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Putting the story in an open ended rpg

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What's the major problem with open ended RPGs? The story of course. Everytime. So you can roam the world at will and do what you please. That can be fun until you realize that to progress through the game you have to get back on track and find that guy someone mentioned the last time you were in town before you ran off to wander the landscape for hours on end. You always end up following the path that the creators laid out for you. Based on your choices, sure, but still its all set in stone so to speak and you do what's expected of you or you don't go on. And if you don't want to bring Mohammed to the mountain.... Why not have the story/plotline content follow the player? Would it be feasible to create a series of short scenes that work more like a scene in a stage play? Where you have a cast of characters, a backdrop, some props and a preset dialogue that leaves which-way type choices for the player to control their fate? Scenes written in a way that incorporates the types of characters that might be in the players party. Like a mage, a warrior and a priest. You could write a bunch of mini stories that have a set of requirements like specific props(equipment- famous sword or some such), specific character types, and specific locations and scatter them around your open ended world. If the player, during their explorations, comes across an item, or area that has a scene tied to it and they meet the requirements (like having the right cast to do the scene) then it starts and runs its course. If not, then they never know there was a scene they could see at all. Thus affecting the plot, giving the player something fun and quick or challenging to do and letting the player continue to roam at will. Then it wouldn't be just a clever set of dialog choices that influences your game experience but literally where you go and what you do. Trigger one side line and another goes away. Walk up on a certain area first and you get the story from a different perspective, like bad guys seem good and vice versa. I think this way of story setting could change the nature of open ended games from exploring with no point other than loot hunting to exploring being the point. No player would get all of the story the first go around unless they met every requirement for every scene to be played out and that would increase replayability by a large percentage. It would encourage players to play different roles in order to experience all the story content they missed before. I totally kept this short so as not to be overwhelming. I would like some feedback whether +/- or otherwise. I am not claiming this idea for some uber game i would like to make or anything, so feel free to take it and run with it. I'm only discussing it as a concept for adding story content that isn't old and contrived. Thanks

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It sounds pretty interesting but here is a small comment that came to mind.

Wouldn't this make players consistly read the story to figure out where to go instead of playing the game? But also it also makes it interesting like reading those books where you read a chapter and then at the end of this chapter you were able to choose the next consequence of what the character will follow if the reader chooses from chapter 2 or chapter 4. But this would make it into a interactive game with pictures and characters able to see. I think this concept would work if the designers in the gaming world think this way but it doesn't happen. maybe it does on a short occasion but i havent seen anything like this except for D&D type.

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Quote:
Original post by Ghostknight
It sounds pretty interesting but here is a small comment that came to mind.

Wouldn't this make players consistly read the story to figure out where to go instead of playing the game? But also it also makes it interesting like reading those books where you read a chapter and then at the end of this chapter you were able to choose the next consequence of what the character will follow if the reader chooses from chapter 2 or chapter 4. But this would make it into a interactive game with pictures and characters able to see. I think this concept would work if the designers in the gaming world think this way but it doesn't happen. maybe it does on a short occasion but i havent seen anything like this except for D&D type.


Not necessarily. I had in mind more of a system that allows you to go where you will, but instead of trudging along to point a or bringing back x amount of items to finish a quest or advance a story you would encounter stories in your travels.

Consider this a 3d game the likes of morrowind for example.

Picture a small map with an area the size of a small town. In this town there is a pub, an inn, a trading outpost and a blacksmith. Now stick a pin in each location and extend a radius from each pin for 50 yards or so. Now when the player comes into this radius and meets the requirements to play through a scene it gets loaded and the player temporarily loses control. Maybe its a scene where the blacksmith gets in a fight with his help and he's screwed on an order for horseshoes and notices you and asks for your assistance. If you say yes perhaps when the scene is finished the blacksmith enables the character to care for his own weapons with sharpening and such. Maybe during the dialog the blacksmiths helper alludes to getting even by torching his house.

All the actors are present from the beginning and in the game world. All the props necessary for the play are in your inventory or the npcs have them. The scene gets acted out with prompts for the player make choices if they need to. Each scene would be scripted to start a sideline, continue one, or finish one. Meeting the requirements to start a story arc that would need more scenes to complete it would give the player what they need to activate those other portions of the story when and if they make it through to the next story radius.

So you, the player, decide to see what the helper is up to. Go up to the blacksmiths house and presto change-o another scence cuts in and you learn a little more. Maybe you wait a few days to check it out and the house is burnt to the ground. All prewritten and waiting for the right character to start it going. Maybe you're a mage and you get the scene for fun but can't do anything to help cause you're physically weak and don't meet the requirements. And you get a different experience than someone playing somebody else.

The point is a way to deliver immersive stories to the player without forcing them to do anything. The fun would be in exploring the world and seeing what happens. Then doing it again as someone else to get a different perspective on the same stories or to open up new ones you hadn't seen before.
All rpgs with selectable dialog are basically like complicated which-way books from when you were a kid. Roll the dice, less than 10? go to page 15 where an alligator eats your shoes.

How many times have you played a rpg where the obvious choice in a conversation stared you in the face. And you're sitting there thinking, do i make the nice choice or the mean one? Good or bad? Those conversations go that way to give the player the illusion of consequence. But you really know that the consequences might be more along the lines of, "If I choose to help maybe he'll hook me up with a new sword, or If I say no I can kill him and take it." Either way you just want the damned sword to play with. But consider the idea that the consequences of your actions aren't immediately known. You could inadvertantly trigger a series of events that change the nature of the game world and learn about what did later on as part of a different story arc. Most gamers these days know what is going to happen when they tell an NPC that they'll go check out that cave. It's always obvious. Morrowind was great at providing all kinds of dungeon environments to roam around in endlessly all over the map, filled with more loot than you could carry. But you always ended up going back to where you left off with the story to get it going again. There was no point to looting the caves and shipwrecks except for the loot itself.



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What your propose is very close to side-quests in games like Oblivion. Of course there is a main plot, and you roam the land doing pointless dungeons, from from time to time you fall upon a situation where you can help and have a short-spanned adventure, which is what we call side-quests. What I have difficulties understanding is in what sense your proposition enhances that system which already exists.

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instead of getting the same story everytime you play, you could mix up what parts certain character classes get to see. Instead of running up on someone standing out the middle of nowhere waiting to talk to you, you could get thrown into situations where you have limited control on the outcome. Instead of choosing whether or not to play a role for a character you made, the role kind of plays YOU based on what character you made and where you go. The difference is in the kind of experience you can provide the player. Instead of forcing them to sort it out through vague hints and pointless dialogue, you could show them what situation they are in and let them play through it. From main plot to side plot.

You could definitely enhance the replayability of an RPG by limiting the number and type of stories a player can experience in any given session. Give them a reason to do it again or do it a diferent way.

What if you were wondering around in oblivion and a cutscene started up where a brigand came out of nowhere and coldcocked you and took all your gear? And you wake up to birds chirping at you in your undies and you see some muddy bootprints off into the woods? What would you really do? Go after his ass? Leave it alone? In a way, this system would allow the player to experience a world that is new and exciting (like morrowind) and allow them to play it as themselves, doing what you would do if that dude on the screen was you. Which is probably what most people do when playing their games. Real life throws strange things at you sometimes and you play the hand your dealt. Games stack the cards.

There isn't much unknown factor once you've figured out the rules is there? How many RTS games have you played where ultimate victory came from creating a horde of whatever and smashing the enemy with sheer numbers? How many did you play like that after warcraft 1? Same rules always applied, once you figured out the way the game worked you owned it. Same with rpgs. Where is the challenge? Most people really play through them for the FUN of clicking and profiling a character to be as awesome as they can be. Same thing is going on in WOW. Once you start killing things in one or two hits no matter what, what then? You shelve it and buy another hoping that it is diferent. Most of the fun I've had with RPGs is in getting to the top, but its never very hard once you figure out the best way to do it.

Let me ask you this. If you could play a RPG that threw all kinds of situations at you like an astronaut training program, would you?

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What you're talking about sounds like scripted events coupled with side-quests, and I think its an absolutely brilliant idea. I love the idea that the quests would be triggered by a combination of elements all coming together, so everything for the adventure would be right there. And no, I don't think side-quests in games now are very much like what you're suggesting.

I've always had a problem with quests in games like Morrowind, when they wait around for you until you are ready. It's much too game-y, like an arcade. Yes Morrowind is a game, but my problem stems from the fact that these specific types of games are trying to immerse you in another living, breathing world, so it seems counter-intuitive that everything in the game world should cater to you. Its not like that in real life.

I will have to think more about this. Thanks for the idea.

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Yeah I like this too. Its basically taking the nature of sidequests (anywhere everywhere) and combining them with the main plot. So basically the main plot is constructed by a series of this triggered plot scenes. Would definitely be an interesting idea to try out.

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pretty sure i saw this as a post once, but ill just say it

Basically the story is played out by the NPC's, the PC can take control or not
but they feel the effects as the story continues, in the mean time they can do whatever they want, take up raiding caravans, seducing partners whatever

I think it would make the world seem much more alive, then oh the dragons attacking talk to bob, you go wander of for 10 hours, come back talk to bob and the dragon attacks.

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Seems to me that this might had a fun factor to stand alone RPGs, I just can't see this happening any time soon in MMOs. The sheer amount of time it would take to design and script all these scenerios seems crazy. One thing that bugs me right now is that you can have a quest log in a lot of games. That blacksmith is just going to wait indefinately for you to find that extra couple bars of iron. Multiple events could be triggered at one time, you only have enough time to finish a few of them or maybe just one of them. Creating some level of randomness and different scenerios could provide the same stuff but change end game decisions. It would have to be complicated enough to remain interesting but simple enough to implement.

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In all honesty my original idea for Staged Scenes was for a sci fi setting. Mostly because ANYTHING is doable in science fiction. You could easily take every half baked sci-fi plot there ever was and script them for certain character types, ships, locations,etc. And then give the player %25 of them for every game they play. Give each story some kind of punish/reward thing at the end. Many players would get a unique experience, and you wouldn't have to participate in the stories at all. Just witness them, see what happens to you, what you get, and move on. Go where you want, visit some dusty old asteroid or whatever and see what happens.
Anyone ever play Sqauresoft's Vagrant Story? I don't remember choosing a damned thing in that game. No sie quests either.I thought it was perfect. The story was very good and all I had to do was get to where I was going and watch it. Then of course I had to trash the badguy, but the story was delivered just to set the mood. All in all it was what any good RPG should be. It let me be that guy and made me feel for his situation... and it was fun to play.

I think as long as you have limited types for your cast of characters, you could do any number of stories and ensure that the player has to play it through many times to get them all. If you made 30 scenes that carried you through being a fighter from beginning to end. But 5 of them require you to be evil, 5 require you to have killed 20 mages prior(the player doesn't know these requirements) and 5 require you to be good. The other 15 will play out as long as you are a fighter no matter the specifics, they just have to get to where the action is. You make those 15 play out smartly from beginning to end and the other 15 are there for flavor. Every player that plays a fighter has a real good chance at seeing the basic 15 scenes for fighters and even completing the game without seeing any of the other scenes play through. You do that for every character type, for different party setups and maybe a few special items or party members and there you go. An open ended, story driven, RPG that can give you a reason to go to unusual places or say the often considered wrong thing to an npc, just to see what happens only to have something actually happen for your efforts.

Keep the feedback coming. I've been playing games since I was 6 (that makes 23 years) and I'm sure I've got a few more good ideas up my sleeves.

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I just thought of something else. There isn't any reason why you couldn't scatter 50 seeds for one scene all over the game world to increase the chances of a player getting that scene, and once they've triggered it delete the other 49 of those and setup some new ones. The player can only be at one place at once right? This would allow you to really mix it up for every player. I even considered the idea that in multiplayer you could script scenarios that have two players (or 3 or 4)going at it hand to hand wether they like or not, or make them cooperate in order to get a reward if they happen to come into an area at the same time and fit the script. Done with in-game graphics, you could even have other players witness the scene even though they aren't participating. This kind of system could really shine in multiplayer if you could come up with enough scenarios, once again putting players in situations they might not get into on purpose (one's where they know they will win =).

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