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A "KILL EM ALL!!!!" Bloodthirsty End Game Mode

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Le Thought Random Of The Day... Okay, so I finished playing the first of the two Icewind Dale games, which I got as a bargain bin bundle. Except for the absolutely annoying "let's lock the player in a box with a boss" endgame, it was a very enjoyable romp. I've got an awesome party including a cleric that makes liches wet their pants and a mage that doesn't know the meaning of the phrase "excessive force" when it comes to the fireball spell. [lol] I like the game. I like the gameplay. It's mostly combat, but I accept that and I've had a lot of fun with all the strategic nuance. The problem? Now that I beat the game, I don't want to start over, but I want to keep playing. I REALLY REALLY like my party, in fact have grown a bit attached to my permanently hasted, grumbling dwarf and all too chipper-but-murderous, near invisible female thief. So what I need now is the ability to wander the maps and fight off wandering bands of monsters. At this point, I don't so much care that my characters are leveled up, I find organizing the fights to be the really interesting thing. In general, do you think there'd be enough interest among RPG players in an after-game Guantlet-style mode? Or are people so interested in story that the game is not worth playing after you've beaten the bad guy? This assumes that the combat is interesting and detailed, of course. On the one hand, it might bring the game more longevity. On the other, it might inhibit the sale of a sequel or expansion pack. How many of you have created a fighting group that you like but had to give them up at the end of your game?

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First off, I'm probably not much like an average RPG player. I'm not even too interested about the main storyline (as in the main pre-written plot) in most cases; I mainly play RPGs for the detailed environments, discovery of hidden secrets, character development, combat, and side quests. I play the game in order to augment my own imagination, and use my imagination to augment the game. Together the game and my imagination provide me with the ultimate interactive fiction. The game sets the rules and the theme and provides me with inspiration, and my imagination fills in the rest; I make up background stories not only for my own characters, but for the different creatures I come across with. That is where the immersion lies for me — the game world, not the story.

With that as preamble, it should be quite obvious that during the process I usually grow quite fond of my character/party. Because of this, finishing the game is more like a loss than a victory to me, unless the game allows me to continue playing after the ultimate boss fight (or whatever). If the main character dies honourably in the heat of battle, I feel loss, but at least the character death happened for a reason. Such is life. If I actually finish the game, I'm supposed to feel pride and a sense of achievement, but actually I feel a greater loss than with true character death, as in this case the character dies for all practical purposes but without any reason. That is, unless the game allows me to continue. I too long for a game mode, in which you can continue gaming after the main plot ends.

So if you give me a game where I can continue exploring the world, fighting challenging battles and finding lost artifacts, I'll skip the main quest altogether and keep on playing the side quests and random battles from now till eternity... [grin]

The important thing is to keep the fighting interesting. If you only have a limited number of post-game random encounter scenarios, they will eventually be used up and become boring. You'd need to create (e.g. generating randomly) interesting environments for the battles to take place in, maybe add some continuity in the form of some shallow random side quest storylines and possibly add some rewards for those who don't do it only for the sake of combat. Also, the game shouldn't act as if you hadn't finished the main storyline if you actually had (NPCs shouldn't keep on shouting "we're doomed" every five minutes and so on).

As for looking at this from another point of view, what else is Diablo than one big bloodbath and carnage with little if any story? Certainly there are people who are interested in combat situations even without a decent story to bind them together. [rolleyes]

There is no one true answer to the question whether RPG players in general would like this kind of end game mode, as different players will look for different things in games. For those who play the game mainly for the experience provided by the pre-written story, well, I can't really speak for them, but I'd reckon they wouldn't be too crazy about such a mode without further motivation; especially those who loathe random encounters could find this more annoying than fun. Those who play the game for the exploration would probably want something new to discover; locations, artifact items, whatever. Those who play the game for the combat would most likely consider it fun, at least if too much repetition is avoided. And these preferences are obviously not mutually exclusive. I really can't know how large a portion of players would consider the story so important that they would completely ignore the possibility to experience the aftermath of the game, especially since we are talking about a game that has been designed with the aftermath aspect in mind.

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A bit of a different game, but this is part of the reason I liked Freelancer. When the game ends, (assuming you stick to the storyline closely) you've only really explored something like 25% of the game world. At the end is when they let you loose to explore, discover new star systems, forge new alliances, and start down a new career path. There were lots of neat little adventures and things to find still out there, (the planet of monkey-people hidden way off the map...hehe) and when the game ended, you almost felt like things were just beginning for your career.

I only wish that they had created a few mini-stories that you could encounter. Rather than just picking up a standard "kill him" or "deliver this" mission at a port, it would have been neat to encounter a few NPC's who had a short series of missions for you. I would think it would have been relatively easy to add just a few more scenarios and short story lines that you could stumble onto once in awhile and have fun with. If not in the standard game, then in expansions.

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I've played Icewind Dale 1 myself and really enjoyed it to. Though i find your post a little confusing, as i'll explain. Icewind Dale is actually part of a multitude of series, encompasing Baldur's Gate series and NeverWinter Nights. All these games allows the player to export/import his characters, all their levels and uber gear into different games. So if you want to you could export all your characters, make a new game and import them and start the game over with your uber-crew, or you could export them all and then load them to play in the sequel. The different series themselves (NWN, BD, IWD) i don't think are reverse compatible with each other because of the differences in the engines, though i'm not sure about Icewind Dale since Black Isle was shutdown and there's little information on it.

[Edited by - Gyrthok on February 10, 2005 2:20:14 PM]

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I love post-game wandering. Escape Velocity was great for this, because I could download all sorts of mission packs and take my ship and wealth and secret technology on new adventures.

Fable sort of had this, but by the end your character was pretty much maxxed out and all the missions shut down, so I just spent my time marrying as many girls as possible and killing people so I could buy their houses and shops. Meh.

If you could really start to have an influence on the game world, like actually clear the shadowy forest of monsters so people would start to live there, or start a new crime organization that would control certain roadways, that would be cool. It's that sort of sandbox play that I'm after.

But that would require a lot of work that might have been better applied to lengthening the story or tweaking other systems, and those improvements would appeal to a wider audience anyway. The Fable "cut loose and go" system would be enough for me, really.

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I recently fininshed playing Prince of Persia:Sands of time. Not an RPG true but I'm getting to the point. I really loved the game. Both the action AND the story.
After finishing I heard about the secret level (The first level from the original game) and was happy at a chance to continue playing. Afterall I had just perfected my sword skills. My combos were finally coming purely by thought without having to negotiate with the keyboard first. I was greased lightning with a bad attitude. And I really wanted someone to kill :P

I ran through the whole level (which was deviod of any sword fodder) and ended up in a big empty room with a picture of the design team on the wall. Nice touch true, but what I really wished for was that the room would be full of enemies (preferrably respawning ad-infinitum) maybe with a score counter that would show me how well I did before I inevitably got killed.
Now, THAT would have been great fun. Plus it would have provided ample opportunity for bragging rights.

Now POP:SOT was definitely great fun, but like you said that just seems to make it sadder when it ends [sad]

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Original post by Wavinator
On the one hand, it might bring the game more longevity. On the other, it might inhibit the sale of a sequel or expansion pack. How many of you have created a fighting group that you like but had to give them up at the end of your game?


Actually, I think you're on to something with this idea. People still playe Diablo, for example, even though the game is just an asinine dungeon crawl. And one of the biggest reasons I never buy new CRPG's is that they are usually either too short to get hooked on or too long for my attention span.

One of the ways that you could make CRPG's suck less is by making their storylines short but making it so there's a little dungeon generator or something so you can play a Nethack/Rogue throwback or something.

The old "Eye of the Beholder" games let you import characters from previous episodes. I've always thought that this was a really good idea. It allowed you to use your powerhouse characters in a new game -- so you didn't have to deal with all the boring, inane, level grinding. After all, part of the reason we even play RPG's is so we can develop characters, give them personality, and grow to love them. It should stand to reason that the love continue with the advent of replayability of these characters.

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This post makes me think of the upside-down castle in Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night. That just rocked way too much ... "I beat the game! I beat the ... w00t!? There is more?" Truly one of my top game memories.

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Argh! Hate it when I don't get a chance to reply to my posts!


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Original post by Grim
That is where the immersion lies for me — the game world, not the story.


Thanks for the great input. I think we're very similar here. We want the experiences to continue and have enough of the world to key off of to keep it going.

Quote:

So if you give me a game where I can continue exploring the world, fighting challenging battles and finding lost artifacts, I'll skip the main quest altogether and keep on playing the side quests and random battles from now till eternity... [grin]


The challenge here I think is appeal. I'm going to cross my fingers and hope that games like Grand Theft Auto, Morrowind and The Sims have raised people's interest in "continuing journeys." Having said that, they must NOT be pointless journeys, which implies that the story doesn't get the prime focus that some like (i.e., your character marries the princess, wins the castle, game over because nothing else could be possible)


Quote:

The important thing is to keep the fighting interesting. If you only have a limited number of post-game random encounter scenarios, they will eventually be used up and become boring. You'd need to create (e.g. generating randomly) interesting environments for the battles to take place in, maybe add some continuity in the form of some shallow random side quest storylines and possibly add some rewards for those who don't do it only for the sake of combat. Also, the game shouldn't act as if you hadn't finished the main storyline if you actually had (NPCs shouldn't keep on shouting "we're doomed" every five minutes and so on).


You're always going to be limited in how much you can put in, but I think you're right, if there's a very wide variety of stats and effects and treasures, you'll have room for variety.

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Original post by Taolung
A bit of a different game, but this is part of the reason I liked Freelancer. When the game ends, (assuming you stick to the storyline closely) you've only really explored something like 25% of the game world. At the end is when they let you loose to explore, discover new star systems, forge new alliances, and start down a new career path. There were lots of neat little adventures and things to find still out there, (the planet of monkey-people hidden way off the map...hehe) and when the game ended, you almost felt like things were just beginning for your career.


You know, I actually told Juni to stuff it for about two weeks while I went on exploring and fighting by myself. I actually have some SERIOUS problems with the way Freelancer did story because they locked systems and RESET (!!!) alliances as you worked through the game. To me, this was the equivalent of being lead by the nose AND nerfed (especially after I'd worked so hard to get in good with the Liberty Navy). By the time they let me go off by myself, I was so disgusted with the game that I did very little (the repetitive "Go here, kill all" missions did me in).

Quote:

I only wish that they had created a few mini-stories that you could encounter. Rather than just picking up a standard "kill him" or "deliver this" mission at a port, it would have been neat to encounter a few NPC's who had a short series of missions for you. I would think it would have been relatively easy to add just a few more scenarios and short story lines that you could stumble onto once in awhile and have fun with. If not in the standard game, then in expansions.


I actually enjoy replaying Freelancer as a combat game, if I tell myself that's all it is. But when I expect more (like the cool missions you mention) that's when my annoyance with the game really spikes. But you're right, it is a good example of allowing you to keep playing. (Even more fun when you get the patch to bypass the #*$*%! story on replay [grin])

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Original post by Iron Chef Carnage
I love post-game wandering. Escape Velocity was great for this, because I could download all sorts of mission packs and take my ship and wealth and secret technology on new adventures.


Oy! Very agreed!

Quote:

Fable sort of had this, but by the end your character was pretty much maxxed out and all the missions shut down, so I just spent my time marrying as many girls as possible and killing people so I could buy their houses and shops. Meh.

If you could really start to have an influence on the game world, like actually clear the shadowy forest of monsters so people would start to live there, or start a new crime organization that would control certain roadways, that would be cool. It's that sort of sandbox play that I'm after.


Curious, what does this do for you in terms of game longevity? Do you feel more like you're a part of the world? Or do you get the sense that you can try out different strategies? What makes this compelling?


Quote:

But that would require a lot of work that might have been better applied to lengthening the story or tweaking other systems, and those improvements would appeal to a wider audience anyway. The Fable "cut loose and go" system would be enough for me, really.


I'm still holding out for the possibility of story being synonymous with the "gaining ground" aspect you described above.

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Original post by ishpeck
After all, part of the reason we even play RPG's is so we can develop characters, give them personality, and grow to love them. It should stand to reason that the love continue with the advent of replayability of these characters.


Wouldn't you think that with all the money these games are putting into being able to customize your character that this sort of thing would be obvious? If I spend hours outfitting my guy with the coolest gear, adjusting the space and height of his eyes, putting scars and tatoos on him, etc., haven't I made an enduring investment?

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Original post by Gyrthok
So if you want to you could export all your characters, make a new game and import them and start the game over with your uber-crew, or you could export them all and then load them to play in the sequel. The different series themselves (NWN, BD, IWD) i don't think are reverse compatible with each other because of the differences in the engines, though i'm not sure about Icewind Dale since Black Isle was shutdown and there's little information on it.


Hey, I installed IWD II and saw this, but I couldn't find it for I. Haven't gotten far, but I'm assuming that the goblins get replaced by salamanders or get many more hit points?

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I have put *a lot* of thought in to this subject.

Let me just summarize by saying *I* want to continue playing long after the main story is over and done with.

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currently I'm in the design stages of a somewhat similar idea. I agree with you, for games like Final Fantasy Tactics, I enjoy the combat much more than the story. The idea for the game will be to have a persistent party, but the only gameplay will be to engage other, human players in combat. Mostly like an advanced chess game (actually, mostly a rip off of Tactics, but whatever).

The important aspect of this is the online play. I could throw NPCs at people all day, and after a while it gets boring. I want my game to be unboring, and variety is the key. That's essentially the role of story in single player RPGs, it adds variety.

Example, if you play chess, you don't want to play the same game every time. If your AI opponent uses the same move list every time, then you will quickly grow rather bored of destroying your opponent. That's why we play against dynamic opponents, advanced learning AI and humans. The typical RPG is less about action (no reflex factor) and more about decisions (strategy and tactics). Essentially the player has an infinite time frame in which to make their decisions. A dynamic opponent is the only way to achieve variety in this situation.

Implement an advanced AI system that learns against the player, or cop out and just make them play against other people.

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Original post by capn_midnight
The important aspect of this is the online play. I could throw NPCs at people all day, and after a while it gets boring. I want my game to be unboring, and variety is the key. That's essentially the role of story in single player RPGs, it adds variety.


Do you think that something like this could be pulled off by a single-player RPG, or do you think the game needs to be geared to multiplayer from the start. If the latter, how is this different from MMORPGs?

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Original post by Wavinator
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Original post by capn_midnight
The important aspect of this is the online play. I could throw NPCs at people all day, and after a while it gets boring. I want my game to be unboring, and variety is the key. That's essentially the role of story in single player RPGs, it adds variety.

Do you think that something like this could be pulled off by a single-player RPG, or do you think the game needs to be geared to multiplayer from the start. If the latter, how is this different from MMORPGs?

I think it could be done on the single player side, but it would be incredibly difficult to pull off. Like I said, variety is the key, how do you achieve variety in a static game? Some of this can be accomplished through repeatable, pseudo-random content generation, but you also have to offer a variety of enemy strategies. This is the difficult part, as there is yet to exist a truly sophisticated AI in computer games other than Chess.

In FFT, eventually the challenge came down to who had the most hit points, you or the enemy, because you could learn the pattern that the enemy fought with. Chocobos attacked until they were hurt, then regrouped to heal themselves before attacking again. As it turns out, the tactic used against the common Chocobo was the tactic for the entire game, your entire team goes after one target at a time, until everyone is destroyed. In order to add the variety in strategy, as I said before, you're left with implementing sophisticated AI (very hard) or copping out and implementing network play (very easy), using human brains instead of artificial brains.

The difference from normal MMORPGs: With online play there are basically 2 types, match play and persistent play. Chess is match play, MMORPGS are persistent play. For this RPG battle-unto-itself idea, I think you will need to focus mostly on match play. Otherwise, you'll probably wind up in the same trap as every other MMORPG, wandering for hours between each 5 minute battle. In a common MMORPG, exploration is the game, and there are few obstacles to this purpose. Consider the mandated no-PK zones, obviously battle is considered an obstacle to something in this case. With a battle-only game, you will have to remove the obstacles to battle, and that is the persistent world of the common MMORPG.

Take Diablo, for example. When you log on to a multiplayer game, there are portals to take you to some of the deepest levels of the dungeons. The upper levels are an obstacle for the advanced player, in order for the game to remain fun those obstacles must be removed.

So, for my game, it will be all match play. If there is a world map, it will only exist as a chat room, a place to shop for your party, and match negotiator, basically just a lobby. Actually, I almost envision something like the Risk board map. FFT is similar in this regard, Disgaea: Hour of Darkness takes it a step too far.

On the topic of pseudo-random content, I've thought that perhaps the topography of the network of lobby servers could be used to generate the world map data, and travelling to different towns would be travelling to different servers. Different servers would run different rule sets (similar to first person shooters), and the notion of travel would be used to mask the concept of connecting to distinct servers.

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I've got to agree that I find more immersion in the setting than the actual story. Also, I love things like bonus dungeons. Games like Star Ocean and Valkyrie Profile (which are made by the same developer) have bonus dungeons that they tack onto the end of the game (either by having to beat the game first, or just get to the very end). These dungeons are totally optional, separated from the plot, and throw some of the most bad-ass enemies at you. Sometimes it's just a war of attrition, but some of the fights in these bonus dungeons require a hell of a lot of skill, or tactics. I prefer this kind of Post-Game mode.

I've noticed more games lately have been adding type of bonus on. Star Ocean: Till the End of Time has 4 bonus dungeons, one being extremely long, and bonus bosses that kick your ass and don't even bother taking names.

Anything developers add onto the end of the game is good, especially if you don't want to replay the whole game (if you don't like the storyline, etc). If companies want you to replay the games over and over, they should add as much extra stuff as possible, IMO.

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Original post by ishpeck
Actually, I think you're on to something with this idea. People still playe Diablo, for example, even though the game is just an asinine dungeon crawl. And one of the biggest reasons I never buy new CRPG's is that they are usually either too short to get hooked on or too long for my attention span.

One of the ways that you could make CRPG's suck less is by making their storylines short but making it so there's a little dungeon generator or something so you can play a Nethack/Rogue throwback or something.


That's exactly what I was thinking of. After the game is over an infinite dungeon would be unlocked where you could just kill endless amount of enemies. If these enemies were unique variants found in the actual game and got progressively stronger to go with your growing party, then all the better.

The Final Fantasy games have always been pretty good about extra fights like this. VII had the Weapons. X had the monster breeder guy where you could fight any monster in the game and quite a few stronger unique monsters. The GBA remake of 1 had the four unlockable dungeons with monsters and bosses from later Final Fantasies. Little things like that go a long ways towards replayability.

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That's exactly what I was thinking of. After the game is over an infinite dungeon would be unlocked where you could just kill endless amount of enemies. If these enemies were unique variants found in the actual game and got progressively stronger to go with your growing party, then all the better.


Kind of like a score based mini-game? Where you could post the number of monsters killed to a website for bragging rights.

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Original post by capn_midnight
I think it could be done on the single player side, but it would be incredibly difficult to pull off. Like I said, variety is the key, how do you achieve variety in a static game?


Have you every played Phantasy Star? Some, like myself, find the version for the GameCube to be ridiculously addictive. What they've done is create environments which feature specific monster types that you get used to using certain tactics against. Later, they wildly mix and match those types.

What you get is a lot of interesting variety due to the unexpected waves of teleporting enemies and mixed tactical considerations. There are combinations that you can take out without a problem, and then there are combinations that are downright lethal. Because it's a regular part of the game that monsters teleport in waves, you can find yourself far away from safe areas when they do saying "Oh #*$*! not those two together!!" Even a silly combination, like a Del Saber (nasty hit point stealing dark swordsman) and Rappy (Chocobo rip off) can be lethal, as the Rappy interrupts your movements while the Del Saber cuts you up.

It doesn't, of course, match playing versus a human, but unfortunately humans have their own drawbacks (like cheating and poor sportsmanship).

I think both can be equally entertaining.

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Just a thought: What about an end game mode which reused all the levels and gave them Gauntlet style teleporters? The spawn rate could be set by some difficultly level, and the "destroy the teleporters to survive" aspect would give an objective on each level.

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