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Story Centric RPG

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I''ve told this idea to a few friends of mine, and met with mixed results. So I''m wondering what everyone here thinks: I would like to write an RPG that has a solid story -- one not bound to having a consistant encounter, encounter, boss, [repeat several times] final boss. Even games with was is considered solid storytelling, like FFX for example, still have a story constrained by the need to battles. My idea is to divide the story up into Acts. Each act is divided up into a number of Tasks ("Quests" if you prefer), which is in turn made up of smaller waypoints. Yes, this is exactally how Diablo 2 does things, only each of theirs is heavily battle centric. This alone provides some sort of framework, but isn''t really a game at all. To make it a game we need some characters. Now, in a fixed story these would be particular "foundling" characters, but for all intents and purposes, they might as well be character classes. All characters have stats. Unlike other games which focus mostly on the body, the stats here will focus on personality attributes. Here''s how the story model and the stats go together. Let''s say that to fulfill a task you have to get past a security guard (this is a waypoint). Now the guard will react differently to each character in your party, so you have to choose which one you think will succeed. But that''s not all, you are presented with a number of strategies to get past the gaurd. You could bribe him, threaten him, or even flirt with him. Each strategy corressponds to a particular stat. You succeed when your character has a stat for that particular strategy is equal or higher than what the guard expects. (Keep in mind, what the gaurd expects changes with what character your using). If your successful, you earn a stat point for the corressponding strategy for that character. Otherwise you loose one. Completing a task earns a number of points for your entire party. The particular stats should reflect the nature of the task. (i.e. A puzzle oriented task earns more intelligence points than other points) The guard example is not the only way this can be used. It could just as well be cracking a computer code, or swaying the vote of the senate. Although I would like to write a game using this idea alone, I feel it is somehow incomplete, or suitable to too niche a market for mass appeal. One idea is "Story Battling", keying skills off of a certain stat level. These skills could be useful in passing ceratin waypoints. Forgive me for the long post, any thoughts or opinions? -Solstice deninet.com aeris.deninet.com "...I was given three choices, the earth, the stars, or..."

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Do I understand you correctly on this? The idea is that there is a ''story'' where you progress by choosing the right character(s) to approach different obstacles. The obstacles primary focus is as a replacement for the constant battles that you often find in RPG games?

This sounds like it could be a promising concept. Although, I am not sure where the Game part comes into it. As it is it sounds like just guessing to pick the right character. What are the strategic / tactical elements? I suppose it could be the player''s task to control the group of characters as a whole, and when (if) a character fails in their task they have to be ready to deal with the consequences. (Kind of like a less combat oriented RTS?)

For example:

The objective

Get a member of your group into the old castle.

Player''s first idea.

Get the girl into the backdoor of the castle, by pretending she works for the kitchens. (All members of the group are able to bluff their way in somehow, but the probabilities of success are different).

But just in-case this does not work out properly, and her cover is blown, the player sets up another member of the group ready to help sort things out if things start going wrong. (Maybe a character with a sniper rifle, or a character who can pretend to be the doorman''s boss, or something).

Well that is just my take on this.

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But what if you''d rather beat the guard senseless with a broken stick?

I think the battle approach is better since you can have partial failure (you lose hp and such) and even if you can choose approach in your idea, there is not much strategy to employ if a tactic doesnt work. And it would be unrealistic for the guard to not get that he''s being messed with if someone tries to bribe him, and what can the characters do then? Talk to the bullets? It''s also very hard I think to make a large game this way, either you''d have to have a whole lot of individuals (in the magnitude of several hundreds), or you would have to be able to reuse the characters you ave in a very competent fashion so you can have maybe 10 encounters with them each. This is very hard to accomplish without a storybranshing.

On the other note, if you pull this off in an interesting way it would be really great. It would appeal to a lot of people, althogh not necesseraly the hardcore gamers.

/Apoztel

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quote:
Original post by Apoztel
But what if you''d rather beat the guard senseless with a broken stick?

I think the battle approach is better since you can have partial failure (you lose hp and such) and even if you can choose approach in your idea, there is not much strategy to employ if a tactic doesnt work.

/Apoztel


Well, in my version of such a design. I''d have it so that every character has a variety of core skills. Disguise, bluffing, fighting, shooting, stealthy movement, lockpicking etc. And they would be more or less skilled depending on the character. That way you any character would be able to kick off. It''s just that certain characters would be better at it than others. Thus giving rise to a variety of strategies. (ie. which characters you have as back-up, and where they are on the map).

Well, back to Solstice, and anyone else who wants to contribute to the discussion.

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There was a game called "Sword of shannara" that followed kind of along these lines. there was battle in the story but it wasn't very difficult to overcome foes and you often had the option to evade them if you wanted.

also "deathgate" was very story centric. you had different chapters, each one happening on a completely different world, and different obsticles to a well defined goal. you talked to people, cast spells, used items, etc to work your way over the obsticles. The only problem (if any) was that you were stuck playing one particular character so there was never any variety in how you played. you were always the same guy (who's name escapes me at the moment). But man that game had some great voice charactarizations. it was based on the deathgate series of books by tracy hickman and margeret weiss.

it's hard to say whether this game would fit your idea or not unless you play it. or possibly read the books.

regardless, you can go the deathgate route and not do any battles or the shannara route and have battles in key places that have to be fought (but are reletively easy if a person knows how to use different characters strengths) and then give the player the option to fight or evade other battles in between those key places. but the key to that would be to make sure there is no real benifit to fighting the battles (no loot, exp, level progression, etc)

[edited by - Avengelique on June 5, 2002 2:08:11 PM]

[edited by - Avengelique on June 5, 2002 2:08:30 PM]

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Thank you Ketchaval.

quote:
I suppose it could be the player''s task to control the group of characters as a whole, and when (if) a character fails in their task they have to be ready to deal with the consequences. (Kind of like a less combat oriented RTS?)


That is a quite apt way to word it.

quote:

It''s also very hard I think to make a large game this way, either you''d have to have a whole lot of individuals, or you would have to be able to reuse the characters you ave in a very competent fashion...This is very hard to accomplish without a storybranching.



Relying on the stats alone, yes, this would be a very difficult type of game to implement. It would be difficult to not resort to using the same strategy over and over and over again. That sort of repitition is fatal to a game.

I''ve considered having a multilinear storyline before. But I felt that it detracted from story quality. Then again, I remember the "Choose Your Own Adventure" series and enjoyed them greatly. Currently I would like to have several tasks that push foreward the main plot in a linear fashion, but there are several minor tasks that can be done in any order.

quote:

Well, in my version of such a design. I''d have it so that every character has a variety of core skills. Disguise, bluffing, fighting, shooting, stealthy movement, lockpicking etc. And they would be more or less skilled depending on the character.



After talking to a friend last night, we both decided that this is certainly the way to go. Since we have in effect, character classes, certain characters would then have specific skills that either need to be used or could help.

My model of skill aquision is to assign skills to a certain stat. One has to be at or above a certain stat value to be able to use the skill. The higher the stat, the better the skill. The problem is that one could then theoretically _lose_ a skill if you lose enough points. A better way, I think, is to have it so that you retain the skill once it is aquired. If the corressponding stat is lower than the aquision value, the skill can be "botched" during casting rather than being "dodged".

(Thanks everyone, this is really helping!!!! I reliquish discussion to the floor. ^_^)

-Solstice

deninet.com
aeris.deninet.com

"...I was given three choices, the earth, the stars, or..."

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You're not considering removing combat altogether, are you? Perhaps combat just shouldn't be a very appealing choice to the player. Weapons/ammo/martial combat training might be incredibly expensive or extremely hard to come by. Or instead of that, combat could be a thing that is difficult to win: your opponents do just as much damage as you do, or--at least for quest purposes--they are always much better trained than you are and have much better equipment than you. Realistically, you will have a certain amount of combat (someone tries to mug you, or something similar).

However, definately avoid combat as much as possible. I find your concept very appealing to my gamer's nature.

If you follow this InterLock will sort of be a sort of Traditional Adventure game (King's Quest, The Dig, Roger Wilco) with an RPG Backbone (a complete oversimplification, BTW). =)

-kccricket
www.twistedgamer.com

* chirp * chirp *

[edited by - kccricket on June 7, 2002 5:27:12 PM]

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quote:
You''re not considering removing combat altogether, are you?


I was indeed, but my better judgement is telling me that I probably shouldn''t. If we follow the model closely however, we can see one desirable possiblity: Not all people fight back, some would rather be diplimatic or avoid it all together.

But a few DO fight.

What if one the the character''s (i.e. one character class) had skills that were heavy on fighting. That would make much more sense to me without interfering with storytelling. Within InterLock, as kccricket mentioned, the main character might be suitable.

I think that fighting would follow the same form factor as all other interactions. Just how that interaction works is something that I don''t quite understand yet...

Question: Do different character classes warrent different stats? For example, a fighter may have stats that deal with the body, but a diplomat wouldn''t find them useful.

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so, what this entire thing revolves around is like FF series without set courses to follow? Sounds cool, but the ''infinite possibilties'' thing would be hell to code... i mean everything would have to be a derivitive of what actions were taken earlier.
It coulden''t be like that one space shooter (which name I forgot) that has the different action paths depending on whether you win or lose a battle, because well, the paths would be just too damn big for a game of worthwhile size right? Its like, with only 3 quests, with a set 3 possibilities, of how to complete them, that is 9 different paths. Now, for a large game, several hundred mini-quests (have to defeat this guard to get into the fortress, and then figure this out, that out, get the wrench, etc...), with even three different choices for how to go, your talking the number of ways to pull three marbles out of a bag of hundreds, not a small thing.
The only practical way I could think of it being possible, is if you did some sort of ''dynamic storytelling'' where the main events of the game happened for everyone, but the routes that got you there are different. That way for example three choices could only lead to three different paths that coincide together somewhere.

wow, i''ve written alot

well, anyway, good luck and keep us informed!

''''Can I go back?''''
''''No. But if you could, would you really want to?''''

- mr. neo

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I really don''t think it would be that difficult to code at all. The game engine I''m designing to use for this game deals with the concept of a "scene" which is loaded through a file of XML. Each scene could easily contain only one task and several waypoints.

The trick is balance. One could easily make waypoint after waypoint with multiple chains of complcated logic. But who would want to program, let alone play a game that complicated.

Riven is an excellent example of game balance: There really is only three major puzzles to solve. All other puzzles derive their logic through those (rather simple, in retrospect) puzzles. But to solve those puzzles you have to know how to get to each island and where to find the proper information. Thus, the game is simple yet has some heft in terms of time.

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quote:
Question: Do different character classes warrent different stats? For example, a fighter may have stats that deal with the body, but a diplomat wouldn''t find them useful.


Are you trying to decide between having a different set of stats for each class or the same stats, but different *primary* stats? Or were you trying to figure out whether to have different stats that are important to each class?

Wow, that seems a little incoherent. Meh, it''s late.

-kccricket
www.twistedgamer.com

* chirp * chirp *

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quote:
Original post by kccricket
Are you trying to decide between having a different set of stats for each class or the same stats, but different *primary* stats? Or were you trying to figure out whether to have different stats that are important to each class?

Wow, that seems a little incoherent. Meh, it''s late.


No no, it''s my fault I wasn''t explicit. I was assuming the use of the same stats for each character, tweaked toward their primaries at game start. Then things would as the player chooses. What I was asking though, was _should_ all characters have the same set of stats?

Obviously, this does kinda make sense in terms of the character themself. But it adds a heapload for understandablity... Just a flight of fancy thought.

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quote:
Original post by Solstice

No no, it''s my fault I wasn''t explicit. I was assuming the use of the same stats for each character, tweaked toward their primaries at game start. Then things would as the player chooses. What I was asking though, was _should_ all characters have the same set of stats?

Obviously, this does kinda make sense in terms of the character themself. But it adds a heapload for understandablity... Just a flight of fancy thought.


Yeah, personally I''d say go ahead and give all the same basic stats with primary tweaking.

But what if you got more complicated? Each stat has a pair of sub-stats that is different for each class? Wait... WOuldn''t the sub-stats be sort of like the skills themselves? Hmm...

-kccricket
www.twistedgamer.com

* chirp * chirp *

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This game idea reminds me of Square''s Radical Dreamers, the game that Chrono Cross is based off of. The game was more or less a storybook game, and you had combat, but it was a scripted event type of thing where you pick one of four options, and then half of the battle would follow based on that, and described with great verbousity. I think what you''d have to be careful about when making a game like this is that the players could get bored fast, so you would have to keep them interested through a number of ways, like highly complex animations and a lot of plot branches. Another thing is that a game like this would ride the boarder between low level story and high level story. The distinguishing factor between these two terms is whether or not you have any character development, which is an underly used story factor in the american game industry. If you want to go the high level story path, all of the characters in your game should have personalities of their own, including which ever character you choose to be the main protagonist, and that they''re behavior should be entirely their own, and not totally dependant on which buttons the players press. I''ll throw you an example, any console RPG with a main character that speaks his mind is a high level story character. Any rpg where the main character never speaks and never behaves in a communicating factor is a low level story character. Carefully, and I mean carefully choose which character falls into which category.

-> Will Bubel
-> Machine wash cold, tumble dry.

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quote:
Original post by Inmate2993
I think what you''d have to be careful about when making a game like this is that the players could get bored fast, so you would have to keep them interested through a number of ways, like highly complex animations and a lot of plot branches.


It seems that everyone agrees that branching is the way to go. Does is also mean a multilinear storyline (multiple endings) or a psudo-linear storyline that arrives at the same points through multiple means?

quote:

If you want to go the high level story path, all of the characters in your game should have personalities of their own, including which ever character you choose to be the main protagonist...


So, you think that the player shouldn''t be locked into which "side" of the story they see? That, although the story by large is the same for each character (the world), the details of the story depend on who you choose for that main character?

I really like this thought. I''ve had trouble writing InterLock since the story always seemed relentlessly large. This helps things by breaking up the script into five smaller interconnected stories. This also adds replay value since you won''t see everything without playing all the characters involved.

quote:
...and that they''re behavior should be entirely their own, and not totally dependant on which buttons the players press.


Of course, this goes back to balance in a video game. Isn''t that more up to the particular game (script) rather than the machanics of it?

Thank you everyone, again. ^_^ I yeild discussion to the floor.

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I finally told this idea to a very trusted friend of mine -- I handed him a printout of the discussion here.

After a few minutes, he rather apologetically told me that this isn''t much more than an imitation of Pen-and-Paper RPGs, although with the GM as the computer. His argument stemmed from the fact that the stat and skill system based on social interaction was somewhat boiled down from these type of non-computer games.

My goal with this idea was to create a way for someone to experience a story only in an intereactive way that did not require the story be altered [significantly] to fit the gaming aspects.

Traditional RPGs seem to me less centered on character development and moreso on battle. (I use D&D as an example). I realize that there are some pen-and-paper''s which are centered around storytelling of the kind I''m looking for, Big Eyes Small Mouth is the only one I can think of off the top of my head.

I''m concerned about just how to implement a game of the type we''ve been discussing. Should the player even know about the stats? Are skills certainly something to have? Should the player keep track of tasks, or should there be an online list?

Thanx again everyone!

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What stats are you planning to use? If there's a list of, say, fifty of 'em, I wouldn't show it to the player. Actually, I probably wouldn't show it to the player regardless... though it might be interesting to have your party members volunteer subjective assessments of themselves and/or others. Might be a way to present the possible strategy choices, too...

I wouldn't go overboard on adding/taking away of points. Think about it... does your ability to 'bribe' decrease if you happen to try it on the one incorruptible guard in the kingdom? Or if you manage to charm him with your flirtations, does that really give you a better chance with the next guard, too?

Also, if you're planning a story-driven game, you shouldn't need stat increases as rewards. The reward for completing any given task is getting to the next point in the story, not getting another couple points added to your [whatever] stat.

[edited by - Moth on June 10, 2002 12:15:57 AM]

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What I was getting at was that most games choose to leave the characters undeveloped from the narrative sense. Character A has 4 traits that is used to govern how the character speaks during the game, but the character is locked into this and your character never grows out of it. An example of how to beat this would be the character Wakka from FF10 who starts out as a big racist, and changes throughout the game. Its probably an american trend that dictates that this characters with this eccentricity keeps it forever.

As for the branching plots, its purely a choice of your own at to where the game goes. I tend to dislike games that branch out and return to the same point by the end, some games tend to do it with the style that only the area you were at when you made the choice changes, and that the rest of the game progresses as normally. I haven''t played either, one because it isn''t out yet, but I hear that SaGa Frontier, and Suikoden3, does stuff where based on your starting character, you get to perceive the story from that character''s point of view. Sorta a Dr.Jeckle and Mr.Hyde type of thing I suppose.

-> Will Bubel
-> Machine wash cold, tumble dry.

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