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sunandshadow

sociology of adventuring parties

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sunandshadow    7426
Ever notice how the members of adventuring parties are all single? Either they're wise old warriors or wizards who are confirmed bachelors (or possibly their families were killed by the villain), or they're people in their teens or early twenties who lack either the motivation or the resources to settle down yet. This is consistent with primate psychology - all varieties of primate including humans live in groups, and juveniles of one or both genders leave their natal group to wander around for a while and hopefully find a mate and a new group to settle down with. This serves several functions for the species as a whole - the wanderers explore, possibly finding new resources and habitable territory, or discovering dangers before they can threaten the main group, which is vulnerable because it is slower moving and has children and sick/old people to protect. Since the wanderers don't have children yet, they are more expendable because if they get killed the group doesn't have to deal with the problem of orphans. Not to mention that this encourages species vitality by mixing genes around among a larger group of people, and that 'alliance marriages' discourage warfare between groups. Okay, so stereotypical adventuring parties do make sociological sense. But we limit ourselves by only portraying this segment of the population when we choose our main characters and the social context they live in during the course of the story. So here's the challenge - imagine an 'adventuring party' that consists not just of bachelors and teens, but instead a fully-functional family: a small clan or tribe including a few grandparents or children. Now, you're probably not going to want to send this group off on an almost-certain-death quest to get the foozle from the terrible dungeon or kill the big bad guy. What kind of story could we tell with this sort of group instead? How could we build a game around that? [Edited by - sunandshadow on August 1, 2005 8:02:50 PM]

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This kind of group activity is part of my adventure game, and the secret afaict is the design of the interactivity/challenge design schema that comprises their quest, so to speak. Not all adventure is slaying monsters sort of thing, obviously. The secret payoff, or take away value in terms of player satisfaction for having engaged in the activity is one word - discovery. There's a lot of facets to discovery, and almost all people, no matter what intelligence or demographic, relish, treasure and thirst for discovery. I think it is because those roots go deep in humanity. And, there are a zillion kinds of discovery with a million ways to approach it. Family games, or more diverse profile group activities are a big part of game's future.

Adventuredesign

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Wavinator    2017
I agree with the thrust of adventuredesign's comment: When you widen the definition of adventure, you get activities that make sense for the whole clan to engage in.

Since encountering several books and movies about family operated starships (Lost In Space, for example) I've been entranced by what kind of gameplay you could have that would support roles for young and old characters (assuming clans aren't just in the past [grin]).

Depending on the danger involved, I think you first need a safe space to rally the family / clan around. Maybe this is a campsite, or a wagon, or a ship that can fly from danger. This serves as a psychological anchor (the "home" meme). (You could skip it, I suppose, but it's a powerful way of manifesting and representing the nature of the clan-- the clan personality can somewhat be judged by how it chooses to live.)

You then need to think about whether or not you want there to be unique roles for each family member in order to highlight their usefulness. For instance, maybe gramps can fix any type of machine or make magic items. Maybe the little 'uns are good at keeping watch, gathering food, or (like boy geniuses Will Robinson or Wesley Crusher) great at solving scientific connundrums.

I think you could easily turn such a game into an Commandos style RTS or Sims game, but it probably has more rich potential as an adventure game or RPG because of the expected interpersonal dynamics. You might tell a story about how the grandfather comes to terms with the grandmother's death, or how a young tribal leader deals with taking on the sudden burden of becoming leader before he's ready. These sorts of things are best left, I think, to story unless you're prepared to delve into trying to transform group psychodynamics into fun gameplay (which is some of what I'd like to do.)

It's fertile ground for lots of story and gameplay possibilities, but you have to firmly decide why the family/clan is included in the first place.

(Nice adventuring analysis, btw.)

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sadrius    244
Well, in FFVI, if you had Strago, Shadow, and Relm as a party, you actually had a party of an adoptive grandfather, father, and daughter. :-)

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Trapper Zoid    1370
Wavinator pretty much covered most of what I was thinking with gameplay ideas for family based RPG parties, although understandably he set them in space [smile].

I'm assuming that you are wanting an RPG-esque feel to the party, and not Sims-type gameplay. There's quite a bit that could be done with exploration as a theme for a family unit.

One thing that came to mind would be a family of famous archaeologists exploring ancient ruins. Assuming a three generation family; the grandparents may be experts in their field; able to understand many ancient languages, recognise artifacts and booby-traps easily because they've been doing this all their lives. The parents would be a bit more athletic than their grandparents, although not quite as experiences. The children could take advantage of their smaller size to go places where the adults could not.

Another good theme is a shipwrecked family trying to get back to civilisation, or a family trying to trail-blaze and set up a new life for themselves in an untamed land.

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WeirdoFu    205
Neat little idea, but a few things come to mind....

One of the first things that came to my mind was the american frontier.....but then wonder what kind of game that would end up being...

Then there is the issue of family dynamics. Yes we have a family, but then if not done properly, it easily feels like you just have a group of people with varying ages. That's probably the toughest issue. Adventuring is one thing, utilizing skills is another, but in the end, do you really have a family?

Then I start wondering about what type of family we're looking at? Do we want the idealistic core family? Or do we want something less functional for better dynamics? Is there a rebellious teen who is always trying to do things his or her way (for example)? Do we have good loving parents or ones that put their work ahead of everything else? Do siblings get along? Stuff like that can easily make or break the game if not set up properly, considering its a thin fine line to walk on.

Also, as the game progresses, do the family members age? What happens if a member dies? What about marriage?

....and the list goes on as my mind goes rambling.....

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sunandshadow    7426
Quote:
Original post by Trapper Zoid
Another good theme is a shipwrecked family trying to get back to civilisation, or a family trying to trail-blaze and set up a new life for themselves in an untamed land.


This is sort of what I was originally thinking - colonization, a family dropped on an island/planet and trying to establish a home base and defend and feed themselves. I was thinking that starcraft-style RTS/sim play where the player controls a group of diverse individual units is sort of like a family. This is especially noticeable with the Zerg where you literally lay eggs and have to protect them until they hatch into new units.

I don't think it would work real well in a single player RPG to have one player control all the members of the family because, like WierdoFu points out, that wouldn't create much internal conflict. So you can either have the player control one member of the family, or the player be the disembodied 'shepherd' trying to manage a semi-cooperative family. It would be fascinating to see MMO families, or get current clans to act more like families, perhaps with anyone new to the game being spawned as a child of a clan. Although there's always the problem of getting members to be online at the same time.

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Risujin    190
In hindsight, the blame for why we dont have any games like this should fall on the audience.

Traditionally there is little or no audience for games which feature sophisticated social relationships (and sadly, even a family would count as such by modern standards). Moreover, they are difficult to design and implement.

As long as the video game market remains juvenile in their social understanding, so will the games.

Another perspective on this topic is in the interesting essay 'Objects vs People' by Chris Crawford, a long-time computer game designer.

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Trapper Zoid    1370
Quote:
Original post by sunandshadow
This is sort of what I was originally thinking - colonization, a family dropped on an island/planet and trying to establish a home base and defend and feed themselves. I was thinking that starcraft-style RTS/sim play where the player controls a group of diverse individual units is sort of like a family. This is especially noticeable with the Zerg where you literally lay eggs and have to protect them until they hatch into new units.


I'm not sure if the Zerg are the best example; I pretty much treated them like cannon fodder. The Humans and the Protoss, however, I tended to protect very jealously as they had a bit of personality and I didn't like to see them die (and yes, I was extremely bad at Starcraft because of that, unless I played as the Zerg [smile]).

Quote:

I don't think it would work real well in a single player RPG to have one player control all the members of the family because, like WierdoFu points out, that wouldn't create much internal conflict. So you can either have the player control one member of the family, or the player be the disembodied 'shepherd' trying to manage a semi-cooperative family. It would be fascinating to see MMO families, or get current clans to act more like families, perhaps with anyone new to the game being spawned as a child of a clan. Although there's always the problem of getting members to be online at the same time.


Well, it depends entirely on what sort of game you want, as I think all of these ideas could work.

If the player controls the whole family, you can still have conflict through a prewritten story (like present RPGs).

If the player only controls one character, I guess that would make it a bit similar to Harvest Moon, although you can add more dynamic character interaction; it might be a bit difficult to get all the interaction between NPC to happen within sight of the PC however.

If the player is the diesmbodied 'shepherd', that would make it a bit like the Sims, or the game I'm presently designing (where you watch over a small village, which I guess is "family" of sorts).

I suppose it would also work as an MMO game, but as you've said it would be difficult to get everyone online at the same time. I guess you could get groups of real life friends and family to be part of the family and play at the same time, or you could have "clans" like in ancient Scotland and adopt people in to a village environment (I guess they have this already in MMORPGs; I haven't played any so I'm not sure how the guilds work).

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Inmate2993    222
Actually, it begs the question why most fantasy games pull out of Europe's middle ages and we barely see any settings that are in Africa's cradle of civilization, where the hunter/gatherers were still also Nomads. Consider a game where your prototypical adolescent becomes seperate from his travelling group and ends up forming his own, through varius circumstance and plot threads. Right there is about as Jungian Archetypal as it gets, and its one that not too many think about, since humanity became literate *after* we all learned how to domesticate the lands.

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themime    144
Quote:
Original post by Inmate2993
Actually, it begs the question why most fantasy games pull out of Europe's middle ages and we barely see any settings that are in Africa's cradle of civilization, where the hunter/gatherers were still also Nomads.


This is a good point, but I think the popularity of "high fantasy" settings started the trend, with big time stories such as LOTR leading the way; although it would be interesting to see a successful fantasy game based in a none-middle ages environment.

As far as inter-tribal/family situations, and someone talking about a people with different personalities, such as the "troubled teen" example could be solved with some sort of way to keep track of personalities, that could possibly even be altered through events that happen in the game. (This would assume a mostly non-linear game, which I think is one of the best approaches if done properly)

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Ketchaval    186
Very interesting. Talking of primate sociology I think it would be great to see it so that there was an interesting power system in place. With different 'leaders' and wannabe leaders. Ie. Do you just do missions for the head of the clan, but who is getting old and may soon be replaced by a younger fitter ape. Do you buddy up with the females and try to create a web of fellowship that way, but risk the jealousy of the alpha male apes?

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