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Uses for a Sanity meter

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I vaguely remember posting on this ages ago, but at the time didn''t have the idea very well developed. The basic idea is that you have a Sanity meter that functions as a second set of hit points. The difference would be in the creativity and variety of what could affect the meter. The main objection I see to this is a kind of squeemishness I feel (and others may feel) about portraying "matters of the mind" in-game. Social and mental issues in games usually don''t work well with a ham-handed approach like a meter, but the uses for it I see may be acceptable. Here''s how I see Sanity being affected:
  • Some psionic attacks deplete it; some powers restore it
  • Rest restores it slowly, less so that loss to physical health
  • Horrific encounters with Cthulu-like monsters reduce it
  • Brain-related viruses and diseases encountered on foreign worlds reduce it, sometimes quickly, sometimes after a long delay (like poisoning)
  • Telepathy with some alien beings, or ultra-powerful alien "mindlink" technology could reduce it and induce other status effects, such as periodic paranoia or confusion
  • Mass casualty events reduce it for players and NPCs without a "hardened" trait, combat experience or an apathetic personality
  • Out of alignment actions, such as suddenly murdering a close ally, reduce it for "good guy" alignments
  • In-alignment actions recharge it, such as taking a mission to help a loyal ally or faction
  • Long periods without social contact reduces it in some personalities, creating a kind of "social need" as in the Sims--counteracted by character traits like "Loner"; VR sims and pleasurable facilities; and inventory restoratives, like seratonin reuptake inhibitors (anti-depressants)
  • Any non-standard, non-traditional social gameplay, such as romance (if feasible), could recharge it and raise the max
  • Losing the object of romance to kidnap by your enemies could temporarily cap sanity until the person is recovered (with the cap being lower the longer the romance?)
  • Losing the object of romance to death by enemies could permanently cap sanity until the objects that caused the cap are brought to justice or killed
  • Torture could have the possibility of reducing it
  • If the player has a home, being there restores Sanity at a fast rate (inspiring the player to protect their home?)
  • Just being around allies, devoted followers and family slowly restores it
As a player, you''d only know your own sanity. Psych tests could reveal the sanity of others. Councillors and empaths could heal it, as could visiting some locations, such as a paradise retreat or shrine. System For Sanity I have a Will stat that resists mind related effects just as damage reduction reduces HP damage in some systems. Sanity could be the HP being reduced after Will negates some of the damage. Sanity could also be the chance of ignoring certain mental status effects which do not reduce damage, such as the chance to panic (random fire or dropping equipped items) or flee. The percentage chance of being affected would be Current Sanity / Max Sanity. Special Sanity feature: Uttering a vow When players have had their maximum Sanity reduced due to a special in-game event, such as the murder of a close ally, devoted follower or loved one, they can at that moment choose to "utter a vow." The vow sets up victory conditions and a time limit but also makes the player immune to sanity point loss ("singlemindedness") for the duration of the vow or until the objective is accomplished. According to alignment, the player can either choose to capture and imprison their foe or kill them. (If you''ve ever seen the movie, The Pledge with Jack Nicolson, you might understand what I''m going for.) Going Insane Death is boring. So what about delusions?
  • For paranoia, some enemies could be substituted over the models of allies, and vice versa.
  • Doors and devices might activate by themselves, either a sign of a stealthed intruder or a figment of a delusional mind.
  • NPC Reaction adjustments would be out of wack and randomized because the player thinks they''re making sense, but may really be spouting nonsense.
  • Hallucinations: The game could load maps and models that have nothing to do with the player''s real environment, causing the maps and models to swap functionality: For instance, the player wakes up to find trees scattered throughout his ship, but these are really doors
  • Non-existant NPCs could appear to do things, such as activate devices, open doors
  • Objects could swap functionality: A communications panel actually fires weapons, for instance
  • Objects and elements in the environment, in a kind of grand scavenger hunt, would always contain the key to returning to sanity
This may be too silly, or too much work for so little gain, but I just thought I''d run it by you guys. -------------------- Just waiting for the mothership...

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When I was younger I did some work on my own gothic themed pen and paper rpg, in it was a sanity stat. This stat had a chance of being reduced during certain situations similar to the ones you listed. It was also a kind of slippery slope situation since the lower your sanity the more likly it would decrease when faced with a situation you couldn''t cope with. Sanity could increase but it was more difficult and was harder the lower the characters sanity.

In game the effects of sanity where two fold on one side they helped resist certain kinds of mental attacks. The second effect was whenever the character lossed a point of sanity they acquired a dementia. There was a table of dementias and the player acquired one at random, there was also a scale to the table so that the more dementia you had the more sever new dementias would be.

for instance have no dementias ment that you rolled a d10 and looked on the scale 1-10, with a role of 10 causing a reroll with +10 added to total. Now these where faily minor dementias such as an obbssive compulsion. Now if you had 1 dementia you would roll a d10+10, do the scale would be 11-20, with 1 being a reroll on d10 and a 20 being a reroll on d20+20. Now second level would begin to be problematic for the player, such as an intense an phobia.

There where also a few benefical dementia thrown into the mix there was one first level dementia that caused the player to have a thirst for blood but also provided a tempory boost to strength after drinking blood.

Now this system was designed for pen and paper but I think a variation on it could work for what your trying to acchomplish. One of the diffrences of course being that the player is not told when or what dementias they acquire, you could also hide the sanity stat from them for this purpose. It could work especially well if there was an internal dialog system in the game where the player is told their characters thoughts. It would take some work to do well but it could very interesting little quirk to a game.

For instance what if after returning form a traumatic mission the character rests for while and then before heading out again recruits some new npcs one they think is particularly useful called Henderson. Now during the mission the character and henderson become friends and henderson excels at every task the players sets for them. Meanwhile the crew is growing somewhat uneasy and the character notices stranges looks and whispers. Here you could have the path split in two down one way the the increased pressure cause the charcter to worry and they ask henderson to investigate only to have henderson inform them of a plot to mutiny and the charater must act quickly and execute the ringleaders. On the other path the character seeks help and discoverd that Henderson isn''t real he''s dilusion caused by stress and trauma.

But likly I said its a lot of work but could be an interesting quirk, and interesting gameplay and something new to discover each time they play keeps gamers gaming.


-----------------------------------------------------
Writer, Programer, Cook, I''m a Jack of all Trades
Current Design project
Chaos Factor Design Document

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It''s an interesting idea, and could be a very useful feature in the game, but the meter does indeed seem a little ham-fisted.

Everything you want this system to do would be a positive contribution to a game, and so your ends are good. It''s the means that bother me a little bit. Psychological instability is a complicated thing, and a wide variety of conditions fall under the umbrella term "insanity".

For instance, there should be a variety of neuroses in the game, but a simple "sanity meter" would have to either apply them randomly or stack them hierarchically, since it''s a one-dimensional value. One option might be to have such events impact stats like will and intelligence, and then have symptoms arise epiphenomenally from that imbalance, but it would require both an absurdly nuanced model of a "healthy" mind and some kind of modelling system for neuroses. A little too complex, I suspect.

Perhaps the simplest compromise between too much complexity and ham-fistedness would be to use an algorithm similar in structure to your existing systems for loyalty and other psychological conditions. You could have a handful of psychological conditions, say "Dementia", "Paranoia", "Phobia", and "Amnesia"(maybe not, these are just for sake of argument). Different situations would impact one or more of these variables, and when they reached certain levels, symptoms would manifest themselves to varying degrees.

I think that a model similar to your other psychological systems will be more intuitive both for you as a designer and for the player, in the end.

As to actual conditions, I think that showing players something weird, that may or may not really be there, is a great idea. Swapping images for demented paranoia, juggling sounds around, or otherwise getting wacky would be terrific. However, for things like manias or phobias, player characters would be harder to affect than NPCs. Tough work.

I like the "vow" system. Avoiding in-game attribute penalties by effectively trading them for more mission objectives is a terrific idea, and this is an elegant application of the principle. The ability to cope with stress by promising yourself some kind of specific experience is a stroke of genius. You could have your record for keeping vows to yourself have an impact on how effective the exercise is. If you promise yourself revenge and just use the promise to cushion the psychological blow until you''ve gotten over it, then next time you won''t be as comforted by what you know is probably an empty promise. This way, in certain instances, it''s as though the event itself is less stressful than the feeling of impotence that comes of not being able to do anything about it. Isn''t that the way it is for all of us?

One final note: If you''re going to model these negative conditions, might it be worthwhile to build in positive psychological conditions as well? Throw in things like love, friendship, and other things. Give a character bloodlust so that he enjoys battle to the point at which his stats actually improve when the ship is being boarded, or train an astrogator to love math.

Really, this and the loyalty system and a number of other things might be unified into a single overarching psychological profile for each character. Instead of building a loyalty system, an insanity system, and a work ethic system, you could pick a dozen or so psychological traits and implement continua on which to evaluate them.

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The simplified sanity meter in Eternal Darkness on Gamecube made for interesting gameplay. I''m sure you''ve heard it mentioned before, so I won''t need to tell you about what it did .

Ive never seen it in any real RPG, so this is quite interesting to me

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There was a single player mod for HL released a few weeks ago called Cthulu (its based on an h.p lovecraft novel i think), which had a sanity meter (replacing your HL armour level). Using spells drained it. When it reached 0, it went to a cut scene of you losing your mind and you lose the game. The only way to restore it at any all was by defeating cultist plots, which only happened once or twice in the entire game, so you were always very sparing with your sanity .

once the novelty wore off, I found I was treating it just like any other game variable, sort of like an ammo count for magic, and nothing more.

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As the sanity metre wears down the negative effects should slowly become apparent. For instance, it would not be good to simply suddenly go insane and be bombarded with ridiculous scenes, but rather things should gradually change in a way that the player does not notice the changes. Also, it would be good to do things in a way that the effects are not blindingly obvious. I think the idea is to produce fear, uncertainty and disturbance in the player, rather than make the player laugh at the stupidity of it. For instance, it might be a nice idea if at random moments that character hears footsteps, only to discover that he/she is entirely alone. Or the group of people following the player seems to alter as time goes by. I might be a bit worried if I turned away from a mate for a brief moment only to turn back and find no one was there. Also, the original poster mentioned objects being replaced with oddities such as trees. How does this sound - instead of replacing the objects merely change the appearance of them to reflect the traumatizing events that have taken their toll on the character. If the player suffered some disturbance in an abandoned cave then perhaps the interior of his spaceship might begin to reflect the appearance of that cave - ie bloodied stone walls etc. Now that I mentioned blood, that might actually be an effective tool. When the player is going insane add blood to the walls and characters just for disturbing confusion (it should be noted that I am not a violent person, but I am very interested in the idea of a sanity metre).
In short, the effects generated by insanity should reflect the events that caused the insanity. Instead of just randomly creating oddities change the situation to replicate the prior disturbances the lie within the character.
Also, perhaps it might be a good idea NOT to display the characters sanity. The reason being that the player then does not know how insane he/she is and there is always a level of uncertainty. Thinking about it, I actually really like this chain of thought. It will cause the player to question reality, not knowing whether to believe the situation or not.

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Guest Anonymous Poster


Sounds cool. I don''t have anything to add to your system, but I''m wondering how you will handle sanity effects for NPC crew? Should everyone get a visually disorienting effect as the result of one crew member losing it?

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Guest Anonymous Poster
how about subverting RPG expectations, and as the PC becomes more unwell they start to hear their weapons say that they need blood to become more powerful (ie. weapon XP), or getting subquests from things like talking dogs. Things which you would normally expect to do in a normal fantasy RPG.
Creepy.

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I like the idea, but I''d rather see the meter work as a chance effect, rather than some guareenteed 75% SANITY = VOICES. Like, if the meter is at 50%, then that just means theres a 1 in 2 chance of something weird happening in a given area. Of course, you could be strong about and say, the psychodelic colors won''t happen until the meter is below 33%.

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I absolutely love the idea of the character's lose of sanity being transparently transmited to the player.

But it truly needs to be done in subtle, ellegant ways, otherwise it'll look forced, and the atmosphere will be destroyed. Such thing is perfect for horror games: the game slowly and subetly distrubs the player, creating the proper atmosphere.

As example, the map could suffer subtle to drastic changes depending on the sanity level. That could also be used to portray the characters' attention level and allucinations.

As example, the player enters a corridor with 5 doors (including the one he came from). When he enters one of the doors to, takes a look at the room and come back, there are only 4 doors. Then he enters another door, investigates the room, and come back. Now there are five doors. WTF?
Player then enters the first room he investigated. Wait, wasn't the wallpaper supposed to be blue? Then BLAM! The sound of a door being slammed comes form the outside.

That'd be very cool to play during a cold night, with all lights off...

[edited by - M3d10n on March 21, 2004 9:59:39 PM]

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quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
When I was younger I did some work on my own gothic themed pen and paper rpg, in it was a sanity stat.

...

Now this system was designed for pen and paper but I think a variation on it could work for what your trying to acchomplish. One of the diffrences of course being that the player is not told when or what dementias they acquire, you could also hide the sanity stat from them for this purpose. It could work especially well if there was an internal dialog system in the game where the player is told their characters thoughts.



Thanks for this, this is inspiring. I like the idea of phasing in the mental effects with increasing severity. I also like the idea of using an internal dialog system to validate what''s happening, so that the player doesn''t end up thinking, "this is a bug" when they see certain effects.


quote:

For instance what if after returning form a traumatic mission the character rests for while and then before heading out again recruits some new npcs one they think is particularly useful called Henderson. Now during the mission the character and henderson become friends and henderson excels at every task the players sets for them. Meanwhile the crew is growing somewhat uneasy and the character notices stranges looks and whispers. Here you could have the path split in two down one way the the increased pressure cause the charcter to worry and they ask henderson to investigate only to have henderson inform them of a plot to mutiny and the charater must act quickly and execute the ringleaders. On the other path the character seeks help and discoverd that Henderson isn''t real he''s dilusion caused by stress and trauma.



This is wicked. It reminds me of A Beautiful Mind or Fight Club. One of the significant things about both of those movies that was that the illusory character never appeared in such a way as to defy logic. The illusionary character always had a way of either being conveniently off to the side or so well camoflaged in a group that the audience had no reason to think that they were there.

This would be difficult to do in a game, as the player gets used to thinking that everything represented by the interface is real. Also, any progress they achieve with an illusory character either must be undone, or must have been done by the player while they were crazy. So if Henderson was responsible for killing a crewmember, it would actually have to be the player or the crewmember would have to be very much alive. If Henderson rescued someone, it would have to be the player, or the rescue would have to be a delusion. And any of their progress MIGHT feel like undoing / reloading once they realize they''re nuts.

Nevertheless, having an illusionary crewmember telling the player of plots would be awesome. If not an actual crewmember, though, this idea could still work for a shadowy contact that sends the player on missions, drops them private transmissions only they can see, and gets them to engage in paranoid behavior.

Or we could go with the Fallout approach: The Mysterious Stranger was a perk you could take and have a character show up and fight battles on your behalf, then leave. Same could be true for Henderson, who just "happened to be in town at the time."

quote:

But likly I said its a lot of work but could be an interesting quirk, and interesting gameplay and something new to discover each time they play keeps gamers gaming.


Yes, I agree that blurring the boundaries, especially after facing certain enemies or challenges, could inspire enough paranoia in the player to generate respect. Nothing is better than overcoming a challenge you respect.


-----------------------------------------------------
Writer, Programer, Cook, I''m a Jack of all Trades
Current Design project
Chaos Factor Design Document






--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

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quote:
Original post by Iron Chef Carnage
It''s an interesting idea, and could be a very useful feature in the game, but the meter does indeed seem a little ham-fisted.



Agreed.

quote:

As to actual conditions, I think that showing players something weird, that may or may not really be there, is a great idea. Swapping images for demented paranoia, juggling sounds around, or otherwise getting wacky would be terrific. However, for things like manias or phobias, player characters would be harder to affect than NPCs. Tough work.



I wonder if phobias might be represented best by character vulnerabilities? Say your character fears rats. We have to get the player to fear rats. So rats, in combat, might do mega-damage to the player disproportionate with their actual abilities. Before the phobia, they might do a few points; afterwards, each strike might automatically hit and take the player within 1 HP of death. Or, even worse, rats might lower stats with each strike. (I as a RPG player am always more fearful of stat loss than death, so in a game like Morrowind, I fear the ghosts more than the tougher monsters in the game).

Manias would be tougher, but you could do something like addiction, where there''s some progressive negative effect unless the player does a thing or acquires an object. Perhaps they experience progressive (but temporary) stat reduction in conversation, combat and stealth due to agitation until they actually acquire a copy of Catcher in the Rye, or whatever.

quote:

I like the "vow" system. Avoiding in-game attribute penalties by effectively trading them for more mission objectives is a terrific idea, and this is an elegant application of the principle. The ability to cope with stress by promising yourself some kind of specific experience is a stroke of genius.



Thanks! May I quote you in the future? LOL! :D

quote:

You could have your record for keeping vows to yourself have an impact on how effective the exercise is. If you promise yourself revenge and just use the promise to cushion the psychological blow until you''ve gotten over it, then next time you won''t be as comforted by what you know is probably an empty promise. This way, in certain instances, it''s as though the event itself is less stressful than the feeling of impotence that comes of not being able to do anything about it. Isn''t that the way it is for all of us?



That''s a perfect refinement. And perhaps it works the other way, as well? Fulfilling your promises might make you stronger in the future. (Though you''d have to be careful about powergamers who would get everybody they know killed in order to make vow after vow).

I''m using a similar mechanism with your crew, btw. You can make a promise that must be fulfilled in a certain number of days in exchange for a suspension of complaints and lowered morale. If you don''t fulfill it, it directly affects certain personalities and may get around port, affecting your ability to make a promise to future hires.

quote:

One final note: If you''re going to model these negative conditions, might it be worthwhile to build in positive psychological conditions as well? Throw in things like love, friendship, and other things. Give a character bloodlust so that he enjoys battle to the point at which his stats actually improve when the ship is being boarded, or train an astrogator to love math.



Yes, I like this direction. I have to figure out what happens to your character and NPCs when you and they are around things and people they care about. This will come from what the player thinks is important in the game. Going with an idea that stats change as mood improves, you could have combat oriented characters improving in specific ways when fighting alongside specific friend NPCs. This, along with NPC dialog and AI behavior that benefits the player, could inspire the player to develop a real affinity for some NPCs.

I have a sketchy idea of an Aspirations desire for NPCs, where they actually improve faster doing the things they like. For instance, a pirate is really happier when you pirate other ships; a cosmologist is really happier when you''re near dangerous anomalies. I must take care with this concept, though, because it creates a lot of instability in terms of what the player can rely on. Oftimes, players will enter situations only because they know that they can do well. If their own stats or the stats of NPC hirelings change too much, players won''t know what to trust.

quote:

Really, this and the loyalty system and a number of other things might be unified into a single overarching psychological profile for each character. Instead of building a loyalty system, an insanity system, and a work ethic system, you could pick a dozen or so psychological traits and implement continua on which to evaluate them.


Yes, posting here makes me see more and more the need for a unified system-- one that makes intuitive sense and has enough fidelity that players can use their own knowledge of relationships to navigate it. I''m starting to see that coming up with such a system is going to be the centerpiece of the whole game, which was definitely not the case when I first started designing ages ago.




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Just waiting for the mothership...

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quote:
Original post by Maega
The simplified sanity meter in Eternal Darkness on Gamecube made for interesting gameplay. I''m sure you''ve heard it mentioned before, so I won''t need to tell you about what it did .



Thanks for the reference, I hadn''t heard of this game. My friend has a Gamecube, so I''ll pester him to let me rent this and check it out!


quote:
Original post by Syphoon
There was a single player mod for HL released a few weeks ago called Cthulu (its based on an h.p lovecraft novel i think), which had a sanity meter (replacing your HL armour level). Using spells drained it. When it reached 0, it went to a cut scene of you losing your mind and you lose the game. The only way to restore it at any all was by defeating cultist plots, which only happened once or twice in the entire game, so you were always very sparing with your sanity .

once the novelty wore off, I found I was treating it just like any other game variable, sort of like an ammo count for magic, and nothing more.


Right, this is the problem in representing it as a meter and doing it so abruptly. Even as a meter, I''ve never felt trepidation at actually losing / dying completely. I''ve only felt trepidation at being brought so close to loss / death that I feared how it would continue to impact me throughout the game.

Btw, this leads to my game design motto, "Death is not interesting."


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Just waiting for the mothership...

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quote:
Original post by jack_1313
As the sanity metre wears down the negative effects should slowly become apparent. For instance, it would not be good to simply suddenly go insane and be bombarded with ridiculous scenes, but rather things should gradually change in a way that the player does not notice the changes.



Yes, agreed. Subtlety is the key here, which means that the sanity itself needs to be a hidden resource / stat. I think an internal monologue would be ideal, because it can help shape player''s perceptions and thwart any suspicion of game bugs.

quote:

Also, it would be good to do things in a way that the effects are not blindingly obvious. I think the idea is to produce fear, uncertainty and disturbance in the player, rather than make the player laugh at the stupidity of it. For instance, it might be a nice idea if at random moments that character hears footsteps, only to discover that he/she is entirely alone. Or the group of people following the player seems to alter as time goes by. I might be a bit worried if I turned away from a mate for a brief moment only to turn back and find no one was there.



Yes, especially if such an event were within the realm of possibilities relating to something else. The worst approach would be to do only those things which make the player think, "aha, I''ve got to go see a mind-doc and get this insanity fixed!"

Better there be possible other causes, so that they don''t know if they''re dealing with a red herring. For instance, if characters can spontaneously appear and disappear, this needs to be a function of both insanity and say, powerful alien artifacts or strange anomalies. Otherwise the gig is up as soon as it happens.

quote:

Also, the original poster mentioned objects being replaced with oddities such as trees. How does this sound - instead of replacing the objects merely change the appearance of them to reflect the traumatizing events that have taken their toll on the character. If the player suffered some disturbance in an abandoned cave then perhaps the interior of his spaceship might begin to reflect the appearance of that cave - ie bloodied stone walls etc. Now that I mentioned blood, that might actually be an effective tool. When the player is going insane add blood to the walls and characters just for disturbing confusion (it should be noted that I am not a violent person, but I am very interested in the idea of a sanity metre).


No, this is a very good idea. I think if you changed the environment slowly and coupled that with real-world game effects, such as stats being affected, you could motivate the player appropriately. Taking your cave idea, if level parts could be replaced dynamically, you really could open a door and enter into a room which really turns out to be a cave. This would work especially well if it''s a natural level transition, like in Morrowind, where you don''t have a chance to see what''s coming. But even if you do, it still inspires a "what the hell...??" feeling.

Now if the level were somewhat tile-like or could be morphed by swapping images of two levels, it would be killer to see a safe environment slowly merge with one the player associates with horror or loss. Accompanied by the right music and sound, this could be very effective.

quote:

In short, the effects generated by insanity should reflect the events that caused the insanity. Instead of just randomly creating oddities change the situation to replicate the prior disturbances the lie within the character.



This I think is one of the most important points to an idea like this. That way, the two events are relevant, and the player could see a consequence to cause and effect.


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quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster
Sounds cool. I don''t have anything to add to your system, but I''m wondering how you will handle sanity effects for NPC crew? Should everyone get a visually disorienting effect as the result of one crew member losing it?



It sounds like there needs to be two layers of effects, overt and covert. The overt effects should be just like any status effects in game, such as being poisoned. This is for expediency''s sake-- you might not know someone is stunned anymore than you know they''re poisoned, but we have to compensate for the interface limits that stop a player from deriving such information from their five senses, as they would IRL.

But for interest''s sake, there need to be covert effects that can be detected either by the player or NPCs via skills such as observation. I''m thinking of the movie The Abyss, where the main characters have to devine the fact that a military leader is suffering from dementia caused by inability to cope with depth pressure. One notes the character''s shaking hands, for example, as a prelude to the leader going off on a paranoid delusion.


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quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster
how about subverting RPG expectations, and as the PC becomes more unwell they start to hear their weapons say that they need blood to become more powerful (ie. weapon XP), or getting subquests from things like talking dogs. Things which you would normally expect to do in a normal fantasy RPG.
Creepy.


Yes, again this would work well with an internal dialog system coupled with possibilities that this could happen when the player IS NOT insane. It has to be plausible, or the player just says, "oh, I''m insane, let''s get that fixed" and the spell is broken.

If they could encounter a presence that might inhabit a dog or the dog claims to be an imbedded AI persona trying to escape, then this could work.



quote:
Original post by Inmate2993
I like the idea, but I''d rather see the meter work as a chance effect, rather than some guareenteed 75% SANITY = VOICES. Like, if the meter is at 50%, then that just means theres a 1 in 2 chance of something weird happening in a given area. Of course, you could be strong about and say, the psychodelic colors won''t happen until the meter is below 33%.


Yes, good point. This thread has convinced me that the stat has to be hidden anyway, but it''s also good for there not to be a hard and fast link. For instance, if the player''s in a dual with a psionic character and gets "mindblasted," taking damage to sanity directly, they''ll just go and get it fixed if they know that it''s broken. But if there''s some kind of immediate effect that''s visible (like stunning or unconsciousness) coupled with a possible, deeper psychosis, then it makes things more interesting.

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quote:
Original post by M3d10n
As example, the map could suffer subtle to drastic changes depending on the sanity level. That could also be used to portray the characters'' attention level and allucinations.

As example, the player enters a corridor with 5 doors (including the one he came from). When he enters one of the doors to, takes a look at the room and come back, there are only 4 doors. Then he enters another door, investigates the room, and come back. Now there are five doors. WTF?
Player then enters the first room he investigated. Wait, wasn''t the wallpaper supposed to be blue? Then BLAM! The sound of a door being slammed comes form the outside.

That''d be very cool to play during a cold night, with all lights off...



Hahaha, yes, this is cool. As long as the game itself shows the player that it''s "with them" then this is fine. You''d have to be careful of not frustrating or losing the player but also not tipping your hand as to what''s going on. I really am starting to like the idea of dynamically changing the level, maybe using some sort of 3D tiling system. Each time there''s a change, do something as simple as attach a message to it if and only if the player clicks on the area, such as... "That wasn''t there before. What is going on?"

Then the player knows that it''s not a bug. Of course, if you could make a product free of bugs, then you''d have some lattitude. Showing a level with flickering, semi-transparent objects with inverted normals that suck you into another map when you touch them, complete with psychadelic warp effects, would be one way to drive the player insane.



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Just waiting for the mothership...

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You really should play Eternal Darkness (heck, everyone should as far as I''m concerned . It has a simple sanity meter that decreases when terrible things happen( monsters target you, you kill innocents etc). The effects of insanity are of two types, in game presentation differences and "insanity effects". The in game changes consist of the camera tilting and shooting the action from weird unnerving angles, sounds of children crying,sounds od women getting beat up, growling, your character talking to itself, sounds of footsteps approaching quickly and then dissappearing, rapid knocking on doors as you pass them, blood dripping from walls etc. Some of these are more unnerving than others but you need quite a few for it not to get repetetive. Blood dripping from the ceiling was routine by the end of Eternal Darkness although it was scary the first time it happened.

Insanity effects are short time temporary hallucinations that hit you''re character at random. They are very clever and often trick you, the player so you start disbelieving your own senses. Used sparingly this is very effective. Here comes an example that you shouldn''t read if you intend to play through Eternal Darknes:

SPOILER---------------------
At some point after going through a pretty hard part of the game and having low sanity, you try to save our game. You''ve done this many times by now so you just click through the menu choices really quickly. A progress dialog similar to the one that appears when saving comes up but this one says "Deleting...". Then a cheery message pops up that says "All your saved games have been successfully deleted.". At this point you''re really screaming in terror. After a second or so the screen fades to white and you''re back in the game before entering the menu with your character clutching her head saying "This can''t be happening..." It was all an hallucination.
SPOILER--------------------

Sometimes you''ll think there''s something wrong with the GameCube or the TV but it''s only your character going insane. The game has tons of great insanity effects that I could share, but I don''t want to spoil the fun for anyone that hasn''t played it yet.

The things that were bad about Eternal Darkness'' sanity system was that it was way to easy to regain sanity in the later part of the game, basically there was a cheap spell that regained sanity. The insanity effects were a large part of the fun, so this really made the game to easy and less fun.

The other thing that could be improved was adding more story oriented insanity effects (ala the great Henderson example) and overall, incorporating player interaction more within insanity effects. For example, finding a dog or other pet that you take with you and carry around and then when looking in a mirror, discovering that its a dead rotting corspe/a rat/whatever. Handling phobias or compulsice disorders in the way you mentioned is also great.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
quote:
Original post by GameCat
SPOILER---------------------



I''ve thought of games doing that, but I think it would almost give some people a heart attack.


How about having a sanity meter style effect in a game about ghosts and the paranormal, except that it isn''t necessarily linked to sanity, but to the ghosts.

Ie. they are causing the weird effects (weird breezes, strange noises, moving objects, etc).

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There are some really neat ideas here.

With regards to the effects of low sanity, I think sound will be your single biggest tool. Have doors play their open/close sounds when you''re not looking, without actually opening/closing... have footsteps running behind the player, but disappear when he turns around.

One idea that interests me is of rhythmic synergy. Say your character''s on a spaceship, Alien, style. All sorts of hums and clunks from the ship would be playing, all over the place. When you''re sane, they just sound like hums and clunks.

But as you become less sane, the sounds get slightly adjusted - timestretched, most likely - such that they begin to fit together into a larger noise. Heartbeats, screaming, footsteps, alien breathing... if it *were* an Alien style scenario, you could actually mix some geniune alien sounds in there as well. Could cause havok when the alien actually turns up...

Any kind of angular, dischordant sound would work. After all, insanity is generally a horror thing - so your standard rules on scary noises come into play.

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The shadowy organization thats really a hellucination sounds like a great idea to me. I have visions of the player being called into a dark alley by a stranger and recuited into a mysterious organzition, and given a magic eightball. The player is then told that from time to time they will contact the player for missions using messages in the eightball.

Then their is the furthur of idea of story events that mimic insanity but are really happening. What if one of the mini stories that can be encountered in game consists of invisable aliens that only the player can see trying to destroy the ship? The crew thinks your insane and even the player may think so but its all really happening.

It might be good or bad to have catrosphic events that can result for insanity. Such as the player is in their ready room when the intruder alert alarm sounds. They rush out to the bridge to find aliens manning the ships controls the player opens fire killing the aliens. Moments later ships security arrives to find the player standing gun in hand over the bodies of their murdered crew members.




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Writer, Programer, Cook, I''m a Jack of all Trades
Current Design project: Ambitions Slave

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BUMP. Oh, and could somebody please revive that Singularity stuff? Also, having the player contract and cure psychological diseases over the game seems like a better idea than having a sanity meter. Examples: if you get too many plot points you get Bipolar disorder and start experiencing periods of near-invincibility and extraordinary stamina (mania) alternating with depression periods of weakness and low stamina until you're cured.

[edit]Why do threads seem to die when I post?[/edit]

void Signature(void* Pointer)
{
PObject(Pointer)->ShowMessage("Why do we need so many pointers?");
};

[edited by - Eli Gottlieb on March 30, 2004 3:06:31 PM]

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quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
The shadowy organization thats really a hellucination sounds like a great idea to me. I have visions of the player being called into a dark alley by a stranger and recuited into a mysterious organzition, and given a magic eightball. The player is then told that from time to time they will contact the player for missions using messages in the eightball.


LOL. "Yes," the mysterious stranger says, "I know it LOOKS like an eightball. However, it''s actually an alien artifact with microscopic tachyon transceivers embedded into a spherical fused energy shell that is impervious to blackbody radiation scans. The display is just a hologram."



quote:

Then their is the furthur of idea of story events that mimic insanity but are really happening. What if one of the mini stories that can be encountered in game consists of invisable aliens that only the player can see trying to destroy the ship? The crew thinks your insane and even the player may think so but its all really happening.


I like this ambiguity as long as I can ensure that it won''t be confusing or annoying. I wonder how many people will be able to handle the idea of there not necessarily being an objective reality, that maybe there are many things that are a matter of interpretation. I remember a mission in Morrowind I had misgivings about involving the murder of a Hlaalu nobleman. The only thing that told me that the guy I ended up killing for the crime did it was that he had a weapon like the murder weapon described. I liked the idea that a game didn''t for once tell me exactly what to do, but it was a bit unnerving.

quote:

It might be good or bad to have catrosphic events that can result for insanity. Such as the player is in their ready room when the intruder alert alarm sounds. They rush out to the bridge to find aliens manning the ships controls the player opens fire killing the aliens. Moments later ships security arrives to find the player standing gun in hand over the bodies of their murdered crew members.


This one is REALLY messed up, but it could work as one of the cases where the player is REALLY messed up. The normal AI response rules to "you attacked an ally" could work, as well.

But this does lead into another area: Redemption. If security shows up and you surrender (yes, that''ll be an option for once in a friggin'' game), then what happens? Do they scan you, find you to be insane, then get you treated or committed? Or do they, in a fit of passion, kill you?


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Just waiting for the mothership...

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quote:
Original post by superpig
Any kind of angular, dischordant sound would work. After all, insanity is generally a horror thing - so your standard rules on scary noises come into play.


I like this idea especially because it''s relatively cheap, compared to graphic effects, and can be very effective if there are a wide variety of strange sounds.

Discordant violins from the Ring, anyone? EEEEEEEEEE-OUP!



--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

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quote:
Original post by GameCat
At some point after going through a pretty hard part of the game and having low sanity, you try to save our game. You''ve done this many times by now so you just click through the menu choices really quickly. A progress dialog similar to the one that appears when saving comes up but this one says "Deleting...". Then a cheery message pops up that says "All your saved games have been successfully deleted.". At this point you''re really screaming in terror. After a second or so the screen fades to white and you''re back in the game before entering the menu with your character clutching her head saying "This can''t be happening..." It was all an hallucination.

Sometimes you''ll think there''s something wrong with the GameCube or the TV but it''s only your character going insane. The game has tons of great insanity effects that I could share, but I don''t want to spoil the fun for anyone that hasn''t played it yet.



Now this is really funny. I would go for something along this line if I were doing a game exclusively about insanity. I had really only intended this to be a side feature, but I really like putting in things that tweak the reality of the gamer, not just the character. It reminds me of the comedy work of Andy Kaufman, who used to do things like intentially have TV stations broadcasting his shows mess up the picture and make audiences think it was their set.

quote:

For example, finding a dog or other pet that you take with you and carry around and then when looking in a mirror, discovering that its a dead rotting corspe/a rat/whatever.


Maybe replacing what you think is a friendly alien creature in your inventory with a skull. Then, occassionally swap out the skull to a skull with glowing eyes that turns back to a normal skull when you pick it up.

As with all games on the cheap, you''ve got to be creative with a very small budget.



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Just waiting for the mothership...

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