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[PATV] Wednesday, January 16, 2013 - Extra Credits Season 5, Ep. 19: Depth vs. Complexity

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    Titanium DragonTitanium Dragon Registered User regular
    monswine wrote:
    What about the games we grew up with from the 8-bit and 16-bit era? Are these games deeper than modern games or is just decades of experience allowing us to see the depth in those games and relative lack of experience blinding us to the depth in more modern gaming? Does it just go back to the relationship between depth and complexity? Implying that our older gaming experiences were simpler than the ones available today?

    Not really. Those games don't really have much depth at all. Most deep games are more recent; from the 16 bit era, the only really deep game was the SSF2 series.

    This is not to say that there weren't good games from back then, but I wouldn't say that there was much depth to most of them. Of course, this is true to this day.

    Depth is only part of what makes a game good. Portal and Portal 2 are not amazingly deep games, but they're very fun - they are long enough to get their point across and then you're done with them. Many old games had similar properties. The problems with depth occur when the game outlasts its depth, meaning that the shorter a game is, the shallower it can be.

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    RatherDashing89RatherDashing89 Registered User regular
    EC is not saying complexity is bad. They are saying to get as much depth from as little complexity as possible. "From" there means that complexity is where depth comes out of. It's about getting as much bang for your buck, as they said. If I say I want to shop and get the most value for my money, I'm not saying I want to spend as little money as possible. If I wanted that I would just spend none at all. They are not saying to have as little as complexity as possible, but that you should strive to get as much depth as possible without simply adding more complexity.

    I would actually say that Portal is a great example of this. It's a very noncomplex game, but also as deep as you could expect from its level of complexity. It has one tool, the portal gun. Essentially it has two rules (the basic idea of shooting portals and "speedy thing goes in, speedy thing comes out"). But they stretch those two rules to get tons of puzzle types and make you think in a lot of different ways. Portal 2 added a few more rules (bouncy gel, light bridges, etc). Each rule added only a little more complexity but a ton of depth because they could interact with each other (using speedy gel to hit bouncy gel harder, etc).

    Portal is also a great example, by the way, of a game teaching you to play it (Conveyance as Egoraptor would say). Tutorials don't have to be a game dumbing down and teaching you stuff you already know (ala Halo making you look around at the start of every single game). Portal is essentially a tutorial for most of the game--as new concepts and applications are being taught all the time. I don't know anyone who got stuck very long on a Portal level. Yet if you started in one of the later levels without having played the game you'd probably get bogged down. The game teaches you how to play it as you play it, so that by the end you've actually changed--things that would have seemed abstract are now part of your thinking because you've gotten used to the physics of the world.

    According to EC's definitions, I would also say Chess is deep but not complex, which is why it resonates so much. You only have to know a few movement patterns, but those few tools allow tons of possibilities.

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    lorryslorryslorryslorrys Registered User new member
    @Titanium Dragon I would say Portal is a deep game for it's length and scope. It's like Go in that you get a lot of "bang for your buck" complexity/depth-wise as you solve complex problems by exploiting simple mechanics. Lot's of people are probably chiming in about portal because it is such a good example of this, with such a good tutorial.

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    hostergaardhostergaard Registered User new member
    I disagree on the criticism of dwarf fortress being a bad example of complexity; its complexity is exactly what makes it great. The trouble lies with the interface, not how complex it is to play as such. Ignoring the fact that there is currently no way to win, the bare minimum needed to keep a fortress alive indefinitely is actually very small. Get your food and booze production up and seal of access to the world and you have an effectively immortal fortress, baring moods. You could say it have a very low point of irreducible complexity. Of course, there not much of a tutorial to help new players understand it. But what DF does well is in the sheer number of options and possibilities in what you can do. You can make fortress entirely out of glass, that supply the world with glass. Or you can make it famous for breeding vast hordes of war yaks, that also sustains the fortress with milk, meat and wool. A vast amount of options. I think dwarf fortress is a good example of a game that utilize complexity to create unparalleled depth in a good way, but I concede that the interface and lack of tutorial hampers many new players.

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    The PaulThe Paul Registered User regular
    edited January 2013
    Kalnaur wrote: »
    ,splendid analysis written about 4th vs 3rd ed>
    Aetrion wrote: »
    @TitaniumDragon

    The reason why 4th Edition is looked at as less deep is because it's simplified in so many aspects that finding the clear best for all your choices becomes a little too easy. Half the time what abilities you should pick pretty much comes down entirely to your party. Some choices will lead to insanely deadly combos, while others are just unsatisfying.

    That's not saying that there isn't a clear best possible pick at every junction in 3.5 as well, but 3.5 is so full of stuff that it's practically impossible to tell which is which without having spent a lot of time researching your character - and that time investment again gives people a certain attachment to the rules.

    As I remember, the intent of those simple choices is so there was no rewards for intense system mastery and, conversely, no punishments for those not interested in system mastery. Which is itself a really good example of complexity without depth.

    Also that those simple combo team choices seemed intent on creating team dynamic where everyone could follow up with more important choices than attack or full attack; Then again, the depth of strategy within 4th edition could also be seen as complexity for some. ;)

    ...and they really did succeed in creating choices beyond attack or full attack. If someone thinks that the 4th edition of D&D doesn't present choices with meaningfully different consequences, that it's "simplified and dumbed down for the kiddies" as compared to 3rd edition, I have to conclude they probably don't have much experience with at least one of the two games.

    Combat in 3rd edition always felt like a matter of either stand back or close in (depending on your class/build), then just rolling dice and hoping for the best 'till you win or die.

    In 4th edition games combat frequently halts so that the players can argue over who should use what ability when, where it should be targeted, and which square their character should be standing on when using it.

    When I run a game my players are always stressing out about how they think they chose the wrong power last level.

    None of that really jumped out at me, just reading the rules though. It only became apparent in play.

    ...though Rich Burlew made some good points to the effect of 4th edition doesn't have actually more strategy or options, it's just moved most of them from planning and preparation for combat and into combat itself. I do miss some of what's been removed from the bigger-picture strategy. Maybe 5th edition will give us both.

    The Paul on
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    BemaniAKBemaniAK Registered User regular
    Dwarf Fortress? Complex?
    ARTIFICIALLY COMPLEX?

    Of all people to mix up "unintuitive" and "complex" I'm not surprised it was these guys.

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    TheSchaefTheSchaef Registered User regular
    In video games, the example that springs to mind is Sakurai.

    Smash Bros. has the following controls: move, jump, block, grapple, attack A, attack B.

    Complexity is minimal (especially for those who don't bother to block or grapple), but combining these actions gives depth to gameplay. Various degrees of tapping vs. pressing means the difference between simple movement and dodging, turning two attack buttons into something like 18 or 20 different types of attack with different effects and timing. I consider this method of building multiple attacks into a simple action set to achieve depth in a minimally-complex system, whereas to excel at combo fighters, you need to be able to do up, down, b, a, b, down, c, back, forward, a - a system that is more complex to perform in the act of achieving greater depth.

    Kid Icarus: Uprising is the same way: your three basic controls are move, shoot, and aim, but different motions of the circle pad give different movement results, which can be combined with your attack button for different styles of attack. Additionally, you can collect, swap out and even fuse weapons to tailor the effects of your weapon when shooting, while still conforming to the simple run-and-gun mechanics you learn in the first thirty seconds of play.

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    TheSchaefTheSchaef Registered User regular
    Risking the taboo double-post to separate a board game comment from a video game comment.

    Board games absolutely can be reduced. Dominion is a modern classic for exactly this reason. The gameplay is the same A-B-C format from the base game to seven or eight expansions along: Action, Buy, Cleanup. It is the abilities of the cards you buy into your deck that give you greater options over time, and the additional depth is derived from determining the best mix of cards in your deck, for a given set of ten on the table.

    Fantasy Flight publishes countless examples of games that are more difficult to reduce, if they can be reduced at all. Starcraft almost invariably requires me to teach it across two games. It CAN be reduced, but only inasmuch as I would teach general gameplay rules in the first offering, going light on research and heavy on movement and combat, and then in the second game expanding on how to use tech to maximize your effectiveness and account for other factions and the way your opponents are building. For example, as a human you can learn to build marines and tanks and battlecruisers, but eventually you'll need to learn the importance of a science vessel to neutralize some of the advantages enjoyed by the Zerg or the Toss. You know, kind of like in the video game. Marvel Heroes, on the other hand, is a BEAR to teach because all of its components are even MORE inter-related, and thus you have to teach the whole game at once, and players can only get into it once they understand how all the pieces fit together.

    I love board games with a ton of bits and don't mind sinking three or more hours into one that has good gameplay and a fun theme, but I have three young boys at home. I don't always have time to sink into an epic TI3 throwdown; I avoid most rail games and all wargames as well. So the alternative is games that play in a shorter span of time, but more importantly, don't take more time to teach than to play. What that usually means is games with turns consisting of a handful of practical actions, but have other aspects - a hand of cards, conditions on the board, player powers, etc - which cause the same actions to have different outcomes based on when and where and how I use them. That adds depth to a system without a great deal of complexity.

    I think people defending complexity are looking at this like a continuum or some zero-sum formula where complexity to EC means sacrificing depth. To the contrary, complexity is a method of adding depth, just like adding variables to a board. But variables that are TOO random can result in chaos, which is why board game snobs turn their noses up at the likes of Monopoly or Yahtzee (but inexplicably adore Liar's Dice and Can't Stop). The variables need to add meaning to your choices, or have a way to mitigate them that gives the player more power, like die-roll modifiers in D&D or dice games (Yahtzee players, try To Court the King. You'll never go back). Similarly, complexity needs a payoff in the game that justifies the added burden. To jump back to video games, that's the difference between MoO2 and MoO3: 2 had a great amount of granular control that added complexity but also made the game very deep. 3 pretended to add even more granularity, but it was a facade: the computer would reset your planet's production scales at a whim, and you could micro-design ships to your heart's content but they would often engage from so far away that the battle would be decided while your glorious creations were still three-pixel blobs on your display. The extra choices you had DIDN'T MATTER. So that game was quickly traded away.

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    TheSchaefTheSchaef Registered User regular
    edited January 2013
    :and of course my second post gets doubled'ed:

    TheSchaef on
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    CerlinCerlin Registered User new member
    As a player who loves Dwarf fortress and has actually got to the near endgame, I think it is a great example. The sheer amount of hours it takes to explain the complex interface to people (which I have done successfully) is such a huge bar for people entering the game. Even if it had a good interface, the game gives the player a huge variety of options of things that are possible even if its not at that point. It is a super complex game that I would say is a fantastic example of a game who's complexity bars people from experiencing the depth.

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    vortexcortexvortexcortex Registered User regular
    edited January 2013
    One of the interesting things is how one actually achieves a deep gameplay experience while leaving it approachable. It may be a game designer's job, but quite often the mechanics employed are not a result of a Game Designer's thorough and skilled planning. In my experience, often the primary way to discover such "elegance in design" is actually just a brutal "trial by fire" whereby "Wouldn't it be cool if ___?" ideas are tested time and again to answer that very question.

    Chess is a good example, actually. For instance, The Queen didn't always used to move like that, neither was Castling always a part of chess, and there were plenty other rule change "patches" over time. Look it up.

    Chess is a game that was PLAYTESTED into what it is today. It may require tons of experience and knowledge to play at a skilled level, but any two players having never before played the game can sit down with the rather terse rule sheet about allowed moves and goal then have an enjoyable and fair game.

    In other words, try all you want to design a fun and deep game, but don't spend too much in the design process because you're going to come up with a bunch of fun-sounding ideas that aren't fun in reality; Try not to over think things like depth vs complexity. Game design is an iterative process. You get the core mechanics prototype playable, playtest them, change stuff to see what's fun, and you keep adding and removing complexity/depth to various mechanics until you find a sweet spot or run out of time/budget. Rarely, if ever, is any game (let alone a "good" one) released the same as it was designed.

    IMO, prototypes with boxes and cubes and line segments moving around as place holder graphics are just the best thing for depth development -- ESPECIALLY in very early playtesting those WIBCIs. Not having art assets allows the players to focus on the actual mechanics (and UI) they're testing... Some people will explore tons of complex skill trees simply because the descriptions are awesome and have nice art or the skill looks or sounds cool in use. Designers and Players can be distracted by over thinking cool stuff without ever thinking if the mechanics and complexity they're adding is even fun. Committing to assets too early is how games end up without enough depth, in my experience anyway -- No game released is ever 100% finished, the game developers always want to add more than they shipped ("more" includes testing complexity that may have been added where it wasn't fun or useful).

    In order to make better guesses about how to achieve our game design goals, I think it's important to dissect games and propose Hypotheses about what you think makes games compelling, but you can only really find out if your opinions were correct through testing the hypothesis. Since every game is different, you've got no idea if your correct guesses from some other game can be applied to a another game. You've ALWAYS got to do the experiment.

    Halo was originally an RTS, until folks found they had a lot of fun running around as an actual soldier amongst all those vehicles. It's important to note that the devs didn't first sit down and come up with a design decision to add more depth to their FPS game with vehicles -- It was an RTS!

    J. Romero wrote up both male and female (class based?) character selection for Doom -- Their BFG originally shot tons of little multicolored balls. Quake was originally going to be a 3D RPG. Tetris was originally an AI project for packing boxes. These are good examples of where the complexity was vastly reduced in order to make the game more fun. To say that "early shooters struggled with" balancing complexity vs depth is pretty damn ridiculous to anyone who has actually studied them.

    What I find is the absolute most important thing is whether or not the game is fun to play at first, and if it stays fun while players learn to play it better. Above all, listen to the play testers because making games is not (yet) an exact science, and get fresh opinions often (control groups). The trick seems to be being able to recognize when you've seen a good deal on depth for just a bit more complexity -- It's not always something you can just make happen on purpose.

    Protip: Select testers from the demographics you wish to target, and try not to design a game you wouldn't want to play(test) for that way lays fail.

    Also: If you think rougelikes have crappy UI try Colossal Cave Adventure or some other text based interactive fiction games -- they'll have you drawing your own maps and keeping lists of clues for puzzles! And you know what? Half the fun for them is learning the UI, and being able to store and manage all that info... Which sort of proves that you can make a complex UI that's intuitive if you apply the same type of discovery to interface as you do to game mechanics. Treat the UI like it's actually part of the damn game!

    vortexcortex on
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    shapenajishapenaji Registered User regular
    As a go acolyte, I think it's a little misleading to say that it has a high depth/complexity ratio. While it is true that the rules are very simple, The amount of depth available to a player who knows just the rules is quite small.

    There are additional "rules" to be learned, in the form of emergent behavior, that are often unintuitive and need to be taught. As a result, go has an extraordinarily steep learning curve at the beginning, which then smooths out after a month or so of practice. So a better metric for an accessible game seems like a "Depth/Complexity ratio as a function of time spent playing".

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    Sterling7Sterling7 Registered User regular
    One thing I would note- you can buy more tolerance for complexity if your game is- for lack of a better word- addictive. If the game is all the player is going to play for a week, they *will* absorb its systems. But if a player hits a spot where they leave the game for a couple of days from frustration, boredom, or distraction and when they come back they can't remember the mechanic to prime a grenade or manage their inventory, you've got a problem. This may be one of the bigger limiting factors on cell phone games aside from the interface; you can't make a player remember a lot of complex systems if they're only playing while they stand in lines five minutes every other day.

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    oxybeoxybe Entei is appaled and disappointed in you Registered User regular
    alright, time for another D&D rant!

    here's where we need to start looking at strategy and tactics, specifically how they're used and their differences.

    pre-4th, thanks in part to the high lethality of some options and the vast utility of others, generally made for a game that benefited a more strategic view of combat.

    very few combats, IME, last more then 3 rounds in pre-4th, unless they are artificially padded out with things like timed waves of enemies. you generally plan your moves ahead of time then execute them with surgical precision. if shit hits the fan for your side you either already planned an escape route (as part of your initial strategy) or you hope your enemy shits up his fan as much as you did yours, giving you time to escape or grab victory from defeat.

    this is generally the case thanks to the casters or non-casters who are a one-trick DPS ponies: you can quickly disable your enemies with one failed saved or attack. on the flipside, when you start getting higher level, the enemy can also quickly disable you... it really comes down to who can get the best initiative score and had the best spell/weapon loadout (information gathering is part of strategy and divination is king of this).

    but what happens when your strategy fails?

    pre-4th doesn't really have many options for that scenario, unless you've baked a fallback into your strategy (which you should). if shit hits the fan and you can't backpeddle... you're toast. no ifs or buts. it's very hard to change your tactics mid-combat when you probably don't have too many rounds to assess how things are going to go or setup for a few rounds down the line. due to the lethality of many options, post round 3, you should very well be going through the paces of mopping up the encounter unless it's especially hard.

    or getting ready to roll up a new PC, either or.

    in 4th ed, you have less powerful and easily accessed utility abilities and the one-shot-winners are few and far between. you can generally plan how you're going to go into a fight as well as common one-two punches, generally by scoping out the terrain beforehand and seeing what information you can gather about the enemy forces, but nothing akin to the scope of pre-4th divination spamming. this means your focus on strategy is usually less important. note less and not un-. buying or requesting a few key consumables or pieces of gear with some foreknowledge will help you out, it's just not as emphasized.

    4th ed does, however, give more leeway for the use and change-up of tactics mid-combat. wherein pre-4th it focused on having the right resources to win a given scenario and prevent certain outcomes, 4th ed focuses on how you use the resources you do have far more, since those resources are generally less powerful overall but tend to be re-useable from encounter to encounter, and oftentimes applicable far more often. from a barbarian using a daily rage to a warlord using said barbarian, the game definitely shifts the focus on how you use your resources... it's very rare that you go into a 4th ed fight and in the first or second turn know that shit has hit the fan and you're screwed.

    each fight generally has it's ups and downs and gives you time to react to a bad situation and re-assess how you're going to tackle it thanks to the higher starting HP and lack of "i win" abilities on both sides.

    4th also has a somewhat better structured action economy: move, minor, standard and your off-turn reaction. actions are clearly defined and very few require a full turn pay-in... almost all allow you to do something while still having some of your turn left over. this cleaner and more dynamic combat (due to there being far more movement between the party & it's enemies) and the DMG's emphasis on terrain as part of the encounter rather then a set piece, allowed for more tactical gameplay. i would also go as far as to say that is especially true since most standard actions in 4th ed would not just damage but often have a secondary or rider effect.

    just my experience, mind you: 3rd and before focused on making sure you had the right strategy, whereas 4th rewarded the proper use of tactics.

    it's VERY hard to make a game that has depth in the planning and execution/follow-through steps... most games tend to simply reward one or the other.

    you can read my collected ravings at oxybesothertumbr.tumblr.com
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    Titanium DragonTitanium Dragon Registered User regular
    @Titanium Dragon I would say Portal is a deep game for it's length and scope. It's like Go in that you get a lot of "bang for your buck" complexity/depth-wise as you solve complex problems by exploiting simple mechanics. Lot's of people are probably chiming in about portal because it is such a good example of this, with such a good tutorial.

    Portal is very deep for being as simple as it is - it has a very high depth:complexity ratio. However, I am speaking of depth in absolute terms, not in relative terms - that is to say, while portal has a great ratio, it isn't actually deep in absolute terms. There's the portal gun, gravity, picking up items, dropping items, and the gels. Ergo, while these simple elements combine to create a lot of depth, there are limits to its depth - the reason that the game is fairly short is because it more or less milked it for what it was worth. The multiplayer added another set of portals/another portal creator which allowed for more puzzles, but it all adds up only so far.

    This isn't a bad thing. I'm very glad they made the game, and it is one of the all-time greats and shows off a lot of good game design principles.
    The Paul wrote:
    Combat in 3rd edition always felt like a matter of either stand back or close in (depending on your class/build), then just rolling dice and hoping for the best 'till you win or die.

    This isn't even how 3rd edition combat really worked though. Remember that spell duel in OOTS where the two make saving throws over and over again until one of them failed a save and died? That's 3rd edition combat, ultimately, because its a better way to fight than actually trying to deal damage. After all, I have to hit you with multiple attacks to kill you; if I just make you fail one saving throw, you're toast.

    Yes, there are ways to deal thousands and thousands of damage with some builds, but they're very limited relative to full casters, who have other ways to kill you, and from more ranges (and with more backup benefits).
    The Paul wrote:
    ...though Rich Burlew made some good points to the effect of 4th edition doesn't have actually more strategy or options, it's just moved most of them from planning and preparation for combat and into combat itself. I do miss some of what's been removed from the bigger-picture strategy. Maybe 5th edition will give us both.

    This is very misleading.

    While it is certainly true that characters have less latitude in 4th edition than they did in 3rd, this is because 4th edition full casters are massively, massively weaker than 3rd edition casters. 3rd edition casters were gods - there literally was nothing you could challenge them with after a certain point that wasn't another thing with full caster abilities and a million contingincies (and I don't just mean the spell). The problem was that you could do literally anything, which is actually really bad for the game. Limitations are what make heroes heroes - if they are infinitely powerful they're pretty boring. It is the challenges they face that make for a good story and a good game. 3rd edition made skipping encounters, even entire adventures, trivial, and casters had answers for pretty much every problem in spell form - and worse still, had divination so they could know in advance what the problem was. And even if they didn't, if they could teleport away, then they could prepare the proper spell to win.

    The ultimate truth is that while 3rd edition appeared to be very option rich, in actuality it had very little depth. It was entirely complexity - which spell lets me solve this situation? Teleportation trivialized travel, and allowed you to bypass the whole dungeon or plot. You could trivially burrow through walls, floors, entire mountains to get where you wanted, and it was usually a better way to do it. Most options were very poor, and a few options were just so powerful and versatile that they ruined everything.

    There was actually very little strategic thinking involved in 3.x, because while it was options-rich, there was no depth to it - you just were rotely putting together a way to destroy anything. There were a number of basic tactics which would resolve 99% of everything (indeed, the spell Fly in and of itself negates much of the monster manual, and many adventures, let alone polymorphing into something that can fly, swim, or burrow) and even apart from that there were all the spells which basically ended a threat (or more) per spell. BBEG? Hold person/monster (or worse, dominate). If they're immune to such things, you can entangle them in webs, blind them with glitterdust, stun them with color sprays, use walls to bind them in place while you use Cloudkill on them, any number of solutions really. There were a lot of options, but there wasn't actually a whole lot of depth to them.

    This is the fundamental flaw of 3.x, and indeed with giving too many options in general. You don't -want- a spell to solve every situation; that's just bad design, because its just soup cans. Depth comes from using a portal gun to cross a pit, not from casting fly, then knock to open the door on the other side.

    4th edition's tactical depth was true depth - you had preset tools to solve an encounter with, and you used those tools in a variety of different ways in different circumstances. There WERE combos (like pushing then immobilizing) but you couldn't always use the same tactics every encounter - for instance, on enemies with ranged attacks, that tactic is not as useful, but pushing might be useful for other purposes (and it was - tactical movement is a big part of 4th edition combat).

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    ThalesnmThalesnm Registered User regular
    Great episode, really. I just think you should have discussed how do we perceive something as complex. Yeah, the raw amount of information is something, but the nature of the information is more important. For instance, Portal has a lot of rules, but most of them don't add to the complexity of the game because they are intuitive, like conservation of momentum. You may not be able to understand the physics of it, but you understand that "speedy thing goes in, speedy thing comes out", because it wouldn't make sense otherwise and because it's something that you unconsciously notice when you pass the first portal in the game.

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    DrainGoredDrainGored Registered User regular
    edited January 2013
    @Thalesnm: Good point--some players have an intuitive sense of how a game works simply based on prior knowledge of gameplay within a genre.

    They barely touched upon the notion of "slow release" complexity, as in how more rules are added as a game progresses, which nowadays is a common conceit for guiding a new player through a genre with which they may be unfamiliar.
    There's also the interesting phenomena of how in certain games the player discovers the layers of complexity by experimenting with the rules--potion combinations, etc.--but that complexity is not crucial to "winning" or completion of the game.

    Also, for some reason this video made me want to play a game where you have to stack rocks of varying weights on your head while crossing bodies of water.

    DrainGored on
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    RoyceSraphimRoyceSraphim Registered User regular
    Playing Rage after many hundreds of hours of Fallout 3 made this episode special. Those meaningful decisions with each weapon was a lot more prevalent with the iD shooter compared to Bethesda's foray.

    Don't get me wrong, there are a handful of weapons whose use amounted to different outcomes, and required that I think hard about what to use for that situation. But a large number of the weapons I found in a relatively unmodded rame felt like filler until I could get something better.

    Contrast that with RAGE where I acquire a variety of weapons in fairly short order with radically different effects and adding a great deal of weight to the decisions to use them.

    Anything beyond this is would be rambling and off topic but I want to praise the idea that being able to make meaningful decisions with the tools they have at their disposal is something the player appreciates and can salvage a game whose elements are lacking in certain areas (Farcry 2).

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    LittleBlackRainCloudLittleBlackRainCloud Registered User regular
    edited January 2013
    oxybe wrote: »
    alright, time for another D&D rant!

    here's where we need to start looking at strategy and tactics, specifically how they're used and their differences.

    pre-4th, thanks in part to the high lethality of some options and the vast utility of others, generally made for a game that benefited a more strategic view of combat.

    very few combats, IME, last more then 3 rounds in pre-4th, unless they are artificially padded out with things like timed waves of enemies. you generally plan your moves ahead of time then execute them with surgical precision. if shit hits the fan for your side you either already planned an escape route (as part of your initial strategy) or you hope your enemy shits up his fan as much as you did yours, giving you time to escape or grab victory from defeat.

    this is generally the case thanks to the casters or non-casters who are a one-trick DPS ponies: you can quickly disable your enemies with one failed saved or attack. on the flipside, when you start getting higher level, the enemy can also quickly disable you... it really comes down to who can get the best initiative score and had the best spell/weapon loadout (information gathering is part of strategy and divination is king of this).

    but what happens when your strategy fails?

    pre-4th doesn't really have many options for that scenario, unless you've baked a fallback into your strategy (which you should). if shit hits the fan and you can't backpeddle... you're toast. no ifs or buts. it's very hard to change your tactics mid-combat when you probably don't have too many rounds to assess how things are going to go or setup for a few rounds down the line. due to the lethality of many options, post round 3, you should very well be going through the paces of mopping up the encounter unless it's especially hard.

    or getting ready to roll up a new PC, either or.

    in 4th ed, you have less powerful and easily accessed utility abilities and the one-shot-winners are few and far between. you can generally plan how you're going to go into a fight as well as common one-two punches, generally by scoping out the terrain beforehand and seeing what information you can gather about the enemy forces, but nothing akin to the scope of pre-4th divination spamming. this means your focus on strategy is usually less important. note less and not un-. buying or requesting a few key consumables or pieces of gear with some foreknowledge will help you out, it's just not as emphasized.

    4th ed does, however, give more leeway for the use and change-up of tactics mid-combat. wherein pre-4th it focused on having the right resources to win a given scenario and prevent certain outcomes, 4th ed focuses on how you use the resources you do have far more, since those resources are generally less powerful overall but tend to be re-useable from encounter to encounter, and oftentimes applicable far more often. from a barbarian using a daily rage to a warlord using said barbarian, the game definitely shifts the focus on how you use your resources... it's very rare that you go into a 4th ed fight and in the first or second turn know that shit has hit the fan and you're screwed.

    each fight generally has it's ups and downs and gives you time to react to a bad situation and re-assess how you're going to tackle it thanks to the higher starting HP and lack of "i win" abilities on both sides.

    4th also has a somewhat better structured action economy: move, minor, standard and your off-turn reaction. actions are clearly defined and very few require a full turn pay-in... almost all allow you to do something while still having some of your turn left over. this cleaner and more dynamic combat (due to there being far more movement between the party & it's enemies) and the DMG's emphasis on terrain as part of the encounter rather then a set piece, allowed for more tactical gameplay. i would also go as far as to say that is especially true since most standard actions in 4th ed would not just damage but often have a secondary or rider effect.

    just my experience, mind you: 3rd and before focused on making sure you had the right strategy, whereas 4th rewarded the proper use of tactics.

    it's VERY hard to make a game that has depth in the planning and execution/follow-through steps... most games tend to simply reward one or the other.

    Which is probably why RPGs have been the center of games for a long time. Because afterall, it's real people that offer this depth. The failure in "inserted random systems" for player interaction is just that, a failure of inserting perceiveably disadvantageous obstacles, not because they made sense .. but simply "just cuz". Where "we" have a limitelessly complex interaction with real people, which are both in and out of game. We kept some of this in video games ... like if you shut off a shooter and rested your body to play better later .. or perhaps avoid an opponent or wait for others to log in or even in cases where you are not actually playing the "official game' but adjusting settings ofr more efficient or interesting play like colorblind mode or changing reticle size ect ... or in the case of RPG's where often times you have characters in their likeness "fooling us" into false sense of personal projection through commercialism and other tricks to your mind.

    So what I have found in video "games" where they are most often enjoyable is where they are least "like" games and most like those normal human likenesses we percieve ... and even moreso than that are the one we percieve as closest to human likeness and enjoy. So "for instance" much of what makes "Portal" enjoyable isn't the game functions really at all but the illusion of a charismatic opponent. while you may "enjoy" portal for it's puzzles, the "meaning" comes from the belief in "defeating" the game not really just "workign through obstacles because it wastes some time".

    So largely in part the "depth" of a game is it's ability to create "meaning" the wizrd behind the curtain in Oz.

    While you can certainly argue that less complex systems creating more complex systems or vice versa ect ect and the merits of various "systems" .. are in this sense of balance between depth and complexity it's really just more or less boils down to two ideas, for meaning "perception" the other meaning "believably tangible" or truth.

    James really nails this while explaining "user interface / user experience. But It's the "experience" far far moreso than the "interface" which is a single avenue albeit the focus of a lot of video games for this comprehension. The interface is the focal point of this "truth", but not the whole picture the experience or perception.

    We will certainly in our time possibly even create computers, faster and smarter than our bains as we understand their relative nature. But right now fake robots, random systems ect cannot imitate human interaction very well.

    this is why I believe 'stories" which are told as one person to another to be a far more interesting and tangible truth, than relative experiences with meaningless complex systems that aren't bound as well as in such likeness as our direct social/spiritual/physical relays.

    What we have as diagrams for this problem are just attempts to describe it .. like the "uncanny valley". But the "truht" of humanity is such that being quite honest we cannot explain "it all" and just try our best. Which seems to have left a better part of ourselves (as far as our generation is concerned) at the table-top gaming medium.

    And btw I quit more or less after 2nd edition, and don't regret it one bit. Some things cannot be replaced and the "over complexity" of third edition was irritating, much like dwarf fortress. Switching full tilt to 4th edition was at best commercially reactionary and a complete misunderstanding of the issues of good story telling. The butchery and folly of metrically applied science.

    LittleBlackRainCloud on
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    srboyceboatsrboyceboat Registered User regular
    You could always argue that video games board games - as opposed to say, D&D or other tabletop adventure games - are sort of about Verb building, and adding verbs adds complexity, where as adding adverbs doesn't really affect complexity.

    E.g. In Mario, you can run left, run right, jump, squat, retrieve items, and use special abilities. The combinations of those verbs and the degree to which you do them is where you make decisions, which, in a lot of ways, is about adverbs.

    If you run [quickly or slowly], jump [to a great height], use special abilities [for a limited time], you're not really adding true complexity. The action isn't changed. The weight of the action hasn't really changed, I think.

    I often plan to solve puzzles by speaking the actions aloud. I know I would explain my route to myself in Assassin's Creed. "I'm gonna climb the wall and stab the guy talking to the girl, then I climb the other wall and stab-pull the guy on top of the building, but not finish the climb up. I need to drop down and wait for the guard on the opposing building to turn his back. Then I climb up, jump across the gap, shimmy to the wall 90 degrees to the right so that the foot patrol doesn't see me hanging there, and wait for the guard to come over. I just regular stab him, because the guards on the ground would see the body fall. Then I pick up his body and toss it over the side so that they walk up to it and investigate it, so I can do a leaping double-stab and take out both of them at once.

    Area 1 will then be clear."

    This is ultimately, the combination of like, 5 verbs. Maybe 7 if you count "Hiding" and "waiting." I climb. I shimmy. I stab. I drop. I leap. The degree of the stabs become choices I make because of its depth, but I don't really think it's more complex. It is, at its core, still a stab.

    Very cool episode. Lots of different ways to look at it.

    Picture is Dave Dorman's (http://www.davedorman.com/)
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    JohnyBJohnyB Registered User regular
    Makes me think about chess. I don't actually know how many rules there are, but it isn't that many, How the board is setup to begin, how the pieces can move, and the win condition, the stale mate condition, and that you alternate turns. I'm pretty sure I could teach just about anyone how to play chess in 30 minutes or less. Yet books and books and books have been written on how to play chess. It is a fairly simple system, but it has a lot of depth. And as a game it has lasted forever. Actually, if you think of most of the bored games that last 50 years or more, you can see the same thing, very simple rule set, but very depthfull gameplay. Good EC

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    spiffy_Kingspiffy_King Registered User regular
    Commkeen wrote: »
    I don't know if I agree that board games are inherently irreducible. With chess, you can start by just explaining how pieces move and capture, and slowly introduce new rules like castling, en passant, and getting a pawn to the end of the board. With Settlers, you can start with collecting resources and buying settlements and roads, and then introduce cards, cities, the robber, and harbors. When I learn a new board game I start by looking at the winning condition, what I need to do to achieve it, and the basic turn order, and then I read other rules as I encounter those situations in the game.

    Irreducible complexity means that in order to play a full game you must know the rules. This does not mean those rules have to be learned in one sitting, but it instead means that the game cannot be played 'accurately' with less than a 'full' understanding of how it works. I realize it is a strange concept for those of us who play board games, because we teach ourselves these games in a way that makes us feel like we aren't learning something irreducibly complex.

    There's a simple way of looking at it, when you teach someone a board game the only point that they are capable of playing the game independently (without any guiding hand) is when the learn the entire games rules. Even if they know how most of the mechanics work they still won't be able to engage with the product by 'themselves' (I realize that you don't normally play a board game by yourself).

    That's what they mean by irreducible complexity, you need to know all the mechanics to engage with the product independently. Every Board game falls into this category and even many video games to as well.

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    spiffy_Kingspiffy_King Registered User regular
    Commkeen wrote: »
    I don't know if I agree that board games are inherently irreducible. With chess, you can start by just explaining how pieces move and capture, and slowly introduce new rules like castling, en passant, and getting a pawn to the end of the board. With Settlers, you can start with collecting resources and buying settlements and roads, and then introduce cards, cities, the robber, and harbors. When I learn a new board game I start by looking at the winning condition, what I need to do to achieve it, and the basic turn order, and then I read other rules as I encounter those situations in the game.

    Irreducible complexity means that in order to play a full game you must know the rules. This does not mean those rules have to be learned in one sitting, but it instead means that the game cannot be played 'accurately' with less than a 'full' understanding of how it works. I realize it is a strange concept for those of us who play board games, because we teach ourselves these games in a way that makes us feel like we aren't learning something irreducibly complex.

    There's a simple way of looking at it, when you teach someone a board game the only point that they are capable of playing the game independently (without any guiding hand) is when the learn the entire games rules. Even if they know how most of the mechanics work they still won't be able to engage with the product by 'themselves' (I realize that you don't normally play a board game by yourself).

    That's what they mean by irreducible complexity, you need to know all the mechanics to engage with the product independently. Every Board game falls into this category and even many video games to as well.

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    RubarackRubarack Registered User regular
    I've been saying this for so long, to such little effect that I'm beginning to doubt it. I think a lot of gamers genuinely enjoy learning rules for the sake of it, and they'd have no issue with a game as shallow as Tic Tac Toe and as complex as the heaviest grand strategy game. In enjoying making decisions more thant learning rules I feel like something of a deviant.

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    TaznakTaznak Registered User regular
    Good episode, thanks :)

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    rrhrrh Registered User regular
    I've played some board games that have "beginner" and "advanced" versions of the rules, where the difference is the advanced version introduces an additional mechanic to the game that makes it both more complex and deeper. (If it made it more complex without making it deeper, I would hope they'd leave it out entirely.)

    And then there are games like Magic: the Gathering, where the basic mechanics are fairly simple, but there are a lot of cards that introduce additional complexity.

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    rrhrrh Registered User regular
    But video games do allow a certain "scientific" approach to complexity that isn't possible in board games. "Scientific" in the sense that you can explore and discover the underlying rules of the game through experimenting and seeing what happens.

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    LittleBlackRainCloudLittleBlackRainCloud Registered User regular
    Rubarack wrote: »
    I've been saying this for so long, to such little effect that I'm beginning to doubt it. I think a lot of gamers genuinely enjoy learning rules for the sake of it, and they'd have no issue with a game as shallow as Tic Tac Toe and as complex as the heaviest grand strategy game. In enjoying making decisions more thant learning rules I feel like something of a deviant.

    I believe many people have a hunger for learning, simple systems, complex systems, unknown systems. As at least one study I have previewed argues that "enjoyment" without learning leads to addiction. I agree with this idea, because it doesn't conflict with any truth I understand. If this being true we can probably correlate learning = fun, or at least personalized learning = fun. Where addiction could perhaps be just "elation" coupled with repetitive activity. And thereby diminuative by exclusion.

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    ZlarpZlarp Registered User regular
    rrh wrote: »
    But video games do allow a certain "scientific" approach to complexity that isn't possible in board games. "Scientific" in the sense that you can explore and discover the underlying rules of the game through experimenting and seeing what happens.

    You've never played a good board game, then. That's exactly what you do in board games.

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    rrhrrh Registered User regular
    @Zlarp: Perhaps I explained myself poorly. I mean the rules can't operate without your knowledge that those rules exist. If the instructions for the game fit on three pages of paper, those are the rules of the game. You're never going to discover there were secret rules that you weren't aware of until you stumble upon their results.

    In the terms of this episode, you're taking about hidden depth, while I was talking about hidden complexity.

    (Though now that I'm explaining it, maybe if complexity can be hidden, that makes it more like depth?)

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    oxybeoxybe Entei is appaled and disappointed in you Registered User regular
    pokemon is isn't a deeper game because it actively hides the IVs and the EVs of your mons, among other things, or obfuscates them at the very least. it would be far less complex to raise my mons if i knew some of those hidden numbers strait off the bat.

    hiding your systems tends to annoy the people who want to use them.

    you can read my collected ravings at oxybesothertumbr.tumblr.com
    -Weather Badge
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    rrhrrh Registered User regular
    Hmmm.

    Good point.

    I've been playing a roguelike lately, which I think does benefit from feeling like you are exploring a hostile and mysterious world.

    But if you just obfuscate something as a crutch to pretend it's deeper than it is, that could worsen the experience for someone trying to get genuinely skilled at it.

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    RobmmmmRobmmmm Registered User new member
    Commkeen wrote: »
    I don't know if I agree that board games are inherently irreducible. With chess, you can start by just explaining how pieces move and capture, and slowly introduce new rules like castling, en passant, and getting a pawn to the end of the board. With Settlers, you can start with collecting resources and buying settlements and roads, and then introduce cards, cities, the robber, and harbors. When I learn a new board game I start by looking at the winning condition, what I need to do to achieve it, and the basic turn order, and then I read other rules as I encounter those situations in the game.

    Irreducible complexity means that in order to play a full game you must know the rules. This does not mean those rules have to be learned in one sitting, but it instead means that the game cannot be played 'accurately' with less than a 'full' understanding of how it works. I realize it is a strange concept for those of us who play board games, because we teach ourselves these games in a way that makes us feel like we aren't learning something irreducibly complex.

    There's a simple way of looking at it, when you teach someone a board game the only point that they are capable of playing the game independently (without any guiding hand) is when the learn the entire games rules. Even if they know how most of the mechanics work they still won't be able to engage with the product by 'themselves' (I realize that you don't normally play a board game by yourself).

    That's what they mean by irreducible complexity, you need to know all the mechanics to engage with the product independently. Every Board game falls into this category and even many video games to as well.

    What you're saying though is everything is irreducibly complex. What you're making irreducible complexity into is that you can't do it perfectly without a full understanding of the rules, but that's true of everything. Everything can't be done fully accurately without a full understanding, and as such, if that's how it was meant, the phrase would be pointless. You can still play and win settlers without cards or harbours, so that's some complexity lost right there. That's still an accurate way to play because you can still win without using them against people who do. Also in carc, how you can win without farms if you latch onto enough of other people's castles.

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    RobmmmmRobmmmm Registered User new member
    edited January 2013
    Sorry, repost.

    Robmmmm on
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    ZimondZimond Registered User regular
    I guess the Depth/ Complexity Ratio is the reason why minecraft is the hell of a huge success.

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    The PaulThe Paul Registered User regular
    Lots of board games are irreducibly complex. It's a huge barrier the first time you play one of them, getting through everyone's first couple of turns seems to take forever.

    Not all of them are like that though. Lots have two or more sets of increasingly complex rules, so you can learn the general shape of it by playing the simpler version once or twice before adding more complexity.

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    Twenty SidedTwenty Sided Registered User regular
    edited January 2013
    BemaniAK wrote: »
    Dwarf Fortress? Complex?
    ARTIFICIALLY COMPLEX?

    Of all people to mix up "unintuitive" and "complex" I'm not surprised it was these guys.

    You've reminded me this game exists, so I re-installed it.

    Dwarf Fortress fans seem to have a high tolerance for failure, as they see these emergent experiences as being part of the "Fun." Stories about Catsplosion and elephant genocide come to mind. And the fans likewise glory in exploitative Gold Ruberg feats of (social) engineering.

    I wouldn't say the complexity is artificial. It's just got an impenetrable interface, due to the Rogue-like style, and few people bother writing accessible manuals about the interface and foibles, even in the wiki. (When I started out, I didn't even know how to change my elevation-view.)

    Twenty Sided on
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    rrhrrh Registered User regular
    @Robmmmm: I took his point to be that in board games, the players have to actively participate in the implementation of those rules. If the players don't know the full set of rules, they're playing a variant of that game, but not exactly the same game. But in a video game, those rules will be implemented by the computer, so you're still playing the same game, no matter whether you know the rules or not.

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    rrhrrh Registered User regular
    And yes, I would say Dwarf Fortress is *genuinely* complex. I assumed that was the one fellow trol^H^H^H^H "playing word games" again, as they described in the last episode.

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    NHBNHB Registered User new member
    It strikes me as somewhat funny to hold up Go as the prime example of an elegant game with low complexity and great depth. Sure I can agree with the great depth, as there is certainly a long way to go before mastering the game. And sure the actual rules for how to legally place a stone are fairly simple.

    But if complexity is measured by the mental burden placed on the player when trying to pick a move, then I'd say that it is quite high, as you will be comparing a myriad of different options that it takes a very advanced understanding of the game to be able to compare even moderately well. And the structure of the game means that many if not all of these options look more or less the same to a novice, and the game itself provides little guidance on how to compare them. This may simply be called the depth of the game, but then I'd say that those depths are murky and hard to navigate (this is not meant as a knock on Go - I really like the game), and that (at least for some people) complex rules can serve as a guide to exploring the depth, because the rules at least explicitly spell out that there is something there to explore.

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