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Coming of Age as Character Building

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This is a bit sim-life, but hopefully that won''t scare folks away... I have this idea that in an SF game the player "lives" a whole life and sees the game world around him expand and change. As a way of character building, I was thinking the player could make choices in youth that determine opportunities and resources at the start of the game. I''d make this both abstract, and optionally interactive. Abstract Mode: The Psych Evaulation Basically, you''re taking a Psych Evaluation and building your character by answering questions about your youth. This gives player skills, opponents / allies, and starting conditions. Then you start. Interactive Mode: Think "Starship Troopers" You build your character by interactively growing up. Each game is a succession of mini games called Turning Points . Turning Points are basically chapters that start you off in a setting, give you some backstory (to connect the PC''s life), and a time limit in which to build your character. You build your character by making choices and interacting with NPCs and the game world. At the end of each Turning Point, you get different skills and stats, friends and foes, and possibly even a different setting. This hopefully keeps things interesting and allows me to shift PCs into diverse events no matter how poorly or well they play. In theory, the player could experience a wide range of childhoods, and this would add great depth to the game world. I can see the player growing up on a war torn planet and becoming a hardened veteran. Or they could be Paul Atreides (Dune), being raised as a prince only to have the whole universe change. Family life, friends, and skills would be determined by randomly generated family and game universe settings, then modified by player choice. So the daughter of a struggling space trader or the son of a wealthy terraformer would have different play experiences. Thoughts? (C''mon, don''t hold back! I can take it, just be constructive! )) -------------------- Just waiting for the mothership...

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The old Infocom text adventure "A Mind Forever Voyaging" had a similar premise. You played an AI simulation testing the effects of some government legislation over X amount of years (I think it was 40.) I''ve never actually played the game, I''ve just read about it, so I can''t give you all the details, but it''s something like that.

I also played some cheesy text game a long time ago where you play through a persons life making multiple choice decisions about what to do.

I''ve considered using something like the psych evaulation mode in a game after the player goes crazy and kills\injures too many bystanders or teammates(or even in the event of cruel treatment of the enemy.) Kind of unrelated, but I think it''s a cool idea.

You''re really one of the few people that sees the future of game design not as carefully handscripted storylines, but as dynamic content that reacts to the player''s actions, not the other way around. Hopefully the industry (the real one, not use independents and wannabes) will begin to think this way also. There are far too many game designers that want to be film directors working with polygons instead of actors...

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I think the Psychic Evaluation is the perfect way to prevent powergaming... May I use it in my game? :p

But I also think that playing the childhood first can be a bit... strange to do. I''d rather just have the psych test to ''extrapolate'' my actions in my youth...

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Original post by Impossible
You''re really one of the few people that sees the future of game design not as carefully handscripted storylines, but as dynamic content that reacts to the player''s actions, not the other way around. Hopefully the industry (the real one, not us independents and wannabes) will begin to think this way also. There are far too many game designers that want to be film directors working with polygons instead of actors...

This is an interesting point as it relates to one of the Mini-wars that we''ve had in the Game Design forum: Writers vs. Programmers (with Designers floating somewhere in between). The Writers tend to argue that the highest quality content is always that which is created by a high quality human. The Programmers tend to argue that no human, no matter how skilled, can produce enough original high quality content for everybody, or for enough time.

My personal view is that computers are improving faster than humans are, and the number of players in a game are increasing faster than the number of writers are. Therefore computer-generated content is the way forward, providing that designers and writers are involved in producing the algorithms that generate it. But I know many others disagree, and I would concede that there is certainly a place for 100% scripted and pre-planned behaviour in the single-player game market still.

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Hehe, I guess I''m a programmer. I''m not really advocating 100% generated content (this would make the game pretty dull, and isn''t possible in most situations), but a "good" (whatever that is) mix of the two. I believe that mixing story and gameplay properly means at least using some dynamic content as opposed to 100% scripting. Otherwise you''re just playing a game with little movies in between (or in some cases, the other way around.)

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Hey, I am trying to create a game something like this but with a different approach than sim-life.

The Psych Evaluation is a good idea but I think there needs to have a random factor added in to keep the players from repeating the same optiminum route to get the most attribute/skills/allies.

BTW, anyone out there is a 2d artist ?

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What''s most interesting, Wav, is that the player ends up with a character he can more closely relate to since that character made the same choices the player would have. I think it''s a REALLY good idea and would make quite a difference in the number of casual gamers who would come back to play your game...

I''ve had a thought similar for an RPG game. A "I''ve never played an RPG so help me out" kind of character builder. Something as simple as race and class. Extract some of the characteristics of race and class (if you use a class system) and put them in a little quiz so that your game can recommend a race on the basis of it being a character that will be easier to "stay in character" with.

Some rough rough rough rough examples:

I am fascinated by ____
1. the ecosystem (+1 to elf)
2. cave systems (+1 to dwarf)
3. the supernatural (+1 to magicuser)

I ____ get lost:
1. never (+1 to dwarf)
2. rarely (+1 to elf)
3. sometimes (+1 to human)
4. always (+1 to ...)

Art is _____:
1. for some people (+1 to human)
2. pointless (+1 to dwarf)
3. to be enjoyed (+1 to dwarf)

Good craftsmanship is more important than looks.
1. True (+1 to dwarf)
2. False (+1 to elf)

On and on...

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Well I agree that games should be about dynamic content - but it still needs scripting. There was a thead a while back that dealt with the situation where the player enters a room to get orders from the King. Instead of doing that he bounds about the room, testing everything, assaulting a maiden fair etc.. etc.. while the King just sits there doing nothing. In that sort of RPG game the designer is challenging the player. That must mean that there is some discipline in the game that guides the player onto the right track. Not so much for "The Dev knows best" but to make the game playable.

In the sort of game you suggest the player gets much more of a free hand. But it still needs some discipline. For example "you build your character by... interacting with NPCs..." Ok so I meet em and kill em. Then what?

A Turning Point in an educational setting ( whether formal classroom, wise old man etc...)needs the co-operation of the player to a certain extent. Say he tries to kill the teacher. Is some sort of sanction imposed? What are the moral implications of not imposing a sanction?? Should games allowing certain behaviour be published??

No doubt this gets thrashed over regularly but in the sort of game you suggest it might be a real problem - and we haven''t even touched on sexual conduct / misconduct.

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One of the main titles that I remember playing that really had an intricate system of character generation (like proposed):

Twilight 2000 (you just kept picking choices for each year of your character''s life BEFORE you actually took control. Age 19? Went to college and took a course in medicine. Age 20? Took some self defense classes. Age 21? Took surgery classes... etc)

I even think it was big enough to prevent me from quickly figuring out what the best ''route'' was in the choices to be made (and I think that each choice limited/guided your next).


Good idea, but make sure to put enough random factors in it to keep players from powermaxing their characters with picking the ''right'' (best?) choices all the time. That would defeat the whole purpose of the evaluation (might as well let players pick all the tiny details that make up their character).
I think you''d have to set up a system that would create a pool of thousands of possible questions to be asked (either with YES/NO answers or multiple choice answers).
A player creating a new character would be asked certain of those questions. For example, you could have 10 different ''how, where, to who, when, why, etc were you born'' questions, each with multiple answers, giving you lots of possible outcomes.
Each phase in the character''s life would have tons of questions to be asked, but never quite the same answers. But, each question would have to somewhat be based on a previous answer. If the character turned out to be a bully at age 5 (''did you: a) share your toys with all other kids, b) shared your toys only with your best friends, c) kept your toys to yourself, d) didn''t have any toys and played with the toys of others, e) didn''t have any toys and took the toys of others, making them your own... answer = e), then the question about the character''s life at age 6 should be aimed towards defining the ''bulliness'' of the character. (at age 6, did you: a) beat up kids to get what they had, b) stole from other kids, unnoticed, to get what they had, c) smoothtalked your way into getting what they had).

Most importantly of course, is that to FIRST establish the possible outcomes of all your questions.
Goal: establish the value of the character''s strenght
Questions: Age 0: how big were you as a baby?
Age 5: did you ever fight with other kids?
Age 10: did you play sports, read books, help your dad with his work, or just lay in the field doing nothing?
Age 15: did you work out?

One important question to ask yourself in a system like this:


In other words, should the questions be obvious ("question: did you work out when you were 15?" The player will realize that a ''yes'' answer will improve his character''s physical abilities) or should the outcome of an answer be kept vague (this would be very hard to do, as you''d have to create question/answer that DOES give a logical result but does NOT give away it''s secret)


Having a character grow up interactively by using the suggested Turning Points seems like a good idea as well. Current MMORPGs (not that these ideas would be limited to that type of game) make a player stick with the character they choose at the beginning, till the very end. If you pick a Warrior to start with, you''ll be using your character as a pure warrior throughout his career. Even if after 100 hours of play you find yourself enjoying Thievery more than physical combat, you''re still stuck with being a warrior. Some games use a pure skill based system, which means you could just assign some points to desired thievery skills, changing your warrior from pure warrior to 90% warrior/10% thief. But what if I completely change my life around? What if I give up my warrior days and focus on being a thief? Should I be able to become 50% warrior/50% thief? 10% warrior/90% thief? What course of action would I have to take? Give up 2 warrior skill points for 1 thief skill point? And how does my warrior past affect my thief future?

Change is good!
Logical change is even better!
Me making sense is rare.

Woohoo... I''m on day 7 on my C++ in 21 days course. %Another two weeks and I''ll be a master programmer!%

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Crydee: Dynamic content doesn''t necessarily mean completely free form. I think that with dynamic content more rules should be applied to keep the player from doing stupid stuff (they should always be punished in some way.) Also certain things need to be scripted (dialouge especially.) I guess that my current ideal isn''t completely free form dynamic content, but more like dynamic multilayered scripts that form some sort of story web. Simple generic events would be pre-scripted to adapt to different situations. Then links (preconditions) would be described to call new events. With enough plotlines running you could end up with a complex and dynamic story based on simple sub elements, or maybe not...

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