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loom_weaver

Mortality

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My game centers around you, the player, and involves a heavy traditional RPG aspect.

The game itself will cover a real-life span of about 40-50 years. You begin the game as an adult (low-mid 20s) and eventually will die of old age in your 70-80s (assuming you aren't eaten by a slavering grue before then). The game takes place during ancient times and so I could shorten that and still have it fit into the theme.

I am wondering how I can enforce this limit and still have it palatable to the player. Here are some possibilities:

1. You suddenly keel-over dead at a random age. Hard-core!

2. You develop old-age implemented as a disease and thus know your time is numbered. Perhaps it can be implemented in a manner similar to increasing corruption in ADOM. Thus as you get older, you gain more and more ailments (cataracts, brittle bones, memory loss, etc.) until you're so old that you croak.

3. Your fate is determined by the stars and the exact pre-destined date for you to enter the afterlife is foreseen and known much much earlier in the game.

4. If you do not complete the main goal of the game by a certain age then the king summons you and the game ends.

5. You live indefinitely but the longer it takes past a certain age, the lower your overall score is. Being too old acts as a big penalty. Note that I really want to avoid this scenario as I do not want to plan the game events over an indefinite period of time.

Which method would you choose? Do you have any other ideas not in the list? Do any of the above methods really grate against your sensibilities to having fun in the game?

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Unless it is explicitly chosen (like Diablo2's hardcore mode, even then it's not an age but a death thing) mortality in the sense that you are looking for is quite often viewed with distaste. People generally want the game to either end at the conclusion of the story, or when they want to stop playing, not when their character just keels over.

I cant speak for everybody, but if a game just offered your options 1-4, I probably wouldnt bother picking it up. #5 to me doesn't even seem like an alternative, it seems more a mechanism to suggest fast play.

Option 1 would be incrediably annoying. I like character development, and am always thinking of what Im going to do with a character. If in the middle of a plan he just dies, I wouldnt start over.

Option 2 feels like it would be punishing me for enjoying a game and wanting to play it.

Option 3 would seem to work the best, it gives very specific warning, allowing the death-age to be factored into character planning and whatnot.

Option 4, see comnment on option 1.

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Original post by loom_weaver
3. Your fate is determined by the stars and the exact pre-destined date for you to enter the afterlife is foreseen and known much much earlier in the game.
I think this could be feasible in some cases. Say your family has been cursed to death and you're on a mission to end that. But you see, you can use that up to a certain point, and personal taste still applies.

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In all the time I've spent on forums discussing games over the years, players don't seem to typically respond well to a global "time limit" where the world "ends" if you don't stop the villain in n minutes/hours/days (although in my own experience some of my favorite games employ a time limit for all or large parts of the story).

One thing you might consider along the lines of your option #4 is "wrapping" the time limit in game events, such that at a certain point events conspire to send the player's character through a sequence of (mostly) unavoidable conflicts that lead up to an end that sees the player fail spectacular or die a hero -- which IMO is ultimately a better solution than having the player simply keel over.

No matter what the solution it's important to give the player a reasonable opportunity to equip himself with the knowledge/skills/weapons etc. that will give him a fighting chance to "win the game" whether he played the first forty hours with that in mind or not. If that requires holding his or her hand through some major world events to obtain the necessary tools, so be it. IOW, if the player reaches his last few months of life, you probably still want him to have some chance of completing the game's main objective without having to reload a save from "thirty years ago."

And incorporating option #3 into any other path is a classy and reasonable way to handle a time limit IMO -- it alerts the player that "Hey, you don't have forever to do this!" without just sticking a countdown timer in the corner of the screen.

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Option 1 is terrible, and not just subjectively. I'm surprised you even mention it. There isn't anything "hardcore" about randomness you can't control.

Option 2 sounds great. A steadily progressing (but not completely static, nor shown anywhere) aging schedule would be good and retain some mystery in the game. I'd consider giving the character some otherwise-unattainable strong perks in addition to the creeping weaknesses when he approaches death, making him weak in some aspects but strong in others he was not before, necessitating a gradual change in playstyle.

I think a precise date known from the start (Option 3) fits character death badly. An in-world time limit could be mechanically the same but be much easier to justify in plot. Even better if there isn't just one static time limit, but one the player can manipulate through what they do in the world, or several of varying intensity of which only the last one directly ends the game. Proven to work in Fallout. (I don't remember if the player was constantly informed of the dates though.)

Option 4, depending on how it's executed, is mechanics-wise equal to option 2 or 3. Using it instead of death seems to be a purely aesthetic / plot choice.

With the exception of 1 and 5, these are generally fine choices for a traditional RPG.
One thing though. I would seriously consider not providing an universal save/load facility in any game, but especially in a this kind of game if you choose to go with Option 2 or Option 3. The rationale for this being that the pressure for hoarding behavior is too much. At least in a FPS with unlimited save you can usually only pile up a couple of grenades, a couple of medipaks or something - as long as your stocks are maxed out or on the high side, you feel like you can actually use the items without immediately reloading and trying the same situation again to preserve them. In a game with an overarching time limit, the thing to hoard is "saved time", and it can be hoarded at all times without limit - so it feels it has to be hoarded at all times. So you'll have players play a short segment, plan out their actions, then reload and execute - over and over again. No immersion, no excitement. The "winning" way to play such a game is supremely boring.

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Original post by Stroppy Katamari
One thing though. I would seriously consider not providing an universal save/load facility in any game, but especially in a this kind of game if you choose to go with Option 2 or Option 3. The rationale for this being that the pressure for hoarding behavior is too much. At least in a FPS with unlimited save you can usually only pile up a couple of grenades, a couple of medipaks or something - as long as your stocks are maxed out or on the high side, you feel like you can actually use the items without immediately reloading and trying the same situation again to preserve them. In a game with an overarching time limit, the thing to hoard is "saved time", and it can be hoarded at all times without limit - so it feels it has to be hoarded at all times. So you'll have players play a short segment, plan out their actions, then reload and execute - over and over again. No immersion, no excitement. The "winning" way to play such a game is supremely boring.


Heh, you kind of guessed a mechanic that will make it into my game. I'll be incorporating several ideas from Rogue and that includes the loss of your saved game if you die i.e. perma-death.

The aging time-limit is important but not central to my game. The goal of the game is to pay off a debt of 10000 talents of silver (like the bible parable) and that is designed to take a heck of a long time!

The reason I'm thinking about age-limiting the game is because I am planning a few concepts like city-building simulation and world events into the game. The better I know what time-period to target (e.g. 30-40 years) the easier this will be. I don't want the game to drag on for 200-300 years because that's harder to plan for. For example spending a lot of time creating a world event that happens 200 years is likely a waste of time if the player pays off the debt way before then. Also if I plan city sizes to double within the 30-40 years that is manageable but using that algorithm in 200-300 years all cities will be 1000x their original population throwing everything out of whack!

Overall everyone's ideas has me thinking. Another idea I had is a cataclysmic effect ending the game i.e. the Great Flood.

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I remember in sims when I found out how to make that potion where you would live forever.just wasn't fun anymore.probably in the minority though.

but i got kinda upset with pirates for making me old.and rushing me.

maybe a heir could pick up where you left off if you die without finishing the main quest.

that said,losing is fun.I say make em drop dead.

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While I like the idea of getting older in a game I don't like the idea of a global time limit. Maybe if you aged the character based on how long it took them to reach mile stones. As they hit these mile stones, such as certain money amounts, they would reflect back with a cut scene on their missions to that point and when they came back they will have grown older, for good or bad. But never make the player so old they couldn't complete the mission. This would give the story a feeling of taking a life time but still leave the player not feeling like they were up agains a clock.

Or maybe the amount of money is so much the debt is carried by your whole family. So if you do die in the progress of the story you pass on your debt to a child or brother or sister. Then you have the aging taking something away in that it takes your character that you have worked on for most of the game but you still have a chance to finish the game you just have to start with a raw character.

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