About Rival Games

Story driven games by gamers for gamers.

Free Saving Under Scrutiny

Free saving is being prosecuted for crimes against playerhood. The prosecution is pressing for a sentence of second-degree murder of the players’ enjoyment of their games.

The prosecutor’s seat will be taken by Timo Naskali, while Sami Pesola will be standing for the defense. Both shall have their say.

We will start with the prosecution, who will offer their evidence against the defendant, piece by piece, and the defense will have a chance to counter after each point.

Let us begin.

#1. Ludonarrative Dissonance

Timo: Replaying sections of a game increases ludonarrative dissonance (one of my pet peeves with games). For example, the player can experience hundreds of deaths while playing but the player-character reaches the end of the narrative alive.

Sami: Games are meant to be replayed. Savegames only decrease the time to repeat an earlier section to get back to the part you want to play again. Ludonarrative dissonance may be annoying, but it’s not nearly as mood-breaking as having to replay the entire game because of a minor slip-up!

Timo: But replaying sections of a game upon failure is not a necessity. It is possible to design games so that the story keeps moving forward even if the player fails in a challenge. If that is not an option, a well-designed checkpoint system that saves often can minimize the need for replaying without having as many downsides as free saving.

Sami: But why remove that option from the player? Having checkpoints determined automatically by the game and leaving it to the player to decide essentially amount to the same thing, the latter just has greater application than that determined by the designer alone.

#2. Greatly Diminishes Tension

Timo: It can decrease tension immensely, when losing is not an option. It is not a question of if the PC will win, but when (discounting scripted failures).

Sami: Should games not attempt to offer the player a heroic experience? Doesn’t the hero always win in most adventures, be it books, movies, or games? While it’s true that you can only feel like a hero if you’ve conquered a terrible threat, and that implies some possibility of failure, players still need the occasional leg-up to overcome the hurdles thrown at them since they are not, in actual fact, infallible heroes in real life.

Timo: Heroes usually do prevail at the end of most stories, but they also usually go through some setbacks before that. If there’s basically zero possibility of failure for the hero at any point in the story, I think that tends to lower the tension of the story.

Sami: Perhaps, but it does at least avoid the frustration that a player might not see the end of the story they are invested in, or at least not achieve the ending they were hoping for.

#3. Undermines Importance of Consequences of Player’s Actions

Timo: It decreases the importance of planning ahead and considering the consequences of your actions, when you can just wait and see what the future holds, rewind time, and adjust accordingly. E.g. there’s no reason to be wary of traps in Fallout: New Vegas; it’s a waste of time given of your ability to undo consequences so easily. So being smart, careful or perceptive usually isn’t as rewarding as it could be in games with free loading.

Sami: This seems more like a problem of overall game design, rather than saving mechanisms alone. Being able to save does not necessarily make a game easier, it just gives the player a chance to retry without resorting to needless tedium (such as replaying an entire game to get back to the same point.) Moreover, it gives the player an opportunity to learn how to get good at the game in the first place: quick repetition of a familiar scenario is one of the best ways to experiment and develop the best possible strategy.

#4. Turns the Player Into a Fortune Teller

Timo: Reloading allows the player to have knowledge which the player-character (PC) should not yet possess, and this can lead to narratively absurd situations. E.g. the PC gets betrayed by a non-player character (NPC), but then the player reloads an earlier save and shoots the traitor before he even has a chance to betray the PC – an act that only makes sense to the player who has explored the future. It’s worth mentioning though that this problem does rear its head even without free saving, when a player is replaying the game, unless randomization of these story elements is used.

Sami: There are games which are built to accommodate this behaviour, since it’s essentially no different to playing a game through for a second time altogether. Max Payne 2, for example, has an early scene where Max is being led into a trap, but the player can choose to eliminate the traitor before the ambush is sprung, with Max then remarking that “something felt fishy” – in this sense, the players precognisance is a type of “superpower” and only serves to empower the player to feel like the hero of the story.

#5. Turns the Player-Character Into a God

Timo: It can lead to a bland experience when the player-character never fails any (surmountable) challenges. Good drama demands some setbacks, but in games with free loading the player-character usually just walks from one victory to another. Only through cutscenes and “playable” sections with predestined outcomes – i.e. not actual challenges, but illusionary ones – can the player-character be forced to go through failure. But these usually ring hollow after all the gameplay before that has established the player-character as an unstoppable force.

Sami: Here is the question: should the game narrative be determined by a player’s actions, or should the narrative twists occur independent of the player’s choices? Take a player who never fails any engagement simply because they are that good: should they win the game outright in the opening minutes of the story, based on talent or even pure luck? Obviously the game must dictate some degree of pacing, regardless of the outcomes driven by the player: if the story demands that the player is brought to a low point in a narrative arc, then that outcome must be inevitable. Of course, the player should be led down that path through gameplay where feasible, but that itself could feel restrictive. I’m all for allowing as much player freedom as possible.

#6. Breaks Some Game Mechanics

Timo: It can totally break certain types of gameplay challenges, like gambling, quizzes and riddles. Sure you can still have them in a game with free loading, but it would be incredibly easy (and oh so tempting!) for the player to use save scumming to break the challenges.

Sami: I think you need to have a little more faith in the player’s integrity! Players ought to be allowed to determine for themselves the degree of challenge (or cheating) they want in the game. These are after all single-player games, and what the player decides is for their own personal enjoyment alone. If that means “breaking” the game to get a perfect score, so be it! I don’t think it’s the developers place to put pointless barriers on what the player can and can’t do. At best, it can only stop a player from cheating himself out of some experience, and at worst it can hamstring them with a situation where freely saving would be downright useful (navigating a frustratingly difficult and/or tedious segment, for example.)

Timo: I don’t think not having free saving is a pointless barrier, because the “at best” scenario can greatly hurt players’ enjoyment of challenges, while the “at worst” scenario can be avoided through good game design (why not fix that tedious segment in your game instead of adding free saving?).

Sami: It’s not tedious because it’s poorly designed, but rather that the player is being forced to play a certain way, when they might enjoy the game more in their own way. It’s a matter of more options versus less options.

#7. Forces the Player Into the Game Designer’s Seat

Timo: As a player it can be hard to figure out the line between usage of the save system that benefits one’s game experience and usage that hurts one’s game experience. It places a lot of responsibility on the player, expecting them to use the feature just often enough (as not to lose too much progress upon death or feel unsatisfied with any consequences of their actions), but never too often (as to make the game feel too easy or start feeling like a cheater). I think it could almost be likened to giving the player an over-powered weapon that could take out any opponent in one shot, and expecting them to use it just enough to not ruin their own fun.

Sami: Perhaps… but many games have outright cheat codes (or at least a developer mode) that can allow certain players to make modifications to their game experience if they so choose. Savegames are just another tool in that regard. Removing it to “protect” the player’s experience causes more problems than it solves – it’s throwing the baby out with the bathwater! As I said previously, there’s nothing wrong with allowing a player to determine the level of challenge and gameplay experience they want. They could always choose not to abuse it.

Timo: Indeed, I think that with many games free saving would be better categorized as a cheat, so as to highlight how it’s not part of the official core-mechanics of the game, and to discourage players from using it. It is true that allowing the player to tailor the game’s challenge level to their abilities is usually desirable, but I think there are better ways to do that besides the ability to save freely. Health potions come to mind.

Sami: Why stop there, then? Should we disallow the player from changing gamma settings to better see in dark scenes, or the ability to pause the game to think or simply go to the bathroom? Maybe we should only allow a player to play a game once, never to be repeated again! (There is at least one game that attempts this, I believe…) I’m more in favor of rewarding players who play a game “true and honestly” how it’s meant to be played – that’s obviously in the spirit of the design – rather than punishing those who choose to go a different route.

Closing Remarks

Timo: I would like to see more games where I’m going to lose some battles, and it’s okay! I don’t always want to just effortlessly pick my preferred story outcomes using save scumming, I want some games to demand I earn them. I want more tough love!

Heavy Rain is a good example of an alternative: no redoing failed challenges, the story goes on whether the player succeeds or not, but failing can result in story-branching. And you feel that much prouder of your achievements as a result.

Sami: I agree, actually. Like I said, I’m all for player freedom – freedom to play as you want, and the freedom to fail as well. More games should indeed carry on even if the player “fails” in a certain segment, although accommodating so many branching storylines without them becoming meaningless is a tall order… but that’s a debate for another time! Suffice it to say, savegames can be abused to the detriment of a player’s experience, but so can modding and using cheat codes, and the freedom they allow I think outweighs the potential for harm.

 

That’s it for this inquest, court is adjourned!

Feel free to voice your opinion on the matter in the comments section, and what you judge the verdict to be, whether in favor of Timo or Sami!

Rival Games Is Proud to Be Part of Slush 2013

Slush_logo

What is Slush ?

“Slush is one of the top startup events on the globe, focusing heavily on Northern Europe and Russia. In 2012, Slush attracted $40 billion worth of venture capital, some of the world’s top media, plus 3,500 attendees.”

Find out more about Slush!

This will be a wonderful opportunity for us to meet some of the most influential persons in the startup scene, and we’re looking forward to taking part, having fun, and showing what we’ve accomplished so far!

Be sure to check out some of the other companies in the first wave of 100 startups attending the Slush event.

Presenting The-Detail.com

We at Rival Games are proud to present a new page for The Detail, which you can find at http://the-detail.com.

The Detail Logo

At the moment it’s simply a landing page, but we plan to launch a full-scale site when we are closer to the release of the game.

Be sure to check back for updates from time to time!

As a teaser for things to come, we are ready to show updated artwork for our main character, Reggie – while still very much “work in progress” we are getting there!

Click the image for full size.reggie_set promo2

The Detail – Developer Preview

We are proud to present a new video about The Detail. Going more in-depth to what we want to bring to the players, even though we are still early in development. Enjoy!

http://youtu.be/qFa_R_wDpHI

We were contacted by Videolle.fi and asked if we wanted to make a developer preview clip, and here is the result. What do you think? We would love to hear your comments and feedback, and if you want to see more from us!

Remember to check out the Videolle.fi if you need a video for your company or project. We at Rival Games can highly recommend them to anyone needing a world-class video, and as added bonus they are a great bunch of guys!

The Road to GDC2013 Part II

Even though the trip to our first GDC didn’t start out as expected, thanks to the never-to-be underestimated luggage delivery rate at the LAX, it turned out to be an amazing journey into the heart of gaming industry. During the week we got to experience, chat and meet with a variety of the developers behind the top-selling, innovative, and unique games that we have been experiencing throughout our lives.

With the IGDA Scholar -badge hanging around my neck, the overall experience of the GDC2013 was exponentially lifted compared to what it might have been without it. Just to pick out some of the best moments from throughout the week, from which I own a big thanks to my mentor Sheri Rubin for making them happen:

  •  Meeting one of the former executive directors of the GDC and getting a personal advice from him in things related to our first game in development and how to move forward with it. It was surprising to realize that he found our game to be a brilliant approach on a known genre.
  •  Having lunch with one of the original Westwood co-founders and the lead designer/producer behind an all-time favorite game of mine: The Blade Runner from 1997. That game is still an engineering masterpiece from the storytelling point-of-view.

These two meetings were just the tip of the iceberg. As I was sitting in the Game Developers Choice Awards ceremony on Thursday I suddenly realized that some of the people on the stage being awarded were the ones who sat with us scholars on a lunch on Tuesday on the Scholar/Mentor Lunch. The host of the awards was Tim Schafer himself, who gave us a Q&A at the tour on his studio couple days earlier.

Just some pictures along the way

Of course one of the main things about the GDC is the sessions themselves. We each managed to catch a good amount of them and found them to be extremely interesting and inspiring. Just to mention a few of the best:

  •  Jesse Schell was on fire telling about the future of storytelling
  •  Scott Campbell from Double Fine turned a lecture into an interactive character design drawing contest
  •  Telltale Games told interesting facts about the way players made choices in their award-winning The Walking Dead
  • Evan Skolnick gave a full day bootcamp on game narrative, which will most definitely prove useful later
  • The importance of live instrumentals alongside with virtual instruments are a great way to enhance the musical experience

These are just to mention some of things that left a mark in our simple minds.

Overall, our first GDC turned out to be even greater experience than we could have ever imagined. We all made some really cool connections and I would definitely recommend the IGDA Scholarship for anyone who dreams about being a game developer or an entrepreneur in the industry. The connections and friends I made during the week are certainly worth the sweaty and restless trip of 38 hours it took us to make it to San Francisco.

Finally, a small piece of advice for the future first time attendees: choose your parties carefully based on do you want to party in a fully packed and earsplitting night club? Or do you want to be able to talk to people? We tried both and decided to focus on latter one from now on. Or perhaps we are just getting old 😉

 

The Road to GDC2013 Part I

Yet again it seem like it has been ages since the last post here. But to be honest, we have made some enormous progress during this long, gloomy period of darkness called the winter here in Finland.

First of all, we have met some extremely interesting people from Finnish gaming industry and starting to really feel the distinctive overall atmosphere surrounding the whole scenery. It is like the northern star Polaris: a single star in the ocean of stars, which currently happens to burn as one of the brightest out there. But on a closer inspection, we realize that it is a multiple stars consisting of a bunch of bright minded individuals sharing the passion for making entertaining, thriving and memorable games.

The second thing I wanted to share with you is a real personal honor for me. I was accepted as the first Finnish student since 2003 to have the possibility to represent, learn and experience the Game Developer Conference as an IGDA Scholar (http://www.igda.org/scholars/congratulations-gdc-scholars-for-2013/ ). I’m really looking forward to meeting, changing ideas and chatting with people like Ernest Adams, who visited Turku couple days ago and was truly an unforgettable person. I’m also honored to be mentored by one of the board of directors from IGDA, and I’m sure it will be unforgettable for me.

Our new logo

We haven’t either forgotten The Ricochet Reaction, but rather been building up the team and skill sets needed to make it the best possible experience for you. We are currently in the process of taking care of the boring, but necessary, company stuff so the real development has been at a slight still for a while. But surely we will cook something up for the GDC to bring with us 🙂

As the GDC is just around the corner, and we are attending it with the strength of a quartet, we will make sure to provide you the best picks and moments from the whole trip. The next post will give you more insights in taking part to the largest professional game developer gathering in the world as a first timer and as an IGDA Scholar.

 

The Real Prize Behind a Win

It has been again a while since the last post, but we’ve got a good reason for that: we were awarded as the best team participating in the previously mentioned Turku Boost Startup Journey. That really meant a lot to us. Eventhough the prize is a trip to San Francisco and Silicon Valley, the journey itself and how it ended has been the most valuable experience for us as team and as individuals. It has shown us, that we have a functioning team capable of working fluently together for a unified vision of the game we want to make. Also the business side of the product is starting to shape into a clear and distinctive model suited to work as a real TV-series structure and experience made onto modern gaming platforms. But I will tell more about that in the future.

Amazing art by Tim Richert: the original by Tim and the in-game image modified by us.

The next steps we are about to take are some of the most crucial ones in the whole project. Creating the best possible team around us, so we can create the best possible game to you. This process has already been started, and will go on for a while. But the main focus is keeping the core team small, independent and highly motivated. By this way, we can easily manage and adapt to any changes and challenges along the way.

Another important step in the following weeks is the validation and testing with our prototype of The Ricochet Reaction. We are still thinking of the distribution method, and the prototype is sadly Windows only (Mac OS X might be an option too), but if YOU are interested in giving us valuable feedback and thoughts on the prototype, please contact us via email or through twitter @tZZZuKKa. There will be a limited amount of tester spots available, so be sure the inform us as soon as possible.

Thats it for now. The first victory has been accomplished. Eventhough it is small scale, it was the first and the most important. People asked me a number of times during the hours after the win, why I’m still not smiling. Well, that’s because I know that the real Journey has just begun.

But here’s one quick chuckle 🙂

Boost Startup Journey and Inpirations

We have been extremely busy at Rival Games during this month. For that reason, we haven’t had the chance to update our blog as much as we would have wanted to.

Rival Games was accepted into Boost Startup Journey -program (http://www.boostturku.com/startupjourney ) three weeks ago. It has been time consuming and challenging, but at the same time we have received invaluable insights, ideas, and experience. We also received priceless feedback (Much Obliged!) from various sources, and it has given us much to work and focus on.

An in-game image from an early stage version

The art and visual appereance have been most influenced by the two graphic-novel storytelling veterans: Alan Moore and Frank Miller. They always create appealling and touching stories, with memorable moments and stunning visual appereances. Many other artists and sources have also had an effect on the design, like Aurelio Galleppini (creator of Tex Willer), Blade Runner (A Game by Westwood Studios), and Full Throttle (LucasArts) but to name a few.

Thats it for now. We will keep you posted as we travel deeper into the dark and unforgiving world of The Ricochet Reaction.

Rival Games proudly presents: The Ricochet Reaction

The Ricochet Reaction is a story driven film noir adventure set in a grim and unforgiving urban maze of dope, despair and destinies. We, a group with varying education backgrounds and passionate gamers, decided to put our talent, knowledge and enthusiasm together in order to create a thrilling gaming experience for you. Thus, we are now proud to introduce Rival Games’ first game, The Ricochet Reaction. We want it to offer dark, cruel and realistic story with brutal and intriguing atmosphere including challenging and ingenious problems. The following picture was made with in-game characters and scene, but it is still missing some elements (like rain and lighting effects). Nevertheless, it captures the overall atmosphere and graphical style of the game nicely.

This blog is aiming to offer you an insight in developing a game. We’ll keep you regularly updated with the latest info. Next time we will focus on the inspirations behind the story and art, and reveal you some in-game images.