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Drethon

Game time length with generations and seasons?

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I'm working on the design for an RPGish game that is based on moving through generations, after a certain amount of time your character grows old and dies and you must jump to a child. In addition I want to simulate seasons and weather so that crops must be stored for winter and food availability changes based on season and weather. I've been wondering how to avoid the game running on forever before you can move to the next generation? My current considerations are to run roughly 20 hours for a generation. Within this limit it seems like making a "year" (where a year could represent as many as 4 "real" years) be around two hours would be appropriate. This allows ten "years" and each season would be a half an hour of game time and a "day" cycle might last fifteen minutes. The problem I see with this approach is combat and other similar activities. Is it reasonable that you are talking with a NPC or fighting for a half an hour and the season has suddenly gone from summer to winter? I've considered the possibility that some activities would pause the progression of time or shift it based on complexity (combat and talking would stop time, crafting would slow it based on how long it should take to craft an item) and other activities would progress time at full speed (farming, mining, exploring). My worry with this is that it would then push the time span of a generation to be so long it isn't worth playing to reach the next generation. What are other people's thoughts?

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You can allow players to set how fast they want time to pass, but limit certain activities to a certain timing. For example, in combat players are forced into a 1 hour game time = 1 hour real time (essentially the same as real time), before switching back to player selected timing when all the fighting is done.

Remember to inform the players whenever the timing changes in the game, it is not nice to let players suddenly find a few years have passed without them knowing.

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A game with seasons that comes to mind is the old Lords of the Realms II. In it, the player chose when to advance to the next season, effectively making this part of the game turn-based. This is a logical extension to letting the player dictate the game speed.

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Si Hao

I like the idea of showing the player the current speed, something along the lines of a health bar but shows the current speed from real time to fully accelerated speed.

ruby-lang

Not a bad approach but my thoughts is I want to create a world that progresses with or without the player so the player can act on the world but doesn't really control it. Because of this I don't want the player to be able to dynamically change time while performing an action, forcing the player to decide what to do with their time.

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It certainly would be difficult to balance time scale between real time events and a game design that covers generations. Are you trying to fit in most of the adult life for each character? Like 21 - 50 or something? It might be easier to cut back on how much time is spent on each generation. Just focus on maybe 1 or 2 adventures for a person before moving to their child. But that could limit how well the player can connect to their character. It could also limit the feeling of character progression that many people associate with RPGs. I wouldn't mind that as I think the dramatic power progression of most RPGs is pretty silly (though I still enjoy it.)

Or move the focus of power from the individual to the dynasty. Your character doesn't get more powerful by gaining hitpoints (a few minutes ago you'd have to stab me 3 times to kill me, but now it takes 5!), his family gains wealth, prestige or influence. That moves the game style to a more political type game. You could still have combat, but it might be more army style than individual.

Maybe if there's a lot of slow traveling you could use that to move time forward quickly.

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One thing you want to watch out for is requiring the player to do the same thing every year, or having them run out of things to do in later years. Harvest Moon is an example of a season-based game, and I think one edition made it generational but I don't have that particular version so I can't comment on it, sorry. At any rate they had 4 seasons, 30 days each, days passed in accelerated time outside buildings but time was frozen inside buildings. I couldn't say exactly what the accelleration factor was, but if you played all day you could get through about 15 days, and if you played casually you might only get through 2-3. Personally I would have preferred fewer days per season, and also I would like to see a version that instead of being timer-based was energy based: you could play each day as long as you wanted, but each action used up a little energy, and when you were out you had to progress to the next day.

I also quite like the idea of being a dynasty, or as I envision it a pack of monsters which could do selective breeding on itself. Rather like the Tines in Fire Upon the Deep. Would make it a bit odd to include romance elements though.

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Original post by Spencer Bowers
Or move the focus of power from the individual to the dynasty. Your character doesn't get more powerful by gaining hitpoints (a few minutes ago you'd have to stab me 3 times to kill me, but now it takes 5!), his family gains wealth, prestige or influence. That moves the game style to a more political type game. You could still have combat, but it might be more army style than individual.


This is kind of the direction of my thoughts. While I want to allow a variety of play such as allowing the player to affect the world as a solo infiltrator, a major focus would be on family. While the player would gain skills in using items and can teach these skills to his decedents, the greatest power is in relationships. A player can build relationships with strangers but the relationships with the family start out very high as long as the player is not antagonistic. Over time the relationship with family members would drop if the player does not stay in contact but a single letter to a distance cousin could allow for an agent deep in enemy territory depending on your skills.

Using this approach, if the player wants to change the world, the player could choose to assassinate a king, build up an army or simply move family into positions of power and end up as the king when the current one mysteriously dies at a young age or through a marriage to the king's daughter...

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Original post by sunandshadow
Personally I would have preferred fewer days per season, and also I would like to see a version that instead of being timer-based was energy based: you could play each day as long as you wanted, but each action used up a little energy, and when you were out you had to progress to the next day.

I had one on gameboy color I think that was kind of like that. I think that time flowed normally as in other games, but you also had energy. If you spend too many days working till you're totally exhausted then you might get sick and have to spend a day in bed.


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I also quite like the idea of being a dynasty, or as I envision it a pack of monsters which could do selective breeding on itself. Rather like the Tines in Fire Upon the Deep. Would make it a bit odd to include romance elements though.

It would be interesting to see selective breeding in such a game. You not only have to hone certain skills to teach your children but you have to choose your mates carefully to maximize the children's physical stats and social circumstances. You might have your first child with the Duchess to ensure that the child increases your House's political influence. Then you father a child off one of your servants so that he/she gains certain physical traits. You raise and train the child in secret so it still has the necessary loyalties, and you've just created the perfect spy; loyal, skilled, and completely anonymous.

But the initial question remains. How do you handle such a long timespan over the course of the game while still allowing for detailed character interactions? How do you keep it from taking weeks or months just to get to the next generation?

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Original post by Spencer Bowers
But the initial question remains. How do you handle such a long timespan over the course of the game while still allowing for detailed character interactions? How do you keep it from taking weeks or months just to get to the next generation?
Does it matter? It sounds like the type of game that will appeal most to pencil and paper/rogue/DF fans, many of whom (myself included) are willing to play over a pretty long timespan if the gameplay is rewarding enough.

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Seems like kind of a bad idea to think in terms of generations, since the dynasty is more of a continuous entity that just gains and loses small portions of its population. But really, do detailed character interactions belong in a generational game? You would need to carefully make a list of the important social interactions you wanted as part of the gameplay and implement those in some sort of balanced and fun-to-play way, also challenging the player to evolve different strategies for using them.

I don't want to harp on the same point but, the numbers work out nicely if you think more in terms of a pack of animals, where children become adults in 1-2 years. That could be ideal for season-based gameplay: W number of days of pregnancy, X as an egg or helpless baby which must be protected, Y as a hungry hatchling/toddler, and Z as a child which can be given various kinds of training, where the time from conception to adulthood adds up to one year of game time. By comparison, a courtship might logically take one season, or maybe vary from half a season for a really easy one to two seasons for a particularly challenging and rewarding one. And each season might take 3 real days-1 real week of play; less for a single player game, more for an mmo style game.

Personally I find it more satisfying when my controllable creatures are basically immortal than when they get old and die after a few years, so that's how I would set it up. Might want to add some mechanic by which obsolete characters can be put into storage, metamorphosed into something new, or traded/sacrificed for some other benefit.

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I guess the question is whether the game would be focused on a single character at a time or on the dynasty as a whole. If you control one character directly then social interactions and other direct types of gameplay elements become more important. If you focus on the dynasty it becomes more of a strategy/sim type game.

I could see a game where you control your character directly. You spend the days in your manor planning, negotiating, judging, and ordering people around. At night you go out on the town and spread your influence in informal settings like restaurants, plays, or bars. Sometimes there's a special occasion that gives rise to unique opportunities for subterfuge or subtlety. I picture an RPG style game using a skill- and knowledge-based experience system.

Taking it in the other direction puts you in control of the entire household. You still have the head of the dynasty but you can give orders to any unit directly. I picture something like the sims where you're concerned with relationships between people (as Drethon mentioned.) Either way, I still really like sunandshadow's selective breeding idea. I've had an idea for a breeding game rolling around in my head for a while now...

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Quote:
Original post by Spencer Bowers
I could see a game where you control your character directly. You spend the days in your manor planning, negotiating, judging, and ordering people around. At night you go out on the town and spread your influence in informal settings like restaurants, plays, or bars. Sometimes there's a special occasion that gives rise to unique opportunities for subterfuge or subtlety. I picture an RPG style game using a skill- and knowledge-based experience system.

Interesting, I was picturing a cross between civilization and a dating sim (the kind where you can't make your character walk places) until you said that last sentence.

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Taking it in the other direction puts you in control of the entire household. You still have the head of the dynasty but you can give orders to any unit directly. I picture something like the sims where you're concerned with relationships between people (as Drethon mentioned.) Either way, I still really like sunandshadow's selective breeding idea. I've had an idea for a breeding game rolling around in my head for a while now...

I'm actually running a diceless online selective breeding game over at Gaia Online right now, lol. The players have evolved up to quadrapeds and figured out how about 2/3 of the chromosomes work (in a single week, lol, I'm almost running out of new content to give them). I was expecting they would be competitive and keep secrets, which would have made it much slower, but they chose to share info and cooperate instead. Also discovered that naming files in a logical way is a security hole, making it easy to guess other files' names.

A while ago I had a crazy game idea tangentially related to this - you selectively breed 'creatures' (although incompatible ones fight instead) but instead of being animals these 'creatures' represent memes, so your herd of them is sort of like your personal philosophy, which strongly affect how you socialize in the rest of the game. The main game was a combination of building up a tech tree from sticks and stones, adventure game puzzles, and dating sim.

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Quote:
Original post by Spencer Bowers
I could see a game where you control your character directly. You spend the days in your manor planning, negotiating, judging, and ordering people around. At night you go out on the town and spread your influence in informal settings like restaurants, plays, or bars. Sometimes there's a special occasion that gives rise to unique opportunities for subterfuge or subtlety. I picture an RPG style game using a skill- and knowledge-based experience system.


This is my basic idea of the game play except without the day/night separation. My extremely long term goal (may be overly complex and I can cut it short if it proves unimplementable) is to allow the player to perform any aspect of life when ever they want to. Go out and help farm, mine, act as a mercenary or work completely indirectly with social activities with the NPCs responding to your requests based on standings vs the activities they consider important (ex, basic survival).

Initially the player starts on their own and will spend most time surviving and teaching the next generation(s) advanced survival skills.

In the middle game the player has gained enough relationships with general NPCs or additional family members through generations that the player can assign friendly NPCs to survival tasks while the player focuses on performing advanced tasks (research, army leading, espionage, etc...) and teaching the next generation(s) these advanced skills.

In the end game the player has reached the point of a feudal lord type position where they are likely spending most time directing leaders of different types of tasks in how to operate in general but can still go talk to the foot soldiers or perform any level of operations should they feel like it. Actually working with the lower level workers would improve relationships with them and allow for increased efficiencies.

I suppose the real answer is I will need to build the basic game and begin playing it and have others test the game out to determine how much value there is in the different parts of game play to determine the balances of time.

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Ok, now I'm getting a clearer idea of where you're trying to go with this. At first you're just a no-name peasant under some noble. You start learning some kind of trade, and eventually pass it on to your child. Eventually one of your descendants is good enough that maybe they're put in charge of that operation by the noble. Alternately, maybe you buy your freedom and set up shop on your own. Then you can start hiring your own helpers (friends you've made while working for the noble?) You grow in power and influence and the game shifts from direct labor over to influence. You're granted a noble title and you win the game when you become king.

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In the end game the player has reached the point of a feudal lord type position where they are likely spending most time directing leaders of different types of tasks in how to operate in general but can still go talk to the foot soldiers or perform any level of operations should they feel like it. Actually working with the lower level workers would improve relationships with them and allow for increased efficiencies.

That could be a trade off. Your people would respect you a lot more for working in the trenches but the rest of the nobility would likely lose respect.

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Other options of course are to provide a constant slow time scale, but allow the player to 'fast-forward'. Like in The Elder Scrolls (and whatever other games), where you rest for up to 24 hours and the time advances that far in the game. This has the advantage of allowing the player to decide when they want to advance. Perhaps the time advanced could be capped at the resources the player has available - if you only have enough food stored to last 4 months, you can only advance by 4 months.

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Original post by Luhz
Other options of course are to provide a constant slow time scale, but allow the player to 'fast-forward'. Like in The Elder Scrolls (and whatever other games), where you rest for up to 24 hours and the time advances that far in the game. This has the advantage of allowing the player to decide when they want to advance. Perhaps the time advanced could be capped at the resources the player has available - if you only have enough food stored to last 4 months, you can only advance by 4 months.


My current thoughts are to prevent player based control of time so that resource management has to revolve around the time progression but your idea of basing manual time progress based on resources is an interesting alternative. I'll have to consider this, thanks!

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