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Landfish

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Alright, and this time we all read before we post, right? If it helps, I''ll *try* not to be controversial, but I can''t promise anything. My thought was that there are a great many people out there who seem to be in love with the IDEA of RPGs as a genre. They decide "I''m going to make an RPG" and then go about "filling" in the wholes that your tradition RPG template leaves to the "designer". This usually amounts to some crap story with little or no meaning or symbolism, which would be ok if it had any characterization or original plot elements to speak of. I have personally met one too many kids who have said "I wanna make an RPG, time to write a plot!" And then go to choose between cliches like he was at a buffet or something. "Hmmm, let''s see. I''ll take an amnesiac main character... ooh, that evil empire looks good... one of these foster-parents who gets killed..." of course, all served up on a fantasy setting plate! The same thing only worse when it comes to gameplay systems. When was the last time somebody thought really hard about the signifigance of Hit Points before plopping them in the game? Oh, sure some people do... but when you consider how abstract hit points are, should it really be revolutionary every time somebody doesn''t use them? Not that you shouldn''t use hit points. I''m not saying we should do away with anything. Can we just freakin THINK first? So here''s my theory of how gameplay should work. Actually, I''ll post it as a response, so that you may all rest your eyes. peace out! "The unexamined life is not worth living." -Socrates

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OK. Ten minutes later...

Many games start with either completed technology or a vision of completed technology. Content is then created to suit the technology. This can work, and is most effective in low content games.

Then there''s the reverse of that. Kind of a mid 90''s CDRom thing. Content is created, and somebody puts together the tech to make it work. When well done, you end up with an engine that supports the content of the game really well. Like anything, this is rarely done well.

My theory is this (open to criticism and contribution as always)

A game needs a central theme. This could be described as a moral (though it isn''t always moral... heh heh. sorry.) or a message, but it really is just the feeling and mood you want the player to have when he or she plays your game. This is essentially the bones of the design.

From there I think EVERYTHING; gameplay, engine, plot, characterization, music, artwork... every last feature of the game should support that theme or one of it''s facets. This would only seem to make sense, right? Everyone on the team tries to give the game a unique feel, but everything is pointing to an overlying theme. Hence the game feels Unified.

This shouldn''t be overly restrictive, but a guideline in the same way directors unify a movie. There are a lot of things going on, someone has to make it make sense.

So under this paradigm, setting out to "make an RPG" is placing emphasis on a traditional style of gameplay, not on creating something of value. Go ahead, no one will play it.

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I just thought i''d reply and give you some of my points (though i''m not sure you wanted a reply).

First of all, I think you missed the point that most of us (amateur) game developers make the RPG''s for fun, for people to have fun playing, and so they are probably going to be set in a fantasy world with amnesiac main characters, probably with little sybolism (as you put it).

Again, not a lot of people play on serious, lifelike games, thats the whole point of an RPG, to get away from the complications in real life and into a world where you can kill the evil brother who turns into a vampire, and not care about the cosequenses.

Also, i''d die if I did''nt have hit points.
Hit points signify how far into the game, you are, for example i''m happy playing on FF8 with 8000 hit points, I know I''m advancing in the game, and doing better than a freind down the street who only has 678 hit points.

I belive in your idea of a central theme though. At the moment most of the themes of the game depend of the time they are set it. It gets like a broken record. The theme of an RPG seems to be either futuristic, or ancient, why? there has''nt been a lot of RPG''s where the main theme is''nt love, jet ski-riding, football. Is this because the publishers want the game to appeal to a lot of people.

I think a lot of this reply is a load of rubbish, but anyways it something to think about.

//end

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Is it just me, or does every post I reply to end right after I say something? >

Ahem...anyway. A central theme is definatly a good thing. However, you can''t forget that out of place things have their..um..place. Take FF7 for example: in most of the main areas of the game, the setting is dark, techno, and almost absent of happieness. Now throw in Aeris, a "flower girl", wearing a friggin pink dress (what color is happier than pink?) and is so sweet and innocent. She goes against basically everything the rest of the game is trying to set, yet she WORKS. It''s like the end of the world when she dies, because the only happy part of it is gone.

I could be way off base here, so please feel free to refute every word I''ve said.

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you know not all games are RPGs. When I design a game I don''t think about what you would call content (setting, plot, etc...) or technology, well I think about them a little but I don''t concern myself with them. I think about game design, the actual rules that make up the game. That''s the real problem.

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Pacman, you aren''t wrong, you''re just thinking of things visually. For instance, if I were to say the theme of a game was the struggle between humanity and a harsh, oppressive mechanistic society, I might very well have two completely contradictory images as you just suggested. But those images would be both supporting a single theme.

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Ah...the Landfish is such a glorious thing, is it not!?

That aside, I think Landfish definitely has a point (and no, it''s not just because I know him/her/it personally!), in that a centralized theme should be a part of any good story, not just games as a whole or RPGs as a subgenre.

As a whole, writing *needs* to involve such themes in order to be unified and draw a reader/player in. But in a gaming situation, this unity extends to other things, like the engine, technology, graphics, et cetera, as Landfish stated earlier. Or at least it should. I think that if a design team can keep these things in mind, and perhaps have a certain theme as the focus of the design, and it WORKS, you have a great game on your hands, because everything ties together into one neat little package, as opposed to some game, where you play and you can tell immediately that all the team thought was "Hmm...let''s make a game about X and Y, where you can do A B and C, and lots of other cool stuff," or something to that effect. With everything based upon an idea like that, some elements of the design can''t help but feel tacked on, or an afterthought.

Anyway, that''s just my two cents...and it''s probably not even worth THAT much.

-Matt

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Hey Matt! Everyone, Matt isn''t just a Landfish groupie, he''s on my team. So he doesn''t even count as an opinion in my favor, because if he doesn''t agree with me, I''ll kick his sorry ass out and he know it! =)

And if any of my new "detractors" have a problem with my groupies, they know where they can shove it! We''re a takin over this board! (ha ha funny joke, get it, yeah.)

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Theme...you know, I''m not any good at coming up with those inspirational themes that sound like the topic of a good English paper.

So I can''t say I use a theme, or necessarily see the need to have one. I''m all for the idea of a unified feeling to a game though. But that is something that should come out from everyone helping with the design (if you''re trying to make a CRPG with a group that hasn''t worked together before, or even worse, hasn''t made a game before...well, you''re nuts, in my opinion ).

I, personally, intend to make an RPG. And you know what, it''s set in your typical magical medieval fantasy world. Why? Not because of any mass-market appeal, but because it happens to be a genre that I like, and I feel I can make a vivid world from that. I spend half my time under the delusion that I''m an elf, so I think I''m qualified to make a fantasy RPG : )

To me, the first and most important thing to designing a game is the "hook", or what makes your game different than the 400 other ones that will be released at the same time. For my RPG, there are two hooks--one is to twist a lot of the cliches and turn them on their heads, and the other is to make it LONG...something that almost comes with a guarentee. "If you can beat this game in 40 hours, we''ll give you your money back." There isn''t really a theme to my storyline, or if there is, it isn''t one I can put into words.

As for thinking about what you''re doing, I''m in whole-hearted agreement on this one. EVERYTHING you put into your game should be thought out. Do you really need a numberical hit point system? Does magic have to work the same way it does in every other game? Is Fight, Magic, and Item the only battle commands you can have? What''s the underlying unity to the items you use? Are they fruits, berries, and herbs? Or are they gems? Or little balls of light with strange names? All this is an issue, and should be thought out, debated, and mulled over until you''re happy with the result. Don''t do things just because that''s the way everyone else is...do it because that''s the way YOU want to, and the way you think will make the game fun to play.

Sorry if that rambled a bit, it''s getting late : )

Silvanis

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