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Roleplaying a nonhuman

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"The slime is warm. The slime is wet. The slime is all embracing... mother... father... God. You have always been alive in the slime, awake and aware, but now it is time to emerge... " Thus begins your roleplaying adventure. With +6 Tentacle Strike Light Phobia Telepathy you journey out into the world and...??? What would it be like to play an nonhuman alien? Or a Beholder? Or a drake? What would you do? What would adventures be like? How could you design a game so that players could be nonhuman? Seems that all of our paradigms for RPGs break down here. You might need a different economy. You might have to handle NPCs differently. Combat might be somwhat different. So might traveling, moving, inventory, and a host of other things!!! The assumptions go out the window! What do you think? Could it be done? Would players go for it? -------------------- Just waiting for the mothership...

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You should be able to roleplay whatever characters are visible in your game. If you have a race in your game, the player should be able to choose to RP them.

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Arnold Rimmer:"It will be happened, it shall be going to be happened. It will be was an event that could will have been taken place in the future. Simple as that. Your bucket''s been kicked baby!"

Kryten:"Sir, you''re a smeeeeeeeeeeeee!"
Rimmer:"A smeeeeeeeeeeeeee?"
Kryten:"Yes, a smeeeeeeeeeeeeeeg heeeeeeeeeeeeeeed"
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That''s the hard question. What is the attitude of an being that has been brought up under a simple theory of manufactured slime. Would they give a damn about strategy? What would their confidence level be? What would they think about critters like themselves? What would their personal goals be? These are questions that i think need to be answered!

I love Game Design and it loves me back.

Our Goal is "Fun"!

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I personally think that I am a bit of a dwarf (looks like I''m not alone... Hi RD! ) So a player should be able to play whatever they think suits their character. Maybe you could quiz them before the game to find the ideal character for them?

I don''t really know, but I would like to see a wider variety... I remember an old game for my XT called Phantasie (and Phantasie III as well... LOL! It actually says that it has "awesome graphics" on the front of it! ) where you had at least 20 different races to choose from. If they could do it then, why can''t they do it now?

PS. I still play Phantasie on occassions

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-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft
"The Philosophers' Stone of Programming Alchemy"
IOL (The list formerly known as NPCAI) - A GDNet production
Our Doc - The future of RPGs
Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche
          

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One of the reasons I brought this up is that it''s a brain stretcher in terms of our normal thinking about RPGs. We think "character," "stats/skills", "story," but not "what''s the social model for this race."

I mean, think about Elves. They live for centuries, have different attitudes about harmony, knowledge, and nature, yet are often treated like long greyish humans. Story and setting can help a bit, but have you ever played a game where you actually felt like this is what it might be to be an Elf? Or an alien? Or an Egyptian?

To think about this you''ve got to give some thought to how the society works. Like I''ve said elsewhere, it''s a system, and changing that system can yeild very different gameplay.

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Just waiting for the mothership...

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quote:
Original post by Paul Cunningham

That''s the hard question. What is the attitude of an being that has been brought up under a simple theory of manufactured slime. Would they give a damn about strategy? What would their confidence level be? What would they think about critters like themselves? What would their personal goals be? These are questions that i think need to be answered!



Let''s say they can survive just as well as you, psychologically as well as physically. Now the question becomes, from an RPG perspective (because that''s all we care about here), what do you do as them. How do you turn the RPG goals that we take for granted into nonhuman goals? And how do you make it interesting?

If an RPG is about buying things, talking to people, exchanging things for quests, exploring, and combat, then how are these different for the nonhuman player. I can see even minor touches that move us in the right direction (away from playing humans in Elf or Dwarf or Centaurian skin).

Take communication: maybe with Telepathy, you can talk with any NPC you''ve ever talked with. Make it an "out of body" exploration type experience for ease of implementation.

Or maybe you could play with the concept of inventory and food: What about a race that needs to digest metal? Heh, so much for those swords...

The point is, I think there''s a lot of interesting opportunity we designers miss when we design our games to be played as if everyone in the game world is human.








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Just waiting for the mothership...

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quote:
Original post by Wavinator

How could you design a game so that players could be nonhuman? Seems that all of our paradigms for RPGs break down here. You might need a different economy. You might have to handle NPCs differently. Combat might be somwhat different. So might traveling, moving, inventory, and a host of other things!!! The assumptions go out the window!


I think the central problem would be that you couldn''t design a non-human race to lack any human mental abilities, or value things that just don''t appeal to humans. A real wolf, for example, does not understand about stoplights, doorknobs, or probably guns, but if you let a human player drive he/she knows all these things and adjusts their strategy accordingly. A real wolf would be extremely distracted by another if one was in heat. A human-driven wolf would (in most cases ) rather follow around an attractive human.

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I think if you played with the ideas of goals and stayed away from bizarre or purient aspects, this could work. You''d have things that the character would need, things the character could do, and defined responses from the game world.

The potential I see here is that players could have a richer experience; there could be more replayability; players would get to play "monsters," and it would be something different from what they''d be used to.

As for familiar objects, you''d need to embedin them a "can I use" variable. This is done in RPGs all the time. As far as drives, well, taking control away from the player isn''t something I''d tend to do, but if the situation were right and it was kept to a minimum I think it would be tolerated.

But the real question is, would anyone want to play a centaur, or a grue? Or are we a humans only club?

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Just waiting for the mothership...

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I would like to play one of the Aliens (from the Aliens series) in an RPG. How cool would that be?

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft
"The Philosophers' Stone of Programming Alchemy"
IOL (The list formerly known as NPCAI) - A GDNet production
Our Doc - The future of RPGs
Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche
          

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I played as a squid/mindflayer on a MUD named Duris. There were alot of things redifined. I ate by putting my tentacles into the victims ears and sucking his brains out etc.

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quote:
Original post by dwarfsoft

I would like to play one of the Aliens (from the Aliens series) in an RPG. How cool would that be?




Yeah, this is cool. You can do this in Aliens vs. Predator to a degree. You run up on walls, drop down on people, see with wraparound vision, and regain health by putting those ghoulish second jaws into some poor hapless human''s head... *yuck!* But it''s solely in a combat context. (Although, what other context do the Aliens have?)

Playing a Hive Queen would be cool too. I''ve always wondered what playing a Zerg Cerebrate would be like outside beyond just fighting (you are the Hive Cluster, after all). It would certainly make for a different role-playing experience!!



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Just waiting for the mothership...

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quote:
Original post by Spyder

I played as a squid/mindflayer on a MUD named Duris. There were alot of things redifined. I ate by putting my tentacles into the victims ears and sucking his brains out etc.


I bet that made any humans who played along with you pretty nervous.

I think it''s easier to play a monster than it is to play an average alien/inhuman joe as you do a human hero. It has something to do with falling back on combat paradigms, I think. It really strains the imagination to ponder the ways in which communication, or experience, or even simple navigation could be different.

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Just waiting for the mothership...

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There was, once upon a time, a french RPG called Alienoids that had been written by some furious roleplayers who wanted to give us a new experience. Basically, you played Predators descending on Earth. The thing that the game emphasized on was the descriptions. The Game Master would described everything as simply as possible, without ever using "obvious" descriptions.

"The human is wrapped in black textiles, he wears a cylindrical shape over his head, and you can see lots of shiny metallic circles on his chest. He is wielding a short white wooden device, which he frenetically agitates at your face. He is pointing at a metallic pole on the walkway at your right. At the top of the pole, there is a metallic circle, painted in blue with two strips of red forming a cross. Probably a tribal banner you think. "Move your car ! You CAN''T stop here" he says. What do you do ?" (a cop is showing a "NO STOP" sign at the alienoid...)

And so on and so forth. Needless to say, the GM had a LOT of work to do, but this was excellent, as it really helped the players to really concentrate on the role.

Another RPG I loved was called Bloodlust (again, french). You played a God-Weapon, and his bearer. BAsically, you were a live weapon, with needs, desires and temptations, and a bearer, who initially has different desires, temptations and goals, but who gradually lose his control to let the weapon run the show. The whole thing was to try to keep you character as sane as possible for as long as possible, while satisfying your weapon. There ere two separate sheets, one for the Bearer, that was usually short-lived, and one for the Weapon, immortal

One thing that really does cause a problem is the fact that on computer, you have graphics ... which makes it extremly hard to confuse the player with known things. It would be impossible to play the above scene in a computer game, for instance.
It''s usually easier to try to make a new world and put the player in it, but more often than not, designers won''t bother creating a new world, with its culture, and totally different ways of behaving.
The only exception I can think of would be Albion (by Blue Byte). And that''s pretty much it.

youpla :-P

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(Wow, GDNet is so slow and glitchy for me today...)

You're right, ahw. Because you have to have graphics people are never going to be able to have a totally alien experience. Which is fine, because I don't think most people could really get into it. If you assume that they've had contact with humans, then there's no real problem in them being able to use "inside" knowledge.

My intention was more to think up "alien" gameplay. Sort of an improvement on class distinctions (the mage can cast spells, the fighter crack heads, and the alien suck people's brains out )

What I was thinking about for this Starflight-alike I'm working on is that you could vary character capabilities and such based on what race someone chose. For instance, say you're playing a member of a race that can't heal itself; instead, they transfer to a completely new body upon death. How does this affect your gameplay?

Another example: Say you're playing a cybernetic species. What are some cool gameplay possibilities? Perhaps you can send your consciousness over the wires, or beam it wherever you want.

Or maybe you play a deep space "whale," or a pack of creatures who have a common mind. Sure, it won't be perfect, but it's a game, after all, so all you really need is enough of a feel. Methinks this is the case with Diablo's Necromancer, and why so many people are having fun with it.




Edited by - Wavinator on August 29, 2000 10:07:54 PM

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To help, remove the humans from the game. Or put the setting in a slightly strange environment. Yes, I know what a policeman looks like, but a human in a green space suit versus a human in a red one? They could mean anything, or maybe nothing. They could just be made by different space suit manufacturers.

Obviously, an alien character can have different gameplay, but this isn''t so strange. Just make sure you have a training area or level for the player to learn what the character would already know, and only if the beastie was dramatically different.

If the beastie in question has a drastically differnt social environemnt then I''d have a hard time adapting. If it''s just game mechanics then the difference is trivial. Finding a balance would be tough, but very interesting if done correctly.

The best uses of this gimmick in SF are (IMO) ones used to illustrate a human behavior by contrast. Example: take the hive-mind and put it in a Babylon 5 station where folks are doing all sorts of espionage that a hive mind isn''t really capable of understanding. Let the player draw his/her own conclusions.

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Actually, the farmiliarity may be enough. Instead of being able to identify anything by their cloths or colours, just make everything a ''generic human'' and then the alien wouldn''t understand what human was what. Hmmm... This could work

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft
"The Philosophers' Stone of Programming Alchemy"
IOL (The list formerly known as NPCAI) - A GDNet production
Our Doc - The future of RPGs
Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche
          

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Completely ignoring the so-called roleplaying aspects for a minute (ie. how an alien thinks and what their society / communication is).
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A non-human creature could make a good basis for a strategic-action-adventure game. The gameplay would be based upon the capacities of the creature, and be designed to reinforce their strengths / weaknesses.

Ie. They are phobic of light => because it makes them weaker (attack / health reduces whilst in light). Thus the player would try to remain out of the light, as their main unit would be weaker in the world.

So the gameplay rules = reinforce the player behaving "like" that creature.


Which in turn (when combined with multiple solutions to problems, will lead to the ability to "role-play" that creature. (As what is roleplaying, if not deciding how to act - or not act).

So you could get some really interesting gameplay from having a non-human lifeform as the main player controlled unit in a game.

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Yes, of course!!!! That''s it!!! The actual gameplay *is* the role!

People don''t use the blast of a grenade to catapult themselves up onto a platform in Counter-Strike like they do in Unreal because the gameplay doesn''t support it. They run on the ceiling and drop down on another player''s head in Aliens vs. Predator because the gameplay supports playing like an alien.


But that leaves an important question: Is the player immersed? Is he playing the role, or is he just playing?

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Just waiting for the mothership...

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I think you would want (as the designer) to change the presentation to suit the role. A slime might sense in the infrared (what do I know about slimes?), so a visible object would be rendered brighter the warmer it is. And of course rhythmic sucking and slurping sounds would help add to the overall ambience.

An insect might see the world as a warped camera lens might. Also, an insect might be extremely sensitive to movement, so objects which are not moving might have their contrast reduced, while objects which suddenly start moving might become brighter and more contrasted with the scene.

And naturally those things which are familiar to humans but unfamiliar to the thing you are playing should be presented in a slightly confused or encrypted format, so that you do not necessarily understand what is transpiring.

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Let''s look at the problem from this angle: Why is an alien different from a human. Nature and Nurture, right? Nature, as in it has a wider field of vision or no vision, better hearing or no hearing, senses humans don''t have, limbs that work differently and have different abilities, a brain that thinks that different shapes are attractive, cheats in different ways to make the universe seem coherent, etc. Just look at some mental differences like autism that a small genetic difference in humans makes. What does the alien eat? If it''s not carnivorous, combat may have completely different connotations for it. Nurture: does it''s culture have language? writing? ritual murder, suicide, etc? Literal reincarnation? Distributed consciousness?

Now, the good news is you can use writing to make a human feel some approximation of what it''s like to be an alien. And I believe that anything writing alone can do, writing backed up by images and sounds (i.e. a game) can do. If you''ve played Yoshi''s Island, think of what happens to the screen if you "touch fuzzy get dizzy" - things are wavery and different colors, and gravity changes direction a bit. There are lots of ways the whole graphical style of the game can be manipulated to give the feel of seeing through alien eyes. If anyone''s played
Tender Loving Care: A Dangerous Prescription, you probably remember the fantastic atmospheric music each room of the house had - drips, a warped music box, whispers, panting - these types of things can be used to convey the connotations each setting should have for an alien. And of course, we can always use words, just like the writers of science fiction novels do. A good dose of atmospheric exposition at the beginning can help the player get into the role quickly.

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The approach to take with this problem, is to break everything down into little steps and analyse them.

For example:
How to implement Alien NPCs

1. they function as part of an Alien Society

2. What are the fundamental principles of the society and social interactions that take place there. Ie. Sharing water on a desert world is a spiritually binding action.

3. The player can be part of the society, by the actions that they take.

4. But, how will they understand the outcome of certain of their actions?

5. Several approaches a. trial and error (but this would frustrate and annoy the player) b. Guidelines / training / observation.

c. give an example of the result and consequences of the action in English. This could be represented by an icon (with a tool tip in case they forget?).

ie. Helping workers = emphasises your solidarity with the society.

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