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Ranger Meldon

What have been the bad elements of past CRPGs?

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This question was originally spawned from this thread about using numbers in CRPGs. Since a lot of the time, a good game can be 80% defined by what it doesn't do wrong, then "what things have all of you experienced (role-players and min-maxers alike) in the various RPGs and FPS RPGs that you disagreed with, didn't like, or outright hated?" I ask this question as it applies in general, but also especially as it relates to numbers. I ask this in the hope that this might be a better starting point for understanding how to make a better CRPG. [Edited by - Ranger Meldon on June 29, 2005 5:59:01 PM]

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I'll start this question off with some answers of my own. I don't like:

1) Having walking/running consume stamina. That just gets to be a pain in the ass, like having to go pee every two minutes. Just take it out of the game entirely.

2) Massive hit points for anything (unless it's physically big, like a dragon or something). If you still want to have the equivalent of massive HP, have smaller HP and a separate, massive "fighting stamina" or "maneuvering stamina" (MS) tank.

3) Games that don't allow your character to regenerate slowly over time by default. If HP in most games (that don't explicitly have MS) is actually supposed to represent mostly MS, then you would become rested again over time while not fighting (or running?). If you still want to have a regeneration power, then make it effective even while fighting and running, make it regenerate MS more quickly, or make it regenerate HP instead of MS. Maybe have a higher form of regen that does both HP and MS when applicable.

4) Games that base encumberance on volume of storage space consumed. Ok fine, I understand that there's only so much room in a backpack. So make the game tell the player, perhaps in the character's own voice, "There's no more room in my backpack for that!"
Have a separate weight-based encumberance that makes the voice say "That's too heavy!" or "I'm already carrying too much!" etc. Realism should allow for both space and weight constraints, not just one or the other, and certainly not one acting as the other.

5) How games that use weight-based carrying limits don't offer any recourse to physically wimpy mages. There needs to be some kind of "magic bag of holding" or something, that only mages (or characters beyond a certain level of magic skill) can make and equip that allows them to carry somewhere near the same amount of stuff a warrior can. I also think a packmule and/or wagon are good ideas too.

6) Games where magic items are ridiculously prolific. I also don't like games where so few magic items exist as to almost not be a part of the game.

7) How most games don't have many varieties of weapons. Even the ones that do, don't give each weapon type special consideration when used in certain situations, like how a spear can be used nicely against a group of enemies at once, or when surrounded.

8) How uncustomizable the weapons are in practically every game I've ever played, especially if it's an FPS RPG. I want to be able to forge my own custom sword that has a large chance of looking unique even in an MMORPG setting. This would just be an issue of mixing and matching different weapon subparts, i.e. hafts, handles, blades, blade tips, edges, guards, pommels, runes, effects like glowing or flaming, etc. This would be so extremely cool, and if you coded it right, it wouldn't have to be that much more complex.

9) How few special abilities, and particularly fighting moves and abilities, that most games have. Special abilities, along with skills, should define a character far more obviously than stats ever could.

10) How set-in-stone that most model animations are. Sometimes they need to be predetermined, but especially in fights, why not incorporate more "ragdoll physics" type interactions, where the character can feint, can mess up and trip, or get out of step, off-balance, etc? Also, why not merge this concept with skill level, such that a character looks cooler, smoother, and less varied in doing a certain thing the more they do it (based on how much they've skilled up in it). Also, I don't like how totally unrealistic running up and down stairs looks. Each foot should land squarely on each step, and appear to be propelling the character upward and forward by virtue of the interaction of their feet with the steps. It should not appear as if their feet are running in place while their body is translating in a straight line at an upward angle.

11) How in almost all FPS RPGs, you can't look down and see your character's lower body and feet. Even in those few games where you can, your feet look like they're running in place when you move your character's body even a little bit forward or backward. Cheesy.

12) How most (if not all) games that give you a limited lungful of air while swimming underwater don't allow you to skill up in swimming such that you can eventually swim for longer.

13) Game engines that handle reputation stupidly. Say you kill some monster that's harassing some village, completely by yourself out in the middle of nowhere, and by the time you can make it to the nearest town, everybody somehow magically knows that you killed the monster, as if they were watching it on TV or something. Right.

14) How no game has ever allowed a person to skill up in dancing. That would be so cool, to watch a good dancer character. (And it might allow you to get yourself into situations more easily as a secret agent or assassin.)

15) Games (such as Diablo 2) when they give numbers (especially percentages) for an item that don't really tell you any more than you knew to begin with. Example: What does 10% faster hit recovery even mean? 10% faster than what? and is that based on my character class? does the monster I'm fighting affect that percentage at all? If I have multiple pluses to hit recovery, do they stack? or does each one figure in after the previous one has been figured in? Annoyingly vague.

16) How in games like Diablo 2, your skills give you less and less additional benefit each time you put a new level into them. After a while, it's almost like, what's the point? Especially since the monsters don't seem to gain skills in such a diminishing fashion.

17) Games that make finding uber-powerful or epic magic items a matter of pure luck. Ok fine, so some of them might make those items only drop from certain bosses, but it's still a matter of extreme luck. I might kill some boss a hundred times and never get a really cool drop, whereas my friend might kill the boss once and get two such items. That just sucks. I know they do this so that people will be encouraged to play the game for days on end, but come on. There's got to be a better way. The developers are cheapening their own game in doing this, and a player's eventual revulsion is the proof.

18) When games make a boss or some random mini-boss suddenly much tougher than previous bosses or mini-bosses. You can be cruising along, dealing death left and right, getting lulled into a sense of false security, and then all of a sudden, you die in one or two hits, sometimes without even knowing who killed you. This would be either because the badass was hidden amongst a bunch of identical-looking minions, or because he had some kind of lightning or flame aura that did 4 to 5 times the damage for that aura than you've seen in other bosses before or after that part in the game. Many times, after you resurrect and go back to confront him again (more prepared this time), he's no longer there. It's like, where the hell did he go? I certainly didn't kill him. It's annoying and disheartening, and it makes you feel like the game was designed so that every so often it's just going to kill you, whether you like it or not, and no matter how prepared you try to be.

19) Shallow role-playing opportunities in RPGs. The game offers these scenarios that any character class can effectively solve, and after a while, it makes you feel like you might as well not even have a specific character class. I realize that it is cool part of the time to see how you can get your class through the different obstacles, but it feels like templated railroading after a while. I think the problem is that these games need to offer more class-specific content, that can only be accessed directly when playing as a member of that class. (i.e. druid-only quests, paladin-only quests, etc)

20) Bad inventory design. This includes inventories that:
- Don't allow you to click one item down on top of another and have the game swap the items.
- Cannot be sorted, or cannot be set by the player to sort items according to criteria, i.e. put all my potions at the top, etc.
- Cannot shuffle items around to consolidate free space, especially in such a way as to accomodate the specific size and shape of the item you are trying to put in it.

21) Potions that can be accidentally imbibed even when the player doesn't need any of what the potion provides (i.e. their health is already full, etc).

22) When potions get used up in one drink when the player needed far less health etc than what the potion could optimally provide. Each potion bottle should "remember" how much liquid has already been consumed from it. Preferably, bottles should be able to be mixed, such that one partially-filled bottle can "top off" another partially filled bottle of the same type of potion.

23) Games that have item durability that don't allow characters to skill up in repairing their own items. For that matter, games that don't allow characters to do anything that NPCs can mundanely do (like fix things, brew and mix potions, forge weapons and armor, enchant items, identify magic items, etc)

~Ranger Meldon~ M.M. .:

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Nice list, gives me alot to think about. My main concerns were most of yours too. Here's my others:

1. Spell Variety and Random Spells, I hate it how alot of rpg or mmorpg seem to have alot of spells that do the same exact thing. How there aren't spells to levitate, move objects with mind power and all that stuff. And what about spells that you find randomly that are completly unique. I heard that WoW does a little of that.

2. Quests: I hate having to run across the whole world twenty times. In all reality when someone goes on a quest they don't leave from britain, go to Japan, go back to britain, go back to japan then go to south america somewhere. I don't like running everywhere, why can't you just make more obstacles.

Like I said, I agree with alot of what you said.

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Quote:
Original post by Ranger Meldon
I'll start this question off with some answers of my own. I don't like:


Out of curiosity: To what degree, if any, has this list impacted your game buying decisions?

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Gosh, Ranger Meldon, that's a lot of RPG gripes! (I do agree with most of them.)

Off the top of my head, here's my shortlist of most annoying elements of CRPGs.

1. Bad combat systems. Since most CRPGs use combat as the bread-and-butter of their gameplay, it pains me how bad they can be. This seems to summarise a lot of your list. Usual characteristics are:
a. bad to non-existant combat AI
b. hack-and-hack-again (not even advanced to have slash) no-brainer combat
c. tough guys being tough purely by increased damage and health, not skill (ties into a again).

2. Bad role-playing. This should be the core of these games, but most of these games have the same failings:
a. linear plotlines
b. lack of interaction with the environment and NPCs. If my character is a burly guy with a sledgehammer and is faced with a locked wooden door, there is an obvious solution that is not "find the key"! This goes double if my character is a mage armed with the "armageddon fireball" spell!
c. inappropriate NPC reactions. For example, if I'm an armoured knight with a massive broadsword crackling with lightning-based magic, and the NPC is a thug dressed in rags armed with a stick, the NPC is going to have second thoughts before trying to attack me!

3. Inventory madness. Summarises a lot of points you made, but for me it all boils down to this: I don't want to spend most of the game shifting stuff around in my inventory, agonising over what to keep and what to drop and so on.

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No disagreement here with any of the gripes mentioned so far. I think Trapper Zoid made some great points about combat and AI. Im REALLY tired of seeing RPGs with the latest graphics and nifty "realism" features like encumberance that can't even hack it in the combat AI category. Some RPGs that have been lauded with praise for great storylines don't HAVE great storylines at all. They may have terrific graphics that are the result of being made by a professional game development company, but they lack the creative writing of a junior in college.

Here are two examples:

Chrono Cross - an old game for the PSX. Considering the technology, the graphics were great, but most of the combat boiled down to half an hour of choosing the right spells for the boss fight you were about to face. There are little character development, even for MAIN characters. Yet the game was produced by world-renowned Square-Enix, which, should be willing to shell out an extra $32K for a better writer.

Dungeon Siege - The fact that the game is now available for $9.99 should say it all. Almost all the gripes I've seen listed here are present in this game. 'Nough said.

Current Bigtime Gripes:

1. Combat
- AI
- Spell/Skill variety; typically its a numbers game with weakness to element
and a damage number. Occassionally ice spells will freeze/numb, flame will
cause some kind of burning, but that's about it.
- HUGE lack of variety with melee equipment

2. Storyline
- Character Development
- Quest motivation/development

3. Interface Design
- lack of sorting, or poorly done equipment interfaces
- Poor menu design, and combat information access

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Quote:
Original post by wildhalcyon
- Spell/Skill variety; typically its a numbers game with weakness to element
and a damage number. Occassionally ice spells will freeze/numb, flame will
cause some kind of burning, but that's about it.


Oh yes, this reminds me of another gripe; the lack of non-combat orientated spells. Magic usually seems totally gear around either damaging monsters, combat protection, or healing. Sometimes you get a few extras, like identifying spells, but combat is what it's all about. Where are the spells to do other useful things, like make it rain, or forecasting the future? The only few examples I can think of are things like Morrowind which had door opening spells and levitate (levitate was really all I ever use), and one of my favourite series of all time, the Quest for Glory games, where even the combat spells like Flame Dart and Force Bolt had non-combat uses (like lighting torches and knocking things over).

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Quote:
Original post by Ranger Meldon
2) Massive hit points for anything (unless it's physically big, like a dragon or something). If you still want to have the equivalent of massive HP, have smaller HP and a separate, massive "fighting stamina" or "maneuvering stamina" (MS) tank.

Or at lest make a modular oponent or some way that a monster with 5,000,000 HP slightly weaker when it only has 1 HP left

Quote:
Original post by Ranger Meldon
5) How games that use weight-based carrying limits don't offer any recourse to physically wimpy mages. There needs to be some kind of "magic bag of holding" or something, that only mages (or characters beyond a certain level of magic skill) can make and equip that allows them to carry somewhere near the same amount of stuff a warrior can. I also think a packmule and/or wagon are good ideas too.

or at lest no penetys for weight, i dont care aout realism here, dont make me crawl back to town at 25% speed just becouse im at 75% max weight

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Forget about lack of ability to carry weight, the stereotype that mages are all frail, weak nerds that sit around all day reading books and going to the hospital over stubbed toes needs to be dispelled (is that a pun?). Clerics being devoted to a god or deity is also another thing I don't like very much. Spellcasters, by large, have been forced into the back of the group. Warriors, by contrast, have upwards of 2-3 times as many hps as mages. It makes it difficult to scale upwards. I'd rather every human start with 50 hps and then scale upwards at their different rates, than everyone starting at a rate that makes 2nd level 2x as powerful as first level. Magic systems should be independant of their prospective users.

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Quote:
Original question by Wavinator
Out of curiosity: To what degree, if any, has this list impacted your game buying decisions?
This is a good question, and difficult to answer. But then, that doesn't surprise me based on some of your other posted questions; you seem very much about the bottom line, and I suppose I can't help but respect that. Hrmmm... well, in some ways, it's impossible for my list of irritants to affect my game purchasing decisions, because sometimes you just can't tell what a pile of refuse you've bought until you install and play it. I guess I would say in general that I tend to avoid a developer once they've proven themselves to produce a shoddy game. I also keep up with who buys out who, so a team can't just rename themselves and expect me to fall for it. I try to stay open-minded. If I hear that a development group has really undergone a revamp, and they have an awesome new game to prove it, I might consider trying them out again. I also try to burn into my mind a graphical "scar" of the look and feel of a worthless game, so that any other game that looks the same, or looks like it would act the same, I don't buy.

However, all that having been said, I mostly posted this list as a resource for us programmers to know what to avoid in our own games. I didn't really design this list to reflect observations that would influence my buying decisions. I just know a crappy game when I play one, and not usually before then. Like most things in life, it's a lot easier to identify what you don't want than what you do want, and even then only in retrospect.

~Ranger Meldon~ M.M. .:

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