Saturday, November 04, 2006

Content is King

Outdated, go here.

Recently, my posts have said "the rule set is the only thing that matters".

It's really a misleading statement, of course. It's kind of like saying "phsyics is the only thing that matters". Sure, everything relies on physics, but things like food and air and Wii are the things that everyone cares about. The fact that physics makes these possible is a pretty remote connection to most people.

Games are the same way. The pretty graphics, the hopefully-interesting storyline, the cool weapons, the level design, the actual play of the game... it's what players live and breathe. But all of that stuff either arises from or is brought to light by the rule set of your game.

You have a villain named Murmur. She's a kickass design with some great lines and some fun superpowers. Plus, she looks really hot in what little she's wearing.

Of course, if you've designed her without thinking about the game rules, much of your design is wasted. For example, if the game is a real-time-strategy, she's going to be about thirty pixels tall and her delicate outfit won't have any more punch than a generic bikini. On the other hand, hair that is bright pink is fine in such a scale because it sets her apart, but if she were portrayed larger, it would just be loud and ugly. (Why the heck does a villain named "Murmur" have pink hair?)

Her fun superpowers must be adapted depending on whether it's an RPG or an FPS, and that's going to be an ugly process. Even her lines will be portrayed differently depending on the game - a game with no facial animations or really tiny faces (like, say, Deus Ex) will leave every line flat, totally changing the way you have to write. Is it recorded over audio or simple text? That also changes the way you write.

The parts of Murmur and all the other things that impact the player rely on the rule set. The overall rules of the entire game, not just the tiny piece you associate with gameplay. With a different rule set, the same character has a dramatically different feel. The same event is a totally different experience. Even the same art gives an entirely different impression.

Content is king, sure. Without content, nobody cares to play. But what content gets crowned is up to the rule set.


Mory said...

I'd flip that around and say that what rule set is used depends on what type of content you're trying to create. If I've got a fun little character with superpowers I'd like to showcase, I'll make her a sculpture, with a rule set that allows you to walk around the sculpture and view her from all angles. That is the format which best fits the content. I wouldn't change the content to fit a specific format. But I'm not entirely sure what you're trying to prove.

Mory said...

By the way, I think it's pretty remarkable that you've gone in three days from saying that all content but the rule set itself is "meaningless fluff" to saying that "content is king". Just an observation. With this sort of progress, maybe in three more days you'll have figured out that the rule set is just one factor out of many, and only sometimes more important than others.

Craig Perko said...

No, you can't design rules around content, because you end up with shallow rules.

No, my opinion didn't change, because this is what I've been thinking for years.

How presumptuous.

Patrick said...

To affirm Craig's point, play this game. Its content is amazing, but its rules are shallow, so even though its a work of art, fo sho, its appeal as a game only lasts for about twenty minutes and then you've gotten the point and you're ready to move on. That game is art driven, rather than design driven, art driven works when you're at a small scale, but even casual games are differentiated by their rules sets and THEN by their content. Take Zuma, ripping off some Japanese guys who made PuzzLoop, so they had a really solid foundation of rules which they crowed with a cohesive aesthetic and some great but brief voice acting (ZUMA!). Then you get Luxor and Sky Patrol and the rest of 'em, trying to differentiate themselves on content when they're just ripping off the basis of that content with minor variations.

Thats the difference between a great game company and an average knock-off company. Lots of people can get money, recruit people, and manage the production of content, but folks like Craig who can design novel and DEEP rule-sets are essential to the creation of truly compelling IP.

Rules and Fiction is like Men and Women.