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Joystiq - Publish those numbers!

by Dhruin, 2013-01-27 22:11:05

Rowan Kaiser's weekly RPG column on Joystiq turns to the subject of stats and the importance of their transparency:

Most all games abstract some manner of real-world behavior. Press the jump button in a game that allows it, and it'll make your character leap into the air in an animated approximation of how humans jump, but that's usually it – the rest of the jump has more to do with the needs of the game's level design than anything else. Even those aspects that aren't real, like casting magical spells, have consistent in-game rules, which often abstract other concepts, like a mage theoretically chanting magical words in a way irrelevant to the player.

What separates RPGs from most other genres in terms of abstraction is the style's origins in pencil-and-paper games. You want to punch an orc? You can punch that orc, but game rules simple enough to work with a couple of die need to exist in order to make that orc-punching workable for a group of people playing a game. Players need to know what the numbers are in order to make informed decisions. So you have things like 'strength statistics,' 'unarmed damage skills,' 'orc hit points,' 'dexterity rolls,' and so on. Shifting to the computer may have allowed these mechanics to be calculated faster as well as potentially more complex. But critically, even though those mechanics could have been masked, RPGs generally kept the numbers transparent and public.    

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