Games PC Myst V - End Of Ages
Developed by Cyan Productions - Ubisoft Entertainment (2005) - First-Person Adventure - Rated Everyone
Billed as the final chapter in the influential graphic adventure series, End of Ages is designed to bring Myst full circle, by offering contemporarily impressive graphics and a return to (relatively) straightforward exploration-based gameplay. Beginning right where the 1994 original left off, the game leaves players alone on the surreal island, faced with the ultimate challenge of unraveling the mystery of an ancient civilization known as the D'Ni. End of Ages was developed by Cyan Worlds, a... Read more
Developer: Cyan Productions
Publisher: Ubisoft Entertainment
Release Date: September 20, 2005
Controls: Keyboard, Mouse
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Matthew's reviews of games in the Myst series
Okay, I'm a fan of the series, but I'm more than willing to critique it and be honest about it. This PDF provides my brief takes on the various Myst series games, starting with the original. In 1993, a puzzle-adventure game appeared on the market that was unlike anything that had been made before. It was called Myst. The game design was nonstandard for its time. No inventory, no way of dying, and little character interaction. Gameplay is laid back and mostly involves exploring, observing, and figuring things out. The solitary, laid-back exploratory nature of the Myst games is either a strength or a weakness, depending on who you ask. They have a strong ambience, even aesthetic brilliance, and a lot of content, but if you're having trouble moving forward and solving the puzzles, Myst games can quickly become boring, limiting, slow, and frustrating. Don't be surprised if you need a hint guide at some point while playing a Myst game. The upside is, it's mysterious and there is a sense of discovery and exploration. You feel like you've entered another reality, another world. I think that's a large part of the appeal of all fantasy and science fiction. It stirs the imagination. It's one of the reasons the Myst series has endured. The idea of traveling between worlds is wonderful as it allows for unlimited diversity in visual design, and the worlds in the Myst games have enough detail to feel real even at their most bizarre.
This is the start of the franchise, and the most successful game in it. Unfortunately, it's showing its age. Badly. The graphics and technology were stunning in 1993, and the game, one of the first high-quality programs to be released on CD, drove millions of people to buy CDrom drives for the first time.
The game sold anywhere from 6 to 10 million copies, depending on which source you trust, which made it the best-selling PC game of the 20th century. But is it good? Well, conceptually it's strong, and the art direction, sound design, and even puzzle design are good. But the technology is a huge drawback. Not only is it in a 640X480 slideshow format, but the 3d graphics have a lot of flaws. The terrains, in particular, look horrible. No grass texture, even. Just color maps. And yet, somehow, there is a genius to the design of the game that is difficult to quantify. Robyn Miller's ambient soundtrack is also quite effective. It set the standard which all later Myst games built on. It's memorable yet subtle, and enhances the experience of the game in key places. Sound effects are equally stellar. The puzzles don't always fit into the worlds believably, but they're well done for the most part. Myst's story is sparse but adequate. The designers should be credited with the way that their worlds help tell us about the characters in the story, something taken even further in Riven. Myst exists on PCs and Macs, as well as various handheld systems like the Nintendo DS, the PSP, and the iPhone. There's also a remake of the game on PC called RealMyst, which takes the game from prerendered format to realtime 3d. This is the best, most immersive form of the game available. It improves the textures, adds freedom of motion and lots of animation, and adds an extra world to the end of the game.
Riven is the acclaimed 1997 sequel to Myst. It improves on the original in a number of ways. Firstly, the sheer level of realism is stunning. Riven offers an immense, extremely believable photorealistic 3d world. The shame is that it is all reduced to a 640X480 resolution slideshow. A lot of money went into Riven after Myst succeeded, so the creative staff and production schedule were impressive. A lot of fans have clamored for a remake of Riven that would give it a high-resolution panoramic interface like the one of Myst IV such a thing could likely be done by Cyan Worlds for under $1 million in funding, but no publisher has stepped up for such a project, probably because of the financial failure of RealMyst. The visual design is very detailed, gritty, and realistically surrealistic. The story is darker and richer. John Keston's Gehn is a chillingly malevolent figure in Riven. The entire cast does well. The puzzles are more interconnected with the world, and to the credit of the designers, feel less like puzzles and more like features of a place. The game is a lot larger than Myst and has more animation. The music is atmospheric but perhaps a little less memorable. It's the sort of sound design that subtly supports the gaming experience and infuses emotion into it at key places. Sound design is good across the board. Riven's old slideshow format is its main problem. The fact that most of the game takes place in one world, not diverse smaller worlds, increases depth but hinders visual variety. The game is fairly difficult and the puzzles sprawl all over the very large world. The fact that clues are in disparate locations make some of the solutions difficult.
Myst 3: Exile
Myst 3 was done by Presto Studios, not Cyan Worlds. It's a solid entry into the series in most respects. The worlds of Myst 3 are beautiful, if not quite as meticulously designed as Riven's. The game is still 640X480 but is in a panoramic format, which allows for improved freedom of viewing, if not real freedom of motion. This is very similar to the interface of my freeware game, Traveler's Enigma. Jack Wall's music for the game is epic and cinematic and generally great. Writing in the story is okay, but the performance of actor Brad Dourif (academy award nominee for One flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, and Grima Wormtongue in Lord of the Rings) is the reason it works. His character is a rather sympathetic villain, somebody you fear and yet feel sorry for. There's a lot of visual variety, color, and beauty but not the kind of depth or believability that made Riven brilliant. The fact that the worlds in the game (mostly) were made to teach lessons of world creation to his sons gives the creators of the game license to make puzzles that feel like, well, puzzles. Moderately easy puzzles (by Myst standards), but a lot of them, spread over a lot of explorable environments. There are a few places where the 3d art is a bit disappointing, probably because the developers had less cash and a shorter schedule than Cyan did when they made Riven. Still, it's definitely better attention to visual detail than in the first Myst and miles ahead of most of the games that have tried to imitate the formula of the Myst series.
Myst IV: Revelation
Myst IV is a mixed bag. In some ways, it's brilliant, but in others seriously problematic. Firstly, Myst IV has amazingly good graphics. The panoramic format is used again, but with higher resolution. The environments are as detail-rich as in Riven, and they have a lot of variety. I wouldn't say they're as believable logically, but the whole thing is stunning to look at. Each world is large, and there's a good variety between them. The game is one of the bigger Myst games. This is a good thing. The sheer level of life and detail in Haven, especially, is incredible, but most of the imagery looks great, aside from a few of the realtime 3d animated elements. There's also a lot more animation. Jack Wall's music is passable. It's not bad, but it's predictable and unmemorable. There's a lot more story content, which should be a step in the right direction for a series of games that have fairly sparse story development, but it's not good quality. Acting is often poor and the writing is sometimes even worse than the acting. The story has a lot in it that doesn't work, including the ending. Puzzles are mixed. There are some timed puzzles that are pretty tricky and frustrating, but for the most part the puzzle design is on par with Myst 3. That is, the puzzles are basically moderate in difficulty and pretty well-designed, but not altogether seamlessly integrated into the worlds.
flawed in some way.
Myst V: End of Ages
This is Cyan's return to the helm of the Myst franchise. It's in realtime 3d like the fantastic and massive Myst series spinoff Uru, but it's singleplayer and self-contained. Myst V was made in under a year and a half. That means it's not as good as it could and should have been. The puzzles are pretty good. Inclusion of an image recognition system solving puzzles by drawing is an imaginative twist. The graphics are generally about as good as Uru's, but in some places, particularly Laki'ahn, they're outright disappointing. Realtime 3d means it's more immersive in terms of motion but not as detailed, even at its best. The story is thin but fairly well-executed. It feels a bit tangential to the rest of the series, as if it were more tied to Uru than to the other Myst games. There's a good variety of worlds, and a reasonably large number of them, but none of them are especially large, certainly not like Riven or Myst IV. This is a limitation of real-time 3d levels generally; polygon count limits keep artists from making really large, detail-rich worlds. (This was true of pre-rendered graphics, too, at one point. The original Myst for instance) Tim Larkin's sound design is good but not as good as some of the other games in this series. The overall impression is that the game is consistently decent, perhaps, but never exceptional. It's pretty good but not the amazing finale this series deserved. It can be said of all the games in this series, though, that they're all good and all worth playing but all
By this point, Uru is the biggest, most elaborate Myst game. There's a singleplayer version called Complete Chronicles (Uru: Ages Beyond Myst + 2 expansion packs) and also a multiplayer MMO format, which has existed or nearly existed variously as Uru Live, Until Uru, Myst Online: Uru Live, Myst Online: Restoration Experiment, and now whatever it's currently being called. There's some debate on the title, but after a few business failures in MMO form, Cyan is releasing Uru as an open source game. This means that dozens of Cyan's beautifully crafted worlds, puzzles, and so on forming an impressive persistent virtual fantasy metaverse will be available as a free download. You'll be able to explore, solve puzzles, and play minigames in a realtime 3d multiplayer setting. You'll also be able to add your own worlds and 3d content into the game. You can check this open source Myst game out at MystOnline.com. Last I checked, it was in the process of being released and isn't available yet. But hopefully it will be soon.
Can Cognitive Puzzle-Centric Game Play Captivate a First Person Shooter Audience?
A Project Presented to the Faculty of The Guildhall at Southern Methodist University By JONATHAN HEMINGWAY (Video Game Design and Development for Entertainment and Education, Utah State University, 2004)
In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for a Masters of Interactive Technology in Digital Game Development with a Specialization in Level Design March 6, 2007
To the Graduate Faculty: I am submitting herewith a project written by Jonathan Hemingway entitled Can Cognitive Puzzle-Centric Game Play Captivate a First Person Shooter Audience? I recommend that it be accepted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Interactive Technology in Digital Game Development, with Specialization in Level Design.
___________________________________ Atussa Simon, Supervisor
We have read this Project and recommend its acceptance: ____________________________________ Michael McCoy, Advisor ____________________________________ Sandy Petersen, Reader
Accepted for the Faculty: ___________________________________ Dr. Peter Raad, Executive Director The Guildhall at SMU
Completion of this project would have been impossible without the guidance and help of many people, to whom I will always be indebted. First of all, my deepest gratitude goes to my parents for teaching me from a young age that what I want in life is important and to go after it. I am very thankful to the professors at the Guildhall for sharing their wisdom and experience with me, as well as all of the testers for giving me some of their time. I am also very thankful to Sandy Petersen for volunteering his time and expertise to be an external reader for the project. Finally, I am grateful for the multiplicity of digitally interactive characters who helped me to fill my life with the adventure that only saving princesses and worlds can bring.
BS, Utah State University, 2004 AD
Can Cognitive Puzzle Game play Captivate a First Person Shooter Audience? Supervisor: Professor Atussa Simon Master of Interactive Technology degree conferred March 24, 2007 Thesis / Project completed March 21, 2007 This thesis provides research data supporting the idea that cognitive puzzle game play can captivate the first person shooter audience. It also provides data that helps distinguish what attributes of cognitive puzzles are enjoyed by the FPS audience and which are detrimental to their overall experience. To test whether or not cognitive puzzle game play can captivate the first person shooter audience I created a FPS level called Plugs. Plugs is filled with cognitive puzzles instead of standard FPS game play. I then had eighteen FPS players from The Guildhall at SMU play through Plugs and record their thoughts and impressions on a survey. The testing was performed in three separate rounds. Between each round Plugs was modified to reflect the new feedback. The collected survey data strongly suggests that the FPS players loved the cognitive puzzle game play in Plugs, with only one of the eighteen testers reporting disliking the level. The puzzle that was reported to be the most fun contained both cognitive puzzle and skillbased puzzle game play, suggesting that the FPS audience prefers cognitive puzzles that also contain skill-based elements. The data collected from the most difficult puzzle suggests that FPS players have a preference for cognitive puzzles that allow continual progress rather than ones that force the player to stop and rethink the puzzle multiple times. Further research could include studying FPS players reactions to cognitive puzzle game play in games not played from the first person perspective. Does the perspective the game is played in affect the FPS audiences reaction? Or do FPS players enjoy all cognitive puzzle game play? The reverse of this project would also be interesting to study. Do cognitive puzzle players enjoy FPS game play? If not, then why? Could certain elements of FPS games be changed to make them more appealing to the cognitive puzzle player audience?
TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTER 1.... 6 1.1 MOTIVATION.... 6 1.2 OBJECTIVES.... 7 CHAPTER 2.... 9 2.1 DESIGNING PUZZLES... 9 2.2 THE GAMING PROCESS... 10 2.3 DIFFERENT TYPES OF GAMERS... 12 2.4 COGNITIVE PUZZLES VS SKILL PUZZLES... 13 2.5 PUZZLES IN FIRST PERSON SHOOTERS.. 14 CHAPTER 3.... 16 3.1 A FPS LEVEL WITHOUT SHOOTING.. 16 3.2 PUZZLE 1... 17 3.3 PUZZLE 2... 18 3.4 PUZZLE 3... 19 3.5 PUZZLE 4... 20 3.6 PUZZLE 5... 21 3.7 PUZZLE 6... 22 3.8 PUZZLE 7... 23 3.9 PUZZLE 8... 24 3.10 THE CRANE PUZZLE... 25 3.11 THE PACMAN PUZZLE... 26 3.12 TESTING.... 27 CHAPTER 4.... 28 4.1 TEST SUBJECT DEMOGRAPHICS.. 28 4.2 COGNITIVE GAME PLAY AND THE FPS AUDIENCE.. 28 4.3 MOTIVATION TO SOLVE PUZZLES... 32 4.4 DIFFICULT PUZZLES BLOCKING PROGRESS. 33 4.5 THE HIDDEN PUZZLE... 36 4.6 COGNITIVE AND SKILL-BASED PUZZLES... 38 2
4.7 REPETITION IN COGNITIVE PUZZLES.. 39 4.8 SURVEY ACCURACY.... 40 CHAPTER 5.... 41 5.1 CONCLUSIONS... 41 5.2 THE FUTURE OF COGNITIVE PUZZLES... 41 APPENDIX A: SURVEY ANALYSIS.. 43 APPENDIX B: ORIGINAL SURVEYS... 45 REFERENCES... 63
LIST OF TABLES
3.1. The Survey Questions... 27 4.1. Direct Unified and Non-Unified Responses.. 30 4.1. Question 1 responses... 30 4.1. Question 6 responses... 31 4.2. Puzzle 7 response data... 35 4.4. Number of testers who liked a particular puzzle... 38 4.4. Number of testers who disliked a particular puzzle... 40 6.1. Appendix A - Survey data... 43 6.1. Appendix B - Collected Surveys... 45
NOMENCLATURE FPS PC RTS TBS MMO RPG MMORPG First Person Shooter Personal Computer Real-Time Strategy Turn-Based Strategy Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game
CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION
Motivation Video games are rather new in comparison to other more traditional forms of
entertainment. Despite their short existence, they have grown and evolved a tremendous amount since their inception. The greatest and most obvious improvements have been in the areas of graphics and sound. However, there is one area where very little has changed, and thats game play. If anything truly defines a video game it is its game play, yet the exact same things that made games fun 25 years ago still make games fun today. Wikipedia defines game play as including all player experiences during the interaction with game systems, especially formal games. The most important aspect of that definition is interaction. Game play deals with what the player experiences, but more important what they do about it. Often accused of being mindless fun, parents spend a tremendous amount of effort herding children away from their screens and controllers to ensure that their time is spent doing something more constructive. This is ironic because video games are one of the most mentally constructive activities a person can engage in. If you strip a video game, or any game for that matter, down to its most core elements you have a problem that needs solving. Moreover, the fun of playing that video game is solving that problem. If a game has good game play it means that it has problems that are fun to solve. A game with poor game play has problems that are boring to solve. For example: The game play Tetris (Pazhitnov, 1985) is solving the problem of guiding falling blocks so that they land in complete horizontal lines. The game play of Nintendos Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo, 1985) is using Marios jumping skills to bypass an assortment of enemies and traps in a timely manner. The game play of Starcraft (Blizzard Entertainment, 1998) is managing the gathering of resources to build and maintain an army and using those forces to overpower an opponent. Each of these games has tremendously different game play because they each have different problems to solve.
One type of game play that has remained popular throughout the years is cognitive puzzle solving. Cognitive puzzles require a player to examine a problem or situation and figure out a solution. An example of a cognitive puzzle game play outside of the realm of video games is solving a riddle. Cognitive puzzles are in contrast to skill puzzles. Skill puzzles require the player to perform a task at a certain level of proficiency. Cognitive puzzles, both in and out of video games, seem to have an almost universal appeal. Cognitive puzzle game play focuses on observation, lateral thinking, and creative problem solving. A good example of cognitive game play outside of the video game realm is solving a riddle. First Person Shooters are another popular type of game, but are quite different from puzzle games. They carry the title First Person Shooters, or FPS, for two reasons. First, the game is viewed from a first person perspective. What the screen displays is exactly what the players character would see. Second, the game play relies heavily on shooting game mechanics, such as accuracy and dodging. FPS game play, often called twitch game play, focuses on split second reactions and precise timing. Puzzle-centric game play and FPS game play are extremely different, but both maintain a large audience. This thesis project focuses on observing FPS players reactions to an FPS level filled with cognitive puzzles instead of FPS, or twitch, game play. Can cognitive puzzle games in real-time from the first person perspective captivate the FPS audience? 1.2 Objectives The main objective of this study was to discover whether or not cognitive puzzle games in real-time from the first person perspective can captivate the FPS audience. The second objective was to gain enough data to help theorize as to why or why not the FPS audience can be captivated by cognitive puzzle game play. The third objective was to discover which aspects of cognitive puzzle game play appeal to the FPS audience and which do not. To accomplish these objectives I designed and built a level in the Half-Life 2 (Valve Corporation, 2004) engine filled with eight cognitive puzzles. Then I brought in students from The Guildhall at SMU who were FPS players to play the level and then fill out a survey. To qualify they had to have played 120 or more hours of FPS games. The testing was done in three rounds. In between each of the rounds adjustments were made to the level
based on the feedback received from the testers. After all of the data had been collected it was compiled and studied to see what could be learned from it.
CHAPTER 2 FIELD REVIEW
Designing Puzzles In the article Designing and Integrating Puzzles in Action-Adventure Games
(Gamasutra 2002) Pascal Luban argues that well designed puzzles in Action-Adventure games adhere to four basic principles. Good puzzles: Maintain consistency between game pace and game play Use an appropriate game architecture. Respect the universe of the game Assist the player in solving puzzles Maintaining consistency between game pace and game play is extremely important. If the puzzles fail in this regard then they become a chore to the player instead of a game. They remove the player from the immersive experience they are trying to have and break their suspension of disbelief. Luban explains that Resident Evil 2 (Capcom, 1998) does an excellent job implementing this principle. The player reels between action and investigation. Investigation scenes, however, retain the game's general atmosphere - the fear of being attacked is permanent. The puzzles are simple and require the player to move a lot, further exposing him to sinister encounters. Using appropriate game architecture and respecting the universe of the game serve mainly to help with immersion and pacing. One of the praises of Half-Life 2 (Valve Corporation, 2004) was that the puzzles helped to pace the combat heavy game play by creating small combat free zones that required radically different actions than shooting and dodging. Finally, players need assistance in solving the puzzles. Even the most intelligent and observant of players sometimes misses the solution to the puzzle. Good games ride the razors edge between being challenging, but not frustratingly difficult. If the puzzle has no
fun. Different games have emphasis on different parts of the gaming process. For example: Tetris (Pazhitnov, 1985) has heavy emphasis on Designing a Plan, with minor emphasis on Acting. As Tetris speeds up the players has less and less time to figure out where placing their falling piece gives them the optimal chance of survival. Becoming a better Tetris player generally means learning to Design a Plan faster so that enough time remains to put the plan into action. The Sims (Maxis, 2000), on the other hand, emphasizes Setting Objectives. The Sims (Maxis, 2000) is essentially a people simulation sandbox where players can explore whatever facets of human life they wish. The better at setting interesting objectives for themselves the more fun players have. 2.3 Different Types of Gamers Those outside the video gaming culture are prone to view a gamer as someone who plays all types of video games, which is not necessarily the case. Some gamers play a wide variety of games while others choose to spend their time concentrating on specific genres, or even playing a single game almost exclusively. Most gamers are somewhere in the middle with preferences for genres or specific types of game play and a willingness to play games outside their chosen specialization. A few of the more popular genres are first person shooters (FPS), massively multiplayer online Role Playing Games (MMORPG), real-time strategy (RTS), turn based strategy (TBS), racing, sports, and simulation games, although many others exist. Each of these genres can be further broken down by game. Just because someone enjoys a Real Time Strategy game does not necessarily mean that they enjoy Starcraft (Blizzard Entertainment, 1998), Age of Empires (1997), and Dawn of War, (Relic Entertainment, 2004) which are all popular Real Time Strategy titles. Additionally, within individual games are player configurable options allowing game customization that sometimes further splinters gamers by game play preferences. Despite there being so many different types of gamers there are some games that seem to have an extremely broad appeal. Super Mario Brothers (Nintendo, 1985), The Legend of Zelda (Nintendo, 1987), and Metroid (Nintendo, 1986) are all series of games that have been very popular for a very large audience. Each of these games has puzzle-centric game play.
Cognitive Puzzles vs Skill Puzzles Puzzles break down into two main categories, skill puzzles and cognitive puzzles.
Skill puzzles have the player perform a task requiring some specific expertise to complete. Often, once the skill puzzle is complete, the puzzle is repeated at a higher level of difficulty which requires more skill to complete. The game play of skill puzzles is step three in the gaming process, put the plan into action. The fun of a skill puzzle is the combination of using and improving the skill involved in the puzzle. Tetris (Pazhitnov, 1985) is an excellent example of a skill puzzle game. It starts out very slow to allow the player to learn how to rotate pieces and place them to form lines. Then the game begins to speed up. Every time the game increases its speed the player must learn to play and think faster or lose the game. Cognitive puzzles require a player to examine a problem or situation and figure out a solution. Whether or not the player is able to solve the puzzle is determined by his cognitive and observation abilities rather than a specific game play related skill. The fun of cognitive puzzles has two parts. The first is the build up, where the player is trying to figure the puzzle out. The second is the single Ah Ha moment, where the player finally puts it all together and figures out the solution. Cognitive puzzle game play emphasizes steps one and two of the gaming process, set an objective and create a plan designed to achieve the objective. Good examples of cognitive puzzles exist in Kings Quest (Sierra On-Line, 1984). There is no such thing as a pure skill puzzle or a pure cognitive puzzle. Every puzzle has some skill and cognitive elements. Even the most skill based puzzle requires players to first wrap their mind around the puzzle and solution before they can go about applying their skills. And every cognitive puzzle requires players to do something as part of the solution, even if it is as simple as pushing a single button once. Cognitive puzzles are defined as those where the majority of the game play comes from cognitive exploration and discovering the solution rather than skill based proficiency, and have an Ah Ha moment were the player finally discovers the answer. Skill based puzzles are defined as those where the majority of the game play primarily engages the players ability to perform a task at a certain level of proficiency. Some cognitive puzzles have trivial solutions, such as use the blue key on the blue door, and therefore have low replay value. Players can play the puzzle again, but unless the player has completely forgotten the solution there is no cognitive game play left in the 13
puzzle. However, cognitive puzzles with non-trivial complex solutions can have a great deal of replay value, such as a jigsaw puzzle. The complexity of the solution allows the player to rework the problem again with a great deal of enjoyment. The cognitive puzzles with the most replay value are those with non-trivial, complex solutions as well as skill based elements. These types of puzzles maintain cognitive puzzle game play even after players have solved it once. Additionally, after players comprehend it so well that it no longer has additional cognitive puzzle game play it still has skill based game play. One of the difficulties in designing cognitive puzzles is that the designer can not control the previous experiences of the player. If the player has encountered similar cognitive puzzles previously then the cognitive puzzle game play can be spoiled, especially if the solutions are trivial. Designers must be mindful of their target audience while designing cognitive puzzle game play to ensure that the puzzles are either unique enough or complex enough to have cognitive-puzzle game play for the players. Trivial cognitive puzzles that have been either previously solved by a player or are similar enough to other cognitive puzzles previously played by the player do not lose all of their value entirely. Cognitive puzzles If players are so inclined they can try to solve the puzzle faster or more efficiently. This adds skill-based game play to a previously cognitive puzzle. 2.5 Puzzles in First Person Shooters Puzzle game play is part of most single player FPS games. A small, easily solved puzzle gives the player a short break before leading them into more combat. Half-Life 2 (Valve Corporation, 2004) uses physics puzzles to slow down the pacing of the game before introducing additional combat. Some of the players who played Half-Life 2 (2004) felt that the puzzles slowed down the action too much and were a detriment to the game while others felt the temporary drastic change of what the game expected of them was refreshing and made the combat more enjoyable. A standard FPS puzzle is a door and key system. For example: In Doom (id Software, 1993) the player would, in quite a few of the levels, come across a red door that could only
be opened with the red key. This would force players to go search the level for the red key so they could continue in their quest. A door and key system is a good example of the difficulty of most FPS puzzles. It is a common view that the strength of FPS game play lies in its speed and intensity, and therefore anything that takes away from the fast-paced flow of the game, like a difficult puzzle, is a detriment, rather than an asset, to the game. A small number of FPS games have put emphasis on having more complicated puzzle game play. For example, System Shock (Looking Glass Studios, 1994) and Deus Ex (Ion Storm Inc., 2000) are both FPS games that contain deeply intriguing puzzle game play. However, both also contain heavy Role Playing Game elements placing them in the Role Playing Games genre instead of First Person Shooters, although they easily qualify as both. The first Deus Ex (Ion Storm Inc., 2000) sold extremely well (Gamasutra), leading to a sequel. Deus Ex: Invisible War (Ion Storm Inc., 2003) added additional action elements and simplified the game play. However, it didnt sell nearly as well as the first one. The fact that Deus Ex: Invisible War (Ion Storm Inc., 2003) with its simpler puzzles and faster paced action didnt sell nearly as well as the original Deus Ex adds some weight to the hypothesis that puzzles can captivate the FPS audience. Games like System Shock (Looking Glass Studios, 1994) and Deus Ex (Ion Storm Inc., 2000) are rather rare. Although the Video Game industry continues to create many games with both puzzle game play and FPS game play, very few of them try to combine the two any more than casually.
through the torch to light the arrow on fire before hitting the iced button. The room has no practical purpose other than to be a puzzle for the player. The puzzles in Plugs are equally obviously puzzles and make no attempt to hide their nature. This is important because some game developers have spent a tremendous amount of time and energy to try to disguise the puzzles in their game. The consistency of the level of disguise between the puzzles is more important than whether or not the puzzles have a disguise. Plugs originally consisted of eight puzzles. Two puzzles were added during the testing phases for a total of ten puzzles at the end of the project. 3.2 Puzzle 1 The first puzzle consists of a force field plugged into the wall. To solve the puzzle the player has to unplug the force field. The first puzzle is very simple. Its real purpose is to teach the player that plugs are an important game play element of the level, and that force fields can be unplugged.
From here players would have to complete puzzles two through four before being able to progress. Puzzles two through four can be completed in any order.
Puzzle 2 Puzzle two is a box stacking puzzle. Puzzle two takes place inside a room with some
water pumps, pipes, and crates. To complete it the player must plug in the water pumps. However, the socket is high on the wall. To get high enough to put the plug in the socket the player has to stack some crates. Several of the crates in the room are already stacked on top of each other to suggest the solution to the player. One technical problem with the game engine is that the physics objects can not be made not to break. Each of the physics objects has a script setting to not take physics damage, but this only makes them more resilient. While this didnt come up during testing its important to note that it would be possible to break all of the crates in the room preventing the player from completing the puzzle.
Puzzle 3 Puzzle three has a water valve on a platform on the other side of a small pool of
water. The platform is just high enough that they player cant swim in the water and jump up to it. To complete it the player must throw debris that floats into the water and jump up to the valve and turn it. A single crate is floating in the water when the player enters the room to suggest the answer to the player. This puzzle also suffers from physics objects being breakable. It is technically possible to destroy all of the physics objects and make the puzzle impossible to complete.
Puzzle 4 Puzzle four is a teeter-totter puzzle. To complete it the player must use debris to
weight one end of the teeter-totter allowing the player to get to an otherwise unreachable location.
After the player completes the first four puzzles the water level rises allowing the player to swim up to the 2nd floor. The 2nd floor consists of four more puzzles, puzzles five through eight, each of which must be completed to progress further. All of the puzzles on the 2nd floor require the use of the gravity gun, which is sitting in the center of the 2nd floor.
Puzzle 5 Puzzle five exists to let the player play around with the gravity gun and teach him
what it can do. The puzzle consists of crates that are stacked on a platform ten feet above the ground. Solving the puzzle is a two step process. First the player must use the gravity gun to pull down boxes that would otherwise be too high to reach from the platform. This reveals a hidden valve. Second, the player must stack some of the crates they just pulled down from the platform to reach the valve. This puzzle also suffers from breakable physics objects. It is technically possible to destroy all of the physics objects and make the puzzle impossible to complete.
Puzzle 6 Puzzle six has a platform suspended from the ceiling with ropes. The player has to
use the gravity gun to get the suspended platform swinging. From there the player can jump from the swinging platform to two water valves to complete the puzzle. Puzzle six has both cognitive and skill-based game play. It starts out as a cognitive puzzle while players search for a solution. Once players figure it out puzzle six becomes skill-based, with the player trying to time their jumping with the swinging platform to reach the water valves. Puzzle six was the most liked puzzle in Plugs. It is covered in depth in chapter 4.4 Cognitive and Skill-Based Puzzles.
Puzzle 7 Puzzle seven received a lot of feedback and went through changes with each round of
testing. The final version has four plugs and four sockets high on a wall. To complete the puzzle the player must use the gravity to gun to shoot the plugs up into the sockets. However, each plug must go into a specific socket. Which plug goes into which socket is indicated to the player through a system of sound and colored lights. The player must use the process of elimination combined with the feedback system to figure out which plugs go into which sockets. The changes puzzle seven went through are covered in detail in chapter 4.2 Difficult Puzzle Blocking Progress.
Puzzle 8 Puzzle eight has a force field at a 45 degree angle. When players approach the force
field they can see that it is plugged in on the other side. Competing puzzle 8 has several steps. First, the player must use the gravity gun to pull the plug out of the socket through the force field. When players enter the room they can see a water valve high on the wall above force field. To reach the water valve players have to plug the force field back in and run up it.
After completing puzzles five through eight the water level rises again, allowing the player to reach level three. Originally, level three just consisted of an exit. However, an additional crane puzzle was added after the first round of testing.
3.10 The Crane Puzzle Originally, the top of the level contained a crane for decoration purposes only, but several testers made the comment that they really wanted to play with the crane and were disappointed that they couldnt when they reached the top. The crane puzzle was added after the first round of testing was complete. When players reach the top of the level there is no where for them to go. However, there are four large cargo containers and an operational crane. The exit is hidden behind one of the cargo containers. To complete the puzzle the player must use the crane to move the cargo containers, revealing the exit. The crane and its operations are a part of the Half-Life 2 engine. One of the limitations is that the crane itself does not have any collision. While this did not pose any problems during testing it is possible that in a larger research project that a clever player might be able to somehow use that to break the level.
3.11 The Pacman Puzzle The pacman puzzle was added before the second round of testing. It is called the pacman puzzle because it has a maze modeled after the one in the original 1970s Pacman arcade machine. The pacman puzzle is hidden at the bottom of the water in the center room, and solving it is not required to complete the level. Players who find and solve the pacman puzzle receive the ability to sprint in game, lessening travel time. To solve the pacman puzzle the player must swim underwater and move large metal plugs through the pacman maze and place them in specific locations. Which plug goes where is marked by colored lights.
3.12 Testing Plugs went through three different testing sessions and revisions. To qualify, a tester had to attest that he or she had played 120+ hours of FPS games, which is the equivalent of three weeks of full time work. The 120+ hours could be on any FPS game or combination of FPS games, with no regard to single player or multiplayer game types. Due to convenience, most of the testers were Guildhall students. Each of the testers played Plugs in a controlled environment which took anywhere from 30 to 40 minutes depending on the speed of the tester. When finished the tester filled out a short survey. After a testing session was complete the data was collected and used to make appropriate revisions to the level before the next set of testers were brought in. The Survey Questions 1. Overall, did you enjoy or dislike the level? 2. What part of the level stood out to you? 3. Which puzzles did you like? 4. Which puzzles did you dislike? 5. What would you change about the level to improve it? 6. Would you like to play other similar levels? The survey the testers filled out consisted of six questions. It was short and simple so that the survey itself would not frustrate the testers or make them want to just finish it quickly instead of accurately thus tainting the data. Questions 2-5 were open ended to allow the tester to write as much or as little as they felt was necessary to prevent leading the testers answers. The data collected from questions 2-5 were the most helpful in refining the level for the next round of testing, but also contributed to the major question at hand. Questions 1 and 6 are directly related to whether or not cognitive puzzle game play can captivate the FPS audience.
CHAPTER 4 RESULTS AND ANALYSIS
Test subject demographics To qualify to participate in this research project a tester had to affirm that he or she
had played a minimum of 120+ hours of FPS game play. Before playing the level each tester was verbally asked whether they had met the minimum requirement. This project uses 120+ hours of FPS game play as the minimum requirement because 120 hours is the equivalent of three weeks of full time work. If someone has voluntarily spent three full weeks playing FPS games it seems to follow that they can be categorized as an FPS player. However, this project does not assert that 120+ hours of FPS game play is the definition of a FPS player, only that it works for the purposes of this research. Each individual tester determined for him or herself whether or not the requirement had been met. No definition of FPS games was offered leaving it up to individual testers to determine whether or not the games they had played fit into the FPS category. It is interesting to note, two of the testers mentioned that they qualified only if Halo (Bungie Studios, 2001) for the Xbox and/or Golden Eye 007 (Rare, Ltd, 1997) for the Nintendo 64 counted as FPS games. Both Halo and Golden Eye 007 are most certainly FPS games. The testers asked because both are console FPS games, which are sometimes looked down upon by the PC FPS community. Both testers were allowed to participate. All of the test subjects were currently enrolled in The Guildhall at SMU. They were from several different cohorts and spread across all three disciplines; level design, art, and software development. The testers were of varying age, gender, and race. Their personal demographic data was not recorded as a part of this project to ensure. 4.2 Cognitive game play and the FPS audience Two of the questions on the survey were directly related to whether or not cognitive puzzle game play can captivate the FPS audience; overall, did you enjoy or dislike the level, and would you like to play other similar levels? These two questions shall be refered to as the direct questions. To simplify the data all of the answers to these questions 28
through four on the first floor and puzzles five through eight on the second floor. From observing the testers, it was abundantly clear early on that puzzle seven was, for most of the testers, frustrating, although two of the testers reportedly enjoyed it. Four of the seven testers from round one reported disliking the puzzle, but even testers who did not report disliking it struggled with it. Puzzle seven was modeled after the board game Mastermind (Meirowitz, 1970). In Mastermind, one player is the codemaker and the other player is the codebreaker. The codebreaker attempts to deductively figure out the code that the codemaker has created. The code consists of four peg holes filled in with pegs of six different colors. The codebreaker makes a guess and the codemaker then tells him how many of the pegs are correct and how many are wrong. Which pegs are right and which pegs are wrong is not disclosed. Then the codebreaker tries again. The codebreaker has 12 attempts to deduce the code. Puzzle seven had similarities to Mastermind, but it had differences as well. Puzzle seven had four sockets, similar to the four peg holes in Mastermind, but it only had four distinct plugs instead of six colors, meaning that puzzle seven only has 24 possible combinations while Mastermind has 1,296. To complete the puzzle the four plugs had to be plugged into the correct sockets. After all four plugs were plugged in the puzzle would tell the player, with a series of sounds and blinking red and green lights, how many plugs were in the correct socket. If any of the plugs were incorrect it would then eject all of the plugs out of the sockets and the player would have to try again. All of the plugs had to be plugged in before the player could learn how many were plugged in correctly. However, Mastermind was still easier than puzzle seven because you could always see your past history of guesses and the number correct, meaning the player did not have to either memorize or record the information himself. For the second round of testing puzzle seven was changed to be more user friendly, yet still remain difficult. One of the major frustrations with puzzle seven was that each of the plugs looked exactly alike. This meant that you could only keep track of them by their current location. The problem was that sometimes when the plugs would fall from their sockets they would bounce strangely causing the plugs to effectively switch locations with 33
Number of testers who reported disliking a particular puzzle
5 # of te ste rs 4 Puzzle # 7 8
For cognitive puzzles to be successful they require a certain amount of originality. Cognitive puzzles dont need to be completely original to be successful, but every time the player has seen the puzzle elsewhere it hurts their current gaming experience. 4.8 Survey Accuracy Unfortunately, it is questionable as to whether or not there is a correlation between what people say and what people feel. All of the data collected for this research assumes accuracy and honesty on part of the testers. The assumption that the testers tried to be honest with their answers is not too far fetched. However, the testing was not double-blind. The same person who built the level that the testers were playing ran the testing, which is sure to have some effect on the data collected. Even if the research was double-blind, is there actually a correlation between what people report on a survey and what they actually feel? Even if that correlation is high, a researcher must interpret all of the data. If a tester reports that a puzzle is difficult or frustrating that does not necessarily mean that the tester liked or disliked it. Despite these limitations the data collected still has value in trying to understand underlying principles behind cognitive puzzle game play and FPS gamers.
CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS
Conclusions Cognitive puzzles have existed in games for a long time, and will continue to do so.
It is important to learn what types of people enjoy cognitive puzzles, and how to build them to ensure the best possible experience for different gaming audiences. By surveying FPS players after playring the FPS level Plugs, this research project has generated some very strong data concerning cognitive puzzle game play and the FPS audience. From the data collected, it appears that cognitive puzzles are most definitely capable of captivating the FPS audience. 88.8% of the testers answered positively to both of the direct questions relating to their enjoyment of the cognitive game play. In short, they enjoyed the cognitive puzzle game play in Plugs and would like to play similar levels. Three attributes of cognitive puzzles stand out as being important to the FPS audience. First, for a cognitive puzzle to be successful it must not be so difficult that it prevents the players progress. Second, the most entertaining cognitive puzzles for FPS players seem to be those which have both cognitive and skill based elements. Third, if players have encountered similar cognitive puzzles elsewhere they will receive less enjoyment. Cognitive puzzles, when used correctly, are a powerful game play tool. 5.2 The Future of Cognitive Puzzles While cognitive puzzle game play may be able to captivate the FPS audience, it would be interesting to see if the reverse is true. Can FPS game play captivate the cognitive puzzle audience? Which aspects of FPS game play are enjoyed by cognitive puzzle gamers and which are not? Another type of fast paced game play is Real-Time Strategy. Do RTS gamers also enjoy cognitive puzzle game play? How do RTS gamers react to game play which combine cognitive puzzle elements with RTS game play? If someone were to build a RTS level which contained cognitive puzzles instead of standard RTS game play, just as
Plugs is a FPS level containing cognitive puzzles, would RTS gamers react the same as the FPS players in this project did? This project resulted in some interesting observations concerning hidden content in games. It would be interesting, and very useful, to discover what demographic is most likely to search out hidden content in games, and whether or not successfully finding hidden content adds value to the players experience. Is spending resources developing content that some players will not experience worth it? If it could be discovered for which players discovering hidden content adds value then it could be deduced which game development projects should spend their time on such content and which should not. There is still a lot to learn about gamers and their gaming habits, especially when it comes to cognitive puzzle game play. Hopefully, we will continue to expand our understanding of people and the games they play.
APPENDIX A: SURVEY ANALYSIS
Survey Data Testing Session: Number of Testers: Question 1: What parts of the level stand out to you? Positive Responses: Negative Responses: Neutral Responses: Question 6: Would you like to play other similar levels? Positive Responses: Negative Responses: Neutral Responses: Positive Unified Direct Question Responses: Negative Unified Direct Question Responses: Conflicting Direct Question Responses: Question 2: What parts of the level stand out to you? Level Atmosphere. Rising Water. Puzzle 1. Puzzle 2. Puzzle 3. Puzzle 4. Puzzle 5. Puzzle 6. Puzzle 7. Puzzle 8. The Flying Picture Robot. The Central Room Overall Level Structure and Design. Final Puzzle EasterEgg Puzzle The Water that caused me motion sickness Question 3: Which puzzles did you like? Puzzle 1. Puzzle 2 Puzzle 3. Puzzle 4 Puzzle 5. Puzzle 6. Puzzle 7. Puzzle 8. Round Round Round Total 18
Final Puzzle EasterEgg Puzzle Question 4: Which puzzles did you dislike? Puzzle 1. Puzzle 2. Puzzle 3. Puzzle 4. Puzzle 5. Puzzle 6. Puzzle 7. Puzzle 8. Final Puzzle EasterEgg Puzzle Question 5: What would you change about the level to improve it? Fewer Crates. Add a swimming puzzle. More destruction. Improve Puzzle 7 Less travel time between puzzles. Feeback for which puzzles had been completed. Large puzzles in the "silo" portion Add an element of danger for tension Use the "use" button later in the level Make the water look better More light outside of puzzle 5 Fix the see-saw getting stuck on puzzle 4 Adjust water sounds Add a more convenient walkway on crane puzzle Add a run feature Allow use of the Crane Nothing
Billed as the final chapter in the influential graphic adventure series, End of Ages is designed to bring Myst full circle, by offering contemporarily impressive graphics and a return to (relatively) straightforward exploration-based gameplay. Beginning right where the 1994 original left off, the game leaves players alone on the surreal island, faced with the ultimate challenge of unraveling the mystery of an ancient civilization known as the D'Ni. End of Ages was developed by Cyan Worlds, a studio led by Rand Miller, co-creator of the original Myst. ~ All Game Guide
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