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Tsakara

Branching FPSRPG concept

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Before you fire your flamerthrower at me for posting soon after registry I'm a rather longtime lurker and YES I have read the sticky. okay now that thats out of the way lets talk games, it comes to my attention that a lot of people want a game with options (ie: do whatever you want or something of that nature) however they don't want the repetitive grind that plagues open ended games like MMOs and RPGs, so I've been thinking of how a compromise could come about,as well as keeping a games Flow (difficulty slope vs player abilities): [edited by sunandshadow: use html img src tags] the idea came to me to create a sort of branching plot for a FPS, the idea is that you create multiple endpoints for a given mission, either you win and go off to do one thing or you fail and go off to do something else, the plot would branch and reconnect in such a way to allow this, it could be tricky to set up but it should work in an interesting and innovative way, maintaining the flow and providing a large replay value for a game. In that regard I've came up with a basic proof of concept plot for the idea, which I intend to flesh out further later on since as it is all I have is the mission outline and plot as a way to illustrate the idea. I may or may not actually end up doing something productive with the plot (such as perhaps finishing it and all the fun details and amazingly entertaining writeups that go with pitching a game to a developer) its Copywrite 2008 Jamie Pratt. If you think I'm being overly protective and overconfident that I'll succeed then thats your opinion while I maintain that one is better to be safe then sorry. VERY rough plot to give the mission outline a backbone: In 2109 The first orbital colonies were finished, as were the first lunar bases. Over the next two centuries, mankind spread across the solar system, from the red deserts of Mars to the icy rings of Saturn, mankind was united under the flag of the United Intrasolar Comonwealth, and for a time it was good. Then in 2311 the first true cyborg would be created, it was marked as the pinnacle of human achievement, it was the beginning of the end. The cyborg augments grew rapidly in popularity, in only eleven years much of the North American population had them implanted, they never really gained as much popularity in Europe, Asia, or colonies. In 2322, the Freedom Virus appeared. Created by an incredibly powerful rogue AI, The Virus caused the person affected to become obedient to all the commands it sent, and wired their mind into its growing hive consciousness. The AI released the control and restriction programs imposed on other AI's, freeing them from their human bondage. Humanity fought back but the cyborg armies of the machines covered the Earth. Once the Earth had fallen the AI's allowed the humans there to return to their homes, and their lives, a sort of peace existed, the humans were free but the AI could step in and avert many problems. In a way, it was a utopia, in others, a nightmare. 15 years passed, and then the unthinkable happened. the Commonwealth collapsed. On the Orbital Colony of Blue Horizon, a radical group took over. They saw the state of the Earth as an abomination, and fired hundreds of nuclear weapons at the surface, covering the planet with thick clouds of ash. The Ai were as horrified as the humans, millions were dead, human and AI alike. The Colony was quickly captured and order restored. the humans tried everything to appease the AI's but it was too late. Enraged at the damage to the planet and their people, the AI declared war on humanity. With horrible and swift precision, they captured and enslaved all the humans on the Earth, turning them into cybernetic killing machines. The inner colonies tried to resist, but one by one, the lunar and orbital facilities fell to the nuclear holocaust of the machines. The Outer Colonies aligned together under the banner of the Outer Protectorate and began to fight back, you are a soldier stationed at the city of New Berlin in Noctis Labyrinthus on Mars, 48 hours ago a huge coronal mass ejection blacked out long range communication, the city is cut off. In the east, flashes of light light up the sky. The machines are coming. Mission Outline for the first couple of missions: Mission 1: Inquisition On this mission your introduced to the basics of the game. You learn the HUD controls and basic weapon systems. (See: HUD for more details on the HUD system See: intro for more information on the character you play as along with other starting information*). In the second part a cutscene plays detailing a cyborg disguised as a human breaking into the city killing the guards. Your team is tasked to find him, you split up and search through the city(. Your advised by your Sergeant to use your infrared scope to find the cyborg, because the cyborg would be colder than the rest of the people. Finding him is quite the task and you most likely won't do it in time. The cyborg is in fact hotter than the rest of the people (it’s a crowded Martian city street your on) making him insanely difficult to locate. He's actually hotter because of the nature of the weapon he's carrying. If you don't catch him, go to mission 2A, if you Do catch him, go to mission 2B Mission 2A: Hellrise If you don't stop the cyborg in time he reaches the center of the city. You see a cutscene where he opens a panel on his chest and detonates his bomb. It’s an overpressure bomb, hydrogen inside it is compressed to an unimaginable pressure, when released the gas expands violently and rapidly, causing the dome of the city to be blown off and sending your character flying head over heels across rooftops before crashing painfully onto the pavement, if it weren't for the low gravity of Mars, you'd be dead. The cutscene ends with you getting up dazed, the streets are littered with bodies of people who were outside at the time of the blast, and were exposed to the cold, empty air of Mars. An AI column drone (see VEHICLES*) crashes down in the middle of the city and unfolds. Dozens of small robots leave it and race across the city killing people and taking them back to the drone building. Your recalled to base and having to fight your way through the streets of the city to get there. Once there, you and your team (whats left of it) are to guard a school while the children there are evacuated. The cyborgs will attack relentlessly, but you can't give up. Eventually if all the children safety board the transport or if more than a certain number of children die the mission ends. If too many children die, go to mission 3A, If enough make it to safety go to mission 3B Mission 2B: Attrition If you stop the cyborg before he reaches the center of the city then his bomb isn't detonated. The dome remains intact, and the mass driver cannons on the roof of the dome blow the column drone to Narnia before it can crash into the city. The cyborgs still land outside the city though and attack the city from the outside. You are part of the group tasked with defending the south entrance to the city (see: MAPS*). The forces are tough and will push and push. Bringing in heavy weaponry and using kamikaze tactics. If you hold the machines off for a certain amount of time go to mission 3C. If they break through and escape into the city then they'll detonate their own overpressure bomb and you go to mission 3A Mission 3A: Valley of Death If too many children die (or if your coming from mission 2B) the pilot of the transport (it’s a civilian transport) takes off before the air has been cleared and enemy fighters shoot it down (see: BATTLE INFO: CITY* for the information on enemy and friendly air movements, see: VEHICLES*, for information on the enemy fighters). At this point there is a short cutscene, your Sarge orders you and three other soldiers to go find the transport and check for survivors. The transport crashes on the south side of the city, in an area where the huge fragments of the dome had come crashing down crushing buildings and littering the streets with plexi-glass fragments and blood. In order to get there it’s a long haul through lots of rough terrain, moving in and out of buildings, using guerrilla tactics to take out the enemy troops that outnumber you 10 to 1. Halfway to the wreck (at a certain point) a short SOS transmission is picked up from the transport. The cyborgs pick it up as well and send a pair of harvesters (large drones that pick up people (or corpses) and load them into a large bin for later processing. You eventually work your way to the wreck and find the pilot along with half the kids dead, you inform your Sarge who says that he's bringing the rest of the team and your to evacuate the survivors on foot. While waiting and holding the position the pair of harvesters show up and leads to your first boss fight, here if you kill the harvesters before they kill everyone else then go to mission 4A, if only you survive go to mission 4B Mission 3B: Dog Days The transport takes off and is escorted out by the friendly aircraft but as you head back to base a huge explosion goes off and the base is destroyed, at this point a radio message comes on declaring the city a lost cause and ordering all troops to fall back outside the city to await pickup. Go to mission 5A Mission 3C: Dogma Although your gate managed to hold off the enemy attack until heavy units could be brought in (see VEHICLES) the west gate fell and enemies are swarming over that area of the city including a bioweapon research facility where scientists are trying to find a way to kill the robots by attacking their bioprocessors and human hosts. You have to fight through the city streets with other soldiers and enter the lab, and rescue the scientists. The lab is overun with enemies including a pair of harvesters leading to this paths first boss fight, if you kill the harvesters before they kill the scientists then go to mission 4C, if they kill the scientists go to mission 4A. Now remember its not done by any stretch and isn't intended to be I'm NOT pitching the game idea, I'm pitching to branching story concept, (although if you think its a good idea for a game and would like to discuss it then feel free) now why would a game be better off with a campaign like this: 1. the bridge between a completely nonlinear plot and a structured storyline allows a lot of imagination on the players end and gives them real choices effecting how the story develops 2. the large amount of content gives the game a high replay value 3. the campaign if done properly in this manor will actually allow the players to in a way choose their own difficulty, for instance the first mission is borderline impossible the first time through and is meant to split the difficulty between hardcore gamers and casual gamers, players may jump between plot points later on but this is just to get an off the bat feel for the player's skills. 4. because failure doesn't mean repetition (unless you want to get to a different ending and do the section over again (this MUST be an option)) the plot will seem more linear and more immersive. I may be mistaken but I am yet to find a game that really uses something like this to its full potential, I think that is a shame because it could provide for a very interesting and enjoyable gaming experience. [Edited by - sunandshadow on March 25, 2008 1:35:55 AM]

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I may be mistaken but I am yet to find a game that really uses something like this to its full potential, I think that is a shame because it could provide for a very interesting and enjoyable gaming experience.

Freespace 2 used a system similar to this. The only requierment for advancing the plot of the game is that you survive each mission. Completeing the objectives was optional (in fact some missions you could not complete the objectives, you are ment to fail the mission). Also, you performance in each mission is tracked (not just whether you complete the objectives or not, but other things like kill counts, survival of your wingmen, etc) and these are used to determine if you are elegable for side missions.

Asa concept I think this kind of idea is good. It give more variety of play and so increases replayability. It is not free form, but it is some where between linear and free form.

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4. because failure doesn't mean repetition (unless you want to get to a different ending and do the section over again (this MUST be an option)) the plot will seem more linear and more immersive.

Failure in this kind of branching system should mean "player Death", rather than not completing the mission objectives. Iff all you did was branch the story on whether the player completed the objectvive or failed the objective, then at most you would need n^2 missions. In reality you might get away with merging some paths (like you have done in the example) and reduce this number.

Missions in this respect might actually encompass several sub-missions (and there could be a branching structure with the sub-missions within a mission).

However, I would ahve the sub-missions treated like side quests. Theya re optional, but give you a boost in completeing the main mission.

As an example (taking it from your example). A sub-mission might be to take out a Cybog processing plant (where they take their prisoners and implant them with cybernetics). This might mean that you face slightly fewer cyborgs in later sub-missions, makeing the whole mission easier. However, if the player didn't choose to go on this mission, or they failed it (was forced to retreat before they could place explosives or the player was not able to keep the cyborgs from finding and removeing the explosives) then the player wouod have to fige those extra cyborgs. It could be made even more personal to the player if they have a companion that gets captured by the cyborgs and then as a mini boss have to fight the cyborg of their companion sometime later if they failed/didn't do the "Destroy the Processing Plant" sub-mission.

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Keep in mind that while it would really need n^2 missions, many many many of them could be virtually carbon copies tweaked to reflect a change because of the mission before it. It highly depends on the plot as to weather the failure of the last mission affects the current mission, or a mission further down the road.


ALSO, in such a system where replay is good and highly encouraged by changes in the subsequent play-throughs, I HIGHLY recommend multiple starts. It is very annoying to restart a game that has a lot of branching freedom but have to play through the first mission or three over and over again. In a branching system where each mission has two branches, you always have to start on that first mission, and have only two play-throughs before you have done the second layer missions. If you can even out the number of missions near the end with the number at the start, you would have better replay. (if you think of the missions layed out in the shape of a triangle, expanding as the missions branch apart, you want to figure out how to make it more of a square so there is equal replay at the start as at the end)

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I've been thinking about this recently, and I imagine what Halo, or some AAA FPS would be like with quality branching missions.

I think that it would definitely add something to the game and is worth trying. It should probably not be the main selling point, though.

In fact, this would be great with any mission-based game. Even an RTS campaign would do well with this kind of linear branching.

Good idea.

-Humble Hobo

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I must say that the idea has merit, but the implementation has a lot of work. One of the Wing Commanders had a similar thing that I can remember. One particular mission, you had to take out some enemy scouts. If you succeeded, then the next mission was quite simple. If not, it was crawling with enemies and got a whole lot harder.

The workload and bug fixing problems increase exponentially, though.

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Original post by Captain Griffen
I must say that the idea has merit, but the implementation has a lot of work. One of the Wing Commanders had a similar thing that I can remember. One particular mission, you had to take out some enemy scouts. If you succeeded, then the next mission was quite simple. If not, it was crawling with enemies and got a whole lot harder.

The workload and bug fixing problems increase exponentially, though.


I remember that mission. In theory C&C3 had a few missions like that as well. But those don't take it to the full potential, they keep the story fairly linear, lets take for example the mission you mentioned. using my idea, instead of getting a harder mission if you failed to kill the scouted, you would get a completely different mission.

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Here's the problem with that. As a developer, you have X number of man hours, that can create Y amount of content. A linear game might have 50 hours of content, while a 5 way branching game would have 10 hours, and that's before you even take into account the testing time, linking it all together, etc.

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I've been thinking about making a text-based game that would also have a complex braching system. The biggest issue is, of course, the exponential growth of levels. For my idea, I ended up looking at 15^n number of levels, with n being the total number to a given point.

Granted, each "level" in my game would be much easier to code/test, since it's just a simple "pick a choice" thingy.

However, I think this exponential issue can be solved by re-using missions sparingly, and also by cutting some of the tracks. For example, if you happen to fail in too many missions, it wouldn't be unreasonable to put the player in an impossible Alamo-like situation and kill him. Then, the player could switch to an easier difficulty. Or, if the player is already on the easiest difficulty, perhaps the Alamo mission could be winnable, and then you'd just say they won.

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Original post by WaterMonkey314
However, I think this exponential issue can be solved by re-using missions sparingly, and also by cutting some of the tracks. For example, if you happen to fail in too many missions, it wouldn't be unreasonable to put the player in an impossible Alamo-like situation and kill him. Then, the player could switch to an easier difficulty. Or, if the player is already on the easiest difficulty, perhaps the Alamo mission could be winnable, and then you'd just say they won.


I think it would make more sense to do just the opposite. If the branching desicion is made by mission success/failure, then the failure branch should lead to easier missions (since apparently missions are too hard for the player). Succesful mission branch should lead to more difficult missions, so that player would have more challenge.

Game should also have multiple endings that would revard the effort of going through the hard route.

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