Hello! I'm Tom. I designed a game called Gunpoint, about rewiring things and punching people, and now I'm working on a new one called Heat Signature, about sneaking aboard randomly generated spaceships. Here's some more info on all the games I've worked on, here's the podcast I do, here are the videos I make on YouTube, here are some of the articles I wrote for PC Gamer, and here are two short stories I wrote for the Machine of Death collections.
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This post is part of a series. I mention abilities and tools but no story spoilers.
Being an outsider to the Metal Gear series, I was only cautiously optimistic about V. All I heard about the last one was that it had 90-minute cut-scenes. I watched enough of one of them on YouTube to determine that it was… not my cup of tea. Of V, I’d seen some fun stuff in videos, but I was half-assuming the story would barge in and ruin it.
Well, the story does barge in. But only for the intro and a few brief intrusions, spread out over the vast, ridiculous amount of time I’ve played the game for so far – at least thirty hours, I think. That’s a ridiculously tiny fraction, and the rest is extraordinarily good.
So many things about it are surprising or different or interesting and I want to write about all of them. So I think I’ll do that, one post at a time, starting with this:
Outside of those few scripted intrusions, I’ve only actually died a handful of times in those thirty hours. The game has an enormous failure spectrum – I mentioned these in respect to Invisible Inc, but here’s the gist:
When you can fail at something but still carry on playing, I call the range of states between perfect success and total failure a ‘failure spectrum’.
MGS V has most of the stealth genre’s most generous failsafes, plus an incredibly generous one of its own inserted at the crucial moment – Reflex Mode. The result is something like this:
Listing it like that makes it sound absurd, but I really think this is one of the main reasons I and so many people end up having such a great time. Moving to these messier states creates stories of panic and improvisation, instead of frustrating game-overs. It’s the same reason it works in Invisible Inc:
A big failure spectrum is good because a lot of the most emotional moments in a game happen on the cusp of failure. If you were this close to being seen, your escape is exhilarating. But if failure is a ‘game over’ screen, spending a lot of time on the cusp of failure means a lot of ‘game over’ screens. Each one interrupts your immersion and ends your investment in this current run. It pulls you out of the game, and you find yourself in a menu, then at a checkpoint or a savegame. Mentally acclimatising to how much of your story has been lost forces you to disengage from it, and you have to build up all that immersion again from scratch.
If failure isn’t game over, it’s still nail-biting when to come close to it. And when you do slip over the threshold, it’s just another development in the story you’re creating and living through.
Shaun Cheah: I wasn't going to buy this game before I watched your videos and read your write-ups, but I am now. The same thing happened with Black Flag.
I realize now that this is probably why people used to pay you to review games for their magazine. Good call.
Dan: I like the concept of a failure spectrum.
How do you think Gunpoints failure spectrum holds and up ? Do you think, if you were making it again now, there might something you'd do to try and widen the failure state? (Not that I thought it had a narrow failure state - if anything the opposite!)
serendipity: This is a common feature of all MGS games, that grew over time.
The versatility and improvisation that the predictable AI provides is unmatched in any other stealth game series.
This is just one of many reasons why MGS is so revered among so many people including myself :)
Glad to see that PC gamers are also getting to enjoy this great series again after missing a few games in a row (MGS3, MGS4, MGS Portable Ops, MGS Peace Walker).
Though the story and presentation leaves so much to be desired, it is also the best playing and most customizable MGS game ever made, for better or worse.
InHysterics: Just wanted to add in regards to the failure spectrum that a lot of players view simply having the guards alerted to you *at all* as a failure, and restart at the last checkpoint. It's very hard to die in MGSV, but it's not easy to complete the game in stealth either. It's easy to win, go through guns a blazing etc. At first I actually started to get bothered by the failure spectrum that you mentioned, because it felt like even a child could play the game ( And the probably could ) but then I changed my style of play up a bit, and stopped accepting having the guards alerted to my presence. I kill people for sure, but I evacuate most of my enemies and rarely ever get seen now. It's harder and can be frustrating at times but ya it's all about how you choose to play.
Designing Failure (2/2) | pretensions of wisdom: […] Tom Francis wrote a fantastic post about Metal Gear Solid V’s Failure Spectrum that you should absolutely read: http://www.pentadact... ...iler-free/ […]
Michael Schirmer: NO,
Metal gear Solid 5 is not too forgiving! Why?
Because you can decide by your own how easy you make your game!
Put reflex mode off, no quiet, no d-dog, no horse. Just a jeep to travel longer distances. AND use no strong weapons, use just no lethal wapons a.s.o.
Not the game!
Designing Failure: Making loss core to the game | pretensions of wisdom: […] Tom Francis wrote a fantastic post about Metal Gear Solid V’s Failure Spectrum that you should absolutely read: http://www.pentadact... ...iler-free/ […]