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February 15th, 2007, 18:43
If your skill and timing are an integral part of the combat (as well as, or even instead of those possessed by your Player Character), then you are engaged in a form of RT combat.
I'm not sure how this can be argued against though you should probably refer to the bolded part as "reflexes" rather than "skill" since you already made the case for player skills encompassing both the physical and mental in the text, and only refering to the physical aspect as skill can lead to misinterpretation.

Either way, itís the playerís personal skills that matter.
I think the real issue is not between turn-based and realtime, insofar of which is more adequate to role-playing is concerned, but between direct vs. abstract control.

My point, very succintly, is this: creating a character system that permits character statistics and player skills to operate simultaneously compromises the role and individuality of a character. Player skills or character statistics should work independantly, and not in tandem in a way that makes them contradict, overlap or nullify themselves. Assume a system which allowed players to aim at specific enemy bodyparts while also having an ancillary Aiming skill which would determine if the character would hit. We would be given the option to carefully aim and fire, the hit would register - but we still had to wait for background calculations to determine if we actually hit.

In a way this is what games like Morrowind, Vampire: Bloodlines and Deus Ex had wrong: the immediacy provided by full player control over an avatar was wasted on a background system which placed arbitrary barriers on that control, and in combat in particular, which could be either circumvented by player ingenuity or rendered unefficient by concurrent application of either skill methods.

This goes back to the issue of which system is more conducing to role-playing by virtue of looking at which system, overall, allows for the player and character to remain separated in a way that does not question the role of either of them. The conceptual advantage of turn-based over realtime is that at its most basic provides a system which allows synergy between player and character skill without forcing them to do this simultaneously - after all, in turn-based the character is its own thing, an entity that (for the most part) operates independantly of the player. But the same concept could be applied to a realtime game if the same method is applied. For instance, Fallout and Baldur's Gate allow for this kind of player and character separation while providing different combat systems. On the other hand, some instances of Final Fantasy turn-based games required physical input from players for characters to generate combos during combat while a realtime game like Bioshock seems to provide different skills for a character but delegates physical combat to the player alone.

Hence, direct vs. abstract control.

I think this is what is comes down to, essentially. The more the player is required to take over the character the less importance the character has in the gameworld. The more the character's individuality takes the back seat in favor of the players' skill, the less of a role is being played.

One popular counter to this position is that if we are going to eliminate a playerís physical skills from the equation, then isnít it only fair to eliminate their mental ones as well?
Popular but not particularly accurate. If you're looking at it superficially, then yes, it would make sense. But what we have to consider is, is the issue the abolishment of player skill altogether or the abolishment of player skills - or rather the application of some player skills - which are defeating to the purpose of a character, and the role of said character? Role-playing has been primarily about playing different character strenghts that we can not physically play. That's why the intelligent spellcaster, the nimble rogue or the mighty warrior are archetypes which have stood the test of time and have been available - I daresay, sometimes forced - to players in CRPGs. The ability to be these characters that we cannot be in real life has been the main draw for many gamers. This is why a game that allows the player with slow reflexes to be a devilish sword fighter shouldn't really rely on twitch reflexes, as the player has no ability to role-play this character.

Our mental ability only determines how we should play these roles, it doesn't become as unbalancing as a physical skill in the context of character skills.
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