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Default Rampant Games - How Much of a CRPG Should Be Optional?

March 2nd, 2011, 00:56
Jay Barnson explores optional content in CRPGs in his latest blog post:
As a game developer, this is a little scary if you are developing any custom content for the optional areas of the game. Why would you spend all that time and effort making something that maybe only 10% of the players will ever see? If game-players were living in a vacuum, that would be a much bigger deal, but we gamers – contrary to how the media likes to portray us – tend to be pretty social. We talk. And we love games that allow us to compare different experiences.
But how much of that experience should be “optional?” The approach even among the classics are pretty widely varied. Even the games we celebrate as being so free-form typically had very little “interesting” content that was completely optional. If you found a dungeon in the game, there was usually some reason you’d have to visit it at some point in the game in your chain of tasks leading to the conclusion. That is, unless you have spoilers handy and are able to bypass certain vital clues / passwords.
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March 2nd, 2011, 00:56
for a AAA game, with lots of $ invested, they can afford to add optional stuff. For smaller developers and indies, for which adding anything somewhat relevant is measured in weeks, I don't think it's wise.
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March 2nd, 2011, 01:04
Originally Posted by wolfing View Post
for a AAA game, with lots of $ invested, they can afford to add optional stuff. For smaller developers and indies, for which adding anything somewhat relevant is measured in weeks, I don't think it's wise.
I disagree - I think that RPG developers (even indies) can and should add content that the player might not see. It adds a purpose to the exploration - even if that exploration is within a level - and encourages replays. The key is to only add "optional" content that is reasonable in scope. This might include a hidden path here, an extra piece of loot there, perhaps an extra side-quest… My point is that these such things don't take that much time to implement - so long as a developer doesn't go completely overboard - and it makes the entire experience much better than a purely linear one.
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March 2nd, 2011, 03:56
If I enjoy a game, it motivates me to do every side quest and explore every nook-and-cranny. I'm not out to 'win' games or into speed runs. I guess I'm more of a process oriented gamer rather than a results gamer. I'm in no rush to get through the game. So, give me hidden content that rewards exploration or just interesting stuff with no real pay-off other than the fun of discovery and role playing.
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March 2nd, 2011, 09:46
It depends on how important you think it is that the player feels like there is a real world there, and a place he can explore and discover at his own pace.

Some of us appreciate that kind of thing a LOT more than being guided down linear corridors with increasingly expensive explosions at every corner.

In fact, I'd prefer if they cut down the "experience content" to a bare minimum, and instead invested in engaging mechanics and freeform emergent gameplay.
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March 2nd, 2011, 10:49
Depends on the definition of optional. If optional = sidequests, the amount isn't too important to me. However, if optional = different paths, it's very important to me. Not a huge fan of "fake choices" where the path and outcome is the same no matter what you "decide" to do (for example you decide to tell someone to sod off and yet you still end up doing their quest).
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March 2nd, 2011, 11:30
50%, now you know.
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March 2nd, 2011, 11:45
When Fallout 2 was released we talked for hours upon hours on how we solved a certain situation or how we found something unique that we hadn't seen before.
When Mass Effect 2 was released we spoke about… well, nothing. There's really just two ways to play the game; renegade/paragon, and if the other option doesn't intrigue you there's really not much else to explore or talk about.

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March 2nd, 2011, 11:46
Originally Posted by JemyM View Post
When Fallout 2 was released we talked for hours upon hours on how we solved a certain situation or how we found something unique that we hadn't seen before.
When Mass Effect 2 was released we spoke about… well, nothing. There's really just two ways to play the game; renegade/paragon, and if the other option doesn't intrigue you there's really not much else to explore or talk about.
But it was such an amazing ride, filled to the brim with experience content - and incredibly real characters!
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March 2nd, 2011, 11:51
Originally Posted by JemyM View Post
When Mass Effect 2 was released we spoke about… well, nothing. There's really just two ways to play the game; renegade/paragon, and if the other option doesn't intrigue you there's really not much else to explore or talk about.
Not to mention the fact that playing as renegade or paragon has no real effect on the outcome of the story. Bioware's games only give the illusion of choice and consequence - something that is painfully obvious in the ME series if you try to replay the game differently from the paragon/renegade stance that you chose the first time around. This kills replayability.
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March 2nd, 2011, 13:56
Originally Posted by Nerevarine View Post
I disagree - I think that RPG developers (even indies) can and should add content that the player might not see. It adds a purpose to the exploration - even if that exploration is within a level - and encourages replays. The key is to only add "optional" content that is reasonable in scope. This might include a hidden path here, an extra piece of loot there, perhaps an extra side-quest… My point is that these such things don't take that much time to implement - so long as a developer doesn't go completely overboard - and it makes the entire experience much better than a purely linear one.
And that is probably the reason why 95% of indie games that are started are never finished. They should focus on the core game.
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March 2nd, 2011, 14:24
I dislike knowing that in games there is content I will have to replay to see. When I play, I want to see it ALL. The last time I played BG2, I used the mod that allowed you to play every single one of the side questions. Took a long time managing something like 8 different home bases, but I loved it.

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March 2nd, 2011, 14:27
Originally Posted by wolfing View Post
And that is probably the reason why 95% of indie games that are started are never finished. They should focus on the core game.
You have this number from where?
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March 2nd, 2011, 15:03
How many people know of the sunk statue 's talking head in morrowind ?
I think you can only find it if you are stupid enough and try to swim around the island and it only gives 1 quest.
How many have found the ebony sword on the rock that it is not part of a quest?
I bet most gamers have found both on their own, because when you know that there are stuff out there waiting for you to find em you will search under every stone and this magnifies the fun factor of the game by 10 IMO.
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March 2nd, 2011, 15:18
Originally Posted by Tragos View Post
How many people know of the sunk statue 's talking head in morrowind ?
I think you can only find it if you are stupid enough and try to swim around the island
You can get a hint from M'Aiq the Liar .

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March 3rd, 2011, 01:47
I prefer a CRPG's world to be complex to the point that I feel like I'm bound to miss something, even if I end up actually seeing most of it. As as been said before, it's that much more reason to explore, and it makes replays more interesting. Finding a chest, or an NPC hidden away somewhere off the beaten path is unexpected so the discovery itself is the reward. What's actually in the chest, or what the NPC has to say is secondary, even irrelevant.
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