Monday, 31 March 2014

Open Thread Summary: We Need More … Depth

This topic exploded quickly with comments, but kind of slowed down as it became clear there was pretty overwhelming consensus on what was wanted. Depth was the clear favorite, though it comes in a couple of different types.

I’m going to outline a few of the ideas suggested, though for anyone who hasn’t checked it out, the original thread has lot of great ideas not covered here.

Warning: First, as Another Wannabe noted, a lot of these suggestions take time. One of the reasons for there not being that many ‘deep’ games is that you are adding a lot of time to what is already a lengthy process. Authors should carefully consider what they are putting in and whether the time is worth the benefits.

Player Agency:  From ExLibris, “The definition that I favour (paraphrased from Michael Mateas) is that player agency is the feeling of empowerment that comes from being able to take actions in the gameworld, the effects of which relate to the player's intentions.”

Do you, the player, control the game, or are you merely following a story? A lot of people expressed that desire for control, for impact, on the story. To feel like you are a character within it, not just an observer.

More Plot: The same story can be written in two different ways; “It’s prom, bang Lisa” or “After years of trending on the bottom of the social ladder, it’s your high school prom. All evidence indicates this should be just another night of nothing happening. But you’ve been paying attention and have noticed that Lisa, the girl you have been dreaming of since middle school, has been having problems with her boyfriend. Maybe she needs a shoulder to cry on, or just to see someone stand up to that jerk. You know if you are ever going to have a chance with her, tonight is the night.”

Why does the player want to sleep with the designated lust object? Why does or would she want to sleep with him? Are there larger issues at play? Are these characters just randomly inserted, or do they feel like people?

Part of the problem/difference of taste here is that there is a disconnect between the player and the player character. Should the author give details on character background, or leave it vague and allow the player to imagine they are the character. Neither approach is right or wrong and varies based on player and author.

More non-sex story: Is the player’s goal just to get in as many sex scenes as possible, or is there something else they are striving for? This goes along with more plot; is the whole purpose of the story to sleep with a certain character, or is the player trying to do something else, and sleeping with npcs along the way is a bonus?

Player: Hey, I found that shirt you wanted.
DLO: Oh, where at?
Player: In the closet, under the old boxes. Not under the laundry, or just boxes, but the old boxes in particular. I must have searched the former two dozen times.
DLO: Oh, well thanks, let’s have sex.

Does the player’s ‘getting the girl(s)’ feel real, or completely contrived. Many games have kept it simple, the player character is incredibly desirable, and with just a little push npc(s) will be willing to jump into bed with them. Having more of a mechanism then ‘give the girl the item’ can add to the payoff.

Choices: Do you actions have an impact on the game. Does sleeping with Amy upset Lisa, or is she just completely cool with it? When the player skipped school was the principal cool with it, or did it have consequences? Will what the player does have an overall impact on the game.

Choices are probably one of the biggest desires in a game, and one of the hardest to implement. It requires the author to write multiple paths, some of which the player may not even care about. However, it can really up the level of enjoyment and make the player feel like they are the character.


  1. Nice little post about it, all in one place. And I think for the most part we all do agree with wanting more depth, but as mentioned the trouble comes at the cost of more time, which few of us have enough of as is!

    It's honestly the same quandary your standard games run into, so it is no different here. X amount of time, what do you do with it? Spend loads of times making it a deep game, sacrificing length, gameplay mechanics, etc? Or keep it a relatively shallow game as far as plot goes but try and keep it really sexy with lots of interesting things?

    Of course we have the benefit of not having to get a game out on time or spend money on resources. It's usually just one, or at most a couple, of people spending their free time doing it. They can extend the project timeline and try to 'do it all'. That can of course lead to other issues, like the game never being released, getting burnt out, etc., and since there IS no true deadline, it is much easier to let it get away from you or simply give up.

    I know I am still trying to find time to work on my own stuff, but I can already see the issues. Sometimes I don't get to touch the thing for very long stretches and it makes it hard to want to keep going, especially when you see how much farther you have to go. And even if you FINALLY do get a finished project, it may be nothing but a blurb in time that is gone just like that. All we can hope is that we get some really talented people with a passion to trudge through the work and spit out a game we can all really love. Either that or one of us hits the lottery and has plenty of down time to 'waste'. =)

  2. Choices are probably one of the biggest desires in a game, and one of the hardest to implement. It requires the author to write multiple paths, some of which the player may not even care about.

    I'd push back a little on that. If the game was always intended to have just one designated lust object, then you're right: it's doubling (or thereabouts) the amount of necessary work.

    But many games already have more than one character with which the PC can have sex. A true romp allows the PC to have consequence-free sex with each and every one of those characters, either in a specified or in a random order. Turning that romp into a game with choices is actually relatively easy, because the sex scenes and associated interactions are already written. All that has to be added is the refusal ("sorry, I saw you having sex with Lisa, and you didn't look very good at it, so I'm no longer interested") and the variables that make certain scenes available and others not. At the very least, this creates a certain kind of replayability that's not there if it's possible to bang everything and everyone, including the flower boxes and masturbating on the bone you're going to give to the guard dog, on a single run-through. I tend to think that a lot of multiple-lust-object games would be very much improved, or at least generate more interest, with this relatively simple change.

    It's choice with consequence that involves a lot more writing. But I also think it's no coincidence that games that have them are games people are still talking about. And it doesn't have to be as elaborate as SD3. The graphic games from Lesson of Passion regularly feature mutually incompatible plotlines based on choices, and they've become better for it.

    - thundergod

  3. The key to incorporating depth with NPC desirability is surely to replace puzzles with branching conversation menus - essentially a flirting system. It would be up to the author whether you could actually screw it up so badly that the NPC will never be interested or just restart the conversation endlessly and it would remove the "here's a thing now let's fuck" mechanism while giving a stronger illusion of choice.

    A game with 3 characters roaming between 9 rooms whom you have to seduce and who will reject you if they have seen you with any of the others would probably have significant replay value and improved immersion yet take a lot less coding work than an elaborate static-character sandbox game full of puzzles. And I agree wholeheartedly with every word of thundergod's post above.