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January 15th, 2009, 05:17
I think the problem in many of these type games (whether an rpg or not) is the fact that the developers get too ambitious and make too large a world. See the later Elder Scrolls games.

Might and Magic: World of Xeen let you go where ever and do whatever, and as long as you had the power to do so, you could freely go through much of the game world. However, it never really felt so empty because the world wasn't so huge as to be ridiculous. A day would see you across either side. It only took a couple weeks game time to clear much of the map, mostly due to the volcanic areas and needing rest and buffs because of them.

GTA is a good example as well. Vice City had a near perfect balance of size and content; while San Andreas was mostly empty country side. The devs got far too ambitious, and left a huge, empty landscape to wander around.

IMO, the truly huge, open worlds need to be in MMO's, where hundreds of players can help populate it alongside the generic NPCs and monsters. Single player games need to be focused in on a singe area; either a smallish world like Xeen or Terra, or a large city like Vice City or Skara brae, or a specific region in a larger world like the Savage Frontier.
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January 15th, 2009, 17:48
Originally Posted by azraelck View Post
IMO, the truly huge, open worlds need to be in MMO's, where hundreds of players can help populate it alongside the generic NPCs and monsters. Single player games need to be focused in on a singe area; either a smallish world like Xeen or Terra, or a large city like Vice City or Skara brae, or a specific region in a larger world like the Savage Frontier.
I disagree. Unless the MMO is hugely successful (like WoW), it's a disadvantage to have huge, open worlds. Finding groups or groupmates gets harder (and more cumbersome) the bigger the world is. I prefer smaller worlds for MMOs, divided in sections preferably (like the original EQ). It's very convenient for forming or joining groups of similar interests, which to me is really what makes MMOs succeed or fail.
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January 21st, 2009, 20:02
Originally Posted by Maylander View Post
If I wanted to just run around, I could simply take a walk in the mountains.
Yes but how about you're walking in the mountains and come across a child who is crying by a campfire and as you approach him 2 armed bandits who are nearby warn you to pretend you didn't see anything and walk away. At which point you can:

1) Intimidate them so they leave.
2) Attack them.
3) Talk them into letting you "in" on whatever dastardly plan they have.
4) Walk away.

That is where an open world can shine, providing this is just a very intricately made side quest and nothing to do with the main quest. Or perhaps connected to the main quest in some way but avoidable (walk away).

And from your choices:

1) Intimidate them so they leave.
A) They return with a few more bandits if you stick around the area too long.
B) You leave right away with the child to get him safely home
C) You kidnap the child instead and go ahead with their plan (ransom)

2) Attack them.
A) You win and can then choose 1B or 1C
B) You are losing but YIELD and they let you go
C) You fight to your death - game over.

3) Talk them into letting you "in" on whatever dastardly plan they have.
A) You get to a rendezvous point and collect your share of the ransom
B) You decide at a rest point to kill the bandits in their sleep and take the child and then choose 1B or 1C
C) You chicken out and go off on your way

4) Walk away.
A) You can hide out and follow them later choosing 3B
B) Alert nearby authorities allowing you to choose:
X) Help authorities nab kidnappers
Y) Go on your way
C) Find the parents of the child and tell them you will find the child for a reward.

Choices like these can make a game very interesting, provided the rewards and consequences mean something.

Suppose you do the right thing and the family rewards you very handsomely and gives you a very unique weapon or piece of armor. Maybe they're landowners and give you a piece of land or a house. Maybe you befriend them and it turns out they know people in government, some of which have info you may need for the main quest which you can now gain easily.

Suppose in fighting the bandits the child gets killed and then the family decides to hire someone to kill you since you were partially responsible.

The possibilities can be very interesting.
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January 21st, 2009, 20:53
Originally Posted by Maylander View Post
If I wanted to just run around, I could simply take a walk in the mountains.
OK, I'll respond to this too.

The difference would be the kind of mountains in the kind of world you're walking in -- the real one or someplace incredible. Will you find unexpected mystery? Experience drama, resulting from conflict? If you're careful to look, will you notice subtle indications of forgotten lore?

Unlike the real one, imaginary worlds can contain mountains that whisper when you're not quite listening, mountains that feel the weight of those walking upon them and react with slight quivers of barely-contained deep-rooted legacy, mountains that might respond with an agenda of their own.
Last edited by Squeek; January 21st, 2009 at 21:19. Reason: I edited this because I'm sick and tired of being redundant and repeating ideas over and over.
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January 22nd, 2009, 06:00
Originally Posted by wolfing View Post
I disagree. Unless the MMO is hugely successful (like WoW), it's a disadvantage to have huge, open worlds. Finding groups or groupmates gets harder (and more cumbersome) the bigger the world is. I prefer smaller worlds for MMOs, divided in sections preferably (like the original EQ). It's very convenient for forming or joining groups of similar interests, which to me is really what makes MMOs succeed or fail.
I'll admit to a lack of experience in MMO's; I only play Shaiya, and used to play EUO. I'm not much for the endless grinding. In fact, if I play a single player game that absolutely requires you to grind more than the first 5-10 levels, I consider it a design flaw.

Yes, this means I consider the vast majority of older RPG's to have a fundamental flaw in them. To me grinding should never be required; those who want to do so can still do it, but the difficulty should be balanced enough that there are no huge gaps between sections in the main plot. At the very least, enough varied sidequests to keep it from being "kill 300 slims to get the next level, then 600 because you need 15 levels more!"

Most of my MMO time is spent helping my brother out in Shaiya; we both have level 18 mains. Mine is a Mage, his is a Archer, Our alts are similar, I took the Priest, his is the Fighter.

As to walking in the mountains; while that is certainly enjoyable; I don't think being jumped by living blobs of jelly, hideous, misshapen bandits, and huge flying fire-breathing lizards would be as enjoyable if it was truly my life on the line. Plus, while I'm fair with a Longsword, I doubt I'd be very effective with it in a real combat situation.

Part of the fun of an RPG, in fact the main point in the genre, whether on a computer or in a pen and paper game, is to do things you cannot do in the real world. You can go to those mountains and fight those battles, and maybe find an ancient dwarven fortress. With some leftover kitten roasts.
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January 22nd, 2009, 11:34
One particularly thorny problem that arises when you try to mix storytelling with free roaming gameplay is maintaining consistency between the narrative and the state of the gameworld.

Example: Suppose the storyline includes a village which is being besieged by an ultra-evil, ultra-powerful slime blob. Now, in a totally free roaming game, the developers have no idea whether you are going to visit that village as a level 20 or a level 40 character. So either they have to implement some form of level scaling to ensure that the slime blob is always an ultra challenging opponent, or forgo the scaling, resulting in possible narrative inconsistencies as well as an unsatisfying, easy battle against a slime blob that turns out to be a total pushover.

The idea of scaling opponents rips at the very heart of the progression based system which forms the core of most RPG game play. What's the point of all that grinding I did to reach the next level, or all that gold I saved up for my new broadsword if my opponents are always matched to my level? Where's the payoff?
On the other hand, how do you ensure that the climax points of the story remain challenging and believable without some form of scaling?
Does anyone have a solution (one which doesn't restrict the player's movement) ?
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January 22nd, 2009, 20:29
Originally Posted by Geist View Post
One particularly thorny problem that arises when you try to mix storytelling with free roaming gameplay is maintaining consistency between the narrative and the state of the gameworld.?
Exactly.

Originally Posted by Geist View Post
Does anyone have a solution (one which doesn't restrict the player's movement) ?
I think I do, yes. It's one I've alluded to earlier in this thread and over the past year on these forums.

To begin with, replace the words "level scaling" with adept collaboration. Then forget the rule that says games can only be made and sold in a single version. Consider narrative something driven by strict cause-and-effect with assiduous conclusiveness. Finally, consider how modular design might permit all of that while also allowing for fundamental change each and every step along the way (e.g. Legoland).

When I do that I imagine cRPG developers getting out of the business of making individual games. Instead I imagine them making places where each character can have its own unique adventures, worlds that react to players in a way where they would always remain an enigma and be beloved for it.
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January 22nd, 2009, 22:22
Even though I love the free-roaming worlds of TES and Fallout 3, emptiness is a big issue. There are way too many empty areas where nothing of consequence takes place. It might not be realistic to jam all the "action" areas together and just drop the barreness, but I wish they'd do it anyway. I really wouldn't mind a much smaller Fallout 3 world that was more populated. I think DLC is the answer to expanding the smaller gameworld. If Fallout 3 would have concentrated their areas to about 1/3 the size and then sold DLC that would slowly expand the original games' area, that would suit me just fine.
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January 22nd, 2009, 23:59
No Scaling. Make a range of areas instead. Some areas doable for low level characters, and some hard, only for the highest level characters to take on, and everything in between.

This rewards character growth and development. I think it's a key gameplay element.

No handholding, except maybe warnings/rumors from NPCs. Make sure the PC can runaway if he gets himself over his head.

To keep the climax challenging, put a cap on character development.

It think it's a stupid game design that is winnable with 1st level characters.
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January 23rd, 2009, 06:15
I would like to know of the RPG that is winnable with level 1 characters. Heck, I can only think of one that can be beaten before level 20, and it has such a small area of it's world that you're hard pressed to find enough to do to hit level 15. IIRC I was level 14 at the most when I beat it, and I cleared every square on my automap. I beat it in a single night from scratch. It was that small.

I can't think of a single RPG that took the time and effort to have a more diplomatic option to encounters as well. I'm developing that too, but it's by no means a requirement. Kill 'em all works equally well.

The problem with the range of areas is if you go back to an area, either for no reason except to finish an earlier quest, or to go to a dungeon which for whatever reason was placed there, you have hordes of easily fought battles again. Might and Magic III and World of Xeen did this part right, by having a finite population; once you cleared an area of monsters it stayed clear. That makes for an empty world however, after your party gets through.

I'm not sure there is an easy answer. Scaling the encounters to the party's level allows for a more constant level of challenge, but eliminates the "Oh Shit!" moments when one goes to a place he has no business being. Plus, as said it also somewhat dulls the sense of accomplishment. Finite populations means an empty world very quickly.

Caps on character development also can hurt, especially if it makes no sense, like the racial level caps in the old AD&D games. THAT was stupid, no offense to Gary meant. If the game world is large enough, it shouldn't be needed.

It's questions like this that have me making my own game. I like the challenge of developing answers to these questions more than the rest of the challenge; and more than playing games even.
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January 23rd, 2009, 13:22
Oblivion is beatable @ level 1. That is the game he's referring to (scaling etc).

I had forgotten about this thread, so I'm sorry if I bring dig up dead topics.
@Relayer & Squeek
Yes, you mean the kind of world Gothic represents. In such cases, it works out great, and I love exploring. However, too many games with "free roaming" are as uninteresting as simply walking around in the mountains. In fact, I'd prefer walking around in the mountains, since the scenery is often much better, and I get some fresh air too.

In some free roaming RPGs, the landscape is simply big, but fairly dead. The stuff you come across is often extremely generic (ruins in Oblivion for example are always the same). Don't tell me exploring the northern wastes of Morrowind is any fun - it's merely a huuuge, open desert filled with.. nothing.

Of course it can be interesting (like Gothic), but too often it's not.
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January 23rd, 2009, 13:33
Originally Posted by Geist View Post
The idea of scaling opponents rips at the very heart of the progression based system which forms the core of most RPG game play. What's the point of all that grinding I did to reach the next level, or all that gold I saved up for my new broadsword if my opponents are always matched to my level? Where's the payoff?
On the other hand, how do you ensure that the climax points of the story remain challenging and believable without some form of scaling?
Does anyone have a solution (one which doesn't restrict the player's movement) ?
How about rethinking the leveling mechanic, rethink grinding while you're at it too - sure its cheap content but its not always a good gameplay mechanic.
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January 23rd, 2009, 19:32
Originally Posted by azraelck View Post
I would like to know of the RPG that is winnable with level 1 characters.
Morrowind, too.
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January 23rd, 2009, 20:58
The point about level scaling and level-one characters is valid but misses the main point. Yeah, we all agree that's bad and ought to be avoided. If that's an Achilles' heel, I don't see it.

The thing about collaboration is that it needs to be done well. It doesn't work if one person in a choir is singing off-key, one dancer in a troupe is a step behind or one member of the team is on the wrong page.

If developers abandoned the idea of making and selling games one at a time, versions of their game worlds could be selected along with the player's character selection. They could then develop in tandem with that character's role development. And it's only possible with single-player games.

For years the supposed bugaboo on RPG forums has been the idea of artificial intelligence. Posters have been quick to lecture others about its vast difficulty, the need for supercomputers and amazing amounts of code. But the first guys I ever met who were actually into it were creating AI for the x286.

I like Maylander's and crptnut's posts and think along the same lines. But I would point out that single-player game worlds can be modified. They're not limited to expansion. That's where the idea of adept collaboration comes in.
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Last edited by Squeek; January 23rd, 2009 at 21:05. Reason: switched the order of a couple paragraphs
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January 24th, 2009, 04:53
I barely tolerated Morrowind for 30 mins. I certainly didn't find enough things to kill or even look at to reach level 2.

Those are isolated incidents, however, of bad level scaling. Though I'll be honest, I cannot think of any game with good level scaling. Most I play rely on the tried and true tactic of not bothering; so if you have to go through lower level areas you just die of boredom.
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January 24th, 2009, 07:44
In Morrowind I spent a few days with reaching the position of the highest authority you could be among priests. The reward was an empty room and a title that was never recognized. After that I stopped to play the game and it's one of the few games I spent time with just to never finish. Compared to Gothic, Morrowind felt empty.
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January 24th, 2009, 19:47
Originally Posted by JemyM View Post
Compared to Gothic, Morrowind felt empty.
Definitely. To me Gothic was a carefully-crafted gem where the player's choices were somewhat limited and even controlled while still allowing the player a sense of total freedom. And it had chapters. The game world changed as the story unfolded. It was a sandbox, but a nice little one, the kind you might find in a place like Beverly Hills.

Just about everyone agrees that Morrowind is better modded, which is to say it improves with collaboration. But fans do it all, and the nature of their modifications are all meticulously described, since it's up to the player to select them.

In her hit song, "Soulmate" Natasha Bedingfield asks the question: "Who doesn't long for someone to hold who knows how to love you without being told?" Morrowind would have been a much better game if it knew how to love the player without being told.

Gothic did that by limiting its scope to a single character in a small confined place. It did it by giving the entire game world narrative that unfolded in turns. Every inch of the place seemed to have been designed with tender-loving care. It was brilliant.

When I ask myself how a huge place like a TES game world could have that same kind of RPG niceness, I think of developer-made mods (alternative versions), universal narrative, flexible design and games that extensively evaluate the character being played and then react to it by modifying themselves over the Internet via a Game Master.
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January 24th, 2009, 20:21
Compared to an empty wasteland, Morrowind felt empty. That is one game I will never understand the appeal of, personally. Even the Final Fantasy series, which I have yet to find any redeemable features in, has more to offer than Morrowind. Notably outstanding graphics and at least an attempt at inhabitants.

The only thing I pulled from TES is how not to do things.

I may try to get Gothic working again; my copy refused to work before after installing. It sounds like it was a free-roam design done right from some of the comments.
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January 26th, 2009, 09:33
I love strong, story-driven games, because I love well-told stories and believable, interesting characters. However, I'm also fascinated by open-world games, and the premise and possibilities that presents. However, I've yet to play a game that is capable of doing both, and weaving very strong, compelling stories into an open world where you feel pulled in by the overall plot, but every subplot feels real and well-conceived. I suppose it's a bit of utopian thinking, but I want to feel part of something bigger than just my roaming and questing when I'm in an open world.
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January 27th, 2009, 04:41
The problem with Gothic for ME was that its world didn't feel anywhere near as interesting as Morrowind's.

I think to really get the most out of Morrowind you have to read a lot of the books you find - it really is a fascinating world Bethesda created. On top of that, it's got otherworldly architecture, surreal vistas, the weather system was breathtaking. The different races and factions were all interesting as well.

But that was also the problem with the game - you had to invest too much of your own imagination into the game.

I'm really hoping Bethesda learn from previous mistakes and give us a really well fleshed out world and main story line. If they can do this, get a real director for the voice actors (I refuse to believe they had anyone actually directing the actors in Oblivion or Fallout 3 aside from maybe the producers of the game), hire a good writer for the dialogue, and give us more instances of choice & consequences and fix their level scaling issues, TES V could turn out to be beautiful.

Of course, I've really given up hope, lol.
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