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Nazrix

Character Growth and Stories

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Landfish    288
I don''t have much time, I''ll get into this a little deeper tomorrow...

Naz, I think you are making a classic mistake by downplaying the division between player and character. Most story based games give the player exceedingly little control over personality traits, favoring instead concrete right/wrong decisions or tactics.

This is neither bad nor good. A lot of great games have characters who ARE the player, and a lot of my personal favorites draw a very thick line between the two... More later.

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quote:
Original post by Nazrix

Yeah, I suppose the basis of it is that the plot doesn''t strictly depend upon the player''s intervention. The plot goes on with or without the player, but the player can still affect the plot. It''s just that the plot does not depend on the player''s actions to continue and grow.

APs come up w/ the best ideas




thx. . .heh. . .actually I didn''t notice that I posted anonymously at the time, but I''ll have to do that more often. . .usually I''m just long-winded. . .

MadKeith, I''m having some problems understanding your idea as well. The way I''m seeing it, this would be just frustrating/comical, and I''m sure that''s not what you had in mind.

The big question is how to ensure that the player still feels that their actions w/in the game still carry meaning. But I''ll have to wait until tomorrow, since I have class in approx. 5 hrs. (damn daylight savings time. . .)

If you see the Buddha on the road, Kill Him. -apocryphal

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Nazrix    307
Ah...so it wasn''t an AP, it was the AP.

Well, first of all I''d like to note that few story-based games have made me feel much like my actions had a lot of impact on the plot when the main character is the protagonist.

I think this is the beauty of your idea, AP. It finally allows the player to look at the occurances going on and act on his/her own initiative. The characters would seem to have their own agendas and the player could decide what role he wants to play in this story.

The story could be made to mold around the different possible decisions the player could make. If the player does not intervene, the plot would be set up to account for that too.

I''m not sure how this would work in practice however...


"All you touch and all you see is all your life will ever be --Pink Floyd

"Though the course may change sometimes, the rivers always reach the sea" --Led Zeppelin

Need help? Well, go FAQ yourself.

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dwarfsoft    1229
Well, the story for my game is coming along. I nearly have the design doc done. I might upload it so that you can all give me feedback on the subject. At each major point in the game there are at least 2 choices and often 3 choices that the player can make. It depends much on the biases of previous games, ie, I wish to see what path the gamer takes through the game. It is going to be a little experiment to see if people will try to blindly hack anything that moves or not...

The player character will grow through the game based on the decisions that the player makes for their character. I think that it has merit, though there are still some holes in the story that I need to fix up

-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft - Site:"The Philosophers' Stone of Programming Alchemy" - IOL
The future of RPGs - Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche
          

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dwarfsoft-

I like the basis for your idea. Any way that the game can be reactive to the player''s moral/ethical choices, rather than just strategic/tactical choices is a major plus. Fallout''s the only game I''ve played that handled this at all and I think it could have been done even better. (not a slight on Fallout, BTW, its just the choices were too apparant)

I don''t know how you''re planning on handling this in your game, but my $.02 on that is: Have you thought about the way these choices would be presented to the player. Have you thought of ways you could make these decision points transparent to the player? You may have already considered this, but I''ve seen it handled poorly in games too many times to not bring it up. W/ the major junctures in the plot tree transparent, the game feels almost non-linear the first time through, which is a great effect.

You know, I''ve been thinking of this lately, as I am at present limited in every possible resource. (cash, personnel, time, you name it) Many of the best games do not achieve their effects through killer algorithms, or any advanced programming at all. Good ol'' fashioned sleight-of-hand goes a long way towards immersing and involving the player. For example: Making these decision nodes transparent, but their effects readily apparent, tossing the player some interesting choices that have little or no effect on the game, (perhaps just cosmetic changes) along w/ the major plot branches, stacking the deck against the player in a particular scene, so that even though the segment appears interactive, the outcome is in effect pre-destined. . .the list goes on and on, all low-tech solutions based upon existing technology.

As a player, I don''t feel cheated when the game designer plays me like this. In fact, I admire his skill if it is done well, and if it is done poorly. . .well I appreciate the effort, I guess.

If you see the Buddha on the road, Kill Him. -apocryphal

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dwarfsoft    1229
Well, how I am handling the first few decisions are along the lines of battle. The first major affect is when the player comes across the marauding goblins who are attacking farms (they are really just human bandits, but the player can see goblins due to his/her insanity ). The player then is just left to do what they think is right. They could go back to town and inform the local guards, who would then arrest the bandits and everything would be fine. They could also choose to slaughter every last one of them. If they choose to kill, then they grow more insane. When they go back to the town to collect their prize, the town guard will appear like goblins when they come to meet the character.

This is the next decision... Seeing as the player has already slaughtered goblins I would guess that they would try it again. They would then be chased from the town and have to go into hiding... With the REAL goblins . That is all that I am telling for the moment, though there already is an alternate route that I have not stepped along yet. I just wanted irony in the game, so hence the player must hide with the goblins

-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft - Site:"The Philosophers' Stone of Programming Alchemy" - IOL
The future of RPGs - Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche
          

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Nazrix    307
dwarf, hehe...that sounds so interesting, but now it won''t be much of a suprise when we all play your game for the 1st time


"All you touch and all you see is all your life will ever be --Pink Floyd
Need help? Well, go FAQ yourself.

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dwarfsoft    1229
Don''t worry naz. I am thinking of implementing a random beginning sequence. Your setup is defined by your actions in the setup. But really, who was ever going to trust killing the goblins in this game anyway? MKV already said that... Though, the story is a little more interesting if you kill them at the start and give up killing from then on (hint hint )

-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft - Site:"The Philosophers' Stone of Programming Alchemy" - IOL
The future of RPGs - Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche
          

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dwarfsoft    1229
quote:
Original post by MadKeithV
Always have TWO places that can lead to a certain outcome/story twist. Then, if the player happens to be in one place, let it happen in the other, and the player will feel as if he/she has influenced the story, while your carefully crafted series of events is not compromised.

( works in single player only of course )


People might not remember what you said, or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
~ (V)^|) |<é!t|-| ~


OK MKV, I am still waiting (as is Naz I guess) on a more detailed explanation of what you were saying. Are we talking about places in the physical (or game) world sense or are we talking about places as points in the story? I am still a little confused as to what you were refering to... details?

-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft - Site:"The Philosophers' Stone of Programming Alchemy" - IOL
The future of RPGs - Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche
          

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Nazrix    307
Yeah, I'm waiting too for MKV's reply too
Glad to see I'm not the only one that was uncertain as to what he meant....It sounds like an idea that has potential, but I'm not sure if I totally understand...

Furthermore, I was hoping LF would explain more on his last post in here as well...Everyone's too busy arguing to actually discuss things anymore



"All you touch and all you see is all your life will ever be --Pink Floyd
Need help? Well, go FAQ yourself.


Edited by - Nazrix on November 2, 2000 1:47:05 AM

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dwarfsoft    1229
quote:
Original post by Landfish

I don''t have much time, I''ll get into this a little deeper tomorrow...

Naz, I think you are making a classic mistake by downplaying the division between player and character. Most story based games give the player exceedingly little control over personality traits, favoring instead concrete right/wrong decisions or tactics.

This is neither bad nor good. A lot of great games have characters who ARE the player, and a lot of my personal favorites draw a very thick line between the two... More later.


OOOh Naz, seeing as you mentioned it, I had to go back to it

Player has exceedingly little control over the character - that is soooo true and is a bad thing IMO. What this kind of game needs (neatly dodges RPG[-ish] issue ) is more connection between player and character. The connection is the immersion. If there is little control then there is little connection and therefore reduced immersion. As such, players need to feel responsible for their characters and become one with their characters... Otherwise they just lose out on the whole experience of playing another role...

I await to hear when you list the great games that draw a thick line between the two... Actually I can think of great games that were good in other aspects, though the connection lacked. I think that they would have been better with a bit more player-character connection...

-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft - Site:"The Philosophers' Stone of Programming Alchemy" - IOL
The future of RPGs - Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche
          

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Nazrix    307
quote:
Original post by Landfish

I don''t have much time, I''ll get into this a little deeper tomorrow...

Naz, I think you are making a classic mistake by downplaying the division between player and character. Most story based games give the player exceedingly little control over personality traits, favoring instead concrete right/wrong decisions or tactics.

This is neither bad nor good. A lot of great games have characters who ARE the player, and a lot of my personal favorites draw a very thick line between the two... More later.


Darn it, LF. Are you going to expand on this? It was tomorrow about 2 weeks ago




"All you touch and all you see is all your life will ever be --Pink Floyd
Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur.
Need help? Well, go FAQ yourself.

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Nazrix    307
yeah, dammit...we''re waiting for you too MKV to expand upon that idea about the player being at 2 places at the same time...

You guys can''t leave us hanging like this...it''s immoral.


"All you touch and all you see is all your life will ever be --Pink Floyd
Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur.
Need help? Well, go FAQ yourself.

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Landfish    288
Gah! I''ve been too busy firefighting to actually read! BTW, Anonymous Poster., you are my favorite person ever. Once again, you''ve taken words right out of my mouth...

Reduce the goddamn plot span, I say! Not even the great epics of the past spanned places the size of your average RPG. Beowulf happened primarily in TWO locations, the Oddessy only spanned oceans, but certainly not the WORLD. Games like Shen Mue are proving that you can have a whole RPG set in a small part od a small city in Japan in 1986.

Set your RPG in a town, rather than a nation. My brother always says: "God is in the details." My favorite game ever, Panzer Dragoon Saga, had only two towns and a small wandering caravan. But they towns were extremely detailed! No cookie cutter houses or isometric layouts. You got lost in these monsters! But you LEARNED your way around because you weren''t coming to a new town ever five seconds. Plus, you got acquainted with the locals, instead of just stopping for directions.

As for matching interactivity with story, there are so many levels on which you can do this, who is to say which is best? Final Fantasy is certainly interactive! You get to chose the order and time at which you ask the signpost NPCs what to do next. Divergent plots are another issue, but there are as many ways to handle them as there are divergent plots themselves!

---

Okay, back to character growth.

The FF approach, as well as many others, is to use abstract statistics to make absolutely certain that the character (note: character, not player) is better at the end of the story than the beginning. I don''t like this very much. The character grows, while the player sits there pounding on the X button until she wins the game.

I much prefer the Player growth approach. The player either acquires new tools and must learn to use them effectively (a la Zelda) or the player must discover tools that have always existed and must learn to use them effectively (a la spells in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night). A combination can be great.

The way this latter form tends to work is that the character goes through the game learning new tools from people and events. This way, at the end of the game you don''t just have a better character, but a better player.

There''s something else about character growth I want to say, getting back to the original post. I''ll break it up for your convinience.

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Landfish    288
Nazrix was right; a really great story often involves the character CHANGING in some way. Stories where the protaganist starts off badass and stays badass until the last goblin has been mutilated don''t evoke much sympathetic interest from us mere mortals. Many of us (am I authorized to speak for others yet?) feel more attached to a character who makes mistakes.

Much good anime has this down cold. Take Record of Lodoss War for example. The protaganist, Parn, starts off as a young hotheaded kid with some bizzarre notions of how to win a fight (namely charging into battle with your eyes shut tight and swinging your sword arund in a frenzy). Needless to say, he gets his ass whooped repeatedly throughout the story, and eventually he starts to get better.

By the end of the story, when he''s a combat god, we feel like we grew up with him. Every time he does something cool we''re like "That''s my boy..."

This IS very hard to pull off in a game. Players feel cheated if they feel that a linear story is forcing them to make mistakes. Players ALWAYS feel cheated if they realize a story is linear. So this is where "interactivity" as Naz loves it comes in. You don''t let the character make pre scripted, linear errors that they will grow out of. Instead, you let the player screw up, not the character.

It can be done. You need to call attention to the players mistakes. Destroy the notion of character fault if you want a truly interactive game. It''s the player, all the way. you could theoretically have HP and EXP and still have it be the player''s fault, but you''d need a brilliant design. These definitions of character only serve to cripple interactivity by giving the player a nice comfortable layer of fault.

Is this making sense?

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Nazrix    307
It's about time, LF!

That's interesting, but what about growth as in personal growth not getting better w/ skills or combat, but personality growth more in the context of the story. So, for this discussion I'm trying to throw the whole concept of fighting being the center of the game out for a second, and talking about the narrative story.

In stories the protagonist often encounters a conflict and at the end of the story the protagonist is not the same person as in the beginning.


Perhaps the answer is in what AP said. Take the pressure off of the player to be the protagonist.


"All you touch and all you see is all your life will ever be --Pink Floyd
Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur.
Need help? Well, go FAQ yourself.

Click here to see my current project.


Edited by - Nazrix on November 21, 2000 3:12:08 PM

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Landfish    288
quote:
Original post by Nazrix
So, for this discussion I''m trying to throw the whole concept of fighting being the center of the game out for a second, and talking about the narrative story.




Woo!

quote:
In stories the protagonist often encounters a conflict and at the end of the story the protagonist is not the same person as in the beginning. Perhaps the answer is in what AP said. Take the pressure off of the player to be the protagonist.



That will work, but it has it''s weaknesses. Often the player really likes to be the protaganist. If you relegate them to subordinate position (say Horatio as opposed to Hamlet), you''re going to have to deal with JEALOSY for the protaganist. That''s bad. Really bad.

You mention a story-driven, internal change in the Protaganist. This all goes back to three act strucuture, and there are internal reversals as well as external at DEFINED POINTS IN THE PLOT. This means the rules are there, and they can potentially be standardized.

If you''re afraid to draw a thick line between player and character, you''re going to have to find a way to make the PLAYER change his mind at the appropriate moments in the story. Not easy, but not impossible.

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Nazrix    307
quote:
Original post by Landfish

Woo!



I thought you'd like that


quote:

That will work, but it has it's weaknesses. Often the player really likes to be the protaganist. If you relegate them to subordinate position (say Horatio as opposed to Hamlet), you're going to have to deal with JEALOSY for the protaganist. That's bad. Really bad.



Hmm...I think it may work. It allows the player to freely screw around w/ the plot offering interactivity. The player will suddenly feel as though the world is going on around them (I have heard players complain about story-based games making it seem like the world revolves around them, and it being pretty unrealistic. I agree w/ that).

One thing that we know about games: Interactivity is one of the keys. As for stories: Does a story have to happen to you for it to be interesting?

I believe this method could offer more interactivity and sacrifice less of the power of a good story.

Yeah, players are used to being the protagonist, but players are also used to goblin slaying too. Our players are going to have to get used to something new, right?




"All you touch and all you see is all your life will ever be --Pink Floyd
Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur.
Need help? Well, go FAQ yourself.

Click here to see my current project.


Edited by - Nazrix on November 21, 2000 3:48:21 PM

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Landfish    288
Well, being a person who (sometimes) likes Linearity, I can hardly make a fair argument against it. However, I will say this.

There are those games where you are not an integral part of the story. There is a good story that''s been put together, but it better be DAMN good if you expect to hold the player''s interest. As it is, the only reason we allow sub-quality video game writing to entertain us is because we get in and change it with our own actions, and that''s cool.

So you put together an nice, intrigue filled plot about the king and his brother and the player''s like, "Yeah..." He sees the story and says, "Hey, I guess this is what the game writer wants me to see... oh well, ignore that...." Congradulations, You''ve just sacrificed divergence for interactivity.

Now I don''t know about you, but I would rather affect the plot than have all the affecting I could get on stuff other than the plot. The model you''ve so far described is much as my REAL LIFE is. Sure, I can pick up/use/do ANYTHING, but I really have a TINY role in the big picture.

(Actually, I don''t hate it THAT much, but I thought if I called it dumb I might further piss off niphty...)

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