Symposium (2)
Symposium (4)

Symposium (3)


  • One new play spec today, and no additional discussion.

Today's Contribution

Donald Gay contributes this spec via the comments (thanks Don!):

Re4_3 Resident Evil 4 (Capcom, 2005)
Specified by Donald


Move {walk, run, strafe, step backwards, 180 turn)

Context Sensitive Actions {climb, dodge, swim, jump, roll, open, close, push, pull, hide Ashley, and various other specific tasks which all involve pushing one button or a combination of buttons when the game tells you to. This includes the interactive cutscenes}

Aim and Shoot
snipe (a variation of aim and shoot)
grenade (a variation of aim and shoot)
knife (a variation of aim and shoot)


Stay/Follow (commands for Ashley)

Kick (even though it is context sensitive, kinda, it is a part of combat and not only used in special circumstances)

Pick up (Item)
use (item) {heal, special items, read notes}
combine/mix (items)
arrange (items)

Look around
Look at map

Shop {buy item, buy weapon, upgrade weapon, buy special item}


Leon (avatar)
Animals (you can interact with them, but most don't do that much. A few animals when interacted with provide items, like fish and chickens)
Environmental "obstacles" {fences, windows, doors, ladders, etc. Most environmental obstacles are interacted with using the context sensitive verbs}
Items {health, ammo, special items, notes}


health {Leon's and Ashley's}

Chris comments: I'm so glad you decided to do this one, Don, because it's a fascinating case. Firstly, some minor comments on your notation choices. Grouping the context-sensitive actions together was a great move, although I'd personally seperate out the "QTEs" from the actions. I'd call the context sensitive actions just "Action" - it's a nice robust term. :) I'm not sure what verb describes the QTE's, since 'annoying' isn't a verb. :) Perhaps 'React'? As ever, I say these things not as criticism but to explore differences between how I would do it, and how you have chosen to do it. I find these distinctions consistently intriguing! I really like the way Don has grouped subsidiary verbs into headings - this is really nice touch, and adds to the expression.

"Aim and Shoot" - a play spec can't really bring out the most unusual aspect of the game which is that you can't Aim and Shoot together. Other shooters can - but on consoles, only by resorting to twin sticks (two dimensions of control for each action). RE4 makes you pick: either Move or Aim. This allows it to have single stick control, making it easier for a wider audience to play. I consider this part of the game design to be borderline genius. I suppose we could introduce a symbol to reflect this sort of state: perhaps 'Move | Aim', for instance. Worth considering.

Now a few things which make this game interesting that Don's spec really brings out. Firstly, this is clearly very much in the vein of the modern run and gun shooter, having Move, Aim and Shoot at the core of its play. Earlier
Resident Evil games placed much more of a premium on dodging opposition; in RE4 its gunplay all the way. Secondly, and perhaps more significantly, are the presence of 'arrange items' and Shop (with its subsidiary verbs) - because these are verbs we would normally associate with a cRPG. And this really is what sets RE4 apart, in my opinion - it takes the tone of survival-horror, couples it with the basic verbs from a run and gun shooter and tops it off with RPG-type elements. It's a fairly unique fusion, and it works extremely well.

Don's participant number six, placing us halfway through - thanks for taking part! I'm inclined to leave the symposium open over the weekend and see what we get, but I'll aim to tie it up before the next Round Table kicks off.

PS: finished Shadow of the Colossus last night - I'm going to spec this tomorrow and include it as an aside in the symposium because, strange but true, it has Move, Aim and Shoot as part of its verbs. :) Of course, it's no shooter - but its the verbs we're tracking, not the genre terms.


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Something else I thought of afterwards, I noticed how under NOUNS some people listed off every type of enemy in the game, and then some (like me) just say 'enemies'. Of course either way works, but I think if you say 'enemies {n varieties}' or something like that, then you don't have a cumbersome list, but you are able to tell if the game has a few or a lot of different enemies, which to me is pretty important since gameplay often revolves around how you deal with different enemies. In RE4, if all of the enemies were basic towns people (1 variety), then it would be a different experience than it is with the large variety of creatures in the game (??? 20 varieties)

More than the varieties per se, what we should perhaps be doing is speccing out the verbs available to the "enemies" in the games. :-)

Good point, the differences between enemies in Halo were by verb, and they were much more non-trivial than mere adjective matrixes where you see the same old intransitives and dualities.

Now to apply this data to my own pet academic theory ;)

I think maybe dynamics and discrete states are a sort of duality of system design (dud, right?) and that the agency of a discrete state is geometrically amplified by every dynamic its applied to. For instance, "go" is a verb in Storytron that discretely moves an Actor to another Stage, but theres certainly more agency to be found in the movement verb we see in most games. Thats because dynamics of 3-space and physics take that discrete input as part of their complexity. Likewise Dues Ex tacked on three endings that can each be accessed by roughly a single discrete choice of three, if the values those endings represented were consistent dynamics throughout the game, those choices would have been meaningful.

A minor point to be sure, but unless they added it in the PS2 version, the player does not possess sidestepping (strafe) as a verb; Leon can only turn. Otherwise a great play spec--Chris is right on, the genius of this game is in breaking down moving and shooting into two two phases. Hardcore players loved it, but so did less handy casual players.

Yeah, I realized that after I finished. I haven't played the game in months, and I think I was confusing it at times with the "dodge" action in RE3.

Fair enough :)
Chris, I just finished play specs for Doom (for shame that Halo would be done before Doom!) and Killer 7, as an interesting comparison to RE7. The play specs are on my blog here:

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