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November 14th, 2006, 19:55
Great article Corwin. I'm going to address one facet that I, as a designer of NWN mods, have found particularly irksome with cRPG gamers.

First, here's your quote: "What happens when a developer goes out of their way to offer many meaningful choices that will have serious consequences for the player? Well, in my experience, all it leads to are pages of whining forum postings about how unfair it is that someone cannot complete certain quests, or join certain factions, just because they made a choice early the game which has come back to bite them. Welcome to real world! I feel sorry for the developers, who appear to be in a no-win situation."

There are two problems with the notion of non-linear questing in a cRPG. For one, it is simply impossible to replicate the experience of "total freedom" that is central to playing pen-and-paper D&D, V:tm, or Das Schwarze Auge with your best buds. It is this lack of freedom that makes traditional role-playing so much more immersive and engrossing than the computer-based variety. And second, designing a non-linear, single-player cRPG is kind of like creating a giant house of cards. The resulting product is such a fragile, disjointed thing that pulling one card out of the stack can cause the whole game to collapse in a pile of broken sub-quests.

However, cRPG designers are so desperate to re-capture that feeling of "true" role-playing that they look past all the inherent difficulties and attempt the impossible anyway… with varying results.

But, the question must be asked: Is it worth the trouble? Apparently, publishers don't think so. They seem perfectly happy with funding linear, action-based cRPGs where the focus is placed squarely on stats and the accumulation of new armor and weaponry. Btw, these action-based games have more in common with the old Rogue-based games like Angband, Moria, and Ragnarok than they do with D&D. I would lump Obsidian in this pile, as Daggerfall was essentially designed to be Rogue in 3D.

Unfortunately, I tend to agree with the publishers on this one, as the majority of cRPG gamers out there seem more concerned with their ability to min-max stats and swap out new equipment than choose a path through a non-linear adventure. In fact, I would say the majority of cRPG gamers are quite happy to play "follow-the-dots" through a linear story-line if it means they have total freedom in crafting the character that most meets their needs.

Btw, creating a unique-looking character is not role-playing either. It is the equivalent of playing "dress up" with your Barbie or G.I. Joe doll.

Lord Alex

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