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Default CRPG Analyzer: A checklist for computer role-playing games

February 19th, 2014, 22:39
And funnily enough, that on it's own is usually an indicator of RPG goodness.
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February 19th, 2014, 23:41
Originally Posted by Thrasher View Post
And funnily enough, that on it's own is usually an indicator of RPG goodness.
Yes, indeed
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February 19th, 2014, 23:54
I agree Thrasher.

And, yes, I know what you are saying, one example does not make a whole.

However…

———————————————————————-

Do you really want your RPG to have incisive and deep philosophical challenges every single time you talk to an NPC?

Old woman: "Can you get my cat out that tree please?"

Hero:

A: Certainly Madam (+4 to good)
B: I'll think about it (wait and see if there's a reward)
c: Kill the woman and eat the cat (+4 to evil)

[Later in the game]

Supplemental encounter while traveling between locations:

1. Son: "You killed my mother!"

Hero:

A: You have no proof of that! [enter a trial] (+4 to lawful)
B: I'm sorry, here have 10,000GP and keep your mouth shut (+1 to evil)
C: Kill the Son (+4 to chaotic)

2. "Aren't you the guy that saved my mother's cat?"

Hero:

A: I am! (+4 to good) [accept reward, -4 to good]
B: I'm too busy to talk right now
C: Kill the Son (+4 to chaotic)

[for all scenarios: Companions various +4 or -4 to influence]

————————————————————

In effect, by demanding the entire game sticks to some kind repetitious formula of 'Role-goodness' don't you run just as much a risk of creating an greater failing of story-submersion as you would by simply having no depth at all and just have the hero either save the cat or not with no later-developments.

By having the mathematics demand certain things and then scoring the game on those things, a game with a story score of 100% could still be a much poorer role-playing experience than a game with a 20% story score - because the 100% might be utterly convoluted, mind-bogglingly confusing and make no rational sense, where as the 20%'er might be tightly written, well executed and, most of all, logical.

But all people will see in the 'grand summation' will be 100% over 20%. Like the convoluted over-exposition of the 100% game, the summation will be entirely misleading and irrelevant.

—————————————————————————

On the subject of Icewind Dale, the concept of 'a little bit of everything' combined with lots of monster killing would adhere to the old adages of "everything in moderation" and "quality over quantity" - well, except for the monster killing, of course.

The subject of 'puzzles and thought to continue', for example, is an extremely stark example of where the person who tires of too many monsters will undervalue the puzzle aspect of Icewind Dale's progression, where as someone such as myself simply cannot fathom why some people can't appreciate that killing monster can be a puzzle in itself when it's designed properly.

So, in Icewind Dale, there is one 'traditional' puzzle that is required to be solved to continue, but there is absolutely no end if you include all the monster-based puzzles. Yet another monster-based puzzle is where you have to defeat a Lich in order to progress. You can't just kill him and move on, you have to solve the puzzle of how to kill him and move on - and this puzzle has nothing whatsoever to do with DPS, equipment or character level, it's an actual proper puzzle - that also involves fighting while you solve it.

So, the question of whether the game provides thought/puzzles to progress is still 'yes', but in order to understand why that is, you first have to understand that a puzzle doesn't just have to mean a combination lock or a riddle from a book.

Believe me, I'm all for story-threads based off of conversation loops and trails - but at some point you're going to be crossing the border into a simulation game rather than an RPG.

And also, I honestly don't believe IWD only has a handful of side-quests. I think it's more likely that people simply miss them because they are not given a great fanfare and are indeed, very 'side'. The quantity of sidequests is likely no different than any average RPG, but since there are no companions there are no companion side-quests. Of the games which 'boast?' (lol?) lots of side quests, how many of those games are just 'companion quests' or 'go fetch' or 'collect 20 of these' quests. A game with 100 of those types of quest will score highly, but a game with just a few neat and tidy and, most importantly, logical and interesting side quests is somehow a weaker (stat-wise) game?

There is the floor in the mathematical approach if each category demands the entire game to repetitively push the aspects you 'should have'.

IWD does have many 'should haves', but, no, the game is not 'consistent and dedicated' in their delivery to the extent your definition appears to require and, as I have stated, those that do over-dose on the 'should-haves' often fail for that reason.
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February 20th, 2014, 00:11
or

d) I have no opinion on that either way (+4 neutral)
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February 20th, 2014, 00:25
@MinorityReport

You still don't get it.

The CRPG-Definition 0.94 is NOT a scoring model.

It was invented to decide if a given game is a CRPG or not.

If all Must Haves are fulfilled you can call the game a CRPG.

Should Haves should be fulfilled, too. If NOT the reviewer should make a comment on it to inform the reader of the review. These CRPGs should be qualified with at least one tag. (linear CRPG, action CRPG, sandbox CRPG, rogue like CRPG etc.)
Must Haves and Should Haves are the objective part of the definition.

***

The NtH-list was invented to list & check more CRPG features for further info.
It is more subjective and NOT feature complete.
The gameplay of a game with more features fulfilled is not automatically better than a game with less of these features. But the chances are a bit higher IMHO.

The main reason for the NtH-list is to to inform a review reader, if a CRPG element he likes is in the game or not. Nothing more, nothing less.

The checklists can help you to review a given game. But you cannot calculate a review or a score value from the checklists only. Reviewing is still an intelligent human process.
Last edited by HiddenX; February 20th, 2014 at 00:50.
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February 20th, 2014, 00:42
You misunderstand me, I do totally agree that a check-list of the game's main features is nice and informative.

My post was questioning the validity of then expanding that checklist's importance by applying a % number. We all know what percentage numbers do to most people's brains, it'll be a race to try and make every game 100% of everything (and a complete mess in the process) because all the majority of people will do is look at the percentages.

On the topic of categories, yes, I understand, you require the category to be a game-wide 'whole', that is unfortunate for IWD, yes, it does knock a lot of the points I made - which is unfortunate, because if someone is told IWD has no puzzles and someone buys it thinking its just another aRPG, then they're going to be a bit upset when they have to start using their brains to progress and are not met with simple trash mobs followed by a one-shot end boss…
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February 20th, 2014, 00:47
As I explained before I'm not a great fan of the %-ratings in this context, too.
They have no use for the Must Have and Should Have criteria.

As Arhu said you could use them for the NtH-list, but as we have have seen this leads to a lot of discussions if you look only at the %-values.
These %-values are too similar to normal game-ratings and could be easily misinterpreted.

***

For the puzzles in IWD -

I would comment this feature like this:

NtH-List:
The game features puzzles and riddles
-> a few
Last edited by HiddenX; February 20th, 2014 at 01:00.
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February 20th, 2014, 01:08
Originally Posted by Lucky Day View Post
or

d) I have no opinion on that either way (+4 neutral)
LOL, nice one.

For the puzzles in IWD -

I would comment this feature like this:

NtH-List:
The game features puzzles and riddles
-> a few
I could live with that.

You should replay it sometime, only this time use a walkthrough that covers everything (except party choice). The first time I played the game I missed no end of stuff and got a bit frustrated at some of the elements which are not intuitive. I also found the game very tiring with regards to combat. But with this game experience (and age) seems to improve the process. I didn't go back to the game for quite a long time after that first try, but my experience of other games showed my why I needed to go back to IWD

Also, btw, please note the guy who made the IWD lists played with HoW installed - this makes the game radically different to playing without.

When making reviews based on categories, it should be made extremely clear which version of the game someone is playing. For example, pure IWD has no carrier bags, it's totally inventory tetras, with HoW installed you get carrying bags - such things can have a massive impact on player experience…
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February 20th, 2014, 01:15
PS:

For measuring CRPG features we have developed another system at RPGDOT.com:
The old CRPG-Meter - it works quite well.

Example: Skyrim

It measures CRPG features of a game against an imaginary perfect hardcore CRPG.
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February 20th, 2014, 01:29
Well that's a very interesting setup. Seems like a pretty thorough system. Kudos to you Kostas for going through all those sections, far too involved of a process for me.
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February 20th, 2014, 08:34
Valid points, everyone. So what you are saying is that the % values are misleading and can easily be misinterpreted because they remind you too much of review ratings. Fair enough. Still, I'd like games to be comparable at a glance.

Let's go with the IWD vs IWD+HoW example. They probably differ only marginally; for the record: I have not played the vanilla game. Now with numbers I could for example quickly see that one has slightly more options in character development, without having to compare each of the > 115 (!) bullet points to see what's different.

You associate a quality with the NtH numbers (i.e. ratings, or "more = better"), whereas I see them only as a quantitative indicator (i.e. "where is the game's focus?", "How many gameplay options do I have compared to another game?"). If that's not clear enough, how can it be made clearer? Or can we change it to something else? I think it was already established that more features is not supposed to mean that a game is better in our CRPG classification systems.

edit:
Originally Posted by HiddenX View Post
I would comment this feature like this:
NtH-List:
-> a few
Like that it could be overkill. How about something similar: Once we have a simple form for people to fill out, we collect all ratings for a certain game from all reviews and take the average. So if one person says "Game X" has puzzles and another says "Game X" doesn't have puzzles, the end result could be "Does the game have puzzles?" - "some".

Same result, but it would keep the actual form a simple checklist.

I do like that there is at least some room for interpretation of the checkpoints, at the discretion of the reviewer. Of course there shouldn't be too much room. IMHO our job is to make the system relatively clear to understand but leave the final interpretation to individual reviewers.
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Last edited by Arhu; February 20th, 2014 at 08:51.
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February 20th, 2014, 09:59
@Arhu

to avoid %-values just use the form (25/50) features implemented
(Kostas did it this way).
Just don't calculate the value - in this case 50%.
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February 20th, 2014, 10:00
Originally Posted by HiddenX View Post
PS:

For measuring CRPG features we have developed another system at RPGDOT.com:
The old CRPG-Meter - it works quite well.

Example: Skyrim

It measures CRPG features of a game against an imaginary perfect hardcore CRPG.
Thanks.

I like the CRPG-Meter a lot. In fact for me personally its use would be more useful than the model developed in this thread. I think that the binary labeling of CRPG or no-CRPG is a problem.
For example if a game fulfilled all MHs except from C3, I'd most likely very much want to play it (if its quality is also good). But in a potential list of CRPGs (according to this model) it won't appear at all. Whereas when you have a list according to the CRPG-Meter and order it by RPG Score, the particular game will most likely be somewhere in the top region.
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February 20th, 2014, 10:43
Both models have their advantages.

The CRPG-Meter requires a lot of work to fill out. You have to understand the mechanics of a game in great detail. And it is more of a scoring model.

Def. 0.94 is a bit easier to handle, because most questions can be answered with yes and no. In general it is a feature checklist.
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February 20th, 2014, 11:41
Originally Posted by Arhu View Post
Let's go with the IWD vs IWD+HoW example. They probably differ only marginally; for the record: I have not played the vanilla game.
Well, here's the list:

What's New in Heart of Winter?

This section is mostly for people who don't own the expansion and wonder
whether it is worth a purchase. However, there are some other minute changes
that even owners of HoW might not be aware of. (many of these are taken from
the manual)

Major Additions:

* New areas to explore, accessible through Kuldahar. These areas can be
played before or after completing the normal game. You can even play in
"Expansion Only" mode if you don't even want to complete the normal game.

* Now supports 800x600 resolutions, including drop-away side panels (from
BG2).

* New difficulty mode, Heart of Fury. This is meant for people who think the
game is too easy. What it does is pump up enemies stats (and exp too) to
the point where they become tanks. Ex: All creatures have x3, +80 hit
points. A creature with 20 hit points in regular mode would have 20x3 = 60,
60+80 = 140 hit points.

Note: Your summoned monsters get the same bonuses as all the other
monsters, making summoning spells even MORE powerful in HoF mode.

Note: The amount of EXP you get from monsters goes up with the
difficulty. At HARD you get 150% normal, at INSANE you get 200%
normal. In HoF you get more than that (I have no exact details
on it yet).

* Enemies can now "call for help." (they don't ALWAYS do this) What it means
is that you can't pick enemies off one by one, they'll yell to their
friends.

From JE Sawyer:

Places where it definitely is used:

* The expansion areas.
* Most of Dragon's Eye (L1,2,3, and parts of 5)
* The Orc Cave
* Kuldahar Pass
* Parts of Lower Dorn's (Entrance, Artisan's District, Mines, Palace
Level 3, the Great Forge, the Broken Temple)

Places where I believe it is used:

* Temple of the Forgotten God
* Upper Dorn's Deep
* Parts of Wyrm's Tooth

Places where I believe it is not used:

* Easthaven
* The Vale of Shadows

Minor Additions:

* Experience Cap allows characters to reach 30th level.
* New Portraits
* New Character Sounds
* New Gem Bags, Scroll Cases and Potion Bags (similar to things found in BG2)
* New spells:

Druid
1st Level: Cause Light Wounds
1st Level: Sunscorch
2nd Level: Alicorn Lance
2nd Level: Beast Claw
2nd Level: Cause Moderate Wounds
3rd Level: Cloudburst
3rd Level: Mold Touch
3rd Level: Moonblade
3rd Level: Spike Growth
3rd Level: Storm Shell
4th Level: Smashing Wave
4th Level: Star Metal Cudgel
4th Level: Thorn Spray
4th Level: Wall of Moonlight
5th Level: Animal Rage
6th Level: Whirlwind
7th Level: Earthquake
7th Level: Mist of Eldath
7th Level: Stalker

Cleric:
1st Level: Cause Light Wounds
2nd Level: Cause Moderate Wounds
3rd Level: Cause Disease
3rd Level: Circle of Bones
3rd Level: Exaltation
3rd Level: Holy Smite
3rd Level: Unholy Blight
4th Level: Blood Rage
4th Level: Cause Serious Wounds
4th Level: Cloud of Pestilence
4th Level: Poison
4th Level: Unfailing Endurance
5th Level: Cause Critical Wounds
5th Level: Greater Command
5th Level: Magic Resistance
5th Level: Shield of Lathander
5th Level: Slay Living
5th Level: Undead Ward
6th Level: Blade Barrier
6th Level: Harm
6th Level: Spiritual Wrath
7th Level: Destruction
7th Level: Greater Shield of Lathander
7th Level: Holy Word
7th Level: Unholy Word

Wizard:
2nd Level: Cat's Grace
3rd Level: Lance of Disruption
4th Level: Mordenkainen's Force Missiles
4th Level: Shout
4th Level: Vitriolic Sphere
5th Level: Contact Other Plane
5th Level: Lower Resistance
5th Level: Sunfire
6th Level: Darts of Bone
6th Level: Soul Eater
6th Level: Trollish Fortitude
7th Level: Seven Eyes
7th Level: Suffocate
8th Level: Abi-Dalzim's Horrid Wilting
8th Level: Great Shout
8th Level: Iron Body
8th Level: Power Word: Blind

* New Items
* New "Hotkey" that highlights all significant items in the area (such as
doors, chests and items). Very handy if you can't see where certain levers
are… (Use by pressing ALT)
* Ability to buy more than one item at a time

* Paladins get new abilities:
Smite Evil - Column of holy light that does 1d6 + (1d6 / 3 levels) damage
to evil enemies.
Divine Courage - At 3rd level, immune to fear. (Also immune to disease)
Earlier Spell Access (at level 6 instead of 9)

* Rangers get new abilities:
Tracking - Ranger checks to see what monsters are in the area, and often
where the monsters are. +5% chance per level, +5% per point
of wisdom.
Earlier Spell Access (same)

* Druids get new abilities:
Druidic Shape Chance - now available at 5th level, gains a new for every
other level after that. Some HP healed with the change.
Elemental Form - At 11th level, the Druid can transform himself into a
Fire Elemental. At 13th, Earth elemental, at 15th a Water
elemental.
Immunity to Poison - At 9th level.
Timeless Body - At 15th level, no longer get tired.

* Thieves get new abilities:
Sneak Attack - An alternative to backstabbing (must be switched in the
options menu). Doesn't require being in shadows, merely that
you are behind or to the side of the enemy. The damage is an
extra 1d6 for every 4 levels of experience. Critical hits do
not double the sneak attack damage.
Evasion - At 7th level, thieves can evade effects (such as Fireball,
Lightning bolt, etc.), the thief can Save to completely evade
the spell (as opposed to Saving and getting half damage).
You cannot evade your own effects (such as a Mage/Thief
casting fireball right in front of himself).
Crippling Strike - At 5th level, thieves learn how to cripple their
opponents. Crippling only works WITH the Sneak Attack. A
successful cripple causes the victim to suffer a -1 to attack,
at 9th level -2 to attack and damage, at 13th level -3 to
attack and damage, etc. (every 4 levels another -1 to attack
and damage)

* Bards get new songs:
The Ballad of Three Heroes - Allies gain +1 to hit, damage and Saving.
The Tale of Curran Strongheart - 3rd level. Removes fear.
Tymora's Melody - 5th level. Allies get +1 luck, +3 saving throws, and
+10% to lore and thieving skills.
The Song of Kaudies - 7th level. 50% chance to evade sound-based
attacks.
The Siren's Yearning - 9th level. Chance of enemies becoming Enthralled
(unable to move for a minute or so, or until they take dmg).
War Chant of Sith - 11th level. Allies get +2 bonus to AC, +10% res. to
slashing, piercing, crushing and missile attacks, plus
regenerate 2 HP per round.

Changes:

* Spells have been changes somewhat. Some spells are now Alignment (Good,
Evil) specific. Ex: Raise Dead and Cure Critical Wounds cannot be cast by
Evil clerics, Resurrection and Heal can only be cast by Good clerics.

* Opposition schools have been altered. Your old mages won't lose spells
they already know, but they will be unable to learn new spells out of their
sphere.

From JE Sawyer:

Specialist mages now have 1 or 2 barred schools. If your specialist mages
from IWD already have spells, they will not be taken away. However, they
will be unable to take new spells from the barred schools. Here's how it
breaks down:

Abjurer: Alteration, Illusion
Conjurer: Invocation
Diviner: Conjuration/Summoning
Enchanter: Invocation
Illusionist: Necromancy, Abjuration
Invoker: Divination, Conjuration/Summoning
Necromancer: Illusion, Enchantment/Charm
Transmuter: Necromancy, Abjuration

* Ranger/Clerics no longer get the Druid spells from level 1. (You must wait
until the Ranger is level 6)

Items Removed/Changed:

* Many of the random item tables have been changed. I have most of these
changes in the IWD walkthrough (where it says "removed in HoW", or "HoW
only").
* Mithril Plate +2 is now considered "magical" and thusly cannot be worn with
protective rings/cloaks. (If you were wearing it before installing HoW,
you'll still have it on… just don't take it off!)
* Necromancer's Robe is now AC6 rather than AC8.
* Kontik's Ring of Wizardry increases cold damage the wearer takes by 15%
Things that I find especially crucial are such things as massively increased level cap, more than one difficulty level, many classes get serious power advancements, and, the biggest for me is the 'call for help' change to the AI which turns a lot of nice set-piece battles into bar-room brawls.

Adding the HoW expansion would indeed make the game more diablo-like than the vanilla version. It looks to me like many of the changes made to IWD via HoW were changes made by complainers who actually preferred Diablo and BG2 and wanted to try and turn IWD more to their liking - food for thought…
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Default CRPG: The final (?) definition

February 20th, 2014, 16:09
Don't think there's much point discussing IWD further in this thread but I definitely agree with that point. I noticed the existence of that mechanism fairly early and it definitely worked against the tactical aspects of the game.

For what little it's worth, on the matter of judging with or without HoW, while I found the content of HoW significantly differently structured, and it would score much higher on both the exploration and the story sections I mostly went with the answers that would apply to vanilla IWD since cherry picking the best or worst parts of each would not give a representative picture. I think the example of saying yes to the re spawn question due to it featuring in TotL is a good analogy.

On the actual definition work : I can see how percentages could be seen as to imply more than they do but I really liked Arhu's sum up in post 258, as far as I'm concerned I have no problem distinguishing between the two (for example I recognise that Deus Ex would deserve a high score but it isn't a game that rats very highly in my eyes) but maybe just remove the % and keep the raw numbers?
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February 20th, 2014, 16:31
Originally Posted by Kostas View Post
On the actual definition work : I can see how percentages could be seen as to imply more than they do but I really liked Arhu's sum up in post 258, as far as I'm concerned I have no problem distinguishing between the two (for example I recognise that Deus Ex would deserve a high score but it isn't a game that rats very highly in my eyes) but maybe just remove the % and keep the raw numbers?
The problem with raw numbers imho is that it's "difficult" to compare them on first glance. Comparing 23/33 to 14/29 is more complex than just having 69% and 48%.
Imho you need some kind of normalization. So you could go for 7/10 instead of 69% and 5/10 instead of 48%. It's easy to compare, but in fact makes it less intuitive than the percentage or the raw values.

I see that the percentage has its downsides, but the benefits make up for this.
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February 20th, 2014, 22:55
Originally Posted by Kostas View Post
Don't think there's much point discussing IWD further in this thread but I definitely agree with that point. I noticed the existence of that mechanism fairly early and it definitely worked against the tactical aspects of the game.

For what little it's worth, on the matter of judging with or without HoW, while I found the content of HoW significantly differently structured, and it would score much higher on both the exploration and the story sections I mostly went with the answers that would apply to vanilla IWD since cherry picking the best or worst parts of each would not give a representative picture. I think the example of saying yes to the re spawn question due to it featuring in TotL is a good analogy.
Yes, I agree, IWD has had enough debate for now.

One last thing though, vanilla IWD does have a few minor instances of respawns. The shadows outside the last crypt in Vale of Shadows respawn (2 of them I think, maybe 3) and the Ettins and Blue Mushrooms (Myramonds? Mycanoids?) in the cave at the entrance to Dorn's Deep respawn (all of them), but these are the only instances and they don't level scale.

If you played the whole game with HoW installed then the review should be titled Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter (+Trials of the Luremeister) review, as it is not a review of Icewind Dale, as you did not play Icewind Dale, you played Heart of Winter.
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February 21st, 2014, 03:23
I don't know if having % really help for at a glance, nor do numbers. The only way someone is going to get a good idea if what game is reviewed if for them is going to be by checking out the subsections to see what parts of the system it hits the check marks for and which ones it doesn't.
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February 21st, 2014, 09:06
Originally Posted by greywolf00 View Post
I don't know if having % really help for at a glance, nor do numbers. The only way someone is going to get a good idea if what game is reviewed if for them is going to be by checking out the subsections to see what parts of the system it hits the check marks for and which ones it doesn't.
I agree - sometimes you have to read to understand something.
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crpg analyzer, crpg genre, what is a crpg, what is an rpg
RPGWatch Forums » Games » General RPG » CRPG Analyzer: A checklist for computer role-playing games
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