Why games need to stop letting everyone save the world


Products for consumption says alot about the culture intended to consume them.
I’m so glad that there are more conflict resolution strategies available nowadays in videogames than just grinding, assasination list completing or total anhilation of adversarial factions… Even over-the-top stuff like Saints Row franchise has endings where the good and the bad guys get to party together as in a fourth wall breaking statement saying: “See? Nothing serious, It’s only a game, we’re all buddies in the end.”


While I probably woudl not play many of the games that are lauded as indie-different-pacifist-whatever, I think it is good that they exist and I also think it is good that not ALL games should be about SAVING THE WOOOOORLD from the BIG EEEEEEEVIL

I mean, I’m very much your typical gamer guy that really like his games to have conflict, but come on. What about a different conflict? Well, apart from a lot of genres that are not per se about conflict (like city-buildiers, I love those; sports, I dont like at all, but the popularity of those games is a fact), but really, if you are going to have an story, there are TONS of other stories apart from Chosen One Saves The World.


(And yes, some sports are conflict :P)


Why articles about the indie game scene need to stop being about saving the world by telling everyone what video games need to stop doing.

Yes, the sexism, racism and other oppressive and offensive stuff should continue to be ridiculed and weeded out, as it is in most avenues of culture, but the hero narrative? Stopped?

The indie scene is super vibrant and rich and full of ideas from every corner of the world. AFAICT no one is trying to dominate it or keep it down or filter out any ideas. It is a beautiful tale of the explosion and growth of niche interests, hyper-specific fandoms and the opening of what previously were niche and hidden ideas into the wider world.

It seems strange that an article about removing the teeth of/transcending the conflict narrative is framed as a pretty stereotypical conflict narrative of a small band of elite scrappy warriors against an oppressive, ignorant behemoth…


I saw this about Undertale this weekend - apparently the game gets very difficult quickly if you do play it as a pacifist.



Yeeeaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh (Whup Whup! Tone police!) No.

Other than that, I completely agree with the sentiment. Having gotten 50% of the way through Far Cry 4, I like that the devs show the murky side of revolutionary action and internal group politics despite being engaged in a fight against the really bad people whose actions the revolutionaries may or may not mimic from time to time.


Distilling one of your points down to “Game world decision tree=finite, budget/time/personnel constrained” and “Real world decision tree=infinite/varied/impossible to build out”, I wonder if even simplistic AI could be programmed to consider the game world and it’s given variables and characters such as to generate scenarios/outcomes/storylines on the fly.

For instance, in playing Far Cry I can go ahead and take most of the enemy installations prior to playing any of the planned missions intended to move the game along (i.e. cutscene to cutscene). Perhaps an AI would notice that I’d taken almost all of those bases, and would then have the opposing faction retake distant bases or a pattern of bases such that the player would be drawn back into a storyline, or a new storyline created entirely from scratch.

Because it’s all about you, natch.

And b/c I’m an internet jackass loudmouth pedant, the phrase you’re looking for is “sent down the path”. Sticking someone on a path does not exactly get them moving down said path.


None of those “essential” characters in Morrowind are actually essential and you can complete the game after killing every last one of them. Even if you kill Yagrum Bagarn you can still collect Sunder and Keening and finish the game if you are able to survive losing a lot of health. It’s how people can complete a speedrun of Morrowind in less than 10 minutes.

Three of the supposedly essential characters aren’t even connected with the main quest.


My favourite thing about Far Cry 4 is that you can make it to a decent (for your character, maybe not for everyone else) resolution in about 15 minutes by acting like a human being rather than a video game protagonist.


Farcry seems to be going for a whole “We are critizicing that protagonists in FPS are actually sociopaths” … not sure is seriously or just as an intelectual excuse for expending so much into making a game about somebody coming to terms with the fact they are sociopaths.


I’m certainly no expert(I’m not a programmer and even my scripts are brittle and finicky); but my suspicion would be that we do have the technology, more or less right now, to at least build ‘logistically plausible’ gameworlds; but that keeping the characters in them from being achingly wooden and generic compared to handwritten ones probably isn’t doable(except through occasional strokes of good luck and selection bias).

In RTSes, the AI tends not to magnificently emulate a human; but there are definitely AIs that can turn in a reasonably challenging performance without leaning too heavily on outright cheating or inhuman micro.

In ‘grand strategy’ games like Civ or Europa Universalis, the state of AI is roughly similar: not human level; but it can turn in a competent performance.

There are also available examples of climate/weather/biology simulations that, if not actually ‘accurate’ when small enough to run well on a home computer are at least pretty believable.

Finally, there’s a great deal of interest in building agents that perform market functions and transactions; so building an economy where merchants and traders actually wander around buying and selling in plausible ways is likely doable.

If you were to draw from these elements; along with a suitable pool of art assets, randomize-able faces, dictionaries of names and surnames and inheritance rules for one or more cultures, and so on; you could probably build an RPG world that would react ‘sensibly’ to the player’s actions: trouble is that you’d still be doing at least as much hand-crafting as you’d need for an ordinary RPG; plus implementing enough logic to power multiple games; and then likely testing it exhaustively to see if the player can force the world into any ridiculous corner cases that you need to shim; and all that for a world where almost all the characters have that certain ‘sameness’ to them that really jumps out at you when you compare the characters handbuilt for the core plot to the ones stitched together procedurally.

I am in no way denying that it’d be damn cool; and I’d probably play the hell out of it; but it also doesn’t surprise me that the leading edge of such heavily procedural games is indies who can do whatever they want(You really can’t mention Dwarf Fortress enough here) or games where multiplayer is the focus(like Minecraft) so you get the interesting characters implemented in meat and want to provide worlds at lower cost than hand-building them.

I imagine that, unless very carefully stripped down, such a game would also be really, really, demanding: RPGs, shooters, and most games where the player can walk around rarely include more than a tiny fraction of the people and space that they would actually require if they didn’t simply ignore most NPC needs. Even games that are pretty aggressive on that score(GTA V, say) are a single, largely static, city with much of its complexity elided and heavy, heavy, doses of handbuilding rather than emergence. It’s hard to think of many RPGs that do more than hint at the presence of various people and places backstage in order to explain the ones you see(if you look at the civilian population of Skyrim, say, it’s not at all clear how the place maintains so many economic non-participants under arms. Even the hold guards represent an alarmingly high mobilization rate; never mind the civil war and the bandits. And I’m not just picking on Bethesda here: Dragon Age was probably even more dramatic in spawning zillions of soldiers for cutscenes and gruesome-corps-strewn-aftermath maps; but only showing enough civilian activity to support a tiny fraction of them.)

Again, it’d be awesome and I’d play it like crazy; but any world large enough to be self-sustaining under reasonably satisfying and plausible behavioral rules would be big and full and busy to a degree that has probably never been seen in practice(though parts of it would also be utterly dull, to a degree studiously avoided in practice: if that patch of ground is rocky, semiarid, and can support only a few bands of nomadic herders; well, it’s to be expected that you can ride for a couple of days and see nothing more interesting that a few bits of wildlife).

I imagine that this is why some of the more enthusiastic use of self-generating worlds without scripted stories is in games with larger effective scales; like Civilization, where you can gloss over what would be prohibitive to display at 1-to-1 scale without disrupting the player’s expectations.


Reminiscing time with Sam
I like Halo Reach because although it is part of a major save-the-world/universe story arc it is actually all about one mini victory set against a lost battle and death of everyone involved. Your team get killed off one by one (in heroic ways of course) and at the very end after you’ve delivered the data package to a fleeing ship to aid the greater war you hang about in the wind and dust killing baddies until your now non-regenerating health bar runs out, you die and the planet is taken. A nice extra touch is that as you take your final damaging blows your peripheral vision is occupied by cracks in your visor.

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