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Member Since 03 Mar 2006
Offline Last Active Jan 31 2012 08:51 AM

Posts I've Made

In Topic: How to design a great combat system + mechanics? (PvP)

31 January 2012 - 08:49 AM

Don't try and balance the abilities, but instead balance the strategies.

In this, "Strategies" means the combination of abilities and player choices that the player thinks will lead them to victory.

Most developers try to balance the abilities (or attributes) of a system. However, even in a system where all these are perfectly balanced, there can exist unbalanced strategies.

take for example a strategy game where every single unit is perfectly balanced. If the players pit units against units then the game is perfectly balanced and the player who use the right units against the right enemy units will win. However, a player instead decides not to engage the enemy units and instead does a "tank rush" and attacked the enemy base. This strategy beats the enemy each time if the enemy ties to engage unit on unit. This is not a balanced game even though the units are perfectly balanced. It is because the strategies are unbalanced that the game is unbalanced.

The problem is that strategies are emergent. That is the developers don't pre determine the strategies used in the game, but that they are created in how the player chooses to use the elements of the game. This makes it almost impossible to balance the strategies of a game.

In Topic: Skills

29 January 2012 - 08:02 AM

Game economies are tricky. It is easy to trivialise the role of players as you try to avoid massive inflation or collapse.

If you want a player driven economy, the best way is to avoid having item drops and instead have the raw materials from from enemies )or be able to be collected near by). Then allow the players the ability to craft any and all items in the game.

What you also want to do is to have the quality of the items dependent on the character's skill and choices of the player. This could be though higher or lower quality materials for crafting and even allowing the player to change the stats of the items (within limits) by trading one stat for another.

As an example:
A player wants to make a sword.

They can gather iron ore and smelt that into steel. But the quality (or perhaps amount) of iron ore is based on their gathering skill and the quality of the steel is based on their smelting skill.

The quality of the steel and the characters forging(sword) skill then sets the base value of the stats of sword.

Lastly, given these base values, the character has the option to tweak the sword stats a bit. So they might drop the damage value to increase the attack rate, or they might drop the durability to increase the damage. Or any such modifications. This could also be extended to the gathering of raw materials. The player can set their gathering for speed, amount or for quality, thus giving the players more control over the end results.

You could then allow players to combine skills to make the more powerful items. And, if the skills needed for certain items could not be learned by a single character this will encourage players to co-operate to forge the more powerful items.

Using these ideas, you can encourage social interactions (players working together), and you can develop a better player economy. Also, by having the player's skills and choices affect the stats of items, this give players who make good choices and put in the time to develop their skills more valuable to the community, but by having lower quality items easer to get (as more people will have lower skills), they cater for new characters.

In Topic: How to put skill on the player and less on the character? (RPG/Roguelike)

29 January 2012 - 07:48 AM

The big mistake that Rogue likes do is greatly increase the power of the character as they level up.

For example:
At level 1 the character might have 100 HP and have a +10 bonus to hit. Then at level 2 they have 200 HP and a +15 to hit (maybe with gear and such).

If, instead you gave the character smaller increases in skill, then the gameplay would be about player skill rather than how big the stats were.

Another idea is to not increase the character stats at all, but instead have the player able to trade one stat for another and the higher the level the more total stat points they could trade.

As an example:
If the player had 3 Stats: Strength, Reflex and Health.

If they all start at 100 at first level, then for every level the player can transfer 2 points from one stat to another.

S0 at level 2 the player might have:
Str: 98
Ref: 101
Heal: 101

At level 10 they might have:
Str 80
Ref: 115
Heal: 105

This way the characters start of as a generalist, but can become more specialised as they level up and, as the stats are traded, the character will always have some weakness that keeps even low level monsters a threat.

Gear, of course, could still give a total increase to stats (in the example above there total was 300 points, but with gear that might increase to 400 or even more). This way gear is still important and does make the character stronger, but if you apply the first idea to the gear (ie: don't give massive increases), then you can keep the whole stat problem in checks and thus allow your gameplay to reflect the player skill/choices/strategy better.

In Topic: MMORPG in the hand of the player

15 April 2011 - 09:19 AM

I agree, the structure of story this needs to have some linearity. And it's full of NPC characters fully controlled by the "pre-created story". The evolution in the story can differentiate. Creating multiple options for a character can spend much resources, and it needs very much more resource to implement different pre-created storylines for more than one "persona".

Done right, it should require less resources in the long run. This design concept is not about creating lots of different paths the player can follow, but allowing the player to create their own path.

If you think of a fight in another type of game (Say FPS). During the fight the player has set goals (stay alive and kill their opponent). This is the "Story". However, how they do this is not set. They might use a sniper rifle and stalk their opponent in a game of cat and mouse (whole movies are made around this "story"), or they might use stealth to get in close and finish them off with a knife, or they might grab the shield belt and the chain gun and mow them down.

But, even within this there is still things going on. How their opponent reacts, how bot use the terrain, the near misses, the surprise moves the sudden reversals as one gets a lucky shot in (or fouls up an easy shot).

In even an FPS fight there is a story in the microcosm of events. In fact, this is a perfect example of Agency. The players might have a set beginning and end, and even the basic story is pre-set, but the players have Agency over their character's actions and this allows them to create a narrative as they try to achieve their goals (and even on a failed goal there is still a story - although it might be seen as a tragedy).

This can add options.
Having any objective (like "territory conquer") can be differentiated by giving player different challenges to gain it.
An objective that can be achieved in different ways. The player has to decide not only which one suits more to his persona, but which one is more easy for him.

It is not so much about the number of options or the variety, but it is about having the player's choice of option re-interact with future situations and options.

I think that giving the player some type of objective can entice him to develop his character's persona. That's why I think well-deisgned objectives can enrich a game.
I read something about the "agency", also for P&P Rpg.
Is there any article, book or other material where I can read some more about the "agency"?

I can't recall any one source where I picked up the term Agency. But a lot of it comes from Artificial Intelligence where the autonomous entities in a system are called Agents. It is because these "Agents" interact within the system and the system interacts with them in complex ways that the Agents express this intelligence.

So I suppose the first step to understanding and designing Agency based systems is to treat the user and the AI Agents on equal footing.

The thing is, Agency is used widely in games, it just is not used much in cRPGs. IT is about giving the player the ability to act in the game, not just react. It is giving the player the ability to say, how they reach the goal, not telling the player they must do it "this way" or "that way".

Let's see if I understand this. You mean something like the moral alignment of Planescape Torment?
Where action of the player define a part of the character (as I said the alignment).

That is an example of a very simplistic form of what I am talking about. However, it sort of fails as the paths the player takes through the story (the narrative) are still pre-set. So although they have the beginnings of Agency, it is actually an illusion of Agency.

If they had the NPC able to asses the player and make choices as to how they react based on various inputs, then this would make the game more Agency based.

Alas I am not sure to understand this one.
You mean that NPC relates with the PC in a different way (like the merchants in some MMORPG who sell things only if you have good reputation with a faction)?

Sort of, but again this just stops short of what I was talking about.

Again, this comes from AI Agents. In an AI Agent, the agents must be able to communicate between themselves in various ways. In AI Agents systems, if an Agent can know everything about the world at any time and can act on that in any way, then they cease to become an Agent and the system is no longer an Agent based system.

By limiting what any Agent can know at any time, and restricting their ability to act on the information they have, then each entity gains individuality. As each entity is an individual, then the actions of that individual will reflect its history and it can develop.

Story is about how a character grows and develops because of the events that unfold. Every story is a journey. If you force a player to follow a particular way through a story, then they loose their connection to this experience of development. Most cRPGs substitute this experience of development with the increasing of variables (level and stats).

This again is just a false illusionary substitute for story and narrative. Ironically, it is the cRPGs that that seem to be doing this the most, and it is in the other genera that more success is being achieved in giving players this control over their character's story.

If you mean Art of Game Design, I read it. And I like it very much.
Alas, in my country, I can't find anywhere the cards!

No, not Art of Game Design (good book though - you could probably get it from an online book store). This was a document written specifically about his game "Balance of Power". Here is a link: http://www.erasmatazz.com/page78/page146/page147/BalanceOfPower.html

I'm not so sure about this.
I agree that WoW is full of lame quests. They're not only boring, you also know that if you win or if you fail nothing will change in the world (yeah, ok you gain some items and xp, but it doesn't have any important impact on the world story).
One other thing is also the Setting itself, WoW (and also Ultima Online) were created on a setting with a deep story background.
But sticking to objectives and challenges WoW gives the players at least one interesting objective: wars and conflict between faction.
This type of objective is not a story itself, but it's a story creator objective.
I'm searching for them, to see if they are implementable, and to check if they add fun for a MMORPG.

I agree, WoW is a game with very little Agency in it. Even the fights are pretty much set pieces where you need to have the prescribed sequence to complete them (there is some variety, but not much - then again, just having variety is not the same as Agency).

See most of the work went into creating a back story that most players won't both with most of the time. In these cases, the designers had a lot of Agency in the story, but then never gave the players that same Agency. It seems as if the designers specifically wanted players to not have much in the way of Agency (I am not against games that don't have Agency, I just think that giving more Agency to players in RPGs is a way to create significant innovation in the genera).

Another way to understand Agency is to look at games that don't have much (or any for that matter). The point and click adventure games (Such as the Monkey Island series or the New Back to the Future series, and such - by the way loved both of these game series). These style of games have the least amount of agency in them. The player must complete puzzles in a certain way to progress, if they don't complete them in the way prescribed by the designers, then they fail to progress until they do. And then, the story progresses in a completely prescribed manner as well with no variation or option (and yet they can still be fun).

Games with little or no agency feel like the designers are dictating the story to you, that you are just watching the story unfold. Games with player agency (even if it is just an illusionary sense of it) feel like you are making the story up as you go along, you might know the start and the destination, but you control how you get there.

In Topic: MMORPG in the hand of the player

13 April 2011 - 11:04 AM

I like to use the term "To give the players Agency of their story".

The first step is to abandon the traditional cRPG style. This style was taken from the mechanics of pen and paper RPGs, but it also left what made them Role playing games.

In games like D&D, the role the player takes on is similar to the Ancient Greek Mythological Heroes. This limits the range of roles somewhat, but there is still a large scope for the variety of roles.

In this sense, "Role" is not the same as the game mechanic of "Class". It is actually more closer to the meaning of "Persona". So in terms of PnP RPGs I might have the class of Wizard, but this just states how I go about dealing with the world, but the "Role" is the personality of the character and the choices I have them make (and the rationale of why that choice was taken).

The problem with current cRPGs is that they use decision trees to map out every possible choice you can make in the game, and then they write into those the rational you are supposed to apply to why you made that choice. Giving the player Agency is giving them back the power to make their own choices and have their own rationale for them.

This can sometime lead to the player having less options at any one time (but not always). The way it is done is to give the player a full set of actions, even ones unrelated to the current situation at all times. You might have a choice and then sub-choices that lead directly from that, but once that sub-choice set has been dealt with, the player is brought right back up to the full set of choices as soon as possible.

As an example:

I am a Knight and lord of an estate in a fantasy medieval RPG. At the top level I have the ability to choose any of the basic actions, however, I choose to send in spies to a rival knight's estate to make the peasants revolt (in game mechanics, I build a spy unit, move it to the target territory and give it the order "sow descent"). However, at the top level I could have also decided to march my army into their territory and attack, challenge them to a due, or even visit different knight's manor house and conduct a trade negotiation.

Now, this allows me to create a persona for my character. If I want them to be sneaky, I'll send the spy. If I want to be militaristic I can send the army, If I want to make the issue a personal one and defeat them in an honourable fashion, I'll challenge them to the duel. Or, If I am not interested in battle I'll go conduct the trade negotiation.

However, the reason I do these things might be different depending on how I want my character's persona to be. I might choose the spy method, not because I am sneaky, but because I can't defeat them in any other way (they have a bigger army and they are better at swordplay then my character). Also, I might choose the trade negotiation because it builds the alliance between me and the 3rd knight and together we can defeat my (our) enemy.

So each choice can have many different reasons you would choose it. Giving the player Agency is giving them the power to form that rationale behind a choice and making the choice to reflect their character's persona.

There are games that have been doing this for a long time, right back into the 1980's they were being made, so doing this is not so much dependent on complex computer algorithms and processing capacity, but in how you approach the design of the game.

There are two things that seem important for this to occur: Memory and Communication.

The game must have a memory of the past actions of the player. This can be a complex system where it remembers specific events, or it could just be a single variable that stores a value that is changed by the choices made.

The other is Communication, which means that entities in the game must be able to communicate with each other about their attitude to your character. Again, this can be a complex system that tries to model real world information spread through populations, or it can be a simple variable with each NPC that gets updated each time multiple NPCs are in the same area.

Some games that do this are: "Balance of Power" and "Sword of the Samurai". Both of these are older games, and both had developers that worked on them that have gone on to become quite famous designers (so even just for the history of game development they are worth a look at).

Chris Crawford, the designer of Balance of Power, has even written a book on how the game was designed (IIRC it is available as a free e-book).