Posts Tagged ‘Rules’

As I continue my journey through Rapture, I choose instead this time to focus on the rules of the game, and how I can interact with them as a player. The two types of rules that I found myself consistently dealing with are Constituative and Implicit rules. I find that Bioshock has a very straightforward play path, created largely by the constituative rules of the game. Another way in which the constituative rules have binded me is my desperate lack of Eve. In the beginning of the video, I am startled by a splicer as I make my way through of the scariest areas thus far. I quickly fire off 3 blasts of electricity, wasting quite a bit of eve. Without eve, I have no plasmids, and without plasmids I cannot progress through the game. As I continue through the medical ward, in an attempt to find the misguided Dr. Steinman, I find my pathway blocked by a large chunk of debris. Here, the rules put in place by the game designers have barred me from reaching Steinman and ultimately murdering him in cold blood. Damn. Since the game has decided that I cannot proceed further into the surgery ward, I attempt to find a way around, or find a way to move the debris. The first idea that pops into my head is the Telekinesis plasmid I have been hearing about. So with a quick blast of my newly acquired Incinerate, I clear a path that was previously blocked from me by the constituative rules by melting some ice. Bioshock’s constituative rules are, at this point, very clearly articulated. I takes me no time to figure out where the environment allows or does not allow me to go, and I am able to easily make the connection that once I have acquired the ability to shoot fire, I can melt the ice that was blocking my path. Anyhow, I continue through the medical pavilion, fighting hordes of deranged doctors and nurses turned splicers, until I am finally greeted by my objective, Telekinesis! Now to deal with Steinman… Back to the surgery ward I go, but my telekinesis does not seem to be working on the debris, might as well kill the splicer throwing grenades at me in the mean time. Splicer dead … debris lifted? I was a bit confused by this, but I suppose I just needed to HAVE the plasmid before I continue on. The programmers, in this instance, are FORCING me to choose my abilities by using the environment as a guiding rule. Interesting. Let’s fast forward, I find Steiman, kill him with a little help from my mechanical friend, and move forward in the game. As I traverse back towards the main medical pavilion, the environment changes. A tunnel collapse forces me to take a side route. The constituative rules have again foiled my plans! A dead big daddy, a splicer attacking a little girl, a woman standing on the balcony yelling at me, Atlas telling me what to do via intercom. I am bombarded by a slurry of new information. I back the small child into a corner, and am given a choice. Harvest the girl, killing her, or cure her of little sister status, saving her, but with no apparent reward for myself. For the first time, Bioshock has confronted me with a moral decision. I choose to save the girl. This decision reveals both an implicit rule, and a foreshadowing to the type of player I will be in Bioshock. In the real world, it is absolutely wrong to kill a little girl. Only the sickest of the sick would do such a thing. But in Bioshock, I can choose to kill a girl with no repercussions for myself. In fact, I am rewarded for doing such a dastardly deed. And if I do so choose to harm the little one, what kind of player am I? I would argue that any player who kills the little girls is considered a standard player, while those who save the girls are dedicated players. By saving the girl, I am guaranteed a reward at a later time. As I am choosing to dedicate myself to playing through all of Bioshock, I choose to save the little girls. This alone is my basis for my choice. Anyhow, onward through Rapture! As you can see at the end of my video (once vimeo finally processes it) I get completely destroyed by the Big Daddy. Ouch…

Bioshock: Interacting Rule Sets

Posted: February 11, 2013 by thepetergraham in Uncategorized
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I was having issues getting my PC version of Bioshock to run today, so I ended up having to boot up and old save on the Xbox version. Despite the mix up, the slightly later save file gave me a bit more to work with in terms of active rules interacting with one another.

While playing today, I noted that the operational and constitutive rules of Bioshock are constantly playing against one another. The basic operational rules in the game are that you have finite health and mana bars that can only be refilled with items, you can hack and destroymechanical devices in the game, your different elemental attacks have varying side effects outside of damage, and that an arrow will point you towards your objectives.

ImageHere you can see the guiding yellow arrow, as well as the electricity mixing with the water.

I consider all of those rules to be operational based on the qualities of rules discussed in the reading and in class. Much of this information is explicitly displayed on screen or in description text, they are fixed systems that never change throughout the game, they are binding in that you can not play the game ignoring them, the repeat over and over until the end of the game, and they limit player action by providing fixed health and mana. Not every rule has every one of these qualities, but most of them do.

ImageAn example of the hacking menu before initiating a hack. Upgrades make subtle modifications to the rules and difficulty of hacking.

Underlying constitutive rules that come up frequently include elemental mixing rules like water-electricity or oil-fire, the rule that Big Daddies will guard Little Sisters from both the player and enemy characters when provoked, that hacked turrets and cameras will target enemies, and that those enemies will attack you on sight.

Your characters fixed amount of health and mana interact with the constitutive rules since they end up guiding your actions and forcing you to make multiple decisions from encounter to encounter. If I had unlimited mana for instance, I would just constantly be spraying fire out of my hands and never bother with any of the other systems. However, due to this hard fixed rule, I go into areas and look for ways to minimize my mana and bullet usage, while also trying to maintain my health.

The enemies erratic AI adds a level of uncertainty to all of these rules and systems as well. You might hack a turret and hold a corridor against a wave of enemies, but often times they will sprint away and flank you from a different angle or lead you on a chase into unsafe territory. This is where knowledge and understanding of the constitutive rules come into play. At one point I chased an enemy into a dark tunnel, only to realize that there was another enemy right up ahead. I happened to be near a stream of water however, which I knew mixed with electricity and used against both the enemies. So while I managed my operational rules (health and mana monitoring), I used my understanding of the constitutive systems in place (elemental effects and hacking) to progress through the game.

While this single player experience doesn’t seem to have too many implicit rules, on that it does have is with regards to the harvesting or saving of Little Sisters in the game. After defeating a Big Daddy, you are left with a small girl that you can either kill and harvest for more skill points, or save for a reduced amount. The game never tells you what to do one way or the other, only giving you perspectives on both sides from Atlas (pro-harvesting) and Tennenabaum (pro-saving). Much of the critical conversation around the game involved this decision making process, which created a set of social expectations as well. Eventually people discovered that you end up getting rewards over time for saving Little Sisters, and so the implicit rule to save them became a bit of an unwritten rule.


I think that the well balanced rule sets in Bioshock interact with each other exceptionally throughout the game, which I would say plays a role in its overall success.

Rules and Player Types in Angry Birds

Posted: February 11, 2013 by rsoriano2013 in Uncategorized
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When I first began to play Angry Birds, most of the rules seemed to be something that anyone can inertly figure out. The space that Angry Birds is constructed in has a sense of gravity and that is one of the more important aspects of the game. I learned very early on that it was useless to shoot birds without knowing how they traveled in the sky and how the gravity within the game affected their flight.

The rules in angry birds I found to be pretty self-explanatory and as simple as the premise of the game itself. What goes up must come down. But even so, the amount of flight time I found to affect the amount of impact the bird or birds hit the target. I noticed that the more arc or higher angle you shoot the birds, the less damage the bird could do once it landed on the desired target. This added element to launching birds made me think very carefully about the where I wanted to hit the targets. Some birds I would give less of an arc if I wanted to do some serious damage and get to the pigs. This would also depend on the kind of bird I was launching. When it came to using the yellow birds, I found that they were most effective when you launch them at a high arc and then use their capability which is accelerating its speed when you click on them mid-flight. The blue birds I liked to use whenever I wanted to knock a structure over and I gave very little arc when I launched those because I wanted to do damage to a wide area while still having the birds crash down with force. The large white birds I could arc as high as I wanted because they had the capability to drop an egg on command and still be very effective in the amount of damage it could do.   

There can be different kinds of players but I feel angry birds differ in that only one person can play at a time and so you are not directly competing with others. The one thing that made me a dedicated player was in trying to achieve all three stars for every level. I found that at first, I was simply trying to pass the levels so I could move on to the next one. I became a dedicated because I wanted to see each level be at the very have 2 stars, if not three stars. Not only gaining the stars was key, using as little birds as possible to get all the pigs was something that I found myself trying to achieve. In that sense, I was more of a dedicated gamer because I was trying to collect all of the individual goals. Having all three stars became sort of a way to show off my level of play in the game. This also resulted in my being a perfectionist and also a bit of a sore loser at the same time. If my first bird didn’t do the kind of damage I wanted it to do, I would simply restart the level so I could try and get the highest level and score.  Image

The Implicit Nature of Bioshock

Posted: February 11, 2013 by phinnthehuman in Uncategorized
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My second hour of Bioshock passed quite differently from the first one. After exploring the basic nature of the game, I was now being presented with my first set of choices. Specifically, I fought a Big Daddy, and had to decide what to do with the Little Sister he was guarding. I was told by the game that killing her would grant me immediate bonuses, whereas saving her would grant less immediate bonuses but would include a later, unspecified reward as well. I chose to save the Little Sister (pictured below).


This is an example of all three types of rules. The operational rule of this situation is that I had to fight the Big Daddy to exit the room – I didn’t really have a choice. The constitutive portion of this situation was the girl’s outcome. I don’t think I actually had to choose an outcome for her, and could have left her untouched and exited the room. However, it was in my best interest to choose something, so I chose to save her. I could not, for example, have shot her and denied myself access to the bonuses, which is an example of how the game limited my play. Lastly, the implicit nature of this situation. By choosing to save her, I essentially imposed my own set of rules on myself for the future. To maximize benefits (and achievements post-game) I will now need to save every single Little Sister I encounter. This is part of the “human” factor of games that Snyder talks about – the game isn’t forcing me to choose either outcome, but my sense of morality bound me to saving the Little Sisters.

The other aspect of rules that I explored during this play through was the journal system. Throughout the levels in Bioshock, there are journal entries I could pick up to discover more about the backstory in Rapture. For example, one journal entry had a spoken account of a surgery where the insane doctor had chosen to continue operating on a patient because he thought her face sagged. These journals did not alter the gameplay in any way, but heightened the experience for me as I went along. I made it my goal to collect every single one I could find, and to always listen to them. This is an example of following my own set of implicit rules, since I wanted to discover and listen to the journals simply because it made the game feel more rich and rewarding to experience.


(Journal pictured in bottom right of screenshot)

Lastly, Bioshock demonstrated what it means to enable players to learn the game in an elegant and interesting way. By giving me powerups in the form on genetic enhancements but limiting the number and types I could use, I be gently prevented from drowning myself in upgrades I wouldn’t be able to use. By the time I have unlocked more slots for them and more weapons to use, I will be adept at the game, capable of using them all effectively, and that much more appreciative of unlocking them as they come along.