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cRPG: How to handle the non-combat grind?

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I'm working on a [edit:not TD, yeah, I can type today...] 2D space scroller RPG (some aspects kind of like Eve Online) where everything is made from materials harvested from asteroids. Also I'm not currently working on any skills right now and if I do their impact will be minor so the "levels" is more about the size of the ship and the equipment. In MMOs people are willing to spend hours grinding towards the next level or that next piece of equipment. I suspect this is primarily because this grind can be done with others which makes it more of a social thing, also there is a competitiveness that someone else was willing to work to this point then I should do even better. What about cRPGs? It seems to me that the combat level grind is simple (relatively speaking) to figure out. If the combat is exciting, fast paced yet still requiring strategy, then the level grind will be less noticeable. The player will just find new options and variations to the combat as they progress so long as the combat is not broken as it gets more complicated. Activities like mining and trading seem more difficult to make the grind be less noticeable. Both activities are fairly straight forward and simple, not much action unless you are trying to avoid getting blown out of the sky while doing your job. While blockade running can be interesting, trying to dodge pirates while mining seems like it could get annoying rather than fun rather quickly. As a result I don't see a good way to make the grind interesting other than focusing on the goal of upgrading to bigger and better. As the player gets larger ships I can see mining and trading beginning to form convoys which can include defensive ships and the player can move into a commanding role but I'm still having problems of how to make things interesting when the player has one little ship. Is there a way to make this more interesting and worth the time to grind through rather than just focusing on the next goal or should this point progress fairly quickly before moving onto letting the player begin commanding more ships? Any thoughts no matter how far off base? Thanks! [Edited by - Drethon on June 2, 2009 12:14:21 PM]

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There are a lot of ways to do mining and multiple ways can be used in one game.

1) Exploration, minerals can be hard to find to so a player has to explore around the world to find them.

2) Mining can be about holding territory. If you build a mine at point X then you get Y number of mineral Z every hour. Maybe you can upgrade your mine to get Y + 5 minerals per hour. Other players or even PVE enemies could try and take the mine from you.

3) Similar to #2 but the mine is temporary. So when you find a mining node it is like a king of the hill match while you mine the minerals.

4) Mini game based. Getting minerals out of an asteroid may require some mini game that will determine how much you get.

I am sure there are other ideas for mining but there are a lot of possibilities depending on the game you are making. In a fantasy universe holding a magical tower could be the only way to get some magical essence.

As for caravans, some of the best maps in Team Fortress 2 are the push cart maps. They are far superior to capture the flag maps. Plus there is some potential for them in PVE games or non instanced PVP games.

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I've discovered that when I have an aspect of gameplay that's too simple it's often because I haven't accounted for all the details. Combat could be that way, too, if all the details were abstracted out and you just clicked on an enemy to kill them. Click-kill-click-kill would be very boring.

What if you did mining like this: Since we're talking large pieces of rock here you can't just shoot them ala Asteroids and get minerals. That's too easy. So maybe build gameplay around detection, extraction and maybe even strategic resource management to even get there. If asteroids have their own pseudo-realistic orbital mechanics, they could move about the map, possibly in and out of range of the player's ship (granting a timing/resource management element, especially if the player has to pay for fuel and the cost rises with distance, diminishing the value of what is mined). Detection could be a mix of using free but hazy methods versus expensive means (like a special detector that must be fed specially charged particles that aren't cheap).

You can then add gameplay to extraction. There could be a range of gear almost as diverse as weapons for getting at the ore, with the cheaper/wrong gear causes more damage to what's extracted. But no matter what gear you get, let asteroid mining surprise the players with mines that peter out, deliver the occasional motherlode or even yeild surprise finds that require different equipment.

If you let asteroids move about the map and cripple the player's ability to get at them easily (again, turning it into fuel-based risk/reward gameplay) you could then implement different kinds of ownership. Maybe asteroids can be claimed, with bigger finds owned by stronger NPC players. If you've got any kind of stealth gameplay, you then can offer players the opportunity for claim jumping gameplay. On the flip side, if you have an upgrade system for detectors and communications arrays you can give the player the opportunity to be vigilant against NPC claim jumping!

Asteroids that are in motion also introduce an interesting political possibility-- what happens when your asteroid goes into enemy territory? Is it still yours? Can you load it with traps and defenses? Lots of possibilities here.

(Sorry for the long-winded post, but this is the sort of stuff I'm working on right now so I get psyched easily.[grin])

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Wavinator- Do you think players will really enjoy that kind of thing in an MMO setting? MMORPGs tend to involve a lot of repetition and you are basically talking about a long involved interaction with a rock.

At least in PVE combat you are interacting with a dragon or something. Even if the gameplay is similar I am not sure a fight with a rock is something players will want to do all that often.

The idea sounds interesting though and it may be a lot better than other implementations of mining.

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There are people out there that will go into Eve and just spend all day exploring for hidden area with nice loot with a short time mining or fighting for what they found. I think the trick to that may be to have a balance of very easy to perform mining/harvesting/etc with low rewards and high reward types that require a lot of searching or steps to process with variations in between.

I like the suggestions here so far for a complex game but I'm trying to start simple with the game play I'm working on (like a simple iPhone app) so I can complete a simple game and then build complexity on for the next version. Perhaps the key to a simple game is that I can't try to make it a long playing game (a couple hours from start to end game?) and I just have to stick with short time spans in between upgrades and once I start adding complexity for later versions I can extend the time to upgrade...

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I think the normal way to design is to first design the gameplay. The gameplay is the set of cognitive tasks that the player needs to perform in order to play the game. "Mining" is just a theme. Once your gameplay is defined and it is interesting, a player would play it regardless whether there is any reward other than the play experience itself.

All of the following minigames can be used in the context of "Mining" if you just change the graphics. You could add complexity to it. But note that adding complexity does not necessarily add to gameplay. It could become a routine. Routines could be boring. But not all routines are bad.


MG1: Let's pick cherries
[ Play ]
Gameplay: Trajectory and movement
Modification: Imagine that the cherries are flying gems inside a cave, and wolves are holes on the ground. If the Miner falls through a hole the Mining session ends.

MG2: Flight Crew
[ Play ]
Gameplay: Trajectory and movement, avoidance
Modification: Imagine that the Bird Rider is the Miner and the Bunny is a mining scoop. The scoop is swung to the ground to mine. React properly to falling debris and don't crash into fast moving asteroids.

MG3: Bunny Eats
[ Play ]
Gameplay: Movement, memory, avoidance
Modification: Carrots are mining sites. Foxes are pirates.

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Quote:
Original post by Stangler
Wavinator- Do you think players will really enjoy that kind of thing in an MMO setting? MMORPGs tend to involve a lot of repetition and you are basically talking about a long involved interaction with a rock.


I don't know about MMOs. To be honest I've sort of given up trying to figure them out because so much mediocre gameplay has been justified by the fact that you're with other people (like players in WOW playing bejeweled or whatever in-game while they wait for something interesting, like a raid party, to happen.

I thought by cRPG Drethon meant single player game, which is where I think it would work better provided you were bound and determined to provide challenging gameplay outside of combat.

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Quote:
Original post by Drethon
I like the suggestions here so far for a complex game but I'm trying to start simple with the game play I'm working on (like a simple iPhone app) so I can complete a simple game and then build complexity on for the next version.


Gotcha. In that case, maybe you should let them shoot asteroids and have them break apart into valuable mineral bits that go flying. You could add a timer which causes the bits to expire/be lost, making it a fast paced game of item collection. You could even have some bits become lost more quickly than others based on their value so that the player has the nice 2 second panic attack trying to figure out what to scarf up first.

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Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
Quote:
Original post by Drethon
I like the suggestions here so far for a complex game but I'm trying to start simple with the game play I'm working on (like a simple iPhone app) so I can complete a simple game and then build complexity on for the next version.


Gotcha. In that case, maybe you should let them shoot asteroids and have them break apart into valuable mineral bits that go flying. You could add a timer which causes the bits to expire/be lost, making it a fast paced game of item collection. You could even have some bits become lost more quickly than others based on their value so that the player has the nice 2 second panic attack trying to figure out what to scarf up first.


I think that is totally how you are supposed to do it. Instead of having them expire, make the ship have one side that is the collector end. When a small rock comes flying to the collector end, it is collected. Otherwise, the mining robot shoots what it had collected to break apart bigger rocks. The rocks don't expire. They first fly and bounces all around the robot. If it hits the robot the robot dies.

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