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Writing Character


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#1 Landfish   Members   -  Reputation: 288

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Posted 12 September 2000 - 10:26 AM

I always say that tabletop RPGs and CRPGs have more differences than similarities. There''s one exception. CHARACTER. In both of these genres, you''re writing a story for a character who will NOT be under your control. In this way, the two media are rather similar and hence often confuse when compared to traditional Prose. But even this is variable. In a tabletop, you have exceedingly little control over what your player''s character does, or even who his character is! In a CRPG, they can only work with what you give them. This is a good and a bad thing, like everything, right? So, notice something for me. Our tabletop characters are usually pretty deep, and our CRPG characters are pretty cardboard. Why? What can we do to fix this? ====== "The unexamined life is not worth living." -Socrates "Question everything. Especially Landfish." -Matt

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#2 Nazrix   Members   -  Reputation: 307

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Posted 12 September 2000 - 11:18 AM

Are you suggesting to come up w/ some sort of background for the player, or allow them to sort of construct one themselves?

Would the background directly effect the game or would it be more just some extra depth.

I know ADOM constructed a background information for you randomly, but it didn't have much direct effect to the game itself. Daggerfall let you determine what the reputation of different parts of society(nobles, criminals, etc) was toward you by answering questions about your character.



Edited by - Nazrix on September 12, 2000 6:19:22 PM

#3 Wavinator   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1605

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Posted 12 September 2000 - 11:51 AM

I think you run into trouble when you try to compete head to head with a live GM. A good one can pretty much work your character into just about any story.

But I notice that even GMs sometimes work predetermined elements into your character''s history for the sake of story. You see this most often in the setup of a campaign: Why are you here, what were you doing to get here, etc.

As far as deeper history goes, I wonder about letting the player choose from pre-scripted plot elements that are generalized enough to not give away the story. For instance, you could choose to be someone with a horrible secret past. Or you could be someone out to avenge the murder of a loved one.

Players would choose and maybe mix and match history elements, which are prescripted, and part of the fun would be in seeing how these elements would play out for different characters. The things you do to avenge a grudge as a wimpy noncombatant (but with sterling magical or computer hacking skills) would be different from that of a brawny fighter.

I think writers could have a field day with this, as they could make storylines deep and involving, and players couuld play through with more interesting choices.

--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

#4 Landfish   Members   -  Reputation: 288

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Posted 12 September 2000 - 11:59 AM

Nazzlie: I was being purposefully vague. It could be either. I think both should exist, to various degrees, though not always in the same game...

Wavinator: Right though you are in the post, I thought you didn''t agree with me on the importance of writing in games? Did I convert you?

#5 ahw   Members   -  Reputation: 262

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Posted 12 September 2000 - 12:55 PM

the problem is that as long as the background story ahs no other purpose than say "hey look! a background story! That's a RPG !!! I swear!" then that's the only thing it'll be used for.
In ADOM, AFAIK, the background story gives you your beginning money, and as well you birthday gives you your starsign which s influencial. That's pretty much it.
In most games this is it (or let me know ?). In some, the bakground story will help you choose a character (useless but nice), in other it will shape your character (DarkLands, *excellent*, and not uselessly verbose).

In a P&P RPG, with a good system, and a good GM, the background story will be a source of inspiration. you are an orphan ? maybe you might discover what happened ? you are a druid, but where did you study druidism, what if you meet your old master, and what if he needs your help ? Does this yakuza whose life you saved one day, still remember his honor debt, and will he be thre when you need him ? etc.
The story will shape you character AND offer subplots and opportunities for some good roleplay. It add depth, rather than a coat of paint over our cardboard heroes...

how can we fix this ? By working on more complex characters in the first place (yes, that's a pleonasm).
I don't want my character to be an 8 integers and some other stuff structure. First I want a body, *my* body, with clothes, items, skin colors, stature, etc. That would be a good start. Then I want to be able to use this body and this brain of mine to do stuff. If I want to go in the woods and talk to animals, to collect herbs and such, because I am a druid, I'd like to be able to do it. If I am a fighter, I'd like to be able to practice my skill against my shadow, fencing my sword in the air, jsut because I can ... or playing against a friend with wooden swords ... etc
Then we can start wrrying about story depth, if it should be linear or open, and we an look about this in the other thread started on this forum

(edit)
Forgot that thing as well: quite amusingly, most CRPG tend to make characters look ALL alike when they raise and gain more experience. Because players, doing with what they are given, get all the 'best' items, the best armours, they all raise their stats to the maximum, and instead of having experienced heroes, worn out by the time, with scars and whatnot, you get an army of 100th level magic user sword master wearing full dragon plate armor and 2handed +10 sword of humanoid killing, and a bakpack of equally cloned material.

After 5 years of playing Warhammer (a P&P RPG), my once dwarf stable boy, was now a hero of the empire, savior of the Emperor's heir, killer of a Deon Lord of Slaanesh, he wore the amulet of the Knight panthers, his trusty 'Crimson', a two handed axe that helped him well at last (with this damned bonus against demons, that I thought would never serve a purpose other than sounding cool ...), he was still wearing the mail shirt and helmet from his beginning, even after finding a full plated magic armor, because full plate just wasn't his style, and anyway, you just can't fight as well in full scale, etc.
It was just not a lambda dwarven mercenary captain anymore

Can you really get that in a computer game ?

I think not

youpla :-P

Edited by - ahw on September 12, 2000 8:04:01 PM

#6 Nazrix   Members   -  Reputation: 307

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Posted 12 September 2000 - 01:10 PM

quote:
Original post by Landfish

Nazzlie: I was being purposefully vague. It could be either. I think both should exist, to various degrees, though not always in the same game...



Yeah, I figured as much. I thought I could trick you into being more specific.



#7 Landfish   Members   -  Reputation: 288

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Posted 12 September 2000 - 02:02 PM

Hah! I''m a moderator now! I need not be specific! Why, you ask? I don''t have to tell you!

Anyhoo, it''s not only RPGs that could benefit from character customizability... I intend to do it in my team''s FPS if we ever do it. Look at the design forum threads on the issue.

But what about games with very little customizability, because it would interfere with their carefully calibrated linear (ooh, dirty word) plots? I mean, Linear-story games have little or nothing to fear from giving the player a deep character to start with... the best Linear RPG I''ve ever played defined the hell out of the character...

So why do most games like that have loser''s like FFVII''s Cloud as main characters? That guy was about as deep as a wading pool...

#8 Nazrix   Members   -  Reputation: 307

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Posted 12 September 2000 - 02:11 PM

Oh, man...the power's going straight to your head

Yeah, in a linear game, then the player should be very detailed and deep.

The more non-linear the game, the more I think either the player should get to choose his background or develop the character's personality as the game progresses...or both.

Edited by - Nazrix on September 12, 2000 9:12:26 PM

#9 ahw   Members   -  Reputation: 262

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Posted 13 September 2000 - 01:34 AM

if you are doing a linear game it''s even easier !!!
Because at last, all those details about your past can be easily integrated by the writers you hired into the plot !
Your long lost sister became a nun in this town you have to go to, but you didn''t know; This sword your fathe gave you, saying that you would have to use it one day, well, now you jsut have to put it in the scenario, etc.
You can make much better characters if you don''t actually allow the player to choose them. But by giving the player much more details, it''s easier to put yourself in the PC shoes. That''s what happen when you play in RPG tournaments. I remember this game, where the GM gave us all our role half an hour before we started playing. BAsically, we all sat there, reading the roles, learning them, just like an actor would learn his role before going on stage ...

Landfish : can you say Final Fantasy ?


#10 MadKeithV   Moderators   -  Reputation: 971

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Posted 13 September 2000 - 01:57 AM

quote:
Original post by ahw
Can you really get that in a computer game ?

I think not




It''s exactly that attitude that''s left the entire industry floundering for the past 15 years.




People might not remember what you said, or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
~ (V)^|) |<é!t|-| ~

#11 girl in the box   Members   -  Reputation: 138

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Posted 13 September 2000 - 08:12 AM

"Can you really get that in a computer game ?"

If you use the computer game as a tool, rather than the core of your gameplay. By which I mean, keep the best elements of paper play -- have a DM, play with a group of friends, be able to add your own story elements, be able to design your character''s appearance. And let the computer handle the dirty work -- let it decide how strong the enemy is, how many hits it takes to kill, what other characters look like (through art), etc. Basically, use the program as a calculator and drawing board and do the rest of the work yourself.

I bought Vampire: Masquerade for one reason only. Because of the "Storyteller" option. I haven''t played used the "Storyteller" yet, but I really like the idea that I will be the "DM" of a level that I myself create, design, and plot. It will make the adventure more personal and, I''m betting, a lot more fun than the actual V:M game (that part I did play, and didn''t like).

If an RPG isn''t linear, why have it control the plot, the character arcs, and all the stuff that individuals can do so much better themselves? Just let the computer do what the average player can''t or doesn''t want to do: let it draw really great pictures for them, calculate the math involved in battles and other things, keep track of your inventory, and keep track of your enemies. But also allow the DM to change almost everything at will. ;-)

#12 Ingenu   Members   -  Reputation: 808

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Posted 13 September 2000 - 08:54 AM

As far as I know a RPG has a Hero played by the player.

What''s a hero ?
Is it someone with a strong character ?
Is it someone with special powers ?
is it someone with a special background ?

Well I think it''s all of that and none at the same time.
We remeber heroes by the decision tehy made, by their character.
But before the character was a hero it wasn''t...

The hero is the people who face great opposition and reach his goal anyway.
Most of the time its goal is not personnal but is to help many people. (avoid saving the world I''m sick of saving it)
The encounters the character live change him, and create it''s character...

So what I try to explain is that a hero or a main character is build up during the game, not before nor after.
The player will create its character by the choices he makes, by the way he overcome the challenges.

So no need for a strong background except to fix the character in the world.
The character of the character will be build throughout the game ...

One solution to the landfishian (and many many designer) is to make some challenges as tests which purpose is only to see how the player overcome and to give him a new bit of character.
This can be a new way of moving, a new sentence he liked, something like that.

In game interactive character build up is the solution I found the best, and do you know where it comes from ?
Tabletops RPG...
(Early players actions are often used to generate the character behavior, any old GM should know that)

-* So many things to do, so little time to spend. *-

#13 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4579

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Posted 13 September 2000 - 09:03 AM

quote:
Original post by Ingenu

As far as I know a RPG has a Hero played by the player.



Uh oh, a sweeping generalization! Now I suppose we have to argue about whether the player must play a hero. Bonus points to the first person to come up with some examples where the player plays an anti-hero or something. In the relm of Adventure Game''s there''s the Leisure Suit Larry Series, but I can''t think of any RPGs off the top of my head.



#14 ahw   Members   -  Reputation: 262

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Posted 13 September 2000 - 10:10 AM

MadKeithV : oh please ! Come on ! Did you read what was before the "you can''t get that on a computer" ???
OK, I didn''t formulate correctly : "Have you see that done on a computer game yet ? I think not"
Taht''s it ... I would *NEVER EVER* say that something can'' be done, because I am too much of a dreamer. Actually I think this could be easily done, and it''s a shame it hasn''t yet. But I guess this would seem useless to most people ? Or maybe they would love to creat really personal characters... has to be tested.

ingenu : interactive character build up.
I am not sure I understand what you are talking about here.
Are you refering to this idea that basically a hero get shaper by the events, ordeals, and other troubles he goes through ?
As well, your generalisation of player character = hero would accomodate particularly bad with MMORPG...
Where is the heroism when hundreds of people are supposed to be heroes ???
Personally I like to have bland characters that gradually take more and more depth and flavor through the story (so I suppose this is what you were refering to).
That''s the way I remember so vividly my character, through the different adventures he went through ("oh yeah, I got that scar when I got jailed, and this amulet if for the time I saved the Greif, and that one is when I was offered to join the Imperial guard ... " )

youpla :-P


#15 Nazrix   Members   -  Reputation: 307

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Posted 13 September 2000 - 10:44 AM

quote:
Original post by sunandshadow

Uh oh, a sweeping generalization! Now I suppose we have to argue about whether the player must play a hero. Bonus points to the first person to come up with some examples where the player plays an anti-hero or something. In the relm of Adventure Game''s there''s the Leisure Suit Larry Series, but I can''t think of any RPGs off the top of my head.


In Daggerfall, you had the option of being a "bad guy". You could be a thief or assassin as well as a hero. Although, I suppose that it does not count because I don''t think that you could finish the main quests by being a bad guy, only the little side-quests.



#16 pacman   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 13 September 2000 - 10:51 AM

girl: I too bought Vampire for the Storyteller option, basically because it''s easier to play a computer game over the web than it is to get together and play P&P (and I liked the single player game, it actually had a story that mattered). I warn you, it is NOT easy to DM a chronicle, or even make locations for that matter. The tools NSI gives are lacking at best, because really the only way you can do what yo want is by JAVA SCRIPTING (AARRGGGHHH!!!!). Though really cool tools are coming out...

I would totally dig having a background story for a char. Even let the player select what kind of family they have, and then start them with it (orphan starts in village chaple, raised by priest, etc.). Hmmm back to the char creation drawing board.....

Sunandshadow, in Fallout, you can be a total dick and/or kill everyone. I''d call that "non-hero". Oh yeah, and Full Throttle (not an RPG).

-------------------------------------------
"What's the story with your face, son?!?"

#17 Wavinator   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1605

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Posted 13 September 2000 - 10:52 AM

quote:
Original post by Landfish

Wavinator: Right though you are in the post, I thought you didn''t agree with me on the importance of writing in games? Did I convert you?


Hahaha. *Ahem* "Ladies and gentlement, Senator Landfish, I feel I must clarify my position..."

I''ve got no problem with stories in games. They can lend awesome color and setting, and strong sense of purpose to what''s going on. My problem comes when stories subsume and pre-empt gameplay. Then I come out swinging against the Aeris loving Squaresoft fanatics.

For example, I *loved* the Starflight games. Here''s a game where the writing made a difference. It was used in alien dialogs, description, and a pretty cool and somewhat sad backstory. But I didn''t get the impression that the creators were holding up their hand and saying, "we now interrupt this gameplay for an important piece of story."

Instead, story unfolded through logs and messages and dialogs. But this never got in the way of the *doing* and that is what kept me playing. (Contrast this with Adventure games, which have come to annoy me to no end!!!!!!)



--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

#18 Ketchaval   Members   -  Reputation: 186

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Posted 13 September 2000 - 02:37 PM

AHW Quote- "Forgot that thing as well: quite amusingly, most CRPG tend to make characters look ALL alike when they raise and gain more experience. Because players, doing with what they are given, get all the ''best'' items, the best armours, they all raise their stats to the maximum, and instead of having experienced heroes, worn out by the time, with scars and whatnot"

CRPGs don''t have to be like that, but to avoid such situations you have to make the game so that there is more flexibility in the game ie. you can complete it as a 6th level character or a 12th level.. It is necessary to get rid of the need for this so called "Power Gaming". The "game" can do this simply by dynamically adjusting the difficulty of combat situations so that the player can play... ?






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