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May 13th, 2011, 19:53
The latest CRPG design piece by the Rampant Coyote discusses Attrition and Reource models. It isn't really an opinion piece but he finally concludes both high and low attrition models have a place. On traditional systems:
The traditional model is based on Dungeons & Dragons, which is in turn based on wargaming of the era. In these types of games, attrition is a significant factor, even though the actual loss of characters might be (relatively) uncommon. Health and special abilities (typically spells) don’t automatically regenerate between encounters. If you hit a trap which damages the party in room 1, then they will be wounded going into the battle against the guards in room 2, and they’ll carry the injuries and fatigue with them in the battle against the baron and his thugs in room 3. Expend your best spells sweeping room 2 clean means you won’t have them at your disposal in room 3. You are likely weaker when encountering the final encounter than you were when you started.
Technically unrelated but I thought Rock, Paper, Shotgun's article A Death Is For Life, Not Just For Quickload covered bordering territory:
People often discuss the importance of “immersion”. It’s a pretty silly word. But while we at RPS like to tease those who claim their game will have “more immersion” than others, the core concept makes sense. It’s wonderful to get lost in the moment, carried away by the fiction. To physically dodge as the fireball comes toward you. To groan in pain as you land on a spike. To care when an NPC friend is in danger. And it’s obviously a widespread frustration when that “immersion”, that suspended disbelief, that embracing of unreality – whatever you want to call it – is broken. So I have a question. Why are we so quick to accept death?

Of all the things you’d imagine would break our concentration the most quickly, it would be death and resurrection. We scream in horror when there’s a logical inconsistency, when an NPC walks through a crate, or when the physics AI bugs out and a chair wobbles insanely in the corner of a ceiling. But when we get shot in the face, see the screen go red, and collapse to the ground, dead – meh – hit quickload. I’m the last to campaign for bloody “realism” in games (I find going outside offers me quite astonishing levels of realism), but I do like a notion of congruence in my games, and I think dying might stand out as an unlikely thing to get better from.
But we’re a community of nonchalant Lazaruses, unsurprised at our returning mortality, happy to leap back in time to before our mistake and carry on, slightly the wiser. It strikes me as a tad silly. It has, of course, always been the case. In fact, if anything it was more starkly daft in the early days of gaming, where we had “lives”, a finite number of reincarnations before we’d finally snuff it for good. At least there was some degree of finality back then, I suppose. No more. At a certain point all of gaming entered a cosmic cheat code and added infinite lives to every game ever.
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May 13th, 2011, 19:53
quickload: the most powerful spell in any game
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May 14th, 2011, 00:38
I get to die once in real life … that's more than enough times for me, so very happy to not have to worry about a permanent death in game.

The immersion issue is always interesting when you pick it apart. Outside of the death, and the other issues listed in the article, there is the GUI, the fact you are watching a computer screen, etc. The human mind seems to sort out those things it can easily filter out as acceptable to suspend belief on versus those that don't … which varies from gamer to gamer of course. I have my own list of things I consider acceptable versus those that do not. I know I value consistency as one of the critical things. Dying and reloading doesn't involve consistency for me. But broken quests, NPC's that have bugged dialogue, major graphical glitches … they tend to break the internal consistency for me and I find them more jarring.

My mind already "knows" there will be inventory, swords magically stuck to my back, freeze time keys, etc. and manages to just tuck them away into zen like unconscious management. But when deep into a story and the NPC totally screws up something - that breaks things as it is not expected. Same with chairs on the roof.

Dying … thats expected and comes under the semi-aware. Minor interrupt in immersion (like opening inventory) and reload.

For others dying may be a major immersion breaker and perhaps they like perma-death. I never got into it myself.
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May 14th, 2011, 02:03
About attrition I think the writer didn't develop well or even analyzed well the problem. The first point is he is too superficial about the relation attrition/restoring. The second point is I think he is doing the same error than is done in modern RPG, looking at a game element from a pure gameplay point of view, the challenge, or what's directly fun in this design element.

You can't have an attrition model without to have a rest model. And if you look closely, in many RPG, the only real attrition system end be the gold. That's also true for a BG like system. The only fairly good option with a high attrition model is to block the player into a place where no resting is allowed, but you can achieve a similar effect by blocking the player in a place with no shop for a system using no attrition like immediate restore after a fight. You just need design fights requiring use some resources like potions or scrolls, their number can't be restored without a shop.

But the main point is it's an error to look at the attrition from a pure direct gameplay point of view, in this case the challenge and difficulty management.

That's the error that are doing most if not all designers of modern RPG. They tend look at elements of design from an isolated point of view. Soemtimes I feel it's even more awful, it seems they are looking at such isolated elements just to satisfy some vocal part of their fans. I'm throwing the rock at game designers but I think players are involved in that error too.

An attrition model isn't necessarily that good to manage fights difficulty, nor that good to involve fun player actions. But it can be a part of building a light sim mood. RPG can include more direct gameplay elements like solving puzzles or riddles, managing tactics of fights, use players skills in some actions, and more. But a RPG is also a light life and adventure simulator.

But this seems to have been forgotten, possibly players, possibly designers, probably both. Who didn't whine about a boring problem with an inventory full? And not all but many feel very at ease with an unlimited inventory. But that strip out from the RPG a little simulation element, managing a limited carrying capacity.

Let see, if I design a strong attrition system, I need offer some rest system, but it ends in pointless rest wait by the player. So why bother them with that, let remove it. But that strip out of from the RPG a little simulation element, managing attrition and resting.

Eat, food and sleep, drag the player into repetitive little action that doesn't bring any fun, so let remove it. But that strip out… you know the song.

So that song is one way to look at the problem but the second face is how players had became fat lazy bears that consider their comfort as the most important element. And not many little simulation elements are easy to design in a way directly fun. But strip out all of them is destroying the light sim quality of RPG. Modern games try substitute with more deep dialogs, more NPC, more surrounding life, companions, and more elements, but are loosing depth of sim on other elements.
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May 14th, 2011, 02:22
About the second article, whining death isn't a good fail state, no matter you look at it change that will not make death in a game suddenly different. Some games implemented some realistic resurrection, or at least story explained, it's always boring stuff when compared to a save system.

The only way is to forbid save and reload and have at some point some permadeath. The problem is almost no game will suffer such design. Roguelike can for some masochist players because they include a very high random generator generating randomly very diversifed gameplay, so when you restart the game it's quite different in a way than during previous play.

Other than that it's just a crap, either you need enjoy repetitive action ie replay and replay again the same thing, either you need enjoy play hyper safe. In both case, boring.

EDIT: Ok permadeath is good for one thing, bragging. Well "good" is relative, for me it just makes it even more boring.
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