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Ketchaval

Concentric circles (level design)

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Just thinking, Maybe it would be good to design (some) games around with a concentric flow. Ie. There is 1 destination that the player has to get to, and they start off in a big outer area, that may have several exits then depending on the exit they choose, they go to a different level. but each of the choices of level that they get eventually leads in to towards the destination. Ie. although there may be several paths to the centre, they all end up at the centre. (edited for ascii art). [edited by - Ketchaval on June 19, 2003 9:18:23 PM]

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Hmm. What if the circles are not physical areas, but conceptual steps advancing the plot? Each ring would be one stage of the plot, the plot stages being:
Introduction/Establish Setting
Initial Incident (or commitment to first quest)
Rising Action
Reversal or revealing of new information
More Rising Action
(repeat these two steps as desired)
Climax
Resolution

So that the design would be interactive and feel branching, but would really be herding the player toward the predetermined (and teleologically satisfying) ending? So instead of the story getting lost when you get the ''airship'' or whatever and suddenly have access to all the subquests, there would be a lot of room to explore different paths (creating replayability) at the beginning, and yet still a place for magnificent prerendered FMVs at the climax and rasolution. (Perhaps there would be two or three endings depending on how well you did in the game, and the best ending would only be available on the game+ playthrough.

What do you think?

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Sunandshadow, I do think that this kind of system could be used to "form" a plot, and help to channel the action towards one (or several) endings. I''m not quite sure how this would be done though.

In a physical sense. The idea is that the game sets up an "external limit" to the action, ie. the game takes place in an enclosed area, bounded by an impenetrable barrier such as an ocean. which stops the player trying to escape and allows you to direct them "inwards", their search for action should drive them forwards. Instead of the player trying to "escape" OUTWARDS to "infinite" distances, they are drawn towards the centre of the "area", because there is nothing at the outskirts, but stuff at the centre.

On a narrative level?
How would teams implement conceptual steps to advance the plot?

quote:
Original post by sunandshadow
So that the design would be interactive and feel branching, but would really be herding the player toward the predetermined (and teleologically satisfying) ending? So instead of the story getting lost when you get the ''airship'' or whatever and suddenly have access to all the subquests, there would be a lot of room to explore different paths (creating replayability) at the beginning, and yet still a place for magnificent prerendered FMVs at the climax and rasolution.


Yes!!

(How would we do this? Do we already do this?).

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Isn''t there sort of a one-off version of this in any RPG with a static class system in the form of class specific quests?

Or, consider something like ADOM where you''re given free reign through most of the game, but to finish the game you end up diving down fifty million levels which look the same regardless of the ending you''re going for. But ADOM has a shortcut to the surface built-in so you can go back and do other things.

How about including the concept of a shortcut or escape route in the model. View the story as a series of concentric hallways with doos on either side leading to a larger or smaller circle. If the action is rising at each level then the doorways could be viewed instead as stairways. I propose that you include a way to return to an outer circle without also returning to a lower level.

I''ll attept an example.

When it comes down to it, the really big bad guys are a pretty reclusive bunch: Bowser just sits in his castle waiting for Mario; Cloud has to jump in the crater to get to Sephiroth. So when it comes time for the end-game the duck-speak is either that [insert final boos here] still has an iron grip on the populous despite the long string of defeats you''ve handed him over the course of the game, or something like "He may be beaten now, but we''ll never be safe until he''s dead." So, at that point when conventional wisdom says te player''s only real option is to go kill the dude, instead let the player step back and see the world outside the Dark Imposing Fortress. Yes, we already have airships and so forth which allow that, but all you get is a sslightly different response when talking to any given NPC. I say create some side-quests whihc only appear in certain circles of the labirynth and when the player completes one the metaphorical layout of the circles further in changes as well. So, instead of just diving in, the player can take a step back do some quest which will weaken or distract his adversary or gain further support for himself and then dive in.

Of course this design works best with a(n) RPG. I think it could be applied to any game with a branching storyline. RTSs and Civilization style games where te story can be reduced to portions of a map changing colors would require some modification.

Live cheap.
Live Free.
Get it wrong the first time.

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Just out of curiosity, why does there have to be a "best" ending? Why can''t there be a bunch of *different* endings, in which some good stuff happens but maybe some bad stuff also happens? (Maybe you marry the princess, but she turns out to be a horrible wife. )

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Guest Anonymous Poster
quote:
Original post by Ketchaval

quote:
Original post by sunandshadow
So that the design would be interactive and feel branching, but would really be herding the player toward the predetermined (and teleologically satisfying) ending? So instead of the story getting lost when you get the ''airship'' or whatever and suddenly have access to all the subquests, there would be a lot of room to explore different paths (creating replayability) at the beginning, and yet still a place for magnificent prerendered FMVs at the climax and rasolution.


Yes!!

(How would we do this? Do we already do this?).




Interesting idea. Pretty easy to implement though.

Imagine a set of rings cut into pie-slices, like a dart board. At the center is the conclusion, at the outer edge is the story start points. So moving inward is advancing in time (or chapters), while moving around a ring would be a different dimension. The simplest choice would be spatial, although you could just as easily use political factions or anything else you like.

A simple example, using spatial dimension:

Fantasy Land is under threat from an evil force (again). There are 8 different locations (A-H) in addition to the evil castle (the conclusion location).

The player gets to choose from 8 different starting heroes, each of which starts at a different location. The Knight starts at a Castle located at A, the Hedge Witch starts at a Village at B, etc. Each of these starting points is on the outermost ring. Each has a series of quests for the player to solve before moving on. Easy, intro stuff.

When the player has finished the quests, he can move to an adjacent location (going around the ring), but also has to move inwards one step - to the next chapter. The quests are more difficult as time moves forward.

This also means that if you were to look only at a single slice of the dart board, that slice would represent a storyline of what occurs if the hero does not come to save the day. That is, the problems get worse and worse, as the evil spreads. A specific example to elaborate:

Take the Castle at location A. At the beginning (outer ring), it has a problem with rats. A character starting there (Knight) would have to poke a few rats to solve things. But if the hero doesn''t start there, then by the time they get to the castle the rat problem will get worse. First bigger rats, or more of them (circle 2 or 3). Then the rats bring disease, so a hero would have to find a cure (circle 4 or 5). Then the disease kills off most of the population and ghouls arrive, attracted by the piles of corpses to eat (circle 6 or 7).

Since each location has such a progression then the player is guaranteed an adventure that increases in difficulty. When a hero visits a location and solves the quests, that location no longer moves inward towards doom. You might have an alternate set of rings for a ''good'' progrssion of events, one that takes over when the quests are solved so that locations don''t remain static.

Since each hero only visits new places that are adjacent to where they have been (B to A leaves open either H or C) they can get a few different story lines for each player start and different stories for different starts.

Once the player has solved a quest at each location, the hero confronts the villain in the evil castle.


It doesn''t make for great story-telling since the order of events remains rather fluid, but it''s a simple example. You could probably design a more adaptive plotline if the game was (for example) a player running for political offices at ever-higher levels of government (moving inwards).

HTH,
JSwing

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quote:
Original post by Ketchaval
Sunandshadow, I do think that this kind of system could be used to "form" a plot, and help to channel the action towards one (or several) endings. I''m not quite sure how this would be done though.

In a physical sense. The idea is that the game sets up an "external limit" to the action, ie. the game takes place in an enclosed area, bounded by an impenetrable barrier such as an ocean. which stops the player trying to escape and allows you to direct them "inwards", their search for action should drive them forwards. Instead of the player trying to "escape" OUTWARDS to "infinite" distances, they are drawn towards the centre of the "area", because there is nothing at the outskirts, but stuff at the centre.

On a narrative level?
How would teams implement conceptual steps to advance the plot?

quote:
Original post by sunandshadow
So that the design would be interactive and feel branching, but would really be herding the player toward the predetermined (and teleologically satisfying) ending? So instead of the story getting lost when you get the ''airship'' or whatever and suddenly have access to all the subquests, there would be a lot of room to explore different paths (creating replayability) at the beginning, and yet still a place for magnificent prerendered FMVs at the climax and resolution.


Yes!!

(How would we do this? Do we already do this?).





Sorry it took me so long to reply to this, it''s been a crazy week... Anyway JSwing''s interpretation is nice, functional and simple; but not what I had in mind at all.

I tried to explain what I was thinking of in words, but that was just hopeless, so I drew you all a little diagram.



So, you ask, what exactly _is_ this a diagram _of_? Well the words on the compass directions are ''alignments'' like in D&D (lawful good, chaotic evil, etc. I chose light, dark, brain, and brawn, but you could chose completely different allignment poles depending on what morals and philosophy your game was organized around. Like an alternate set might be greed, altruism, charm, and intimidation. Or you could use elements instead, and you could use six instead of four if you wanted, or you could have three political factions... it''s a very flexible structure. ^_^

The black lines represent passages between rings - each of these would be a story event that accompanies progress from one stage of the plot to the next. So you can''t just cross between rings anywhere, but only at story-branch points. Note that the player must travel in _two_ dimensions to get from one ring to the next; s/he must travel inwards (this represents accomplishment of in-game objectives like solving puzzles and defeating bosses) and sideways (this represents alignment-expressing dialogue and strategic choices).

The rings also represent information flow control - in the outer rings the player stumbles over mysteries, artefacts, and clues; in the middle rings the player finds explanations, discovers secrets, and puts clues together into theories; and in the central rings the player discovers some theories were wrong or incomplete and finally puts together a complete picture that enables them to make decisions and take actions that cause the climax. Note that the ''complete picture'' will be different depending at which alignment/point the player enters the central rings.

It really doesn''t matter how the rings correspond to physical areas in the game, other than each ring should be a physically unified area, and each bridge between rings should be blocked by something so that the player has to work to pass through, and they can''t do so accidentally. Also, access to each ring must be sealed off once the player has passed to the next ring. (until the game+ anyway). Oh, and some areas should be unavailable on the first play-through.

So how would this work to play? You start out at some point on the yellow ring. Where you start could be determined in a number of ways:
- there could be only one start point
- there could be one start point for the first game and a different start point for the game+
- there could be only one start point for the first game and multiple start points for the second game depending on what you did in the first game
- the start point could be randomly chosen
- the start point could be chosen by the player
- the start point could be chosen by giving the player a quiz that assessed thair natural alignment.

So you start the game at whatever point on the yellow ring. I would recommend having only one playable character for a game of this type as it simplifies things immensely. The outermost circle would be where the character development happened; for example if there are multiple weapon classes the players actions in the first circle could determine which weapon class they use for the rest of the game. Similarly with elemental magic. The purpose of the first circle is to teach the player how to play the game and give the player a little information about the available alignments. The passage from the first circle to the second would probably be the character''s decision to join one political faction or commit to one quest - this would then take them through a story-sequence to a new physical area where new information would be available; _which_ new information would of course depend on which entry point to the second circle was used. For example, becoming a squire to the Knights of Good would mean you get different people to talk to, different dogma from your teachers/superiors, different books in the library to read etc., than if you had gotten hired to collect ingredients for a wizard or to be an enforcer for an organized crime family.

Err... what else should I explain? I know this is a complicated idea - does any of it still not make sense?

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When the story and the physical nature of the game align, it may be possible to do such a circle plot idea. For example, lets
say that we have a setting like BOF5:DQ''s Colony. We can make it more fantastical (space ghost word) if so desired, but the basic idea is starting at the bottom and working towards the top. Now, we could have the game literally branch (and this does happen towards the end of BOF5), and each physical branch forces the story down a different branch.

To make the game more interesting, we could force the player to make the choice how we want him to. If anybody has seen Lola Rennt (Run Lola Run), its this German film about Lola who has 20 minutes to find a way to get her boyfriend out of being killed, and each time she screws it up and has to start over. It would be possible to allow the player 2 possible branches, and make it arbitrary which she chooses, and on second play, force them to follow the other branch, and then on final play, open the third branch.


BoF5:DQ = Breath Of Fire Dragon Quarter.

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