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why not hide the numbers?


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#301 tolaris   Members   -  Reputation: 288

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Posted 19 June 2005 - 02:48 AM

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Original post by Wavinator
How would you be sure to calculate the path the player intends? Are you going to assume shortest path? What if this drags them through territories they don't want to go through?

Likely allowing the player to plot the (approximation of) route they'd like to take, either by placing series of waypoint or straight draw the curve of route on the map.

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I think the whole army thing is a handwave that ignores the basic problem: You've now got a different game. It's fine if you're doing a hybrid (in fact, I'd like to play it), but you open yourself to a whole rash of concerns (some of which I tried to outline) that simply don't apply to a party or single character.

Very true; but i think it's partially what makes trying to piece such game together fun. Let's be frank about it, the 'typical RPG' isn't *that* far from Progress Quest (i've been biting my tongue for 200+ posts to not mention it, but now someone else already had, so to heck with it :p) ... and this eternal cycle of "go out, whack monsters, bring loot, sell loot, watch tiny numbers grow into bigger numbers" with never anything new to it... it's dull. The much-touted "character development" that's supposed to be large part of experience is a fake when the character never changes from being ultimate killing machine ... that 'grows' from exterminating rats to exterminating dragons... but never moves beyond _exterminating something_ If you check every source outside of RPG games, it's generally considered a character "develops" when someone finally manages to break the mold they've been stuck in. I'd really like to see the concept of RPG grow to that level, too...

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For example, if you go from an individual to a huge, warring group, the experience will be disjoint. Whatever was fun that related to being a young adventurer will now disappear when being a general. New concerns will arise, responsibilities you didn't have will crop up.

Aye, and i'd actually hope the game manages to create such feel for some players. Why? Because it's a very real part of *being* someone important and finding you no longer really can do all the little things you enjoyed. People either find they like new responsibilities and power, or not. And it's what ultimately drives some to turning it all down and getting back to what they were, just to be happy again (or not, people find different ways to cope with these sensations, and i'd like to allow for at least some of them)

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What, for example, would be the interface for choosing the army? How would you specifically group and order different units? Where would your screen focus lie? If you switch to an RTS mode, you'll begin to devalue character identification. If you lock to the character, then you'll either frustrate players because they won't have fine army control, or you'll have to issue orders by proxy and effectively watch scripts run-- very "hands off," and annoying when individual units get stuck pathfinding, or get attacked where you can't see them. (..)

One of the biggest design problems I've had so far in trying to blend empire game and RPG is that of the training curve. A game must train you at each level to progress, and do so by exposing you to specific challenges that allow you to slowly sharpen your skills. The problem is, if your scope broadens, your training curve goes up exponentially.

So you'll have to figure out, at each level of being a hero, how it relates to having an army. You can't just suddenly spring an army on the player and expect them to be competent. So they must be giving orders and dealing with tactics at level one, and they must know that they're being groomed to be a general.

I've rearranged your reply a bit, since i find these bits i put together here, related. Indeed, suddenly switching from 'single hero' mode to 'here is your army, now command!' mode would be very discomforting (and quite silly to boot) Fortunately, the RPGs already have mechanics which allow you to slowly ease in the player in their advanced roles, and that's through "adventuring parties".

The player gets to learn how to recruit the right people, how to manage them around and on the battlefield, how to deal with issues they have. By seeing their companions up close on the battlefield player gains understanding on how very different types can perform there, even though the player themselves isn't really a knight/thief/archer/wizard/ninja/pirate rolled into one and as such wouldn't be able to know what they can expect from different specializations. Since their companions are other individual "people" with their own attributes, the personal element is still there, now additionally enhanced since these people might have their own preferences and quirks. They may take orders well and perform them well, they may perform them sloppily, some may even decide they know better than charge half-dead into bunch of strong enemies just because you yell at them to.

This is the battle management on small, easy-to-swallow scale... and if the player proves they're capable of handling it, the bar can be gradually upped. At some point down the road Eric the Viking might be replaced with a squad of vikings... but because the player got to see many times how Eric the Viking deals with say, enemy archer, the player has already pretty good understanding how a group of vikings stands against group of archers or a group of knights, and how their attributes compare on average. The individual element slowly shifts as well, from individual soldiers to squad leaders who are able to put their personal 'spin' on people they command... and then possibly further up, but it's still there.

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The personal touch of an RPG will be lost in translation. A general doesn't go around questing for the peasants. He probably doesn't try to resolve the relationship between a couple of married villagers for the sake of love. Nor does he go fetch magical wood to prop up an old, senile wizard's windmill.

The general is impersonal. He doesn't solve people's personal problems as the RPG hero does. He conquers towns, secures the border, perhaps plays politics in the court (never done, but could be). The tone and emphasis is different.

To a degree, yes, it's right; The difference imo lies in the fact that --before becoming a general-- the player has spent long time "down there". They tried to help a pair of villagers, they did fix the windmill, and likely did many other things which now altogether put a *meaning* to trying to secure a town that'd otherwise be judged as "not worth losing many knights over" (or if it's ultimately judged as 'not worthy' then it still has "human face" of people the player got to know there, rather than being just a statistical record like your typical RTS 'control point)

The general might be now too busy to go and visit the pair they once helped, but it doesn't mean he can't receive the birthday card from them, with well-wishes and thanks for what he'd once done. Or to get a note in thankful letter from a wizard, after the general's latest campaign managed to save the wizard's village: "p.s. the windmill still stands strong" A much valuable reflection of what the player achieved over the course of game imo, than "Strength: 322" instead of "Strength: 321" on the character's sheet.

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LOTR: "LEGOLAS! KILL HIM!!!! KILL HIM!!!!" Why was Legolas singled out by Aragon to take out the kamikaze orc? Because he's the best damn archer in the entire army. You can't escape the fact that, given an RPG, NPCs will have uniqueness, and as such, players will want to tactically position that uniqueness in the most beneficial way.

I'll be a cynic here and say that Legolas was singled out because #1 he's in the credits and #2, he's the only guy there who actually has name that's known to Aragorn ;s It'd simply have no impact to the reader/viewer if Aragorn instead yelled "Joe_234, take him out!" and the reader never heard of this Joe up to now, and then Joe is also never mentioned after... because he was a simple Plot Device.

But yes, there should be unique individuals in the game. But i think the focus should be on findig these individuals and putting them where their unique abilites *matter* and can be utilized best. As squad leaders, property managers and all sorts of organizers who act as the bridge between you as leader and the final receivers of your orders. Failing that you get swamped in the micro-managing that's a plague of 'conquer and manage' games, where you're too busy trying to juggle few hundred of units to ever get a clear understanding of the big picture you're expected to paint.

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The alternative, as you're suggesting, is a tactic-less zergling rush where hundreds of clone knights mob a target. In that case, why even bother with the idea of an army if you're going to strip the general of significant decisions of varying risk and reward (think about what decisions generals have to make).

I think any commander acting in that manner would get a rude awakening after wasting large part of their resources in battle where it could be easily avoided with just the right use of forces they had at hand ... and their commanding would end abruptly, and on sour note. Of course, hopefully by the time the player gets to that seat, they're already aware of it, having gone through series of (smaller scale) engagements which if anything taught them gettting that Dan the Wizard recklessly killed makes both healing after battle troublesome, and the other people think twice about signing up for duty...

(damn that was long. sorry >.<

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#302 nefthy   Members   -  Reputation: 184

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Posted 19 June 2005 - 03:24 AM

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tolaris
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wavinator
LOTR: "LEGOLAS! KILL HIM!!!! KILL HIM!!!!" Why was Legolas singled out by Aragon to take out the kamikaze orc? Because he's the best damn archer in the entire army. You can't escape the fact that, given an RPG, NPCs will have uniqueness, and as such, players will want to tactically position that uniqueness in the most beneficial way.


I'll be a cynic here and say that Legolas was singled out because #1 he's in the credits and #2, he's the only guy there who actually has name that's known to Aragorn ;s It'd simply have no impact to the reader/viewer if Aragorn instead yelled "Joe_234, take him out!" and the reader never heard of this Joe up to now, and then Joe is also never mentioned after... because he was a simple Plot Device.


You (or aragon) also knew he was the best damn archer in the army because he could make one shot and two orcs would drop dead.

Quote:
tolaris
people might have their own preferences and quirks


An aspect to often overlooked (IMHO). Take a stereotype and add a few quirks and you have a nice character. Nice and easy way of making a character interesting and something beyond a fighter with strength $impresive_number. What about the quirks taking a more important role in gameplay? What if you have to choose between a strong fighter that is afraid of the dark and a fearless thief that would run through a dragon just at the sight of gold? Both would be stats wise a good choise, but you can't base your dessision on stats here. The stats could even be missleading.

#303 Anonymous Poster_Anonymous Poster_*   Guests   -  Reputation:

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Posted 19 June 2005 - 07:45 AM

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Original post by tolaris
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For example, if you go from an individual to a huge, warring group, the experience will be disjoint. Whatever was fun that related to being a young adventurer will now disappear when being a general. New concerns will arise, responsibilities you didn't have will crop up.

Aye, and i'd actually hope the game manages to create such feel for some players. Why? Because it's a very real part of *being* someone important and finding you no longer really can do all the little things you enjoyed. People either find they like new responsibilities and power, or not. And it's what ultimately drives some to turning it all down and getting back to what they were, just to be happy again (or not, people find different ways to cope with these sensations, and i'd like to allow for at least some of them)


Are people ready for a game that uses gameplay to express meaning? So far, games have pretty much been purely for fun, like a painting which was painted to hang beautifully on the wall (and I see nothing wrong with that). However, now you're talking about a transition where you leave behind "whatever was fun" about the gameplay to emphasize the loss of the character's old self. Sure, the next phase might be fun in its own way, but most people play one game over another to get a specific sort of gameplay. You've now taken away what the player came to this game to get. That that was the intent doesn't change things. Also, easing the player into the new role won't help. If they don't like the new gameplay, they'll just find they increasingly dislike the game.

Now, it sounds like maybe you want to make games more "artistic" (I don't like the term used that way, but that's how it is). May or may not be a good thing, but does a large enough audience exist? Are you sure you would enjoy it if it were handed to you?

#304 tolaris   Members   -  Reputation: 288

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Posted 19 June 2005 - 09:37 AM

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Original post by Anonymous Poster
Are people ready for a game that uses gameplay to express meaning?

I'm honestly not sure ^^ Since the 'early gamers' are now in the 30-40 age bracket, it makes it somewhat reasonable to hope part of them would appreciate a game which digs a bit deeper than the usual ... as well as to expect that some of them are familiar with the concept of choice between letting things go or (trying to) get back to them, as a part of growing up and developing what we are. In this sense, a game which recognizes and taps into these experiences might evoke emotional response similar to one a good book or movie would.

Ultimately though, there's only one way to find that out ;s

Quote:
However, now you're talking about a transition where you leave behind "whatever was fun" about the gameplay to emphasize the loss of the character's old self. Sure, the next phase might be fun in its own way, but most people play one game over another to get a specific sort of gameplay. You've now taken away what the player came to this game to get. That that was the intent doesn't change things. Also, easing the player into the new role won't help. If they don't like the new gameplay, they'll just find they increasingly dislike the game.

Well, am not too concerned with the 'people come to game for one, specific kind of fun' mindset, popularity of GTA and similar games seem to indicate people do like options in how to have fun in game. Extreme specialization is more of domain of market specialists, reviewers from game magazines and the min-maxers ;s

Anyway; aye, it's definitely something that'd be difficult to get done right. Unless you somehow manage to make everything 'good fun', the second best option would perhaps be to provide the player at each stage with range of activities wide enough they'll hopefully always find something in the game world they enjoy. Even then, the sense of a loss is always likely to linger there... but it *is* part of development.

Incidentally, in a way this is probably quite close to becoming one of possible answers to Wavinator's question from another thread, "how to present a player with a choice where some kind of a loss is part of the deal, and it cannot be removed by simple tap of 'quick load' key" ... but that's another story.

Quote:
Now, it sounds like maybe you want to make games more "artistic" (I don't like the term used that way, but that's how it is). May or may not be a good thing, but does a large enough audience exist? Are you sure you would enjoy it if it were handed to you?

I tend to think of it as of being more "human" ... also rather unfortunate term, but it somewhat manages to convey the game is more focused on characters --including their shortcomings-- than it normally happens. Would i enjoy it personally? Yes, but this can be because i like games which focus on the 'role playing' in that sense of getting to experience someone else's life with the whole baggage that comes with it, not just the shiny pretty parts... and which manage to keep their characters believeable even in the most fantastic settings.

#305 nefthy   Members   -  Reputation: 184

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Posted 19 June 2005 - 11:23 AM

I would propose to make new threads with more specific topics (since there arose quite a few). Let this one die . It is loooong and prone to repetition.

#306 Madster   Members   -  Reputation: 242

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Posted 19 June 2005 - 12:24 PM

Oops, last post here! I seem to have missed Wavinator's most excellent post :s

Quote:
Original post by WavinatorThe encyclopedia might work as described, but I notice that you're now having to rely heavily on an artificial gameplay mechanic. This is effectively akin to having a character sheet, as someone was complaining about earlier. If the comparison encyclopedia is what's needed to make the idea viable, then EVERY game that follows this formula will have to come with an encyclopedia (even if you're a desert savage or underwater merman, you'll have to have one).
You're very right, It would become a genre staple. Dunno if it's really really bad, but it *is* out of context. :'(

"how do we make a numberless RPG fun?" <-- yes! that'd be better :D
y'see, what I want is to make it avaiable to more people, namely the people close to me. For example, my mother and most people her age, while they enjoy games they have poor motor skills, short memory and bad vision. Action adventure is out, as is the numerical approach. Does that mean you can't have the kind of experience an RPG offers (yes, i agreed that it wouldn't be an RPG... though marketing will still call it that ;)

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Maybe a cheap way would be to use particle effects and physics...

hey! that sounds like it would work! not too many extra resources needed, intuitive, flexible and easy to implement regardless of the graphic style!
extra brownie points for you!

Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
Because of this, what you'll get is a gaming experience that starts out one way then pulls a fast one and ends up completely different.
Movies do this, but It doesn't fit in a game cause it's a much longer experience. Still, in movies sometimes it's a nice surprise, and I wish there was a way to adapt it to games. But that's for another thread :D
Quote:
Original post by Tolaris
But yes, there should be unique individuals in the game. But i think the focus should be on findig these individuals and putting them where their unique abilites *matter* and can be utilized best.
XCom :')
Well you had to hack the savefiles to name your soldiers but still. I love this concept, and when dreaming about RPGs one of my pet thoughts is the ability to take a random NPC under your wing and "upgrade" his polycount, rename him and make him a proper PC :)
Tolaris' train of thought is interesting, but should spawn a different thread since it's a different kind of idea. I'm with splitting this one in several too :D
about the whole army... your party could be lieutenants who control other squads via AI while focusing on your orders... or something!

About traffic lights
: what about, instead of outlining, just tinting the whole scene in the three traffic colors? say, you target the huge black dragon and your screen tints red.... it's gonna be tough. tints yellow and you may take him.... tints green and its easy. Would adding two extra colors mess this up? (tinting could also be used in other things that have chance)

About conveying meaning: All artsy games (i'm okay with the term) I know have tanked badly but the press has loved them, maybe because they had to take time to play them regardless if the box looked interesting or not, and they're kinda bored with the same ol'. Looking at the current gamer age range, I'd say we're almost ready. However not everyone should take this route. Think of what other arts do: Impressionism, realism, cubism... there's something for everyone. And there's your commercial painters churning out generic paintings and making a good living out of it.
Movies: you have film art, independent film, mainstream action and mainstream intellectual movies... we're stuck in the action phase and just expanding to the other possibilities. But that, too, is for another thread. wh00t 13 pages of fun!

#307 Anonymous Poster_Anonymous Poster_*   Guests   -  Reputation:

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Posted 19 June 2005 - 07:46 PM

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Original post by Madster
About conveying meaning: All artsy games (i'm okay with the term) I know have tanked badly but the press has loved them, maybe because they had to take time to play them regardless if the box looked interesting or not, and they're kinda bored with the same ol'. Looking at the current gamer age range, I'd say we're almost ready. However not everyone should take this route. Think of what other arts do: Impressionism, realism, cubism... there's something for everyone. And there's your commercial painters churning out generic paintings and making a good living out of it.
Movies: you have film art, independent film, mainstream action and mainstream intellectual movies... we're stuck in the action phase and just expanding to the other possibilities. But that, too, is for another thread. wh00t 13 pages of fun!


Actually, my dislike of the term "artistic" is that I see no less art in what the commercial painters are doing than in what all those "artsy" folks are doing.

Anyway, the problem is that changing the gameplay is something akin to switching from an action movie to a romantic comedy. I really don't think that'd go over too well. Or, say, switching from a murder mystery to hard sci fi half way through a novel. This stuff can work in the "artsy" world because things there don't have to be beautiful, they just have to have meaning (that, and you can write off anyone who doesn't like it by saying "they just don't get it").

Also, I don't see what age of gamers has to do with it. I think, if anything, it's more to do with the age of the medium.

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Posted 20 June 2005 - 01:18 AM

To me, what I'd like to see is not so much removing the numbers entirely but making them more like real life. Instead of a sword enchanted to +12 with a DS of 0.225, I'd like to see more realistic terms. Give the weight of the sword and make that directly related to the amount of damage it does. Make the shapness related to the amount that it can cause the target to bleed. The trick here is that there is no real measure for shapness, so in this case I think you would need a relative term to show the player instead of a hard number even if the sharpness is based on a number.

One possibility for sharpness is to have a standard cutting block where the strength of the sword is measured by how deep it can cut. By using this value and knowing the weight (the deapth comes from a combination of weight and sharpness) you can calculate the sharpness of the sword.

Another thing I'd like to see changed is if the oldest, strongest, highest trained character in all of the lands is sleeping on the ground without his armor on, a lowly rat CAN bite his neck and kill him... It drive me crazy in RPGs how importiant the level of the character is. In Gemstone, a train 10 character almost cannot be injured at all by a train 1 character no matter how stupid he is and no matter what the train 1 character does, the train 10 character will kill him. I'd rather see the character be given certian skills and if they don't use them correctly, they will not do very well.

What this allows for is when you have a group of ten characters fighting another group of ten characters the stratigy is somewhat more realistic. Instead of sending a single train 100 archer against 100 train 1 foot soldiers with tower shields (I mean really, if you can't seem 'em behind the shield how are you going to kill them?), you might send 10 spear welding characters against the soldiers to batter away the shields...

Again, I don't want to see numbers go away, I want to see RPGs become more realistic. Instead of depending on your level to allow you to defeat an opponent, I want to see players depending on tactics and a little bit on their skills. As they say, its not just the fighter, often its 90% luck, 9% equipment and 1% skill that allows someone to win.

#309 tolaris   Members   -  Reputation: 288

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Posted 20 June 2005 - 02:14 AM

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Original post by Anonymous Poster
Anyway, the problem is that changing the gameplay is something akin to switching from an action movie to a romantic comedy. I really don't think that'd go over too well.

If Will Wright's presentation of his Spore is any indication, this sort of gameplay was found refreshing, innovative and 'omg i can't wait to play it' ^^

(although now it sounds like i'd be trying to copy it... oh well :/

#310 Jotaf   Members   -  Reputation: 280

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Posted 21 June 2005 - 03:10 AM


This discussion sparked up many different inside discussions and it seems that everyone wants to voice their opinion on them. Since we're killing this thread, shouldn't someone start other threads to continue the discussion on these more specific topics? With a brief summary of what was said here of course!

#311 Anonymous Poster_Anonymous Poster_*   Guests   -  Reputation:

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Posted 21 June 2005 - 05:08 AM

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Original post by Jotaf

This discussion sparked up many different inside discussions and it seems that everyone wants to voice their opinion on them. Since we're killing this thread, shouldn't someone start other threads to continue the discussion on these more specific topics? With a brief summary of what was said here of course!


Be my guest [grin]

#312 Daniel Miller   Members   -  Reputation: 218

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Posted 21 June 2005 - 07:26 AM

Edit: It was certainly said earlier.

#313 Ranger Meldon   Members   -  Reputation: 198

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 06:11 AM

Summary of points of discussion:

1. Needless conflict of ideas
2. Non-numerical vagueness vs numerical relativity
3. Varying definitions of 'RPG' (literality vs. historical connotations vs. outside-the-box)
4. First-person vs. third-person perspective
5. Fun vs. realism
6. Numbers vs. text (and/or other non-numerical indicators)
7. Stimuli annoyance (repetitive sounds, etc)
8. Character skills vs player skills
9. Quantization of skills and attributes (stats, damage dealt, durability, armor, etc)
10. Character knowledge/memory vs. player knowledge/memory
11. CRPGs vs. PnP RGPs (including text-based CRPGs)
12. Role playing vs. min/maxing and munchkins


1. Needless conflict of ideas
-----------------------------
There are twelve separate points of discussion I can identify as being present in this thread. It is easy to understand how this could have expanded to 13 pages! I have come across some really good ideas in the course of reading through these posts. I have also seen some problems. I will post these first 7 categories I have addressed, and post the other 5 when I can get them written up. Hopefully this won't be so much at one time as to prohibit interest.

The first problem I see is a needless conflict of differing ideas and opinions. Granted, some ideas are mutually exclusive of each other, but most are not. We need to employ moderation in all things (including using moderation). This means don't throw out an idea or method just because it doesn't work all the time. This is basically related to the fallacy of denying the hypothesis. In logic, this refers to the error of thinking that if A implies B, and A is false, B must be false. A relevant example of this error is this: If I use numbers well in my RPG, it will be a good game. While it is true that if you use numbers well, you will make a good game (according to this assertion), it is not necessarily true that if you don't use numbers, that the game will be bad. The opposite of the subject also applies: If I avoid using numbers in my game, it will be good. It would be committing an error of logic to assert that to use numbers in your game would be to make a bad game. The only way these are not logic errors is if the propositions are biconditional (a bidirectional implication). If this were the case, then the phrase "if and only if" would be used, as in "If and only if I use numbers well, will I make a good game." I haven't seen anyone's posts use that wording. Even if they have or do, I am here to assert that they would be wrong to make such a biconditional proposition. Numbers are the foundation of math, and mathematics is the universal language. By their nature, numbers do not preclude or inhibit the use of other forms of communication. In fact, in most cases, numbers enhance communications by other means (i.e. graphics, sounds, text, animations, etc).

If one method works well, and another method works well, and they are not mutually exclusive to employ, then your best bet would be to find ways to use them together, in addition to using them separately. This is to say, we need to realize that numbers and descriptive text can be used together and separately within the same game. This also goes for mixing numbers and any other form of communication of data to the player, such as graphics and sound cues.

2. Numerical relativity vs. non-numerical vagueness
---------------------------------------------------
There has been much talk about the efficacy for describing a world of numbers versus not-numbers. Those against numbers say that numbers are too relative. How immersively descriptive is Damage 13-15? Those for numbers say that textual descriptions of interactions are too long and slow to absorb. They would rather see "Dmg +65" instead of "Your sword arcs gracefully through the air, slamming forcefully into the oozing flesh of the Unterbeast, dealing severe damage." How do we reconcile these two disparate viewpoints? By recalling how a computer operates -- with numbers. On a basic level, we cannot get away from this. We should try to avoid needless numerical abstraction when combining already-existing numbers would achieve the same effect. (Don't make up new numbers if mixing numbers you already have would get the job done.) Textual descriptions are really just icing; a kind of flowery lacework... to appeal to players who want text to augment their imaginations, we should include text descriptions. However, we should do it in such a way that it is not distracting or "required reading" for anyone else. Also, we need to correctly identify when numbers are "as good as it gets," or when numbers could be hidden or prettied up by being visually replaced by scenery changes or environmental reactions. The only thing that makes life seem real to me is that I receive direct stimuli from my environment in every moment without having to really think about it. The more time I have to spend interpreting what I see just to determine what's real, the more I'm going to feel like what I'm experiencing is not real, or that I am somewhat disconnected from full reality. This applies to gaming. The programmer is responsible for designing and implementing for the player an interface to the game world through the senses of the character.

Aside from colors, shapes, sounds, and motion, numbers are probably the most easily assimilated information available to a player. Considering that those other rudimentary forms of information cannot be used in all situations, whereas numbers generally can, this makes the case strong for using numbers. The way I try to think about numbers to make them seem less intrusive is this: They are more or less representing the character's subconscious interpretations of what is happening in the game world. Just as we do not consciously think of most qualitative experiences numerically, neither does the character. But the numbers should not be thought of as being indicative of the nature of the game world. Instead, they should be viewed as a communication to the player of the character's neurochemical observational reactions. In other words, the numbers are a programmer's most basic and consistent method of shortening the gap between the character's mind and the player's mind, by finding a way to represent relative things numerically. The character may know almost exactly how much more damage or pain one attack caused a monster than did a previous attack; numbers communicate that subconscious "character brain" appraisal into a subconscious player brain appraisal. i.e. Wow, I did 236 damage to him. That had to hurt! Last time I only did 87 damage. It it unfortunate that such information has to be converted into numbers, and thus force the player to think and speak in terms of numerical superiority. Until computer gaming hardware becomes extremely more sophisticated than it is now, there really is no way around this. The best we can hope to do is find creative ways to make numbers speak more clearly, or to make them speak indirectly through more expressive means. But this should not necessarily mean depriving the player's mind of the numerical basis behind those other methods.

3. Varying definitions of 'RPG'
-------------------------------
We need to realize that "RPG" means what we make it mean. We dictate the future by programming games our way. How did the current connotations of RPG come about in the first place? By people like you and me sitting down and deciding for themselves how they wanted their RPG projects to be. Personally, I like to go with a nebulous and flexible inference of RPG based solely on the meaning of its letters -- a Role Playing Game. This means any game where you are able to immerse yourself into the role of someone else's life. Yes, you are basically doing this whenever you play any game where the main character is human. But to me, RPG doesn't just mean dictating your character's choices and actions. It also means developing a persona for your character that dictates your choices and actions in the character's life. This persona evolves over time as you interact with the game world. This evolution is not just a result of the game world affecting the character, but also a result of the character affecting the player. It means playing a role. This implies more than just shooting at things, buying and selling, min/maxing, or hoarding. It means spawning another personality process in your consciousness. You're not just competing with the programmer of the game or with the world they have created. You're merging yourself into another existence. When your bad-ass level 58 rogue sneaks into the vampire mage tower undetected, successfully picks the flaming magic lock of annihilation, and wins the ruby of shadows (+3 to win the game) as his prize, you are able to feel as though YOU have just done all these awesome things. This is because you have had a singular and direct hand in the accumulation of your character's skills and experiences via his choices up to that point. No reflex-based FPS or arcade scroller can compete with that experience on its own turf. This is the vision of an RPG to which I wish to adhere, irrespective of first- or third-person gameplay.

4. First-person vs. third-person perspective
--------------------------------------------
That having been said, I do prefer (well-made) FPS RPGs over any kind of isometric view RPGs, any day. Key words here: well-made. (i.e. not Morrowind -- Another well-programmed game with beautiful graphics (mostly) that still just can't seem to deliver consistently engaging gameplay, or at least LAN co-op support.) My own project will be mostly an FPS RPG, with the ability to transition to a third-person view. It would seem as though some of the people posting here think that third-person means isometric view. While isometric viewing is technically third-person viewing, people generally don't mean isometric view when saying third-person. They mean a game where you can see your character from behind, or from different external angles, but not from the same angle at all times. This usually implies that the player can only see over the character in the direction the camera is looking toward, instead of being able to see the same area of ground around the player at all times. This also usually implies that the camera is closer to the character than in isometric view games.

5. Fun vs. realism
------------------
As a general axiom, games are supposed to be fun. Some people think that realism corresponds with fun, but at some point far enough down the realism pipeline, realism begins to conflict with fun. Fun sells games, realism does not (unless it adds to the fun). Therefore, do the best you possibly can to make your style of game fun, realism be damned. If I wanted sheer realism, I'd go bang myself over the head with a frying pan. Once you have chosen your game design and target audience parameters, stick with them. Design your game as best you can to please your target audience using the limitation set of your game type as a solid guideline. Conversely, don't be afraid to think outside the box and introduce new elements which are ordinarily alien to your type of game. But bottom-line, don't hesitate to scrap an idea if it makes your game less fun, even if the trade-off is enhanced realism.

Another axiom is that the player is not the character. This is a barrier that must be overcome at all costs when making an FPS. Now, you may say, "what if at all costs means almost nobody can play it on their computer?" Well, I wouldn't call that very immersive for most people, would you? Game design is always going to be a balance between a host of conflicting desires. However, the overall quality of immersiveness is king. The player needs to be able to interface with the role they're playing as completely as can be accomplished on a computer using current tricks and technologies. As opposed to third-person perspective gaming, first-person gaming presents players with the unique opportunity to BE their characters. This is because perspective IS identity. Hence the saying "Don't judge him until you see things through his eyes." There is a powerful occulted truth here. However, a previous axiom is that games are supposed to be fun. Thus the introduction of an alternate third-person perspective, selectable by the player or in cases where a first person perspective would actually interfere with a player's perception of the action. Examples of this would be during fights (or certain moves of a fight, but not when the player is using an aimed weapon, such as a bow or gun) or the type of close-up-and-personal lock-picking minigame that has been mentioned by others previously. The object here should always be to enhance the player's enjoyment of the game, and not to just rigidly stick with one view perspective or the other for the sake of convention.

6. Numbers vs. text (and other non-numericals)
----------------------------------------------
Avoid replacing numbers with pure text, as this is a further abstraction, which slows assimilation by the player, crippling immersiveness. Instead, have numbers interspersed amongst textual descriptions, or have a textual discription of a thing or event followed in parentheses by the associated numbers and/or formulas involved in forming the description. Have numbers representing different quantities or aspects show up in different colors, for quick visual identification by the player. For that matter, use different colors (and alpha blending) a LOT to indicate different basic truths, such as health, mana, damage being taken, treasure found, being poisoned, etc. This eliminates the need for numbers or text.

There may be cases where using anything but numbers would detract from the overall game design, such as with stats. In these instances, tailor the character and parts of his or her environment to reflect the numbers being shown. For example, muscle bulk and definition would show level of strength. A character's reception by NPCs would reflect the character's reputation and/or charisma. Dexterity could be noticed as movement speed or the tendency to hit enemies. Increase the amount of visible and audible alterations to the world to reflect changes in the numbers. This makes the numbers feel more tangible and relevant. For example, muscles would swell or become more "cut" to show greater strength, or the character might not complain as much under a load of a specific weight range. NPCs would treat the character better as his or her reputation and/or charisma improves. Remember that all things are relative to all other things. Numbers are no exception. Do what you can to make the numbers relate more directly and obviously to the game world. Try to make them feel intuitive.

7. Stimuli annoyance
--------------------
It is ofcourse also important to remember the moderation rule. It is indeed very annoying to hear the same sound effects all the time, especially to indicate failures or problems. You'll generally notice that players don't mind sounds nearly as much when they are used to indicate successes. Once again, the fun axiom. Create a fuzzy modifier to alter the pitch and/or duration of indicator sounds. Mix up graphical elements and animations so players don't feel quite so much like they're being railroaded through a script. Avoid high-pitched or whiney sound effects whenever possible, and especially when conveying negative messages, as these are interpreted more easily as threats by the primordial part of the human brain, thereby leading to repetitive excitation stress and irritation. Who knows, this may be desirable, depending on the game. (Doom 3...)



#314 Madster   Members   -  Reputation: 242

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 09:25 AM

Nice summary. Once you add the remaining bits I suggest you try and get it featured on gamedev, I'd like to see it there for reference.

#315 Daniel Miller   Members   -  Reputation: 218

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 09:26 AM

Now that took effort!

#316 CyberSlag5k   Members   -  Reputation: 514

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 09:38 AM

I (as evidenced by the post I coincidentally just put up on the same topic) wholeheartedly agree. Number crunching takes so much fun out of a game. I remember being in a D&D group a few summers ago and I was interested in getting this enchantment put on my paladin's axe that would make it release a blinding flash of light. I wanted it, not for the combat penalty, but for the fact that we were riding into a darkened city and I wanted my paladin to be a sort of becon of intimidating white light for the evil denizens within. I felt it was a fitting (and cool) role to play, given the situation. I had enough money so I voiced my interest to my group. One of the members said "No, there are much better enchantments to get. Look at..." and he rattled off the 2 or 3 enchantments that are the "best". It was so disheartening to know I was merely stacking my numbers agains the NPCs'.

In even pen and paper games, couldn't we just leave all the number work up to the DM? Don't let characters see there stats at all, just give them a vague range. So instead of the typical 1-18, have it be 1-100. 1-20 is terrible, 21-40 is poor, 40-60 is average, 60-80 is good, and 80-100 is great, and all they're given is those enumerations. Then put a random deviation on all the numbers the character is privy to, so that the player may know that a certain skill ups skill X, and as playing DMs they'll know the base, but have the DM roll a die that can add or subtract up to 10 on that number. I mean, not every two swordsmen that undergo the same training will be just as talented as each other in real life, why not make that a factor in the game? You couldn't tell right away that you aren't a very talented swordsman, but rather you'd find out over time. It even brings about the potential for a class-changing system part way through your character's life. Ok, he's pretty sucky as a warrior, but did surprisingly well at decyphering scrolls, so if you want you can try him out as a mage. You already know he has "good" intelligence, so give it a shot. Might be interesting...
Without order nothing can exist - without chaos nothing can evolve.

#317 Anonymous Poster_Anonymous Poster_*   Guests   -  Reputation:

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 11:12 AM

Quote:
Original post by CyberSlag5k
I (as evidenced by the post I coincidentally just put up on the same topic) wholeheartedly agree. Number crunching takes so much fun out of a game. I remember being in a D&D group a few summers ago and I was interested in getting this enchantment put on my paladin's axe that would make it release a blinding flash of light. I wanted it, not for the combat penalty, but for the fact that we were riding into a darkened city and I wanted my paladin to be a sort of becon of intimidating white light for the evil denizens within. I felt it was a fitting (and cool) role to play, given the situation. I had enough money so I voiced my interest to my group. One of the members said "No, there are much better enchantments to get. Look at..." and he rattled off the 2 or 3 enchantments that are the "best". It was so disheartening to know I was merely stacking my numbers agains the NPCs'.


A good DM and a clever player (especially one who can pick up on hints from the good DM) could make the "flash of light" enchantment a very good thing to have. Just having a DM who would make the bad guys intimidated by the flashing light would be cool. Two things to note, though:

A straight dungeon crawl D&D session can be a lot of fun. No role playing, just beating on things in a dungeon.

A video game is much less dynamic than a DM and it'll be a long time before you'll have video games that truly understand role playing, even to the basic extent of coming up with "That light would be intimidating".

Quote:

In even pen and paper games, couldn't we just leave all the number work up to the DM? Don't let characters see there stats at all, just give them a vague range. So instead of the typical 1-18, have it be 1-100. 1-20 is terrible, 21-40 is poor, 40-60 is average, 60-80 is good, and 80-100 is great, and all they're given is those enumerations. Then put a random deviation on all the numbers the character is privy to, so that the player may know that a certain skill ups skill X, and as playing DMs they'll know the base, but have the DM roll a die that can add or subtract up to 10 on that number. I mean, not every two swordsmen that undergo the same training will be just as talented as each other in real life, why not make that a factor in the game? You couldn't tell right away that you aren't a very talented swordsman, but rather you'd find out over time. It even brings about the potential for a class-changing system part way through your character's life. Ok, he's pretty sucky as a warrior, but did surprisingly well at decyphering scrolls, so if you want you can try him out as a mage. You already know he has "good" intelligence, so give it a shot. Might be interesting...


Some people do play that way. It can be fun, but gives you, the player, much less control over what sort of role you want to play. Sure, you can tell the DM what sort of role you want him to make for you. Now the issue is how specific can you, the player, be and how close does he, the DM, have to stick to your specifications. If you can be very specific (i.e. if you want to choose exactly the sort of character you want to play) and the DM can't deviate from that, then you may as well have stuck with the numbers. If you can't be very specific or the DM can deviate greatly, then you don't have much say in your character's design.

#318 nefthy   Members   -  Reputation: 184

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Posted 24 June 2005 - 12:37 AM

Quote:
Original post by Ranger Meldon
Summary of points of discussion:
(...)


Very well writen. Looking forward to part 2.

Quote:
Madster
Once you add the remaining bits I suggest you try and get it featured on gamedev, I'd like to see it there for reference.


I second that.

#319 Ranger Meldon   Members   -  Reputation: 198

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Posted 24 June 2005 - 01:32 PM

8. Character skills vs. player skills
-------------------------------------
Based on my previous description of what I would like an RPG to be defined as, the details of this section should already be somewhat foreshadowed. A character's skills should reign supreme over a player's skills. If you want to have fun pitting your skills against someone else's skills, go shoot 'em up in Quake 3 or CounterStrike or any of a number of other such games. The point is, it's all been done before. The same can not be said with as much overwhelming certainty about the roleplaying establishment's providence of complete immersion into roleplaying. When you control the actions of a character, that character's skills and abilities should be the "height and breadth of the window" through which you may act upon the game world. No matter how awesome you are in the real world, you don't live in the game world; the character does. You should be restricted to your character's capabilities, even if they are initially worse than your own. Key word: Initially. This opens up a whole avenue of enjoyable subtlety.

First of all, you get to experience the rewarding and almost palpable sensation of the progression of your character's skill as it approaches being equal to your own. Secondly, your character's skill can be made to surpass your own reflexes or accuracy by using increasingly accurate auto-aiming and prediction algorithms. This is applicable even if you ARE already so awesome that you can take on sixteen godlike bots by yourself in Unreal Tournament CTF and still win. At some point, a computer is going to be able to outshoot, out-think, and outperform any human, given sufficient programming and processing power. We humans just can't have a thought, no matter how basic, once every millionth of a second or more. So we can put that to our game's advantage when designing a system that starts a character out with less skill than a player, and ends him or her up with far more skill than the player could ever actually possess unaided. Many people would still argue that they wouldn't enjoy playing the character while his or her abilities are less than their own, but they are forgetting that there is much more to a fantasy world than just character abilities. A game world can present a player with so many possible courses of action, eye candy, bizarre encounters, and heroic situations that their character's skills are only the tip of the iceberg. Additionally, a reasonably realistic skillset distribution must be maintained for each character. A player needs to feel that his or her character is not starting out with ALL skills being below average for even a normal real-life person. As long as that is true, only progress matters, not absolute skill level at any given moment. One of the basic formulas of successful game programming is "Overcoming (usually by killing) = Reward".

9. Quantization of skills and attributes
----------------------------------------
This is a very important topic. This relates directly to making the numbers feel more intuitive. How do we split up the spectrum of "skill" so that it is simple enough to be intuitive, and yet complex enough to be motivational? It has already been discussed how not fun it would be to only be able to progress through 5 or so levels of skill to achieve mastery. I tend to agree with this sentiment. However, I also think that if the character had to transition through five thousand subtle levels of skill, that it would devalue the attainment of each level, since it is such a small step toward eventual mastery. In other words, the larger the number of steps between beginning and end, the less and less the human mind can even wrap itself around any sense of appreciation of progress. (Just exactly how much better is 517/5000 from 516/5000? Please.) Still, the general rule would seem to be "more is preferable to less" when it comes to levels of skill. One of the problems many people have with using numbers visibly in an RPG is that the feeling it creates is too granular or stair-stepped. This is especially noticeable in the case of "leveling up," where suddenly the character can run, jump, fight, or hide, etc significantly better than he or she could before, even though only a little bit more experience has been gained (enough to level up).

This problem of creating the feeling of aliasing in the player's mental graph of progress can be alleviated through creating more levels of differentiation. This is actually a problem that exists not solely for the game programming culture. The world in general is also very discrete and packetized, on a very small scale. That which appears to be analog (continuous) is actually made up of a bunch of individual particles, be they atoms, electrons and protons, or quarks, etc. Anyone who has ever seen a highly magnified image of the surface of almost any smooth-looking surface will know how truly not smooth the world actually is. Every property (or entity) has a maximum resolution beyond which you cease to deal with the property itself. On a fundamental level, everything perceivable is digital (meaning in this case "able to be delineated into discrete elements"). In other words, smoothness and continuity are the illusions, at least when dealing with distinct objects or properties. So if the real world seems more realistic than the numbers we are employing, it is not the fault of numbers in general, but in our poor use of them. We are entirely defined by our relationships with everything else in our environment, and these relationships can be quantified, even if the resultant numbers are meaningless except in relation to other numbers.

It would seem like anywhere from 300 to 1000 gradations would be sufficient for the average imagination. For my own game, I will be using 400 to start out, as an experiment. On the matter of rounding floating point remainders, I always round in the player's favor as per the axiom of fun. The only exception to this is calculation involving a partial skill level, in which case I round down, since I don't want the character to receive the benefit of a skill level not yet achieved. In practice, this is achieved by keeping an integer record of skill level, and a separate variable containing experience earned toward that skill. That way, no floating point rounding down is necessary. Now, if you're anything like me, this part is pretty obvious. I'm just taking the time to be more precise and methodical when the limitations of my experience will allow it.

So far, I have been discussing skill quantization. Now to address attributes -- this includes things like stats, damage dealt, durability, armor, etc.
As with most things in life, it is easier for me to say what ideas I don't like about this topic than what I do like. I remember someone suggesting an open-ended system of skills and attributes. I have had this thought myself at various points. Logic keeps bringing me back to the same conclusion: this would be a bad idea. This would be for primarily two reasons. First, there is a limit to the human experience. A human can lift only so much weight, run only so fast, fire only so quickly, be only so observant. Beyond those limits, a human ceases to be a human, and either spontaneously combusts, converts to pure energy, becomes a god, or some combination of the three. A lot of what goes into deciding what system to build up around your numbers has to do with applying the calculus concept of limits, especially as it applies to what it means to be human.

Let's take the "best case" of becoming a god (since that could still involve a corporeal form). If your character becomes a god (or so close to one as for the difference not to matter), what fun is that? Defeating evil becomes like housekeeping at that point, which is comprised of chores. Chores != Fun. In order to maintain the feeling for a player that they are still playing a game (i.e. having fun), this "becoming godlike" scenario must not be allowed to happen. There should always be the option of struggling to overcome some obstacle, even if the player has reached the pinnacle of a character's power.

When considering how to prevent this problem, another argument that often arises is what I like to call the "Diablo dilemma." It goes thus: if you ensure a constantly available challenge for the character, how will the player ever feel a sense of true progress or growth? This problem can be addressed from two angles. For starters, let's remember that games like Diablo 2 are very linear. You must move from one predetermined area to the next. In each new area, the monsters must be harder than the preceding area's monsters, so that the character can continue to level up. Terrain and obstacles don't provide much of a strategic advantage. The nature of the game is such that the character can pretty much either wade into his enemies and eventually prevail, or he will die outright. It's a war of attrition. If you can create ways in your own game world for monsters of lower levels to team up and work strategically with monsters of higher level, you can suddenly have an altogether different challenge. But this time, it's a challenge where the player can feel the power of his character play out especially well against those lower level monsters. A situational experience bonus can be awarded when and if the character can manage to eliminate or bypass the monster group. This will make up for whatever experience the player missed out on by having to fight creatures with lower experience rewards. The reward will be justified, since the player will have to use strategy to overcome the group. Secondly, the player begins to perceive his or her character as being more worldly as they are slowly able to extend their explorations out across the entire worldscape. In this way, leveling up provides access to an increasingly larger real estate. A larger domain means more challenges, more adventure, and more chances for reward.

The other way to address the Diablo dilemma is to remember that there should be much more to an RPG game than just combat. Historically, very few kings have become kings by their own hand. Even those who have did not usually remain kings for long, unless they had more going for them than the ability to swing a sword harder or faster than anyone else. Even in the mundane real world, there are spies, assassins, poisoned food, changes of allegiance, random unlucky arrows through vital organs, etc. In an RPG, this is even more true since typically, magic threats also exist. A person must be more than a good fighter in order to be a great warrior. RPGs allow for the incorporation of this inherent real world fact. While I'm thinking about it, it should also be more important what kinds of skills and how many different abilities a player has, as opposed to how many skill points a player has in any one skill. This will help to eliminate unbalanced character creation. As long as you have enough different skills and abilities available in your game, then two players can have characters with completely different skill sets, which are nonetheless still balanced relative to each other. A character's skills and abilities, (and not primarily their stats), should give the advantage over any monster (within a reasonable level range), especially when used wisely in conjunction with other skills and abilities. Certain stats could be used to augment certain skill sets.

This would be viable only so long as you make sure the differing skill sets still allow characters to solve similar problems, just in different ways. This will dramatically encourage players to role play, instead of roll play. Gone will be the days of thinking, "Oh, I can't take on that big group of monsters. I wish I were playing my paladin (or druid, or whatever)." Your rogue will just have to figure out how to sneak up and "silent kill" them one at a time, or use shadows or a smoke bomb to slip past them altogether. A mage could perhaps teleport past them, or cast an illusion and walk right by them. Every type of character will have one or more solutions to every problem, even if you don't have distinct character "classes", per se. Some players who prefer fighter characters might say this is unfair, because the mages would have it too easy. But if the game system is engineered properly, mages will have much less health and armor than a fighter, and will only gain skill in the specific school or category of magic involving teleportation. (Or perhaps mostly in teleportation itself and only slightly in the generic type of magic.) This way, they don't suddenly level up from teleporting and also become better at offensive spells they never use. I don't think I've expressly stated it before now, so I will here: A character should only improve in skills or abilities that they actually use. This drastically reduces the antirealism involved with leveling up as handled in classic RPGs.

Related to this is the issue of level restrictions on items. I have always found fault with this. There needs to be some specific reason why a character cannot even try to wield some weapon (like maybe it's ethereal and the character has to have at least a certain amount of experience with magic to even perceive the weapon). If there's not such an explicit reason, then the character needs to be allowed to wield the weapon, no matter how powerful it is in the right hands, or how badly the character might use it. That's something the player needs to observe for him or herself. We might even design our game to give the player some pre-indication that the weapon is a bit much for them to handle, like a text or voice comment, maybe a grunt or a "whoa..." Regardless, the character should be able to pick up and try to use pretty much anything in the game world if they so choose. Of course, there could be significant penalties for doing so, such as slow attack or movement speed, reduced damage or magical benefits, lack of awareness of some of the more subtle magic abilities of the item, etc.

Speaking of which, there is the issue of identifying magic items. The method you choose to use to allow the player to discover the properties of a magic item depend largely on how populous magic items are in your game world. Personally, considering how even the most powerful of spells eventually expires or comes to conclusion, I would think that if magic really existed, magic items (and especially weapons) would be rare. I suppose you could argue that maybe some mage schools have developed a potent art of item embuement, or something like that. Regardless, I have long felt that RPG gamers in general (and this includes PnP) do not have a big enough appreciation of the magic items they find. This is probably due in large part to the spoiling influence of many games which reward magic items like popcorn. Let's be honest here -- if magic items were really that prevalent, nobody would ever use anything else. Proof of this is how we don't still use an abacus to do calculations. It would just be stupid to have a normal sword, or to be a vendor selling normal swords, when any average Joe can go out and get in a fist fight with a zombie and potentially receive a +1 magic sword as loot. Especially after several generations of living in a world like that, you wouldn't be able to find any serious non-magic weapons for love or money. There is also the issue that we call them "magic" items. We forget sometimes that magic is supposed to indicate something special, rare, unique, or arcane. Technically, magnetism is a miraculous invisible force, too. However, we call it "magnetism," and not "magic," for exactly the fact that it is so common and relatively well-understood. If magic were equally as common, we would call magic weapons "energy weapons" or "force weapons" or who knows what. But it wouldn't be called magic.

So if we design a world in which magic items are much less common, this reduces the ease of identifying magic items. Big demand and small supply of identification means big prices to get things identified. That's simple, real-world economics. However, I don't think that being able to identify something should be dependent solely on bank account. For many (or perhaps all) magical properties, if they have some effect that is even remotely relevant to the life of the person wielding them, that person will eventually notice them. After all, (in theory) how did these professional item identifier NPCs get started? So it would be a good idea to let a character wield a magic weapon even if he or she doesn't know what that item does; through use, the character would be able to discover what the magic attributes of that item are. This could be represented by a limited list of magic properties being displayed when the cursor is put over a partially unidentified item. This would be especially useful to us when we want to introduce truly unique magic items to the player. These would be items for which there has potentially been no prior experience by any person. Therefore, these items could not BE identified with money. A character would have to experiment with it, knowing beforehand that it must be a really powerful and special item if he or she could not even get it identified by someone else! There could also be some kind of "magic lore" skill which would aid the character in identifying magic properties, either immediately or through use. This could be a skill earned through training, and/or by direct experience over time.

On the topic of skill, all skills should require training of some sort in order to progress beyond a certain point. That certain point should be determined by some kind of intelligence stat. There could be several intervals at the end of which training is required. An example of this in the real world is: you may be smart enough to teach yourself to use a computer, you may even be smart enough to teach yourself to repair and upgrade computers, but at some point you are going to need to be shown how to do certain things. You would need training on how to design your own CPU or operating system, for instance. Nobody is born being able to do those things by tinkering. They must collaborate with and be shown by those who have gone before them. This concept should be especially pervasive in cases where a character is dealing with an arbitrary system (such as a trap or lock) set in place by some other NPC or group of NPCs. Unless the system in question is exceedingly intuitive, intelligence != luck. In other words, your characters' intelligence scores can only take them so far without explanation (training) of some kind. I suppose this would still be true even if you allow luck to be factor.

Now for some non-realistic but fun elements: An RPG should not include stamina as a depletable character resource. There's nothing more annoying than wearing big armor that your strength should allow you to wear unencumbered, but for some reason, you keep having to walk everywhere or drink lots of stamina potions because you keep running out of stamina. The character should also not be required to eat, sleep, drink, or shower. Anything that reeks of maintenance is going to be a pain. Sure, those elements would be realistic if present, but who wants to stop fighting monsters because the game is making them lose health until they eat something or go pee, etc? Let's face it, you can't introduce such requirements into your game unless you're prepared to have penalties to the character for not observing them. Unnecessary penalties = pisser = no fun. Besides, if the game world is big enough, having to spend time running or riding across it from one place to another would be penalty enough.

A sole exception to this no-maintenance rule is item durability. All items capable of being physically degraded over time should have durability. The benefit to gameplay of item durability is that it forces the player to interact at least somewhat with towns and cities. The player could minimize this requirement by having their character learn smithing and item repair. Still, eventually the character is going to start finding items that are magical. The more powerful they are, the less likely that the character will be able to repair them single-handedly. Item durability is also a benefit because it causes the player to realize that they have been using an item a lot for it to be worn out. Either that, or they must have been getting beaten up pretty badly for their armor to be in such bad shape. It can also be used as a device by the programmer to give the player a feeling for when a certain item is especially wimpy (as with wands) or tough (as with demon armor or something). This creates in the player a rudimentary tactile perception of the game world. Physical durability should only degrade through physical use in a destructive situation. This is to say that the weak wands mentioned above would last practically forever as long as they are used only for casting spells. They would only risk breaking quickly if your mage panicked and started beating an orc over the head with it. Only armor and perhaps jewelry (rarely) should be degraded by getting attacked, unless an item is used to parry. Low remaining item durability enhances player awareness of tribulation and accomplishment.

Concerning number meanings for weapons and armor:
It seems like whatever number system you create for dealing damage with weapons could be applied equally well to describing magic damage. This is because once you decide how to represent damage numerically, you can simply equate more vague sources of damage (like magic) to the amount of damage that would have been done if a physical weapon had been used to create the same amount of damage. It should be made clear that in these cases amount of damage is not to be confused with the type of damage. Different types of damage can also have different debilitating effects on the character, such as cold slowing the player down. This also removes from us the need to try to conceptualize damage in the game world as being a function of something intangible such as magic.

That having been said, we need to base a damage number on the characteristics of the weapon dealing the damage if we want the number to have any chance of feeling intuitive. Different aspects of a weapon that allow it to deal damage have already been touched on by other posters. These aspects include:

- Sharpness
- Pointedness
- Mass
- Impact force
- Magic

Sharpness would be largely for edged weapons. It could apply to missile weapons such as bows and crossbows, although in all cases it would still be describing slashing damage. Pointedness would describe the acuteness of the angle between the two edges of a weapon as measured from its tip to the point along the blade (or arrowhead) where the angle widens, if applicable. Pointedness could also be used to describe the acuteness of the angle of the cone described by any spiky projection coming off the weapon. The reason to differentiate between slashing and thrusting (piercing) damage is that, except in cases of dismemberment, piercing generally causes more damage and disruption to internal organs than slashing does. This is especially true when a target is wearing metal armor, since slashing could be deflected by it. Considerations of mass would apply for all weapons, but especially blunt melee weapons; mass could be derived from a density factor. Impact force would largely be a function of strength or bowstring tension (either way -- force) multiplied by mass in some fashion. The length of an edged melee weapon should figure into impact force as a function of the extra mechanical advantage the length provides. Hacking damage (like with claymores) could be derived by multiplying impact force by blade length and a portion its sharpness. Magic damage could be broken up into almost any number of categories, such as fire, ice, electrical (or lightning), pure magic, plasma, acid, poison, disease, sonic, magical keenness, vorpal tendency, etc. Magic damage could be added on rather arbitrarily, since it is impossible to prove that some magic force couldn't double or triple the destructive power of a weapon. Obviously, for the sake of game balance, it would be a good idea to act judiciously when assigning magic damages to a weapon. Different weapon types should inflict differing amounts of damage when pitted against different armor types and monsters. For example, chainmail is more effective against slashing attacks than piercing attacks. Shooting arrows at a skeleton probably won't hurt it very much.

Armor rating numbers should be a function of the sturdiness of the intrinsic materials, as well as the body surface coverage that type of armor would or should provide. A full suit of brass armor would still provide better protection than a single mithril gauntlet, because of coverage. As for the purpose of an armor rating number, it should indicate how much to reduce any attack damage the wearer takes. Armor rating should never serve the purpose of determining whether an attack hits at all or not. Armor might reduce a hit to zero damage, but that's still damage reduction, not hit avoidance. The only thing that should realistically be able to provide hit avoidance are dexterity (agility, etc) and magic. Shields and parrying can provide damage avoidance, which is different in the sense that the enemy still technically hits you. Blocking chance should be a function of speed, strength, possibly magic, blocking skill, and enemy level, and should be affected by the weight and size of the shield. Parrying chance should be a function of speed, dexterity, possibly magic, parrying skill, and enemy level. Successfully blocking or parrying should reduce the durability of the shield or parry weapon, respectively.

The possibility to deal subdual (knockout) damage should exist, instead of just killing damage. This would provide for wider variety in quest content and multiplayer roleplaying. All melee damage above a certain amount, and especially critical hits, should have a chance to stun the target, unless the target resists being stunned due to constitution and/or stun resist skill. Needless to say, fighter characters would end up with much greater stun resistance skill than anyone else, but they would also need it the most. Leveling up stun resistance skill would be a function of successfully resisting being stunned, or surviving being stunned. All skills should increase at least a little when failing at them. We learn just as much from our failures and mistakes as we do from our successes, if not more.

The way health is affected by leveling up and magic items in most games is absurd. If the maximum damage a sword can do is 15, let's say, and you start out with 50 health points, that means you can take about four "strong" hits before dying. At level 60, you now have 2000+ health, and can take so many strong hits from that same weapon and not die that it's ridiculous. This should not be. In the real world, you'd be doing great if you could ever work yourself up to being able to take ten times as many hits. The way things should work is that a human character cannot gain more than a certain maximum number of health points, ever. Period. And make it something realistic. If he started out with 50 health points, he shouldn't ever have more than about 250 or 300. Exactly what the upper limit of health points is would be determined by race and the character's initial constitution or vitality stat. Increasing constitution at level up would determine how quickly a character reaches their maximum health. Beyond that, constitution would mainly serve to determine healing rate and resistances to shock, poison, disease, and being stunned by an attack. The way game balance would be maintained is that the character would vastly improve his or her skills, abilities, armor, weapons, and items over time. You don't need massive amounts of health if your armor keeps you from being hurt much. Conversely, some players might prefer to shun heavy armor for the sake of mobility and thereby be able to completely avoid most attacks, diminishing the need for damage reduction. Getting rid of the possibility of massive amounts of health points can only be a help in ridding the player of the feeling that their character is prohibitively unrealistic.

In retrospect, I probably should have broken this category up into several categories. Ah, well. This really is the meat of the original question.

10. Character knowledge/memory vs. player knowledge/memory
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This is pretty simple. The player should not be made responsible for remembering things that the character could remember. The player should especially not be punished by the game system, directly or indirectly, for forgetting some little detail of location, politics, questing, etc. The player could be coming back from a month of not playing; there's no way they're going to remember everything, and the game design shouldn't expect them to! A good RPG should have a detailed quest log that allows filterable searches. There should also be maps that become more "filled-in" as the character explores an area. These maps and logs could represent the character's memory, not necessarily actual pieces of paper. This is all part of the player/character awareness merging.

11. CRPGs vs. PnP RGPs (including text-based CRPGs)
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I lump PnP RPGs together with text-based CRPGs because they both have to rely solely on numbers and text (or spoken) descriptions of what's happening. This can be quite nice, as the best 3D video card ever made is the human brain. While this may encourage player imaginations, it doesn't do much for immersiveness or ease of play (either because of having to imagine everything or having to keep track of all the math yourself). It can be a lot of tedious and time-consuming work. Therefore, the CRPG is perfectly poised to pick up the slack and provide a far superior level of immersiveness if done correctly. While numbers themselves should not be avoided, all calculations should be handled (and perhaps even hidden) by the game program. Whatever is the most convenient and least distracting.

12. Role playing vs. min/maxing and munchkins
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Ultimately, min/maxers and munchkins have no place playing a real RPG. If a good RPG happens to give them certain things on which they can focus, so be it. But by and large, a good RPG should minimize artificiality (or even just the feeling of it) and maximize role-playing. As of right now, it doesn't seem as though such an RPG has yet been made to this full standard. Certainly no FPS RPG has yet been made to these standards that also includes a cooperative multiplayer capability. Key word: yet. Anyone can kill other players, but it takes a real warrior to work together well with others to achieve a common goal. I am aware that these two posts of mine did not focus enough on number specifics, but I have always felt that such decisions should be left up to each individual programmer. Guidelines are about the only thing I can safely contribute without mentioning number values that someone else will end up changing anyway.

~Ranger Meldon~ M.M. .:

#320 Madster   Members   -  Reputation: 242

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Posted 24 June 2005 - 04:59 PM

quantization of relative scale wasn't even mentioned [crying]
Still a good read. Seems part two is a lot less impartial than part 1 :)
try and get it featured!




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