Finding True Freedom In Videogames -

Finding True Freedom In Videogames

Adam Millard – The Architect of Games
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Is there anything better in videogames than that feeling of total freedom? Where you can go wherever you like, do whatever you want and become whoever you want to be – probably not. However, as much as the gaming community loves to feel like they’re finding their own fun, the reality is a little more complicated.

See, when playing a game, we’re never truly making our own decisions, and game designers must strike a constant balance between letting the player off the leash and making sure that their freedom actually means something. After a long trek through the desert and across the world, The Architect has managed to discover how the best, most liberating games of all manage to pull this trick off, and surprisingly, it’s often by restricting players that the most empowering games work so well.

You Saw:
Outer Wilds – 2019
Final Fantasy 14 – 2010
Animal Crossing New Horizons – 2020
The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild – 2017
Starcraft 2 – 2010
The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim – 2011
The Legend of Zelda – 1986
Planescape Torment – 1999
Divinity: Original Sin 2 – 2017
Passpartout: The Starving Artist – 2017
Monster Hunter: World – 2018
Minecraft – 2011
Half Life: Alyx – 2020
Genshin Impact – 2020
Prey – 2017
Far Cry 5 – 2018
Grand Theft Auto 5 – 2013
Destiny 2 – 2017
Borderlands 3 – 2019
Cyberpunk 2077 – 2077 am i rite??? (it was 2020 in case you forgot)
The Stanley Parable – 2013
Deltarune Chapter 1 – 2018
Mass Effect 3 – 2012
Psychonauts 2 – 2021
Deathloop – 2021
Undertale – 2015
Sable – 2021
TOEM – 2021
Before Your Eyes – 2021
Accounting Plus – 2018
Art Sqool – 2019
Umurangi Generation – 2020
No Man’s Sky – 2016
Gears Tactics – 2020
X-COM: UFO Defence – 1994
XCOM – 2012
XCOM 2 – 2016
Offworld Trading Company – 2016
Dota 2 – 2013
Magic Arena – 2018
Yu Gi Oh: Legacy of The Duelists – 2020
Teardown – Not Out Yet
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided – 2016
Dishonored – 2012
Hitman 3 – 2021
Dishonored 2 – 2017
Disco Elysium – 2019
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice – 2019
Dark Souls 3 – 2016
Telltale Game of thrones – 2014
Mario Maker – 2015
Pokemon Ultra Moon – 2017
Warcraft 3 Remastered – 2020
Legion TD 2 – 2021


  1. The lazy yugioh take sours the vid for me 🙁

  2. 7:54 lmao what?
    Ygo have way more deck variety than mtg and way more different cards played at competitive level
    This is because ygo have gameplay niche while decks in mtg are just good stuff.
    This mean a good deck ygo is staple cards + archetypal engines and wincon
    While mtg ise just x color good stuff + y color goodstuff create a xy goodstuff deck
    This mean even with High Power generic cards ygo have more decks than mtg with their shiny new Ux meta deck
    But yeah you dont even know ygo have 3 card limit so I am pretty sure you are just talking bullshit

  3. After playing Metroid Dread this seems especially relevant. Usually you are pretty railroaded into a certain direction, but since it is not blatant and it is up to you to scour the map and find the way to progress, it makes you feel genius. Pair this with the many ways that many items can be obtained, and you have a very "free" feeling game on your first playthrough, despite there being one start and end to the game.

  4. it's like life isn't it. you can't choose born variable and death variable but in between is what you can choose.

  5. I came into this video being like “please talk about Outer Wilds please talk about Outer Wilds” and then the first fucking frame was Outer Wilds lmao

  6. Kenshi is a good example of a game without a clear endgame that lets you do whatever you want but the freedom it gives never feels empty. Even the simple goal of surviving while exploring is rewarding in itself. Choices can affect the factions around you but even without grand ambitions like base building or overthrowing leaders, the player gets meaningful stories out of simply interacting with the world however they see fit

  7. When games give you lemons. Don't make lemonade. Make game take the lemons back. I don't want your lemons.

  8. Dropping an F for good ole' Marauder Shields. May his desire to protect us from ME3's ending never be forgotten

  9. I hate timer that's the main reason I could never get into xcom2

  10. rules are like walls. you can't have a maze without them, and you'll make a really boring maze if you just put up 4 of them. the more rules, the more challenge, the more satisfaction from victory.

    its also why hacking/cheating a challenging game is boring.

  11. While I agree, for the examples that you went through, it isn't quite the same for games like Minecraft or D&D.

    With these truly more open experiences the fun largely comes from testing, playing around, and finally growing beyond the rules.

    Those other games are fun, some of my favorite, but there is no joy in exploration to them. When you explore in dishonored, all you find are easter eggs that just remind you that getting to this out of the way spot was never you being cleaver it was part of the developer's plan all along. Any genuine originality is generally met with broken sequences, or intentional bottlenecks that make everything screech to a halt.

    When you play Minecraft on the other hand you can do things that the developers clearly never planned for, and this does not make the game go horribly wrong. What makes these games so good is a set of rules that is both comprehensive enough, and open ended enough, that it will fit its best to keep going when you do outlandish things.

  12. In Payday 2, the way you build your heister can get quite odd.

    You get:
    -a perk deck, which is a set of immutable buffs which can be really simple (armorer gives bonus armor) or quite complex and game changing (Stoic changes your grenade to a flask, turns your armor into hp, and gives you 75% of damage taken to DoT, allowing you to cancel pending damage with your flask).
    -a skill tree, 5 sets of 3 trees with each a specialization (tank focuses on armor ammo, and shotgunning; engineer is about turrets and drilling; ghost is about dodge and stealth, etc.)
    -weapons, 2 firearms which can be customized, a melee weapon, and a throwable (which can go from a ninja star to incindiary grenades)
    -a deployable, which is usually a case for supplies but can also be a turret or a jamming signal

    You can mix and match your skill points. Just because Shotgunner is a skill tree of the tank, doesn't mean you can't make a dodge build with it.

    This is because gun customization can get wild (some rifles can be modified into low damage snipers, many guns can be customized to up their concealability), and the only limit to the skill tree is your skill points (in a single tree, perks have requirements of points invested to unlock them). You're free to match and mix your perk deck, skill points, and weaponry in whatever form you want.

    My current build combines a sniper rifle, a shotgun with dragon's breath, and the Anarchist perk deck (-50% hp, +120% armour, armour will recover continuously in bursts, armour recovers when you damage someone) into a lightning fast tank build. The sniper can instakill anything except a dozer, the dragon's breath staggers non-specials and deals damage over time (so long as I have an enemy on fire, I'll recover armor every 2 seconds), and I can forgo heavier armour, meaning I have the highest possible speed while still taking a solid beating.

    It's counter-intuitive, but with experimentation and creativity, you can make a ton of varied builds, with meaningful differences (my friend runs a kingpin deck, and his survival strategy is vastly different from mine)

  13. People who only played magic or stopped playing for awhile, or are just bad (no offense) don't know that much about yugioh will usually say these things. It's understandable. But thought I'd correct it. Yugioh is actually a lot more strategic and creative than magic.

    1. Deck building in yugioh is a lot more skill based, requires much more thinking, and also combos, extra decks, and strategies often fuse and require mutiple different archetypes to make your deck even synergize properly. Example, take 2 deck types that work well on they're own, place them together, then take one more as a small 3 card engine that further extends your play, now add hand traps that counter your strategy to get around possible responses. Memorize your combos, play cards that work in hand in grave, and have special summoning that you can activate and only pick 1 or 2 strong normal summons to start your 1st several combos. That is deck building in yugioh, a LOT MORE skill, creativity and thinking.

    2. Pot of greed and its mutiple re trains cannot even be used in a lot of decks even without a banist. There are a ton of restrictions on all pot greed cards, certain decks can't even play them because they have certain situations and requirements, and this is also countered by hand traps, negates, etc to further provide even more counters and varied deck building. Also you could never play 4. You could only play 1. Pot of greed even back when the OG 1st came out, you could still only play 1. They were all limited until now when you can play 3 of most, but even then most people still only play certain ones, and now they all have certain draw backs and counters now.. So this was probably ones the worst cards to use or highlight as an example.

    3. Modern, standard, and even vintage competitive magic has less decks, less variety, and even less strategy. Most decks in magic are either control, rush, ramp, or some semi simple variation. Most decks are also only 1 color or 2. This prevents freedom, and prevents a lot of synergy, it doesn't add to it. Restrictions do not equal more strategy or variety. At least not with THIS specific example. In this context using magic as a comparison to yugioh on how restrictions can equal freedom is actually counter intuitive to your whole videos point.

    4. There are several DOZEN different styles and variations of competitive decks at all times in modern yugioh and rogue strategies are almost all viable, and most competive yugioh has dozens of different counters and weaknesses. There is also chain blocking, which is a mechanic where you chain link 2 or 3 cards so your opponent can't counter the 1st card you activated. (Chain links refers to the order in which cards resolve, not link summoning which is different)

    5. The entire game state of magic just boils down to play a mana play 1 card pass turn. While yugioh has several cards being played at one turn while trying to put a 10 card combo string together on board while dodging hand traps and trying to maintain card advantage.

    6. On the topic of resoureces, Yugioh does have resources, and infact it places WAY more emphasis on them than magic. Because in yugioh the resources are your hand, your graveyard, your extra deck, and even your main deck. This brings yugioh back to most fundamental truth of all card games: maintaining card advantage and mid maxing moves to maintain strong board presence. It is both encouraged and almost required to master micro managing your your hand, graveyard, and extra deck at almost all times. Even on your opponents turn!

    Other than that, I agree with everything you said. Great video.

  14. That Echoes of the Eye background music hits right in the feels

  15. It's kinda disappointing you didnt talk about Fallout. Thats the first series I think of when thinking about player freedom/agency. Its like a huge topic within the community

  16. You praised Minecraft, and I used to love the shit out of it, but it's just like every other open ended sandbox game with too much freedom – There's no structure or end to it. Eventually it starts feeling repetitive, hollow and you end up resenting all the 'wasted' time.
    I find it odd that you dunked on some games while praising others when they almost universally have the same problem.

  17. So what you're saying is…
    "All best freedom games are thin at one end, much, much thicker in the middle and then thin again at the far end."

  18. christ i only just now realised i've been thinking this channel and GMTK are the same. Been watching videos from each for ages now though not back to back, so never realised it was two totally separate guys. Feel dumb. Both great though

  19. We're seeing timers as a very negative thing in Outriders (yes, someone's still playing). The timer incentivizes everyone to play very aggressively and use optimal DPS at all times rather than experiment with strategies.

    What outriders actually did very well was punish camping. If you sit behind cover for any length of time, the enemies tend to rain grenades down on you and force movement.

  20. i feel x com2 is a weird example here. they added the timers with the ideas that risks were more fun, and it dose follow the restrictions bread creativity philosophy. however by doing so they took away a lot of player agency. in the second game you are forced to run forward and put your people in dangerous situations where rng is the only factor. if i move a person in the open to kill an enemy quickly and miss a 95% shot and as a result im heavily punished for it i dont feel like my decision matter its all a roll of a dice that i never wanted to take in the first place, where in the first one i atleast knew playing back would get me the result i wanted.

  21. After defeating the Del Lago monster in Resident Evil 4, my friend handed me the controller and I announced that Leon had decided to retire to the life of a simple fisherman. I claimed the empty shack as my home and spent the next hour cruising around the lake in the boat, shotgunning bass and taking them to the shopkeeper on the other side of the water, selling them to afford more shotgun shells to continue fishing.

    It was super fun and relaxing. My friend still brings it up.

  22. In a great game the best strategies are also the most fun.

    When you have to decide between cheesing the game and fun then everything feels less significant.

  23. Make sure there is no easy option for the player, as they will pick that all the time if there aren't any penalities.

  24. Hey! Echoes of the Eye. Can we look forward to a video soon? The game is a goddamn masterpiece :0

  25. Grognak The Destroyer, Attorney At Law Esquire M.D says:

    Gotta say space engineers felt unbelievably open world because of the level of customization (easily build your own ships) and the ability to mod it. All it needs Is a better engine and some ai. An example of it being great for me is when I created a ship that was capable of punching a hole straight through an enemies massive capital ship by plowing straight into it.

  26. 2:49 – Games can go beyond content created solely by devs, by making player creations themselves the content for other players, within a simulation that permits emergent gameplay.

    Various games kind of start to do this. Like TerraTech spawning player built enemy "techs", and "invaders", in its sandbox campaign. Like challenge maps (and of course mods) in Terraria (or Minecraft). And like the evolving meta of tactic in any competitive PvP games, like e.g. Overwatch. But I feel there's a huge unexplored design space that goes massively beyond any of these.

  27. Sable looks so much like this free indie game I played ~10 years ago where you rode round the desert with this exact same art style. I've never been able to find since!
    There wasn't an early demo of this game or anything was there? Would be amazing if I could find it again! Had amazing music

  28. I think players don't appreciate or think about limits in games as much as they should. Without limits, games like Dark Souls or Metroid would be nowhere near as satisfying, what with Dark Souls' limited mobility making victories feel like grand achievements, or if players weren't walled off in Metroid, exploring would be nowhere near as fun if you weren't looking for a specific upgrade to get past that wall.

  29. Fuck Magic the Gathering all my homies play Yu Gi Oh

  30. 7:46 Guess he didn't do his research on Yu-Gi-Oh as the max of any card is 3

  31. Does any one know the piano piece playing in the background towards starting around 2:00?

  32. Isn't it kinda stupid to spoil a newly released DLC for a game?

  33. I don't like Freedom in Games. I enjoy my games more like a book or sport.
    Feed me the great story you have to tell and show me interesting characters.
    Or give me set rules to be competitive in.

  34. I'm waiting for the epic encounter between The Architect of Games and the Real Civil Engineer.
    This battle will be legendary.

    You guys both are from the UK, make it happen 🙂

  35. Excellent work, as usual, from you.

    : p

    Consider, though, the 2-Kinds-Communications-Pattern that is used in our brains, and in social-process, too…

    Every dimension of communication in the brain is equivalent to needing 100x fewer neurons.

    Neuron can stimulate another neuron.

    Neuron can suppress another neuron.

    In that 2D system, 1/100th as many neurons are required to produce a particular function as would be required by a 1D, stim-only neural-net.

    Our brains use
    * 1 can stim another
    * 1 can suppress another
    * encoded in the signal, like Morse code
    * nitric-oxide or nitrous-oxide ( can't remember which ) diffusion

    So, with 4 dimensions, or 3 more than 1, it would take…

    100,000,000,000 neurons with 4D communication
    10,000,000,000,000 neurons with only 3D communication
    1,000,000,000,000,000 neurons with only 2D communication
    .. to accomplish the same result.

    Notice the diffuse-communications dimension, of the gas-diffusion through our brain…

    iirc, it was "Leading Outside the Lines", ( Kahneman? ) that was about diffuse-communication ( social ) in an organization being required for that org to work at all, and people not informing others, being the cause of needless damage/deaths in military, as one example.

    Now think of diffuse-pressure in a game/sim/reality…

    #ClimatePunctuation is applying pressure ( of consequences ) but it is at a timescale that individuals can ignore…

    Politics also applies diffuse-pressure, tilting the playing-field…

    Economic evolution between regions, as consequence of zillions of policy-decisions, attitudes, etc, is another diffuse-pressure…

    So, in considering a system of this sort, one need consider the small interactions, in their small timescales, AND the diffuse changes applying increasing diffuse but increasing force, both, as distinct categories of interaction, see?

    Salut, Namaste, & Kaizen!

    ( :

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