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Aesthetics & Mechanics

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Aesthetics & Mechanics

Unread postby icycalm » 22 Feb 2009 01:34

Ultimately, they are the same thing. Try to come up with some extreme examples to illustrate how aesthetics can (and ultimately always do) impact what we call mechanics, and vice versa.

Actually, the "vice versa" part may be a bit harder to tackle.
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Unread postby Evo » 22 Feb 2009 13:16

In Shadow of the Colossus, you have a horse.

In regards to this horse, an decision was made as to the aesthetics of the horse - that is to make it look like and even attempt to control like a horse, somewhat separate from the player character itself. In this case the horse is not entirely responsive and if given free rein will move around obstacles and avoid cliffs on its own.

Since the horse is sometimes necessary for some of the action, this gives rise to the mechanic of being able to run the horse up to a gallop to avoid one of the bosses and not have to carefully control it's every move around an area, since it can do it basically on its own, allowing you to aim at the monster chasing you, while only occasionally diverting attention to give a slight correction to the course the horse is making on its own.

This maybe useful as an example of the opposite. The mechanic of a horse, that when you dismount has a mind of it's own and can avoid trouble - such as being crushed beneath the feet of some giant, and can choose a path even when you are not specifically controlling it, can give rise to the aesthetic of a more realistic horse. Since that seems to be a nice way of achieving the mechanic.
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Unread postby Ganheddo » 22 Feb 2009 13:39

Just a question: Aesthetics and Mechanics are the same thing, because they're both patterns (a set of rules that work together to achieve some outcome), and/or because they always influence and impact each other?

Isn't the aesthetic responsible for how we perceive a mechanic, and vice versa, the mechanic responsible for what or how a particular aesthetic is conveyed to players? E.g. the mechanic of beating another player's figures in chess, is conveyed aesthetically as the gain (or loss from the perspective of the other player) of the figure, i.e. it is taken away and replaced by one of your own.
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Unread postby icycalm » 22 Feb 2009 13:55

Evo's example, while valid, is not very useful for our purposes, because it is not "extreme". An extreme example would be to explain why having a sprite painted blue instead of yellow (a clearly aesthetic choice which everyone would agree has nothing to do with mechanics) does in fact influence the mechanics, and therefore forms part of them.

Ganheddo wrote:Just a question: Aesthetics and Mechanics are the same thing


Capitalizing regular nouns for no apparent reason makes you look stupid. I am pointing this out because I often see it on forums and it has a jarring effect on me. I immediately get the impression the writer is a child.

Ganheddo wrote:because they're both patterns (a set of rules that work together to achieve some outcome), or because they always influence/impact each other?


This question is so hideously phrased (seriously: "rules working together to achieve an outcome?" WTF is that supposed to mean? How do rules "work"? How do rules "achieve outcomes"?) I am not even sure what it's supposed to be asking. Let's forget it then.

Ganheddo wrote:Isn't the aesthetic responsible for how we perceive a mechanic, and vice versa, the mechanic responsible for what or how a particular aesthetic is conveyed to players? E.g. the mechanic of beating another player's figures in chess, is conveyed aesthetically as the gain (or loss from the perspective of the other player) of the figure, i.e. it is taken away and replaced by one of your own.


The first sentence is probably correct. The example is atrocious.
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Unread postby icycalm » 22 Feb 2009 14:01

Another way to put it would be this:

Purely aesthetic aspects are not aesthetic at all: they are just more subtle mechanics.

or

Purely mechanical aspects are not mechanical at all: they are just more subtle aesthetics.

In short: the mechanics/aesthetics duality is as fictitious as all dualities, and in order to understand either part of it fully one must also be able to see them as a whole and to understand their inter-relatedness.
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Unread postby taub » 22 Feb 2009 16:32

Quake players often turn textures off (all walls grey for example) and change enemy skins to a bright color and choose the biggest possible model for their enemy.

http://img91.imageshack.us/img91/4655/ezquake005largeca4.jpg
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Unread postby ExiledOne » 22 Feb 2009 18:19

A shooting game using green bullets instead of another colour because the human eye responds more strongly to green.
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Unread postby MjFrancis » 22 Feb 2009 18:45

If every attack frame animation was removed in Guilty Gear (the character would continue it's neutral animation sequence), the possibility of countering anything is almost entirely reduced to chance, and the game becomes a little more advanced than rock-paper-scissors.
Last edited by MjFrancis on 22 Feb 2009 21:29, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread postby icycalm » 22 Feb 2009 19:28

That last example was not really relevant. Removing the attack animations can, of course, be seen as an aesthetic choice (like anything else), but it's much more to the side of mechanics than aesthetics. You might as well have the screen become blank and the players fighting merely based on sound cues.

The other two examples were good, but we could go even more extreme than that.
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Unread postby Magnum Apex » 22 Feb 2009 22:35

Consider the third attack of a three-hit combo in a beat em up. The attack's animation is different from the first two attacks in the combo, and it deals greater damage, but those are the only differences.

As the player progresses through the game, the third attack of our combo is upgraded. The third attack will now deal even more damage than before, but it will still use the same animation. Enemies will react to it with the same animations used before this attack was upgraded, so there's no immediate way for the player to know that the third attack of the three-hit combo was upgraded unless they look for the upgrade and test it.

At this point, adding a particle effect to the third attack gives the player an obvious indication that the attack has been upgraded. In fact, because the particle effect causes the attack to cover a greater space than without it, an additional benefit to the upgrade surfaces: greater range (On the development side, someone would have to extend the attack's collision sphere/box to fit the size of the particle effect, but that's another issue). Thus, the inclusion of the particle effect, while making the attack look more impressive and devastating, also has an equal role on the efficiency of the attack (range), which would not have been possible without the particle effect.

I know there are beat em ups that do this, at least temporarily after the player picks up a power up, such as making a sword slash have greater range. I'm thinking of either the NES Ninja Gaiden series, or possibly KAGE (Shadow of the Ninja is the U.S., Blue Shadow in Europe).
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Unread postby icycalm » 22 Feb 2009 22:43

Magnum Apex wrote:blah blah blah off-topic


I don't know what it is about this thread that confuses people so much. I've already had to delete 3-4 silly posts, and Magnum Apex's example, as well as Mj's, are not in any way helping to illustrate the thing which I want to illustrate.

Does anyone even understand what's going on here? It seems no one does. We want to show that all aesthetic choices also, ultimately, affect the mechanics. Your borderline examples are not helping at all -- because whoever wants to challenge this view can always come in and say: hey, what if I change the "Game Over" logo? How would THAT affect the mechanics?

That's what I mean by extreme examples. Your examples have absolutely nothing extreme about them for christ's sake.

taub's and antman811's examples were good, but we can go even further than that. I am not saying it's easy -- most probably I am the only one who can provide the most extreme examples -- but nevertheless think a little before you post. If we've already come this far, there's no sense in taking steps back.
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Unread postby icycalm » 22 Feb 2009 23:04

The following passage demonstrates the "vice versa" part: i.e. that even the most inherently mechanical design considerations lead to aesthetic choices:

3) "Cheap" tactics kill with minimal effort. In this respect, they're difficult to distinguish from just plain good tactics, which are aimed at making you efficient, effective winners. Good players play to win -- they're about winning, not whining. But scrubs become edgy and irritable when they're killed really easily. They know that killing a serious player should be at least a little bit hard, even if he is a scrub. This resistance to extreme efficiency is well-founded, in some respects. A tactic is great when it kills efficiently, but can justifiably be called cheap when it kills too efficiently. In our hypothetical MVC2 game with the "WIN" button, the best tactic is too efficient in just this way -- once people catch on, the game just becomes stupid. It's not fun, nor entertaining. It's Capcom's job to provide games that are fun for a wide range of playing ability without allowing the game to become transparent, and to degenerate into simplistic routines for winning, incapable of holding a serious player's interest.

Some answer cries of "cheap" with a different cute little catch-phrase: "If it's in the game, it's in the game." Well, of course. How could that not be true? That doesn't really advance the "debate", except by pointing out that by banning throws (or whatever they're calling cheap that day), what the scrubs are really doing is just playing a different game. So if MVC2 came equipped with that "WIN" button, it would obviously be fair to say that it's "in the game". But the previous point about actually hitting the button still being cheap also stands. That would just be a really crappy game. Which is what I think it really comes down to: "Cheap" is an aesthetic judgment.


http://insomnia.ac/commentary/dominatio ... cheapness/
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Unread postby Volteccer_Jack » 23 Feb 2009 00:25

How about the amount of health an enemy has? An enemy that takes a while to kill will naturally appear "bigger & tougher" than one who goes down in one shot, even if the enemies are identical in every other way. Or, just making an enemy harder to knock over has the same effect.

hey, what if I change the "Game Over" logo? How would THAT affect the mechanics?

Now I'm trying to figure out the answer to that.
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Unread postby icycalm » 23 Feb 2009 13:21

Volteccer_Jack wrote:How about the amount of health an enemy has? An enemy that takes a while to kill will naturally appear "bigger & tougher" than one who goes down in one shot, even if the enemies are identical in every other way. Or, just making an enemy harder to knock over has the same effect.


Guys, just please stop posting. I don't know why, but the subject of this thread is not getting through to anyone.
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Unread postby zinger » 23 Feb 2009 16:06

In Lucas Arts point and click adventure games for example, different scenes or objects are designed to arouse certain ideas which are absolutely necessary in order to solve a related puzzle (unless you're up for tens of hours of trial and error). In short, essential clues are left for the player in the aesthetic design. They can be extremely subtle which makes even the littlest choices concerning aesthetics critical, and inseparable from the core mechanics.
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Unread postby icycalm » 23 Feb 2009 16:47

You are making the same mistake the others made. You are giving me clear-cut mechanical examples, which are in no way helping to illustrate the mechanical implications of clear-cut aesthetic design considerations.

If you were doing what I asked you to do, the Lucas Arts example would go something like this:

"Okay, yes, but what if the clues remained the same but were simply drawn uglier?"

Or are you implying that their beauty comes from, depends on, their functionality? That would be simply absurd.
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Unread postby Tain » 23 Feb 2009 20:25

How about Cave using relatively desaturated backgrounds, helping players identify the sprites? Definitely not very extreme, though.
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Unread postby icycalm » 23 Feb 2009 23:38

Okay, I think I see where the problem is. Let me rephrase my request.

Try to find an aesthetic element of a game which THERE IS NO WAY IN HELL that it has anything to do with mechanics.

THEN explain why it in fact does.
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Unread postby zinger » 24 Feb 2009 09:59

How about any part of a heads up display (like the "insert credit" text message in an arcade game, for example), which will ask a certain degree of attention depending on its font, layout, size, whether it is flashing or has bright colors etc. and will take some of the player's focus away from the action. Should be appliable on pretty much anything in a game.
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Unread postby icycalm » 24 Feb 2009 10:21

Here we go again:

But what if the font is simply ugly? How would THAT affect the mechanics?
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Unread postby trickmasterG » 24 Feb 2009 11:09

In Super Mario Bros. 2 (J) the standard mushroom health item received a palette swap to originally fool the players.

Instead of playing the roll of power up this new mushroom, that looked identical to the standard one save for the color, would in fact kill you like a regular enemy.

A mere color change (purely aesthetic) has completely changed the effect of the item (mechanics).
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Unread postby icycalm » 24 Feb 2009 11:45

trickmasterG wrote:Instead of playing the roll of power up this new mushroom, that looked identical to the standard one save for the color, would in fact kill you like a regular enemy.


Yes, but what if this new color clashed with the rest of the graphics and made the game look uglier? How would THAT change affect the mechanics?

...

No one is getting this. You guys keep giving me worse and worse and easier and easier examples. I guess the world is not yet ready for this insight.
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Unread postby icycalm » 24 Feb 2009 12:00

And here's how stupid your examples seem from where I am standing:

trickmasterG wrote:A mere color change (purely aesthetic) has completely changed the effect of the item (mechanics).


"A mere color change"? That's the ONLY change that happened in your example? Did not the new item also have the property of fucking KILLING the player? Is KILLING the player a "purely aesthetic" change? -- It is a purely mechanical one for christ's sake!
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Re: Aesthetics & Mechanics

Unread postby raphael » 24 Feb 2009 14:23

icycalm wrote:Try to come up with some extreme examples to illustrate how aesthetics can (and ultimately always do) impact what we call mechanics, and vice versa.


Could you please define what we call mechanics here?

And does this extract from the Dangun Feveron review qualify as an example?

Frederik Jurk wrote:If you are one of those guys who claim they play shooters for survival and not for score, no matter if the game in question is clearly a SCORE shooter, you'll have no fun with this one. It surely is as fast as a Psykio shooter, but there's a lot more to it. If you ignore those cyborgs you're missing the point of the game, missing the action that comes from maniacally collecting them while dodging fire and shooting enemies, but not only that: You'll also be constantly assaulted by that "Clong!" piano sound -- your punishment for not playing the game the way the designers wanted you to.


http://insomnia.ac/reviews/custom/dangunfeveron/
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Unread postby icycalm » 24 Feb 2009 15:07

Mechanics are, of course, the rules. But this definition does not entirely separate mechanics from aesthetics, because the aesthetics are also defined by rules. This is in fact what this thread is about: that ultimately mechanics and aesthetics are one thing. And if they are one thing, then clearly they must have one definition, so asking me to define mechanics as opposed to aesthetics will get you nowhere, because if I am correct this will prove impossible!

The question is not to ask ME what my definition of mechanics or aesthetics is, because I am the guy who says they are the same thing! The question is to ask the COMMON MAN about what he calls mechanics and what aesthetics, and to demonstrate to him that those two things are one.

That is why I keep giving you the color/font/beautiful/ugly examples, which everyone here conveniently and annoyingly keeps ignoring -- because those are the kinds of examples which the common man would deem of an entirely aesthetic nature, and would hence consider separate from mechanics. Show him that such choices do in fact affect the mechanics, and you have solved the problem.

As for your Dangun Feveron example, it's not a bad one. The piano sound is annoying, so it sort of forces the player to play in a different way than he otherwise might. Still, it is quite clearly connected to the mechanics -- if you don't play for score you get the sound -- so it's not very helpful for us here. We want an aesthetic choice that is NOT clearly connected to the mechanics -- a choice, or choices, which you will need to use extremely complicated arguments in order to show that they do, indeed, in very subtle ways influence the player's actions.

Anyway, we aren't getting anywhere, and this is getting a bit tiring for me, so I am locking the thread until further notice.
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