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September 20th, 2013, 09:57
How much realism do you find useful in a CRPG?

I like this concept of Ernest Adams, out of "Fundamentals of Game Design" (-> Great book about game design btw):

Realism
Chapter 2, "Design Components and Processes," introduces the concept of realism in the context of a discussion about core mechanics. All games, no matter how realistic, require some abstraction and simplification of the real world. Even the multimillion-dollar flight simulators used for training commercial pilots are incapable of turning the cockpit completely upside down. This event is so rare (we hope) in passenger aircraft that it's not worth the extra money it would take to simulate it.

The degree of realism of any aspect of a game appears on a continuum of possibilities from highly representational at one end to highly abstract at the other. Players and game reviewers often talk about realism as a quality of an entire game, but in fact, the level of realism differs in individual components of the game. Many games have highly realistic graphics but unrealistic physics. A good many first-person shooters accurately model the performance characteristics of a variety of weapons—their rate of fire, size of ammunition clips, accuracy, and so on—but allow the player to carry about 10 of them at once with no reduction in speed or mobility. Therefore, realism is not a single dimension of a game world, but a multivariate quality that applies to all parts of the game and everything in it.

NOTE
If you're mathematically inclined, think of realism as a vector over every aspect of the game, with values ranging from 0, entirely abstract, to 1, entirely realistic. However, no value ever equals 1 because nothing about a game is ever entirely realistic—if it were, it would be life, not a game.

The representational/abstract dichotomy is mostly useful as a starting point when you're thinking about what kind of a game you want to create. On the one hand, if you're designing a cartoony action game such as Ratchet & Clank, you know that it's going to be mostly abstract. As you design elements of the game, you'll need to ask yourself how much realism you want to include. Can your avatar be hurt when he falls long distances? Is there a limit to how much he can carry at once? Do Newtonian physics apply to him, or can he change directions in midair?

On the other hand, if you're designing a game that people will expect to be representational—a vehicle or sports simulation, for example—then you have to think about it from the other direction. What aspects of the real world are you going to remove? Most modern fighter aircraft have literally hundreds of controls; that's why only a special group of people can be fighter pilots. To make a fighter simulation accessible to the general public, you'll have to simplify a lot of those controls. Similarly, a fighter jet's engine is so powerful that certain maneuvers can knock the pilot unconscious or even rip the plane apart. Are you going to simulate these limitations accurately, or make the game a little more abstract by not requiring the player to think about them?

Once again: Every design decision you make must serve the entertainment value of the game. In addition, every design decision must serve your goals for the game's overall degree of realism. Some genres demand more realism than others. It's up to you to establish how much realism you want and in what areas. You must also make sure that your decisions about realism don't destroy the game's harmony and balance. During the design process, you must continually monitor your decisions to see if they are meeting your goals.

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong. - HL Mencken
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September 20th, 2013, 11:53
Realism is what makes a game fun and motivates you to keep on playing.

Examples:

- you get better with experience, not worse

- a bigger weapon swung by a stronger person results in more kinetic energy upon impact

Back when Counter Strike came out it was the first FPS I'd played where you would get one-shotted very frequently. Instead of being a chore, or boring, or frustrating, or whatever else people often call realism in games, it was great fun, because the game was designed around it.

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September 20th, 2013, 12:43
well, I can't imagine many RPG's being fun if all your characters died by one sword hit… and that didn't have any magic….
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September 20th, 2013, 12:51
Originally Posted by GothicGothicness View Post
well, I can't imagine many RPG's being fun if all your characters died by one sword hit
I can. Jagged Alliance 2 with swords and bows? I'm sold. That's what I meant what I said a game has to be designed around it; or, IOW, the fictional parts must be the glue that keeps your alternate reality together.

and that didn't have any magic….
Even with something like magic, 'realistic' principles are often in place. Wizards start out weak and with few spells/ little mana, but through studying, perseverance or personal growth, they become more powerful with practice. Fire spells don't hurt fire elementals, or if they do, it strikes players as lame.

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September 20th, 2013, 13:54
Well, then you have a kind of pseudo realism only right? I mean if you have magic then basically anything goes, you can have a magic shield working like HP, or you can explain why your character doesn't die with magic… basically anything goes?
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September 20th, 2013, 15:16
Originally Posted by GothicGothicness View Post
Well, then you have a kind of pseudo realism only right?
Isn't that covered by saying that no game is entirely realistic?

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September 20th, 2013, 19:11
Great topic HX.

Originally Posted by GothicGothicness View Post
well, I can't imagine many RPG's being fun if all your characters died by one sword hit… and that didn't have any magic….
Call of Cthulhu did this. But you make an important point.

Gygax in the DM's guide warned about systems that try to be too realistic adn how tedious a game can become (really he was disparaging the competition), but unfortunately, he did exactly that in the Wilderness Survival Guide.

Here's one element for example, the need for food. D&D back in the day made players buy food and carry water. There were even spells for it if you remember. You had to account for this in weight allotment based on your strength.

As a dynamic, Garriot and I think the Rogue games did a pretty good job of this. I remember the freeware Telengarde would have your armies starving then eat their mules and horses.

IIRC this was done terrible in Ultima VII. The early Ultimas just boiled it down how much food it took to get you from here to there. Its one of those dynamics that a computer could pull off where PnP can't.

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September 20th, 2013, 20:43
I don't find realism to be defined as "All games, no matter how realistic, require some abstraction and simplification of the real world" - they're definitely separate concepts in my mind.

For example, Minecraft is hardly realistic but it's definitely an abstraction and simplification of reality. As for RPGs and one's typical definition of realism, I agree with Gary Gygax - too much realism can be tedious and I would prefer… simplification.
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September 20th, 2013, 21:45
You get an abstraction of complex real world processes by generalizing and reduction to the essential methods and attributes.

Generalizing is not possible without simplification of real world objects.

So abstraction and simplification are very closely related.

Example: (1) Abstract object … (6) Real World object

(1) a publication

(2) a newspaper

(3) The San Francisco Chronicle

(4) the May 18 edition of the The San Francisco Chronicle

(5) my copy of the May 18 edition of the The San Francisco Chronicle

(6) my copy of the May 18 edition of the The San Francisco Chronicle as it was when I first picked it up (as contrasted with my copy as it was a few days later: in my fireplace, burning)

By generalizing from (6) to (1) you lose information, the real world object is
"simplified".

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September 20th, 2013, 23:07
There's this very simple thing that Kubrick once said, in response to a realistic performance, that sums it up for me: "it might be realistic but it's not interesting" (or something along these lines)

We've got too much realism - It's imagination we're lacking. We find it appealing because it's easy to understand and evaluate, but after a point there's no 'adventure' in it, just a replication of what we already know.

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(LaMonte Young, 1962)
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September 20th, 2013, 23:48
WEll, here's one for RPG's that never made sense to me

How many of you people, when you level up at your job or school, gain at least 4 more hit points?

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September 21st, 2013, 01:46
I'm all for it as long as it makes sense, and doesn't impede my enjoyment.

Originally Posted by Lucky Day View Post
WEll, here's one for RPG's that never made sense to me

How many of you people, when you level up at your job or school, gain at least 4 more hit points?
Well that's because most RPGs use stat systems so until they stop we will still see hit points, and attributes.

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September 21st, 2013, 02:56
Originally Posted by Lucky Day View Post
How many of you people, when you level up at your job or school, gain at least 4 more hit points?
I think I lose HP leveling up my IT job by chairsitting all day long. However, if my job involved kung fu moves I'd be definetly gaining more HP. In RPGs you usually pump up some sort of survival skill(s), so I'd say getting more HP is not illogical.

Completely unrealistic to me are some RPGs where HP is treated as a standalone skill, not just as a derived value, so those games allow you to level up your HP directly.

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September 21st, 2013, 09:54
Realism applied to objects that are entirely virtual and fictional.

When applied to games that are deeply grounded in reality like war shooters, it is already borderline.

But applying realism to games deeply grounded in fantasy settings? Contrary to war shooters, there are no real references to point at.

So probably another confusion between credibility and realism.
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September 21st, 2013, 10:19
But good fantasy story (be it book, film or game) has to be internally consistent and logical. So reality (broadly speaking) and fantasy aren't mutually exclusive.
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September 21st, 2013, 10:27
@ChienAboyeur

you can be more abstract or more realistic in fantasy games too, I think.

Example:
How to handle damage/wounds?

(1) just use HP and subtract the damage
(2) use HP and Stamina and substract damage from Stamina first
(3) track if wounds are still bleeding
(4) track which body parts are hurt
(5) track what kind of damage is done
(6) use of different healing methods


(1) abstract … (6) more realistic

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September 21st, 2013, 10:58
Originally Posted by HiddenX View Post
@ChienAboyeur

you can be more abstract or more realistic in fantasy games too, I think.

Example:
How to handle damage/wounds?

(1) just use HP and subtract the damage
(2) use HP and Stamina and substract damage from Stamina first
(3) track if wounds are still bleeding
(4) track which body parts are hurt
(5) track what kind of damage is done
(6) use of different healing methods


(1) abstract … (6) more realistic
No, this is not more or less realistic, it is only more or less complicated. Realistic would be that seriously wounded persons cannot go on adventuring for the next months or even never again. In reality of war a wound is either harmless or takes you out of the game for a long time. In reality there is no "healing" as used in games.

And this holds for the other aspects (like eating etc.) too: mechanics in games are more or less complicated (some would say: tedious) but not more or less realistic. What about washing and toilets? What about having to earn a living (not by finding barrels in or chests standing around every corner)?

"The Sims" have more "realism" than any RPG.

I personally don't like the Sims. I do like PPG games with good mechanics, which require tactical thinking without being tedious. I even like mechanics, which other consider tedious, like the combat in Wizardry 8.

However, I don't believe that "realism" is the correct term for this.

This is nothing against the intention of this thread. I am only sceptical about the terminology being used.
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September 21st, 2013, 11:47
Originally Posted by ChienAboyeur View Post
So probably another confusion between credibility and realism.
By credibility I assume you mean internal consistency? If so, then, no. Realism still applies to fantasy games apart from the internal consistency of your particular alternate reality.

From a strictly gamist point of view, there's no reason why leather armour shouldn't offer more protection than full plate armour, and why a chainmail bikini shouldn't offer more protection than both of these. Internal consistency is achieved if you make up some reasons why, according to the physics of your alternate reality, leather armour is superior to all other armours. The question is if a more realistic approach wouldn't entice players more, and why you saw the need to alter things in your fictional world to achieve this end.

Point in case: Dune. Making up reasons why shields protect you from lasers but not swords? Cool, as long as you don't dig too deep, but that's where suspension of disbelief comes into play anyway. But then there was the laser problem and the possibility of orbital bombardment and nukes, so not everyone was reduced to a club-wielding space pirate. If 'shields > everything' had been the case, people would probably have been less willing to suspend their disbelief because it deviates farther and farther from reality. In that case, it doesn't even matter if ther author wins the argument for internal consistency.

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September 21st, 2013, 13:42
Originally Posted by Sacred_Path View Post
Realism is what makes a game fun and motivates you to keep on playing.

Examples:
- you get better with experience, not worse
- a bigger weapon swung by a stronger person results in more kinetic energy upon impact

Back when Counter Strike came out it was the first FPS I'd played where you would get one-shotted very frequently. Instead of being a chore, or boring, or frustrating, or whatever else people often call realism in games, it was great fun, because the game was designed around it.
Firstly as you explained to gothicness it's a realism inside the the game rules, it's deeply linked with the "suspension of disbelief" mechanism in stories that the writing should try not break. It should feel credible inside the game rules. I'm totally agree with you on that point, it's definitely an important mechanism for games too.

But where I disagree a lot it's that your post means higher realism = better gameplay.

Your post is just an affirmation there's not arguing and it doesn't make your assumption more true.

I think we can agree that realism and core gameplay isn't the same element. I agree realism could be considered as a part of the gameplay but we could agree that there's something like "core gameplay" and it doesn't include the realism level.

I noticed many times in "suggestion threads" that suggestions was just lists of reality elements. Everybody know more or less the reality and can pinpoint what's more or less realist in a game. It's also easy to throw features whishlist build from elements of reality.

But does it really makes the game more fun/pleasant/interesting/… to play is another question.

The first problem is, is the reality that fun? As soon as we agree it's not, it generates the question, where put the barrier, ie when more realism stop be more fun.

I think realism increase pushed many game genres in wrong design. A good example are fps shooters, why so many games with zombie like enemies? Good enemy human but not human so no morale management difficulty? Perhaps. I do think it's a lot because they allow design monsters that are slow, a bit stupid (weak IA) and it's realist. Cool but I'm so bored, not of zombies, but of shooters with all oponents like zombies and looking the same.
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September 21st, 2013, 13:55
Originally Posted by Ihaterpg View Post
But where I disagree a lot it's that your post means higher realism = better gameplay.
It wasn't actually my intention to say that.

My point is more like: realistic elements engage and motivate the player, because they give you something to relate to. People start to play and keep playing because they get the opportunity to be a monster hunter, or a pilot, or a soccer manager. Even Mario has some background as a regular guy who's enamored with a princess.

Of course there are completely abstract games as well, but I'd argue that they're less likely to be addictive. When you read about people literally dying over a video game, they weren't usually playing Snake or Pong.

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