Failing, Falling, and Feeling

Adam LaMosca

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Aug 7, 2006
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Failing, Falling, and Feeling

Mirror's Edge and Prince of Persia are both games in which you fall a lot, so why is one being called "punishing" while the other is written off as "too easy"?

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Cousin_IT

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Feb 6, 2008
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That whistling wind as you plunge to yet another death? The taunting cries of imaginary voices mocking your incompotence.
Elrika lifting you to safety? A patronizing matronly voice soothingly says in your ear "there there dear, you'll get it right this time."

Conclusion? Gamers are self-conscious & hate being reminded that their crap, even in a game they cant lose (because you never really die in any game, these ones just seem to rub that in your face a bit more by having you appear to do it so much/not at all).
 

crowTrobot

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This was a great read. It's nice to see that someone can recognize the design decisions in POP as underscoring a bigger storytelling theme.
 

m_jim

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I never felt that Mirror's Edge was all that punishing. My roommate and I beat it in two sittings, and we only got stuck twice on account of the difficulty. As Adam said, the deaths in Mirror's Edge are brutal and stick with the "no-nonsense" aesthetic of the game. It's meant to make you cringe when you blow a jump and see the pavement, hundreds of feet below, rushing to meet you as the wind screams in your ears. I haven't played the new PoP, but it sounds wildly unsatisfying to have no consequences for failure. Hell, even Mario will toss you to the Game Over screen if you screw up enough. Nice article!
 

PedroSteckecilo

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Good Read and easily points out that what happens in PoP IS FAILURE, it's just "masked". IT seems like psychology, I guess people like to "fail" and try again rather than being "saved" constantly, even if the "time spent not playing" and the punishment of the setback are identical.
 

SomeBritishDude

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I am a little worried about PoP no deaths system, but it does just seem phycological. If the prince had just falled and he's respawned on the ledge after a black screen or whatever then maybe it'd feel different.

I'll reserve my judge for when I get it for christmas.
 

coil

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Honestly, I've yet to see a solution as elegant as that of the three previous-gen Prince of Persia games: the Dagger of Time's rewind ability. It was a rewind, a "cheat" -- but it had limitations that prevented it from being abused.

1) Sand Tanks. If you were out of sand, you couldn't rewind. This let you screw up, but only so many times before you *did* actually die.
2) 10 seconds. You could rewind one mistake, maybe two, but not all the way back to your last "perfect state".
3) Special moves. You also used sand tanks for powerful combat abilities; using one to rewind meant less sand available for your next combat.

Especially interesting was the final big challenge of PoP:SoT -- climbing the Tower of Dawn *without* the dagger. It was one of my favorite segments, and I kept a save file at the start of that area just so I could re-run it when I felt nostalgic. The platforming was top-notch and the added risk of not having the dagger raised the stakes -- but hopefully by that point you seldom needed its safety net.

Perhaps the new PoP could have achieved a similar mechanic by giving Elika a limited reserve of magic... but perhaps they tried that and felt it handicapped her other elements too far. We'll likely never know. As for Mirror's Edge -- as long as you're not dealing with a frustratingly long load time or poorly-placed, too-infrequent save points (there have been many games guilty of those), it doesn't bug me. Tell me I screwed up, and let me try again.
 

unangbangkay

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Good read. It's nice to be reminded of how some things just tend to come down to personal preference, as opposed to some kind of doctrinal conflict over what makes a game (or design decisions within) good or bad ones.

I find that this kind of gut reaction that some miss is similar to people's complaining about other players cheating or using walkthroughs. Ironically, that sort of complaint is very common on the message boards of GameFAQs. In any case, one gamer's appropriate challenge can be another gamer's frustrating bullshit.
 

CoverYourHead

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People found Mirror's Edge hard? I beat it in no time, without guns, on the hardest difficulty, I beat it once on normal no guns, then again on hard or insane whatever they called it with no guns (much more fun that way) then sold it to a friend.

Haven't played PoP but from what I've heard the lack of a learning curve makes it way too easy, sounds like no fun to me.
 

Adam LaMosca

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Adam LaMosca said:
These contradictory complaints seem especially odd when you consider that the end result of failure in each game is essentially identical, from a practical standpoint. In Prince of Persia, you're forced to endure a brief animation as Elika yanks the Prince back to the nearest flat surface. In Mirror's Edge, you're stuck with a very short load screen before you begin anew at the nearest check point. There's no significant difference in the length time it takes each game to reset the player.
I wonder if someday, games will be broken down much like the Five Mother Sauces in French cooking--that everything is really a combination of a few elements, with a little addition here or there.

What you said reminds me of something that struck me about taking damage in games. Essentially, poison and radiation and magical life-force leeching spells and futuristic energy-sucking technology and even good ol' fire all have the same effect: damage over time, that you can stop with some sort of antidote.

I wonder if someday, someone will show how just about all games can be explained in terms of each other like you've done here--and done very well: I really enjoyed your article--with these two games. And how it'll focus us on the importance of, like you captured it: "gamers' gut-level reactions to what failure (or damage over time, etc) in each game means from a symbolic perspective."
 

JamminOz07

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I think that the difference between the two, for me at least, is that in POP, if you fall it's usually because you mistime a jump, or just go in the wrong direction. When you are returned to the previous platform, as long as you know where to go, it's usually not that difficult to actually make the jump on a subsequent try.

Mirrors Edge on the other hand, I find myself in situations where I die and have to redo a section, but often, even when I know exactly where I'm going, and how to get there, for some reason I just can't perform the required series of moves to clear the obstacle. I've had to turn off the game in frustration after retrying a section probably 50 times. I don't think it's really that difficult a game, for me I think the difficulty is in the 1st person perspective, and probably just getting used to this type of movement game, without being able to actually see where my character is in relation to an obstacle.
 

JamminOz07

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Rent POP dude, you'll probably complete it overnight, if you can be bothered. Gets extremely samey after a few hours.
 

goncalobms

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gamers and expectations ... All of us have experienced getting hyped over something that didn't turn out has we wished or feeling that something should have been dealt with differently.

The thing about games is the interaction factor. We seem to be far more disappointed with a game when the design choice or story choice, does not fit into what we feel is most appropriate for that particular moment, game or feature.

I find myself being far more critical about games than I am with movies or TV series (all of which were the design for entertainment, mainly). If a character in a non-interactive medium disappoints me, or fail to comply with my "gut-feeling" I'm not likely to go on the internet and discuss it ... however, if that happens in a game, it becomes something worth arguing about.

Because we are given the illusion that we can actually interfere with the story, and that the conclusion of said story depends on us, we tend to find ourselves more emotionally attached to games.

This transfers not only to "How we die in games" [nice of Cheeze_Pavilion to mention damage] but to other fields as well, like what features were excluded what levels were cut out or should not have been there to start with, etc ...

It is interaction and how we choose to deal with it that plays with the gut feeling ... Be it reward or punishment flow of combat or choice of buttons ... we interact with the game and that is why it is so hard to be fully pleased (if not impossible)
 

Azzaevil

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Jun 26, 2008
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The two game do have something in commom besides falling, both are very short games and easy, with next gen consoles i was exspecting really long games but none of the next gen games are not really long just really short :( and take the extra piss of being too easy.
At lest in Mirrors Edge you can die insted of being saved, pritty boring if you don't die in a game.
 

Robyrt

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Aug 1, 2008
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coil said:
Perhaps the new PoP could have achieved a similar mechanic by giving Elika a limited reserve of magic... but perhaps they tried that and felt it handicapped her other elements too far. We'll likely never know. As for Mirror's Edge -- as long as you're not dealing with a frustratingly long load time or poorly-placed, too-infrequent save points (there have been many games guilty of those), it doesn't bug me. Tell me I screwed up, and let me try again.
Elika actually does have a limited reserve of magic, but only in combat. If you attack with her against a magic-immune enemy, she'll even get knocked down. It's just that you don't notice it, because she recharges quite quickly, and POP combat tends to involve a bunch of QTE scenes and parries before Elika even gets involved.
 
Nov 5, 2007
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Azzaevil said:
At lest in Mirrors Edge you can die insted of being saved, pritty boring if you don't die in a game.
Why is it boring ? The way PoP handles death have nothing to do with a gameplay decision, it's only thematic. Instead of dying and being brought back to flat land by some way that breaks the suspension of disbelief and reminds you "Hey, it's a game" it handles it in a way that keeps the flow of the game making PoP a really flowing experience that rarely gets broken up.
 

Jursa

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Can't wait to grasp that PoP goodness. Mirror's edge is still just a speck in the horizon, similar feeling to that of GTA IV which was delayed to infinity for the PC.
 

Kiutu

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The thing is that most people prefer a middle ground in difficulty. I was going to get Prince of Persia, but I read up on it and though, this would be too annoyingly easy. Ofcourse, Mirror's Edge I also opted out on but that was due to hearing it was just a lame game. However, a overly difficult game is not fun either. Some may prefer more or less of a challange, but this is why games have difficulty modes. (Or sliders in case of games such as Oblivion) Really, all games should be at a difficulty that atleast most if not all gamers can beat, and if more challange is desired then have ways to give that option to players. That is how I see it anyways.
 

Azzaevil

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ShadowKirby said:
Azzaevil said:
At lest in Mirrors Edge you can die insted of being saved, pritty boring if you don't die in a game.
Why is it boring ? The way PoP handles death have nothing to do with a gameplay decision, it's only thematic. Instead of dying and being brought back to flat land by some way that breaks the suspension of disbelief and reminds you "Hey, it's a game" it handles it in a way that keeps the flow of the game making PoP a really flowing experience that rarely gets broken up.
I said getting saved is pretty boring insted dying i mean if you're stupid enought to miss jump or miss plan an attack i think pop deserves to die... but no no ***** tits saves his life if i was her i woldent bother with the prince.
but since you bring it up, yeah pop4 was pretty boring COMPEARD to the other pop games.
 

Allan Foe

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Dec 20, 2007
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Reading the comments on this article I was reminded of an old "death-evasion" mechanic that is somewhat similar to the one employed in PoP4 (in the sense that it doesn't brake the game flow) -- the Revive-o-Matic capsules of System Shock 2 and Bioshock! Some of you may even remember the comments of many PC-gamers on how this mechanic spoils the Bioshock experience.
I'm not ready to dwell on this issue seriously as it seems something from the realm of psychology (Gamer Psychology(c)), but I believe it goes well bound simple knee-jerk reactions.

Adam LaMosca said:
Failing, Falling, and Feeling

Mirror's Edge and Prince of Persia are both games in which you fall a lot, so why is one being called "punishing" while the other is written off as "too easy"?

Read Full Article
Adam, in your article you mention that "I think some gamers and critics can't see past their own emotional responses." and that makes me want to say "And why should they?"

I remember reading about how gamers felt more remorse after destroying the Companion Cube (an inanimate object) from Portal than after killing a Little Sister (a walking, talking child-like female homunculus) from Bioshock, the reaction to Cube's demise was explained by the effects of secluded environments on the human mind...
Anyway, I think that PoP's failure to invoke emotional attachment to the protagonist's companion is the game's fault alone -- if they've made the duet co-dependent, like having to protect the princess from enemies or otherwise loose her services for a set period or in-game segment (that's only an example), the game's seeming lack of deadly punishment would be mitigated to some extent.


P.S. I've just skimmed through a few reviews for both PoP4 & ME, and these reviews made me think that the level design and obstacle collision mechanic in these two games are entirely different kettles of fish.
Where ME relies on leaps-of-faith or proper distance judgment, PoP minimizes the player input handling jump distance automatically, and as this would seem the main cause of re-spawn in both games this would imply that they're incomparable in difficulty (at least for some people).