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Default Why Do Our RPGs Still Need Numbers? @ Kotaku

March 24th, 2011, 21:38
Kotaku asks Why Do Our Role-Playing Games Still Need Numbers Everywhere?
Compare, for example, the experience of Mass Effect 2 with that of a more traditional RPG. You're still doing largely the same things: you're leading a party, you're exploring worlds, you're engaging in dialogue with characters, you're increasing the strength of your party and gaining access to new and improved equipment along the way.
Yet if you asked somebody to play Mass Effect 2 and then play a more "traditional" RPG - whether Western or Japanese - and they'd tell you it would feel like playing two completely different games, the former's fast pacing and action sequences contrasting with the latter's obsession with statistics, percentages, numbers and inventory management.
Whether you like one or the other (or both!) is entirely subjective, but to me, the very purpose (and appeal!) of a role-playing game is to, well, role-play. Create a character and go on an adventure. Like playing dress-ups as a kid, only with (hopefully) better writing and props. I don't know about you, but my fantasies would involve exploring worlds and kicking ass, not seeing numbers everywhere and juggling inventories.
Fortunately, Jay 'Rampant Coyote' Barnson has already replied:
Long ago, I tried the suggestion given in some tabletop RPGs to not reveal to players the exact damage that they had received, but instead to describe it and track the values secretly. I tried to be as descriptive as possible. I thought it would add tension and drama to the game. It did, but not in the way I wanted it to. My players hated it. It drove them crazy. The experiment didn’t even last an entire session. They didn’t want to hear, “You are badly hurt.” They needed to know HOW badly hurt. As exactly as possible. I couldn’t just say, “You might not survive another hit with a sword blade.” They wanted to know – a strong hit with a sword blade, an average hit with a sword blade, or a weak hit with a sword blade? Because, you know, it changes everything. And from that, they extrapolated a number range in their heads.
Because from that quantification, they could then extrapolate. What about a dagger hit. What about a fireball? Most importantly, how likely was their character to survive another round of combat without healing?
More information.
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March 24th, 2011, 21:38
Gaming "journalism" rears its ugly head again. I just wish these folks would shut up with their idiotic little tirades. This is as stupid as a few years ago when every mainstream news site was implying turn-based gameplay was antiquated. The utterly incompetent fools writing for all of these sites (and magazines) have completely ruined gaming with their ridiculous diatribes. I wish they'd all just go back to playing Halo and leave the rest of us alone to enjoy what we enjoy.

Edit: Not Rampant Coyote, he's awesome. Talkin' bout Kotaku.
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March 24th, 2011, 22:11
A part of the arguments in the article from Kotaku are certainly valid but the thing is that even in very shooter-like RPGs as Mass Effect you still have numbers. And the very reason of that is the same as in Pen and Paper games: Numbers are easy to understand and compare (says the engineer in me at least ).
There may be alternative solutions but all I can come up right now has either numbers or something comparable. What developers can do is hide the numbers which may be a good idea for some games (there is a reason you don't see a lot of numbers in shooters).
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March 24th, 2011, 22:29
I wonder if perhaps what they were trying to say is why do we need to see the numbers? They can be all done under the hood, I personally like the numbers myself though.

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March 24th, 2011, 22:45
I've played quite a few games of both kinds. I'm not particularly a numbers guy. Rather, the old Health Bar is fine by me. Once you've become somewhat familiar how a particular game behaves, you get a feel for how much damage you can absorb before you have to Heal or Run. I don't need a meter telling me, 'You hit for 47 Damage!' or "You took 100 Damage!' or 'You've gained 75 Exp!'. Dorky.
Keep it in the background, unless that is the sort of back-and-forth you like in your gaming experience.
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March 25th, 2011, 00:12
Wow, so first reading lines of dialog is too hard, so have to reduce that to little snippets. And now dealing with numbers is too hard, so they should be phased out.

The dumbing down of PC games continues.

Can't wait to see what they come up with next.
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March 25th, 2011, 00:29
Why not just rename this site CharacterAdvancementAndInventoryManagementWatch and be done with it? That's all people here seem to judge games on.

Does flipping into a character detail screen and seeing which number is larger every time you pick up a new item make a game an RPG? Does it make a game fun? Does it require a great deal of intelligence to compare two numbers, or is it just kind of tedious busywork because you always choose the bigger one anyway?

I've been playing these games since Wizardry on the Apple IIe, and I play for a sense of adventure, for exploring another world, for a lot of reasons. Sometimes for getting cool loot and seeing my characters get better. But does the latter require dozens of trash items, jugging inventories, and knowing that my character is now exactly +3 STR better?
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March 25th, 2011, 01:18
For a simple game we don't need numbers so much. As Moonmonster said, if you've got a +3 sword and a +4 sword then you use the +4 (unless the +3 looks vastly cooler than the +4, but that's unlikely). But, if you've also got a sword that's +1 with an extra +4 bonus against dragons, then the choice gets harder and you need some numbers to use for comparison. If you get a really complex system that has all sorts of different damage and accuracy values then you REALLY need numbers - and maybe even some charts.
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March 25th, 2011, 01:23
You miss the point. Keep the all the numbers, but keep them off-screen in the background. What's your point in gaming? Doing a game called 'Harry Potter Goes to Accounting School'?
Baseball is all about numbers and statistics. Games are supposed to be fun, not an actuarial exercise.
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March 25th, 2011, 02:28
You need numbers because, without them, things turn into a generic stew with little ability to differentiate your character from cookie cutter roles.

The MMO and RPG industry have moved towards a model with little innovation and little variation, with less and less meaningful choices to be made in the respective games. Under such circumstances, any putz can all of a sudden cry that they don't need the tools for a greater experience on the basis that they are not currently receiving such an experience. But they'd be wrong, unequivocally.

If you want to continue eating oatmeal all your life, don't suddenly have an epiphany that others don't need an actual cooking pot to make something more robust.

I have a friend who is always gushing about DDO's character generation. How, if he chooses, he can make any character he desires through multiclassing - you can't do that without "numbers".
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March 25th, 2011, 02:31
Originally Posted by Zephyr View Post
You miss the point. Keep the all the numbers, but keep them off-screen in the background. What's your point in gaming? Doing a game called 'Harry Potter Goes to Accounting School'?
Baseball is all about numbers and statistics. Games are supposed to be fun, not an actuarial exercise.
Some argue that's part of the fun. I've never enjoyed baseball more than when I started keeping a scoresheet at every game I went to. I'm still able to go back and tell someone when and how often a particular keystone combination infield turned a great 6-4-3 double play.

There's room for everyone in the big gaming tent. No need to crowd people out.
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March 25th, 2011, 03:36
I remember the pure joy of discovering the world of D&D games and their +4 swords…. I'll be damned if someone tries to kill the last vestiges of the genre I love. There are VERY VERY few mainstream RPGs left, of those even less can be considered pure by any means.
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March 25th, 2011, 03:46
Well, as Drithius said, some of us like to have a bit of complexity in our rpgs. There are plenty of simple action and arcade rpgs already, and that crowd into those has plenty to choose from. The complex and deep rpgs seem to be going the way of the Dodo, at least among the major developers, hence all the interest in the new indie rpg movement. They are filling the gap that the major developers are more and more leaving behind in the pursuit of the lowest common denominator and more sales.

Its kind of like movies. Yea, I like a brainless dumb action flick sometimes just like everyone else, but often I also enjoy to watch an intellectual art house movie too.
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March 25th, 2011, 10:40
An "RPG" without numbers would have to be more along the lines of Thief or Mirrors Edge - combat is short and brutal, and you will die often. Without numbers it would have to be as close as possible to reality for the user to understand the danger something poses. You learn this very quickly in these two games - the human body is frail. Run away!.
Thief series would be great if it introduced branching dialogue, a huge city, manipulating politicians, getting guards to duff up ruffians for you, thwarting an assassin whilst stealing from the ruling tyrant, getting opium dealers incarcerated - or joining them. A sneaking, stealing and diplomatic RPG rather than a fighting RPG.

This will not happen. :-(
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March 25th, 2011, 10:41
Could be tomorrow's fashion in gamingg : RPGs without numbers … *sigh*

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March 25th, 2011, 11:48
"Why do our RPGs still need numbers?" Because I enjoy them that way! And I have proven over the years that I will spend money to play them.
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March 25th, 2011, 12:30
Originally Posted by Alrik Fassbauer View Post
Could be tomorrow's fashion in gamingg : RPGs without numbers … *sigh*
Those are actually called Adventure games. A genre currently considered "dead" by many.
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March 25th, 2011, 12:37
Originally Posted by azarhal View Post
Those are actually called Adventure games. A genre currently considered "dead" by many.
Or action-adventures. Or First Person Shooters.
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March 25th, 2011, 13:00
Numbers are a good way of adding depth and complexity, however it should not be the only way. The problem is, nowadays stuff is "trimmed away" (stats), but the loss of depth is not replaced by something else with as much depth (story, real choices, writing, immersion, characterisation). So you are left with button mashing and killing.

A Discworld "First Person Adventure RPG" based on AnkhMorpork would be good.

Most action sandbox games I have played are fun yet vacuous - such a waste of potential in the engine. I often wonder how great some engines would be for an RPG.
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March 25th, 2011, 15:58
Originally Posted by azarhal View Post
Those are actually called Adventure games. A genre currently considered "dead" by many.
Except here in Germany.

Of which I'm very, very glad …



More seriously, shouldn't it be rather, then :

"Are RPGs turning into Adventure games ?"

“ 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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