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Default Age of Decadence - What is an RPG?

January 30th, 2008, 15:39
Originally Posted by GhanBuriGhan View Post
*clamor, clamor*

I like PJ's idea.
I do not.

What's uniquely human though, is that we are both *right*.
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January 30th, 2008, 15:58
Originally Posted by Arpyjee View Post
The visible switchboard approach is more divorced from our current reality, more abrupt and overtly displayed, and that's why I and millions of others love it, and don't desire or clamor for an alternate system.

If you are tired of of Pepperoni Pizza and RPGs with level-ups, then clamor all you want - but don't assume everyone else shares (or *should* share) in your subjective desire for something else.
You know what's weird?

Every time I propose some idea about cRPG's — a different model to produce them, a different system to the mechanics — someone comes out of the woodwork to wave a finger at me that I should not assume that everyone should like it.

This may come as a bit of a shock, but… I don't. Really, truly, I don't.

I just like to come up with ideas and talk about them, to see where they lead. Most turn out to be non-starters; some may turn out to have some potential. The fact that I propose and then defend an idea does not automatically mean that I believe that idea to be the one, only, True, canonical way of making games.

They're just ideas. Semi-serious ideas, since I'm semi-seriously toying with the idea of getting into games development one day once circumstances permit, but still just ideas.

So, Arpyjee and others — I don't intend to take your spredsheet RPG's away from you even if I had that power, which I obviously don't. (I'm not the Grand Panjandrum of Obsidian in disguise, I assure you.) So you can all relax.

However, if you have anything to say about these ideas apart from a generalized, unspecified "I don't like it," I'd be interested to hear it.
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January 30th, 2008, 16:36
Originally Posted by Arpyjee View Post
Fallout 1 & 2 had great level-ups in the way they were modest and subtle. Your primary mental & physical attributes were basically set in stone, and numerically puny (in comparison to the modern FPS-RPG nonsense, where you have massive leaps into the 100's). So, once you chose your attributes, you basically chose your character's identity and overall capability. The perks (feats) were minimal, and the skills numerous and diverse enough so that most of the time you'd be increasing them in relatively small increments/percentages.

The level-ups on BG 1 & 2 were similar in principle, in that the primary mental & physical attributes were basically set in stone at your initial character creation design of choice - you had to live with the consequences of that design choice, and all of the limitations (and benefits). And when the level-up did arrive, it was never overwhelmingly power-inducing : often, you'd get just one little extra asterisk besides your weapon specialty.

Also, the level-up HP increases in both games were modest as well.
What games are you guys thinking of where there are these huge increases in power when you "level up"?

In BG1/BG2 the power increases were fairly large, especially early on, because the D&D 2 ruleset was based around a relatively few number of levels. This is true with the 3rd edition rules as well although to a much lesser extent.
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January 30th, 2008, 18:04
Originally Posted by Prime Junta View Post
Just tie skill improvement to results rather than actions.
Wasn't that the original idea with D&D? Bethesda switched that, and you're suggesting switching it back. The real difference you're suggesting, as far as I can tell, is making the results from that semi-random and automatic instead of accumulating experience points that are later cashed in during level-up.

@BillSeurer: In the original D&D rules levels were significant, more than the numbers would seem to indicate. For instance, to preserve balance dwarves couldn't go beyond sixth level and elves couldn't go beyond forth (iirc — it's been a long time). Otherwise, they might have been too powerful.

Leveling up is more fun when it's a big deal. I can still remember the first time I got a character to second level. That's what I don't like about PJ's otherwise good idea. It would be cool, but I think it would be less fun.

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 30th, 2008, 18:12
Originally Posted by Squeek View Post
Wasn't that the original idea with D&D? Bethesda switched that, and you're suggesting switching it back. The real difference you're suggesting, as far as I can tell, is making the results from that semi-random and automatic instead of accumulating experience points that are later cashed in during level-up.
Yes. Even the semi-randomness is optional; you could just as well do the skill increase on a curve against the difficulty.

Leveling up is more fun when it's a big deal. I can still remember the first time I got a character to second level. That's what I don't like about PJ's otherwise good idea. It would be cool, but I think it would be less fun.
It would certainly take away one kind of fun, but it could add a different kind of fun if it was well implemented and woven into the game. That's what I meant by "not necessarily better, but different."
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January 30th, 2008, 18:49
Y'all are full of it. One of the things that made BG1 such a disappointment was the fact that you got a whopping 6 (nay, 7, count them, if you installed the TotSC pack) opportunities to grow your character. That's not development. That's not growth. That's not progression.

I like your idea, PJ, as a functional plan for where MW failed, but it might not be right for me because you don't get as much opportunity to micromanage your growth. Your in-game actions give you indirect control, but I think I'd miss staring at the character screen agonizing over how to spend that final skill point. Additionally, you'd really have to figure out how to make your "non-sensei" story quests necessary without the railroading of making them mandatory. I'm not sure how you'd hit that balance. There's got to be some tangible character growth for doing a story quest (skill bonus, phat lewt, fame and glory that actually affects the game world, what-have-you) that you cannot get by hacking a thousand rats (or a hundred rats followed by a hundred bats followed by a hundred cats and so forth per your scaled system).

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January 30th, 2008, 18:58
Originally Posted by dteowner View Post
Master the 10 skills I posted earlier. That's no different mission than what you did with your warrior, but clearly superior due to the added flexibility. Built in Munchkinville, doncha know.
Uhhh… I don't know about its superiority. Lets look at the ones you mention:

Medium armor
long blade
marksman
destruction
restoration
——
armorer
alchemy
security
sneak
alteration

First Medium armor. From what I remember about the game, medium armor wasn't a great choice because there were some VERY good heavy and good light armors with Ebony and Glass. Don't remember Medium armors that were as good. I think the Temple Guard's armor was medium and it was decent but you had to remove helmet every time you came near other temple guards, otherwise they attacked you. Anyway, we'll say its passable.

Long Blade. Decent choice if you had Tribunal expansion as you got two good swords from there. Not so good if you only had the main game, which only had awesome weapons for Blunt Weapons and Short Blade, from the very end of the main quest. Of course its a decent choice until the end of the main quest.

Marksman. Seemed useless for me, no good bows that I know off, have to worry about arrows. Only seems good for roleplaying and shooting down cliff racers.

Destruction. Didn't seem all that useful. Maybe good for delivering a large burst in the beginning of the fight. The whole thing with having to rest or use potions for mana made mage builds a question mark for me. Its kinda redundant when you allready a good way to deal damage both up close and far away with Long blade and Marksman.

Restoration. Probably a good choice.

Armorer. Good choice, as stuff wears off quickly and you'll need to be constantly reparing it or lose your effectivness after a couple of fights. Of course my warrior would have it too.

Alchemy. Nice choice for any character because its easy to raise, you can make tonns of money with it and give yourself lots of magical effects without wasting mana.

Security. Chests all over the place, its always tough in a game when you can't open one, the curiosity just eats ya alive. So yeha, need to raise this one.

Sneak. Seems useless except for Thief quests and such. But if you really want to be able to handle any situation I can see why you want want it.

Alteration. Ok choice since you want to do some magic sicne spells like water walk, levitate and open lock can be useful, plus shield spells can be very nice. You still won't be as effective as a real mage though cause you won't have
Soultrap spells and skills in enchanting, plus all of the side stuff.

Things you miss out on by using this build:

1. Block. Once you get this to 100 you'll block a LOT of hits. Sucks not to have it.
2. Mysticism. The soultrap spells in tandem with enchantment and Star of Azura can be very nice.
3. Enchantment. See #2.
4. Athletics. You move very slowly to start with. Sure eventually you can get boots of Blinding Speed, but having Athletics higher is going to make the game move at a manageble speed.
5. Hand to Hand. I'm only throwing this one in cause I remember hitting some quest where I had to knock someone out in a bar and my Hand to Hand sucked. I had to spend a long time sparring with that guy until my skill rose enough to hit him more then his endurance regened.

Anyway, it seems to me that your build sacrificed a fair amount of Defense when compared to my Warrior build. And didn't get all the benefits of being a true mage.

So yeah, I don't see how that build would be "clearly superior". You have to remember that there are lots of items that give you much needed spell effects like levitation. And sneaky stuff can be substitued with potions of invisibility and such. I don't know if your character would really be able to do all that much more then mine, meanwhile mine would be more effective in combat.
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January 30th, 2008, 19:33
Originally Posted by dteowner View Post
Additionally, you'd really have to figure out how to make your "non-sensei" story quests necessary without the railroading of making them mandatory. I'm not sure how you'd hit that balance. There's got to be some tangible character growth for doing a story quest (skill bonus, phat lewt, fame and glory that actually affects the game world, what-have-you) that you cannot get by hacking a thousand rats (or a hundred rats followed by a hundred bats followed by a hundred cats and so forth per your scaled system).
How would this be different from a standard level-up style game? If the game has an unlimited supply of rats/bats/cats/others, and you get an XP reward for each of them, you can grind away 'til your CPU melts. The same solutions apply — limit the number rats/bats/cats/others available, add a cut-off point beyond which the reward for swatting one more just isn't worth the trouble, and provide better, more rewarding, and more fun ways to progress.
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January 30th, 2008, 20:30
But if your rat/bat/cat gives the possibility of skill bonuses thru usage, you have to have your story quests give more or else it becomes pointless (see MW). I can see your "sensei" quests having a measurable reward (skill increase, "good graces" leading to skill increase), but I'm not sure what you give your player for Saving Maid Marian or Finding Tiny Tim's Lost Crutch. You had no mention of reward for story quests (either main story or side quest), and if you're going to skip XP and leveling entirely (which I think is your intent), that reward gets hard to create.

Sorry. No pearls of wisdom in this oyster.
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January 30th, 2008, 21:33
Originally Posted by dteowner View Post
But if your rat/bat/cat gives the possibility of skill bonuses thru usage, you have to have your story quests give more or else it becomes pointless (see MW). I can see your "sensei" quests having a measurable reward (skill increase, "good graces" leading to skill increase), but I'm not sure what you give your player for Saving Maid Marian or Finding Tiny Tim's Lost Crutch. You had no mention of reward for story quests (either main story or side quest), and if you're going to skip XP and leveling entirely (which I think is your intent), that reward gets hard to create.
How about:

(1) Setting up special challenges with bigger skill rewards on the story quests?
(2) Using items as rewards, or powering up a single item la Jade Empire?
(3) Awarding "perks" that enhance skills and give you access to higher-ranking masters?
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January 30th, 2008, 23:03
Fallout awarded a couple perks, IIRC, so that might show that it can work. Perhaps you do a "fame" sorta stat based on quest completion that serves as a multiplier for your skill increases or a bonus to the chance of getting an increase in the first place? Or maybe the fame stat serves as a gate for various upper-level masters, as you say. That would be much like the M&M7 promotion quests. You'd probably get accused of railroading since the story and the side quests wouldn't really be optional outside of extreme powergamers—it seems anything that isn't pointlessly freeform (again, see MW) has to deal with the railroad tag these days. It would be a little tougher to allow multiple solutions to quests, though, particularly if you wanted to incorporate an "evil" option. I suppose a negative fame (infamy?) could serve just as well, but you'd have to code an "evil" solution to every quest or else you'd get slammed for balance problems.

Sorry. No pearls of wisdom in this oyster.
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January 31st, 2008, 02:06
Returning to the OP's question, I'd like to suggest why I think roles are what distinguishes RPG from other genre. More than anything else, it's what makes these games so special.

Lots of other video games put the player in control of a character who's able to explore and interact with whatever's there in its game world. But having a role to play implies more than that.

Roles require opportunities for other kinds of decision-making, because roles involve other kinds of considerations. It's not just about what you do, it's about the way you do it.

CRPG makers don't approach RPG that way right now, and that's too bad. If they did, these games wouldn't be confused with shooters.

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 31st, 2008, 02:45
Squeek, would your definition include spreadsheet RPG? I'm not quite sure how you're applying the "way you do it". Not looking for a fight—genuinely curious.

Sorry. No pearls of wisdom in this oyster.
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January 31st, 2008, 04:41
What I'm talking about is often rejected by game theorists as unnecessary fluff. And it is for every kind of video game except RPG. It's necessary in RPG, because in this genre you're playing a role. That's my point.

Video games react to things you either do or don't. Sometimes they provide you with a multiple choice, like during conversation. But they never concern themselves with how you implement any of those choices. They only react to what you choose. Video games aren't even designed to enable you to consider how you might want to to do the things you decide to do.

That isn't how role-playing works. During role-play you always consider how you do things, because how you do things often makes a difference. Of course it does. That's how the real world works.

Imagine yourself walking into a crowded bar for the first time where a fight breaks out and you end up killing someone in self defense. Can you imagine all the different ways you might have handled yourself? Might that have made a difference?

The key to understanding this is to imagine how an RPG world might react like the real world reacts. Otherwise, without reaction, style counts for nothing. RPGs are designed like all the other video games right now. They need to be designed more like computer RPGs.

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 31st, 2008, 10:19
Originally Posted by dteowner View Post
Fallout awarded a couple perks, IIRC, so that might show that it can work. Perhaps you do a "fame" sorta stat based on quest completion that serves as a multiplier for your skill increases or a bonus to the chance of getting an increase in the first place? Or maybe the fame stat serves as a gate for various upper-level masters, as you say. That would be much like the M&M7 promotion quests. You'd probably get accused of railroading since the story and the side quests wouldn't really be optional outside of extreme powergamers—it seems anything that isn't pointlessly freeform (again, see MW) has to deal with the railroad tag these days. It would be a little tougher to allow multiple solutions to quests, though, particularly if you wanted to incorporate an "evil" option. I suppose a negative fame (infamy?) could serve just as well, but you'd have to code an "evil" solution to every quest or else you'd get slammed for balance problems.
That could work. I can think of other solutions to get the same end result too — for example, build the storyline quests around an artifact you're carrying, and every piece you complete powers up the artifact, amplifying your skills. You could also add some mutually exclusive branches (with hints about what to expect) that give your powerups that affect different skills.

I think the main advantage of this approach would be that it could be used to disguise the railroading a bit; you'd feel like you're making your own choices, even though the game nudges you in a particular direction. It might help maintain the illusion of choice, which IMO is a very central element in RPG's.
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January 31st, 2008, 10:40
I'm with Dhruin. When people start designing theoretical role play systems they often forget that we're talking about games here and there are certain mechanics that are rewarding in a gameplay sense even if not being very realistic. Leveling, while unnatural in a way, provides the "set of actions leading to a large psychological payoff" mechanic that is core to a lot of gameplay systems. I find Morrowind style use-to-increase systems just…unsatisfying. I *enjoy* making my "numbers bigger". I like getting a shiny new talent or a bunch of skill points to spend on level up. Realism is not exactly the same as "fun gameplay mechanic". Use-to-increase just makes the process more of a chore. And removing leveling altogether just further decreases that psychological payoff.

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January 31st, 2008, 13:06
Originally Posted by Naked Ninja View Post
I'm with Dhruin. When people start designing theoretical role play systems they often forget that we're talking about games here and there are certain mechanics that are rewarding in a gameplay sense even if not being very realistic. Leveling, while unnatural in a way, provides the "set of actions leading to a large psychological payoff" mechanic that is core to a lot of gameplay systems. I find Morrowind style use-to-increase systems just…unsatisfying. I *enjoy* making my "numbers bigger". I like getting a shiny new talent or a bunch of skill points to spend on level up. Realism is not exactly the same as "fun gameplay mechanic". Use-to-increase just makes the process more of a chore. And removing leveling altogether just further decreases that psychological payoff.
I understand where you are coming from, but I alway had the opposite feelings . Even with P&P I disliked the level mechanics, which something in my personality rejected as unrealistic from the start, although I accepted them as given. And I always favoured the more realistic rule sets, like GURPS or rolemaster over the more abstract D&D (although I have no idea how D&D has evolved since those days almost 20 years ago).
And while I recognize the huge potential for misuse and inducing non-fun behavior, I still think if you roleplay DF of MW "naturally" (e.g. non min-maxing), the TES rules provide a very pleasant logical character progression (while still preserving the level up screen as a feedback). There are many niggles in the details that I would have liked to see changed, but to me it is still the template I had the most fun with. Character creation in DF was a blast, too. The problem is that the system has not really developed in the way I would have wanted it to. Instead, with Oblivion, it is just an empty shell of what it once was.
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January 31st, 2008, 14:58
Originally Posted by GhanBuriGhan View Post
I understand where you are coming from, but I alway had the opposite feelings . Even with P&P I disliked the level mechanics, which something in my personality rejected as unrealistic from the start, although I accepted them as given. And I always favoured the more realistic rule sets, like GURPS or rolemaster over the more abstract D&D (although I have no idea how D&D has evolved since those days almost 20 years ago).
And while I recognize the huge potential for misuse and inducing non-fun behavior, I still think if you roleplay DF of MW "naturally" (e.g. non min-maxing), the TES rules provide a very pleasant logical character progression (while still preserving the level up screen as a feedback). There are many niggles in the details that I would have liked to see changed, but to me it is still the template I had the most fun with. Character creation in DF was a blast, too. The problem is that the system has not really developed in the way I would have wanted it to. Instead, with Oblivion, it is just an empty shell of what it once was.
As with Naked Ninja supporting Dhruin's view, I would just like to add that I support GhanBuriGhan's above post to its every detail (Except the parts about DF and P'n'P, which I have no knowledge of).
If you roleplay your character (Which I presume you do because that is a fundamental part of RPGs) then Morrowind's leveling system provides a far better experience instead of the conventional and deeply cliched system of most RPGs.

@Arpyjee. Whether or not you like realism is a personal taste, so there's really no logical argument behind saying that games are entertainment -> entertainment is escapism -> and therefore leveling systems needs to distance themselves from reality. Escapism lies in immersion and not in unrealism.
It is purely a matter of point of view. Though I would postulate that the immersion - which realism provides - and the complexity of its nature are far better to incorporate in a product instead of well-defined and limited systems (Unless of course there was an artistic/methaphorical reason to incorporating something unrealistic).
Last edited by Asbjoern; January 31st, 2008 at 17:41.
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January 31st, 2008, 18:15
So again I have to ask, where does spreadsheet RPG fit into your structure, GBG or Asbjoern? It would appear that it simply…doesn't.

Sorry. No pearls of wisdom in this oyster.
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January 31st, 2008, 18:21
Maybe you should explain what you mean by spreedsheet RPG, dteowner, because I'm starting to doubt your understanding of how Boolean logic can be applied. No offense, of course. I'm really not getting your objection.

If there's something that seems impossible to you, please specify what it is and explain why.

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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