Larian Studios - FUME!
Well it's a weird title but it's the topic of a new blog post from Swen Vincke were he gives his opinions on the game industry.
FUME, in short, is my method for measuring the quality of character development a game is going to give me, character development being the feature I care the most about in a RPG. The higher the FUME score, the more I love it and the lower the FUME score, the less likely it is to remain on my hard drive (or even be installed if I judge the FUME potential to be low)
The F in FUME stands for the Freedom of character development available.
Can you make the avatar you want to play? Or are you forced into a particular stereotype conjured by the designers of the game, who for sure will not have thought of your particular fantasy. It’s an important question, because it directly affects how immersed I will be in the game.
Freedom also reflects the degree of linearity present - you can’t have a very high Freedom value in a linear game. It also stands for the liberty that is given to you to make decisions that have some in-game consequences. If I don’t get to make at least a few decisions that affect at least a few things in your gameworld, chances are you’ll score very low on my Freedom scale with your RPG.
The original Fallouts scored quite high on my Freedom scale whereas (perhaps surprisingly) most Bioware games actually scored quite low for me, even if I did enjoy the Baldur’s Gates & Icewind Dales a lot. Sadly, most RPGs are a far cry from what I’d want to see, but there have been steps in the right direction, so I remain hopeful.
Next up is the U, whichstands for the Universe in which you develop your character.
Is it interesting? Is it diverse? Is it original? Can you have cool and fun adventures in it? Is there sufficient depth? Do you care about the game world? Is it consistent with itself? Is it the type of universe that is interesting to play in as a starting character, but also as a well-developed hero? And also, is it a place that reflects your actions? Does it change as a result of your heroic deeds? Do you make an impact? If the answer to all or most of these questions is yes, I might be tempted to play the game even if it sucks at all the other levels. I like to explore new universes. They are a projection of the complex mix of cultures that make up a game development team, and there’s often something to be learnt from them.
The M then stands for the Motivation that is given to you to develop your character.
This doesn’t always have to be the main story: Diablo for instance was a game that got its Motivation from item fever and a few cutscenes, rather than from its complex storyline. However, it’s clear that having a good storyline can be instrumental in increasing your desire to explore a game’s universe. When the Universe falls flat (as it often does), it’s very possible that I’ll continue playing if my motivation to discover what comes next is strong enough. In general I find that if both Universe and Motivation score too low, I’m not going to be interested in a game.
An interesting case here is World of Warcraft. I had 2 level 70 characters, a number which is far from impressive for a lot people, but by my standards, considering the amount of free time I have, that’s a number that’s insane. Now, I didn’t play World of Warcraft because I thought it had a good story, or because I was impressed by its universe – I only played it because I was motivated by … the other people playing it. So, anything that motivates you to keep on playing goes I guess, though my personal holy grail will remain a strong storyline that will emotionally impact me.
Finally, E stands for the quality of the Enemies against which you can develop your character.
You can interpret this very broadly. The E would probably better be replaced by an A, as what I really mean is the Antagonist(s) against which develop your character, but FUMA doesn’t sound as sexy.