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Unextraordinary: You are no one special – an RPG


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#1 tomsoderlund   Members   -  Reputation: 257

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Posted 13 May 2012 - 02:41 PM

Most RPG's follows Campbell's monomyth: ordinary person in ordinary place becomes hero in a fantastical place. Old Man (Gandalf, Obi-Wan) comes to young boy and gives him a magical object (ring, wand, lightsaber).

Well, screw that. Let's say you (the player character) is just ordinary. There are heroes, sure, but you're not it. The Old Man won't ring on your doorbell. You're unlikely to get a lightsaber. You're likely to get a cold.

-----

What do you think about this as a premise for an RPG? What would you expect of the game?

All constructive feedback is welcome!

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#2 jefferytitan   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2312

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Posted 13 May 2012 - 03:33 PM

For me the are two main questions:
- What is your goal?
- Why would it be fun to play?

Most questy games offer both right off the bat; you're trying to defeat the Sith and you get to chop people up with a lightsabre. Done and done. I'm not saying that a game that fulfils both under your criteria isn't possible, but you need to answer those questions.

PS - I know all games don't follow that formula, but it's a safe start. Without the first people often don't "get it" and/or can't explain it to their friends. Without the second... maybe it's an art game, maybe it's an addictive grind-fest. But it's a much harder sell.

#3 Bigdeadbug   Members   -  Reputation: 173

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Posted 13 May 2012 - 04:01 PM

For a single-player RPG I'm slightly sceptical.

If you're talking about having a totally "normal" character who constantly plays second/third/fourth fiddle to everyone else and isn't at all important in the story then I can imagine it would be very hard to create a compelling reason for a person to keep playing. The player would end up as nothing more than an onlooker.

On the other hand if you going for more of real life simulator "your nothing special, but important in your own little world." then I don't don't see why it wouldn't work. Although you're not really changing much around, the player is still the protagonist and it still vital to the story, its just your talking about "staying alive on the street of Victorian London" instead of "Kill the dragon and save the known world". The problem here is that you would have to have a well crafted story, unlike most games you couldn't rest on the premise of the story to keep someone engaged.

Oblivion did something like this. For the main quest the prince played the protagonist instead of the player. Yes the player was important, but it was the prince who was the true hero at the end. It really didn't work that well from what I remember and is probably a good example of how to get it wrong.

For multiplayer RPGs (whatever their scale) it's a good idea. It gets around the whole "Why are there a load of other One True Saviour's Of The World and why am I having to rely on their help?".

#4 Iron Chef Carnage   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1840

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Posted 13 May 2012 - 05:29 PM

Recettear casts you as a shopkeeter in an RPG world. Heroes and adventurers frequent your store, and you make a living wage stocking and selling the various potions, weapons and items that they'll need to fight monsters, and also by bankrolling their quests as an investor in exchange for a share of any loot or gold they discover. It's actually pretty fun, since you wind up sending a guy out to clear a dungeon with a bag full of all the crappy potions and low-level food that you can't move that week, and sometimes he gets his butt kicked because you hosed him on a second-hand sword or wouldn't come down on the price for a magic helmet. Funny.

#5 jbadams   Senior Staff   -  Reputation: 21161

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Posted 13 May 2012 - 07:00 PM

In addition (or as an alternative to) the above, I could see this potentially working well as a funny game, which could be enjoyable if done properly.

#6 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 5332

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Posted 13 May 2012 - 11:11 PM

When you're writing a story, you choose the protagonist and the plot to go together because the protagonist is "uniquely able" (i.e. contextually special if not special in an absolute sense) to solve the plot's overall problem. Usually in games the protagonist is the playable character, or one of them, because playing is pretty much by definition "taking action to move towards a goal" which is what protagonists do. Even when there is a main character who is not a protagonist, the main character is chose because they have a unique emotional perspective and insight on the overall story problem. Even in a game with no written story, such as many adventure games, the player is special because they are the one solving the puzzles that the world implies no one else has solved/cares to solve/can solve, or anyone who solved them in the past "graduated" with some award recognizing their specialness. Added to this is the fact that gamers in general are motivated by the desire for an adventurous escapist experience which praises their cleverness and kickassness. We kind of all think we are heroes anyway; in writing theory it is a truism that every villain thinks he is the hero of his own story. Every person cleaning their house does noble battle against such forces of darkness as dust bunnies, hairballs, and mold. Every person cooking something new feels a little heroic and kickass if it turns out delicious and they didn't burn the kitchen down in the process.

So, really it depends on how you define hero. The protagonist of a game doesn't have to be the last person of a special bloodline, or the child of prophecy who is as strong as 10 men and blessed by luck, or the only one in the world who can do magic. The hero doesn't even have to be a warrior if it's not a game about killing monsters, though usually RPGs are. But the Pokemon series is an example - you are a normal person like all the NPC trainers in the world, it's your commitment to your quest that makes you special.

Not all RPGs, but here are some of the non-traditional hero story roles I've played in games: Plant breeder trying to become the best in the world, cake baker trying to raise enough money by a deadline to save a foreclosed property, time traveler trying to locate and retrieve objects lost in time, archeologist who accidentally fell into an alien automated testing arena that they used to determine the nobility of their society, general of the vampire kingdom, trainee plant faerie trying to earn my rank of being a full faerie, farm boy who found a lost princess and got drafted to help her get home, zombie apocalypse survivor trying to defend my house and brains from zombies, person with amnesia in an insane asylum trying to figure out how I got there and what's real, person who accidentally fell into a magical world and must figure out how the world works to either go home or make a new home for myself in a magical world, spaceship pilot who stumbled upon an alien relic ship...

Phone game idea available free to someone who will develop it (Alphadoku game - the only existing phone game of this type is both for windows phone only and awful. PM for details.)


I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me. I also love pet-breeding games.


#7 tomsoderlund   Members   -  Reputation: 257

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 01:56 AM

Awesome feedback everyone!

- What is your goal?
- Why would it be fun to play?


1. The idea behind the premise is just to do something contrary to the norm, and see how it turns out.
2. Can't answer that yet, too early to tell. Will crunch the feedback in this thread and get back to you!

On the other hand if you going for more of real life simulator "your nothing special, but important in your own little world." then I don't don't see why it wouldn't work.


So, really it depends on how you define hero. The protagonist of a game doesn't have to be the last person of a special bloodline, or the child of prophecy who is as strong as 10 men and blessed by luck, or the only one in the world who can do magic.


I think this is the watershed design decision: 1) a game where you play the "hero in their own little world", or 2) a game where you are not a hero in any sense, maybe even an anti-hero.

Recettear casts you as a shopkeeter in an RPG world. Heroes and adventurers frequent your store, and you make a living wage stocking and selling the various potions, weapons and items that they'll need to fight monsters, and also by bankrolling their quests as an investor in exchange for a share of any loot or gold they discover.


Nice! Will check Recettear out. Sounds a bit like Little King's Story for Nintendo Wii.

archeologist who accidentally fell into an alien automated testing arena that they used to determine the nobility of their society


This sounds awesome, which game is this?

Edited by tomsoderlund, 14 May 2012 - 01:57 AM.


#8 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 5332

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 03:02 AM

This sounds awesome, which game is this?

Old Win/Mac adventure game Jewels of the Oracle. Good luck getting it to run unless you have a legacy game box or possibly a legacy virtual machine. It doesn't really explain the story clearly, so that's sort of my interpretation of the minimal amount that's there - in the little intro movie you (in first person view) are exploring some ruins, and some kind of machinery recognizes you and lets you in, leaving you trapped in a room with a checklist of puzzles, you must complete them all to get out. Throughout the game you are talked to by (presumably an alien ghost or AI) person that looks like an upside down pyramid. The instructions, clues, and praises when you solve a puzzle are all given in kind of poem/riddle language which gives the impression it expects you to be a candidate for some sort of important position in the culture that built it, and expects you to be either an ancient egyptian or an alien, and doesn't understand that world it's training you for is long dead. There was a sequel, not as interesting but it at least made the archeology part more clear. Alien archeology was a popular topic for novels and movies for a few years there - Fifth Element, The Dig, and Stargate are all related to the subject if you find it interesting. I think alien archeology would still be an interesting topic to write a story about, game or otherwise.

Edited by sunandshadow, 14 May 2012 - 03:03 AM.

Phone game idea available free to someone who will develop it (Alphadoku game - the only existing phone game of this type is both for windows phone only and awful. PM for details.)


I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me. I also love pet-breeding games.


#9 Waterlimon   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2835

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 06:14 AM

What about being the old man? Find and protect the young ordinary person, give him your magic staff and help him in the background without him knowing it and then when hes fighting the boss and is losing you come speak some random wisdoms and give him more magic items.

o3o


#10 tomsoderlund   Members   -  Reputation: 257

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 06:17 AM

Old Win/Mac adventure game Jewels of the Oracle. Good luck getting it to run unless you have a legacy game box or possibly a legacy virtual machine.


Thanks! I found some videos on YouTube at least.

What about being the old man? Find and protect the young ordinary person, give him your magic staff and help him in the background without him knowing it and then when hes fighting the boss and is losing you come speak some random wisdoms and give him more magic items.


Awesome idea! Indirect control, a bit like Dungeon Keeper.

#11 tomsoderlund   Members   -  Reputation: 257

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 06:45 AM

I guess Majesty is worth mentioning in this context. It's an RTS where you are the king but the heroes have a will of their own, and you can only influence them by assigning rewards to different goals.

Edited by tomsoderlund, 14 May 2012 - 06:52 AM.


#12 Bigdeadbug   Members   -  Reputation: 173

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 11:33 AM

It's worth pointing out that games like Majesty tend to have their own special kind of frustration that goes hand in hand with the design. I lost count of the number of times I quite those games because of the lack of control over the heroes resulted in some catastrophic failures.

Heavy reliance on a games AI to carry out the players will, without having some sort of override function, is one of those ideas that's both bloody great and bloody awful at the same time.

#13 jefferytitan   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2312

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 02:21 PM

archeologist who accidentally fell into an alien automated testing arena that they used to determine the nobility of their society


In my head this is hilarious because I'm imagining the aliens as 2 feet tall. So the archaeologist is completely normal or even incompetent, but able to eventually win because he/she is 3 times larger than expected. A boulder careers towards him/her, hits... "Ouch, you little @#%%#!".

#14 eugene2k   Members   -  Reputation: 237

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 02:55 PM

2) a game where you are not a hero in any sense, maybe even an anti-hero

The antihero is already someone special.

This sounds awesome, which game is this?

There's a similar game which is easier to run then the aforementioned one. It's about a particle physicist who got caught up in a dimension tearing accident at a research facility during which the facility became infested with all sorts of aliens. It's not an RPG though. Like Sunandshadow said, the protagonist is the unique person suitable to solve the problem presented in the story. Whether you're saving the world (Dragon Age, Mass Effect), or simply getting revenge on the people responsible for the murder of your wife and child (Max Payne) or even just trying to live your school life (Bully).

#15 Mratthew   Members   -  Reputation: 1612

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 09:30 PM

The thing I like about this idea is the metagame possibilities from average RPGs. I'm imagining Diablo where you are the town's folk and merchants. Kind of like the cooking mama of the adventuring world. Make a sword for the warrior and then hear about how well the warrior did in battle from a bard, make a shield and watch a hero brought back on it. Create potions and spells for great sorceresses and other strong characters, then listen as the story unfolds.

However because players are naturally bold a game play element has to involve something to keep the player from seeking adventure. The character would have to have a physical limitation or mental block that actually keeps them from wondering past the city guards and exploring. The focus has to be on internal struggle more then external I would imagine.

#16 Malabyte   Members   -  Reputation: 589

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 01:12 AM

At the base, you're not gonna attract a lot of players, unless you have some clear alternative. Also, I think you underestimate people if you think that "ordinary people" are genuinely just ordinary. What does it actually mean to be ordinary? It's being variably a copy of everyone else, isn't it? Because the more ordinary you are, the more similar you are to others.

Then you have the idea that whatever is ordinary to me, isn't necessarily ordinary to you. You can feel like a hero doing things that for me seems bland and boring. So ultimately, it's not about the value of me or you, but rather the commonalities between the greatest number of consumers. What has proven time and again to be that which sells the most copies. And that happens to be the heroic approach, I'm afraid. In whatever form, it's the method that lift the player up to a greater level. Even in Wii Sports, this is the case (because it's sports, and sports work in the same manner).

But there are no rules saying that you have to sells the most number of copies for your game (or rather that you have to do things that assumes the most number of copies, since you cannot know that perfectly a priori). Go ahead and sell half of those numbers and your games is still gonna be among the bestselling games. I consider it more of a balance, rather than trying to make the game that you think will sell the most. Instead, if you insist on catering to others, think of what will bring the biggest experience overall (in your opinion, obviously, but listening to feedback is also crucial).

In the regards of experience, why would anyone waste $60 on something they can do for free? I think that's your biggest challenge.

Edited by DrMadolite, 15 May 2012 - 01:14 AM.

- Awl you're base are belong me! -

- I don't know, I'm just a noob -


#17 Cronnix   Members   -  Reputation: 149

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 06:28 PM

I suspect the new Fable: the journey is something along the lines that you are no longer the hero but an ordinary guy?
My projects:
Empathy
NinjaPvP

#18 davekuyk   Members   -  Reputation: 116

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 08:11 PM

How is this different than The Sims?

Or is it?
Check out my game design blog!

#19 aattss   Members   -  Reputation: 387

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 11:34 AM

So, just to make sure, not only are you not a hero, but you are litterally as weak as every single other low-level character in the world?

This sounds like the game Kenshi, although in Kenshi there's no magic. Although Kenshi is still in early development (and has a demo), it sounds like it embodies this idea.

When you're as strong as everyone else, you have to be cafeful, as every fight is a boss battle, and you are likely to lose.

#20 Casey Hardman   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2315

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 05:36 PM

Sorry, I'm not trying to be offensive, but I just don't understand why this was even posted.

I guess the OP thought of (typical game scenario) and then decided to...get ready for this...DO THE OPPOSITE to create something 100% unique and marketable!!

Seriously, though, I think this belongs in the Completely Raw Game Ideas With Very Little Thought Put Into Them forum. It's just a basic idea that I'm sure has been thought of a thousand times over when people were wracking their brains to find (typical game scenario) so they could...get ready...DO THE OPPOSITE!! or...CHANGE ONE TO TWO THINGS!!




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