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Default Age of Decadence - Non-Combat Gameplay

February 28th, 2008, 14:23
Vince's latest article on RPG design at The Age of Decadence forums examines non-combat gameplay. Here's the opening:
As we all know RPG usually means a game where you kill things. If you are role-playing a good character, you kills things in the name of justice and general goodness, weeping for every life taken. If you are role-playing an evil character, you kill with glee because you are evil (duh!), and finally, if you are playing an undecided character, you kill things and shrug.

You can often see "Different ways to play the game!" on a game box. 12 out of 10 it means "different ways to kill things". For example, venerable Baldur's Gate 2 offers 11 different classes, including bard, druid, and monk. Surprisingly enough (well, not really, but the word "surprisingly" increases the overall dramatic effect I'm going for), even though the manual boldly claims that bard's "strength is his pleasant and charming personality; With it and his wits he makes his way through the world….", the psycho bard makes his way through the world by killing things and singing sons that help him and his buddies kill things in a more efficient manner, which is great if you think that killing things is what RPGs are all about. If not, if you are starting to doubt that diplomacy is for fags, or expecting more than backstabbing from your thief, or simply wondering where the fuck all non-combat classes are, welcome to our PowerPoint "Non-Combat Gameplay: Myths and Reality" FAQ-style presentation […]
More information.
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February 28th, 2008, 14:23
Vince is getting a tad florid with his writing style, but… damn! If AoD delivers a quarter of what he's promising here, this could well be a classic. G'wan and finish it already, I'm getting impatient here.

(By the way, it would be "speakest" not "speaketh." Thou speakest, he speaketh. Quoth the Raven, Nevermore. I can't stand that particular error, and if it shows up in the game, I'll personally make sure someone gives Vince a noogie. Wouldn't dirty my own manicured hands with it, naturally…
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February 28th, 2008, 15:28
Very amusing piece of writing. I hope this is not one of those "preaching water yet drinking wine" kind of situations and the game deliveres at least a portion of these great ideas.

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February 28th, 2008, 15:32
That's some awesome piece of reading. And the idea is good. But it seems very, very far from reality to me. It requires nearly infinite hours of game design and twice infinite time for debugging all the scripts. Or so it seems to me now, at least.

Second reason why this is not real is modern action boom on Xbox360. Looks like noone is going to release mainstream games without some sensible degree of action(look at mass effect or at falout 3 previews) and indie developers just don't have enough manpower.

There's a small hope for me though. I'd really love to see an adventure game with an option to punch that guy in the face(and a minimally elaborate combat system for that matter) instead of solving a puzzle for him, and it's technically close to what Vince described. Is anyone developing something like that?
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February 28th, 2008, 16:58
If they do it - I'm in !

(I mean the headline.)

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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February 28th, 2008, 17:03
great article and quiet good on the spot. Hope they make it true. anyone any idea for when age of decadance is meant to be released?

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February 28th, 2008, 17:04
Aw man.. This thread had me excited until I saw the combat video on their website. I just can't do turn-based combat. It's so incredibly dull and unrealistic. The music is all fast paced and exciting, only to watch avatars taking turns one-hit bashing each other in lifeless animations. *What's this?? Suddenly I have a shield and sword in my hand!!* - Where did that come from? And what happened to the other weapon?? *Is that your war club in your pocket or are you happy to see me??* - I know it an inventory thing, but terribly unrealistic imho.

To me the whole turn-based experience is as immersive as the first motion pictures, where they played the silent scene with charged music and then flash the subtitles of what just happened after the fact.

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February 28th, 2008, 17:12
Originally Posted by drum View Post
That's some awesome piece of reading. And the idea is good. But it seems very, very far from reality to me. It requires nearly infinite hours of game design…
Not really. From my previous article:

"Compare the walkthrough to a Gothic 2 quest:

“How to get into the City of Khorinis:
The city guards are wary of convicts and thugs from the mountains and wont let anyone in. There are several ways to complete this quest.

- Buy farmer's work clothes from Lobart and tell the guards that you work there.
- Talk to Canthar by the crossroads and buy his gate pass OR trade it for a favour
- Bribe your way in at the cost of 100 gold.
- Explore and find a hidden, but rather dangerous way in through a mountain ledge”

I was also told that if you find enough herbs, you can claim to be an alchemist's assistant, but I’ve never tried that.

Anyway, as you can see, you play a role not by following a predefined path and moving from one cutscene to another, but by actually deciding what to do, when, and how. Mind blowing, huh?"

"If a game lets me create a combat-allergic, silver-tongued thief I expect to be able to play the game in a manner fitting this character. The last thing I want is to be thrown into situations designed for fighters and requiring a frontal attack approach. Bloodlines does a great job in the “decisions fitting your character” department in the first half of the game, but unfortunately the last third of the game is a straight shoot ‘em up. Here is one of the first quests:

Surf's Up: Getting explosives from a local gang.

kill everyone (always popular)
sneak in (the game offers you a lose board in the fence and an option to turn off the power – you aren’t afraid of the dark, are you?)
seduce your way in if you are a female and get the explosive for, uh, free.
talk your way in and use your persuasion

While the "call a nuclear strike" option is missing, we can agree that the game covered pretty much all reasonable options there. That's the key difference between Bloodlines and Oblivion, for example, where all characters end up playing in the same manner."

Despite being an action-game, Bloodlines is filled with great non-combat options.
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February 28th, 2008, 17:18
Originally Posted by Jabberwocky View Post
I just can't do turn-based combat. It's so incredibly dull and unrealistic.
Here we go again. Dull and unrealistic. Unlike real time combat where you excitedly mash buttons and shrug off blows that could vaporize an elephant.
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February 28th, 2008, 18:34
Originally Posted by Jabberwocky View Post
Aw man.. This thread had me excited until I saw the combat video on their website. I just can't do turn-based combat. It's so incredibly dull and unrealistic.
Considering this thread is called "Non-Combat Gameplay", ever consider that maybe you'll be able to play the game without combat?
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February 28th, 2008, 19:04
The rant against combat in RPG reminds me of the rant against sex in romantic films. And I agree that there's typically too much in each. But characterizing combat as a problem is a mistake, and mocking it makes no sense.

Good romantic comedies have the right idea about maintaining the sexual tension, and they're a pretty good example of how combat probably ought to be approached in RPG. Roles in this genre are set in dangerous worlds, and that danger ought to be a constant theme.

That's not to say there should be constant fighting. But without conflict, there's no drama, and a dearth of drama quickly becomes boring. That's why you'll even find drama in comedy.

I like Vince's suggestions for alternatives to combat, because RPG needs to provide the player with a lot more options. Not just alternatives to combat, more alternatives throughout the entire game.

But instead of de-emphasizing or trivializing combat, it should be relished and savored. Like sex in a good romantic-comedy, it should be infrequent. It should be rare because it's valuable.

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February 28th, 2008, 19:18
Aye, I agree with you there, Squeek, but I think you're misinterpreting Vince's words if you say he'd disagree.

Rather than frequent, mindless and uninteresting combat, the 20-rats in a dungeon complex, combat should - when a viable solution - by difficult, challenging, rare and preferable require planning. DSA-style vs AD&D-style, I suppose
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February 28th, 2008, 19:40
Originally Posted by Squeek View Post
The rant against combat in RPG…
It's not. It's not a rant against combat in RPGs, it's a rant asking for something *in addition to* combat.

But without conflict, there's no drama…
First, killing them things can hardly be described as drama. Second, conflicts can be resolved in different ways. Police negotiators exist for a reason.

But instead of de-emphasizing or trivializing combat, it should be relished and savored. Like sex in a good romantic-comedy, it should be infrequent. It should be rare because it's valuable.
No arguing here.
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February 28th, 2008, 21:12
Originally Posted by VDweller View Post
Here we go again. Dull and unrealistic. Unlike real time combat where you excitedly mash buttons and shrug off blows that could vaporize an elephant.
…Well, yeah.

I mean, if you want to get technical about it, can any *game* be called realistic? But I can't imagine anyone arguing that an animation of drawing an already visible weapon is less realistic than pulling out a shield big enough to sleep on out of thin air. - That's the sense that I meant by "unrealistic."

As for dullness, well there again, I think that 'button mashing' is an inaccurate umbrella statement, but even the games that are 'click fests' provide me more excitement than turn-based. - It's just an opinion, not an attack on your game. I think the graphics look great and the ideas of non-combat gameplay superb, hence my initial interest.

@ Brother None: Yes, I was fully aware of the title of this thread. But I don't buy rpgs to suit up in fancy armor only to go around playing Mr. nice guy. Don't misunderstand, I like mature games that get you to think, and I certainly do not always choose combat if there are other options, but fact remains that the game has combat elements, and those do not suit me, so I move on.

..& so they take the fiction all out of the Jabberwock & I recognize & accept him as a fact. - Mark Twain, May 30, 1880
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February 28th, 2008, 21:33
Originally Posted by Jabberwocky View Post
@ Brother None: Yes, I was fully aware of the title of this thread. But I don't buy rpgs to suit up in fancy armor only to go around playing Mr. nice guy. Don't misunderstand, I like mature games that get you to think, and I certainly do not always choose combat if there are other options, but fact remains that the game has combat elements, and those do not suit me, so I move on.
What?

You can (probably) play the game from A to Z playing a stealth or dialogue character, or something else.

I'm completely missing your argument here. Why would the game having an element that you can completely avoid be a deal-breaker if the replacing elements are enjoyable to you? Do you feel you're incapable of playing an RPG without resorting to combat?
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February 28th, 2008, 21:35
Jabberwocky, that AoD is turn-based is one of the cornerstones of its concept and development. If you don't think the non-combat paths will interest you enough, I'm afraid it's time to pass on this one.

As a side comment, even those of us who love TB combat don't find it "immersive" in the same sense that you are using the word. But we find it has other paybacks.

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February 28th, 2008, 21:56
I just had a terrifying thought (well, sort of) :

I assume that - in almost every game (talking about clichés, shall we ? ) , I'd need to battle an end-boss, at the very end of the whole game.

Now, will the character who has chosen the non-combat path have enough experience-points based strength to do that ? Or other attributes ?

Or in other words: Will the non-combat path give the same amount of experience points than the combat-path does ?

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February 28th, 2008, 22:48
Originally Posted by Brother None View Post
What?

You can (probably) play the game from A to Z playing a stealth or dialogue character, or something else.

I'm completely missing your argument here. Why would the game having an element that you can completely avoid be a deal-breaker if the replacing elements are enjoyable to you? Do you feel you're incapable of playing an RPG without resorting to combat?
Well it's not really an argument. You actually hit it dead on, except rather than be "incapable" of playing without combat, it's a matter of choice. What I'm saying is this: I will want a measure of combat in any rpg I play - combat and rpg's sort of go together like peas and carrots, at least imo. I was drawn to the thread because, like i said before, I enjoy working through things on occasion without resorting to violence, but there will come a point in the game in which I will want to bash some skulls, and if that is not enjoyable to me, in this case because it's turn-based, then I'm better off passing on the game, as Dhruin said.

I'm not claiming that people who enjoy turn-based have an inferior opinion, I was simply expressing my own view of it. Please everyone, do not get all defensive.

..& so they take the fiction all out of the Jabberwock & I recognize & accept him as a fact. - Mark Twain, May 30, 1880
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February 28th, 2008, 23:29
Dhruin: it is my personal conviction the word "immersion" has become tainted in gaming circles and can no longer be used in any meaningful sense. So for me, any argument about the "immersive" nature of combat or viewpoints is moot to begin with.

Originally Posted by Jabberwocky View Post
combat and rpg's sort of go together like peas and carrots, at least imo.
Really? Seriously? Because this isn't like "driving cars" being a part of race-car driving games, or "a football" being a part of any NFL game. Honestly, I can understand if you're so used to combat being in RPG that you think the two are always together for you, personally, but I hope you do see how that has no wider relevance, and RPGs and combat aren't inherently linked at all.

Originally Posted by Jabberwocky View Post
I'm not claiming that people who enjoy turn-based have an inferior opinion, I was simply expressing my own view of it. Please everyone, do not get all defensive.
Defensive? I'm not defensive, I just think you're on a path to cheat yourself from something you might enjoy for a totally arbitrary reason. That's disappointing, but if it's really what you want, that really is your own blistery butt.
Last edited by Brother None; February 28th, 2008 at 23:52.
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February 28th, 2008, 23:44
Originally Posted by Alrik Fassbauer View Post
I just had a terrifying thought (well, sort of) :

I assume that - in almost every game (talking about clichés, shall we ? ) , I'd need to battle an end-boss, at the very end of the whole game.

Now, will the character who has chosen the non-combat path have enough experience-points based strength to do that ? Or other attributes ?

Or in other words: Will the non-combat path give the same amount of experience points than the combat-path does ?
According to the FAQ:
A: "We have seven different endings and only two involve mortal combat."
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