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Default It's Role-playing, Not Roll-playing @ Hooked Gamers

March 26th, 2008, 10:47
Over at Hooked Gamers they have a blog entry titled It's role-playing, not roll-playing that discusses how to "make a game feel like a real roleplaying game". Here's a snip on non-linear storytelling, which uses Oblivion's guilds as an example:
Again, in computer RPGs you cannot go quite this far. Whereas gamemasters can take their unused adventures and plots and use them again later in another campaign, computers aren't yet that smart. However, in computer RPGs you still have to give the player some freedom. You do this by providing as many subplots as you can afford to design and making many of them as long as convoluted as you can (such as the progress in the Guild hierarchies in Oblivion). You try to take into account all sorts of gamers: those you like magic, those you want to rely mainly on their melee skills and those who like playing the rogue/ranger bowman, or any mix of the above, and design quests and adventures that serve all of them. This way, you make sure that they all have something to do and you do not force them all to play through the exact same quests - this also greatly increases the longevity of the game, since the gamer may want to take on a different role the next time and thus chooses different quests to take. Also, you never ever force the player to play through the main plot if they don't want to do so. Let them play around in your world with as few restrictions as possible.
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March 26th, 2008, 10:47
This guy doesn't know what he's talking about. Plain and simple. To mistake the concept of "character" with the concept of "player", and, worst of all, to miss the diplomatic character and the stealthy character is proof of that.

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March 26th, 2008, 11:15
Exactly - it's an example of the sad design philosophy that appears to assume that role-playing is about choosing whether to kill monsters with swords, bows, or fireballs. Holding up Oblivion as an example is quite ridiculous, since the guild questlines aren't mutually exclusive, so a player is eventually going to do them all, since there is no incentive to hold back on a bunch of quests.

What the article seems to forget completely is that the player's choices need to be complemented with the appropriate consequences. If you walk around claiming to be the emperor of China, you are just a looney; if you are walking around claiming to be the emperor of China, and people (or rather, NPCs) defer to you as such, then you're role-playing.
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March 26th, 2008, 11:16
That seems a little harsh;

Originally Posted by Wolfwood
But, what does playing a role actually mean? … you take on the persona of a character and interact with other characters (usually computer controlled ones, or NPCs, if we focus on single-player role-playing games for the moment being) and the world that these characters inhabit.
Sounds to me like he had his concepts straight.

Not so sure about his idea of non-linear story line through - to me it sounds like he's describing a multi-linear enviroment with invdividual plots aimed at different characters. Weren't Oblivian's plots criticised for being linear?

Edit: and another little quote:
Originally Posted by Wolfwood
In paper-and-pen RPGs you will naturally mostly interact with other human beings, meaning your fellow players and their characters and the gamemaster who controls all the rest of the characters in the game world. In computer RPGs, this is again an impossible goal, but something that should still be striven towards. We still get RPGs that only allow you limited control over your character by offering only one or, at best, two ways to react or respond to the events in the game world (e.g. "Yes, I will gladly help you" or "No, I'm too busy"). Of course, it is much work to take the interaction much further than this, but it is also the best way that you can increase the player's immersion into the game world.
Did anyone read the article?
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March 26th, 2008, 11:40
I think his heart is in the right place, even if his exposure to some things sounds limited.

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March 26th, 2008, 12:48
Originally Posted by Dhruin View Post
I think his heart is in the right place, even if his exposure to some things sounds limited.
I agree with that - he comes across like someone without loads of RPG experience who is dissatisfied with many of the games out there and looking to state an opinion on how it could be better. He steps into a hornet's nest using Oblivion in name or by implication in every paragraph to describe the 'good' side (facial feature design is a 'must' for 'every good RPG'?) … but had he mentioned Oblivion as one of the worst offenders of linear questing and no-choice interaction (Yes or Later are the choices in 99% of quests) he would have balanced that out.

It is interesting as we have that other thread that he mentions 'you should never have to play the main story'. Personally I find that to be one approach, one that Oblivion takes and is a possibility … but I also love a good story that grabs me and tosses me along. I want motivation along with freedom … I guess that is why I am so greatly loving my current playthrough of Divine Divinity …

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March 26th, 2008, 13:06
Guilds in Oblivion is a horrible example indeed: You can choose whether or not to join a guild, but the progress to the top of a guild is completely linear. There are no choices at all.
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March 26th, 2008, 14:20
Well, this kind of debate has been around for a long time.

Basically, it comes down to what roleplaying means to you.

One extreme is the literal meaning, as in playing a role like an actor (without a script - or at least a loose one). The other is the root of PnP, namely the combat and all that involves.

I've never personally found a need to strictly define what a CRPG should do, and I don't understand purists in either camp. I know what I like, and that's all that matters. It would be silly to claim one or the other as an objective truth that all games should attempt to follow.

Oblivion, by the way, for all its faults (and there are many), represents the game closest to my own vision of the perfect CRPG. Sadly, many of the most vital aspects are poorly implemented and some are missing entirely. Planescape, as another example, is far from what I personally crave in a CRPG and I know a lot of people would disagree. That said, I probably have more respect for Planescape as a game than Oblivion. I might not have liked Planescape very much, but clearly the developers knew what they wanted and how to get it. Oblivion doesn't strike me as having accomplished that, at least not where I'm concerned.

It's can be confusing.
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March 26th, 2008, 14:38
Originally Posted by Maylander View Post
Guilds in Oblivion is a horrible example indeed: You can choose whether or not to join a guild, but the progress to the top of a guild is completely linear. There are no choices at all.
How far does one go in creating choices? I mean, if you single out, let's say the Fighters Guild, and look at the quest line within this guild then it is indeed absolutely linear. However, if you take a step back and look at the large picture, then you have a main plot line, 4 major guilds, hundreds of individual side quests from people all over Cyrodill and the Shrines. And all but the main plot is optional. That's a lot of choices if you look at it like that.

Don't get me wrong, I understand what you're saying but there comes a point where asking for more this or more that is going beyond what is realistically possible without a bag of holding that reaches into the Realm of Infinite Wealth or actual true A.I. that can create proper responses to the player's choices as you play.

"Chess in particular had always annoyed him. It was the dumb way the pawns went off and slaughtered their fellow pawns while the kings lounged about doing nothing that always got to him; if only the pawns united, maybe talked the rooks around, the whole board could've been a republic in a dozen moves." - Commander Vimes in Thud! by Terry Pratchett
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March 26th, 2008, 14:47
Wolfwood is an obvious fan, even if he doesn't completely understand the genre. That pretty much describes the rest of us too, doesn't it? And he's not playing with rolls, which at least gives him a leg up on a few misguided RPGers.

He raised two familiar points that I thought could use a little hamster perspective. Wolfwood said, "Role-playing games are all about player choice." I can think of a lot of RPGs that would have been improved with additional player choice, but that conclusion is all wrong.

RPGs are all about collaboration. Without it, role-playing is like dancing with a mannequin or getting dressed up to spend an evening with your dog. No matter how hard you try, it's never really going to satisfy.

That's why fans want living game worlds, for the collaboration. Wolfwood says you're supposed to be playing a role. If there were more collaboration, you wouldn't have to try so hard. You could just relax and enjoy it.

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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March 26th, 2008, 23:49
Originally Posted by fatBastard() View Post
How far does one go in creating choices? I mean, if you single out, let's say the Fighters Guild, and look at the quest line within this guild then it is indeed absolutely linear. However, if you take a step back and look at the large picture, then you have a main plot line, 4 major guilds, hundreds of individual side quests from people all over Cyrodill and the Shrines. And all but the main plot is optional. That's a lot of choices if you look at it like that.
Yes, but role-playing is about more than just choices - heck, in a FPS I can choose to kill or not kill each enemy, and which weapon. That can amount to *millions* of choices!

Closer to reality, in Jedi Academy you need to complete four missions on each tier with a fifth one being optional. You are not forced to do the fifth one, and can choose any four of the five. And assign force powers! Jedi Academy is a frickin' role-playing tour de force!!!

But in neither of those cases are there any consequences - just as there are none in Oblivion. To resurrect my age-old example, in Oblivion you can be president of the Cheese Lovers club and also president of the Cheese Haters club; you can be chairman in the peaceful coexistence guild and also chairman of the kill everyone different than us guild. There is no implication for joining one or the other … and that makes no sense at all and is completely contrary to any real sense of role playing I can imagine.

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March 27th, 2008, 00:03
The whole freedom of choice philosophy in Oblivion was new for Bethesda you certainly couldn't do that in Morrowind. It's quite possible it was to empower the player in a theatrical sense to play the world as they choose. This obviously works better with some people than others.
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March 27th, 2008, 01:34
Originally Posted by woges View Post
It's quite possible it was to empower the player in a theatrical sense to play the world as they choose. This obviously works better with some people than others.
You are being too generous - it is because market research shows that console gamers like to play 100% of content on a single playthrough. Making content hidden or branching makes console gamers feel cheated and resent the game.

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March 27th, 2008, 09:27
Originally Posted by txa1265 View Post
But in neither of those cases are there any consequences - just as there are none in Oblivion. To resurrect my age-old example, in Oblivion you can be president of the Cheese Lovers club and also president of the Cheese Haters club; you can be chairman in the peaceful coexistence guild and also chairman of the kill everyone different than us guild. There is no implication for joining one or the other … and that makes no sense at all and is completely contrary to any real sense of role playing I can imagine.
True, but then again in the real world you CAN be chairman of a huge oil company AND the vice president.

Regarding the 100% content in one playthrough thing. I think the size of the game plays an important part of whether or not hidden or unreachable content is an acceptable option. I did a 100% playthrough of Oblivion in one go and it took me 300+ hours to do so. Even if I had restricted myself to only quests fitting for a particular archetype I would probably still have spent more than 100+ hours on content I would have to do over again on a second playthrough and again and again for each subsequent playthrough. That is just too much for many people.

On the other hand, if you have a short amount of content you have to redo, like in Lego Star Wars (not RPG I know, but a game that relies heavily on replaying the same levels over and over again), then many people are more willing to accept it.

Of course I can only speak for myself, but I know that when I played NWN2 for the first time I was absolutely certain that I would play through it several more times with different character builds but when I was playing through it for the second time I quickly discovered that even though I was playing a character of the opposite sex, the opposite alignment and a very different class the differences in content and playing style/technique was dwarfed by the amount of content that was exactly the same the second time around. The result was that I never finished my second play through.

"Chess in particular had always annoyed him. It was the dumb way the pawns went off and slaughtered their fellow pawns while the kings lounged about doing nothing that always got to him; if only the pawns united, maybe talked the rooks around, the whole board could've been a republic in a dozen moves." - Commander Vimes in Thud! by Terry Pratchett
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March 27th, 2008, 14:59
I fear that the definoition of "what's role-playing" has kind of shifted among groups of gamers since the huge impact of hack & slay games.

I fear that there are "enough" gamers out there who believe that THIS is "real" role-playing …

“ 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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