I’ve been thinking about all the controversy on this board, and have come upon some rather interesting conclusions to it all. For lack of a better way, I’ll just list the points central my proposition…
1. Effort in Advancement
Character advancement should not be something to be taken lightly. When you’ve improved your character, you’ve accomplished a great task. Correspondingly, the rewards should be great. Instead of gradually increasing statistics as you perform mundane tasks ad nauseum, rewards should come in the form of large chunks awarded for specific feats. If you’re into combat, then you could track down a small band of goblin raiders that has been plaguing a trade route and slay them. If smithing is your thing, then you might want to track down the designs for a rumored weapon of great power so that you could add it to your repertoire—a process that could involve a lot of NPC interaction in finding out just where it is and then hiring a bodyguard and searching it out. Depending on how successfully this task is completed, the game would allow you to advance in different ways. If the warrior successfully kills all of the goblins, he might have discovered a new fighting technique in the process of the combat. If he only managed to kill one before they overpowered him, perhaps he learned a nice new parry. For the smith the reward is obvious—if he succeeds in finding the plans then he would then have the ability to create a powerful new weapon that is not available through ordinary sources.
2. Fewer Baddies
Yup, you guessed it. We can stop players from going on an all out killing orgy simply by giving them fewer things to kill. This is pointless though unless combined with my next idea…
3. Better Baddies
Anything with a decent weapon and half a wit can pose quite a real threat to even the most experienced and hardened of fighters. Believe me, as a fencer I’ve sometimes been bested by some kid not 10 minutes off his first lesson. In real life going up against anybody who wants you dead will have a good chance of getting you there, no matter how good you are. This concept should be carried over, at least in part, to games. As a neophyte, tracking down and slaying a goblin should be a heroic task. Not just some exercise in clicking buttons.
4. Compelling World
The big focus in all this is to make the gaming experience more compelling. In order for a player to want to do something other than kill, that something has to be interesting. It has to be exciting. There needs to be intrigue. This involves exploration in a big part. Make the world a place where the player can always be discovering new and interesting things. This part would require a tremendous effort on the part of the developer, but is most pivotal to the success of all my ideas. There simply needs to be a LOT to do for any player in the world and that requires a lot of time in terms of design. Now I get to what I think is the most radical idea in terms of the status quo…
5. Player Designed Elements
In order for all this to succeed, there simply has to be too much content for any single developer to create. There is only one solution to this. Allow players to create their own content and submit it for addition to the game world. A standard set of editing tools could be provided to facilitate this process. Actually, this is not so new an idea. As it has been pointed out, text based MUDs have been allowing players to create their own adjuncts to the world for quite a while now and THAT is what makes them so successful. If managed properly this could make the world expand rapidly in new and intriguing ways. Players know best what needs to be added to the game, so allowing them to do so seems the most logical choice.
6. No Death
Yes, you heard me. Forget about the concequences of a player dying. Players should not be allowed to die at all. There can be far more interesting concequences for their poor choice in actions. A knight foolhardy knight attempts a raid on a bandit camp in hopes of killing many and gaining wealth and fame. Unfortunately, he is vastly outnumbered and quickly falls to defeat. But no, he is not killed. Instead the bandits capture and enslave him and he must find a way to escape his captivity. This kind of concequence just needs to be hand crafted and relies on my general theory here of making every encounter in the world something of epic proportions.
That’s it. Those are the things that I see would dig the current state of gaming affairs out of a rut. Implementing them would be a monumental task--one well worth the effort I think. But I have a proposition to any interested parties who may be reading this post. We’re all obviously very interested in a multiplayer role-playing system of some sort, and many great ideas have been explored in various posts. What I propose is that those of us who are interested in doing something about it actually get to gether and design a solid cohesive role playing system for computer games. No, I’m not saying we should MAKE a computer game, although that could come in time, but that we craft a new role playing system tailored specifically for the capabilities offered by our computerized medium. It’s time, as many have said, to drop the shackles of our pen and paper ancestors and reinvent the wheel. If anybody is interested in such an undertaking, respond with your ideas and maybe we’ll see if we can start getting something real together. Until then, happy gaming.
PS Any input from Landfish would be overly welcome.
Edited by - Shinkage on 7/8/00 7:34:42 PM
Advancement in large increments will be hard to balance. At stages, suddenly one character is MUCH more powerful than another, when they were on the same playing field yesterday. I would favor gradual advancement, but never use things such as murder based experience or repetition to increase.
The no death idea is an intriguing one. I think death affords some intersting roleplaying opportunities for the people who know te dead character, and the lack of a threat of death will make combat commonplace. But your heart is in the right place. Perhaps if death is something that can be granted by an administrator for story purposes...
The rest of your points are good design sense... but I still get the feeling that you think games are required to be combat-centric. Well, no, you actually have done a great job of supporting other activities here, but I fundamentally disagree with the action-reward model. What about the joy in playing a poor, cowardly weakling? Tragic flaws? The acceptance of (not triumph over) a weakness? These are (to many) even more rewarding than playing a straight hero character. Reward systems overlook this style of play, enjoyed by so many tabletop RPGers and MUSHers. Advancement is a tricky thing....
One question--why does it matter that one character will suddenly become more powerful than another? Barring PvP combat, it really makes no difference. As long as they are pursuing their individual goals, and assuming the system is designed correctly, they should all achieve similar levels of experience at about the same time. The system of advancement I proposed could be considered more skill-based than attribute-based. Instead of gaining strength, or intelligence, or what have you, the player gains knowledge of new skills for whatever field he practices. A new skill would open up new possibilities for how you chracter would be able to interact within the construct of the game. Really, the problem I see with removing advancement from the equation completely is that will take away a lot of the fun for a lot of the people.
As for death, what I propose is not that there be no concequences for poorly chosen actions, just not death. There are many ways to punish the player for making the wrong decision, and there''s no reason death has to be one of them. If you want to roleplay death, well then there could be some very interesting ways to do that. You could, for instance, submit your own addition to the game that would allow for your character to get killed. In that manner you could set up a situation where you go out in a blaze of glory protecting your party from evil or whatever.
Your example of playing the pauper is interesting, but I''d bet you there would even be a way to allow for it using the action-reward model. Anything where the player actually DOES something by its nature would have to have some sort of action-reward system that would be appropriate for it.
I have had to deal with the "shrinkage" problem since time-immemorial. Actually, in the context that my handle comes from, it means "New Shadow". Actually, translating from Japanese doesn''t quite do most phrases justice. I could go into explaining what it''s all about if you like In any case I absolutely refuse to change it. Hyphenating it would look funny (at least to me) because in a broader context it''s from the phrase "Yagyu Shinkage-ryu" which, as you can see, already has a hyphen.
In any case, I think our Anonymous Poster should take a close look at the scheme that I''m proposing. It is meant be be a quantifiable way of providing in context rewards for a player''s successes. Combined with the no death idea, which provides in context punishment for the player''s ill choices without resorting to some generic catch-all punishment (death). I guess we have to decide whether we''re trying to provide the means for a game or a "fantasy life simulator", which I think are two different things. Personally, creating a life simulator simply does not interest me.