Do Simple and Complex Games Coexist?

Discussion in 'General Gaming Discussion' started by Ryukouki, Mar 24, 2014.

  1. Ryukouki
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    Ryukouki See you later, guys.

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    It has been quite a while since I wrote something for you guys. I found my lucky burst of inspiration today for the first time in what feels like forever though. Interestingly enough, today I'll be using an older article I wrote a few months back as a jumping point to discuss the issue at hand today: could a game exist that has both simple and complex gameplay? ​
    Let's be frank. Games themselves are works of art, no matter what people say. It takes some time and dedication to find out ways to create innovations that get people to enjoy something. Sadly, I feel that games nowadays are not as great as they used to be, purely because they just don't have the proper mix of complexity and simplicity, but that is a whole different topic on its own. I'll open up with some examples on this.​
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    The easiest example to consider is Pokémon. Love it or hate it, the franchise is a great example of how a game can be both simple yet amazingly complex. But what defines complexity? What do we consider simple? To you and me, we could have vastly different definitions of the word. I like to think of simplicity as being a system that greater than 95% of the population could handle and enjoy, and then complexity as a concept that can get the majority of people to think outside of the box to work with. Anyway, back to Pokémon. I mentioned earlier that I would be taking an older article I wrote a few months back as a way to talk about this, and indeed I will here. ​
    Pokémon is a simple game. The plot is easy to comprehend, as most of the titles are aimed to children, teaching about issues at a very broad level, oftentimes jading out most older gamers with its simplicity and rather naïve approach to the story. Some critics even considered the recent Pokémon X and Y story lines weak enough for a five year old to have concocted. The game play mechanics are often simple, with the player operating as a trainer seeking to become a "Pokémon Master" and collecting. At the root, the game involves collecting creatures and getting these creatures strong enough to achieve success in battle, yes? You also are moving on a grid (multi-directional in the newest titles), going to predetermined destinations. However, the gameplay is extremely complex as well, or, rather, it could be so depending on how you look at it. Go to a community like Smogon University, which specializes in the analytics of team making and how each creature could possibly synergize with one another. In essence, you have an infinite number of combinations that could be used. Oftentimes, with the Pokémon tournaments that occur, the winners are those that concocted the most novel strategy based on the limitations of the game environment. You can read my analysis on the franchise here. Going by my previous definitions of simplicity and complexity, Pokémon falls into each as adults and children alike play the game, but it is complex enough for people to truly think outside of the box and achieve success.​
    Let's look at a simpler example. How about chess? With chess, you get a set of units that operate in the limitations of the rules of chess. You get some units that can only go forward one pace on the board, some that can traverse the board in a specific direction, others having a more free movement, but in the end you can only move once per turn. This offers unlimited possibilities for strategy and a large set of situations that each piece could be faced with. ​
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    How would you react in a scenario such as this?
    I could go into another example, like Super Smash Bros. You can move in a few directions, you can attack. Yet, at the same time, each character has specific sets and weaknesses that need to be accounted for in each match, and each character should be able to anticipate situations in the environment depending on the terrain the battle is taking place on. The rule of simplicity and complexity for Super Smash Bros. could also be applied to the entire fighting genre. Everyone can button mash a controller. You can do it, I could do it. It does take a certain amount of skill to be able to generate a specific set of commands to execute a particular set of skills though. ​
    What about characterization of characters in video games and the media though? Can something be portrayed simply? With complexity? Maybe even both?​
    Simple characters exist on their own. Pokémon won't win any points in this battle today as the character's complexity is simply a projection of the experiences the player subjects the character to. The player could fill in the experiences of the character. Look at Link in The Legend of Zelda franchise. Link is named Link to serve as the "link" (pun intended) between the player's experience and a projection of how Link does things in Hyrule. Mario serves to save the princess. These types of characters do not really get fleshed out. They also exist in the form of NPC characters, that often enjoy a degree of stagnance, often not changing their lines, or rarely deviating in the case of certain scenarios to feel more organic and alive. ​
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    Do complex characters exist? Certainly. Look at Game of Thrones, almost all of the characters have a degree of complexity to them, operating in their world due to a series of adverse circumstances. Unfortunately the lines for simplicity and complexity together become blurred, and start to base themselves on how each person individually thinks. For instance, I could see Frozen's Elsa as a character who presents herself as a simple deuteragonist character, the colder elder sibling, but later evolves into a very complex character who comes off to the viewer as a troubled woman trying to find her way. I like characters and characteristics that share simple elements yet at the same time require that thought out of the box to be able to understand them. IN video gaming, we could consider Ryu Hayabusa of Ninja Gaiden as both simple and complex (of course, this is based on what I have experienced playing the character thus far). He's a killing machine that is given a bit more humanism in the failed Ninja Gaiden 3 game, often making the player feel a bit of remorse in his killings (to me that shouldn't exist in the franchise, but even so!).​
    At the end of the day, though, do we favor simplicity and complexity in gameplay/characterization as coexisting? It depends on your definition of the two terms. People can say that complexity creates a less accessible environment, but at the same time you need just the right amount of complexity to give a game or character that necessary depth. Again, that gray line that I love playing with needs to be drawn. When is it too much or too little? Do you like complex games that will utterly bamboozle you? Do you like games to be a simple experience that doesn't require a lot of thinking? Let me know your thoughts.​
     
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  2. Black-Ice

    Black-Ice Founder of the Church of Renamon

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    Pokemon is 2deep4allU come at me :gun:

    Chess is a gentlemans sport and i'll wreck you all, mad elo up in here :gun:

    Team Ninja fucked up with Ninja Gaiden after II, II was amazing then boom. :gun:



    Generally Complex vs Simple doesnt phase me. I'm hooked by really good storylines or interesting gameplay, or both.
     
  3. FAST6191

    FAST6191 Techromancer

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    Glib remark -- "easy to learn, hard to master" is an aspiration for nearly all game designs. Easy to learn and easy to play exists, indeed certain games aimed at breaking people into a concept are this and Pokemon has been considered as "introduction to RPG" before. Hard to learn and hard to play do also exist though I find that skews far more towards actual training/simulation, though even there a good tutorial will not necessarily be a "throw you in at the deep end" affair.

    I sense this might turn into another "I love pokemon and as such I deserve respect" type thread though. Flame on though.

    By simple analysis of the sorts of things in game theory or computation of games then yeah pokemon is complex, however every game pretty much is then (turn one frame or the next, entirely different strategies in a racing game as far as game theory is concerned). Previously I have argued the complexity of pokemon reduces down enough that it negates most of the first blush complexity though. I will say that again here, previously that was mostly done in service of supporting my viewpoints that generating pokemon means functionally nothing as far as being far goes. However I will dust off terms like "viable strategies" for this one -- level 100 mons all best stats and the like, I am not going to use splash now am I.
     
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  4. TheCruel

    TheCruel Developer

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    Please... the plot of Pokemon Y has shaped the very fabric of my being and has made me a better person overall. I will forever be indebted to what it has taught me.
     
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  5. Foxi4

    Foxi4 On the hunt...

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    Neither Pokemon nor Super Smash Bros. are complex games - they're only as complex as the fan base perceives them. Fire beats grass, water beats fire, grass beats water - bam, Pokemon. Sure, you have additional stats on top of that, but nothing beyond what any game based on a stats system would offer. The only portion of the game that's arguably complex is the IV and EV system, which isn't really so much complex as it is stupid and completely unnecessary. As for Smash Bros., it's a brawler like any other. Different movesets for different characters does not elevate the game above other fighters or brawlers - unique moves are something to be expected from this kind of a game. Anyone arguing that Pokemon is based on a complex system clearly never played any form of D&D, anyone who argues Smash Bros. is a serious fighting game never played Tekken. That's besides the point though, as FAST nails it, as per usual.

    The whole point of video game design is to create systems that are straight-forward, easily understood and easily implemented, but at the same time relatively broad to allow multiple approaches, both from the designer's and the player's point of view. A game system doesn't necessarily have to be complex to be all-encompassing and wholesome, and the other way around, a simple system may be "too simple", making the player feel like a complete moron, nullifying the sense of achievement when utilizing it correctly - everything depends on the game in question.

    On one hand, we have games like Jetpack Joyride or Flappy Bird which are incredibly popular because the whole gameplay is controlled by just one button or tap (with a degree of gameplay customization in Jetpack Joyride), on the other we have huge, complex RPG's which take into account dozens of variables, all of which are relevant at every step of the gameplay... and those games co-exist just fine.

    You're not in the mood for a cinnamon bun whenever you enter a bakery, even if you love cinnamon buns. Every now and then, you're going to feel like buying a doughnut instead, and that's perfectly fine. Not only that, it's almost a given that you'll meet people out there that actually hate cinnamon buns - you'll never understand why, but you know they're out there, chomping down on a doughnut as we speak.

    Games come in various shapes and sizes and they're all relevant on the market, really. Simple or complex, the game has one primary purpose and that purpose is to entertain. If a game does that, it can compete both with Skyrim and with Angry Birds, because at the end of the day it doesn't matter if a game is simple or complex, what matters is whether it's fun or not - the rest is a matter of tastes.
    You mean pre-school level morality and pseudo-science?
     
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  6. Gahars

    Gahars Bakayaro Banzai

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    Do people really like one or the other? People aren't going to find satisfaction in the simplest of tasks and most complicated games aren't suited for quick, light play sessions. It's all in a continuum; sometimes you want something light, sometimes you want something weightier, and a lot of the times you'll be happy for something in between.

    That goes for anything, really - from movies to books to food.

    Some people may prefer one over the other in general, but I don't think there's much of a contention. This is an industry where both Angry Birds and Dota can thrive, after all.
     
  7. Tom Bombadildo

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    I forgot
    Bullshit. Bull. Shit. Everybody loves cinnamon buns :angry: GTFO if you don't:angry:


    As for the thread, Foxi pretty much hit on just about everything I was going to mention in a more fleshed out way, so what he said.

    Also Foxi fix your formatting on the quote and everything below, I can't read it :angry:
     
  8. Foxi4

    Foxi4 On the hunt...

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    Wat? You mean my signature? That's the default colour for quotes in signatures. If you mean the post itself, everything's in default colour already.
     
  9. Tom Bombadildo

    Tom Bombadildo Honk!

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    I forgot
    You know what I meant shut up :angry:
     
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  10. Foxi4

    Foxi4 On the hunt...

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    You mean "Ugh, Foxi! I can't read fo' s*it because I insist on using Dark Theme, the one and only theme in which 9 out of 10 times the site is unreadable! ;O;", right? :tpi:
     
  11. 2ndApex

    2ndApex GBAtemp Advanced Fan

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    Tekken is a hard fighting game in the sense that you have a lot of lot of command normals to remember and its kind of like Smash in the sense that you have air control and tech roll coverage during your combos but doesn't have nearly the amount of depth Melee does. Unique movesets aren't what makes Melee special/hard, it's the fact that you have analog movement, dynamic hitstun/knockback, platforms, the fact that victim of a combo has +-30 degrees-ish of influence of the angle their sent back, and 7 options on knockdown.

    Scroll down the the part about covering options after an FThrow with Marth against Jigglypuff: http://smashboards.com/threads/kadano’s-perfect-marth-class—advanced-frame-data-application.337035/

    That's the amount of reading and factors that need to be considered during EVERY SINGLE HIT of a combo during Smash, and the example above is actually a relatively simple one because it's covering kill options and not combos into other moves and not taking platforms (or distance from the ledge) into consideration. For most traditional fighters, combos can be memorized and performed the exact same way a million times regardless of match or training mode.

    What makes this such great design is that all of this complexly usable knowledge is actually a result of really simple mechanics that make casual play more fun. Directional Influence (controlling the angle where you character gets hit) was implemented for people to feel the "Mario Kart" effect where people like to turn learn entire bodies and sticks in the direction they want to go. The dynamic knockback/histun system is just a result of the core "hit them more and they'll go flying" Smash design. Tech rolls are a simple idea that have been around for forever. Yet when you put it all together it's crazy mix of analog precision and an almost jazz-like improvisation that makes the game look both crazier and faster year after year, and it's the perfect example of why accessibility and depth in video games are not mutually exclusive.

    There's a reason why Melee's been out for 14 years, still has tournaments, and still hasn't peaked yet in both it's scene or metagame.
     
  12. Foxi4

    Foxi4 On the hunt...

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    This applies to pretty much every single fighting game in the universe, 2ndApex. Chaining combos has been the basis of fighters since the dawn of time, it's not something out of the ordinary and it doesn't make Smash Bros. complex by any stretch of the imagination. The reason why the game is still played is because it's a fun game with likable, recognizable characters, not because it's terribly elaborate. If you happen to have a PS3, a 360 or a gaming PC, go online and play a little bit of Mortal Kombat (the new one) - chances are that you'll meet a player who will juggle the living sh*t out of you before you can say "that's not fair!" because he knows how to chain hits very well. Smash has about as much depth as any other fighter out there, it's good, but it's not special.
     
  13. 2ndApex

    2ndApex GBAtemp Advanced Fan

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    I don't think you read my post at all. IM(very biased)O Mortal Kombat isn't even that great of a fighting game compared to something like King of Fighters 13 or MvC2 but that's not the point. In traditional fighting games the execution for a character combo is EXACTLY the same every single time, there is zero player to player interaction when your team is getting lightning looped by Zero in MvC3 from 100% to death.

    Smash is different because the victim controls the way he gets pushed back after every hit in a large number of ways (as detailed above, moreso with the thread link) so he/she has a chance to escape and hang onto a life for an obscene amount of damage or get knocked out in a string following the first hit. The more thread relevant part of this is how it manages to do this and create more depth with simpler mechanics, compared to something like the new Killer Instinct which is also a good game but does so with a relatively convoluted and "flowcharty" combo/combo breaker system.
     
  14. Foxi4

    Foxi4 On the hunt...

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    Again, every single fighter is based on player-versus-player interaction and almost every fighter has ways to block, interrupt or even use the opponent's combos against him by using throws or some form of deflecting moves, these kinds of mechanics are not special and exclusive to Smash. Don't get me wrong, Smash is a good game in its own right, but that doesn't make it a complex game which is what I was arguing all along - it's a very simple fighter. A well-executed one, but a simple one nonetheless. The fact that some people dissect it into atoms to squeeze out the best possible performance is a matter of it having a huge fandom, not a matter of the metagame itself.
     
  15. 2ndApex

    2ndApex GBAtemp Advanced Fan

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    That's a lot less true than you'd think. Tatsunoko vs Capcom has 2 bar bursts and Killer Instinct has combo breakers but they're one press desperation actions and in no fighting game can you ever "throw out of a combo" or "use the opponent's combos against him" (unless your playing the bootleg Street Fighter 2 Rainbow Edition, let alone have complete analog angular manipulation over every attack. People block during combos because they're hoping for the opponent to mess up before the finish.
     
  16. anhminh

    anhminh Pirate since 2010

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    Does Flappy Bird count as complex game?
     
  17. Foxi4

    Foxi4 On the hunt...

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    Pretty sure that SF4 offers counter-throws for every throw move and well-timed grabs can interrupt combos unless you're already being juggled, but alright. As for "total angular control of your attacks", Smash doesn't have that - attack directions are completely pre-calculated, as are character animations - there's left, right, up, down and diagonals with the exception of PK Thunder and, if I recall, the grapling hooks for Link and Samus, but I may be wrong about those two. I think you're mistaking Smash with Rag Doll Kung Fu.
     
  18. Felipe_9595

    Felipe_9595 GBAtemp Fan

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    Smash at, at first glance, isn't a complex game, it has very simple mechanics that anyone with pick easily. But the game is the definition of "Easy to pick, hard to master". Also, no, i cant name a single game where directional influence exists, or for the matter, there isnt a single game with the mobility of smash bros or for the matter, its depth if we dont include some hardcore jap. games like Melty Blood or Hisoutensoku. The game has simply mechanics but the way everything is related is incredible complex. Also, Smash is arguably the most complex fighting game evr made, as 2nd apex, 2 strings will not result in the same dtrajectory/combo because all the factors that affect everything, like DI, Smash DI, tech, rolls, cancels and the way the stage interacts with the characters.

    EDIT: Ftilts and Fsmash dont go forward, they follow your stick direction, they can be aimed, Firefox (Fox Up b) has a total control over it, same for pikachu/pichu 's up B, aerial momentum is affected by minimal stick inputs, a 10° slant of the stick changes everything.
     
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  19. Foxi4

    Foxi4 On the hunt...

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    ...you mean to say that the game has physics? Whoopdie-doo, now that's a development! More people on the Smash Train, good for you guys, but we'll have to agree to disagree - Smash is only as complex as the fan base wants it to be.

    Again, rare exceptions for moves that were practically designed as escape moves or moves that are supposed to get you back in the ring more so than as attacks. Moreover, I'm not even entirely sure if they're controlled in 360 degrees or just 8 directions, I'd have to look that up.
     
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  20. Felipe_9595

    Felipe_9595 GBAtemp Fan

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    Yes, the game has (wait for it).... complex physics .... it's not a matter if you agree or not, it's a matter of how the metagame of the game works. You dont see new advanced techniques for street fighter third strike/Killer Instinct/Tekken in 2014, 14 years after they release. They have a skillcap. Said Skillcap has yet to be reached in SSB Melee, it has been 14 years and there are still new advanced techniques being found, every year a new player arises taking the top places (Sometimes something unexpected like a Yoshi, a low tier character, placing 9th at apex 2014 (Player: Amsa)). A game that isnt complex cant survive 14 years in a community who ditch every old version for a new one even if it's inferior.
     
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