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To Die Or Not To Die?
mangling shakepseare aside, here is a gameplay issue that i was recently thinking about, triggered by a few recent Q1SP maps and comments.

Is it 'better'/more desirable in a given map that

[1] a player should be able to play through a Q1SP map(presumably the principle would apply to any FPS game) on their first go without dying?
how about even on hard skill?


[2] is it ok if there are very hard sections which have a very high probability the player will die the first time(s) and have to save/replay to progress?

My opinion is [2] is a fine (and indeed in some ways preferable) part of the gaming experience, ie the learning curve of the map.

NOTE: [2] should NOT be confused with instant death syndrome, where the player dies unavoidably (ie 100% probability) the first time, which i am sure most can agree is bad map design and annoying.
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Poke The Lion 
now would you, UWF? 
...this is a topic that very much applies to ALL FPS GAMES and I think you should have made that a little clearer. Quake-myopia is an increasingly unattractive trait.

I think all sections of a map should be survivable first attempt, even if they are very difficult. There should always be a way for the player to fight or escape from the situation THAT DOESN'T REQUIRE PRIOR KNOWLEDGE of the situation.

E.g. A Q4 room where you're ambushed by 2 Gladiators and there's a pillar for cover to run to and fight hard to get out would be okay. A Q4 room where you're ambushed by 2 Gladiators who rail towards your trigger point straight away and you have to know to duck in advance otherwise you'll loose so much health the combat will be ridiculously hard would be unacceptable.

Of course, this can still be very challenging, indeed very challenging throughout the whole map, but there's a fine line between good challenge and poor challenge. The player should be able to use skill to survive, and be penalised for mistakes only. It's about letting a player's skill get them through situations, not deliberately overwhelming that skill for the purposes of....what?? No reason as far as I can see.

Why do I think this is so?? Because I think playing through the game is an experience, not a practice. It's a simulation of a possible reality, and that becomes more convincing if you can experience as you experience reality, i.e. first go. If you're fighting to survive in an alien world, and you do survive, you're more involved in that alien world.

Then there is the related point that having to repeatedly reload and replay a section can become intensely boring, as with almost all SP games, the main impact and impression comes from seeing what happens first time. This rapidly becomes diluted with multiple replaying, and soured when the replaying becomes boring.

For me, that is what single player gaming is about - experiencing another reality. It's not a learning process, it's not a practising process, and it's not a fucking sport.

If one really wants to practise, learn, or compete, to try things over and over again, go do speedrunning or deathmatch (for whatever game), something where dying, repetition, and refining your tactics and gameplay is the whole point.

But for SP, the point of having these games is that things are shooting at you - and you are using your skills to shoot back and to kill them, not to die. The games show what happen to the lone marine who survived and conquered, not the lone marine who's lying at the bottom of a pit with a Titan's rock through his head. 
what about if i say that when i review it? :p

I think you won't =) Unless you're mega-demon of destruction 
Just my opinions, of course... but to my mind, these are reasonable expectations from a player's point of view.

When playing a level for the first time...

Easy: exactly what it says... it should be easy. it is reasonable to expect to be able to complete the level without dying. You shouldn't die unless you're very unlucky, or you fuck up really badly.

Normal: challenging, but fair. It should be possible to complete the level without dying, if you play very carefully. Of course, you should expect to die if you play recklessly or fuck up really badly.

Hard: very challenging for the average player, but not impossible. It is reasonable to expect that most players will die a few times before completing the level. Nevertheless, it should still be possible to complete the level on the first run without dying, but only for the most uber-cautious or uber-skilled players.

Difficulty settings exist for a reason. Use them sensibly for maximum user enjoyment. Remember - quicksave abuse and cheats are always available to the player, and the player will use them if they feel the level is overly difficult, or poorly balanced. If the player is over-using quicksave/load, or using cheats, then you've lost them. They are no longer playing the level as intended, and a lot of the impact is lost. 
And Of Course... 
What Shambler said.

Death in games is (or at least should be) only a punishment and a deterrent to playing carelessly. As long as the user plays within the game rules and guidelines, it should be possible to overcome all challenges on the first run. Difficulty should scale depending on the chosen setting, naturally, but it should never be impossible to complete a scenario without prior knowledge.

Every single time the player dies, they should feel that it was their fault... or, at the very least, they should feel like they could have overcome the challenge presented to them if they'd played a little better/smarter.

Assuming they have chosen the difficulty setting appropriate to their skill level... if the player can ever honestly say that they could not have overcome a particular scenario or challenge in your map without prior knowledge, then you have failed. 
Not About Quake 
What I think...
Games (shooters especially) are not just 'journeys', there needs to be challenge. You shouldn�t win 'by default', there has to be a chance to lose and the 'death' (or just sending you back to replay the section of a game) is the most common way to mark your defeat(what are the others really?).

no challenge = boring
too hard = frustrating 
i agree with speeds

no challenge = boring
too hard = frustrating 
well said "they should feel like they could have overcome the challenge presented to them if they'd played a little better/smarter."

tricky to achieve though

" if the player can ever honestly say that they could not have overcome a particular scenario or challenge in your map without prior knowledge, then you have failed."

or maybe player had chosen the wrong skill settings?
yay! for the games that allow difficulty changing on the fly 
More Thoughts 
It's hard to create gameplay striking a balance between challenging and yet not frustrating, considering the skill level of gamers vary greatly. Of course the situation should be survivable either by skill or figuring out the right tactics. But what if the player doesn�t even strafe or has no idea how things work in a given game?
Here comes the learning process - teaching player the game mechanics and increasing difficulty. Trough trial and error (yes, dying and replaying in the later, harder, stages of the game/level)

If a game gets harder just by demanding more motoric skill (like the abovementioned hordes of deathknights or almost impossible jumping sequences)
it only gets frustrating, cause you simply cant master the slick movement and sharpshooting in the normal course of one game, you have to be a hardcore player for that. And it also gets boring / tedious, because there is no thinking involved, nothing changes, just the same tasks only more and harder. I believe difficulty should come from tactically more demanding situations.

About Quake levels� Same thing really, only we can assume that players are hardcore and in order to maintain the challenge a mapper needs to up the difficulty
More monsters, trickier situations. And higher chance of death, if you are not careful too!

If you are presented with a set-up that requires different tactics than what you are used to in quake SP maps there is a higher chance you will die on the first try, but learning from your mistakes you will do better next try - and isn�t it what makes games interesting: varied challenges and the satisfaction from overcoming difficulty, knowing you figured it out.
Makes sense to give some clues and don�t create instant kill situations of course. Give some space to move and some time to think.

And then it's skill and psycology - some are not up to it and some just cant stand dying

Those who cant stand dying even in the games with quicksave/load should play on easier skill.
If you cant stand replaying - maybe the particular game (or level) is just not fun for you? I was replaying some of the quake levels or boss combats in d3/roe even deliberately, just to try different tactics.
You could also cheat, but that is rather boring

pS: Comes to mind (again) System Shock2 - there were 'respawning machines' acting like savepoints but reviving you in the current state of game, not just reloading. Good idea 
I don't mind replaying a major section several times to beat it, if it's a fun fight. I don't like games that are so hard (or get so hard later) that you have to keep saving and backing up, everytime you get hit, for the whole game. Actually I found Max Payne (1) like that.

I'd have to say most good user levels are more for the hardcore, after all most players have played the original game first. I try to make something the hardcore player can have fun in. 
Death is a crucial experience to any game, really. Simply because within the constraints of a game, you learn from your 'death' and have the chance to succeed where you previously failed.

The virtual 'death' is there to let you know when you've made a mistake or gone down a wrong path in a game, and you need to spend more time getting to know the game. So yes, I absolutely think dying in a game is necessary, whether it be FPS, RPG, platform, or puzzle. In the game world, death is a way to gauge performance! 
Simply because within the constraints of a game, you learn from your 'death' and have the chance to succeed where you previously failed.
So I guess it's important to say that when you die, you should feel as if you've done something wrong.

Getting the balance right is 'just' part of good level design, like architecture or textures or... 
I Fucking Hate When... 
Someone completes a game and is like "omg! that game was teh easy! I only died like 3 times!"

If you look at what has happened in the game, ignoring the times you have retried after dying, the game character has not died at all. In most games, the story is that some lone hero goes through the world having great fights and jumping around stacking up crates etc. and does not die at all. The ability to continue after dying is there because if it wasn't, players would get fucking pissed off.

Players only die when they are shit, make a mistake, or a section of the game is too challenging for them to be able to make it through on the first try. This is the sort of scenario where the player needs to be able to gain a better understanding of the environment and know the threats within it. If it is too difficult for a reasonably skilled player to avoid dying on the first try, then I think it is too hard.

Of course, it is nearly impossible to gauge when it really is too hard. There are lots of factors that affect the performance of a player, as well as the inherent difficult of the game/level. You would need to run a lot of tests with a lot of different (i.e. fresh) testers before you had an accurate idea of how difficult the game or level really is, and you would need to test the situation in a variety of different scenarios, where the player has different levels of health and ammo to work out how well balanced it really is.

Basically, it's next to impossible, which I suppose is why we are free to quicksave and continue as we please.

Personally, I find dying spoils the flow of a game, and it goes without saying that I normally try to avoid it where possible (when I am playing). However, I don't normally get frustrated by dying until I have died more times than I consider reasonable. At this point, I normally give up playing the game. I played PoP Sands of Time until a section with a giant lift fairly near the end of the game. It was next to impossible, and I just couldn't be arsed, no matter how great the game was up until that point. There was also a difficulty spike earlier on (the first boss), where some of my mates at work gave up.

Anyway, sying sucks, but it needs to exist, because if there was no death, there would be no reward for surviving. Players need to not suck, and the game design needs to be forgiving enough to give them a little room if they are having an off day. 
Reloading A Game 
no more kills the emmersive illusion of a game
than turning a page does for the reader of a novel, or the staged nature of a play does for the audience. People learn to adjust to the mechanics of an artform and ignore them. There are actually people, mostly women, who can sit through a Broadway musical emmersed in the production without noticing the utter stupidity of the tripe.

Reloading is only a problem if it becomes frequent and fustrating. 
no more kills the emmersive illusion of a game than turning a page does for the reader of a novel, or the staged nature of a play does for the audience.

Do you spend ages perfecting those ideas and analogies, or does talking complete and utter bullshit come naturally?? 
You've Got To Laugh... 
... pot, kettle and black are words loitering in the back of my mind somewhere.

Nice one Shambler, nice one son, nice one Shambler, let's have another one :-) 
Dying doesn't bother me at all. It's loading (read:waiting) that bothers me. If I could hit reload and instantly be back in the game, and there were a decent number of autosaves so I didn't have to spend my time remembering to quicksave (which I forget to do exactly in those cases when I'm actually immersed) then I don't think it would be so bad. 
I Thought Headthump's Analogy Is Good 
if game reloads took the time it take sto turn a page, problem solved.

Also, autosaves are clearly the best way to implement this method, autosaves done often enough remove quicksave for those that dont want it.

HL did that part pretty well IMHO. 
Nitin I can't believe you of all people are stupid enough to give his rambling drivel a second thought.

How about dying and reloading is equivalent to stopping reading a particular chapter, turning back several pages and re-reading what you've just read - rather than "turning a page" (WTF)???

See the difference?? 
can u be less rude for a change eh?
or do u have to go apeshit about something completely obvious 
actually you caught me out there shambler, I thought what you typed in your last post despite reading what headthump wrote. 
There Has To Be 
something to threaten the player with. The only threats can really be death or then "starting over". Death is more abstract and stylistic often, and gives the players more excitement.

1) You have a jumping puzzle and if you drop there's a teleport putting you back to the start of the whole puzzle. If the teleport put you just to the previous jumping position, you could more carelessly try each jump until you succeed. The punishment adds a reward too.

2) There's a big monster and you die if you don't pay attention how to avoid getting hit and you aim badly etc..
Here people are prolly somewhat pissed off if they die and start over multiple times. But if you couldn't die then you would just stand there and hold trigger to the bottom until the beast was dead.

So if there was no possiblity of death, the only interaction method from the world to the player would be delay. Death is also delay in many ways in computer games, but it's more abstract and it works by giving the players the idea that "I must not die" and they get excitement from that. They don't need to think further in every situation.

There are some multiplayer games where death is sometimes preferable, and it kinda sucks.

I remember those old lucasarts adventure games where you couldn't die. They were more of a storytelling, exploration and puzzle kinds of games, and that fit them pretty well. 
Oh And 
maybe everybody's spoiled now but who remembers the old games and people talking at school how they just didn't know if they had enough skill to advance some levels etc... If you couldn't die, what would you do with your skill then?

People play golf. Some say it's hard to hit the ball right. But when you get a good shot, it just feels so rewarding.

I don't mean that singleplayer games should be a hardcore sport but there has to be some challenge and challenge means a chance of failure. There has to be a failure mechanism. Whether it's getting stuck or getting killed. I think in action games the getting stuck part would be more disturbing than getting killed. 
Maybe you are blessed with all the time in the world to waste on ridiculous flames and useless chatter, but I don't. Grow the fuck up. 
Don't, Or, Not, 
or whatever 
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