Thursday, 26 March 2009

Persistent Timescale

I'm going to explore a concept I will call Persistent Timescale. This is not for any particular game design but more just a design concept in general. I'm really just looking to bounce ideas of people, get a bit of a discussion going and see what people think about this topic.

I was watching some videos of a play-through of Resident Evil 2 and began thinking of the idea of time scale in games, that is to say whether or not the game events occur entirely in real-time or whether they include cuts ahead (or even back). Here are some FPS examples: you can play through Half-Life from start to finish and will never miss a thing that Gordon Freeman personally witnessed. You are present in every single moment of his life (save for a few instances where he loses consciousness for a while). Compare this to a Call of Duty game in which, between levels, the player is taken out of their character's shoes and returned in a new situation, probably on a different day, in a different place. This is the difference between a game with Persistent Timescale (HL) and one without (COD).

My main interest here is how it can affect the player's perception of the game world. As I watched the events unfold in Resident Evil 2 I felt as if I was observing someone in real time on CCTV, following their every move in a constant, real situation. Of course, this might have been a fairly different response if I had actually been playing the game but I think the idea still remains.

I think the whole issue relates to the player's concept of space and location as they are able to see the transitions between different places, rather than just jumping to somewhere else. I often find that when that new level loads on Call of Duty I have to spend a moment getting my bearings before I can press on. Is that one moment crucial for the extent to which the player remains immersed in the game world?

Not only this, but I think Persistent Timescale allows the player to experience a greater sense of achievement as they progress through the game. Every yard they advance is directly linked to the next, allowing them to constantly be touching new ground and making progress. When I look back over the journey I have taken in Half-Life I can remember that I have walked 10km (for example) and I can see exactly where it has got me and what I faced along the way. In Call of Duty, well, I walked about 2km and then there was that bit where apparently I was in a helicopter for a while, but I didn't see any of that. Then I walked a bit more, and then I was controlling someone else in Russia!

I find it very jarring and for a short while it really takes me out of the game. Thankfully it is only a short while, but I wonder how damaging it can sometimes be for the player's experience. How do you feel?

I am also posting this on forums.

No comments: