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Default Games, Storytelling, and Breaking the String @ EBR

January 15th, 2008, 17:13
The ideal CRPG would assess the character chosen and how it was being played. It would react so that evil assassins would have different adventures than saintly Paladins, mages would live different day-to-day lives than warriors, and fanatics would perceive their world uniquely.

If there were a Dungeon Master present, and if he had the resources available, he could achieve that by modding the game. He could continue modding it whenever he felt it necessary. Mods can change the story. Mods can change everything.

How much better would Oblivion have been if Bethesda had smartly and extensively modded it and engineered it so that those modifications would be applied automatically in correspondence with the player, his choices, and how he made them throughout the game?

With mods at his disposal, a Dungeon Master could make the game darker and more sinister or lighter and pleasant. He could change every quest, every NPC, all the textures and even the graphics. He could blur all the edges completely, and he wouldn’t even have to be fair about it. All he would really need to be is intelligent and consistent, and the rest would be up to the player.

Bethesda only charged about $60 for Oblivion. That won’t pay for much.

World of Warcraft subscribers pay a lot more than that in the long run in order to play. We’ve all experienced or heard about WoW’s headaches, problems and other issues, so you have to wonder why. I’d say it’s because it's so big and has so much potential. But everyone plays the same version.

Instead of algorithms, randomization, synthesized speech and all that, I’d like to see a dev extensively mod its own game and then use the personage of a Dungeon Master to apply those mods in reaction to the choices and style exhibited by the player.

That would be awfully strict. If you didn't like those decisions, that would be too bad. You would just have to start over. How’s that for “Choice and Consequences?”

Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on. But it don't snow here. It stays pretty green. I'm going to make a lot of money, then I'm going to quit this crazy scene. — [Joni Mitchell]
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January 15th, 2008, 19:18
Originally Posted by Squeek View Post
The ideal CRPG …
There is no possible ideal cRPG because no two people will agree on what it should be.

How much better would Oblivion have been if Bethesda had smartly and extensively modded it and engineered it so that those modifications would be applied automatically in correspondence with the player, his choices, and how he made them throughout the game? …
It wouldn't have been better because it would never have been finished and, if somehow it had, there's no personal computer around that could run it. Maybe if you could borrow a few racks of a BlueGene/L you could.
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January 15th, 2008, 19:45
Oblivion mods are created all the time by fans. So are Morrowind mods. Does that mean those games are unfinished? Would they become unfinished if Bethesda began working on mods for them now?

My antivirus software decides when I need to download, so why can't my other applications? I run NAV on an old Pentium III backup machine with no problem at all. Come to think of it, Bill Gates compared my old Pentium 90 to a supercomputer.

Remember, I'm talking about a subscription pricing model, not something you make once and then sell once. It's perfectly reasonable to expect work to continue. Not just improvements or expansions, either. I mean continued development on alternatives.

If it helps, keep reminding yourself about what MMOs provide in exchange for the fees they charge. There should be more and more. It should keep getting better and better.

Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on. But it don't snow here. It stays pretty green. I'm going to make a lot of money, then I'm going to quit this crazy scene. — [Joni Mitchell]
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January 15th, 2008, 20:06
I see what you mean Squeek, much like pnp you buy say the engine and the starting campaign or world then pay for addons or downloadable content like you would for a pnp rules system.

The problem with that is that publishers would corrupt that into a rip-off before you know it. Like downloadable horse armour for instance. People need a rest after putting so much effort into making games as well, and generally don't want to find themselves suck working on the same project for eternity.

Might be a good idea to work on if you could say get a group from rpgwatch to work on nwn/nwn2 tool set and see how to approach that.
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January 16th, 2008, 09:30
Originally Posted by woges View Post
I see what you mean Squeek, much like pnp you buy say the engine and the starting campaign or world then pay for addons or downloadable content like you would for a pnp rules system.

The problem with that is that publishers would corrupt that into a rip-off before you know it. Like downloadable horse armour for instance. People need a rest after putting so much effort into making games as well, and generally don't want to find themselves suck working on the same project for eternity.
Don't think that is necessarily true. It will work if it a ) generates money and b ) there is competition, so that attempted rippoff is immediately punished by loss of subscribers. And if a ) happens, then b ) will immediately follow. The content would be generated by dedicated teams, just like for todays MMO's. To me it seems quite obvious that continued online support and content is one yet unexplored, but potentially highly rewarding way to change the way we play games. Why should multiplayer be the only way to take advantage of the internet in gaming? And with multiplayer having paved the way for subscription models in gaming, maybe it is not that difficult anymore to make people subscribe to such a scheme, either.
And I don't mean morsels like downloadable minimods, but games that are inherently designed to take advantage of large central server systems streaming content, and maybe even taking over some of the computing of AI, gameworld events, etc.
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January 16th, 2008, 10:51
Originally Posted by GhanBuriGhan View Post
Don't think that is necessarily true. It will work if it a ) generates money and b ) there is competition, so that attempted rippoff is immediately punished by loss of subscribers.
A very good point. Other genres might well take a lesson from Microsoft's Flight Simulator. Not only does it have a huge community producing free, fan-made add-ons (such as new airplane models and sceneries), but there is a host of third-party commercial developers and publishers producing extremely high-quality content, and to my knowledge, these are not developed under any particular license from MS.

My understanding is that the EULAs of publishers such as Zenimax/Bethesda are quite restrictive as to the possible commercial use of anything produced with their Construction Set, which is a pity; a provision for commercial use might provide some incentive to third parties for putting more manpower and funds into a project than amateur modders have the resources to do (no disrespect to the fantastic work that they have done, GBG!). Is it correct to assume that commercial add-ons for NWN2 cannot be developed without an explicit license either?

Of course, fantasy RPGs have a considerably more complex background story, so one would see add-on content that doesn't necessarily conform to the canon - but it would be left to the customer to decide whether he or she desires that. If Oblivion or NWN2 were marketed as pure engines for third parties to develop unlicensed add-ons and SDKs released… who knows what the market would come up with?

Anyway, this is veering off-topic a little, since such mods might offer more diverse storytelling, but not necessarily adaptive storytelling, as some in this thread have suggested. The way some engines are constructed, adaptive gameplay and multi-linear plots are discouraged, but some design choices can make a whole lot of difference. An example: IIRC (GBG might correct me on this), in Morrowind, dialogs were associated by specifying the ID of the NPC that would use it, and these filters could not be changed at runtime. Hence, making an NPC's dialog adaptive to the situation could be an involved task; normally, one NPC ended up with one dialog, unless you actually switched out the NPCs. In the RPG engine that I am dabbling with in my spare time, I am instead using pointers from the NPC to the dialog, and being able to change these pointers at runtime in response to events in the game world makes it possible to quickly and conveniently switch any NPC's dialog for a different one, as the situation requires, while leaving everything else - inventory, stats, AI - untouched. It's just a tweak under the hood, but it makes it much easier to realize a more reactive world.

Does anyone know how NWN/NWN2 handle this?
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January 16th, 2008, 13:01
I think when you compile in NWN you point an object to a conversation script. I am unsure if this can be changed on the fly. No idea what is possible in NWN2, but now I have MotB I'm getting the bug to have a look at it.
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January 16th, 2008, 15:19
Mods like the ones I'm describing would essentially be patches. They would be developed with the same tools used to make the original game and by the same people. They wouldn't have the same limitations as player-made mods.

Adaptive storytelling in games is problematic in ways the article described. Besides, it's not enough just to have a story. The story should be a good one.

Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on. But it don't snow here. It stays pretty green. I'm going to make a lot of money, then I'm going to quit this crazy scene. — [Joni Mitchell]
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