gameplay experience. Be it the balance of narrative and gameplay, or the interaction of player and enemy AI, all these are welded together from a set of elements, which is the game system.

A group of geniuses, then went to take the physics of the game, stripped the narrative, put in multiplayer and created Counter-strike, making big bucks in the process. As the game play experience was totally different from that of half-life, shifting the paradigm from single to multi-player, i would say that Counter-strike is a game built upon another game as a system.

However, taking all the elements in counter-strike, and modifying the rules, such as limiting the number of players, or changing the weapons, or objective from deathmatch to capture the flag, albeit the creation of different play experiences, i won;t go so far as to say that these are completely new games built upon the counter-strike system, but rather, just variations of the same game.

Hence, a game of capture-the-flag, despite being a very different experience from a game of deathmatch, with their own rules and all, both of them are not in their own rite systems, but rather, they are both still rooted to the counter-strike "system", and are just variations of the elements to produce different experiences, each being their own games with their own rules, but none being systems, as altering any of the rules could probably result in a diff game altogether.

However, i guess if you look from a smaller scale, and see a multiplayer game of capture the flag with 4 players as a different game than that of a 16 player one... then i guess it would be fair to consider a game of capture the flag itself as a game system. Its all a matter of perspective i guess.

Question #2:
Consider a game which you feel could be successfully modified. How could this game be generalized into a game system? How much of the unique character/flavour of the game can be retained? How generic can you make the game system? How easy will it be to create new, unique games from the game system?

Now this part is really mind-boggling, gave it a lot of thought and the main thing that came to my mind are the traditional strategy RPGs like Final Fantasy Tactics or Shining Force. The system of such games essentially breakdown to one player controlling a group of characters and coordinating their movements and such on a grid map against a group of enemy players controlled by computer A.I.

To generalized such a game into a game system in its most generic form would be to have players moving a group of characters on a grid based map to destroy another group of characters. However, what this system can be modified into is to change the gameplay in possible sceanrios which allow multiplayer, like two players or more controlling two different groups of characters to battle a group of computer A.I, or 4 players fighting it out on a map using the same mechanic, or with different objectives, like first to reach a certain place, or even adding a ball to make it a grid-based, turn-based version of soccer or something. Thus, to create new, unique games based on this simple turn based grid bounded system will not really be hard.. as already seen in many different iterations of the Strategy RPG genre and including the examples i mentioned.

I guess when talking about the amount of flavour preserved, a lot of it depends on the context of the games created. Like, if following the examples of the multiplayer co-op games or the deathmatch games, where each player still controls his or her own army of characters and take turns to play, the original flavour would still be quite preserved. However, if adding new elements like a soccer ball to make it a turn based version of soccer, the movement and all might still be the same, but the essence of controlling an army of characters on a board destroying another group of players would be lost.

Question #3:
Describe one new game designed on top of the game system you proposed in question 2.

Well, guess for this part of the question, i would love to expand on my idea of the multiplayer co-op version of the traditional shining force game. In the normal game, one player controls 12 players on a grid-based map against an army of enemies controlled by A.I. Imagine using these elements, but introducing a different player to control half the army instead. Adding in the disability for one player to see the stats of the other player.

Assuming this game would be played online, players will have to take turns according to the attributes of their characters, and work together to destroy the enemies, at the same time, coordinating their attacks with each other to devise a good strategy. I think this idea has sorta been implemented in the faster paced RTS games like starcraft and warcraft, but as far as a grid based Strategy game goes, think it is still untapped... i think.

The overall experience would be one that still preserves the essence of the slow, calculating pace and planning that such games are known for, using the exact same elements, of characters, enemies with AI and grid based movement, but adding in the human factor. Kinda like imagining two ppl playing one side of chess at the same time, each with control of half the army.

Well..... guess its one more blog entry down..... mind-boggling... YES!.... Brain-straining... YES!... Tiring... Yes! ... but then again.. there is nothing else i would rather blog about than games... ok... maybe about my boring life too.. .. but what the hell....


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