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Wavinator

Crime and Punishment

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What are some ways to make people less cavalier about murdering innocents in an RPG? Or commiting crimes in general? It amazes me to hear people talk about Morrowind and how casually they kill NPCs and take over their property. The fact that they can get away with it so easily makes it no big deal. Now it may be true the the shallow nature of NPCs inspires this, but I think the poor and arbitrary response system encourages it. I started thinking about a low cost, improved system for the sci-fi RPG I'm working on. The goal isn't to eliminate amoral behavior, but rather to make the world more responsive and immersive. Basics You and other characters leave a trail when commiting crimes. There is a system for hiding evidence, running from the law (and tracking runners), beating the rap and even breaking out of the slammer. Body of Evidence The trail governs how the crime is treated. It reflects locations as well as characters or objects and has a magnitude and ID. Magnitude determines how clear and obvious a clue is, and the ID, which can be partial, contains details about the criminal. The lower the magnitude of a link in the trail, the more likely the crime is to be unsolvable; the weaker the ID, the more time police will spend running down dead ends, which buys time. Over time the trail decays, making the crime increasingly unsolvable. Tech, however, can amplify the magnitude while disposing of evidence can break a link back to the criminal entirely. Basically, this means that you have to plan before you commit a crime, or at least cover your tracks. The closer you are to the crime scene, the stronger the evidence left. Whodunnit? NPCs are more likely to speculate idylly about who commited a crime the greater the crime is in magnitude. Random vigilante events may even arise. Authorities will run down likely suspects, based on how complete the ID is. "What Good Is A Phone Call If You Are Unable To Speak?" If the player is IDed, police will attempt to apprehend. Success fades to a translucent menu screen overlaying an interrogation room. Your option is to either confess or maintain innocence. Success depends on stat checks over 1 to x rounds. Particularly tough or brutal interrogations may lower your stats in the process. Thieving For Fun And Profit The more expensive and heavier something is, the harder it is to swipe without being noticed. However, characters can become distracted (an actual status effect), which lowers their perception. Interested parties will intervene if they have the power and recognize the crime. But unlike most RPGs, they're more likely to detain or subdue than to outright kill. If caught, you switch to insta-trial (see below). Areas like banks or shops have imbedded zones where players aren't supposed to be, and security zones. By making contacts and exploring seedy taverns, you can get access keys to areas or guard schedules. Red... rum Murder is a special case crime and depends on where committed. An attacked NPC will likely call for help, generating a chance to spawn witnesses or defenders based on the population density or type of location. High crime areas generate fewer witnesses because the populace is afraid. Obviously, if the NPC can't call out this doesn't apply. Once the character is killed two timers spawn, one for when the character will be missed (shorter for guards) and one for the maximum amount of time before the character's body will alert nearby NPCs to their death due to the effects of decay. When the first timer elapses, ally NPCs may be spawned who come looking for the NPC; otherwise, the final timer kicks in. All of this means that a murderous character must hide the body. Contact with the body will strengthen the trail, and the criminal must risk being seen transporting the body unless they do so stealthfully. Attack style may also fortify the trail and leave actual tracks which must be covered. Construction sites or solar flybys are ideal for getting rid of the evidence. Without a body, chances of conviction go down drastically (see insta-trial) Witnesses: Gotta Catch 'Em All... If you attack someone in view of others, the authorities will respond depending on the location or inhabitants' alignment, the target's reputation and the amount of damage done to the target. The reverse is also true if an NPC attacks you. This means that two social neutrals fighting it out in a slum aren't as likely to generate a police spawn as some criminal attacking an old lady in the suburbs. But a witnessed murder is almost always likely to generate police response, even if the target was despised, though no witnesses may come forward. Witnesses to a crime provide the police with the ID of the criminals. However, witnesses can be bribed, intimidated or otherwise silenced to prevent this from happening. Running Man Any character that commits a crime has an opportunity to flee. NPCs may do so, creating tracking gameplay which includes paying for tips, persuasion and strategic searches. For the running player, the more time spent at a location increases the chance for a police or bounty encounter. After combat, if wounded or damaged, the chances of pursuers staking out hospitals or repair points increases commensurate with police presence / hunter resources. A Perception check alerts a player to this. Defeated / damaged police or hunters go away and get more allies or better resources. This happens more quickly the worse the crime or stronger the criminal. At worst, you may have the navy and army invading countries to get a character. Stealth Mode You can use stealth and disguises to cover your tracks. Stealth reduces the trail's magnitude, while disguises reduce the ID. The lower the magnitude, the less details there are about a crime; the greater the disguise, the more time police must spend in running down likely suspects. In terms of skill checks, the more successful the player is at any action, the less likely they are to leave a trail. (Certain items like gloves help this) The level of police and surveillance in a society, as well as its tech level, modify the trail left. Reputation also factors in in a special case where a character has commited a crime the populace sympathizes with. In this case, they may fail to report or even render aid and shelter. Insta-trial Insta-trial plays out in a nice, simple screen with good-looking buttons translucently overlaying various courtroom stills. It is simply a gambling mechanism. The type of trial (fair, kangaroo, secret tribunal) affects the options you get in beating the rap. The more sinister the government or dangerous your rep, the harsher things are. Listed are the crime, the punishment, the odds of conviction and the mitigating factors for this. Each crime has set odds that are modified by the strength of the trail. Your social class, faction alliances are factors. Characters also play a role: Witnesses and their reps, the judge's disposition (Hang 'em Harry) and competence, and the prosecutor's competence and stats come into play as well. You can spend money to try to bribe, intimidate or even assassinate any of the characters. If successful, the odds are changed; if not, the odds are further tipped against you. Crime and Insta-punishment The instant results of the insta-trial are: Death, imprisonment, vigilante hunt, fine or stat modification. If sentenced to death, you have an automatic chance to escape, which spawns you unarmed in a mission either aboard a transport or in prison in a random location somewhere in the empire you were apprehended in. Allies may show up to help if you have them. If imprisoned, you get a static screen of a prison, a text description, and an option to escape or tough it out. The description describes how tough the prison is (gulags are very bad for your health) and your survival odds. If you choose escape, your allies, unarmed combat skills or raw intelligence determine the results: Either you spawn with stealthy or armed allies breaking into your cell; have one or more unconscious guards with keys at your feet; or spawn with your cell door open and a hacking rig in your hands. If you tough it out, your character survives based on their stats versus how deadly the prison is. Should you serve your time and survive, your rep will be crap (except among criminals, in which case it will be higher the tougher the prison) but you may gain stat increases, underworld contacts and skills. For vigilante hunts (popular in more barbaric societies) you're spawned with minimal equipment in ruins or the wilds and have to survive well-equipped hunters. Some societies may inflict drastic stat loss or capping on you. Stat capping requires missions to remove. The worst of these, in keeping with the sci-fi theme, is personality death: You're transported with a black map, minimal money to a random part of the map and have all contacts and skills erased. Okay, I know it's a lot to digest. What I first want to know is if it calls on the player to think too much. Secondly, can it be improved? I don't want to get into a huge ant farm simulation, so I'm most interested in abstract approaches that approximate the right results. Finally, would you commit crimes in a game if you knew the crime and punishment model was this fleshed out? [Edited by - Wavinator on September 22, 2004 12:50:32 AM]

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If it´s a part of general gameplay I don´t think it forces too much involvement from the player. It is a bit complex if the only reason to have it is to prevent "random crimes", but as a provider of gamplay it looks good.
What I´d worry about though is the effect this has on the load/save behavior of the player. Some of the consequence paths that arise simply seem to severe for players not to hit the reload button.

In order to make this work you have to figure out how to prevent that - either take saving away from the player, or rework the consequences in such a way that the player may live with them, probably a bit of both...

The endstate should be a system where there are great rewards for committing crimes, but at a cost of beforehand planning and escape time afterwards. Still, with all the details involved this might turn into a crime sim ...

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Some great idea's there Wavinator, I'm actually designing something similar (though set in a medieval genre), but the concepts are fairly similar.

I have a couple comments and questions.

I personally (and I believe most true RPers would), rather commit crime in game when their is a true risk/reward system, and that system requires some thought. Crime is one of the areas of RPG's that has been shown little interest, and it's unfortunate, since playing a "Bad Guy" is something I'm sure alot of us like to do from tiem to time.

Morrowind is a perfect example of what not to do, I too just killed people to take all of their belongings, sometimes moving into their place if I liked it.

The first thing that needs to be done to solve this, is a concept of ownership. Everything in game, from items, to property, needs to be owned by someone. If I kill someone and start living in their house, the neighbours shouldn't accept me as the owner, and should alert the police. This should be fairly easy to impliment.

The second part is the definition of what a crime is, and implimenting that in game. The two most important crimes that would add to a gaming experience, are theft, and assault. Additional crimes that would add interest, are trespassing, transportation of stolen goods, destruction of public/private property, etc.

For theft, their are a couple of different circumstances I can see, first off is taking an item that belongs to an NPC in sight of another NPC. If the NPC in sight owns the item you take it should be fairly simple, the NPC demands you put the item down, and if you don't either attempts to stop you, or if a weaker NPC, calls the police. But what if the NPC that see's you remove an item isn't the owner NPC? Since you want to abstract as much as possible, I would add a check here, depending probably upon charisma, and a thieving skill, that determines whether or not the NPC realizes you're stealing that item. If they do realize you are stealing, they would then same reaction as the owner would, though probably leaning more towards alerting the police, since bystanders usually won't risk as much to protect someone else's goods.

The second type of theft is from a person, IE: Pickpocketing, this should be fairly straightfoward with the same outcomes as the first type.

The third type would be removing an item with no witness, this would be far easier to pull of, and is where the Evidence would play a part. The question I have here is, how much abstraction do you want when it comes to evidence? Do you plan on just having the theft of an item create a generic evidence trail? Or specific types of evidence with different ways of "Covering Up"?

Ultimately any level of abstraction should work, all depends on how much crime will be a part of the gameplay. Some ideas for less abstraction would be leaving fingerprints (wearing gloves VS no gloves, requiring players to think ahead), whether anyone see's you entering the premises, whether you are new to the town (people always look to the strangers of a town first), etc.

Another thing to take into account is trying to sell the item, maybe certain vendors (depending upon alignment of the vendor) will alert the police if you try to sell a stolen item to them, this would push players to deal with seady people to sell their stolen wares.

Assault/Murder is far easier I would think to impliment. For basic assault that is witnessed by an NPC, they may contact the police, who will then come break up the assault, possibly arresting one or both of you (depending upon who initiated the assault, alignment, etc). For assault with no witness, where you start the assault, the other person may (after the fact) tell the police about the assault, which could lead to the police tracking you down.

For murder, you have the same two types, murder with a witness, and without. With a witness it's pretty much the same as basic assault. Without a witness is where it gets different. How will the act of murder be known? Their is really only two ways, one the body is found, two, NPC's realize the person is missing.

Finding the body is pretty simple, as you mentioned, you can have the body decay over time, and after a while an NPC walking by may realize there's a body, find it and alert the police. I would tend not to go with a straight timer, since this would mean hiding the body in a better place (basement, etc) wouldn't have any advantage, instead (and this would only work if your NPC's move around the world), I would have a radius that grows with time, and if an NPC enters this radius the body is found.

For when there's no body, I can't think of any better solution then just a timer as you mentioned, since doing anything else would get far too complex. The only addition I would make to this method is taking into account the difference between an important person being killed, or some criminal on the street. In reality, the time before someone realizes they're missing will be far different, the only way you could represent that is by increasing the timer depending upon the type of NPC, with a chance of certain NPC's types not having a timer at all (like criminals of the underworld). You mentioned this with your comment about guards having a shorter timer, I'm not sure if you plan on reflecting this difference on all NPC's, but I think it would make a great addition.

One other thing I would suggest, is possibly changing who gets alerted/does the investigation depending upon who the person affected is.

For example, if you steal from/murder the average joe, the police should be notified. But if you steal from/murder a respected member of the criminal underground, a whole different group should be alerted, and persue you. This would introduce different risk's/rewards depending upon the people you commit crimes against, and would add to the feeling of a criminal underground (if you plan on implimenting something like that).

That's all I can think of off the top of my head, overall I think it's a great idea, and deffinately something that would add some fun to playing a bad guy in game (or even just a good guy who needs to make a decision whether to do something bad or not).

[Edited by - Thesolitas on September 22, 2004 10:59:01 AM]

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With partial IDs, are you taking into account that someone may be falsely arrested?

Don't forget the possibility of framing someone else for a crime. Maybe a forgery skill to allow you to "drop" evidence or some disguise skill that allows you to look like someone else.

As for how the NPCs witness the crime/ID the person, think about tying this in with your moral (previous thread if I am remembering correctly). The higher the moral, the more chance that NPCs witnessing a crime will report and to ID the person, the lower the moral the more chance everyone will just sit around (or check that they aren't the next target) and not care.

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Original post by Hase
If it´s a part of general gameplay I don´t think it forces too much involvement from the player. It is a bit complex if the only reason to have it is to prevent "random crimes", but as a provider of gamplay it looks good.


Yes, it would definitely be there to support both sides of the law. I think this would make being either good or bad more interesting.

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What I´d worry about though is the effect this has on the load/save behavior of the player. Some of the consequence paths that arise simply seem to severe for players not to hit the reload button.

In order to make this work you have to figure out how to prevent that - either take saving away from the player, or rework the consequences in such a way that the player may live with them, probably a bit of both...


Probably on second thought the death paths should go because they're not that interesting.

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The endstate should be a system where there are great rewards for committing crimes, but at a cost of beforehand planning and escape time afterwards. Still, with all the details involved this might turn into a crime sim ...


This is the curse of the RPG... the only acceptable sim is the combat sim. :/

But you're right, the question though becomes where too much detail lies.

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Original post by Thesolitas
Some great idea's there Wavinator, I'm actually designing something similar (though set in a medieval genre), but the concepts are fairly similar.


Thanks, always good to compare notes!

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I personally (and I believe most true RPers would), rather commit crime in game when their is a true risk/reward system, and that system requires some thought. Crime is one of the areas of RPG's that has been shown little interest, and it's unfortunate, since playing a "Bad Guy" is something I'm sure
alot of us like to do from tiem to time.


Yes agreed, but then ironically we get games like Thief but with the proviso that it's not an RPG.

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The first thing that needs to be done to solve this, is a concept of ownership. Everything in game, from items, to property, needs to be owned by someone. If I kill someone and start living in their house, the neighbours shouldn't accept me as the owner, and should alert the police. This should be fairly easy to impliment.


What happens if you steal something that someone else owns but then travel to a new land? The new citizens shouldn't automatically know that its stolen, so this hints that ownership has an expiration radius (maybe based on fame).

Now, what happens if you steal something that's mass produced. If I steal your CD player, clean it up, then present it as my own months later, how do you know its yours? This then hints that items have a distinctiveness which may fade in time.

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Additional crimes that would add interest, are trespassing, transportation of stolen goods, destruction of public/private property, etc.


Tresspassing's theoretically a matter of zones, entities that do and don't have permission and witnesses to report it.

Also, I like the idea for destruction of property being based on HP done.

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If the NPC in sight owns the item you take it should be fairly simple, the NPC demands you put the item down,


Yes, rather than kill you! (Nothing breaks immersion worse than amorally materialistic NPCs!!!)

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and if you don't either attempts to stop you, or if a weaker NPC, calls the police. But what if the NPC that see's you remove an item isn't the owner NPC? Since you want to abstract as much as possible, I would add a check here, depending probably upon charisma, and a thieving skill, that determines whether or not the NPC realizes you're stealing that item.
If they do realize you are stealing, they would then same reaction as the owner would, though probably leaning more towards alerting the police, since bystanders usually won't risk as much to protect someone else's goods.


It would also be nice to reflect your rep and their rep. A thief would say nothing unless its his property, and few would say anything if they feared for their lives (at least in front of you-- but you have to know about it somehow, otherwise the game world just presents an unexpected update).


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The third type would be removing an item with no witness, this would be far easier to pull of, and is where the Evidence would play a part. The question I have here is, how much abstraction do you want when it comes to evidence? Do you plan on just having the theft of an item create a generic evidence trail? Or specific types of evidence with different ways of "Covering Up"?

Ultimately any level of abstraction should work, all depends on how much crime will be a part of the gameplay. Some ideas for less abstraction would be leaving fingerprints (wearing gloves VS no gloves, requiring players to think ahead), whether anyone see's you entering the premises, whether you are new to the town (people always look to the strangers of a town first), etc.


The abstraction level IS very important because it brings in player knowledge and forces you to balance what the player would expect to be able to do versus what the character should know to do. Maybe we've all seen enough movies to know that thieves should wear gloves so as not to leave prints. But there can be other types of knowledge that only a real thief or lover of mystery books would know (can't think of an example atm).

I do like having to remember gloves, and maybe the type of clothing and shoes being important. (Could give a very practical reason why you can't wear armor[grin]).

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Another thing to take into account is trying to sell the item, maybe certain vendors (depending upon alignment of the vendor) will alert the police if you try to sell a stolen item to them, this would push players to deal with seady people to sell their stolen wares.


Fences! Yes, that would be VERY cool, especially if NPCs became contacts that could be traded. So maybe you work up to a more reliable fence versus the guy who will rat you out when rousted by the cops. (Then again, if you're really ruthless, fences become another way to cover your tracks.)

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Assault/Murder is far easier I would think to impliment. For basic assault that is witnessed by an NPC, they may contact the police, who will then come break up the assault, possibly arresting one or both of you (depending upon who initiated the assault, alignment, etc).


I think this should be based heavily on your social reputation versus any witnesses as well as the level of violence. If its just fisticuffs, then maybe you get anything from a timeout to both being arrested, depending on what the witnesses are abstracted to have said.

If it's gunplay however, likely both are going to jail unless you're a cop / bounty hunter (in your example you could have banned magic as an equivalent).

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For assault with no witness, where you start the assault, the other person may (after the fact) tell the police about the assault, which could lead to the police tracking you down.


Yes, based on his rep and the type of law. Criminals won't report and nobody will report much to thug cops.

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Finding the body is pretty simple, as you mentioned, you can have the body decay over time, and after a while an NPC walking by may realize there's a body, find it and alert the police.


What you could do for further abstraction, especially if you have large amounts of territory, is to add a population density factor. If its really low, the body may NEVER be found. (Maybe if its filled with animals / monsters, it can appear to be monster eaten). This means that for the player that successfully sneaks a body out into the wilderness, it may never be found. (This is creepy but realistic.)

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I would tend not to go with a straight timer, since this would mean hiding the body in a better place (basement, etc) wouldn't have any advantage, instead (and this would only work if your NPC's move around the world), I would have a radius that grows with time, and if an NPC enters this radius the body is found.


Either would work if you modified the value by location. So a basement adds heavily to the timer or deactivates it, or retards the progression of the radius.

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For when there's no body, I can't think of any better solution then just a timer as you mentioned, since doing anything else would get far too complex. The only addition I would make to this method is taking into account the difference between an important person being killed, or some criminal on the street. In reality, the time before someone realizes they're missing will be far different, the only way you could represent that is by increasing the timer depending upon the type of NPC, with a chance of certain NPC's types not having a timer at all (like criminals of the underworld).
...
One other thing I would suggest, is possibly changing who gets alerted/does the investigation depending upon who the person affected is.


Yes, I think it would be more interesting to simply make this a matter of WHO notices, rather than if its noticed at all. Few people, even criminals, exist in utter isolation and thus won't be missed. Criminals may be underlings or family to bigger mobsters, who would investigate their death.

The problem here is one of consequences. Most games don't give us enough, but it's possible to have too many... if you fear killing ANYBODY because they might be connected, I'm not sure if the stress level is appropriate. (It MIGHT be cool)

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That's all I can think of off the top of my head, overall I think it's a great idea, and deffinately something that would add some fun to playing a bad guy in game (or even just a good guy who needs to make a decision whether to do something bad or not).


Thanks for the well thought out reply!

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Original post by Kars
With partial IDs, are you taking into account that someone may be falsely arrested?


I wasn't only because this may be too complicated. How do you prove your innocence? Do you go with alibis? And how are alibis vetted?

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Don't forget the possibility of framing someone else for a crime. Maybe a forgery skill to allow you to "drop" evidence or some disguise skill that allows you to look like someone else.


I like this because at least the forgery is an object that can be dealt with in the game world (analyzed, proven fake, etc.)

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As for how the NPCs witness the crime/ID the person, think about tying this in with your moral (previous thread if I am remembering correctly). The higher the moral, the more chance that NPCs witnessing a crime will report and to ID the person, the lower the moral the more chance everyone will just sit around (or check that they aren't the next target) and not care.


I do like the idea of morale, but it was designed to be more transitory than what I had in mind here. Morale is momemnt to moment. If you're having a bad day, you may still report a crime. You choose whether to do so or not often based on whether or not you think the authorities care and you have a right to expect them to. Many times the poor do not (and unfortunately often have good reason not to).

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Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
What happens if you steal something that someone else owns but then travel to a new land? The new citizens shouldn't automatically know that its stolen, so this hints that ownership has an expiration radius (maybe based on fame).

Now, what happens if you steal something that's mass produced. If I steal your CD player, clean it up, then present it as my own months later, how do you know its yours? This then hints that items have a distinctiveness which may fade in time.


Very good point, I think this can be tied to 2 specific variable.

A) Where is the location of the exchange VS the location of the crime, as you said, if I travel to another town to sell some cd-player I stole, chances are they won't know its stolen.

B) The higher the value/rarity of the item, the higher the chance someone will know its stolen. This would somewhat override the first variable. If I steal the mona lisa, just about any art dealer in the world will know its stolen. This also means that a common everyday item is hard to tell whether it's stolen or not.

C) Possibly add a variable which determines how identifiable (sp?) an item is. A car is easy identified, but how do you tell if that toothbrush is really yours? Though, over time a toothbrush starts to become more unique with use, therefore another option would be to increase this variable as it is used.

Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
Tresspassing's theoretically a matter of zones, entities that do and don't have permission and witnesses to report it.

Also, I like the idea for destruction of property being based on HP done.


Tresspassing as you noted is one of the easier crimes, you could define zones as public/private, and if you don't have a permission flag for that private zone, you're tresspassing.

Destruction of Property is again fairly simple (but I think would actual add ALOT to immersion). How often do gamers just run around destroying stuff? Imagine if the next time you run up and break that fence, the owners run out and persue you?

Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
Yes, rather than kill you! (Nothing breaks immersion worse than amorally materialistic NPCs!!!)

It would also be nice to reflect your rep and their rep. A thief would say nothing unless its his property, and few would say anything if they feared for their lives (at least in front of you-- but you have to know about it somehow, otherwise the game world just presents an unexpected update).


Aye, NPC's trying to kill you after you steal a cup in the ultima series always bothered me.

Reflecting Rep is a good idea, one of a number of things you can do to make the NPC's reaction non-predictable.

You could link this to the Code of Conduct (as I talked about in your other thread regarding politics).

You could link their reaction to their strength, their fear, as you mentioned.

Also could reflect the importance of the item being stolen to the NPC, if they're just a buyer in the shop, they may not care as much, but if the shopkeepr is their brother, well that will change things.

Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
I do like having to remember gloves, and maybe the type of clothing and shoes being important. (Could give a very practical reason why you can't wear armor[grin]).


Some ideas I can think of as far as evidence goes:

Wearing Gloves
Footprints (IE: Dont walk on muddy ground)
Witnesses seeing you enter the building
Leaving Behind any Personal Objects
Seen at the location earlier
Asking about the location/item raising suspicion
Cutting yourself and leaving blood
Suddenly not being found in the town (fleeing the area)
Cameras (for Sci-Fi, even for Fantasy (magical viewing aparatus))
Alarms (for Sci-Fi, even for Fantasy (magical alarms))

Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
Fences! Yes, that would be VERY cool, especially if NPCs became contacts that could be traded. So maybe you work up to a more reliable fence versus the guy who will rat you out when rousted by the cops. (Then again, if you're really ruthless, fences become another way to cover your tracks.)


Exactly! If you just pulled of the hiest of the century, but suddenly everyone's looking for you, and you tried to pawn the item off (unsuccessfully) to an NPC you don't trust, what do you do? As a more evil character you may decide to kill the NPC, but that has it's own consequences, perhaps linking you to both crimes now, creating a bigger trail for them to follow you, etc.

Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
I think this should be based heavily on your social reputation versus any witnesses as well as the level of violence. If its just fisticuffs, then maybe you get anything from a timeout to both being arrested, depending on what the witnesses are abstracted to have said.

If it's gunplay however, likely both are going to jail unless you're a cop / bounty hunter (in your example you could have banned magic as an equivalent).


You could also determine what happens on whether the NPC wants you in jail, or whether they want to punish you themselves. Start a fight with a tough somewhat less-moral character, and they may lie to keep you out of jail, only to persue you later and settle the matter themself.

Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
Yes, based on his rep and the type of law. Criminals won't report and nobody will report much to thug cops.


Also, depending upon the rep of the player, how much the NPC fears the player, and how much confidence the NPC has in the police, they may be too fearful to report anything. Now you have strongarm tactics, useful to intimidate witnesses.

Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
What you could do for further abstraction, especially if you have large amounts of territory, is to add a population density factor. If its really low, the body may NEVER be found. (Maybe if its filled with animals / monsters, it can appear to be monster eaten). This means that for the player that successfully sneaks a body out into the wilderness, it may never be found. (This is creepy but realistic.)

Either would work if you modified the value by location. So a basement adds heavily to the timer or deactivates it, or retards the progression of the radius.


Interesting, good ideas. How you handle the basement concept could be pretty simple, just flag sectors within a building as to how "removed" from the outside world they are. Leaving a body in the front hallway is going to be a bad idea, hiding them in a basement closet is far better. Leaving them far out in the woods near alot of animals is even better again. (Yes this is getting creepy lol)

Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
Yes, I think it would be more interesting to simply make this a matter of WHO notices, rather than if its noticed at all. Few people, even criminals, exist in utter isolation and thus won't be missed. Criminals may be underlings or family to bigger mobsters, who would investigate their death.

The problem here is one of consequences. Most games don't give us enough, but it's possible to have too many... if you fear killing ANYBODY because they might be connected, I'm not sure if the stress level is appropriate. (It MIGHT be cool)


Well, I really think when you commit a crime in game, you should ALWAYS fear the consequences, I think this will add a level of tension in game that is great. Then it opens up all the what-ifs? Should I hide the body? What if someone see's me? Should I flee the town or stay and act like nothing happened? Did I leave anything behind? Should I go back and check?

What would be especially interesting is the concept of noise. As you move throughtout the world, you may create noise, move to fast (ala splinter-cell) and you create more noise, knock into some pans and you make ALOT. Everytime you make noise, certain NPC's may investigate, including guards. Suddenly, you can't just take all the time in the world to clean up the evidence at a crime scene. Now, what if you leave something behind in haste? You may not realize it until after.

Again, this I think is wonderful for a game. Suddenly you have the fear that everything you've worked towards is on the line, its opened up a whole story withen the game that you never had to write, yet will provide the player with hours of tension filled enjoyment.

One and only one thing bothers me about this concept, and that's the save game system. How do you prevent players from just backtracking and fixing their mistakes? Instead of trying to fix them within the game itself. Do you even want to limit their ability to do that? If its a single player game, then the choice could be left up to the player, I think most developers have realized some players just want an easy way out of everything, and you're doing more harm then good by trying to take that away from them. Either way I think this is one of the tough questions you have to figure out for a concept like this.

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Original post by Wavinator
Thanks for the well thought out reply!


Anytime!

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Ugh, that previous post was me. Just a quick addition, I think Kars brought up some great ideas, the concept of framing someone else for a crime is great, by using disguises, etc.

In a more advanced system you could introduce the concept of gossip, as people talk about a crime they form opinions on it, who they thought did it, how they thought it was done, etc.

Over time gossip can change people's opinions, certain people with high fame, respect, etc, could have their own opinions, of which people may be more susceptible to, etc.

This could also allow you as the perpetrator of the crime, to start your own gossip, trying to frame someone else for the crime, or just lead the gossip away from yourself.

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In a more advanced system you could introduce the concept of gossip, as people talk about a crime they form opinions on it, who they thought did it, how they thought it was done, etc.


Hay, that could be a fun game in itself. You don't go around performing great crimes/feats. You create gossip about how you performed great feats, or how someone else committed a crime.

i.e. Someone killed the dragon but no one else directly witnessed it. You now create some evidence and try to convince the town that you killed the dragon so you get the reward money. But stay away from the actual dragon slayer, he did slay a dragon after all.


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A) Where is the location of the exchange VS the location of the crime, as you said, if I travel to another town to sell some cd-player I stole, chances are they won't know its stolen.


But if you try to sell several cd-players at one time, all different models that look used, suspicion should go up a bit. So unless you are a reputable source (store owner, traveling sales, etc) increase suspicion if you are unloading more than a few of one type of item.

Also if you try to get rid of something right after the crime, you should be able to but have a higher chance of it being traced to you. I.e. you steal a radio, walk around the corner and sell it at the pawn shop. The victim may not have even noticed the radio was gone so would not have reported it stolen. But when he does, the chances that the pawn broker will remember will be pretty high.

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C) Possibly add a variable which determines how identifiable (sp?) an item is. A car is easy identified, but how do you tell if that toothbrush is really yours? Though, over time a toothbrush starts to become more unique with use, therefore another option would be to increase this variable as it is used.


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Original post by Thesolitas
A) Where is the location of the exchange VS the location of the crime, as you said, if I travel to another town to sell some cd-player I stole, chances are they won't know its stolen.

B) The higher the value/rarity of the item, the higher the chance someone will know its stolen. This would somewhat override the first variable. If I steal the mona lisa, just about any art dealer in the world will know its stolen. This also means that a common everyday item is hard to tell whether it's stolen or not.

C) Possibly add a variable which determines how identifiable (sp?) an item is. A car is easy identified, but how do you tell if that toothbrush is really yours? Though, over time a toothbrush starts to become more unique with use, therefore another option would be to increase this variable as it is used.


You know, what strikes me (taking into what I talked about in the politics thread about labeling) is that while the three above values are important, don't you wonder if what's really important is the story someone's going to make up about you when you present these items? I'm starting to think that without factor in the relationship between the player and his/her perceived standing you won't really capture how this process works.

The location I think is a good factor, but you run into the problem that information should spread and the player's rep may precede them. You may be treated like scum in a new territory EVEN IF YOU'VE DONE NOTHING WRONG simply because there are good enough rumors about you on the tradelanes.

The value of the item may work, but what about a rich character who is also a thief? Reasonably, they could have also bought a Mona Lisa which they now (coincidently) intend to sell. The relationship between buyer and seller would determine suspicion, as a merchant with a long standing relationship with someone who's considered a pillar of the community would factor in whether the merchant even conceives that his client stole a product.

Since you're never going to capture all variables and situations, what this presents you with is a unique opportunity to determine the focus of your game. I want my sci-fi RPG to be more about people than mechanical processes, so I think I'd personally weigh all this heavily based on established relationships.

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Tresspassing as you noted is one of the easier crimes, you could define zones as public/private, and if you don't have a permission flag for that private zone, you're tresspassing.

Destruction of Property is again fairly simple (but I think would actual add ALOT to immersion). How often do gamers just run around destroying stuff? Imagine if the next time you run up and break that fence, the owners run out and persue you?


btw, here again is an opportunity for factoring relationships: If I run through the backyard of my local grocier who I've maybe known for 10 years (but am not exactly a friend), he's more likely to forgive me than a complete stranger.


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Some ideas I can think of as far as evidence goes:

Wearing Gloves
Footprints (IE: Dont walk on muddy ground)
Witnesses seeing you enter the building
Leaving Behind any Personal Objects
Seen at the location earlier
Asking about the location/item raising suspicion
Cutting yourself and leaving blood
Suddenly not being found in the town (fleeing the area)
Cameras (for Sci-Fi, even for Fantasy (magical viewing aparatus))
Alarms (for Sci-Fi, even for Fantasy (magical alarms))


Just keep in mind that all of these somehow have to be presented by either the game's logic, interface or visuals. Fingerprints might be invisible IRL, but in-game you'd need some kind of mechanism for getting rid of them, even if you don't see them. Same for footprints. Witnesses would be tricky because you need to be able to indicate whether or not detection is based on line of sight or radius, and if the former, where the NPC is looking. Being seen at the location ("casing the joint" :>) I'm not sure I'd add simply because you can't reasonably tell why the player is anywhere; same with asking about something. Cutting yourself (or leaving fibers) would again need a remedy, as would curing the "suddenly not being found in town" item (alibi?) It shows you why games rely so heavily on arbitrary, easily depictable aspects like cameras and alarms.

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Original post by Wavinator
Well, I really think when you commit a crime in game, you should ALWAYS fear the consequences, I think this will add a level of tension in game that is great. Then it opens up all the what-ifs? Should I hide the body? What if someone see's me? Should I flee the town or stay and act like nothing happened? Did I leave anything behind? Should I go back and check?


I think these are good elements to be concerned about, provided the game gives you a clear way of addressing them.

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What would be especially interesting is the concept of noise. As you move throughtout the world, you may create noise, move to fast (ala splinter-cell) and you create more noise, knock into some pans and you make ALOT. Everytime you make noise, certain NPC's may investigate, including guards. Suddenly, you can't just take all the time in the world to clean up the evidence at a crime scene. Now, what if you leave something behind in haste? You may not realize it until after.


I loved this aspect in Thief, especially hearing a guard bellow, "I know you're in there" then after you've been still, mutter, "maybe it was just the wind." (They needed to be more ruthless about searching thoroughly, though).

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Again, this I think is wonderful for a game. Suddenly you have the fear that everything you've worked towards is on the line, its opened up a whole story withen the game that you never had to write, yet will provide the player with hours of tension filled enjoyment.


Yes, I'm really intrigued by the possibility of the personal story the player creates, which in this biz is a bit of a holy grail.

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One and only one thing bothers me about this concept, and that's the save game system. How do you prevent players from just backtracking and fixing their mistakes? Instead of trying to fix them within the game itself. Do you even want to limit their ability to do that? If its a single player game, then the choice could be left up to the player, I think most developers have realized some players just want an easy way out of everything, and you're doing more harm then good by trying to take that away from them. Either way I think this is one of the tough questions you have to figure out for a concept like this.


I think that because designers have abused players over the years with arbitrary victory conditions it's now impossible to wean people away from the save or quick save. Toward this end I favor loss bonuses which only manifest when you play through a setback. It's the carrot rather than stick approach to encouraging no saves.

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Wow. Great thread. I originally started something like this when I was designing a game based aorund committing crimes. However, the game has now changed direction, and the idea has become a kind of 'cause and effect' engine, whereby any action by the player has an effect on the game world. Crime is included in this still, and the original idea that you can;t just run around killing people is still the basis of how it works.

The game now centers around the player being wanted by various intelligence agencies etc, and at first these people do not have a lot of information with which to track the player down. However, an act like renting a car or doing anything that draws attention to the player will result in NPCs possibly contacting the authorities, or remembering details about them that they may recall later. This depends on NPC stats concerning social class, etc but it's getting very complicated!

Lots of good ideas here that I will have to read through properly though, so thanks to everyone who has contributed their thoughts.

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Original post by Wavinator
You know, what strikes me (taking into what I talked about in the politics thread about labeling) is that while the three above values are important, don't you wonder if what's really important is the story someone's going to make up about you when you present these items? I'm starting to think that without factor in the relationship between the player and his/her perceived standing you won't really capture how this process works.


Deffinately, the relationship we have with someone strongly determines how we react in situations with them.

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Original post by Wavinator
The location I think is a good factor, but you run into the problem that information should spread and the player's rep may precede them. You may be treated like scum in a new territory EVEN IF YOU'VE DONE NOTHING WRONG simply because there are good enough rumors about you on the tradelanes.


I think their are two distinct sides to this, information about your rep as a player spreading, and information about the crime itself spreading.

Both can be accomplished by expanding an area of influence around the location of the player/the crime. For a player, the more you make waves, the faster your area of influence expands, for the crime, the bigger the crime, the faster news travels.

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Original post by Wavinator
The value of the item may work, but what about a rich character who is also a thief? Reasonably, they could have also bought a Mona Lisa which they now (coincidently) intend to sell. The relationship between buyer and seller would determine suspicion, as a merchant with a long standing relationship with someone who's considered a pillar of the community would factor in whether the merchant even conceives that his client stole a product.


It's not so much the value of the item that determines whether someone thinks it's stolen, but the value/rarity (mostly rarity) of the item that determines whether someone heard that it was stolen.

Sure, you may be be rich enough to buy the mona lisa, but if it was stolen, chances are most people will know about it.

But I do agree your relationship with the people you're dealing with should determine how quick they are to judge you a thief.

Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
btw, here again is an opportunity for factoring relationships: If I run through the backyard of my local grocier who I've maybe known for 10 years (but am not exactly a friend), he's more likely to forgive me than a complete stranger.


Deffinately. Relationships have a huge affect on everything, it's not the only variable, but it's an important one. Sometimes we'll disregard everything else solely because of our relationship.

In your example above, sure the grocier will usually forgive you based on your relationship, but not if you trample through his vegetable garden :)

I really think everything must be weighted together to find an outcome, it's how we weight all these variables that determines what type of gameplay we have, and what type of society. You could even change the weighting depending upon the society in game.

Would be interesting if with just a few variables, you could turn one area into a very family oriented (weighting heavily on relationships) place, and another is all about crime and punishment (weighted heavily on the act).

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Original post by Wavinator
Just keep in mind that all of these somehow have to be presented by either the game's logic, interface or visuals. Fingerprints might be invisible IRL, but in-game you'd need some kind of mechanism for getting rid of them, even if you don't see them. Same for footprints.


Idea here would be to have your level of thievery skill possibly determine how visible your fingerprints are, the better you get, the more easily you see them and can dispose of them.

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Original post by Wavinator
Witnesses would be tricky because you need to be able to indicate whether or not detection is based on line of sight or radius, and if the former, where the NPC is looking.


In my design, I'm building curiosity into NPC's. They'll investigate things going on in their areas, sometimes even following people if somethings up.

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Original post by Wavinator
Being seen at the location ("casing the joint" :>) I'm not sure I'd add simply because you can't reasonably tell why the player is anywhere; same with asking about something.


Isn't that the case in the real world too though? I plan on maintaining a short list of who NPC's saw and where for the last couple of days. After a crime at a location, some NPC's will go through their list and think about every person seen at that location, factor in the relationship of that person VS the person who lived there and then decide if they think they should have been there. If not, they may contact the police with that info.

Again this is all about relationships, if an NPC saw 10 people near that house last night, and 9 of them are friends of the NPC who lives there, and the 10th is new in town, and somewhat shady, they'll be quick to judge them the culprit.

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Original post by Wavinator
Cutting yourself (or leaving fibers) would again need a remedy, as would curing the "suddenly not being found in town" item (alibi?) It shows you why games rely so heavily on arbitrary, easily depictable aspects like cameras and alarms.


Cutting yourself could be similar to footprints, if you're bleeding you leave trails, cover them up or they may follow them. If you're bleeding, you would have an option of bandaging up your wound.

As for not being found it town afterwards, thats not really an alibi, but an admission of guilt. After a crime you could have the police run through a list of PC's/NPC's that are suspects, if any can't be found in town, they are pushed higher up the suspects list.

Alibis would be great though, if you're in a bar when the crime is committed, that could let you off, depending upon the relationship of the bar attendee's to the people of the town.

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Original post by Wavinator
I think these are good elements to be concerned about, provided the game gives you a clear way of addressing them.


I think their are three aspects to a crime, what you did up to the point of the crime, during the crime, and after. If you have all three elements in play, it will make the act of committing a crime an experience the player won't soon forget :)

Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
I loved this aspect in Thief, especially hearing a guard bellow, "I know you're in there" then after you've been still, mutter, "maybe it was just the wind." (They needed to be more ruthless about searching thoroughly, though).


Deffinately, you need to factor in things like what time of day/night it is, during the day noises are everywhere, at night it's a different story. Where was the noise made? My own house? Or my best friends? If it's some strangers place, maybe I don't care. Again, relationships are key.

Also, short term memory is a must, multiple noises in a row should be a clear sign somethings up.

Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
Yes, I'm really intrigued by the possibility of the personal story the player creates, which in this biz is a bit of a holy grail.


It's a holy grail yes, and though I think a full system including everything we've talked about is doable, it's a long ways off (though that doesn't stop me from designing it now hehe). I think the first step is to really lay out what would be the ultimate system, that would accomplish everything you want, then look at each piece and figure out which ones are doable, which aren't, and abstract the ones that aren't doable.

Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
I think that because designers have abused players over the years with arbitrary victory conditions it's now impossible to wean people away from the save or quick save. Toward this end I favor loss bonuses which only manifest when you play through a setback. It's the carrot rather than stick approach to encouraging no saves.


I agree, ultimately I'd love a game with no ability to go back and replay, as long as you could solve the death issue it could work. Even with a replay ability I agree something needs to be done to make it a last resort, and not something players do on a whim.

"Damn they figured out I killed the shopkeeper! Now everyone's after me. I better load up that game and try again.".

Then again, maybe most people will find the act of evading the authorities such a fun experience they don't want to change it.

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On the save/load issue, I think the most important thing is to make it very, very, very clear that everything you do in the game can either be fixed or will have no consequenses whatsoever on what you can achieve. I.e. you'll always be able to become a paladin, no matter what you've done. It may be tougher if you commit horrible crimes, but nothing should be unattainable. If nothing else works, make it possible to get a completely new identity. that would be cool...

Or rather, that's the second most important thing. What's *most* important is that it actually is that way. :)

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