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Wavinator

Gameplay and emotional experience of entropy

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Original post by Undeadlnsanity
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  • If you could live so long that your reputation faded into history, would those deeds be to you meaningless?

  • If I was still recognised for those deeds as a part of history, then no. If they became a myth, then yes, because people wouldn't recognise me for those heroic deeds anymore.


    Unlike many RPGs, I'm trying to get you deeply engaged in worldbuilding. So I'm wondering: Even if you weren't remembered specifically, would it mean anything to you if you spawned a myth that influenced the world's behavior? Let's say, for instance, that you played out a merciless conqueror ages back. Because of your example, the people often go to war invoking the legend that you created.

    (Dunno, it might be too abstract...)

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  • If you could skip forward in time (such as by holing up in a bunker or using time dilation as "forward only time travel") why would you ever risk your neck trying to defeat the evil du jour if you knew it was destined to eventually crumble?

  • I wouldn't. If he was going to die anyway, then what would be the point? As I mentioned earlier, the player should also have a limited lifespan if NPCs do.


    In this situation the only thing I could offer would be this: If you hole up and let evil walk the land, the ultimate destiny of the game world will suffer / change (maybe through philosophy and myth which are really AI settings). So if a Stalin wins, the world should somehow become more Stalinist. That should ultimately affect the end goal of the game (I don't know, maybe humans become so violent they eventually destroy themselves if you don't intercede...)

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    Original post by EasyRaider
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    Original post by Wavinator
  • If you could skip forward in time (such as by holing up in a bunker or using time dilation as "forward only time travel") why would you ever risk your neck trying to defeat the evil du jour if you knew it was destined to eventually crumble?

  • Why would you include such a feature anyway?


    Two reasons: The first is that it's a very common trope found in science fiction, and I'd like to capture the essence of sci-fi in this game. Just as swords and magic and dragons often make an appearance in (but are not a requirement of) fantasy, sci-fi often features things like time dilation, hibernation, and wormholes.

    The more important gameplay reason is that this is a RPG-empire game fusion which (if I can pull it together) will feature a dynamic universe. The goal is to have the computer play a kind of Risk or Civilization in the background while you play. The most important thing about this is that in order to cover the widest array of surprising possibilities I don't intend to balance the background simulation much. That means that if the world works itself into nuclear annihilation, the universe will resemble Fallout. Because of this, you need to be able to ride things out (maybe in a Fallout-style Vault, or space colony). And you also need the ability to make great swaths of time pass so that you can found things like colonies or personal empires.

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    Original post by Wavinator

    • If NPCs all had limited lifespans, why would you ever bother saving or helping any one of them if they were inevitably destined to die? Would you somehow need some permanent reward for what is ultimately a futile effort?

    • If you could live so long that your reputation faded into history, would those deeds be to you meaningless?

    • If you could skip forward in time (such as by holing up in a bunker or using time dilation as "forward only time travel") why would you ever risk your neck trying to defeat the evil du jour if you knew it was destined to eventually crumble?


    These are all basically the same question, so I'll answer them together.

    Ultimately, there are two reasons for why anyone would interact with anyone else: empathy, and egoism.

    For the empathic person, good deeds are truly their own reward. The mere knowledge that one has made a person happy is all the reason one needs. Such deeds retain their value even after everyone else has forgotten about them, because their value wasn't dependent upon people knowing about them in the first place.

    For the egoist person, it is the fruits of deeds, both good and bad, which are their reward. The deeds in themselves have no value, but just people's conceptions of these deeds. The egoist makes no distinction between good and bad deeds, and sees no problem with repeating the rewards deeds that are not his own, or that were not performed in the first place.

    There is also the sociopath. For him, bad deeds are their own reward. He is otherwise like the empath. Sociopaths don't survive long in our society, but then they aren't immortal. A race of immortal people would probably have more evil people in it, not because immortality causes evil (although I'd imagine it causes a certain amount of apathy) but because evil immortal people can't be killed.

    Most people cannot be simply classified as one or the other. We are all empathic and egoist in differing degrees, depending upon who we are interacting with, what we are doing, and what mood we're in.

    Perhaps the most important distinction between the empathic and egoist motivations is where the value lies. Empathic deeds derive their value from the fact that the victim is a conscious being. Egoist deeds derive their value from the fact that the protagonist is a conscious being.

    In a computer game, NPCs are obviously not intelligent beings. Players know this, and although their empathy can be baited with quality dialog/animation/voice acting, most are not fooled in the long term.

    That window of empathy may be enough, though. Most people are sufficiently vulnerable to empathic trickery that they can cry at emotional movies. Some people, upon faced with the death of a loved character from a soap, are effected as profoundly as if it were a real death.

    To cover all bases, there should be long-term consequences for your actions.

    Perhaps that evil empire will eventually fall, but society will never reclaim the heights it once occupied, no matter what you do. Conversely, if you bring about an age of peace and understanding and then sleep for a thousand years, you could come back to a Universe which will never again be ravaged by total war, although it will not be perfect.

    At the more individual level, if you help an NPC, perhaps his family will offer you aid for centuries to come. (Of course, they think the agreement is with you and your descendants, not knowing you're the same person).

    'twix the two, if you help a colony defend themselves against slavers, they could offer you a substantial economic and political 'safety net' for future years. Perhaps they'll have a fleet of ships waiting for you, perhaps they'll vote your way on the galactic council. Contrariwise, if you enslave the colony, perhaps they'll still be under your domination in a thousand years.
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    If the game world constantly changed such that old haunts disappeared, streets rerouted themselves, names of places and organizations changed, etc. until what you once called familiar was now completely alien, would you yourself feel alienated (having not changed with it)?

    You're begging the question, sir! Naturally I would feel alienated if the world was alien to me.

    The real question is how easily could you adapt to an alien world. Inevitably this depends upon who you ask, and what's changed. For some people, coping with an alien world would be the toughest challenge the game has to offer. For others, it would be a trifle barely noticed.

    The key is to keep both groups happy. If your character is immortal, I cannot imagine he would not, over the years, have a significant influence upon galactic society. Therefore, he should have opportunities to mould humanity how he sees fit.

    The player who enjoys waking up with a different number of limbs each day would use his political and economic power to encourage the formation of dynamic forward-looking civilisations.

    The player who wants to place his half-pint of beer on the floor next to him as he sleeps and wake up a thousand years later with beer undisturbed and at the same temperature would use his political and economic power to encourage the maintainance of static traditionalist civilisations.

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    The ultimate question is "how do you maintain meaning for any action in a world that's constantly changing-- without introducing artificial, out of game constraints?"

    Well, you live in that kind of world. How do you do it?

    I have two meanings for my actions: good deeds that are valued for the fact that they happened; indifferent deeds which are valued for what they bring to me.

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    Quote:
    Original post by Wavinator
    The player is one of several immortals, so this would fit in. Maybe a "battle for the player's soul" would fit? You could have a faction of immortals whose philosophy is to let humans (ephemerals) live their life unmolested, another that looks down on them as no more than chess pieces, and another that is trying to uplift humans (maybe this last could be two factions? Guide us into immortality, or thrust us into it whether we want to or not?)

    I do like this as a theme; having three factions that loosely fit the stereotypes of "good", "neutral" and "evil" is a well-established meme that you can easily adapt to fit your world (I'd blur the distinctions so all three have good and bad points, but that's up to you).

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    What do you think about the idea of two secret human factions who know that immortals are walking the earth, one which has the "journey" philosophy, the other the "struggle against decay" philosophy.

    I'm not sure how big the difference is between the "journey" and "struggle" philosophies (at least in your interpretation of them, which is what counts for your game [smile]). I was considering them to be somewhat analogous. The "journey" could be taken as a "whatever will be, will be" fatalistic approach, I guess. However I'm not sure how good that would be as a faction, as they'd pretty much consider their lives uncontrollable with that as a philosophy.

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    I think I understand, but just to be sure: Are you saying be careful of noir? I'm no fan of noir at all, so if so, no worries there. I want you to get the impression that "it all works out in the end" from the quests and backstory, but the universe belies that fact by design (because things decay).

    That's not really what I meant. It's just that from your opening paragraphs I thought you might be of the opinion that the neatness involved in stories was a bad thing because it isn't true to reality. My view is that while stories have their own set of defining rules, this is a strength rather than a weakness. If you want to intentially break the rules of the story in order to more closely mirror reality, then there's a danger that you'll end up with more of a simulation but with the loss of narrative power. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but since most people expect RPGs to follow the "rules of the story" you might upset their expectations.

    In this case, using noir might actually be beneficial, as it's an established genre that would lead into audience expectations. The post-apocolyptic Mad Max like world of Fallout also helps shape what is expected. However, I think if you create a Star Trek-like space universe instead, people will expect the neat endings and be dismayed when they don't happen. That's also a good reason to have the philosophy or religion involved; if everyone is saying things like "there are no perfect endings" then the decay will be expected.

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    Quote:
    Original post by DaTroof
    Quote:
    If NPCs all had limited lifespans, why would you ever bother saving or helping any one of them if they

    were inevitably destined to die? Would you somehow need some permanent reward for what is ultimately a futile

    effort?


    First you need to consider the NPC's relationship to the player. If the NPC can be easily replaced, like the

    henchmen in Diablo, there's not much of a problem. If it's a unique NPC with a major purpose -- e.g., a

    wizard who is the player's primary source of magic training -- its death is going to hurt. If you're going to

    make the latter type of NPC disposable, at the very least you'll have to give the player some new options.



    What about NPCs the player invests in? I think this loss will hurt as well. Do you have any advice in terms of

    new options?

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    The player's interaction with the NPC during its lifespan should be rewarding enough to make the interaction

    worthwhile. It's okay if the NPC dies, even if it's a bit of a disappointment to the player, as long as the

    player doesn't feel the time has been wasted, and especially as long as its death doesn't feel like the end of

    the game.


    Would you feel more callous if NPCs were primarily functional? What if, for instance, an NPC was like Ghandi,

    the reason why a land was unified. With the NPC's death, the town drifts back into factional fighting. As a

    player your goal at this point would be to either find a replacement or stop the fighting through some other

    gameplay, or (as it's a open-ended game) maybe even abandon the land for some other.


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    Another thing to consider is making the NPC's death an element of new plotlines.
    ...
    Thus, the mentor's death is not only the end of one plot, but the beginning of a new one.


    I really like this possibility, and it's something that I'd like to somehow develop without scripting. If NPCs

    then die, you may be upset but anticipation for what's next may balance it out.

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    That's a more difficult question. Again, it depends on the time involved.


    Time is bedeviling this design. What do you think an appropriate time would be? A few weeks of gameplay?

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    If entire cities got razed once an hour, it would probably grow tiresome.


    Even through war? If New Orc City gets nuked, what then?

    I've been thinking of this (silly) example: The destruction of Pompeii. If the player is in Pompeii, even

    though there is volcanic activity, Pompeii will never be destroyed (because the player is there). If the

    player develops significant assets in Pompeii, it also can't be destroyed.

    Now this will lead to minmaxing to no end, but I can't really see a way out this. There is no way to make most

    players accept loss unless it's telegraphed as an inescapable part of story. This drastically limits the

    possibility space in terms events that change the game world and plot lines.

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    I can't imagine wanting a feature like that in a game. I'd be loathe to use it, yet its presence would make

    me wonder why I bother doing everything "the hard way." Knowing that there's a simple escape to any problem

    would also diminish the reward of tackling it. Maybe... just maybe... if there were limited opportunities to

    skip forward, or if it incurred some sort of penalty; for example, a chance of jumping into a future that is

    much, much worse.


    Yes, there needs to be a balance of penalties and strategies here, though I'm not entirely sure what they are.

    Short term time skips are necessary in order to create things in the game world. Constructing a building, for

    instance, inventing an item, or travelling to a distant location. Long term time skips are crucial to building

    up even larger things, such as a colony (this is an RPG-empire game where personal actions create empire-level

    effects, btw).

    I think the solution lies in somehow making something in the land/people who are left to suffer diminish. That

    could be the "right stuff" Gythrok mentioned previously. Maybe if you let evil triumph, it's harder and harder

    to find some resource you need, or the people are more and more hardened. (This could lead to a strategy of

    you wanting to let the land suffer, if you're either evil or seek to replace evil)

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    Quote:
    Original post by Wavinator
    What about NPCs the player invests in? I think this loss will hurt as well. Do you have any advice in terms of

    new options?


    That's a tough one. It would suck to drop tons of time and money into a henchman's training, only to have him get hit by a bus before he ever sees combat. I can't think of a good solution, other than not letting it happen too often.

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    Would you feel more callous if NPCs were primarily functional? What if, for instance, an NPC was like Ghandi,

    the reason why a land was unified. With the NPC's death, the town drifts back into factional fighting. As a

    player your goal at this point would be to either find a replacement or stop the fighting through some other

    gameplay, or (as it's a open-ended game) maybe even abandon the land for some other.


    Wow, another tough one. If you want the player to have any sort of attachment to NPCs, I think they has to serve a function. In your example, the player might want to keep Ghandi alive, because other goals are easier to accomplish when the town isn't broken into warring factions. Something like that gives the player a reason to react to the NPC's loss, and encourages him to achieve new goals that his death creates (find a replacement or stop the fighting).

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    I really like this possibility, and it's something that I'd like to somehow develop without scripting. If NPCs

    then die, you may be upset but anticipation for what's next may balance it out.


    Have you thought about how to handle it without scripting? My plot engine is pretty extensible, but it still requires scripts to glue everything together. The plots can be desgined generically to work in multiple situations and can have multiple possible endings, and they can even trigger other plots; but it's still necessary to script the basic logic behind each possible plot.

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    Time is bedeviling this design. What do you think an appropriate time would be? A few weeks of gameplay?


    For large changes, like eliminating entire cities, I'd say a couple of weeks, at least. I'd get annoyed if I had to learn a new world map every other day. That's kind of subjective, though. Some players might enjoy a game where the world changes in huge swaths, especially if they had a hand in making it happen.

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    Even through war? If New Orc City gets nuked, what then?

    I've been thinking of this (silly) example: The destruction of Pompeii. If the player is in Pompeii, even

    though there is volcanic activity, Pompeii will never be destroyed (because the player is there). If the

    player develops significant assets in Pompeii, it also can't be destroyed.

    Now this will lead to minmaxing to no end, but I can't really see a way out this. There is no way to make most

    players accept loss unless it's telegraphed as an inescapable part of story. This drastically limits the

    possibility space in terms events that change the game world and plot lines.


    Yeah, I agree. My instinct would be to avoid arbitrary destruction of the player's assets. If the player suffers major loss, it should probably be the result of something that could have been avoided; for example, a penalty for failing to achieve a goal. When the game penalizes the player for no reason but to introduce a plot element, it feels like the game is cheating. It might work if you also introduce an opportunity for the player to recover his losses. In your Pompeii example, the player might be able to retrieve at least some of his stuff by exploring the city's ruins and fighting looters.

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    Yes, there needs to be a balance of penalties and strategies here, though I'm not entirely sure what they are.

    Short term time skips are necessary in order to create things in the game world. Constructing a building, for

    instance, inventing an item, or travelling to a distant location. Long term time skips are crucial to building

    up even larger things, such as a colony (this is an RPG-empire game where personal actions create empire-level

    effects, btw).


    Time skips make perfect sense in that example. It's usually a good idea to let the player fast-forward the boring parts.

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    I think the solution lies in somehow making something in the land/people who are left to suffer diminish. That

    could be the "right stuff" Gythrok mentioned previously. Maybe if you let evil triumph, it's harder and harder

    to find some resource you need, or the people are more and more hardened. (This could lead to a strategy of

    you wanting to let the land suffer, if you're either evil or seek to replace evil)


    That sounds like a good approach.

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    Quote:
    Original post by Wavinator
    The ultimate question is "how do you maintain meaning for any action in a world that's constantly changing-- without introducing artificial, out of game constraints?"

    The world is only a means for the player to advance. Whether the current events in the world help or hinder the player's advancement, the player still walks away with exp., money, items, loot, etc. If the goal of the game is selfish, the player shouldn't care whether factions are at war or if some demon is destroying a village unless it effects his/her progress. If it does effect progress, it only offers new challenges.

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    • If NPCs all had limited lifespans, why would you ever bother saving or helping any one of them if they were inevitably destined to die? Would you somehow need some permanent reward for what is ultimately a futile effort?


    "Good" often means "fighting the good fight"... doing what an individual can, with the power entrusted/empowered to him.

    • If you could live so long that your reputation faded into history, would those deeds be to you meaningless?


    Personally, I act the way I do because I'm satisfied with my personality. People generally act and react naturally to events. Even in the very strongest examples of anti-humanitarianism (think Hitler), I firmly believe that these individuals were acting fully with a conscientious mind. They believed in their actions, therefore their actions (to them) were not meaningless. This is just human nature.

    • If the game world constantly changed such that old haunts disappeared, streets rerouted themselves, names of places and organizations changed, etc. until what you once called familiar was now completely alien, would you yourself feel alienated (having not changed with it)?


    Probably. I feel that way seeing my hometown falling to ruin right now ;) If I lived long enough for generations to disappear and entire cities change and evolve, then I think I would fully become a hermit, just so that my immediate surroundings remained the same.

    • If you could skip forward in time (such as by holing up in a bunker or using time dilation as "forward only time travel") why would you ever risk your neck trying to defeat the evil du jour if you knew it was destined to eventually crumble?


    I'd likely just use the time machine to skip ahead to when I could live in peace.

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