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An MMORPG where you can do anything you want!!

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Ahem... well, the title is somewhat appropriate, but please be assured, it's not meant in the n00bish sense ;) I'm just pondering upon an issue I'm sure many of you have considered before, and that is the issue of allowing the player to make more freeform decisions about what actions they wish to take. Thinking in the vein of a pen and paper RPG, the player can essentially do (or try to do) anything they wish. They are able to do as they wish because they have a human GM who decides what is and isn't possible, possibly with a little assistance from the game rules and background. They then either straight up allow the player to perform the action, or they perform a number of dice rolls to determine if the player is successful. I love this element of freedom, I think it encourages much more thoughtfulness on behalf of the player and really heps to draw them into a game, not by necessarily being realistic, but by offering them an almost infinite number of choices about what actions they can take. To me this has a similar appeal to customizing characters in a CRPG, you are able to stamp your mark on a game and walk away with an interesting story, and what's more, it's a social activity that allows a group to have a combined story they can share with one another and enjoy for a long time to come. So this has me wondering if there is any way we can get an element of this type of gameplay into a CRPG? Off-hand I can think of two ways this could be implemented. Firstly through use of user-definable actions and events. Perhaps we could have some kind of scripting system, or a tool that allows the user to create custom actions/events in a game prior to actually commencing play. In a sci-fi RPG, we could have a set of players roaming a decaying building looking for members of a gang (a la Necromunda). The level could have a pack of events suited to the environment and actions suited to the characters. For example, we could have an event of "unstable girder", which would allow the players to target an unstable girder and cause it to crash down around an opponent causing damage. We could have a player action "use grappling hook" which would allow them to scale otherwise unreachable heights. These events/actions would be available at the games discretion. Using a scripting system, we could allow the player to do more than the game normally allows by offering them simple commands such as "relocate player" for the grappling hook or "spawn destructable girder" for the girder example. This could of course include some kind of points system if it needed to be balanced, or we could leave it at the players discretion, which might allow them to create more silly scenarios, but would give the player smoewhat more freedom. The scripting language however, would likely need to be quite comprehensive to allow the player such freedom, allowing the player to modify most if not all of the games internal data, which is why I suggest that a tool to simplify script creation may be more the way to go. The other alternative of course is to have some form of human GM that has access to the same abilities the scripting offers, so the player could state that they wish to use a grappling hook, at which point the GM decides if this is plausible and relocates the player manually. This has the advantage that pretty much all actions/events will make sense as the GM uses common sense where the computer cannot, but requires that a GM be present for a game to take place. This means there cannot be a single player version of the game and that a players experience is likely only as good as the GM is capable. So what do you think, is this a good idea, do you have a better suggestion, or should we perhaps just stick to a more static set of actions in games? Cheers, Steve

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The problem with CRPGs is there is no human GM (nor in general time to query one). Most actions will result in a direct effect on the character(s) involved, which must be validated - either requiring strict adherance to the rules or vetting and implementing by human staff. Obviously this can't be done on the fly for any number of players, and almost certainly not in an immersive, graphically represented way.

Ordinarily, I blab quite freely about some of the mechanisms we're using. In this case I won't. You want to know, come sign an NDA. I can say that flexibility *almost* to the point of what you're describing is possible, but isn't always a good idea, especially if changes to a dynamic environment are irreversible.

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The inclusion of a human GM isn't the only reason that PnP RPG players are able to attempt more actions, the medium itself is inherently more flexible. Interaction is in a textual and/or verbal format, making dynamic games much easier to implement.

Adding new actions in a graphical computer game is not merely a matter of writing a little extra script, as players will expect extra animations and/or sounds to be included for each of them, and creating such content takes much more time than talking and writing about an action.

This is the main reason that graphical adventure games are shorter, easier and/or have much simpler puzzles than their text based predecessors.

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Okay, I take your point and somewhat agree, however, I am interested in playing with the idea still, just to see what (if anything) comes out the other end.

What is to say we need visual feedback, or that the visual feedback can't be simplified?

If we look instead at the problem from the perspective of a computer collectible card game, somewhat like say, Magic the Gathering. Each script could instead become a user generated card. The only visual feedback we would need then would be a picture for the card and perhaps a partice effect or something upon use. Now, for the sake of arguement, I'm going to assume that this idea works, as it is comparible to a designer of a CCG simply creating a new card, but giving this freedom to the players. If it works for a CCG, is it such a huge step to think we could have something similar that would fit into a more traditional RPG style game?

Of course, this would still require that card designers are competent artists (although card designs made in paint by amateurs could be interesting!), perhaps a community could be developed to overcome this obstacle, such that players had access to (perhaps paid, or perhaps free) pregenerated content created from the player base.

Could we simply represent the scripts in a RPG by particle effects for example? We already simplify spell effects in games to a series of particle effects.... you don't actually see someones skin catch fire and their eyeballs pop out when you cast a fireball at them in World of Warcraft (Well, I presume not as I haven't played it!) in most cases you get a simplified representation of the spell effects, yet it doesn't kill suspension of disbelief there because to an extent, players still use their imagination (or ignore that the spell effect isn't 100% accurate to life).

Another example of this are emotes, players often have a limited set of inbuilt emotes, but are then given the freedom to create their own through '/em coughs up blood' or something similar. Again, the players seem happy to use emotes that are not built into the system because of their desire to express themselves.

Part of my recent thoughts actually include the idea of having a separate roleplaying section to the game done in text/voice similar to a pen and paper RPG session but with computerised aids to ensure that dice rolls and rules systems do not slow down the process. So I wonder if the answer is to diverge from the idea of mainstream RPGs and make this idea a CCG or textual RPG.

Please note however, I'm not saying any one of these ideas is the best solution, I'm just trying to explore the ideas :)

Cheers,

Steve

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I think that after battering with it a lot you would probably end up with one of two things. Something that can be achieved by grabbing your favorite D&D book and playing with dice. Or something that's like the old half-text half-graphical games... Where you walk to the door, but then have to type: "Open door..."; If it fits in some script somewhere, the door would open.

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Thinking on this a little more, I'd forgotten to address the element of time taken to perform actions via a human GM.

Now, I also think that I'm looking at essentially 2 very different systems here as a human GM would still allow a lot more flexibility, even pre-scripted actions would still only allow the player to perform actions if they have been thought of prior to the adventure. I think this is as much as we could expect from a single player game, as if we could create a system that literally allowed you to do anything and get visual feedback... we would probably never need code another game again... and that' not going to happen any time soon!

So, assuming a human GM situation, what would be the best way of dealing with the amount of time it takes for a player to convey their wish to perform a given action?

Well, naturally, I think the only way we can give a GM enough time to deal with anything is to pause the game while people take actions. Pausing the game could potentially be an annoyance to other players and could disrupt the flow of a game, so we need a way to keep the game flowing, and to stop people taking advantage of stopping the game as they desire to the annoyance of other players.

Looking at what we'd like to achieve, game events and opporunities the GM would like to present to the player could still potentially be pre-scripted, just in the way a pen and paper GM pre-scripts a mission or campaign. It would then be up to players to spot these opportunities and react to the events using the normal system. Player defined action however would require the player to query the possibility of the action with the GM.

Now, looking at a possible system to deal with this, perhaps players could have a statistic representing their resourcefulness. This stat could influence the frequency with which they are allowed to query the GM. Or perhaps the players could submit an action request to the GM, who monitors a queue of such requests and decides whether or not it is appropriate to pause gameplay. Of course, the GM can pause/unpause the gameplay as and when they desire.

To combat annoying players, we could allow every individual player to save the current state of their game (minus party information), leave the game and return with a new party or GM, should they desire.

Anyhoo, that's just another option to look at... any further thoughts or dieas are welcomed :)

Cheers,

Steve

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Well, yes I suppose you could achieve similar results with a DnD book or a half text half graphical game. I guess you could liken this idea to a third option however. Offering the player a visual depictation of their combat/travelling, taking care of looking after the rules systems without needing to wait for a GM to look something up from a 500 page rule book. Something like this would allow a roleplay group to do what they do with less of an interruption to game flow.

As another example, I was recently involved in a roleplay session for the first time in a fair while. Two things became apparent to me. Firstly, the GM occasionally seemed to forget that my character was surrounded by grunts in one particular fight and amidst the confusion and so I never got attacked! Secondly, players often had to query the GM for a description of who was where and what they were doing, and we often referred to characters by their real life names as you couldn't easily see others character sheets (and rightfully so).

Now granted, with a skilled GM, these matters may be trivial, but with a computer system giving us a visual display of this interaction, it would never be a concern in the first place, leaving the GM to do what they should be doing... creating a compelling story and encouraging players to think outside the box.

Which leads me to another variation on this idea. Presuming something like this is to be used with a group of roleplayers, perhaps it would be a nice touch to allow multiplayer via hotseating (or having the GM run the show). This might encourage RP groups to use such a system, as they would only require one machine for the whole group, and I would guess it is quite likely out of an average roleplay group that at least one persn has access to a PC or laptop that could be used for such a purpose (I think our group would probably have about 3 or 4 available for example, though this may involve everyone cramming round a friends house!).

This would of course leave us taking a slightly different direction with the idea, as then the game would probably be more of a graphical representation of a game board... but then, is that such a bad thing? Don't get me wrong, I am still fond of miniatures and nice hand painted scenery being used to represent a battlefield or RPG scenario... but a computerised version of this in my mind at least would be pretty sweet :)

Just some more food for thought...

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Original post by Mephs
Now, I also think that I'm looking at essentially 2 very different systems here as a human GM would still allow a lot more flexibility, even pre-scripted actions would still only allow the player to perform actions if they have been thought of prior to the adventure. I think this is as much as we could expect from a single player game, as if we could create a system that literally allowed you to do anything and get visual feedback... we would probably never need code another game again... and that' not going to happen any time soon!


Don't you believe it. Literally anything is not a possibility, given an infinite variety in contexts. By limiting the context, or controlling the context of interaction, you can however provide a very large set of relevant actions - certainly enough for the intuitiveness (it's a box - I can open it) required to increase immersion in the gameworld.

There will always be further objects or interactions to add to such a system - and that's where the fun lies - the system needs to be forward-compatible in such a way that expansion is possible - the basic rules for MtG are a good example of this - things fit neatly in the sorcery, summon, creature/wall, interrupt and instant brackets. Getting new things to put in those boxes will always be a combination of coding and scripting to interact with existing mechanisms.

NWN within some restraints is the RPG-in-the-PC you're describing - it's mod community (and persistent game community) both have elements of this.

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Ok, I think if you were to take the first M out of MMORPG and developed something to work with the average PnP RPG group size, then what you have is an idea with a lot of potential.

Back when I used to play DnD, we used figurines and some kind of plastic sheet with a grid that you could draw on with markers like a white board. So the image in my mind is to replace that with 3D models in a pregenerated world. It wouldn't be about having a living breathing world so much as providing props for the story telling element of the classic pen and paper RPG. The bonus is that you can have some really nifty stuff going on for magical effects. Oh and flight was never something easy to depict with a 2d surface and figurines.

You could have the program inform the GM about random or preplanned encounters and the GM could then decide whether there should be one. Players would queue up their desired actions (I think a combination of a chat message and a proposed move of the objects in the world) and they'd be handled accordingly by the GM. Having everything layed out for you visually should make it easier to determine what's what's going and should happen. Present stats to the GM for each monster and player object and allow for automation or modifications at his discresion.

Basicly I'm thinking something to used as a presentation layer that can also eliminate looking up rules in a rule book. It'd be up to the GM to do the story telling and keep the players in line. So of course it'd be up to the GM to decide how many and who all are allowed in the group. Allow for modding of characters and worlds. It wouldn't be any different than purchasing a new DnD module or buying new figurine and painting it or using other objects for props.

You could get very close to being able to do just about anything.
Something like this could've been done a long time ago.

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Oh yes! I never really meant to imply this idea should be used with an MMORPG, I was just trying to play on the whole notion of a newbie wanting to make something impossible for their first game, but instead actually take a serious look at the freeform actions that seem so desired by saud newbie.

That is basically what I am suggesting kseh, except you have perhaps gone into more detail than I. I think you are right, this is an idea that could have been done with much older technology, but with the visual technology we have available today, I think this could greatly enhance an RPG groups experience. Being able to visualise something to the level a computer can would IMO make it easier for a player to be aware of their surroundings and as such include the environment more fully in their roleplay.

Is this perhaps going against the idea of roleplay in that we should be encouraged to use our imaginations rather than be spoon-fed with a fully realised world? Would there really be a demand for this or would it be more hassle to set up a computer for a RP session than it is worth? Would this be a niche market, and presuming it is, would this niche market be big enough to sustain a game or two of this nature (assuming that someone else tries to enter the same market).

Just some more thoughts to chew on!

Cheers,

Steve

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I definitely think it could be a niche market to discover. There are tons of roleplayers that are waiting to come back to PnP, but cannot, by lack of time or connections. Using this as a sort of server of games, a la diablo's battlenet, would probably be very successful, and the best GM would be always assaulted by new fans. I personnaly know of a GM who is always surrounded by new guys wanting to play with him. So, he has started asking to be paid for that, because he was spending six nights a week playing, and preparing the games was taking him too long to be able to cope with his jobs. He is not anywhere being rich now, but at least, he is paid to have fun with friends, BY his friends, who are only too happy to pay the price of a movie for a full eight hour RolePlaying session.

I'll admit that my friend doesn't sleep as much as he would want, but he says he doesn't care, and I would like to do the same myself...

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I'll echo winterdyne, NWN is the game you are describing. Personally I think it's the ideal multiplayer roleplaying toolbox, and I'm surprised no other company has tried to clone its GM/server - player/client model.

I think it goes without saying that you can easily do "anything" if there's a GM on the other end and you're willing to not have custom animations. People have been doing that by playing rpg's over instant messenger or email since the dawn of the internet. When most people talk about their idea for a game where you can do "anything", they're talking about the computer interepereting and reacting to it without a human GM on the other side. That's where all the problems come in.

Your two non-GM ideas don't seem reasonable to me. The first one is basically "the dev makes tons of possible actions" which is already what all game devs do; the amount of actions is limited by what the devs think of, the amount of time and money they have, and game balance issues. I don't really see the difference between this method and all existing RPG's except that you seem to want a lot more actions to pick from on the radial menu. Your second option, letting the player use the scripting system, essentially giving the player a form of limited GM power, is generally dubious in online settings. Some games, like MUSHes, do allow this. The players there can create their own rooms, and essentially do anything, but it is a strictly monitored and small environment where all players are assumed to be mature and friendly to eachother, and anyone causing trouble can be quickly booted from the server. In a standard game group, I don't think it would work well. The whole reason RPG's have rulesets to begin with is to settle disputes when one player wants to act out that he just hit you in the face with a hammer and the other player wants to act out that no, in fact, he dodged your hammer. I think the D&D player's handbook even has an explanation of why the rules exist pointing this out, something like "RPGs have rules so that you don't run into the problems you did when playing make-believe as a young child, when you kept saying 'I shot you!' and your friend kept saying 'Did not, did not!'"

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Modern gamers expect a certain level of visual feedback. If you aimed for a niche market, you would have fewer players creating content.

Custom emotes generally consist of text being displayed to other players, which can't really be classed as actions in the traditional sense as they have no effect on the game characters or world.

I'm not convinced that a computer assisted RPG as you describe in your earlier post would be able to compete with current IRC based games (run by a human GM with the aid of a "dice bot"), NWN or the games at Skotos.

I also don't believe that the advanced graphical capabilities of modern machines is a plus for this type of game, as that raises the level of skill and effort required for those wishing to create content, and discourages players from using their imaginations.

As I see it, your main concerns would include maximising the potential user base (by having relatively low system requirements etc.) and making content as simple as possible to create/reuse. It would help if existing inexpensive third party tools were supported.

I would also suggest thinking about ways to offer above average support for content creators on an official site.

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Possibly another way to look at this problem Mephs.

You're looking at it from a story line perspective (use a grappling hook, a girder falls, ect...) but think of it from a game engine perspective. In most MMO's there really isn't a girder or a grappling hook, rather there is an 'interactive object' that u can click and then does its action script and plays back a canned action. Hence u don't have a girder, just something that looks like one.

Basically what I'm trying to get at is that if u were to actually have a real girder, as in proper physics, ect... programmed in, u wouldn't need canned animations or a scripting system, rather it would do all the things u would expect a girder to do. If u wanted to pick it up and chuck it at someone, u could; swing or stand on it, all good. If u built the warehouse so that it could break or crumble, then setting explosives and blowing out the base causing it to collapse on the enemies inside is plausible.

So what u suggest (do whatever u want) is certainly feasible to an extent the engine allows. Something as simple as (semi?)proper physics or better AI will do wonders to opening up differnt possibilites, all without needing any complex scripting or GM to oversee the system.

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I will admit to having only played NWN in single player mode, so I can't comment too much on the similarities of my idea to that game. I do however gather that NWN does a pretty decent job.

I suppose what I would want to improve would be the ease at which content can be added to a game. Again, I'm sure NWN does a good job with this, but I've always had a few ideas up my sleeve to aid in this, which I wont go into detail with quite yet. That has always been one of my key goals and beliefs in RPG design, that content should be extremely easy and intuitive to create, and should ideally be able to be created in the least time possible. This should achieve the result of keeping the game fresh by making it quick and easy to customize. I think my ideal game may well be one in which we could create a total conversion mod without having to touch a line of code (except perhaps for script). I do however believe that engines can be created too generically and this can do more harm than good.

So I agree with your statement about ease of content creation/reuse.

makeshiftwings: I agree about your statement on the computer scripted events/actions, it could add the problem of being overwhelmed with options and would still be static to an extent while requiring a lot of preparation work. I think the idea would perhaps be best thought of as allowing a degree of flexibility in gameplay on a level by level basis. Perhaps we needn't create 1000 events for a map, but instead create 10 unique events for 10 different maps. Each level would then offer a more unique challenge, where most current games tend to offer a similar challenge in every level, albeit providing the player with new items/skills.

I was thinking perhaps that opportunities could be something that flash up as an icon when the opportunity becomes available, so the player would have to be observent and click the icon as and when it appears to take advantage of the event/action opportunity. This could remove being overwhelmed with 100 different options, of which you may only be concerned with 3 in the current situation.

This does still need some work, I am aware, I'll keep thinking on it, but I'm sure it could have some use, even if not as originally intended.

So anyhoo, turning back to NWN, as I am not familiar with the multiplayer game, what did you see as the pros and cons of its system? Was content creation easy or difficult? Did it adequately meet the needs of it's market? Could it have done anything better or differently? Also, I'd be interested in knowing what people think of the way it handled GMs, if it gave them all the tools they really needed to do their job, as I have a sneaking suspicion (perhaps wrongly) that this will be an area it could have improved on.

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What about "L Systems". Thes eare like a formal language. If you remember an onld programming language call "Turtle" that was used to draw graphical objects on the screen, it used an L System language. The beauty of an L System language is that you staret with a few simple "words" (read commands) and then build upon them.

For instance: Some of the basic words in Turtle were "Turn", "Move" and "Repeat". They also had basic parameters (like the number of degrees to turn or the distance to move), but these parameters were realy just an extended version of the most primative commands (like if the basic turn command only worked in increments of 1 degree then to turn 10 degrees all you would have to do is repeat the basic command 10 times).

A language based on L Systems could be used to give characters in a computer game a vast array of actions, as each action could be built up from a set of primatives. Aready in design some people talk about Verbs and Nouns. The Nouns are the objects that exist in the game and the Verbs are actions tha the player can do to them.

If we take these verbs and nouns and impliment them in an L System language, players (and designers) could build objects in the world that used them. All objects migh be subject to a set of default verbs (the basic set) and the object's designer culd combine them into more complex "Routines" that are the more complex actions (these could also be complied into a library that the player can access).

All you then need is to crerate a "physics" system that allows these basic verbs to be implimented in the game.

So each object might have a simple verb "Push". This would allow the character to provide a force vector on the object (direction and magnitude). "Pull" would do the same but move it towards the player (or the player to the object).

To create a rope ladder, the designer just creaates a verb "Climb up" and it them puts a "Pull" action on the player. Each Step of the climb would consist of a strong Pull on the player in a vertical (up) direction, a weaker "Pull" to counter act gravity and a pause. So from two primatives "Pause" (a control verb) and "Pull" we can create a rope ladder with the more complex verb "Climb".

Building such an L System framework would be a large undertaking, but once it has been developed, it could be used again and again in different games (so the cost over all will be relitively low) and even expanded uopn onver time (allowing the development effort and cost to be spread over several projects too).

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Original post by Mephs
I will admit to having only played NWN in single player mode, so I can't comment too much on the similarities of my idea to that game. I do however gather that NWN does a pretty decent job.

I suppose what I would want to improve would be the ease at which content can be added to a game. Again, I'm sure NWN does a good job with this, but I've always had a few ideas up my sleeve to aid in this, which I wont go into detail with quite yet. That has always been one of my key goals and beliefs in RPG design, that content should be extremely easy and intuitive to create, and should ideally be able to be created in the least time possible. This should achieve the result of keeping the game fresh by making it quick and easy to customize. I think my ideal game may well be one in which we could create a total conversion mod without having to touch a line of code (except perhaps for script). I do however believe that engines can be created too generically and this can do more harm than good.

So I agree with your statement about ease of content creation/reuse.

makeshiftwings: I agree about your statement on the computer scripted events/actions, it could add the problem of being overwhelmed with options and would still be static to an extent while requiring a lot of preparation work. I think the idea would perhaps be best thought of as allowing a degree of flexibility in gameplay on a level by level basis. Perhaps we needn't create 1000 events for a map, but instead create 10 unique events for 10 different maps. Each level would then offer a more unique challenge, where most current games tend to offer a similar challenge in every level, albeit providing the player with new items/skills.

I was thinking perhaps that opportunities could be something that flash up as an icon when the opportunity becomes available, so the player would have to be observent and click the icon as and when it appears to take advantage of the event/action opportunity. This could remove being overwhelmed with 100 different options, of which you may only be concerned with 3 in the current situation.

This does still need some work, I am aware, I'll keep thinking on it, but I'm sure it could have some use, even if not as originally intended.

So anyhoo, turning back to NWN, as I am not familiar with the multiplayer game, what did you see as the pros and cons of its system? Was content creation easy or difficult? Did it adequately meet the needs of it's market? Could it have done anything better or differently? Also, I'd be interested in knowing what people think of the way it handled GMs, if it gave them all the tools they really needed to do their job, as I have a sneaking suspicion (perhaps wrongly) that this will be an area it could have improved on.






The NWN GM tools are still very crude -- basicly the GM can place monsters or placeable items and spell efects (and assume control of one npc). Every thing else would have to be precanned.

Many/most of the persistant worlds had almost no GM interactions.

With a small group you could do the classic 'party' type adventuring, but the terrain it moved thru would all have to be precanned and the the time to create using the 'editor' could be alot more time consuming than the old GM paper method (and much much slower if custom scripting was involved).


Someday with realistic physics and scenery components and reactive/interactive objects you might get the flexibility you are looking for (look what you can do in Unreal Tournament already...)

Scripting on-the-fly is just too unnatural/crude and you might as well just try to emulate the table top experience (with a few tools to streamline it).


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So anyhoo, turning back to NWN, as I am not familiar with the multiplayer game, what did you see as the pros and cons of its system? Was content creation easy or difficult? Did it adequately meet the needs of it's market? Could it have done anything better or differently? Also, I'd be interested in knowing what people think of the way it handled GMs, if it gave them all the tools they really needed to do their job, as I have a sneaking suspicion (perhaps wrongly) that this will be an area it could have improved on.


The NWN GM tools are still very crude -- basicly the GM can place monsters or placeable items and spell efects (and assume control of one npc). Every thing else would have to be precanned.

Many/most of the persistant worlds had almost no GM interactions.

With a small group you could do the classic 'party' type adventuring, but the terrain it moved thru would all have to be precanned and the the time to create using the 'editor' could be alot more time consuming than the old GM paper method (and much much slower if custom scripting was involved).


I wouldn't call them crude; they are the best the gaming world has to offer currently. It's true, you can only place objects, NPCs, creatures, etc., and can't create entire towns on the fly as the group is walking, but how could that even be possible? Even with some sort of amazing neural implant that could directly translate the world you were thinking of to the screen, you'd be hard pressed to create a world in real time as someone is walking through it. And you must have been playing on different PW's than I was; the ones I played on had plenty of GM interaction, often with several GM's playing at once to manage control over large groups of creatures and plotlines.

As for the content creation being slow, again, I'd have to disagree. NWN's is one of the fastest, though it pays for that by its content looking more generic and repetitive than other games. This is an unavoidable tradeoff until we do get those neural implants. If you want to create an entire dungeon in twenty minutes, you'll need to settle for tiles and prefabricated models. If you want to create a completely personalized and unique dungeon, then you need to get in there and model everything by hand. You can't have it both ways. NWN could have made their content creation faster, but the cost would be that the tiles would be even more generic and there would be even less freedom in what you could do. Customization and speed are opposing forces.

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PnP GMs generally prepare reasonably detailed maps ahead of time too, so most people should be able to accept it being necessary for a computer based RPG. Providing (or supporting third party) terrain/map creation tools would simplify the process.

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Original post by Mephs
So anyhoo, turning back to NWN, as I am not familiar with the multiplayer game, what did you see as the pros and cons of its system? Was content creation easy or difficult? Did it adequately meet the needs of it's market? Could it have done anything better or differently? Also, I'd be interested in knowing what people think of the way it handled GMs, if it gave them all the tools they really needed to do their job, as I have a sneaking suspicion (perhaps wrongly) that this will be an area it could have improved on.


The NWN GM tools are still very crude -- basicly the GM can place monsters or placeable items and spell efects (and assume control of one npc). Every thing else would have to be precanned.

Many/most of the persistant worlds had almost no GM interactions.

With a small group you could do the classic 'party' type adventuring, but the terrain it moved thru would all have to be precanned and the the time to create using the 'editor' could be alot more time consuming than the old GM paper method (and much much slower if custom scripting was involved).


I wouldn't call them crude; they are the best the gaming world has to offer currently. It's true, you can only place objects, NPCs, creatures, etc., and can't create entire towns on the fly as the group is walking, but how could that even be possible? Even with some sort of amazing neural implant that could directly translate the world you were thinking of to the screen, you'd be hard pressed to create a world in real time as someone is walking through it. And you must have been playing on different PW's than I was; the ones I played on had plenty of GM interaction, often with several GM's playing at once to manage control over large groups of creatures and plotlines.

As for the content creation being slow, again, I'd have to disagree. NWN's is one of the fastest, though it pays for that by its content looking more generic and repetitive than other games. This is an unavoidable tradeoff until we do get those neural implants. If you want to create an entire dungeon in twenty minutes, you'll need to settle for tiles and prefabricated models. If you want to create a completely personalized and unique dungeon, then you need to get in there and model everything by hand. You can't have it both ways. NWN could have made their content creation faster, but the cost would be that the tiles would be even more generic and there would be even less freedom in what you could do. Customization and speed are opposing forces.



The maps are static in NWN you have to compile them and you cant do it on the fly. It would have been neat to be able to drop generic rooms into place incrementally (but thats not really a biggee since you could do that offline pretty fast as long as you didnt add many details). A drag and drop interface
(with a selected pallet of objects) would have been alot easier to use for the editor.

Having scripts to run in the GM interface (serving as templates) to drop entire ensembles of objects into place could have been added. You COULD setup NWscripts (ahead of time) to do this but it wouldnt link directly to the GM interface. They did have scripts for 'wands' that placed things, I suppose that could be expanded.

I still wonder why no company (Ive seen yet) has added a voice to text interface
to assist in the 'talk' typing. It must be hell for a GM to have to type out all teh story line stuff (precanning it via script or dialig editor is much too inflexible compared to what a D&D GM used to be able to do). It would even be great as an ordinary player to have free hands while talking (you really cant communicate AND play at the same time and it really screws up any kind of battle coordination).


The NWN2 forums mention that the new mechanism will have much more customization for scenery (like real heighmap instead of the stacked tiles in NWN), but this comes at the cost of having to download the world chunks or somesuch. There apparently are changes so that you wont be able to run persistant worlds like you did before (fewer map areas).


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Okay,

Sorry for the delay in any response as I've been away this weekend! I'm now tending towards the idea of a CCG/RPG hybrid, with the RPG part of the game being quite static and pre-defined, while having the CCG part of the game quite flexible, allowing for many possible customized actions (possibly created by the players?). I've decided that I've got to have some focus to the game to ensure that it actually gets completed some day, so may look at options of tying the game down to a specific setting rather than try to cater for everything ;)

So I'm now wondering about a few things. How feasible it would be to combine RPG and CCG style gameplay, whether the CCG style of play can be modified to fit a realtime combat system, and how to allow players freedom of expression in their style of play/character while imposing a built-in system of balance.

I think firstly, that the CCG and RPG styles will blend in nicely, I think it would lend to a style of play similar (but not completely) to games roughly along the lines of Pokemon, although I would tend to a more mature style of game through personal preference.

I think a realtime CCG could have some problems in that players need time to formulate a good strategy and read their cards which they may not have time to do in a realtime system, so perhaps a turn based system is preferable, however, I will think on this some more, as I think with careful thought, I may be able to come up with something that works.

As for a sense of balance, a points based system for card creation is the most obvious thought that comes to mind, but it feels like an idea that may lead to a bland selection of cards that are either perfectly balanced and artificial, or are hideously unbalanced due to unforseen combinations of cards.

Anyhoo, a little more to think on.... I'll see if I can think of any further ideas. Any further input is still appreciated, and feel free to continue discussion on my previous thoughts if you wish, as I may be going off on a bit of a tangent here :)

Cheers,

Steve

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Quote:
Original post by Mephs
So I'm now wondering about a few things. How feasible it would be to combine RPG and CCG style gameplay, whether the CCG style of play can be modified to fit a realtime combat system, and how to allow players freedom of expression in their style of play/character while imposing a built-in system of balance.


I think it can - but it might depend on what you're actually talking about lifting from CCGs and in what manner.

Quote:

I think firstly, that the CCG and RPG styles will blend in nicely, I think it would lend to a style of play similar (but not completely) to games roughly along the lines of Pokemon, although I would tend to a more mature style of game through personal preference.

I think a realtime CCG could have some problems in that players need time to formulate a good strategy and read their cards which they may not have time to do in a realtime system, so perhaps a turn based system is preferable, however, I will think on this some more, as I think with careful thought, I may be able to come up with something that works.



I don't actually think these are any different from a standard research system - when looking at new units available to build in an RTS, you have a quick butchers at their stats ('reading the card') before deploying a few to see how they really work. After almost no time, you don't need to read stats (or in the case of what we're describing 'rules') you instinctively know what the unit does. The same's true in MtG, I don't need to check stone rain to know it allows me to wreck an enemy's plans by destroying one of their 'land' cards.

Assuming that you're not really drawing from a random 'deck' (ie it's constructed by the players from known (to the system entities already or is interpretable by an acceptance and validation mechanism) 'cards', then presentation of options present on those cards in a fluid (and fast enough) way is down to good event driven UI design - perhaps a row of icons for cards in your 'hand' and a timer for when you can 'draw another card'. Possibly 'resource' meters for if you're tracking mana / energy etc.

Quote:

As for a sense of balance, a points based system for card creation is the most obvious thought that comes to mind, but it feels like an idea that may lead to a bland selection of cards that are either perfectly balanced and artificial, or are hideously unbalanced due to unforseen combinations of cards.


I think you may find that latter occurs, and often on one 'card', especially if you allow combinations of 'stacking' effects that have a low individual 'cost. Points based 'design a beastie' systems are a pain to design - the original Warhammer 40k (Rogue Trader) had a points based system for designing beasties and vehicles. It didn't work particularly well as there were a few combinations of options (I'm thinking stacking power fields here, oh and vortex support missiles) that were over or underpowered in relation to their points cost, but it did work in most general cases. At the end of the day though, it was designed as a tool to help GMs balance battles, not for player selection.

I'd release batches of 'cards' in patches or upgrades and test them as carefully as you can. This does lead to the fun of patch balancing - and this won't ever please all of your players all of the time. If you're really following a CCG model, then rarity of certain 'cards' is also a good mechanism to balance them - perhaps there's only one in your opponent's 'deck' and they're going to need a lot of luck to get it into play. Certain mechanical limitations between various cards can also be used - for example needing to sacrifice creatures to another one to prevent it attacking you.

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