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Default Scars of War - Use of Minigames in RPG's

February 3rd, 2010, 12:49
Gareth has a very interesting article on the use of minigames in RPG's over at his Blog site. Here's a quick snip to whet your appetite:
Mini-games in RPGs : The Suck, am I right? Mini-games should be kept out of RPGs or at least restricted to a few once-off puzzles, right? Well, except for the combat mini-game. THAT one is fine.
Wait, what? Combat isn’t a mini-game, surely?
Yes, it is. Or rather, it shows that the issue isn’t as clear-cut as all that. What is a grown-up version of a mini-game? The answer is : an integrated subsystem of the gameplay.
Combat isn’t roleplaying. It is easy to ‘roleplay’ without having a set of mechanics designed to model combat scenarios in detail. You could abstract out the whole set of actions into a single combat roll, or a set of combat rolls, informing the player of the outcome after it resolves, in a similar way to handling a lockpicking or persuasion skill check. But few if any roleplaying systems are made without some section of the rules designed to model combat, a legacy of how RPGs evolved from wargames perhaps, or it could simply be that humanity is a violent species and our fantasy games tend to revolve around letting us explore experiences we feel drawn to but can’t or fear to experience in real life, adventure and violence and danger and power, things that combat offers in spades.
Check it out.

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February 3rd, 2010, 12:49
Wait, what? Combat isn’t a mini-game, surely?

Yes, it is.
A little bit cynically formulated then Action-RPGs are nothing but mini-games …

So … Blizzard did make games that consist entirely of … an mini-game called "combat", which has been expanded and mutated so much that it swallowed the whole game ?

That's just as a thought.

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February 3rd, 2010, 13:44
While the article is provocative in calling combat a "mini-game", it raises an excellent point. Many RPGs consist of gameplay "modules" that work together. They are unlike Tetris, or World of Goo, or other games that consist only of one set of gameplay mechanics. Of course there is often emphasis on combat, which therefore provides much richer gameplay than the other modules. This is why a game like Diablo can be good despite being nothing more than combat.

Now some of these modules are considered mini-games, other more part of the core experience. But by putting the killing part of the gameplay on the same level as the lockpicking, or hacking, or planet scanning, you notice that this is only because of the emphasis on some modules. One could easily imagine a role-playing game with very elaborate game mechanics for lockpicking and hacking, and very simple gameplay for combat. In this case, lockpicking and hacking would be the core experience, combat the mini-game.

As soon as you conceptually see combat, lockpicking, hacking etc. on the same level (all modules), you widen your range of game design options. You are also more likely to find out *why* so many mini-games feel tacked on. One obvious answer is because they are treated like mini-games. Great article.
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February 3rd, 2010, 14:25
Best minigame ever - The cyberspace hacking in System Shock.

Worst - Lockpicking in Oblivion.
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February 3rd, 2010, 15:40
Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
Best minigame ever - The cyberspace hacking in System Shock.

Worst - Lockpicking in Oblivion.
Wholeheartedly agree about best, and it demonstrate's the point. Hacking in SS1 was so good, it is hard to consider it a minigame.

I think the worst minigame is the persuasion option in Oblivion's dialogue. Lockpicking was tedious, but at least it felt like you were doing something related to picking a lock. The dialogue mini-game made no fricking sense. First thing I mod away when I play the game.

If you want a good lockpicking experience, I liked Thief 3's. You used your mouse to fiddle with the tumblers. There was visual feedback (some element moving), auditory feedback (clicking and rattling) and HUD feedback. The .ini file let you get rid of the HUD feedback, which made lockpicking feel very real. Especially in the dark, when all you had was the auditory feedback.
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February 3rd, 2010, 16:23
The worst was the lockpicking in Gothic 2 (and maybe 1). Totally random with no user or character skill involved.
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February 3rd, 2010, 17:47
Fallout 3 hacking was excellent.
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February 3rd, 2010, 18:05
Fallout 3 hacking was excellent.
Eh, I'd probably phrase it as "fallout 3 hacking was one of the least terrible hacking mini games." I did like it better than Mass Effect 2's hacking mini game; at least it felt and looked right-ish for the world.
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February 3rd, 2010, 18:15
Originally Posted by jhwisner View Post
Eh, I'd probably phrase it as "fallout 3 hacking was one of the least terrible hacking mini games." I did like it better than Mass Effect 2's hacking mini game; at least it felt and looked right-ish for the world.
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February 4th, 2010, 00:01
I agree with all points the writer made, but I don't think combat is a mini game. Mini implies that the game is simple, but combat is (usually) not that simple at all.
Originally Posted by Grandor Dragon View Post
One could easily imagine a role-playing game with very elaborate game mechanics for lockpicking and hacking, and very simple gameplay for combat. In this case, lockpicking and hacking would be the core experience, combat the mini-game.
It's definitely possible to make such a game, but lockpicking and hacking just aren't entertaining enough for longer periods of time, but I guess someone might find it interesting if they also like adventure games (such as Safecracker - where lockpicking is actually the point of the game). I like dialogues and I also like tactical combat, so RPGs are perfect genre for me in this form.

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February 4th, 2010, 00:49
I think just having one or two elements as the main focus of the game gets boring quickly and what makes an rpg good is all of the elements. I like combat but it gets boring after awhile and I want to do something else like speak with an npc, steal, or finish a non-combat quest. I don't really like minigames very much and when an element isn't fleshed out enough to be considered an integral part of the game I get irritated. There are a few exceptions to this and those are when the element is an actual game like the gambling games they have in various rpgs.

PS. Crpgs don't need minigames, they need systems and a developer shouldn't replace systems with minigames.
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February 4th, 2010, 01:09
Originally Posted by BillSeurer View Post
The worst was the lockpicking in Gothic 2 (and maybe 1). Totally random with no user or character skill involved.
the lockpicking in Gothics is not random, and you can train lockpicking, it affect the chance of breaking a lockpick.
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February 4th, 2010, 03:57
I like good minigames like the Ultima-like game in System Shock 2. I just kept playing that stupid little game over and over again. Everyone is out to kill me and here I am in the corner of a chemical closet playing an RPG game. A little surreal if you think about it.

You know I have to mention Space Rangers 2. That whole game was like a bunch of minigames compiled into one giant game, but that isn't a bad thing. They meshed them all so well that it was just one great experience after another. I didn't care for the RTS minigame, but I loved the text adventures. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that King Arthur also had text adventures.

"Combat isn’t roleplaying. It is easy to ‘roleplay’ without having a set of mechanics designed to model combat scenarios in detail. You could abstract out the whole set of actions into a single combat roll, or a set of combat rolls, informing the player of the outcome after it resolves, in a similar way to handling a lockpicking or persuasion skill check."
Sure, you could do this, but it sounds boring to me. When I'm in the mood for an adventure game with no or very little combat then I'll play one. When I'm in the mood for an RPG then I want to fight for my life but not with a simple skill check roll. I want details. That is what makes a CRPG a CRPG.

However, I do not think that was the point of this article. The point was that minigames shouldn't be dismissed so easily. I agree wholeheartily that mini-games can be fun. It's just that few games get them right or they use them too damn much. Mass Effect 2 is a prime example of minigames gone wrong and Space Rangers 2 is a good example of minigames done right (except the horrible RTS minigame)

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February 4th, 2010, 10:30
Oh, I just remembered! Not an RPG, but best minigame: Being able to play Maniac Mansion on that computer in Day of the Tentacle.
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February 4th, 2010, 10:46
Originally Posted by Grandor Dragon View Post
Oh, I just remembered! Not an RPG, but best minigame: Being able to play Maniac Mansion on that computer in Day of the Tentacle.
I'm not usually in the habit of doing this, but … quoted for truth!

That was the first time I played Maniac Mansion, too.

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February 4th, 2010, 13:55
Originally Posted by BillSeurer View Post
The worst was the lockpicking in Gothic 2 (and maybe 1). Totally random with no user or character skill involved.
Actually, incorrect - no USER, all CHARACTER skill is involved. And shouldn't that largely be the case?

Personally I hated Dungeon Lords lockpicking mini-game. It wasn't too terrible as an idea - match the objects as time goes by - but it was used for just about *every* check and door and became terribly tedious.

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February 4th, 2010, 14:14
Combat like every other minigame gets tedious after about half the game I tend to find. Turn-based usually holds my attention longer than realtime but I've seldom played a game where the combat felt fun and challenging throughout the whole game. Therefore, games like Diablo are hard to finish for me since there is no story or other gameplay mechanics to engage me.

My favorite mini-game was the insult-swordplay in The Secret of Monkey Island.
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February 4th, 2010, 14:53
Originally Posted by Lemonhead View Post
Turn-based usually holds my attention longer than realtime but I've seldom played a game where the combat felt fun and challenging throughout the whole game.
I like it when a game is challenging up until the final quarter when I expect my foes to chop off their limbs upon mere mention of my name. That's good 'cause it brings some variety to combat.

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February 4th, 2010, 15:01
Originally Posted by Lemonhead View Post
I've seldom played a game where the combat felt fun and challenging throughout the whole game.
Isn't that the problem - I criticized Two Worlds for that uneven feel, where I "got bullied by kittens at the start and by the end was one-hit killing elder dragons without breaking stride'. But the 'constant challenge level' also leads to look at 'level scaling' and we all know where THAT goes

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February 5th, 2010, 19:07
Originally Posted by Felix View Post
the lockpicking in Gothics is not random, and you can train lockpicking, it affect the chance of breaking a lockpick.
Technically you are right; the picking minigame sequences are fixed ahead of time and if you know them you will get it right every time. However, when actually figuring it out in game it *is* random be cause at each step you have a 50-50 chance of guessing the next correct answer.

The way it works for those who don't know is you have to choose a series of left/right answers. So a lock might be LRRLLLRL for instance. If you get one wrong you have to start over and there is a chance that the pick you are using breaks. Your own skill or smarts doesn't come into play (other than remembering what you have already tried) and the character's skill Lockpicking doesn't either in figuring out the sequence. The character's skill only comes into play in determining whether a lockpick breaks and whether you can try some locks at all.

Compare this with the hacking minigame in Fallout 3. Both the player's smarts *and* the character's skill comes into play. It's not perfect by any means, but it is arguably better.
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