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Introduction to Game Time Jesper Juul. Brought to you by Veronica Zammitto. A theory of Time in games. Most computer games project a game world , the player is engaged in a kind of pretense-play : Itself Duality the role in the game all our actions have a double meaning

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Introduction to game time jesper juul l.jpg

Introduction to Game TimeJesper Juul

Brought to you by Veronica Zammitto

IAT 810 - New Media -- Introduction to Game Time - Jesper Jull


A theory of time in games l.jpg
A theory of Time in games

Most computer games project a game world,

the player is engaged in a kind of pretense-play:

  • Itself Duality

  • the role in the game

    all our actions have a double meaning

    Marjanovic-Shane’s fictive plane

IAT 810 - New Media -- Introduction to Game Time - Jesper Jull


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  • Game timePlay time: the time the player takes to play Event Time: the time taken in the game world

  • Their relationship is variable between games and game genres:

    • Action: real time

    • Strategy: speeding feature

    • Abstract: no event time

  • Subjective experience of time: strongly affected by objective time structured by the game.

IAT 810 - New Media -- Introduction to Game Time - Jesper Jull


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Abstract Games and The State Machine

Abstract games don’t contain play-tense

Play time

Time in abstract games

State Machine: system that can be in different states. It contains input and output functions, and definitions of states.

IAT 810 - New Media -- Introduction to Game Time - Jesper Jull


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IAT 810 - New Media -- Introduction to Game Time - Jesper Jull


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IAT 810 - New Media -- Introduction to Game Time - Jesper Jull


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Real-Time Games with Worlds not playing

  • Event time: the time of the events happening in the game world

  • In most action games, the play time/event time relation is presented as being 1:1

    Play Time

    Event Time

    Example: Quake 3

IAT 810 - New Media -- Introduction to Game Time - Jesper Jull


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IAT 810 - New Media -- Introduction to Game Time - Jesper Jull


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Mapping faster than play time

  • Mapping means that the player’s time and actions are projected into a game world.

  • The moment of mapping has a basic sense of happening now

  • Speed the player decides how long a period in play time will map to in event time

  • Mapping can also be fixated historically. Example: WWII, or in space in the 32nd century

  • In The Sims, the player can select the game speed, specifying the relation between play time and event time.

IAT 810 - New Media -- Introduction to Game Time - Jesper Jull


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Modern Games with Cut Scenes faster than play time

Video WarCraft III – Arthas’ Betray

IAT 810 - New Media -- Introduction to Game Time - Jesper Jull


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Modern Games with Cut Scenes faster than play time

  • Can be intro sequences and cut scenes

  • Depict events in the event of time (game world)

  • They do not by themselves modify the game state (can be skipped, user can’t do anything during them)

  • Cut scenes disconnect play time from even time

  • Convention:

    • play sequences use the full screen

    • Cur scenes are “letter box” (black bars at top and bottom) This might signifies “cinema:, and indicates the absence of interactivity.

IAT 810 - New Media -- Introduction to Game Time - Jesper Jull


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The Chronology of Time in Games faster than play time

Time in games is almost always chronological. Reasons:

  • Flash-forwards: describing events-to-come means that the player’s actions do not really matter

  • Flash-backs: it’s possible to describe events that lead to the current event time, but doing an interactive one leads to the time machine problem: player’s actions in the past may suddenly render the present impossible.

Play time

Cutscenes/mapping

Event time

IAT 810 - New Media -- Introduction to Game Time - Jesper Jull


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Adventure and Pong: faster than play timeCoherent Time vs Level Time

  • Now, games are careful to craft the event time as being continuous, creative a believable world. Example: Half-Life

    Arcade games tend to present several ontologically separate worlds that simple replace one another with no indication of any connection. Example: Pengo

  • If we think of games as fiction or stories, these kind of abrupt jumps seem unwarranted and esoteric.

IAT 810 - New Media -- Introduction to Game Time - Jesper Jull


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Standard Violations of Game Time faster than play time

  • Pausing the play time is supposed to pause the event time, bring the game world to a standstill.

  • Sound: like in Black & White

    and The Sims, the environmental sounds

    continue playing when the game is paused.

  • Speed: In Space Quest, the speed setting makes the avatar moves faster but environment keeps the same speed. Example: acid drops falling from the ceiling.

    Question: Are this violations useful or should be avoid?

IAT 810 - New Media -- Introduction to Game Time - Jesper Jull


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Save Games faster than play time

  • Are manipulations of game time.

  • Allow the player to store the game state at a moment in play time and then later continue playing from that position

  • Mostly tied to single-player games. Players don’t have the option in MMOLG (persistent world)

  • Arguments against:

    • Allow the player to chop up the game time

      • They decrease the dramatic tension of the game

      • They make the game easier or too easy (or might avoid frustration of replaying an entire level)

      • They destroy the player’s sense of immersion

      • The need for save games is a symptom of design flaws (Chris Crawford)

IAT 810 - New Media -- Introduction to Game Time - Jesper Jull


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The Experience of Time faster than play time

  • Subjective time: how the player experiences time in games

  • Experience: a product of both the play time/event time relation and of the tasks and choices presented to the player

  • Dead time: when having to perform unchallenging activities for the sake of a higher goal. Mundane tasks: fishing

IAT 810 - New Media -- Introduction to Game Time - Jesper Jull


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  • Good game faster than play time(Rollings and Morris) as a series of interesting choices  for every choice:

    • there must be no single obviously best option

    • neither may all options be equally good

    • The player needs to be able to make some kind of qualified choice within the time allocated to the task

  • Flow (Csikszentmihalyi) is a mental state of enjoyment shared by people in a variety of situations. It alters the sense of duration. To reach the state of flow, a game must be neither too hard (leads to anxiety) nor too easy (leads to boredom)

  • Experience of time is tied to:

    • The play time/event time relation

    • Challenges provided by the game

    • Relation between game difficulty and player ability

IAT 810 - New Media -- Introduction to Game Time - Jesper Jull


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A History of Game Time faster than play time

  • Two directions:

    • The root of games in play time allows them to define their worlds much more loosely and less coherently

    • The continued developments in processing power and data storage make it possible to craft event time with increasing detail and precision

  • One of the biggest changes: the movement from

    • Arcades: extremely short (real-time) game sessions

    • Home: games of longer durations, save games, slow games, more varied game time

  • Computer games add automation and complexity: they can uphold and calculate game rules on their own

IAT 810 - New Media -- Introduction to Game Time - Jesper Jull


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Conclusion faster than play time

  • Duality: play time / event time

  • Proposed time model can be used for :

    • Examining variations in the worlds

    • Connects to the player’s relation to the game

    • Thinking about game aesthetics

    • As a strong genre indicator

    • Further analysis (manuals, visual and acoustic cues, and gameplay)

IAT 810 - New Media -- Introduction to Game Time - Jesper Jull


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