Celia Wagar

You've talked a lot about depth and complexity in regards to game design, but what about interaction between mechanics? How does it relate to depth and complexity? Any examples done well/poorly?

Alright, if game quality was purely tied to the number of states possible then the scale would not be linear. It would be exponential or logarithmic, like decibels. A strictly linear addition of states does not create a big jump in quality.
For a mechanic to significantly improve the game it must interact with the other mechanics, multiplying or exponentiating the number of possible states.
Interaction between mechanics creates context across time, allows variables to occupy a wider range of possible values and combinations of values, and ultimately is what creates depth.
It's not enough to have a ton of mechanics if none of them interact with each other, or even synergy, which I consider to be a step below direct interaction.
Here's a simple example. You have walking, and you have jumping in a totally blank 2d environment. Just a character and the floor. Imagine for a sec that you're only allowed to jump when you're totally still. So you have all these states for the positions which you can walk to, and maybe the velocities you can be in all of those positions, then you have like 30 or so states for all the positions you end up during your jump, rising and falling (imagine it takes 30 frames), multiplied by all the positions you can be in when you jump.
Now imagine that you are allowed to jump while moving, so this creates new states, where you have the combination of your X axis ground velocity and Y axis air velocity. This is direct interaction between mechanics, which creates additional states which the character can occupy. This game, which allows walking and jumping to be combined, has a broader possibility space, and also allows events in the past (walking) to affect events in the future (jumping after walking).
This is part of why I love the kick glitch in mirror's edge so much, because it's so flexible. It inherits a lot from your prior state and can create a large range of new states based on your input. It's affected by how long you've been running on the wall, what angle you face into the wall, how fast you were moving beforehand, where you face when you jump. Through all of these there is a wide range of kick glitches you can perform. It's possible to do one dropping down and landing on a platform far below, possible to do one that is long and straight, possible to do one out to the side, possible to do ones that gain more speed or less.
Combos in Smash Bros are also a great example of the interaction or synergy that mechanics can have. Low tier characters have poor synergy, high tier ones have amazing synergy.
A game full of contextual actions that exclusively do one thing would be a game where no mechanics have interaction. Or a 3d zelda game. They have a lot of really segregated mechanics in those.
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Latest answers from Celia Wagar

I don't have a question but I wanted to thank you for your years of high-quality vidya analysis. I hope you keep it up forever.

Thanks and you're welcome.
With that said, I'm not going to be using this Ask.fm much anymore. I've received too many questions, they're too hard to answer all of them, especially given many require long-form answers. And I feel like writing more content isn't a good use of my time.
I think if I want to get my ideas noticed, I need to produce videos. This is tough for me to get started on and follow through with, which is why I haven't produced any video content yet.
If you want to contact me or ask me stuff, try twitter DMs or my discord at http://discord.gg/EfPY4r9
I'm not going to be checking here actively anymore.
Writing here has been fun. It helped me figure out where I stand on things and develop my ideas into something coherent and robust. Thanks to everyone who has asked questions!

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I hear a lot of people complain about super moves with long, drawn out animations but do these things legitimately hurt the depth of the game? You could reasonably say they make the game slower but it seems people draw upon that too heavily to critique fighters when there are more valid complaints.

They don't hurt the depth of the game, it's just a hit to user experience. Cinematic supers can be a bit samey in some regards, because they don't allow other actions to take place while they're going on, but that's about it.

When it comes to stealth games (specifically Dishonored, Deus Ex and most modern stealth games), do you think giving players multiple tools to kill/knock out enemies ends up being more counter productive to the genre?

I think these games treat knocking enemies out as if they were dead, and I think that's counter-productive. If someone turns into a corpse when they're knocked out and never gets up, then what the fuck is the difference between knockout and killing. Knockout is just a more silent version of killing at that point.
Giving players tools is good, but those tools need to have tradeoffs! Dishonored and Deus Ex make nonlethal strictly better than lethal in most circumstances, which is totally a flaw. (I'm aware deus ex enemies can wake each other up, but this doesn't happen often)
The drawback of knocking someone out should be that they come back to haunt you, that they wake up. This is a big deal for the stealth playstyle in particular, because it means either you kill an enemy to remove them permanently, but it's loud, or you knock them out, but they're gonna come back and be suspicious. If knocking them out is the same as killing them, then you're neutralizing a lot of the stealth challenge by steadily removing all the enemies you would otherwise sneak around.
This is why people did ghost playthroughs of Thief, because if you never knock anyone out, then you're preserving the "puzzle" for yourself when you exfiltrate the building, rather than completely disassembling it.
Stealth games keep making knocking people out a moral choice rather than an interesting one. If it means I can kill people silently and keep my goodboy points, why the hell would I not do it? In MGS3, you don't always want to knock enemies out, because they will wake up and they will search for you.
I think stealth games need to come up with ways to knock enemies out that have more drawbacks, and give players more distraction tools.

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You cited SMT Digital Devil Saga as an RPG with depth, so i would like to ask you to elaborate further. I've never played any SMT game but you aroused my interest. I don't play many JRPG's because a lot of them just seem like a grindfest to me (i'm aware that's a generalization though).

SMT DDS is a bit of a grindfest. It and Nocturne are deeper than most RPGs because they push really hard to create situationality in each fight. They push you to make interesting decisions by having the situation change and force you to use all your options. This is accomplished through having strong buffs/debuffs that are temporary and the press turn system.
Buffs in SMT games typically double your damage or whatever other stat for 3 turns. The most powerful ability in SMT3 Nocturne is fog breath, which can reduce the opponent's accuracy to almost nothing. This means keeping yourself buffed, the enemy debuffed, and avoiding the enemy's debuffs eat up up a lot of turns, which you could be doing damage or healing on, and you're perpetually losing your buffs.
Then there's the Press Turn system. Basically, you have a turn token for every party member, you spend them when you do normal actions, but you keep them if you hit an enemy's weakness, or if you pass your turn. Your party acts in a set order, with excess turns rolling over to the first party member. You can't keep a turn token more than once, so at most every member of your party can take 2 turns. Getting extra turns can help your party do a lot more damage, heal more, and get more done in general.
Making it even more complicated, when one member of the party does an action that keeps a turn token, the next one will always spend that turn token, so it falls on the party member after that to do another action to keep a turn token, making it more complicated to get all of your bonus turns.
This means, trying to line up extra turns with party members who need them can be complicated, and since different enemies will have different weaknesses, and your party members have different mixes of elemental spells, the optimal way to retain turns will be changing every battle. Plus your party members need to accomplish other jobs, like healing and buffing/debuffing, and that may fall on the extra turn earner for a particular battle.
Digital Devil Saga has 3 party members, each with a different elemental weakness and resistance. It lets you earn skills from a skill tree and once a character has learned a skill, they can equip it to a smaller list that they're limited to during battles. This is super forgiving, but you still can't have all the skills on everyone, so you need to make tradeoffs, which creates that interesting dynamic with the press turn system.
The standard pattern RPGs tend to fall into is, use your strongest attack, exploit the enemy's weakness, heal when you're low. DDS and SMT3 Nocturne give you convincing reasons to choose differently and it's usually necessary to win.

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Thoughts on chess? How deep and balanced would you say the game is? Anything you'd change to make the game better?

I don't like chess personally, something about it rubs me the wrong way.
The way I understand it, chess at a high level is about memorizing all the different ways the game can go, and trying to push your opponent down a pathway that you know better than they do, and if you end up pushed to somewhere you aren't familiar with, playing the game to a draw. This is where all turn based games of perfect information hypothetically go.
I don't have any suggestions to make the game better. Sirlin made Chess 2, which I don't really know how that works. Other people have made random chess variants so as to recapture the feeling of chess at a low level.
I like Go better because it has too large a possibility space to ever submit to memorization like chess does, so it's more about the player's own heuristics. Go also rewards knowledge of situations and how to defuse them, but I feel like you learn a more generalized knowledgeset in Go rather than a specialized one.

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Why do you say Melee doesn't need a patch? Fact is, I can't beat top players or win majors with Bows or Link. You can't say that "Melee has perfect balance... if you only play top 8 or stick to locals." Of course it'll never get that patch because the cult of Melee is too stronk. Just look at

I don't understand why you think I'd say that Melee has perfect balance. It doesn't even have good balance.
It doesn't need a patch because balance isn't that important. Balance is nice, but a game doesn't need to be balanced to be good.
An unbalanced game is effectively a game with less characters. If you deleted half the cast, it wouldn't really change how the game gets played. You could have a fighting game with 1 character left over and if that character is fun to play, then people would still play it. That's basically Marvel 2.

Would you say Melee is defensive or offensive?

A balanced mix of both. You have strong attacking options with big reward for pursuing them, but you also have a shield that forces everything to be negative and things like spot dodge and roll. People play the game lame and aggressively and neither is particularly degenerate.

Joseph Anderson just recently released a video dubbed "Subjectivity is Implied". https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gu8u2SxarEE What do you think of the video and its argument? Also, what do you think of MauLer's response? (If possible what do you think of him as a critic, I enjoy your Critic Reviews)

Okay, I've weirdly argued both sides of this issue (one of which with Mauler on twitter actually) and I sit in a strange center point.
I agree with the main thrust of Joseph's video, if you claim something about a game that isn't an indisputable fact, if you make some type of analysis or state some type of opinion, that's obviously subjective to some degree. People don't like how Joe's videos talk in a factual tone of voice instead of qualifying everything with, "I think" or "in my opinion". Joe's saying, "I shouldn't have to qualify every thing I say, you should know from context that I'm just stating an opinion"
On the other hand, I think opinions can be more or less objective, more or less based on facts. Joe doesn't state it this way, but he does say that he cites tons of evidence to back up his opinions. I think Joe could argue better about a number of things, but I've always said that I respect his methodology of gathering evidence and using that to make conclusions. I think the goal is to try to establish things with as much objectivity as you can manage. The end result is still subjective, up to personal interpretation, so nothing is beyond reproach, but you can do better or worse. I don't think Joe would disagree with this, his video implies a similar sentiment, worded a bit differently.
Mauler on the other hand thinks that his criticisms are completely objective and lumps in Joe with a lot of bad faith critics like Jim Sterling, who have said that reviews are completely subjective and purely just your viewpoint.
I haven't watched any Mauler videos and don't plan to, but he seems petulant, nitpicky, and like he includes a ton of unnecessary filler statements.

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What's the game that's been the hardest for you to learn to play (not necessarily at a high level)?

Guilty Gear, I still don't understand what the hell I'm doing in Guilty Gear. The neutral game is super weird.

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