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Ketchaval

Chapter based story RPGs?

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It is often assumed that the structure of an RPG should be a straight line, from start to finish. But how about making ones where you play the character at different intervals. For example it starts off at age 8 when you are adopted by your Aunt. Then it jumps to age 12, when you are in school and learning new skills and making friends, later it jumps to your first kiss, then it jumps forward to becoming boss of your factory, next you control him/her as they own a chain of factories. Each chapter would have a goal / goals that would end that chapter and drive the game on to the next chapter. The timeline would sometimes jump backwards to show you what happened in the past. I think that with this kind of approach it would be possible to make something closer to a "biographical game", ie. one that follows a characters life (but also allows you some freedom to shape it). And doesn't have to be about killing monsters, but can be a rags to riches story, or a portrait of a family dynasty. Something like Great Expectations? Maybe a better name for this would be a Character Playing game, than a Roleplaying game.

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I think this has potential, but of course the devil's in the details. As always, it boils down to "What do you do, specifically?"

I think you're right in shifting it from an RPG to something like a "character playing" game. I've really become frustrated with how narrowly RPGs are interpreted, which-- for one of the most diverse genres available-- is really saying something.

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Aye Wav,
Provoked by an Ernest Adams quote, I've been wondering how you would make a game which was closer to a Dickens book / chick lit than a Fairy Tale / Myth (y'know Zelda and all the save the world TM games!). So I'm thinking you could have a chapter set in an orphanage / workhouse etc. The free-roamingness of many RPGs could be replaced with an (adventure game style) 'hot spot' map which allows you to go to important places job / home / friends' houses / girlfriend.

But the devil would be in the details as you say, Wav.

P.s something along the lines of A Christmas Carol would be an ideal candidate for being made into a game dealing with past present and future , and having the ghost drag the player around when they try to wonder off. Although this ISN'T the type of game I'm thinking off. (Actually I'm not all that familiar with Dickens but you get the point).?

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For some examples of how this can be used, you can look at games that have already tried it. Three I can think of right now are Fable (for the XBox), Harvest Moon (For the PS2) and Fire Emblem 4 (Super Famicom). I don't know if the other Fire Emblem games use it.

Fable does just what you describe. You're six in the first level, then a cut scene, and you're twelve, and then your'e sixteen, and then you're eighteen, and then you begin the meat of the game, where you gradually age until the game ends. It's a little clumsy. the chapters end abruptly, and once you start aging, there's no indication of your age. I didn't notice I was getting old until my hair was white. Girls still flirt with you, nobody gives you any respect, and the missions impart no sense of time. Clumsy.

Harvest Moon uses episodes. You're a farmer, and you have a week or so per year to get everything done. You have to plant crops, harvest them, and still find time to get into town and woo a future wife. It seemed very brief and difficult to use. I was bad at it, but others tell me it's quite good when you learn your way around.

Fire Emblem 4 was tough, because it was in Japanese. It's a series of battles, fought in a top-down strategy style. The battles are separated by years. You can get your core characters to interact in different ways, and even fall in love. If they get married, then the next war, fifteen years down the line, might see their kid participating. You can have two generations of warriors, and that's pretty cool.

The mechanics and implications of the system are going to require a lot of noodling. Good luck deciding what you want and how to get it.

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Quote:
Original post by Ketchaval
Provoked by an Ernest Adams quote, I've been wondering how you would make a game which was closer to a Dickens book / chick lit than a Fairy Tale / Myth (y'know Zelda and all the save the world TM games!). So I'm thinking you could have a chapter set in an orphanage / workhouse etc. The free-roamingness of many RPGs could be replaced with an (adventure game style) 'hot spot' map which allows you to go to important places job / home / friends' houses / girlfriend.


As an adventure game, I think you could totally do it because adventure games have a contextual freedom that RPGs and other games can only dream of. You see, when the world is fenced in by puzzles, solving puzzles become the main content, and the subject matter of that content can be incredibly diverse. It doesn't matter so much if you get stuck, or even bored, because if there are a bunch of puzzles simultaneously facing you, you ALWAYS have something to do.

But if you move away from adventure game, you've got to substitute puzzles for processes. Combat is a process (I like saying "system," but hopefully you get what I mean.) As soon as something turns from a script- / state-satisfied end condition (e.g., "get four in a row", "free cog to activate generator") to a flowing process (like combat, with HP and attack damage & whatnot) not only do you have to distill a process down to its essentials so it can be coded, you have to make it fun.

Imagine being in the orphanage in Oliver Twist. Okay, so there's survival, trying to get more soup, there's bickering and jockeying with the other lads in the orphanage, maybe playing tricks against the headmaster and surviving the backbreaking slave tasks he makes you do. Heck, throw in Parappa the Rappa singing minigames to round it out.

While you can make a process out of each of these aspects, the damnable challenge (or so I'm finding) is to make it all fun and tied together. Somehow, the Sims makes cleaning dirty laundry, cooking, bathing and interior decorating fun, and I still don't think I understand exactly why it works.

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