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Hidden-statistic RPGs?

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I''ve been thinking about the various RPG systems that are built into RPGs - the AD&D system, Fallout''s S.P.E.C.I.A.L system, the Ultima Underworld system, Daggerfall, and so on. Something that struck me fairly recently was this; why does the player have to know everything so precisely? Why can''t an RPG''s system of attributes and skills be hidden away and the player just given his/her character''s capabilities and the capabilities of the character''s surroundings in descriptive terms, based on the character''s awareness of him/herself and his/her surroundings? I''m interested in what people think of an RPG system where the player does not know the character precisely, only in general terms. After all, in real life, we can''t give our skills an exact numerical value. The player wouldn''t know the character only had 3 out of 20 HP - but he would know he was bleeding all over the place, perhaps lapsing in and out of consciousness. Of course, knowledge of the character''s state would come from some sort of hidden medical skill (which of course would not have an exact value, but could be described as highly developed, or mediocre, or just plain rubbish, or whatever). This also allows possibilities for personalities. A modest character may undervalue his own capabilities, and the player in turn may do so too. A particularly vain character may think he''s brilliant, leading the player into situations he can''t handle. However, would people like a game where there''s no discernable levels, no explicit experience and no skill points to spend when you level up?

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Hey, I like the idea! I''ve been playing around with this for some time now... RPGs usually have much too many values and numbers in them. Players should not be concerned with such thing but enjoy the real interesting parts about roleplaying instead: Living, playing with a character, getting him/her to know better and experiencing the game world.

Numbers only distract from the true feeling of being in a world... But if designers want to do something alternative they face the problem of representing the state of the character in some other way. You have to be able to see if the hero is badly wounded (that one is easy ;-) ) or if the armour found is better then the one already wearing(this is more difficult)...

So I guess it is just the designers laziness ("How can we do this? ... Let''s do it with numbers, so we don''t have to think about it any more...") that leads them to the number-based RPGs currently around.

Would do you think? How can you represent that state or value of an object without numbers?
- The HPs? Maybe by letting the hero bleed if he is wounded, and by letting him comment on it ("Oh, I''m badly wounded!")
- Damage of Weapons? Can you make them look deadlier if they are better? I guess there is a certain limit about how deadly you can make a weapon look (if there are many in the game)
- Same about Armour
- Skills? It should be obvious if a character uses a sword efficiently - he kills faster with it! ;-) But is this enough?
...


------------------------------
www.BadEntertainment.net

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Games which hide statistics have been done before but they involve just slapping a label on that ability, so instead of your sword skill being marked with 1-10, it would have different levels instead, like poor, medium, deathgod. To me this seems just as unrealistic as a game which shows you the numbers but just a little harder to make sense out of. Making RPG''s on a computer shouldn''t be just like a paper based RPG, but with a mouse. The whole point of a computer is that it is a giant calculator, the numbers should only be used by the computer, it serves no purpose to ket the player see them. I think your idea grbrg where the character can tell how good they are by the effect on the environment is a good one, it wouldn''t even need to be that explicit. The armour one is quite tough, but you could maybe implement a system where the player''s character could compare them and give their opinion on which is better, if they are not well verses in armour then they may end up getting it wrong.
The health system could be done in a way where instead of converting HP''s remaining into environmental effects (character crying out in pain, guts spilling out) the HP system could be scraped all-together. Instead a realistic damage system would work much better. If the player has a deepo wound in their leg then they will limp all over the place. If they are losing a lot of blood then they may lose conciousness or even die if they don''t recieve medical attention. Instead of overall HP''s, a damage level would be recorded for each location. That way they aren''t gping to die from losing their pinkie, but it could detriment skills involving their hands. If they take a crushing would to the leg that breaks it, then it should be quite obvious to the player that the leg is broken, you shouldn''t need to show them any numbers for that.

A skill system where the player has to learn skills to use them is very unrealistic, and without showing the player numbers it would be hard to do. Instead the player should be able to do every action by default, A few things might be so complicated that they have no chance with it, but things like swinging a club or using a shield shoiuld always be available, and depending on any training they recieve or how long they have been doing for, their proficiency should increase, so instead of missing all the time, the character would be able to successfully inflict deep wound or parry blows.

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For reference, you could look up the old monster thread "What''s with stats - RPG?", it''s right here in this forum. You can probably still get to it via the forum stats ( "stats" option in the navigation bar above).

It has a lot of discussion on getting rid of stats, or hiding them in a way that doesn''t lead to just another artificial representation.



People might not remember what you said, or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
Mad Keith the V.

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To many people, statistics are necessary to enjoy a game. They are the only way to show that you are getting anywhere. Most RPG''s are about building a character anyway. I would like to see if this is possible though.

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Certainly if there were to be an RPG where the statistics are hidden (assuming one does not already exist), it shouldn''t be simply a case of replacing the numbers 1 to 10 with "rubbish" to "god-like". That I agree with totally.

If the RPG system behind the game was hidden though, you could have a level of complexity that would have been impossible with pen-and-paper RPGs. Everything, skills and attributes, could be more intertwinned and enmeshed, with the affects of imporving one skill echoing in others. It would be a headache for whoever had to design the underlying system, but it would improve any game using it.

Rather than having a skill-list with "Sword - good, Unarmed - average, Mace - poor, Medical - excellent" and so on, the character would simply detail what he believes he is good at and what he believes are his disadvantages - hiding the underlying ''skill chart'' (although long-time players of the game would eventually be able to hazard a pretty good guess).

For example:

"As with all who served in the armies of Drynnoth, Alinorn was trained in many forms of combat - with or without weapons. He always had a preference for the edged weapons, particularly the standard issue short sword, and fared poorly with those weapons that relied on bludgeoning the enemy. His real skills, however, lay in that of healing the wounds of his comrades in battle, causing him to be promoted to field medic. His experiences in this position were probably responsible for his hatred of war, causing him to leave the Drynnorian 4th Legion."

Of course any such descriptive text would have to be at least mildly interesting and not a simple ''insert words here'' affair.

Nobody said it would be easy.

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What about simply showing the character's training and experience with certain skills? For example -

Weapon-------Training--Use

Short Sword--1 year----3 years
Mace---------3 months--6 months

and so on...

Edited by - Naaga on January 15, 2001 1:33:58 PM

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A person can train for decades and never be particularly good at a skill - simply because they''re not cut out for it.

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We''d discussed this before.. a long time ago.

The arguement i''m supporting is the same now as it was then.. we humans naturally put things in an order. We rank, classify, etc etc.
If you''ve had any biology then you know there''s genus, species.. etc. Our entire system of anything has ranks or something to it.. in order to have ORDER.
Imagine a military without a chain of command.. what then? No leader, no grunt.. you just ARE. That''s an RPG without stats.

Now, we had all admitted that a computer must use numbers to do things, so people MUST have stats. Otherwise you''re not making a computer game The problem was: do you show them or not (hidden stats.. like your topic here)? Well.. if you don''t show them, then people will speculate about them. People know they exist. To hide them is to merely open the door for interpretation. Then you''ve got people saying "do this for maximum effect" and newbies wasting hours on some guy''s hypothosis. I can''t see that that''d be fun.

Admittedly.. a single-player CRPG MIGHT stand a chance of having this and being successful. You do, however, still have to make an entire system for which the game will be based on; sometimes i think people simply want to use a system and they''re afraid it won''t seem right or fair to the player.. so they want to hide it. This is usually because the system isn''t normal "do this, gain this".
As long as you completely work out the system in a fair manner.. than i don''t think it''ll be a problem, hidden or not. But when hidden, people will speculate over and over again about what''s right and what''s not and what your system really is.

J
p.s. then some hackers will come along and find the stats and make a lil external module to the game which shows the stats

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quote:
Original post by Niphty
p.s. then some hackers will come along and find the stats and make a lil external module to the game which shows the stats


I read all of that message, thinking of a way to riposte, and then you spoil it with that little bit . You''re absolutely right of course, there HAVE to be some kinds of stats inside the game, or the system simply doesn''t do anything.
There aren''t many ways to avoid that. One is a purely random determination of outcome. That would mean that the entire flow of the game would be based on luck. Probably not very satisfying.
Another possibility is a very complex control system, a neural network springs to mind. I don''t really see how you would go about using a NN for conflict resolution, and I''m not even sure it is possible, but even if all the values are displayed you are still not much the wiser.

A good compromise is probably allowing the stats to be viewed, for what they are worth, but also providing an alternative way to play the game. If you do not need to look at the stats, and it''s more engrossing not to look at them, you probably won''t, unless you are one of those people that absolutely adores figuring out the numbers and maxing them out. There''s nothing wrong with that either. Just let them have the numbers, they are there anyway.




People might not remember what you said, or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
Mad Keith the V.

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Perhaps a variation could be doing away with levels and EXP. You improve by doing. Kind of like X-COM, you want strength, carry heavy stuff; you want to improve your aim, shoot a lot, and so on. With this system your stats are visible, but do not detract from the flavor of the game by imposing themselves so much. ie You notice improvements over time instead of level up jumps. Also this would keep improving statistics based on what you do, not: I killed 50 goblins and leveled up so now I can boost my repair skill.

I like the idea of doing away with HP though.

Perhaps a way to do away or diminish numerical stats would be a trait based system. If you are a doctor you can heal, soldier can use more complex weapons etc.



Jack

Edited by - JackNathan on January 16, 2001 2:42:12 PM

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Well, yeah, in real life you don''t know that you have a strength of 12. But then again, what does 12 mean? Does it mean you can fling a buick 100 yards? Does it mean you have trouble climbing into bed? All you know is that you''re stronger than someone with strength 11, and weaker than someone with strength 13. Probably. Maybe vice-versa. It gives the player some scale to compare to. In real life, you may not have a number for it, but you can generally know if you''re stronger than some guy, or weaker, or about the same. You can know exactly if you arm-wrestle and compare bench-presses. Rather than having to incorporate all the zillions of little ways to compare strength, it''s much easier on the player to just be given a number.

On the other hand, hide the rule systems and formulas. Make every skill check involve an insanely arcane formula that incorporates as many factors as you can think of, and make it clear to the player that pure skill number is not the only thing to worry about, and then you get a more rich game. At least, so long as results match intuition. If the player thinks, ''I''ve chained up my opponent, drugged him into unconsciousness, drawn a bullseye on his chest, and have the barrel of my gun touching his forehead, so I''ll probably hit this time despite my skill of 3'', then the mechanics of the game should probably cause him to hit. On the other hand, things like ''wearing a yellow hat'' should not help lockpicking. Yes, these are both silly examples, but I''ve played more than one game where things that seem like they should matter, like weather or injuries for example, just don''t.

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LOL Keith. I may not have maners, but i have a point, usually. As far as systems having to have numbers.. well.. there''s no currently known thing to get around it. Even a neural net wouldn''t work. A neural net would have to "think" about each situation. The simple process of thought on any one subject could last a lifetime. In humans, we have a concept known as time that restricts us. We all know we''re going to die. So we try not to ponder things too long, lest we die in the midst of pondering. A computer is not given life, thus it has no death. With no death, you can ponder any one thing for any ammount of time you deem nessicary. So asking it "would bob of strength 12, dexterity 15 and skill with bows of 20 ranks hit joe with dexterity 16 and evasion of 18 ranks?" The machine would ponder this, and most wisely reply "does joe have a shield?" The machine would also need to know every last detail to make a truely accurate answer. What is the mass of the arrow. How is the arrow weighted. What direction and with what force is the wind, currently. How fast is joe''s hand-eye coordination.. the list could go on ad infinitum.
I was reading an article about simulations. Sometime back in the 80''s, the govt of the US called forth some game programmers who''d made a popular tank battle game. They asked them "how do you make such a simulation and sell it for only 50 dollars?" to which the programmers wisely replied "well, we cut corners!" The govt then asked "so if you fire a tank shell at someone else, the probability to hit is done by a simple formula and not a true-physics one?" the programmers nodded to this, and the govt left.
The moral of the story is: If you want to make a decent game, you need not go to insane lengths.. unless you work for the govt

Of course, there''s a lot of things we''d all like to see implimented in games. My hand''s cut off, but i''m wielding a sword with my.. stub? I''ve been badly beating, i''m nearly to death, yet i can stand and fight with the best of them. I think this is why landfish has finally given up on reality and gone to consistency. If i can do this once, i can repeat it, else the game world is too random and unreal. However, how fun would a true to life simulation be? You fire an arrow through a console interface. You''re not drawing the bow. You have to remember it is role-playing in a sense for any game. You''re not that person. They have skills you might never posses. I can''t tell you how much shooters are annoying for the sheer lack of ability to aim well. In reality, if you walked near to a person and wanted to shoot them, you look and aim. But pretend you''re a game character controlled by a spastic person. You try to aim at people and start shooting wildly all over the place in an attempt to hit one person who''s standing still. I can tell you right now, that''s nothing like wielding a real gun. It really is point and click. That''s why most games have a poor implimentation of auto aim. "ok, i''m james bond, who, in the movies, has NEVER EVER missed the person he''s aimed for, even when doing a swan dive off some high place into a roll then doing a couple flips and finally landing. He shot 10 people on all sides of him while doing this.. yet.. in the game, i can''t hit one person standing still in front of me!!!

So.. now that that rant''s complete.. we''ll move on Stats are important in a game for a reason. The game world is false, the character is false. But if the character fits in the game world.. then the story can become real. And the point to the game should be the story if it has one. If it''s doom.. then story is secondary. But a real game needs a story. I find myself more and more cheating and cracking games to make the stupid battles easier and simply to get a chance to see the story. A 40-hour game isn''t so if you remove the 39 hours of battles

So.. you can make your routines more cryptic, so people have a hard time deciphering them. But this means people will merely try harder, confuse them more, and pass out more and more bad literature on how best to powermax in your game. Personally.. that''s not a solution. Making it impossible to powermax is I''ll save that for another time though.

J

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