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It's the Future-- Do You Need Physicality???

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In a futuristic RPG, what would you lose if you abstracted the towns and made all the NPCs contactable via the equivalent of a cell phone? Town wandering is such a common trope in RPGs that it seems almost obscene to think about axing it. But I'm wondering what your opinion is of not having to run around, find NPCs and FedEx back and forth between them to get or give them stuff. One thing I'm sure you'd lose is the relaxing sense of non-combat exploration. Although we razz RPGs for letting us wander into NPCs homes, rifle through their possessions and steal everything not nailed down, I'm not sure this is that big of a loss. But this would also apply to shopping as you wouldn't have the feeling of wandering the bazar, or the tavern/bar looking for opportunity. Another thing is probably the loss of a sense of place. If you call everyone on your cell, you don't really have the change of scenery that makes a world feel expansive. I'm not sure how bad that would be. Finally, you'd probably lose some sense of danger or physical threat. If you're safe and secure in some location and you call the mob boss up to tick him off, it's not the same as going to his restaurant down town. Thoughts?

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Original post by Wavinator
In a futuristic RPG, what would you lose if you abstracted the towns and made all the NPCs contactable via the equivalent of a cell phone?

I don't think much is lost...

They don't need to always answer, it can be controlled by the story progression (and "accessibility" in practice be like it used to be in towns). Maybe the range of the cell phone is limited, so you need to be pretty close to the NPC you're calling.

Hey! What about a cell phone radar? Maybe it only shows NPCs that you've exchanged number with, and with unique colors, that would be cool (still, they might not answer, and you search for them in the environment using that radar).

Anyway, I think, what you're thinking about, is great.

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Original post by Wavinator
If you're safe and secure in some location and you call the mob boss up to tick him off, it's not the same as going to his restaurant down town.

Then the boss can still somehow track you down using the call log [grin]

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Finally, you'd probably lose some sense of danger or physical threat. If you're safe and secure in some location and you call the mob boss up to tick him off, it's not the same as going to his restaurant down town.


Two words: Phone tracking

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I love the concept! I don't think town wandering would be eliminated as if you look at real life as an example, not all conversation options are viable through a communication device or through FedEx. A good reason for this may be legality, security or a question of trust. You also got the possibility of visually seeing goods and products being sold and if the social atmosphere improves, players will want to go to town rather than be forced to do so.

I think the whole sense of danger thing can be really thought out creatively. There is nothing to stop the NPC from trying to send you a bomb after you've finished their job. There is also the threat of being attacked because of the very information you have.

In terms of feeling that the world is less expansive, I have to disagree. I think by contacting your client, you can give your client a bigger life than the game's asset allow for - they're currently at a conference, they're currently having a party with their friends, one of their clients has been found dead and they are at the hospital for identification.

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I think one thing that is worth bearing in mind is you may lose some of the personality over the phone. IRL, we still meet up with people in person, even though everyone has email, IM etc. We can't even use the "voice" excuse with things like Skype and Mobiles, or even "face expressions" with web cams and 3G phones and what not. Yet, people still insist on seeing each other in reality.

I'm not saying that is a reason to keep it, I'm saying that maybe this shows that as humans, we like actually meeting people, and it might be more satisfying to keep it. Ie, I am using life as a case study of why you should keep it rather than making your game more realistic... if that makes any sense :P

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Original post by Wavinator
In a futuristic RPG, what would you lose if you abstracted the towns and made all the NPCs contactable via the equivalent of a cell phone?

Not if you presented all the disadvantages of a cell phone - traceability, reception, signal weakness, interception... If you did that, some NPCs would prefer to do some forms of business face to face.

The effect would be to eliminate pointless face to face meetings and travel to and fro, but when it really mattered you'd meet in person, reinforcing the import of the engagement.

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This is pretty much exactly what I'm doing in my medieval RPG. Later on, I plan to build up the town and then move the camera along a track to each location as it's selected, but that's really just eye candy.

The tedious exploration of a town is one of my pet peeves, particularly in 3D RPGs. It's frustrating and almost always pointless. I think Morrowind would be my one and only exception, because the towns were interesting and there was plenty of optional stuff to do. And probably because you had to get used to manually walking everywhere, so it didn't feel like such a slowdown.

A good compromise, if you want to build scenarios in town, is something like Mount & Blade. You can explore the town manually, or you can use the menu to trade and quickly enter buildings.

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I agree with Oluseyi.

Including the negatives gives a lot more opportunity for different kinds of interaction, and Id consider it almost a necessity in order to properly integrate it into the world setting instead of having it look like a tacked-on extra (which is important, because thats generally how they feel in most games)

And I think while you lose some possible situations of danger and physical threat, you could actually manage additional threatening situations by presenting the negatives in the right way. After contacting an ally, you could get a second call from somebody alerting you that the call has been traced and the enemy is currently speeding towards your location. Or the classic thriller movie setup, where you receive a mysterious phone call - the caller reveals that they are watching you at that very second, but the faceless nature of the phone means you have no way to identify or locate them, and so you're vulnerable and at their mercy. Its just a change in the device used to create tension, not necessarily a loss of tension.

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In a futuristic RPG, what would you lose if you abstracted the towns and made all the NPCs contactable via the equivalent of a cell phone?


What is your goal ? Do you want to save development resources, because you don't need to build cities ? Do you want to avoid (unnecessary) running around a city ?

Taking a look at todays communication, cell phone equivalents in a futuric RPG seems to be quite old fashioned. A futuric RPG could contain a virtual city where you run around and explore, including fast travel to certain places/NPCs or direct communication via cell phone equivalents. It could be a kind of internet where instead of websites you are able to visit virtual locations, always with the option to do fast and direct communication.

--
Ashaman

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Not if you presented all the disadvantages of a cell phone - traceability, reception, signal weakness, interception... If you did that, some NPCs would prefer to do some forms of business face to face.

Starting with 4G, all phone systems actually run on the internet.
There are ways to be anonymous and to crypt information on the Internet, which makes traceability and interception irrelevant.

Then there is the reception/signal weakness problem. But hopefully, that won't be a problem in the future because technology would allow to cover every space for sure.

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You could even include tracking a call as part of the gameplay. Maybe your mission is to trace the location of a person and all you have is their mobile contact number. Or even have it that enemies you make in the game will attempt to track you down.

You could also make it part of the game word feel. If you ahve played any of the Cyberpunk pnpRPGs (like Cyberpunk 2020 or Shadowrun), part of the feel of the game is that you have no fixed abode, that you live off the streets and that most of society does too, sleeping in purpose built racks of beds (like lockers for people). IF you are using a mobile communications system as the primary means of contact, then you could incorporate this into the feel of the game world which makes it more than just a way to avoid extra content work.

So more than just having this as a method to eliminate the needs for a centralised town, you can include it as part of the game and even give the setting a distinct flavour.

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Original post by loufoque
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Not if you presented all the disadvantages of a cell phone - traceability, reception, signal weakness, interception... If you did that, some NPCs would prefer to do some forms of business face to face.

Starting with 4G, all phone systems actually run on the internet.
There are ways to be anonymous and to crypt information on the Internet, which makes traceability and interception irrelevant.

You can encrypt the contents of the message, but the fact that the message was sent will remain known. Besides, no encryption is unbreakable, and no security device or technology can't be circumvented.

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Wavinator obviously doesn't want to build entire cities to wander through if they're almost entirely optional, so including the negative aspects of such interactions (like cell phones) wouldn't be very useful. It's the future, so these negative aspects should be erased with technology, giving the player no good reason to stroll through a town.

If you're traveling in a space ship or reside in a structural base of some kind, and you want personal interactions, some kind of location teleportation would save a lot of time and art assets. Why risk getting bit by the dog on their porch? Beam them up, or beam yourself to their living room.

There would obviously be some things lost. Wandering around, admiring sights or being engaged by things that don't directly relate to the current situation can influence the player a lot. But if you want to save on development, it would be a huge reduction. And not having to build their street and porch gives you more time to put detail into their living room and character.

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Original post by Wavinator
In a futuristic RPG, what would you lose if you abstracted the towns and made all the NPCs contactable via the equivalent of a cell phone?

Town wandering is such a common trope in RPGs that it seems almost obscene to think about axing it. But I'm wondering what your opinion is of not having to run around, find NPCs and FedEx back and forth between them to get or give them stuff.


Grand Theft Auto 4 implemented a great system that you could look into applying for your game. What they did was implement a Taxi system that you can pay a small feel for the Taxi Driver to take you to any destination that you wish. You can choose to travel there in real time for a small cost or pay a premium to "skip" to the destination. They had to compromise the "realism" aspect of being able to skip instantly to your destination, but hey, it's a video game.

I think the system is great and is the future for such traveling around large areas in a somewhat realistic means. In a futuristic RPG, you can get by with this a lot easier of course since your world can have technology that lets players warp around the world. Let's say you have stations that you can teleport to/from and players have to pay to use them. Anyone that has the money for the convenience can save time.

You could even take it one step further and let players setup their own "taxi" services outside of town. In this case, players are the ones who deliver goods to other players outside of town. Add in some ranking system that tracks successful delivers, failed delivers, average time of delivery for areas, and so on, and you have a system that has not yet been formally employed in any modern games (as far as I know).

I think a system like that would work out better than the whole "cell phone" system with custom delivery for inside towns. If you were out of town, then a system like that might be interesting as you could have certain items in need ordered on demand, but then you have to consider travel times and then the locations where the service would be available (i.e. if you are in the bottom of a large cavern system, I doubt they would bring stuff to you there).

Also, with the "cell phone" idea, how will each NPC handle the hundreds of calls from different players in a multiplayer setting? Are we to assume there is some new technology that allows one person to simultaneously service hundreds of players at the same time? Wouldn't there be a limit as to how many "delivery" services are available to bring goods to players? Just some food for thought if you really wanted to go down that path. [smile]

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Thanks for the replies everyone. My main goal was to eliminate pointless wandering. In terms of cities saving on art creation is a big draw, but I'm already planning on doing that by representing both the city and certain encounters within it abstractly.

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Original post by Kest
If you're traveling in a space ship or reside in a structural base of some kind, and you want personal interactions, some kind of location teleportation would save a lot of time and art assets. Why risk getting bit by the dog on their porch? Beam them up, or beam yourself to their living room.

There would obviously be some things lost. Wandering around, admiring sights or being engaged by things that don't directly relate to the current situation can influence the player a lot. But if you want to save on development, it would be a huge reduction. And not having to build their street and porch gives you more time to put detail into their living room and character.


Very good point. Fallout 1 & 2sort of got away with this to an extent by mixing their in town travel map with actual levels (although this was really a convenience, but it implied a larger area than was depicted when you were in person). I could do a far more scaled back equivalent where you can only travel to key locations that are themselves just variations on a few themes (kind of like the random levels in Diablo)

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Original post by Drew_Benton
Also, with the "cell phone" idea, how will each NPC handle the hundreds of calls from different players in a multiplayer setting? Are we to assume there is some new technology that allows one person to simultaneously service hundreds of players at the same time? Wouldn't there be a limit as to how many "delivery" services are available to bring goods to players? Just some food for thought if you really wanted to go down that path. [smile]


No need to worry about multiplayer (unfortunately). I think the taxi system is interesting but maybe beyond what I can currently do. I'm having to rely far more on abstract ways of showing stuff for the sake of resources just to try and put work into really different gameplay.

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Besides, no encryption is unbreakable

I guess you watch too many Hollywood movies.
It is proven that some encryption algorithms cannot be broken without brute-force, and with a key large enough you can make using brute-force require enough energy that it would boil all the oceans on Earth, not even taking account of the time it would take.

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and no security device or technology can't be circumvented.

Of course you can hack something you have physical access to: you can circumvent hardware protections.
But we're talking about information here.

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@loufoque: Algorithms can be proven to be perfect encryption schemes, yes. But there are no platforms on which an implementation of these algorithms can be provably unbreakable by non-brute force methods, or certainly not in a practical manner. Even now I'm sure that some implementations of commonly used crypto algorithms have fatal flaws that can be exploited. And Shor's Algorithm will render most of the currently non-brute-forceable crypto algorithms reasonably brute-forceable once we have quantum computing on a practical scale.
I'm not saying that there are not perfect encryption schemes that can not practically ever be broken, just saying that I suspect the only one that has been implemented in a way that will never be broken given sufficient time and research is the classic one-time-pad, done properly.

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I for one like being able to relate people and transactions to a place. I would actually love it if a phone company invented a cell phone that had an in-screen gps map that showed where the individual you were talking to was located. Video phones will hopefully solve this to some extent. Even in our modern age I'd rather drive 5 minutes to a pizza parlor to order a pizza than order it over the phone. There's almost a meta-tactile sensation you receive from physically traveling to a specific place to make a transaction or meet a person face-to-face.

Part of this derives from my unusually adept sense of direction and geography. I love exploration and working out how people, businesses, roads, etc. all interconnect and relate to eachother. It's as if I can view a geographic region as a satellite does in my head. As games are primarily a visual medium and exploring environments is one of my main interest I would feel short-changed by this approach.

However, this could simply be the biased opinion of an envirnoment artist.

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