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Making History Useful To The Player

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History, particularly the kind of made up history found in RPGs, seems to be boring to the majority of players. Is there any way to make it more relevant? I ask because I'm working on procedurally generating the history for the space game I'm working on. At the moment I'm at the macro level, generating life, evolving it up a tech tree of sorts and trying to get it to interact in interesting ways. Eventually I want this all to generate history and map fragments and set the tone for encounters (ruins, derelicts) in regions of the game. It seems that there are some things not as worth doing, though. What could it possibly mean to you if some alien race never made it past the industrial age, got bombed by an asteroid or disappeared in a nuclear war? Other than varying the inhabitants of the map (which can be done far easier) what use is history?

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I dont remember the details but i read an article a little while ago about a MUD admin who wrote up a paper about the different kind of players of MUDs

some liked to PVE
some liked to PVP
some liked to explore
etc (there were some other types i think)

Anyhow, in your game, I could see history being useful to those who liked to explore.

Imagine if you came to a strange planet and there was something blocking you from getting into some cool looking ancient place.

Like maybe a door to a temple was made out of some indestructible material and there was a combination lock (with strange non-english symbols on it).

Or perhaps there was some seemingly unbeatable guardian of a temple who you couldn't ever destroy in combat, that would always engage you when you got close.

Maybe for these things, if you went and researched the history, or had been paying attention when history was being told to you via storyline, you might have a clue of what to do or at least who to talk to or where to go to research information.

You might find the combination to the lock in some history text

You might find that if you bring a certain item to the unbeatable guardian that he detects that you are friendly and leaves you alone.

These are things that would make history add to the experience of the game without requiring players to deal with it who didn't like doing research etc.

Also, in this sort of situation, the players who knew history and were more of the explorer types would be sought out by other types of players for their knowledge about certain things that might come up in the world.

It could also be a "sub class" that you understood things about the universe's history.

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I'm one of those players who enjoys the history aspect of those games. Dragon Age had some information in the codex that directly affected the events of the game. You can actually find instructions for uncovering a hidden treasure cache or performing a ritual in the codex. Of course, I suspect most players used a guide and didn't bother reading it, but it was a neat feature all the same. I can't remember if Metroid Prime did something similar, but I sure enjoyed scanning everything I came across though.

So, you could include general hints from history that could help the player indirectly. A warning about focusing character development on a single type of skill. Or, detailing the route that a famous historical figure took to prosperity, highlighting a certain combination of skills that work well together. More directly, you might make fragments of history into a puzzle, the solving of which will lead to secret loot or lost technology. If you have a DA:O Codex-like mechanism, you could even make it required that the player read it to advance beyond a certain point, though they may not appreciate that.

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Quote:
Original post by Atrix256
I dont remember the details but i read an article a little while ago


Id say you're thinking of Richard Bartle's "Players Who Suit MUDs". Theres a later version that adds an extra axis, too (also on the same site).

And I think you might be onto something, there, too. Addressing the player "types" does seem to lend itself to some simple ways of making history relevant - you just phrase the history in such a way as to appeal to that playstyle.

Scatter some rare history around in hard to access places as a reward for players that like to explore; describe specific tasks as a challenge to competitive players (eg, "Ancient Race [A] once attempted to follow this path through space and conquer the races along it, can you succeed where they failed?"; give conversation/diplomacy options related to history which lead to an emotional response from the other party to reward more empathic/social players. (Although not everything in the papers is relevant to a single-player game, of course)

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Maybe uncovering ancient alliances/betrayals/catastrophes might persuade/induce modern faction to behave as desired.

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You could find out that an alien race used Ion technology, which, should you provide Merxonium in addition to the standard fuel, could boost efficiency by up to 500%, but rapidly degrades the tech? Tons of optional boosts and trade offs. Maybe you can find that they buried many cultural treasures under an area, for fear of war. If you search a specific field, you get the treasure, which can be sold for a bunch. You could find it by luck, or by finding the documents and reading them.

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You can give hints in your history, like lets say the main enemy is some ancient evil, previously defeated. Record it in your history in a way the character can access it, how he was defeated... for a possibly easier way to defeat him or something of the like.

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Timothy Zahn's Thrawn trilogy comes to mind. The titular character is a space fleet commander and a strategic genius who collects art of alien races and uses it to predict how an opposing commander of that race will react to his moves. Do they have the kind of imagination necessary to figure out a particular plan and counter it? What do they find psychologically distressing - uncertainty, a loss of face, ... - so that they fold easier than strategically necessary when faced by that thing? Are they impatient? Does demonstrating a particular quality like cunning, ruthlessness or loyalty provoke respect or contempt in them?

In other words, you could allow a history knowledge that concerns particular AIs or their ancestors to help the player predict what a particular AI is most likely to do in a certain scenario. The more knowledge, the more accurate the prediction.

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I don't know specifically what sort of space game your working on, but the generated history could be used to decide the relationship between factions. This would mean that rather than knowing who will dislike you if you help someone else (this is usually in the manual, revealed really easily or at best the same everytime the game is played) you can either take the risk or find out the history of the "world" to know so you can make a better choice.

You could also then give the play the ability to fix some of these rifts that happened in the past.

This is similar to Atrix256's idea:
Another thing that might be ok is to make the players race (or guild etc.) have lost some of the skills and abilities they use to have and these can be regained by the player by hunting down the history or their race.

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Another idea i was thinkin of...

In the storyline you could have some kind of computer that can extrapolate the future from knowledge of the past.

So, you go out and discover historical oddities and artificats and bring it back to the computer which then paints a more accurate picture of the future.

Not sure if this would be appropriate for your type of game but there might be a cool mechanic there of a computer telling you future events with a percentage level of certainty so you can prepare yourself accordingly, or try and be in the right place at the right time and such (:

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