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Wavinator

Non-sim RPG-like town / community building

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I think the idea of how to build up a town from an RTS perspective is well known. What about from a more personal RPG-like perspective? What sort of town / community changing gameplay might be done in an RPG-like (non MMO) game whose focus is on character interaction? I'm assuming that the town causes changes in the world, and that those changes are reacted to by characters or communities in that world (such as other towns, bandits groups, pilgrims, etc.) EDIT: I've posted a very short summary & refocused this, see about 19 posts down. [Edited by - Wavinator on July 1, 2005 2:42:27 AM]

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hmm .. lesee.

establish a system of private property rights. players develop properties nd derive benefits therefrom. players could form consortiums to develop larger projects. sortof like a sophisticated monopoly ?

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-=Editted because it didn't make any sense=-

You'd need to use interpersonal activity to take the place of the point-and-click interface of the RTS.

SInce this is an early reply, I'll be a little unreasonable and present an extreme view to facilitate dialectic.

I'm assuming that the community will shift with or without your direct input, making decisions, building structures, and establishing policies even if you don't tell it to.

If the community is a largely autonomous unit, then it will be developing based on whatever criteria it uses to perceive needs and opportunities. If the population is growing due to an influx of refugees, it will build more residences and produce more food. If there are rich strains of ore nearby, it will build refineries and factories to process it. This will happen without you.

Your character, then, as a member of the community, would be involved with these decisions depending on your station. If you're the mayor, then you have a lot of influence over what gets built, but you have to take into consideratin the SimCity-like issues of "breaking" the community with bad choices. If you're further down the chain of command, like a member of the School Board, you'll have to use political pressure to make certain needs seem more salient than others.

If you spend a lot of time talking to your neighbors about the lousy funding the local research station gets, then perhaps that will ripple up to someone who matters, and the RanD sector of the local academy will get a cash injection.

The choices you make in conversation and the topics you choose to discuss with various NPCs would be your impact on the social structure. High charisma, high intelligence, an imposing presence or a good reputation could all impact your effectiveness.

This same mechanic might serve to affect your reputation, so if you're seen as a smart politician, a shrewd businessman, or an insightful commentator, you could get a public office, a corporate chair, or a radio show, all of which could facilitate your particular style of social activism.

I see this as tweaking a network, rebalancing the scales of various criteria. If you can come up with a robust, simple system (an aptitude you've demonstrated in the past), then it could work not only for the player character, but for the nemesis character(s) as well. If you see a community behaving strangely, you could perhaps identify the influence of one of your ancient enemies.

[Edited by - Iron Chef Carnage on June 29, 2005 10:54:27 PM]

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Now, if you WANTED, which is clearly NOT the case here, to implement this in a RPG world, a possibly MMO RPG, you could try to go the "permadeath-lineage" route. Let me explain. Everybody in the game would have relatives, that is granted, since even when you START the game, you have a father and a mother, and possibly some loony uncle that keeps dribbling seating in his corner...

Now, what you COULD do, if you were interested in this kind of things, is create a sort of treelike interaction chart for ALL the relatives. Let's say that, in this game, you have a family house, right? and in this house, you have to make your WHOLE family fit in snuggly. When you tend to be richer and/or have too many people in your family to fit in your house, you may choose to move to another, bigger house and sell your former estate.

Obviously, the average mission would be "go get some parsley from old Mrs. Bungey over windmill road..." or "our barney has gone missing for a whole day now, see if you can find that stupid dog...".

But the more you kept in a neighbourhood, the more you would have chances to link your mission tree to twine with the neighbours mission trees. And you would get some things like "'Pa got drunk tonight. Again. And he got to fight Mr Winslow. Again. Now if you would be so kind as to go over to Mr Winslow and tell them we're ALL sorry for 'Pa's attitude, you would be so kind..."

And maybe, when it's time enough in the neighbourhood, you can get bigger missions, and some dangerous ones, like:

For more than two months now, men have been missing. Disappearing. And after some Watch enquiries, they tend to have been last seen in or around that pub. And now your father is missing and I am scared. I know you're a good boy. I'd like you to go and try to find something. But I'd also like you to come back, son, eh? Don't go putting yourself in danger."

And it turns out someone in the neighbourhood is a dangerous bastard, and is setting a zombie army to overthrow the local lord, or is dead jealous, and kills anyone going even remotely close to his lover. And obviously, at that time, every playing character in the neighbourhood gets the same kind of mission, only one of them will get to FACE his father, when he learns the truth, or to face the rest of the players. And that should create grudges, like "That Bigglesworth bastard son killed your father and your brotehr. Now you got to avenge them. And if not directly, then you can hurt them. Go and kill ANY member of that family, and bring me a lock from their head, to burn on the family altar... And some of their blood too." (well? everybody can't be completely sane, can they?)



But of course, that would be in a RPG setting, requiring MANY people playing in the same area, and possibly more people playiong AROUND the area, in short, a MMO setting. And that was CLEARLY NOT what was evoked in the OP, right?

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I have a game design project that I am working on that has a somewhat related concept of community building. I'm not sure if it will interest you at all but here it is anyway.

Various factions attempt to control areas containing small human populations. The population is independent from the players in the game and functions on its own in a fairly simplistic manner. The focus of the game here is not community building but it comes in to play in two basic ways. The first is the overall sympathy of the human population to the faction and the second is the ability to "build" in an area you control. Now the building I have planned is very limited in that you can only choose from a list of functions and convert existing structures into ones that support those functions. These construction projects are going to be focused on gaining an advantage over the enemy factions rather than say helping the human population there. The faction can gain sympathy by keeping the human population safe, building defenses and actually fighting to protect the people and loses sympathy by killing people or letting them get killed while in control of the area. There are some benefits to greater sympathy such as increased resource production and possible increased defense, but that is more related to the larger game as a whole. In short the interaction is limted to the sympathy the human population feels for the various factions and to the ability to do some simple construction. The goal being to maintain control of the area and sympathy and construction making that goal easier to achieve.

I hope that wasn't too confusing, and although the interaction is limted, hopefully it will still be interesting.

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Quote:
Original post by Fournicolas
But of course, that would be in a RPG setting, requiring MANY people playing in the same area, and possibly more people playiong AROUND the area, in short, a MMO setting. And that was CLEARLY NOT what was evoked in the OP, right?


Wow, that certainly sounded like an interesting experience. But you're right, I DEFINITELY don't want to pin ANY hopes on an MMO, because that's just pie in the sky unless you've got lots of money or are well connected (the same thing). There are far too many developers glutting the MMO space, including multimillion dollar companies, so I think a wise move is to stay out from under foot of elephants. Correction. I think you're a FOOL not to stay out from under foot of elephants.

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Quote:
Original post by ops
establish a system of private property rights. players develop properties nd derive benefits therefrom. players could form consortiums to develop larger projects. sortof like a sophisticated monopoly ?


Are you thinking they would somehow have to organize the consortium?

Maybe it would be interesting to have a voting system amongst NPCs. Each can offer an area of expertise or financing, and you have to help them get what they want before they'll go in on a project with you.

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I've been working on a system that is very similar to this. Actually this started out as a summer project of mine to just create an PVP-MMORPG design document. And, only the design document, I'm not stupid enough to think I can actually create one. Or at least not yet =P.

But, I have been doing the design in a very object oriented way. Where I am flushing out the systems first and then combining them.

So on to the actual idea. Basically, the idea that I had was that within a community there is a basically a leader whom has control over the land that you stake claim in. This leader can design the area to fit what he/she deems would work, all through a top down display of the area. So, overall it would be very much like an RTS.

Once something is scheduled to be built, by the leader, then the member's of the community will get a prompt stating the new job that needs to be done. Then the members of the community can work basically from the ground up on that project.

This part is still a little rough, seeing as I haven't decided on how they would work on each project and how interactive it would be, etc. But, the basic idea is that each person in the community will have their own profession which they learn and thrive of of. For example, a member could be a hunter, mason, doctor, etc.

--Ter'Lenth

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Trying to read a little into your design, it seems that this system would have to be highly scalable, since you'd have to be involved in social situations ranging from four-man reconnaisance expeditions to starship crews to galactic empires.

That being the case, you'd need a simple, robust structure that can be used in all these circumstances, and that can be "fudged" so that it looks as though every shoemaker in every town has weighed in on galactic matters.

How about a pyramid chain of command? Each person would be responsible for the handful underneath him (like a captain for his crew, a President for his cabinet, or a father for his children), having to take their best interests to heart in all matters. Simultaneously, he would have to follow his immediate superiors (Captain->Admiral, President->Emperor, Father->Town Mayor).

Subordinates have some influence over superiors in the form of feedback, morale issues, and other important concerns that would be relevant to any leader. Superiors directly influence their subordinates by issuing orders or setting policy.

This provides a large "ladder" for you to climb, so you can start out as a newspaper delivery engineer and work your way up to Imperator by earning regard and stepping up a little at a time. It might take many lifetimes, but I think you will be equipped for that.

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Quote:
What sort of town / community changing gameplay might be done in an RPG-like (non MMO) game whose focus is on character interaction?


Focus is on character interaction.

I'd like to interpret this as meaning, the player's job is to facilitate the building of a primarily NPC community by having conversations with and performing actions for the NPCs.

As has been mentioned, the structure of any given community will be goal based, they need to fulfill their needs as efficiently as possible, so begin by developing a model of their needs.

I'd start like this:
Each NPC has four needs: food, shelter, entertainment, and 'self-fulfillment'

For purposes of providing interest each NPC may have a degree of skew within the sources of each category, for example, I've indicated that males prefer meat as food, but this does not mean you won't find a vegetarian male, it just means they're rare.

Sources:
Food: fruit collected from trees, grains collected from farming, meat collected from hunting, male NPCs show preference for meat (they get higher relative gains from it), females for fruit (same again)

Shelter: Houses, fitting of the environment (tents are unsuitable for snowy mountains), more cosmopolitan NPCs will prefer taller structures, more rustic NPCs prefer bungalows

Entertainment: Very variable, this is something along the lines of a happiness quota for each character. Every NPC has a mapping of stuff that they can do to the happiness they gain from it, for example, a character who enjoys combat is well suited to a hunting position in the community, because that will maximize her utility to the community and her entertainment at the same time. A character who enjoys manual labor will be happier building houses than delivering parcels to and from neighbouring towns.

Self-Fulfillment: Generally speaking a character becomes fulfilled by performing constructive actions, this is separate from entertainment because every character makes equivalent gains from just doing what they do. Some interesting examples: Females get lots of fulfillment from having children and caring for them, males get lots of fulfillment from defeating agressors (this could be complicated, think bandits in the woods, or dangerous animal attacking farmers)
everyone gets fulfillment from providing necessary resources to their family/community.

I'm going to hand-wave the actual implementation ideas behind this, I'm sure it's self-evident that this is a processor intensive problem, and gossip networks are very inefficient for solving group planning problems (but aside from modelling all of the characters in a town as one AI, gossip is about the best you'll do), however, one thing that's often overlooked is that it's ok to let NPCs act like they're thinking about what to do. If you can effectively distribute planning calculations over several frames it may look really convincing as the NPCs discuss with each other about who will do what in order to house everyone and provide food, and get together at night and dance in the town hall (entertainment).

Some evolutionary algorithms could be included in this model. Let Females and Males be more disposed to reproduction when they are happy, so farmers in densely forested lands which are rife with wildlife may be less happy than hunters, so the population will skew towards hunters until there are fewer farmers and what little land there is to farm provides ample entertainment for them.

The player's place in this model is to do whatever he wants, and provide useful goods/services to the NPCs, or assist in their planning what they will do. Inventing an interface for a player to interact with a decision making AI, while it is trying to make a decision would be really really cool.

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