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Multi-Character Multi-Player RPGs?

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So it seems the trend in RPGs has gotten away from a single player controlling a full party (multiple characters). In the past many, if not most, CRPGs the player played a whole party. Lately things have swithced to a single character focus. Some current CRPGs do offer full party play, but in Recent years that gameplay seems to be in the minority. This makes sense with the wide spread use of the interent and oppurtunities for Multiplayer gaming. A player doesnt NEED a whole party when they can join up with other players and create a party. This makes sense for multiplayer games, but even many single player only CRPGs seem to have focused on single character play. Especially Western RPGs. As Japanse RPGs seem to continue to be fiarly heavy into party play. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- SO I'm interested if anyone has any thoughts on how a MULTI-player game might work where the players play MULTI-characters, simultaneously. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- #1 Were should the player persona be located? DO you think that a single character should remain the focus as the PRIMARY character persona , while giving the player alts to play as supporting characters. Or do you think it would be better to emphasis group play. Possibly where the player persona is more attached to a 'house' or 'family' or some other 'associated' group or entity. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- #2 Genre mixing And Presentation. Would it be advantages to present and design the game with more of an RTS feel, but with full blown RPG gameplay, in order to detached the player from a single player persona? Basicly pulling the player farther away from the characters and presenting a macro view. Or do you think sticking to the RPG genre, mimicing party play in games like BG or Ultima series, would be a better way? Basicly keeping the player attached to characters and merely providing full party control. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Games like NWN and Guildwars provide Henchemn. Even though, NWN eventually added alot more control of Henchmen, control is limited in these systems. And the henchmen are presented and designed as NPCs not PCs. Any thoughts?

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Guest Anonymous Poster
The Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale series of RPGs had a multi-character multiplayer mode. They played pretty much the same as single player; you could have up to 6 characters in a team; however for multiplayer they just split the team up under the control of different players.

The control of those games was similar to that of an RTS game; you could scroll over the map, not fixed in view to your characters.

That's the way I would do it; the same as controlling a group in a single-player RPG, just with more groups. I'm not sure if having a 'main' character is best of this; I'd feel the henchmen characters would just be in the way if I had to keep baby-sitting them. I feel if you are attaching the camera to the party, or providing a first person viewpoint, then you should only be controlling one character. For groups you'll have to incorporate the tactical elements of gameplay of strategy games to some extent.

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I think an important question is when does a multi-character RPG game become a RTS game?

For example Commandos. Single player, multi-character. The thing that makes this a RTS is that the character you play (if you consider yourself to be playing a character) is seperate from one of your team. Whereas a RPG would kind of need you to actually play the part of one of the party, and hence provide the 'role playing' element to the game.

I admit i havnt played many RPG games recently, so i may be a little out of my depth. One way i can see a multi character RPG game working is that as the party leader, you issue orders to your party. WHich already happens in many games. The problem with this system is that it's either massively complicated, to allow you to accurately give orders to your party, or woefully inadequate, and restricting you to only doing the most basic of actions.

Another way would be through a system of 'possession'. As party leader, you have the ability to 'possess' your party members, and therefore control them and take advantage of their unique abilities. Your skills of possession may increase, allowing you to have a larger party, or more and different characters. The cons of this system is that swapping between characters can leave the others under the control of the games AI, which can be frustration or infuriating at times.

Perhaps while you possess a member of your party, you can change their state of mind, to say, evasion, where they will run if they encounter an enemy, or confident, which will make them stand and fight. Thus allowing you to issue orders without actually being in control of the party leader.

A mix of both could also be used, while controlling the party leader, you can issue verbal commands to your party, but still have the option of possessing them to have finer control over their behaviour.

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