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The Grail of Game writers


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#1 Landfish   Members   -  Reputation: 288

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Posted 21 November 2000 - 05:47 AM

Interactivity. Divergence. Continuity. Quality. We all want to see that game where you can directly affect the plot progression and yet somehow maintain continuity, or even more unlikely; quality. I thought it couldn''t be done. Then I started to think it could. Recently, I''ve seen some games that don''t quite meet the goal, but they definitly have at least some of the tools we will need to do so. The Design Forum is nice and all, it will always be my first love. But let''s face it... if you''re here in the writing forum you must be smart. You must realize that eventually all the eye-candy in the world will fall to the game that has both the eye-candy and a really good writer. Or maybe it''s the other way around. Maybe you''re like me, a writer who sees vast untapped potential in games as a bizzarre new medium, and you want to go down in history as one of the first people to screw with it. Hard core. Maybe you''re both. One of the games thats''s caught my eye lately is Shen Mue. it''s a dreamcast game, set in Yokosuka Japan in 1986. It is a near clone of my favorite game of all time, Panzer Dragoon Saga. It made some massive revisions, and those revisions could well be the tools we will need to find the Holy Grail of Gaming. SMALL SETTING Shenmue takes place in a city, not a world. You move from neighborhood to neighborhood, not from country to country. As was brought to light by AP. in the Character Growth thread, smaller setting is the first step to better divergence. Panzer Dragoon Saga was also on a small scale, there were two small post-apocolyptic towns and one wandering caravan. There are so many advantages to a smaller setting. There are so many disadvantages to a massive setting. Once again, if it''s essential to your game, by all means go continant hopping, but I''m content to stay small and flesh out my NPCs and locations. PERSISTANT TIME PASSAGE This was a really neat trick in shenmue. Time passes at something like 1/5 real time. NPCs go about their daily lives, from work to home to bed to work, etc. This is a wonderful balancing mechanism. You train with this old man in the Park to learn Martial Arts, but you can only train so much because the old man has to go eat his lunch eventually. Experience? Hah. Levels? Not even. Just time passage. More in a bit... gotta go eat... ====== "The unexamined life is not worth living." -Socrates "Question everything. Especially Landfish." -Matt

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#2 acraig   Members   -  Reputation: 471

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Posted 21 November 2000 - 05:58 AM

quote:
Original post by Landfish


SMALL SETTING

There are so many advantages to a smaller setting. There are so many disadvantages to a massive setting. Once again, if it's essential to your game, by all means go continant hopping, but I'm content to stay small and flesh out my NPCs and locations.



It depends on how well ( and interesting ) the small location is. After a while it may get too repetative and the player will loose interest. However, if the town still has the same amount of explorable space as a game like FF8 then players may feel more of a connection to the town.


quote:

PERSISTANT TIME PASSAGE
This was a really neat trick in shenmue. Time passes at something like 1/5 real time. NPCs go about their daily lives, from work to home to bed to work, etc. This is a wonderful balancing mechanism. You train with this old man in the Park to learn Martial Arts, but you can only train so much because the old man has to go eat his lunch eventually. Experience? Hah. Levels? Not even. Just time passage.



Again it depends on how well it is done. If I can get all the training in that I want to then that's ok. Otherwise, it may start to be annoying that people leave when you still trying to do something.


----------
Andrew



Edited by - acraig on November 21, 2000 12:59:31 PM

#3 Landfish   Members   -  Reputation: 288

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Posted 21 November 2000 - 06:09 AM

OUTRIGHT REFUSAL
At all times in Shen Mue, you are surrounded by people. But when you try to ask most of them questions, they just refuse to talk to you. Sometimes they just keep walking, sometimes they reply with a confused look "Do I know you?" This awesome and quite funtional.

EVENT TREE
I''m still trying to figure out how this game''s event tree works. The small scale works very well here because you can bottleneck the player and count on her moving through a specific place to get to other places. Get yourslef a clever level design, and BANG interactivity and continuity.

Now, this game really isn''t divergent. You can''t really make choices that affect the plot, although you can take much of the game out of order if you wish.

QUICK TIME EVENTS
No, it has nothing to do with Quicktime™. Instead these things are kind of like the old Dragons lair game... hit this button in time and something good happens. Hit the wrong button or take too much time and sorry but...

Now, if this were the whole game, i''d be pissed. But it adds some spice to the FMVs. It allows the action of the game to carry over into cinematic sequences. If you screw up one buttonpress, you the action takes a turn for the worse, but you can always recover with the next buttonpress. The only problem I saw is that in ShenMue, if you lose a QTE, it starts you back at the beginning of the scene and you get to do it over again. I would rather have to live with the shame of having been pummeled by those street punks...

#4 Nazrix   Members   -  Reputation: 307

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Posted 21 November 2000 - 07:57 AM

quote:
Original post by Landfish
SMALL SETTING

There are so many advantages to a smaller setting. There are so many disadvantages to a massive setting. Once again, if it''s essential to your game, by all means go continant hopping, but I''m content to stay small and flesh out my NPCs and locations.



Yeah, this definitely something I was planning on doing. It can allow the player to really get to know the NPCs in the area. This combined w/ the persistant time passage can have really realistic effects.

Like, the player could meet a certain NPC in the local tavern, then a few days later the player wants to see that NPC to ask some questions or what have you. Then the player may have to hang out in the tavern at about the same time as the player met him before or perhaps check at the tavern periodically.

The point is that there would be so many NPCs and the player could really get attatched to them.

quote:

PERSISTANT TIME PASSAGE
This was a really neat trick in shenmue. Time passes at something like 1/5 real time. NPCs go about their daily lives, from work to home to bed to work, etc. This is a wonderful balancing mechanism. You train with this old man in the Park to learn Martial Arts, but you can only train so much because the old man has to go eat his lunch eventually. Experience? Hah. Levels? Not even. Just time passage.



This is another really great one that should be an absolute necessity for most heavily story-based games. This is basically what dwarfsoft, ingenu, and I were talking about a while back.




"All you touch and all you see is all your life will ever be --Pink Floyd
Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur.
Need help? Well, go FAQ yourself.

Click here to see my current project.


#5 Nazrix   Members   -  Reputation: 307

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Posted 21 November 2000 - 08:02 AM

quote:
Original post by Landfish

OUTRIGHT REFUSAL
At all times in Shen Mue, you are surrounded by people. But when you try to ask most of them questions, they just refuse to talk to you. Sometimes they just keep walking, sometimes they reply with a confused look "Do I know you?" This awesome and quite funtional.



This I was planning on using in my current project also. Well, at least it's similar. I was thinking if there is a decent reputation system, the player would practically create his own quest by trying to attain a piece of info or whatnot and needing to get that NPC to trust/like the player. There could be many ways to do it too which would create new experience as a side-effect.

Like the player could invite the NPC to the local tavern & buy the NPC a beer (I was thinking alcohol could make NPCs more eager to release info, but also make them easier to piss off too). The player could do a favor for them or join an affiliation that NPC belongs to assuming that NPC does belong to one.

Some of these concepts were infulenced by my reading about Morrowind though, so I can't take full credit




"All you touch and all you see is all your life will ever be --Pink Floyd
Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur.
Need help? Well, go FAQ yourself.

Click here to see my current project.


Edited by - Nazrix on November 21, 2000 7:30:05 PM

#6 Gregor_Samsa   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 21 November 2000 - 02:02 PM

quote:

if you''re here in the writing forum you must be smart.



Oh ya.

[qoute]
SMALL SETTING...

Definetely a good idea. I think it''s much better to have a small world that you can get very involve in then a large one that you never get connected to. There is a potential problem here in the player may feel confined. Substitute geographical size for NPC depth and I think it might work.

In FF8 I found that the designers decided the NPCs could never be very interesting, so they instead made impressive graphics and a massive world. I would much prefer an NPC that you can''t predict (without just being random).

I''ll add more later. have to go eat...

"When i was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse, out of
the corner of my mind. I turned to look, but it was
gone, I cannot put my finger on it now. The child has
grown, the dream has gone." -Pink Floyd

#7 dwarfsoft   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1225

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Posted 21 November 2000 - 03:22 PM

Once again LF comes up with his OWN ideas and POSTS them on this board for all to see... And once again they are GREAT!

Small setting, this is very well and good (to which I agree) but what if you wished to include a world? Would you then have specific localised areas to which the player could travel to and therefore specify a small area of detail for a large game world? This brings to mind Feist with Crydee which was described very well, and the swamp (and later the Shinzawi estate) were the only things on the other world to really be described well. (the academy was not really in need of a description. It was devoid of much more than walls, ceilings and floors).

Is this then a breach of your guidelines or is it an expansion of them? I would prefer to think of this as a few detailed areas which you would see, and the rest is just ''scenery'' (background). This is what I intend to use in my game (as it really seems pointless to have miles of uninhabited countryside that the player must walk across for hours eh? )

About the timing attribute, yeah... I kind of remember talking about that. It was in the AI forum in the ''NPC AI...'' (one of them) thread. Basically, everybody has things that need to be done and things that need to be done at certain times. This comes back to needs based scheduling (There is a thread of that name in the AI forum too about the same thing ). You can choose to do ANYTHING at all that you want, but if it doesn''t mesh with the other persons plans then tough - you will have to wait .

Also, to do with timing.. It seems similar also to the adrenaline factor that was being discussed in the Flowing Figthing thread.

About events though, all you really need to do is set EVENT, with a list of PREREQUISITE EVENTS that decide if an event is able to occur. Then, you add in the conditions under which the event occurs. From these, you can have almost complete NON-LINEARITY that can have an unlimited number of events and unlimited combinations of events that can be worked into the story. If you weren''t there for one event, then you could have a completely different experience (and story for that matter)

About the button hitting taking a turn for the worse, I would just like to rephrase your term. I would prefer to look at it as a twist in the story, possibly a more interesting set of actions or events is about to occur... Maybe it is more fun if the wrong thing was done.

I will see what I can do about incorporating this rant into the doc. It seems that a lot that needed to be said about Story design and game design as well as writing was said here. (I see this as more of a design thread than a writing thread).

-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft - Site:"The Philosophers'' Stone of Programming Alchemy" - IOL
The future of RPGs - Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche

          


#8 Nazrix   Members   -  Reputation: 307

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Posted 22 November 2000 - 02:54 AM

quote:
Original post by dwarfsoft

About events though, all you really need to do is set EVENT, with a list of PREREQUISITE EVENTS that decide if an event is able to occur. Then, you add in the conditions under which the event occurs. From these, you can have almost complete NON-LINEARITY that can have an unlimited number of events and unlimited combinations of events that can be worked into the story. If you weren't there for one event, then you could have a completely different experience (and story for that matter)



I don't mean to take this off topic too much, but could you explain more about your thinking on this? Are you thinking that if the prerequisites are not met then it's possible some events may not occur at all one time a person plays the game, but will occur if the player replays the game. Or are you thinking this could make events just happen in a drastically different order? Or are you thinking of something totally different? I'm just curious, 'cause I was thinking about doing something like this too.




"All you touch and all you see is all your life will ever be --Pink Floyd
Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur.
Need help? Well, go FAQ yourself.

Click here to see my current project.


Edited by - Nazrix on November 22, 2000 9:55:29 AM

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Posted 22 November 2000 - 04:31 AM

quote:
Original post by dwarfsoft

Once again LF comes up with his OWN ideas and POSTS them on this board for all to see... And once again they are GREAT!



Sorry, DS, but these are mostly taken from ShenMue. As I mentioned. But hey, when did it become a crime to be an ARTFUL rip off artist? Hell, STAR WARS was an artful rip off.

You take what has gone before, and improve upon it based on the weaknesses of the original. If Niphty can''t understand this, I''d hate to see his games. You can''t reinvent the wheel every time you sit down to write/design a game.


#10 Landfish   Members   -  Reputation: 288

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Posted 22 November 2000 - 04:34 AM

Doh. Last AP was me...

#11 Gregor_Samsa   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 22 November 2000 - 05:42 AM

Small Setting (cont.)
In order for this to work you would need a city or town that is so involving that the player never gets a chance to realize that he can''t leave. Once again, make the game interesting instead of huge. Ya, ya, I''m stating the obvious. It''s just that I''ve seen it so many times in games.
I think this also relates to the forum that was going on before about too much detail (eg. footprints in the snow). If you were to limit your setting to a small area then you would have much more time to develop interactive details such as this. I personally think this would be a big improvment. You can allow the player to become mayor of the town, or burn down a house, or beg on the streets. Whatever they feel like. You get really in depth NPCs that you can interact with.

I think NPCs should not neccessarily refuse to give info. Some would be very helpful, while others won''t even talk to you. They might even attack you if you try. Another interesting factor to add is lying. NPCs should sometimes give false info. The player will not neccessarily be able to trust them. There are certain ways to get around this, like getting them drunk so their more likely to be truthful, etc. Players will be able to get to know NPCs. They will learn whether a certain person is trustworthy or not.

Time
I agree that it was annoying when you could wander around for ever and night would never come. The king would always be sitting in his throne. The storekeeper was always behind the couter ready to serve. It would be much more interesting to makethem follow a certain schedule. Not one set in stone, but based on certain conditions. If the storekeeper is done his workday he usually goes home, but he might stop at the bar first, etc. This way you would get the feeling of a real world.

There are problems here that have to be overcome, however. If you want to buy something from the store you don''t want to have to wait around for 8 hours while the storekeeper sleeps. With some clever planning I think this could be avoided. And I suppose, in the end, you just have to tell the player that they can''t always get what they want.

Events

Could you guys go into more detail about what you mean here? I''m kinda confused.


Anyway, I know I''m restating a lot of your guys'' points, but it''s just cause I think that they''re good ideas

"When i was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse, out of
the corner of my mind. I turned to look, but it was
gone, I cannot put my finger on it now. The child has
grown, the dream has gone." -Pink Floyd

#12 dwarfsoft   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1225

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Posted 22 November 2000 - 01:31 PM

LF, I still think it counts as your own ideas upon the ISSUE of ShenMue. So I still count it, even if you don''t

quote:
Original post by Nazrix
I don''t mean to take this off topic too much, but could you explain more about your thinking on this? Are you thinking that if the prerequisites are not met then it''s possible some events may not occur at all one time a person plays the game, but will occur if the player replays the game. Or are you thinking this could make events just happen in a drastically different order? Or are you thinking of something totally different? I''m just curious, ''cause I was thinking about doing something like this too.



OK, what I mean is that you have a DATABASE (*shudder* I just had my damn SQL exam... *shudder again*) of events. These each have certain links to other events that need to have been completed before it can come into existence. The event may be dependant on a place or a time or just prerequisites altogether.

For example. If you had an event (primary event) with no prerequisites that had a specific location to happen then it would be in event at the start of the game. This might be in the form of a walkthrough or such.

You could have another TIME BASED event that happens only at specific intervals or only once in the entire game. This might be associated to a clock, or an NPC to tell them to go home (schedules... Bleh! )

If you have a PLAYER ENTER BUILDING event it would be location based, and occurs only when the player is there. (der). This is a partially primary (but not secondary) event. It will happen without the need for another event (because I don''t count the player being in a certain location as an event. That is a coincidence ).

You may have a prerequisite event of the PLAYER ENTERING THE
BUILDING event for a TRAP SET OFF event. There might also be multiple prerequisites for a single event such that a DISARM TRAP event must have a PLAYER DISARMS TRAP event and a PLAYER LEARNS TO DISARM TRAP event.

There can also be cascading (*shudder* more SQL!) event prerequisutes for a TRAP DAMAGES PLAYER event with the prerequisite of PLAYER FAILS TO DISARM TRAP which has a prerequisite of PLAYER GETS LOCKPICKING TOOLS event.

There can also be conditional prerequisites where an event can happen if the player has done ONE thing, or possibly another. This means that the game can be almost TOTALLY non-linear and events can STILL happen based on the history through the game. And because of the prerequisites, the players can''t lose out.

Anyway, it is just an idea

-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft - Site:"The Philosophers'' Stone of Programming Alchemy" - IOL
The future of RPGs - Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche

          


#13 Gregor_Samsa   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 22 November 2000 - 01:53 PM

I can''t totally understand all of the event stuff. But, it seems like you may be on to something. It would be a complex system, but with some thought it might produce some great results.



"When i was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse, out of
the corner of my mind. I turned to look, but it was
gone, I cannot put my finger on it now. The child has
grown, the dream has gone." -Pink Floyd

#14 dwarfsoft   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1225

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Posted 22 November 2000 - 03:59 PM

I think it is a little hard to understand if you don''t have a grasp on inheritance and also on pointers. Especially a SOLID grasp on pointers. This is the sort of amazingly complex linked list that would send most people writhing on the floor. I think I might write up a bit on this and draw a few abstract pictures and post them up here.

Do you kind of understand what I am saying with the examples? Anyway... I will see what I can do about getting a few pictures drawn up. Does somebody else understand what I am getting at here, maybe you could explain it better?

-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft - Site:"The Philosophers'' Stone of Programming Alchemy" - IOL
The future of RPGs - Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche

          


#15 Gregor_Samsa   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 22 November 2000 - 06:05 PM

I think I understand it, but I just have trouble picturing it.

When you say player you mean NPC rather than the user, right? Or am I crazy?

Basically my underastanding is that you have a series of events that lead to certain other events, based on which events have already happened. So the Storekeeper (my overused example) would have to go to sleep when he is tired because the events are limited to SLEEP or something like that. But then you could have exceptions to that rule, like if there is a battle going on he will stay awake.

So basically, what you are trying to accomplish is that the NPC''s will base their actions off of what is currently going on rather than what the programmer has prewritten?

In this way the game could change at the time it is being played, thus causing non-linearity?

I think I have a better understanding now that I wrote that (unless I''m totally misinterpreting what you were saying).

"When i was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse, out of
the corner of my mind. I turned to look, but it was
gone, I cannot put my finger on it now. The child has
grown, the dream has gone." -Pink Floyd

#16 dwarfsoft   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1225

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Posted 22 November 2000 - 06:40 PM

Sorry, I stuffed up a little in crossing ''Player'' over to include ''NPC''.

OK, an event is NOT reliant on the player, an NPC, or a time, etc. unless SPECIFICALLY attached to such an object (however abstract an object time is )

You can then bring down an event to include prerequisite events that may have been triggered by others, and also to conditional events (triggered by others).

Exclusie conditional events might be fun. If a player triggers two different events, then a third may never be able to occur.

This is rant material

-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft - Site:"The Philosophers'' Stone of Programming Alchemy" - IOL
The future of RPGs - Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche

          


#17 Gregor_Samsa   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 22 November 2000 - 06:52 PM

quote:

an event is NOT reliant on the player, an NPC, or a time, etc. unless SPECIFICALLY attached to such an object



I see. Instead of just a non-linear player you have an entire non-linear world.

This would be interesting to experiement with. It would be interesting to see what interesting results you could obtain if the player tipped the balance too far (eg. destruction of the world, NPCs comitting suicide, etc.).

I think it would be possible to attch this non-linearity to a pre-defined plot by making the pre-defined plot an attractor. Basically how this works is you have your set out plot. This has a very high probability to it. Then you have different levels of diversion from the plot, each level getting more and more unprobable to happen. In this way the system will always tend towards the plot you have set out, but the player will be able to diverge at will.

This would take some experimentation and a lot of work, but it would be very interesting.

Ah, I love the theoretical level.

"When i was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse, out of
the corner of my mind. I turned to look, but it was
gone, I cannot put my finger on it now. The child has
grown, the dream has gone." -Pink Floyd

#18 dwarfsoft   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1225

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Posted 22 November 2000 - 09:08 PM

Well, a world destruction event would have a LOT of DESTRUCTIVE prerequisites and cascading prerequisites. The totally non-linear world can have a completely open world where events pretain how the world and story itself unfolds. This is totally dependant on where the player is at a certain time and basically is comes all the way back to the ''right place at the right time''. This way, if you have conditionals for your prerequisite events (ie, Either event A has occured or event B or both etc.) you can have the path for the game unfolding in such a way as the player chooses. This WOULD be the step TOWARDS interactivity and TOTALLY INTERACTIVE video games.

-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft - Site:"The Philosophers'' Stone of Programming Alchemy" - IOL
The future of RPGs - Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche

          


#19 Gregor_Samsa   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 23 November 2000 - 09:01 AM

You should consider putting an element of randomness into it as well. Say if the prerequisite events for a certain event have occured, then this event might happen based on a random number. Or some other event might occur. You could have, say a .7 probability of one event and .3 of the other. That way the first one will happen most of the time, but once in awhile the second one will occur. In this way the world will be a little bit more unpredictable.

I''m curious what your thoughts about writinga story while implementing this are. Would you just create a world and let what ahppens happen?

"When i was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse, out of
the corner of my mind. I turned to look, but it was
gone, I cannot put my finger on it now. The child has
grown, the dream has gone." -Pink Floyd

#20 dwarfsoft   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1225

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Posted 23 November 2000 - 10:23 AM

I half restarted this topic over in the Game Design Corner in this thread. Basically, it goes a little more in depth with some others putting in their ideas.

I like the randomness factor, I will add that to the writup that I am doing. You can now view the tree idea from the doc, specifically this page called "Non-Linear Event Handling. I hope that this will explain more clearly than I have been able to with text. It is a little long, but I think that it is easy to follow.

-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft - Site:"The Philosophers'' Stone of Programming Alchemy" - IOL
The future of RPGs - Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche

          





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