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Magic and Fear.

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There are (at least) two views on magic, the first (common) one is that Magic is usable like a gun with Magic Points working as bullets in your magic "gun". This is used in almost all games. The second concept of magic is the " realistic" which is where magic is an elemental force, a mysterious and intangible warping of the world. Focussed, but not controlled by powerful beings.. (or are they pawns of the God(s) ?). This view concentrates on trying to portray magic in a more superstitious way, where it is something to be respected.. either feared or loved. Linked to "real" magic is the idea of gods, religion, belief systems, sanity etc. Where groups of cultists may gather in the woods to carry out evil rituals to gain the favour of their so called gods. [For more on this look for an old Ernest Adams article on this at www.gamasutra.com ] The first method is one that we know and use in many games. Whereas the second is very rare. --------------------------------------- 1. What is the difference for a player between playing a game which uses the first type of magic, and the experience of playing one which uses the other type? 2. What would be necessary to create a game of the second type that is playable and enjoyable for the player? Ie. Gameplay features.

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Man i''m impressed on all of your posts, you have really sat down and broken apart systems used in games (i.e. magic) and brought up some good point on how things could be changed. I want to thnk you for helping to branch my thought processes in new directions.

"There is humor in everything depending on which prespective you look from."

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Ketchaval, I shared some of my views on the Magic in that post:

http://www.gamedev.net/community/forums/topic.asp?topic_id=50435

I do not consider Magic just "a way to kill a monster", although it could serve such purpose in need. The world that I desctibe is more of the second type you describe, where Magic is something rare and only a handful of people know it''s true powers. The others are mostly afraid of Magic, of the power it consists.

Another way to ask that question:
quote:
What would be necessary to create a game of the second type that is playable and enjoyable for the player? Ie. Gameplay features.

is to ask what uses has Magic that is not destructive, or creatinve in some way (like healing, food). Well, frankly, that''s all I can think about - it could destruct, or it could create. Look at B&W: you can create Wood, Food, etc with Magic (call it Miracles, whatever) and you can Heal citizens, oh, and you can kill them with Fireballs (those balls are everywhere). This is a game where "magic is the idea of gods, religion, belief systems, sanity". It is enjoyable, or some say so. Here we have it.


Boby Dimitrov
boby@azholding.com

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Oh, completely forgot about the Illusions, but that''s because I do not consider this magic. It could be done in real world by hypnotics, etc. Maybe we should define magic and make a list of all types of it, so we could discuss it freely.


Boby Dimitrov
boby@azholding.com

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So what is this type of magic? It is the Old type of magic, the kind that lurks in Myths (Cerce turning the men into pigs, the sirens luring sailors to their deaths), the X-Men movie, and the works of H.P. Lovecraft. It is the effects of the supernatural on human society.

quote:
By BobyDimitrov
is to ask what uses has Magic that is not destructive, or creatinve in some way (like healing, food). Well, frankly, that's all I can think about - it could destruct, or it could create.



I was thinking more along the lines of how can we create a game where powerful, scary, reality warping magic beings exist, but have it so that this is manageable by the player. Ie. How to avoid the player being frustrated when their platoon of soldiers is turned into soldier ants.
There are two perspectives to this.
- 1. The player (and any units they control) is NON-MAGICAL. They get the excitement of dealing with a scarily powerful enemy and succeeding by the use of their wits.
- 2. When the player is a magical being, how can they control their powers; what is the aim of the game etc.


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BobyDimitrov, I thought you'd like this topic seeing as you were talking about similar concepts.

Chronoslade, thanks! though, in this case the inspiration comes from Ernest Adams (you should check out all of the Game designers note books that he has done at www.gamasutra).

Buster , v. important point you make there (realistic not = fun). I think that you'd make it fun by considering the whole of the GAME and working out where the entertainment factor comes from, and how to give the player cool stuff to do whilst avoiding frustrating the player with a harsh system.
Ie. "reality warping magic beings exist, but have it so that this is manageable by the player"

Edited by - Ketchaval on June 6, 2001 3:09:16 PM

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Powerful magick in game use terms I think has an interaction rate problem.

I see really powerful magick as kind of being like a nuke, or the Death Star, or some miracle cure. Hard to consistently use, and instead more apt for key, dramatic moments.

A game like Diablo relies on a high rate of interaction with it''s most important elements, the monsters. Machine-gun magick in this case is necessary because magick is an expected part of the game fiction, and conflict is sure and steady.

Really powerful forces can''t be used quite often without having a transformative effect on the game world. In effect, if used with the same rate of interaction as in Diablo, it would be akin to playing during (and causing?) a limited nuclear war. The entire game world would experience cataclysm as your lightning rod levels entire cities and sets thousands of acres of forest afire.

More benign magick would have hte same problem. "Ta da!" Everyone''s cured. Crops grow throughout the land. Etc.

Big magnitude things used repeatedly make it difficult to sustain conflict and challenge, which may be one reason why machine-gun magick is so prevalent.


--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

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Also what do I mean by "powerful, scary, reality warping magic beings exist"? Well, whilst having fireballs etc. being created could be seen as scary. But, the player will generally see this as just another standard gameplay mechanism ,
IF they

1. Take little damage (if they take lots of damage then it becomes a scarier type of magic- though no less mundane).

2. If fireballs are that common place that they are dodging them all the time (DUCK! another fireball, yawn).

3. If the magic has no effect on the characters or the world.
Ie. If the peasants that witnessed it are not cowering with fear, then why should the player care?

So mythical magic should be spontaneous, should be unique, should threaten the health of the characters and affect them emotionally! - It should be capable of unleashing horrific entities, of reshaping the world ... etc.

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The first method you talked about is an example of the designers succumbing to the marketers. Basically, you get a FPS with that kind of magic.

Personally, I think the best way to keep magic feared or respected or loved or whatever, is not to explain it in any manual or help. Don''t list all the spells, if you even use spells in your system. Make it really hard to get more advanced spells. Fireballs should be EXTREMELY rare, and townsfolk cowering in fear is an AI problem.

I think that the best would be to make magic itself extremely rare, and only learnable by a select few. The problem is, people want to play wizards all the time...so, apply a bit of realism, and everybody knows really simple spells. Like a spark or something. The people who can reach fireballs must still be rare, however.

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Yeah, there should be easy magic that anyone who wants to be a mage can use but very difficult magic that a dedicated player could master. The trick is to not make the early spells so powerful that your only choice is a sorcerer.
More exotic spells would really help too. I''m thinkng to some of the recent RPGs I''ve played and every spell is either offensive, defensive, or a stat modifier. Get some illusions and elemental magic in there! Someone with a better imagination than me may be able to think up some other types...

And I agree that really big spells like ones that may cause a Drought or an Eclipse should be learned in-game and not from the manual. These types of spells could require a lot of rare ingredients and a special ceremony to perform. Perhaps even several sorcerers working together!

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Backing up to the machine-gun analogy of magick, a key problem is that the ammunition is too readily available and depleted too slowly. A good middle ground would be for magick to be available, though access to instruction would be limited (mythologically speaking, there are only two ways to learn magick: apprenticeship or revelation. Revelation is an extremely rare occurence, even in mythology, which leaves apprenticeship as the primary avenue. The "master" figure would recognize potential, or the lack of it, in the "student", and would instruct to develop accordingly).

Magick ought to deplete the "reservoir" of the wizard - both physically and fantastically. (For my own reasons I shall refer to psionics henceforth, being more of a tech neo-future kinda guy, but the principles remain the same). Psi levels should be like health, steadily depleted and requiring rest, perhaps even meditation, to restore. For magick scenarios, the use of the magick could also come at the cost of loss of control - possession. Say the wizard made a pact with a demon for magical knowledge, then its use may give the demon more control over the wizard, demonstrable by having fewer benevolent spells and weakening the wizard when spells are not cast (you know how demons do).

In this way, magick would be a force that is generally not widespread, though available (a good wizard may see potential and take you under his wing; a demon may offer you the world and give you power... for a time; a bad wizard may teach you in exchange for your servitude for a set time - and maybe try to cross you). These suggestions are to be used in conjunction with other observations made here, such as ideas on how NPCs and the environment should respond to the use of magick.

(Darn, not enough Psionics in there! )

Oh, and Ketchaval, I''m also a fan. (Of Wavinator too!)

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Another approach is that of innate "magic ability", as seen in the X-Men movie. Ie. The character has the ability permanently, but can control / boost it temporarily.

This would be scary to normal characters, whilst not being of the really high-powered type. (It would also be fun to control such a unit, or go into combat versus them).

(X-Men a good movie, with more of a social / "realistic" context than most comic-book adaptations)
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Oluseyi, good ideas there. And Psionics is good, as it gets games away from the middle-ages cliches that are so prevalent.

There should be advantages and disadvantages to the use of magic weak or "nuke-style". For example weak wizards might want to avoid detection ie. using any spell, as they would fear being hunted down.

Ack! Enough with the fandom.

Edited by - Ketchaval on June 6, 2001 6:25:30 PM

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Hey, here's a weird magick thought I had a few years ago:

What about "Faith Based Magick" (no George Bush jokes, pls! )

Here's how it would work:

Magick is a powerful, ancient, and ill understood force. MOST folks don't wield it, but there are many stories, legends, and philosophies about what and why it is.

So the player is an aspiring mage. Not only does he have to seek out remote elders and quest for tons of hard to find information, magick fundamentally does not work ON COMMAND! Magick is unrealiable, for plot and gameplay purposes.

Magick isn't a chaingun, nor is it a nuclear missile. Magick is a expression of the Goddess (or God, or gods), and as such a player must be in tune with the Goddess through gameplay in order for magick to work.

As the player encounters challenges, their magick will or won't work based more on what the Goddess intends than the player's desire to chop up orcs (that's what fighters and swords are for). The player may wish to kill a goblin, but the Goddess, since she's a diety, may know that the son of that goblin is vital for lasting peace in the realm.


Frustrating?

For this not to be as frustrating as flipping a lightswitch that occassionally doesn't work, some in-game mechanism has to subtly communicate the will of the Goddess. Player's should not know how to get their magick to work, and the great fun would be in the quest for knowledge and in understanding their diety, as well as the conflict the game should impose on them between their own ego/desires and the will of the Goddess.

This models the experience some religious people are said to have had, particularly the Bible's Jesus Christ. In the Bible, God didn't grant magick to Christ like a genie's wishes. Nor did he get to sling around this powerful force for his own aggrandizement. Instead, magick was granted as a glory of God, and we might say that in the stories the Bible tells, Christ gained greater magick (so to speak) by coming into tune with and seeking the will of his god.


Magick is a Manifestation of Faith

Under a system like this, it's important to have a strong, guiding narrative, and for success to sometimes look like defeat. The player might even be required to make decisions he doesn't agree with, which later are revealed to have been the best choice for the common good. And when the magick manifests itself, it is powerful and glorious! (Faith testing plagues and Red Sea dividing type stuff, which bring escape and salvation to the chosen while utterly destroying their cruel oppressors)

Something like this could not use a banal interface meter or dial, btw. Something more impressive, like a complex narrative that acted as a vague sense or intuition would be required. But it MUST start out vague, as that's the experience of faith many of the faithful report (at least when first starting out)

Two good models for this: Inigo Montoya's honoring his slain father's spirit and asking it to guide him at a critical moment in the movie The Princess Bride. Also, the whole way Moses develops a relationship with God in The Prince of Egypt.

(Tank-mage wannabees would HATE this, btw, so don't go putting it into Diablo XXIV )



quote:
Original post by Oluseyi
Oh, and Ketchaval, I'm also a fan. (Of Wavinator too!)


Alright! One step closer to world domination!!!!

quote:
Original post by Ketchaval
Ack! Enough with the fandom.



Uh, Ketch, sir, umm... could possibly I have your autograph? It's for my sister. She's in the hospital. Yeah.

--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...


Edited by - Wavinator on June 7, 2001 2:43:26 AM

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Here's another odd idea... (Geeez, what is it with me?!? I don't even LIKE magick!!! )

Clairvoyance or magical dreams:

What if you displayed important scenes or foreshadowed turns of plot or events using some symbolic representation? Using a 3D engine and a scripting language, you'd reuse elements to make imagery. You could, for example, create a dire prophecy: using the game's King model, fully textured in armor, up to his neck in an ocean of blood, with the head of his son glowing behind him, for example, could portend betrayal, war and murder. Gameplay would be influenced by acting on this vision, but the player might not know exactly what it meant (and for replay, the symbolism could change to represent different things)

This type of magick wouldn't so much be a force the player would throw around, but would represent his attunement with the force of magick itself.


--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...


Edited by - Wavinator on June 7, 2001 3:05:07 AM

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A concept of magic I''ve been playing around with is to
not limit the player to a specified number of spells.
Ranging from low level spells like fireball to higlevel
spells like "armageddon" that rakes havoc among the
enemy lines.
Instead base the magic system on a language
of magic that gives the player a way to interact with aspects
of the game world, a way to control e.g. the four elements:
fire, water, air, ground. It is up to the player to write
his spells using this language and thus magic becomes a
process of learning to handle this language rather
than collecting mana points and scrolls. And why not combine
this with the above mentioned religous belief system.

The main drawback I see with RPGs is the standard spells
found in basically all RPGs: fireball etc. The magic system
soon becomes tiresome. And soon I end up only using one or two spells.

A magic system that requires studying and deep knowledge of the
concept of magic provided by the game world would in my opinion
make the game more interesting.

my $0.02
/Trysil

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quote:
Original post by Wavinator

Here''s another odd idea... (Geeez, what is it with me?!? I don''t even LIKE magick!!! )



Well, I''m sure that ideas for magick can also be applied to science-fiction style artifacts of ancient alien Civilisations, and unknown technology types. Ie. Terra-forming = a miracle. etc.
Matter transmutation = miracle etc. strange bio-tech creatures = demons.

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