My thoughts about creativity in game design, Overwatch, and some other stuff

Discussion in 'Games Talk' started by takabuschik, Jul 8, 2016.

  1. takabuschik

    aa takabuschik

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    :cordonenable: Warning: this is long. :cordonenable:

    I want to start by talking about overwatch. I'll get to creativity in a few paragraphs, but both subjects are interconnected, which is why I wrote them together in one post. A few hours went into writing this down, but I did it anyways because I believe I have some interesting stuff to say, hopefully it would be interesting to you as well!
    Bear in mind this is my personal opinion from this point on, so feel free to disagree with all I'm saying.
    [​IMG]

    So I recently got to play Overwatch. I just had to find out what all the fuss was about.

    On the surface, Overwatch is a great game, and can be great fun to play. I actually kinda liked it.
    kinda.
    Let's start with the good. The artstyle of overwatch is very pretty. The game is also well balanced, and the maps aren't too bad either. The game enforces all players to cooperate, with such brilliance, that it leaves all fps games I've seen in the dust. Teamplay and support classes have never been done that nicely, at least as far as I've seen. The guys at Blizzard didn't just copy-paste tf2, there was clearly some thought put into it. Copy-paste-special, if you may:chord::chord::chord:.

    (here comes the butt... and it's a big butt)

    But, despite it's improved, teamplay-oriented features, despite it's technological superiority of at least 9 years over it's main competitor tf2, and despite it's clever mimic of so many features from other fps games, mainly tf2, it clearly is no more than a storm in a tea-cup. A great game, that seems to have all the things a good game needs, but only on the surface.

    Let's dive down. We'll start from OW's gameplay- the place where OW is supposed to shine. And it shines indeed. One of the things I liked was the "ultimate" thing. It is, in some way, the Overwatch equivalent of random crits- a way to achieve superiority over other players, and a way to mix things up, even tip a fight for the benefit of the weaker player or the weaker team. The "ultimate" abilities, much like random crits, help less skilled players win over more skilled players, in a fair manner, and gives you that "power at your fingertips" feeling, just like random crits.
    But that's the surface again! I promised we would dive deep! let's go down again. An fps game is based around a simple principle: skill+guts=reward

    skill- being good at a certain task in the game (aim, positioning, surprise, flanking, etc)
    guts- basically, taking risks
    reward- winning, killing an enemy, securing an objective etc.
    [​IMG]
    And here's where we reach the heart of Overwatch, only to find out there isn't any. Overwatch fails to provide the same levels of skill and guts that tf2, for example, succeeds in.

    First- skill. Overwatch clearly requires plenty of skills, and I have no doubt that it's hard to master. However, in the dev's quest for ultimate balance, they removed one of the things that can make an fps game, such as tf2, great. I'll call those things "optional skills". These are the unique things to master, that aren't simply aiming better, positioning better, etc. The best example is explosive-jumping- something insanely complicated, and totaly unessential for playing the game. Soldiers don't have to be rocket-jumping, it isn't part of the core game features. But in certain situations, it can be beneficial.
    [​IMG]
    Trimping, sentry/dispenser jumping, uber-chaining, taunt-killing, and many other abilities, can be considered as "optional skills". Overwatch doesn't really have these. The OW demoman has a built-in, extremely simple sticky jump, and the OW soldier has the most lame "rocket jump" I've ever seen and will ever see. There are no "optional skills" in OW as far as I'm aware. Overwatch doesn't have the engine flexibility tf2 has, that enables players to do foolishly-epic things, things so idiotic and so complex that they might actually work, things that require great skill (and plenty of guts), and in turn, might provide you with great reward. In a sense, mastering a certain class in OW is much easier than in tf2, because it has nothing other than it's basic core mechanics.
    [​IMG]
    Next- guts. This one requires some knowledge I don't possess- an OW dev commentary. If there is one, I'd love to hear it. But I'll be basing my claims off of tf2's dev commentary. Tf2 doesn't have smgs and assault rifles for a good reason, and it has been clearly stated. players shooting each other from a great distance behind cover, just isn't interesting or fun. It misses the "guts" part of the system. IRL it's the best way to win a fight, because it's less dangerous, less dangerous = less exiting = less "guts" factor involved. But in videogames, it's the other way around. That's why tf2 is flooded with shotguns and has such an intense damage falloff- the closer you need to get to the enemy, the more danger there is, but the reward would be greater. Again- skill+guts=reward. shotguns are more about taking the risk, flanking, shooting at the right time, dodging the enemy and so on- great risk taken, great skill required. The entire spy class is all about that "guts" factor, taking huge risks that might lead, if you have the skills, to great success. OW has small damage fall-off and plenty of rifles and smgs. It just doesn't enforce close-quarter combat as much as tf2.
    OW's melee is even more lame than the OW's soldier's fart-jump. In tf2, restricting yourself to using the close-range melee weapon during a fight is a great risk taken- you'll have to get really close to hit the enemy, which is using a standard long range dangerous weapon. So for that risk, you deserve a high crit rate- killing most enemies in one hit, or if not, then at least a nice 65 unit damage. Taunt-kills are an even more clear example- huge risk taken, instant kill guarantied upon success. From my playing experience, OW is missing risk. The only risks are from map-related design such as chokepoints or objectives, and that's the only time you can feel the heart pounding- when you are pushing through a choke, or capping an objective on overtime. The fighting feels like it's just about aim, and knowing when to run and when to attack. That's nice, but it's missing a fundamental part of the game.

    My bottom line is that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Overwatch's devs took no real risks. They made yet another class first person shooter, another tf2 clone (not that I have a problem with that, but let's admit this isn't really creative and risky). Their reward- the game they made, seems to lack the same aspects they lacked during their development, and in return, my satisfaction from the game, as a player, isn't as good as it could've been.


    So Overwatch is an example for a safe bet, no risks taken, in the field of creativity. Creativity. We as content creators here at tf2maps, claim to embrace and praise creativity. But we don't. Wait, taka, I hear you say. What are you talking about? Of course we want creativity! Well let me explain what I mean. but before I explain, I'd have to ask you not to take what I'm about to say the wrong way.
    I'm not cynical at all, and all I'm saying should not be taken as preach or as anger. I'm writing this because I think it's lead to some interesting thoughts that I want to share with you. Nothing here is personal. Don't take it as such please!
    With that out of the way, let's go back in time, to the 1st of april.
    [​IMG]
    Alright. April fools! The best time to get creative here in our little mapping community. I take my hammer and my logic-setup capabilities, in attempt to build the ultimate creative map- pls_payloadspam!
    pls_payloadspam has done something that's never been done before: it introduced a totally custom gamemode, something that was truly never seen before, not even similar to anything. It's logic system is so complex it took me a few weeks to make. It's not based off pl. not off cp, ctf, rd, or any gamemod, for that matter. It is an actual entirely 100% CUSTOM gamemode. That's my masterpiece, a work of art, based off of nothing but raw entities, a true challenge. The ultimate creativity, I suppose? (btw decompiling a map is still strictly forbidden w/o premission)

    Then came the gameday, and my map was found to be very bad gameplay-wise, which was quite expected, considering it was never tested before. But, every time the map turned up on the gameplay, it was met with such waves of hate, rtv's, and negative "feedback" I was really surprised. Usually this community's feedback is constructive and useful, but this time it was something along the lines of "your map is aweful, you should take all it's files and delete them because you built a terrible unfixable map". Wait, what?

    At first I tried to 'milk out' some useful feedback from those people, and after I failed, I sat down and tried to understand what caused that unexpected response. Were they afraid of something? Was it furstration? Did they just feel confused because my map was "too confusing for new players?" Yet none of those theories made sense.
    Then I thought of a somewhat wierd, yet reasonable idea: maybe my map was too creative? Players aren't looking for creative maps, prehabs? maybe they are looking for something more casual, like a stock gamemode spin-off, or a humble lazer saw-infested map? At the end of the day, I was wrong all along, misunderstanding the true will of players? So I researched about the subject, and found this: (skip to around 1:05)


    This was clearly an interesting poit of view, wasn't it? Why work so hard inventing and debugging complex game logic, when you can just make another koth map like everyone knows and loves? The skill and the guts required for making a new gamemode are simply not worth the 'reward', I'd say.
    [​IMG]
    But it wasn't until 'The Getaway' was released, when I truly understood the whole idea behind creativity or lack thereof, in prespective of guts and skill.
    For those of you who don't know, 'The Getaway' is the Red Hot Chilli Peppers' 11th album, released about a month ago. The Red Hot Chilli Peppers are one of my favorite bands of all time. All you need to know, however, for our skill+guts=reward discussion, is that they're skilled, (to say the least) and they also got the guts, for that matter.

    When I first heard their 1st single for 'The Getaway', called 'Dark nesseccities' (above), I thought to myself: "that was some great music!" And then I thought: "But it is simply more of the same! it has nothing new to it." But then, a third thought struck me:"I don't care! It's fantastic even if it's not a true innovative masterpiece! it's not about creativity or lack thereof, it's about enjoying great freaking music!".

    I could stop here, reaching a catharsis of sorts, by claiming that creativity might seem like the true thing to do, but being uncreative isn't bad either. However, being uncreative is more profitable in terms of playtime, target audience, and prehabs even finance, as Overwatch's devs proved to us a few paragraphs above.


    But there's still a bit left. A few days ago I bought the album 'The Getaway', and I think it helped me reach a new and improved conclusion/catharsis. 'The Getaway' is not more of the same. It has innovation, it has creativity. It's not ground-breaking, but it's not 'Stadium Arcadium' all over again ('Stadium Arcadium' is the Pepper's 9th album, and while it had some great songs, in my opinion it wasn't innovative, to say the least...). Prehabs there's a middle-groud for all of this- a certain point where you're not being as creative and ground-breaking as you could have been. Instead, you are managing to keep your target audience in their comfortable "more of the same" zone, while still inventing something new. That's where us content creators should be- somewhere between Overwatch and pls_payloadspam, probably right around 'The Getaway'.

    thanks for reading, hope I left you some interesting things to think about, and drive safely.
     
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  2. nightwatch

    aa nightwatch

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    While this deviates somewhat from your topic, I think it's worth mentioning that another key difference between TF2 and Overwatch is agency. The most hated class is probably the pyro, because it can take away your agency by airblasting. Overwatch has not 1, but many characters that have freezing mechanics. Against a competent player, if you fall victim to a freeze of any kind, then you've died. You lose agency at the moment Zarya uses her ultimate, but you don't die until hanzo headshots you. This adds a significant amount of game time where you're alive, but with no agency, 90% of the time about to die. This is distressing in a first person shooter because of the higher degree of immersion the player experiences.
     
  3. sooshey

    aa sooshey :3c

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    I'm mainly gonna comment on both of these paragraphs, here. I see where you're coming from, about how Overwatch doesn't have the same high-risk-high-reward gameplay as TF2, but I'm kinda glad it doesn't. When the game was first announced and I didn't know much other than some of the characters, I was worried it was going to be a TF2 clone. But it's different enough in its own way that it doesn't need to follow TF2's gameplay style. For example I notice lots of the maps have disgusting chokes that would never work in TF2, but they work in Overwatch because of the amount of armor/healing/shields you can apply to survive the spam. The wider selection of heroes gives you more options for making it past an enemy barricade other than "go demoman to destroy the sentry nest". Not only that, but combined with only 6 players per team makes every match feel unique; it's less likely you'll see the same makeup every time whereas in TF2 you're guaranteed to see the same classes for the same situations. So I personally don't agree that it's a TF2 clone because the hero mechanics and maps feel more varied and versatile.
     
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  4. Freyja

    aa Freyja ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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    I feel a lot of the points you make are mere personal opinion over anything else. That doesn't make them invalid but they're presented in such a way that they're not opinion.

    Wheereas from my point of view, I honestly got bored of TF2 years ago. Mapping is the only thing that keeps me here, and I feel that's a lot of that is simply because TF2's design is very stale. What you state about what you dislike about overwatch is exactly what I'm so enjoying currently, there's a vastly larger number of interactions from different distances, with classes that strongly counter each other and encourages more of an actual team play rather than what to me has become very predicable interactions in TF2.

    I understand that's entirely personal opinion, but I'd like to point out none of it is design flaws in overwatch, rather simply it not catering to what you want from a game. Overwatch is not TF2.
     
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  5. Yrr

    aa Yrr An Actual Deer

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    its two games pitched at different audiences, one skill-deep and one skill-wide

    i like both in different ways and some people prefer one over the other
     
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  6. Hyperion

    aa Hyperion L16: Grid Member

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    Kinda off topic, but can I get link to that map? (Or was it fictional)
     
  7. Yrr

    aa Yrr An Actual Deer

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    it exists and it was a cool idea but there was a lot wrong with it (like you could lock your team in spawn, and the map was fullbright for some people) (and you had to watch an explanation of how the gamemode worked before playing because it was poorly communicated)
     
  8. takabuschik

    aa takabuschik

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    These are actually interesting ways to see it. I'd love to hear OW's dev commentary if there is one, on what impacted their decisions, because that stuff is always interesting and can be helpful to better understand this.

    @Hyperion DL for my map is on the April fools gameday page, I believe.
     
  9. Uncuepa

    aa Uncuepa

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    Besides the fact that the two games are VERY different from VERY different audiences and styles of gameplay, let me break down a few of your key points.

    Not at all. You have NO control over random crits. None. An ultimate is simply an ability on a long cooldown. Like uber or kritz they require timing, communication and in some cases a degree of skill to make true use of, something random crits has none of. A long ability that every person in the game has access to, to change a fight to better win an objective doesnt lessen a games gameplay, and actually brings an interesting counter-meta to every match.

    From a less skilled player i could understand this. On the surface, no. But if you spent a bit of time watching high level play you'd know of genji launching, horizontal pharah propulsion, and the VERY hard to master of chain lucio wallriding.

    This just comes down to your opinion on cqc in fps's but saying TF2 has no long range fights and OW has lots is like saying Coke has lots of sugar and Pepsi has none. Reinhardt is melee, besides his fireball. Tide Turner Demo is melee, unless they have a gl equipped. Mei is short range with a projectile alt. Pyro is close range and if using a flaregun, has a projectile secondary. And then there are snipers. Having dedicated melees doesnt make a game less deep, in fact combos using melee like roadhogs hook,shoot,melee or genjis shoot,dash,melee add a lot of skill/depth to the games mastery of heroes.

    What it seems to me is that you learned the basics and have just looked for reasons to dislike the game. And its fine for you to dislike the game, just say its not your style of game, dont try and spread opinions as gospel.
     
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  10. YM

    aa YM LVL100 YM

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    Let's not also forget you're comparing a nine year old game to a two month old game.
    Overwatch, at launch, has far more depth than TF2 had at launch. TF2's base classes at launch are all far more similar than Overwatch's characters. Every TF2 character has some variation on 'gun' some have two and some even share their guns. Overwatch has melee focused heroes, short range AOE/Beam heroes who don't have anything like a traditional gun.

    Overwatch also has more hero cross plays than TF2. TF2 is filled with hard counters, like the spy hard counters engies, snipers hard counter heavies. Overwatch has hero cross plays instead. Zenyatta's ult? fucking useless without a team to bunch up and swarm the objective. Mercy's? Useless. Zarya's? Not useless but combine it with another hero's ult like Hanzo's, Reaper's or D'Va's and HOOO BOY it's effective. And I'd like to point out that each of those ults is relatively easy to get away from if they're used in isolation. D'Va's is gives you a laughable amount of time to react, Hanzo's requires a sidestep or two, but with Zarya's holding you in place, you've been out played. (unless your team has a lucio/zenyatta/mercy with their ult waiting to save you)
    All TF2 really has in terms of cross-class play is medic + other class.

    Then there's the ways to play.
    When TF2 launched it had 6 maps and one overall style. Overwatch already has 12 maps, it already has quick, competitive, vs AI and a weekly brawl styles of play

    Overwatch lacking risk?
    Are we even playing the same game here?
    Overwatch is filled with characters who exclusively work at short range. Overwatch is all about risks.
    • Reaper - Can't kill shit at a distance, has to get up close
    • Winston - No weapon range at all, has to put his huge hitbox riiiiight up into your face to deal any damage
    • Symmetra - Has turrets, but they're super weak. Her beam weapon can be punishing but it's a short range and builds damage, so to kill an enemy you have to stay super close to them which puts you at most risk
    • Mei - Has her extremely slow firing icicle but mostly depends on getting up close to enemies to freeze them
    • Zarya - Her entire design is based around juggling absorbing and dealing damage. If you're not putting yourself in the line of fire to get shot at, you're gunna deal no damage
    Finally many of your optional abilities took years to arrive on the scene. Basically anything that involves a weapon unlock.
    • Uberchaining was the first, becoming possible in 2008, a full 6 months after launch
    • The first taunt kill was also added in 2008
    • Trimping only became possible in 2009, over 2 years from launch
    • Sentry jumping as in jumping onto the sentry to a low roof was in at launch, but using the sentry's rockets to boost your jump to crazy places was only mid 2010, nearly 3 full years after launch. This was also when the final class got their taunt kill.
    • Market Gardening arrived on the scene later still nearly 4 years after launch in 2011

    So to summerise, everything you're basing this on:
    Is laughably flawed
    (especially once you consider that Overwatch was born out of Titan, which was taking risks and ultimately failed because of it. Blizzard followed the part of it that was fun)
     
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  11. takabuschik

    aa takabuschik

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    ^ as I said, this IS opinoins. It's how I personally feel, from my experience. This is what I saw in the game so far, and as far as I played, I can say that I believe it. OW isn't bad, it's just lacking (IMO, again) some core things an fps needs.
    Actually I'm surprised by the amount of defence you guys provide OW, but you didn't make a sound when I criticized our own community...
     
  12. Uncuepa

    aa Uncuepa

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    Because your criticism was "i made a bad map and thought it over too much". I applaud creativity but theres a different between depth and complication. Your criticism of overwatch is mostly misguided and comes off misinformed and your criticism of the community is also made from ones nature to defend their maps. I've been there. Made bad maps (koth_crop) and didnt understand why it didnt work at first. I instead moved on, pushed myself to improve and then later reviewed my own map again. Realised its shortcomings. Don't dwell on your maps crash and burn. Push yourself to be more analytical and thorough.
     
  13. YM

    aa YM LVL100 YM

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    I have a few rebuttals to this:
    • Your wording betrays your opinions. The wording of your Overwatch analysis all reads as presented facts. e.g. "Overwatch doesn't have the engine flexibility tf2 has" is a statement of fact, not a statement of opinion.
    • Opinions can be wrong. e.g. "I don't like apples" You might, but I can't tell you that's wrong. "I think apples look like bananas" is totally something you might believe, but you'd be wrong. Apples do not look like bananas.
    • When you criticised Overwatch, with the exception of a few lines that actually were your feelings, you were often stating falsehoods. When you criticised this community for not wanting creativity, you hit the fucking nail on the head. So there's nothing to rebuke.

    TF2 maps have to cater to TF2's audience, who already have an idea of what they want from any given TF2 map.
    RHCP have to sell their music, so they have to cater to the RHCP audience.
    Blizzard have to sell their game, so they have to cater to the audience they want to build. They need to cater to the audience that likes existing class based shooters, they need to cater to their existing fanbase who like their classic Blizzard polish and art etc.

    So armed with this, what do you do? You build what your audience wants, and you give it a nudge in the direction you want it to take. Taking something new too far and the audience gets lost. Too samey and they get bored. You have to aim for that sweetspot between the familiar and the new.

    Things like Overwatch hit that sweet spot perfectly. It's the fantastic mix of familiar and new.

    If you haven't seen it, the video essay Everything Is a Remix is absolutely brilliant for explaining how everything is a remix

    http://everythingisaremix.info/watch-the-series/

    To distil it down to the most important elements:
    [​IMG]
    Literally every element in Overwatch is copied from something that already exists, every element that's been copied though has been transformed or combined with an element from something else. Nothing is new, and yet, everything is new.
     
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  14. Another Bad Pun

    Server Staff Another Bad Pun bap

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    I would say that Overwatch is heavily inspired by Team Fortress 2 and can definitely draw comparisons, but the time gap between releases makes it extremely difficult to argue differences in quality. At least, in context. Overwatch isn't a blatant Team Fortress rip-off either, which makes it even more challenging. Different aspects of OW are inspired by countless other PC games and innovations. (Although the OW team did call Valve "geniuses" when asked about the comparisons.)

    If there really is a better or worse game between the two, it will probably be determined by longevity. Will TF2 continue to live another 9 years? Will OW somehow go the way of Titanfall? (No. Blizzard made it.)
    I could spend more time analyzing both games, but it would take way too long and turn into a PC Gamer article. I'm probably writing a PC Gamer article right now.
    I also haven't played Overwatch. (I watched some vids)
     
  15. MegapiemanPHD

    aa MegapiemanPHD Doctorate in Deliciousness

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    It's not about creativity it's about making something that is good. There are tons of games out there that are highly creative but many of them end up falling flat of what most players would consider a good game. It's the same with maps. It's mostly about figuring out what people consider to be good and incorporating your own ideas into it.

    An example for this would maybe be something like Watergate and Player Destruction. Players enjoy the combat in TF2 and like to kill other players, sometimes to the expense of their team (such as maps like hightower where the objective is ignored in favor of death match). Watergate and Player destruction was a creative solution where players could experience the combat they enjoyed without having to worry about it costing the round for their team. They got a good alternative where there had previously been none.

    Something that is good is highly subjective and there is no way to appease everyone. If you are specifically looking for success in one area, you have to look at what the people in that area like so you know which direction to take your ideas.

    That's not to say that creativity is bad since it's not. If you're making something for yourself then feel free to be as creative as you want. Just be prepared for the fact that other people may not like what you've made.
     
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  16. TyeZenneth

    TyeZenneth L6: Sharp Member

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    A big thing everyone's overlooking here is that payloadspam is just not a very good map. I'm sorry, but it's not.
    It's buggy, it's incredibly confusing, and the premise for it could easily be done in better ways (robots, for instance). It is, for all intents and purposes, a joke map trying to be a serious map, and it kind of fails to be either. It's not funny, and it's not fun, so we're just left with spam.
    That doesn't have anything to do with TF2 players not liking creativity.