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Kest

Top 5 worst design elements of RPGs

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Kest    547
This is all based on opinion. Feel free to argue points or add more. I've omitted a few things that have been discussed in detail here, such as how unfun most battle gameplay is, and how terribly reliant most games are on save/reload. 1. Everything is a quest Everything is assigned, chopped into numbered steps, described in detail, and typed into a quest log. There's very little room for free thinking. Imagine toppling a primary enemy own your own to dramatically change the plot, without ever being assigned the task to do so. Steps could be taken to subtly help players find their way without directly giving them instructions. It would be especially important to hide the fact that you're helping them from them. Discovering things on your own is immeasurably rewarding. If they realize you're stringing them along, it will be ruined. 2. Assuming the player is suicidally helpful NPCs should almost always assume the player is just like every other asshole in the game world, and not some insane hero schmoe they can send on a life threatening mission for an insignificant objective for minimal reward. It mostly depends on how well the NPC knows the player character. If the NPC knows the player character is crazy and suicidally helpful from past quests, then it's not so bad for them to ask for crazy favors. 3. Chore quests One or two to introduce the game is okay, but keep them out of the primary gameplay. Weeding gardens, delivering messages or packages, escorting a person, passing dialog between NPCs, etc. Some of these types of objectives may be okay under certain circumstances, such as delivering an important package through a warzone where constant battle is expected. But don't just make the player run across the map for no good reason. 4. Generic looting Normal items shouldn't be worth looting. Items that are worth looting should be heavily quantifiable (pop caps, coins), weightless (diamonds), and/or rare (enchanted weapon). Everything that is lootable should be rare and valuable, or very effortless (via interface) to pick up in large quantity. There are some realistic approaches to this that would allow looting generic items up to a point. Such as making the shop-keeper industry become less interested in most normal items after owning so many of them, to the point where they no longer buy them at all. 5. Climbing to the top This one is probably the most personal, and there may be more players who will disagree than agree. In an RPG, I'm often a soldier. A grunt. A spectacular grunt, maybe, but still a grunt. I don't want to be arch mage of the wizard guild, or president of hippy town, or emperor of Jewel Kingdom. Regardless of the terrific things I've done for the game world, I want to remain a grunt, wandering the wasteland, saving random humanity. If it makes sense to crown the player for achieving something spectacular, then at least give them a choice. Don't just assume they would want that power and recognition. There are at least a few that don't. EDIT: spelling and typos [Edited by - Kest on April 20, 2008 4:33:20 PM]

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Bad design elements like that are a tiny problem compared with a lack of something good at the core. The culture of Morrowind or the emotional power of FFX easily overshadow their vast and quite frankly dreadful gameplay issues.

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Kaze    948
Quote:
Original post by Kest
4. Generic looting

Normal items shouldn't be worth looting. Items that are worth looting should be heavily quantifiable (pop caps, coins), weightless (diamonds), and/or rare (enchanted weapon). Everything that is lootable should be rare and valuable, or very effortless (via interface) to pick up in large quantity.

I'd prefer if the game tried to avoid items that served no purpose except selling all together.

No matter how little sense it makes I'd rather have the giant spider drop money instead of spending a hour bickering with a shop keeper over the price for a stack of 12 spider livers.

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Kest    547
Quote:
Original post by Kaze
No matter how little sense it makes I'd rather have the giant spider drop money instead of spending a hour bickering with a shop keeper over the price for a stack of 12 spider livers.

I don't mind items that are intended to sell, but I definitely don't enjoy looting the corpse of every critter I kill. It's okay (for me) to loot special or rarely encountered enemies, but not the general type.

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MangaFox    142
I agree with 1, 3 and 4, but don't really see the other ones as problems per say, but more personal taste. The problems I see with RPGs are the following:

1. Emphasis on story, but the story sucks. RPG story-lines are often badly written, badly acted, and poorly paced with emphasis on mystical objects instead of characters.

Example: Star Ocean 3 - horrible voice acting and the characters have no "character."

Counter Example: Mass Effect - Great voice acting, cool plot (if kinda short) and characters that develop (if only a little).

2. Too much text. RPGs should follow the saying "Show don't tell," meaning, keep the dialog in short bursts in order to allow the player to quickly read it and get back to controlling his/her character.

Example: Planescape: Torment - This game had WALLS of text. Great game but the amount of reading you had to do was ludicrous.

Counter Example: Mass Effect - Comes the closest to being a counter example.

3. Too many long cut scenes. You can make a story oriented game without taking the player completely out of the equation. JRPGs are the most notorious for this, though the worst offender, Metal Gear Solid (1, 2 and 3) isn't an RPG.

4. Non-Interactive world. Most RPGs these days only allow the player to Run around, fight, open chests and start dialog. This list hasn't changed since the first few RPGs.

5. Linear and repetitive scenario design. I'm talking about the design and layout of dungeons, the inclusion of puzzles, mini-games...etc.

Example: Mass Effect - Not alot of variation in scenarios. Heck, all the side missions are fought in the same building with the same layout.

Counter Example: Suikoden - Two different battle systems, interesting puzzles in the dungeons, and a castle that you build.

I can probably think of more, but thats all for now.

Peace.

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MangaFox, your list seems to basically be a list of personal dislikes or simply bad implementation, rather than an objective assesment of high level game design.

Quote:
Original post by MangaFox
I agree with 1, 3 and 4, but don't really see the other ones as problems per say, but more personal taste. The problems I see with RPGs are the following:

1. Emphasis on story, but the story sucks. RPG story-lines are often badly written, badly acted, and poorly paced with emphasis on mystical objects instead of characters.

Example: Star Ocean 3 - horrible voice acting and the characters have no "character."

Counter Example: Mass Effect - Great voice acting, cool plot (if kinda short) and characters that develop (if only a little).


That's not a design element problem, that's an implementation problem - the story sucking.

Quote:
2. Too much text. RPGs should follow the saying "Show don't tell," meaning, keep the dialog in short bursts in order to allow the player to quickly read it and get back to controlling his/her character.

Example: Planescape: Torment - This game had WALLS of text. Great game but the amount of reading you had to do was ludicrous.

Counter Example: Mass Effect - Comes the closest to being a counter example.


I disagree. Oblivion's lack of text and stuff made me sad compared with Morrowind's verbosity.

Quote:
3. Too many long cut scenes. You can make a story oriented game without taking the player completely out of the equation. JRPGs are the most notorious for this, though the worst offender, Metal Gear Solid (1, 2 and 3) isn't an RPG.


That's a personal opinion. Looking at it objectively, you'll see that lots of players enjoy and like that (there's a reason why the FF series is one of the top RPG serieses - because people like them).

Quote:
4. Non-Interactive world. Most RPGs these days only allow the player to Run around, fight, open chests and start dialog. This list hasn't changed since the first few RPGs.


How is this a problem? The world being interactive isn't the focus.

Quote:
5. Linear and repetitive scenario design. I'm talking about the design and layout of dungeons, the inclusion of puzzles, mini-games...etc.

Example: Mass Effect - Not alot of variation in scenarios. Heck, all the side missions are fought in the same building with the same layout.

Counter Example: Suikoden - Two different battle systems, interesting puzzles in the dungeons, and a castle that you build.


'Linear' and 'repetitive' are not the same thing, and lumping them together is just silly. Linear I have no problem with, and nor do you seemingly with your examples.

Repetitive is obviously something to avoid, but that's obvious.

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1. Load screens when entering a dungeon/house/whatever. I'm sorry, but is there a bigger immersion breaker?
2. Darn, my level 1 elven archer is 3500 years old, and he still shoots like a girl. You'd think he had some time to practice with his bow.
3. Weapons and equipment at ridiculous scales. Just how do you wield this ten ton warhammer?
4. Everything is exactly at the opposite side of the world. No matter what you need and when you need it, whether it's something for crafting, or something for a quest, it just happens to be NOT HERE.
5. You are the only one capable of saving the world. However, each of the 20 guards standing at every city gate will kill you blindfolded and with one arm tied to their backs.

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Funkymunky    1413
i feel like the reason these are cliches is that at some point, some game did one or more of these things extremely well. Therefore rather than completely disregarding one of these, a designer should just be careful about using them due to their popularity.

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Kest    547
Quote:
Original post by Funkymunky
i feel like the reason these are cliches is that at some point, some game did one or more of these things extremely well.

I believe it's because of a lack of empathic perception. It's being used often, it will expand the features of the game, I can't see how it will hurt, so let's use it. It's hard to imagine a designer actually enjoying looting every generic sword that's laying on the ground, or not needing the funds those swords would have provided.

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AGreen    122
Hi guys, this is my first post here ever, though I signed up a little while ago.

I agree with most of your points to one degree or another.

One of my pet peeves with many RPGs, is that there is just way too much to do.
Now that may sound like a great thing at first, and in some cases it is, but I find sometimes having a whole lot of things to do can be smothering.
I end up distracted from the main plot line, feeling like I'm not getting the most out of the game unless I spend 30+ hours ignoring the story, just doing side quests and missions. This kind of thing is fine in a game like Fallout or Oblivion, where open world exploration and experience is the whole point of the game, but a game that wants to be more focused on it's plot ends up feeling diluted by the dozens of other things there are to do at any given time.

As much as I like a game that gives me plenty of choice, I long for a game that is more concerned with telling me a great story than it is with giving me every possible option at every turn of events.

Though I agree, it is all opinion, many people love being able to choose everything.

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Bearhugger    1276
The 5 points of the OP would enhance realism, but I'm not so sure as of how it would enhance fun. This is one of the traps I'm seeing more and more game designers fall into. Assassin's Creed had a lot of realism, but, in my opinion, was more repetitive than fun.

Exploring is slow and some players (not necessarily me, it depends on the game) would rather have every quest clearly indicated to level up faster. One of the kicks in playing RPGs is making a monster out of a level 1 weakling. Having to find your quests by yourself would slow that down.

I agree with 5 though. Isn't it ironic how the cliché of the "tomboy princess that doesn't want to be a queen" so common in RPGs while you, as a player, are never given the opportunity to refuse becoming the king or queen?

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pothb    102
Quote:
Original post by Kest
5. Climbing to the top

This one is probably the most personal, and there may be more players who will disagree than agree. In an RPG, I'm often a soldier. A grunt. A spectacular grunt, maybe, but still a grunt. I don't want to be arch mage of the wizard guild, or president of hippy town, or emperor of Jewel Kingdom. Regardless of the terrific things I've done for the game world, I want to remain a grunt, wandering the wasteland, saving random humanity.

If it makes sense to crown the player for achieving something spectacular, then at least give them a choice. Don't just assume they would want that power and recognition. There are at least a few that don't.

EDIT: spelling and typos


Would you rather them being a high ranking weakling? Going down? >.>

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Kest    547
Quote:
Original post by Bearhugger
The 5 points of the OP would enhance realism, but I'm not so sure as of how it would enhance fun.

None of my top 5 are about realism. #2 was related to a conceivable reality, but not real world realism. If characters are hard to imagine in any conceivable reality, that makes them seem far less alive.

#1 is not about realism. It's just about structuring. What does a complex test amount to after you've been given the answers? Filling in dots with a pencil. That's what most RPG quests amount to. The essence of the quests have already been done for you, so you simply perform the manual labor.

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MeshGearFox    158
My favorite thing about RPGs, which they potentially, but may or may not actually, do is giving you an opportunity to explore.

That being said, one thing I miss that RPGs used to have a lot more frequently was a strong, eh, adventure game aspect to them. Item based puzzles and whatnot.

I guess in a larger sense that goes back to world interaction. Nothing's really been able to beat most of the Ultimas in that sense and what did really dissapoint me about Oblivion, more than anything else, was that of all the stuff you could pick up, none of it really did anything.

I think the notion of rigid quests isn't really useful or appropriate anymore. Space Rangers 2 does this really well. You have rigid quests you can take on. Pre-scripted. At the same time, there's a constant war raging in the background, which is entirely unscripted, and a leaderboard, and certain unique, named weapons for your ship which you can try to hunt down. In this sense, you can also quest on your own, just trying to find hidden caches and acting as a mercenary in a constantly shifting war and trying to rise up the leaderboard.

Hardwar also did this, sort of.

There's some other RPGs that did this too, I believe, but I can't think of them off hand. Where instead of getting quests, you quest on your own becase there are things to explore, caverns to prod, and the world-state means that certain actions are more profitable than others.

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Vicente    136
I'm tired of watching RPGs where you stick to the main quests (no sidequests) and everything is pretty easy, except the dammed final boss that kicks you to dead every time you try it, forcing you to backtrack and level up when you are just going to finish the game...

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Kest    547
Quote:
Original post by MeshGearFox
In this sense, you can also quest on your own, just trying to find hidden caches and acting as a mercenary in a constantly shifting war and trying to rise up the leaderboard.

I've played many games where you can operate on your own frequency, but everything is usually repeatable and of low consequence. And I've played many games where the objectives are unbendable, but the rigid setup allows heavy changes to the plot and game setting. I like both, but the first has no decent goals, and the second leaves no room for player decision making.

I propose the inclusion of some quests that have rigid goals, where the goal is not given to the player as a quest, but just as simple information.

For example, taking out the adon tower in the city removes your nemesis' ability to control seeker robots, which are used to police their slave population. You can obtain information somewhere about the purpose of the tower, and the rest is left up to you. Taking out the tower releases the slaves, and causes a major plot development. No one asks you to do this. The game doesn't even hint at it. The player makes up their own mind, and comes up with a plan on their own.

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DvDmanDT    1941
I hate sidequests which doesn't do anything except show up as an unfinished quest or give you a tiny amount of experience. Sidequests are great, if they are somewhat unique and/or accutually give you something. Perhaps some cool weapon, perhaps it unlocks a new part of the world or a shortcut which lets you travel around the world easier or something like that. Suikoden is a great sidequest game btw (collecting characters and various wierd items). I also like Dungeon Siege 2 sidequests, because they were somewhat varied, and often give you something intresting on completion.

Exploring is great, if there's a limit imho. I like to be able to explore small areas at a time, and unlocking additional areas as I progress (for example, Alundra). Unlocking can also mean I can go anywhere but the monsters are way to though until I level some more. I hate games which let me travel just about anywhere and adjust monster difficulcy after my current level (such as Sacred).

Looting is great if, and only if, there are items which are worth the trouble, such as in Diablo.

If I'm going to spend 90% of the game fighting, then please make me better at it as I progress. Diablo 2 skills are great, and DnD spells are good too.

More than one way to complete a quest isn't a bad thing.

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Telastyn    3777
Personally, I find games where you get stuck and are then going "wtf do I do now?" (see: Morrowind, Wizardry 6,7,8) the 2nd most frustrating gaming experience ever (after puzzles in a rpg/fps).

I'll take semi-rigid quests over that anyday.

And I'd place 'multiplayer' as one of the 5.

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Quote:
Original post by Telastyn
Personally, I find games where you get stuck and are then going "wtf do I do now?" (see: Morrowind, Wizardry 6,7,8) the 2nd most frustrating gaming experience ever (after puzzles in a rpg/fps).

I'll take semi-rigid quests over that anyday.


Morrowind just asked you to listen to people, occasionally think a bit, and read your journal or a book from time to time. Is that so hard...? I loved that part of MOrrowind. So much more immersive than being handed everything on a plate.

Quote:
And I'd place 'multiplayer' as one of the 5.


MP RPGs and SP RPGs are very different, and require very different designs (although really MP RPGs are very, very rarely RPGs).

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Red Ghost    368
Hi all,

#1
I agree up to a certain point. Some games used too much that trick (and were painful at it) like the first Dungeon Siege where the land formation (and even the map level itself) were only pointing in one direction: forward.
However, when encased in a solid and compelling scenario, this becomes unnoticeable (see Final Fantasy 7 for example).

#2
IMHO, this is more a problem of scenario design or scenario balance. If you can't tell the player what is the personnality of his character and his motivations, the player will question why he should do the quest. Regarding balance, a player must be able to decide wether doing the quest is worth it (interesting reward which may help in the main quest).
Either it is scenario driven (Final Fantasy 7 and its strong characterisation of the game characters) or it is left to the appreciation of the player (side quests of Might and Magic with their own rewards).

#3
I would be more cautious on that one. In a wedding, when you draw your wedding list, you must put own items of every price: this empowers people with low budget to still be able to make a wedding gift.
Likewise in a RPG game, there are quests that some players will do just wrong (the dice always roll low for damage). These 'chore' side quests are there to let players gain that extra experience needed to succeed in the level.
This is more a balancing device. However, you should not abuse of that device.
Besides, it can be used for interesting plot twists: a quest which starts as a chore can end up as being connected to the main quest.

#4
You do not know beforehand what kind of weapon the players will be proficient with. At every level, different kind of weapons are interesting: what is of low interest at level 20, is highly valuable at level 10.
Besides, some players may have their own objectives. Practice of paper and pencil RPG let you discover many different kind of players (some are even dwarf minded: they are ready to loot every little bronze coin available for a profit).
Again, the player must understand beforehand if the objects to loot are worthy of interest or not (Might of Magic 6 was not nice on that one).

#5
I guess the last reward (being the king or the queen) is like #2. It must be in character with the hero the player is impersonating. Maybe not a number 5.

#6 My own beef with RPG: no memory or know ledge of the environment

Over the years, it is always the same. Why is it that people who are in danger never man the defenses ? When they are freed from danger, they do not recognize you either (at best, the mayor may ask you a side trip in their sewers to hunt down rats ... ), or ruined buildings are never rebuilt.
If you accidentally put fire to buildings, or voluntarilly rob the locals, nobody ever accuse you. Nobody would even recognize you if you come back after a month quest(that's nice, they may have something more to be robbed of ...).
What is even greater, is that you can become king/queen of such blissfull people.
MMORPGs solve that partly because there are other players online who have their own memory. But one player RPGs still lack this kind of feature.

Red.

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Chrono1081    108
As far as game mechanics, I will say:

1. Random Battles
2. Boring battles that dont try and push the envelope creativity wise
3. Usual lack of puzzle elements.
4. Never any multiplayer
5. Chore leveling/quests.

As far as story and creativity go:

1. Theres always the same stale understory of "hero with troubled past meets girl with mysterious past and they form a rebellion to overthrow the empire and full fill some ancient prohecy that was told long ago and they save the world blah blah. This is boring and despite what people think, there are many alternatives. Not one story I wrote RPG wise has anything cliche like this in it. When you write a game story, the first think you should do to make a creative story is to limit yourself and not allow yourself to have certain cliche aspects. Yes it may take longer to write as you will hit writers block but eventually you will end up with something a lot better and unique in the end.

2. Game music lately in RPGs is subpar. Music IS IMPORTANT. Music can invoke emotion with no visuals what so ever, thats powerful. If you want your player to be emotionally involved with your game story concentrate on not only making a great storyline, but some great music as well.

3. Art. There are fewer and fewer "Beautiful Scenes" in RPGs anymore. I remember seeing the Zenan Bridge in Chrono Trigger for the first time and being speechless. I still think its a great scene. Too many games don't put enough time into the quality of their art and its a shame.

These are just nitpicks of mine but I write a lot of RPG stories that I would one day love to make into games, I design art for them, and I create music for them (I'm working on the development team and programming portion slowly but surely but I need more experience in that area first). Its a great time coming up with something you KNOW is unique and you KNOW noone has done before and actually have art and music and story to show for it.

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Telastyn    3777
Quote:
Original post by DvDmanDT
Quote:
Original post by Telastyn
And I'd place 'multiplayer' as one of the 5.


Inclusion, bad implementation or lack of?


Inclusion.

I never tried it, but Neverwinter Nights with known friends might be okay. As soon as you hit random Joes, the game experience drops precipitously. Even with friends in most games, you don't gain anything but problems with synchronization, communication travails...

Multiplayer RPGs are best left to Pen and Paper (imo).

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