THE FUTURE OF RPGS
Author Name: Chris Bennett
Author Handle: Dwarfsoft
E-mail Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Updates of this document can be found: http://www.crosswinds.net/~dwarfsoft/Discussions/Discussions.html
Table of Contents
THE FUTURE OF RPGS *
Table of Contents *
In the beginning… *
Note about RPG/CRPG *
Note about Fantasy *
Note about Diablo II *
Note about "Depth" *
Note about RTS combination with RPG *
Note about my intentions *
Note about where this is all going *
The story side of things *
Linear vs. Interactive *
Adding a choice, "Bulletin Board Quests for the Bounty Hunter" *
Time critical events *
Adding Reason, "I want a dragon NOW! Daddy! NOW!" *
A story-less RPG *
The distant future of gaming *
Monsters, are they the stupid NPC's? *
NPC's again: Why should I wait for you? *
Furthering NPC's: Emotive response *
Conversing with NPC's, "click here for this quest" *
NPC speech and listening in on conversations *
NPC and monster Advancement, allowing your party to improve *
Learning 'goblinish', breaking the language barrier *
Recruiting a party or being tutored on your journey *
The uses of a bard *
Sending your party off *
An NPC-less world *
Multiplayer games and the NPC's responsibility *
Saved Games *
"Free saves" vs. "Save Spots" *
"Learning through death sucks…" the advent of the save game *
Why should I be able to increase my health? *
The spread of disease *
Bright (or not so bright) Ideas *
Running for mayor and running a town *
Combining RTS and RPG, A simple harmony *
Transportation or "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!" *
Idle actions, "Eating, sleeping and relieving oneself" *
Beggars and thieves, preventing the player from leaving cash lying around *
Automating tasks: How players can implement scripting *
Dynamic game-worlds - Watching the grass grow and the search key *
The hobbit and the hole *
Bartering and the abolition of gold *
Inventory, "how come I can't stack?" *
Inventory and container objects *
Inventory space and weighting *
Enemies, Armour and Weaponry *
Monsters, weapons and armour: what your enemies should do *
Does the armour fit me? *
Germs! "Eeew! Orc sweat!" *
Blatant racism and the redefinition of a race *
Enemy stupidity… "Give them a tactical approach!" *
Reasoning against Enemy Stupidity *
The petty 'evil' minions – When they know when to quit? *
Player vision *
What do you see? Hiding what is not in sight *
Player sight; adding fog, decreasing the light, or blurring *
The vision Mosaic *
Systems of Magic *
Localising Magic, Tactics and Placement *
Magic herbal brew *
Magic channelling and "using the flow" *
Co-operation of casting, bringing in a helping hand *
Putting the mystery back into magic: When click casting defeats the purpose *
Chaos and Order, Gods and Prayer *
Dynamic Magic Casting, "Mixing and matching Glyphs" *
Moderating Magic *
Candle Magic - A magic system with self-moderation *
Magic Balancing - The contrast of colours *
Magic Saturation – The devastating effects of "Total Power" *
Statistics and Murder *
Abstracting your Statistics and "Pumping Iron in the Gym" *
Murder based experience or "End Goblin Genocide" *
What's with statistics? When swordplay becomes swimming *
Skill based advancement or "Redefining the Role" *
The Web of Skills *
The Character *
Choosing your character or the "Which one is better" syndrome *
Including a place for the character, "There's no place like home" *
Role-playing a non-human *
Game and Game-world, Timing and Art *
Standard Time and the creation of a short-game scene *
RPG's and Character aging, and the implementation of timing in games *
When do characters sleep? More timing factors in games *
Linking eating and sleeping with energy *
Standard Timing in Games *
Games and art, or Games AS art (my rant) *
Building your game world *
Death and Karma *
Characters coping with death: Reincarnation *
Characters coping with death: Possession *
Characters redeeming their wrongs through battle *
Definitions of RPG *
What is an RPG? More to the point, what isn't? *
Putting the 'R' back in 'RPG' or Redefining RPG's *
More about Role-Playing as "That would never happen in real life!" *
Creatures and Combat *
A new combat system: 'Come back or I'll bite your legs off!' *
Monster Generator *
Variety is the spice of life, Bio-diversity *
Realistic Sword-fighting – "Aiming for the head" *
Flowing fighting – Bringing in the arcade fights *
Combating PKing. Playing God "…And Justice For All" *
Combating PKing. "Good and Bad Karma" *
The Experience *
Consistency, Immersion and Reasoning *
Replay-ability – The value of non-linearity *
"Genre-lising" – The art of anti-categorisation *
Clichés – How to start a new trend *
Plot Elements *
Dragon Dreams and Magic *
Adding in a 3rd dimension for Isometric RPGs *
Adding THE 3rd dimension for Isometric RPGs *
Adding unlimited maps, allowing the option to explore *
My Learning Experience Approach *
What am I doing to change the world? *
Now that we have a basic setup *
Be free from that which haunts your dreams *
So about the finale *
If you are reading this document then you are most likely a regular at GameDev.net and have probably seen some of my posts around. I am Chris Bennett (a.k.a. Dwarfsoft) and I have been contributing to the furthering of RPG development. This whole topic started for me when I started a thread called "NPC AI in RPGs". This then spawned "NPC AI in RPG's (2)", "RPG NPC AI, Scheduling and Needs…", "Yet Another NPC AI thread…", And a couple more threads. It also was responsible for starting an emailing list called NPCAI / IOL where we are attempting to implement what we discuss in the GameDev.net forums. After the threads were underway, I decided to have a look into other threads in the Game Design section. One particular thread really attracted my interest: "End Goblin Genocide" by one Landfish. This thread was about RPGs and the tendency of players of that genre to go around killing without apparent reason and that there was a "scapegoat" evil race that was always used to further develop the character. Other threads that have been significant influence on me in the writing of this document are "A new outlook on RPG's…", And "Artificial Intuition".
In the beginning…
…There were RPGs. This great medium where multiple players could gather in one place and live out their dream role: To be a hero. The years traversed and so did the genre, gaining nifty new graphic interfaces, speed, sound and environment. Everything is there right? Unfortunately, as the years continued to roll by, the game-play provided by RPGs diminished, until the advent of "click'n'kill". Where did all of the development go over the years? Into making better and faster graphics and user interfaces. Making it nice and colorful for the gamer, and providing them with some awesome sound. But what happened to the game-play? That is what people have been asking, and that is what I am hoping to remedy…
Note about RPG/CRPG
I was thinking about the way I termed this document and that I never strictly define that the RPG that I refer to in this document is a CRPG (Computer Role-Playing Game). This is due to the fact that I have been limited in my research on pen-and-paper RPG's and my reasons for writing this document was to deal with the Computer Games Industries implementation of these much loved games. I just thought I would try to right that in the event that you don't care about computers and are an avid AD&D fanatic (for example), and you were just wondering what I have against your beloved game/world/experience. Sorry to stop the whole flamefest right here, but there you have it.
Note about Fantasy
I must apologize to people about my apparent "narrowness" of vision. I am stuck back in the medieval times fighting demons with magic and a world filled with dragons, while some of you are stuck in the present day with yuppie style RPG's and yet others are off in the distant future with their RPG's. I am just going to say that I have remembered you all, but I can only really what I see is relevant to me, and I have not really had a chance to play any of these other RPGs (unfortunately). This document may give you ideas on how to implement different features, and how not to get stuck with the old systems that are just not getting any better. I think there still may be a lot in this document that may benefit you (such as the "Anatomy Combat System" or the "Isometric and 3D" implementation discussions) and I definitely hope that it changes your view on RPG's as much as I intend it to.
Note about Diablo II
Although it is true that Diablo II is NOT an RPG (I hope that this does not come as a shock to anyone) I have included it as a basis for my discussions. It is relevant to Isometric tiling and also is useful for examples when discussing Combat and Magic topics due to the fact that it uses systems for these. Diablo II is a roguelike game and is often called an RPG by people who are ignorant of the difference (i.e. The ROLE part of Role-Playing Game). I think most of you would agree with me that the points that I have discussed that have included in their examples Diablo II, are still relevant to both Roguelike games and RPG's.
Note about "Depth"
When I speak of depth I am talking about a number of things, but mostly I intend is that the game has enough content for it to be entertaining upon replaying it. This is known as the replayability factor, something that is sadly lacking in almost all gamed today. Other things that depth pertains to include Character Interaction with NPC's, Branching Dialog for stories, Greater choice for the player [than just endless slaughter], Background to the story, Reasoning and Background for each included element (i.e. reasoning as to why races are included), and generally a complete game. Articles that relate to this are "Adding Reason, "I want a dragon NOW! Daddy! NOW!"", "My Learning Experience Approach", "Standard Time and the creation of a short-game scene", "Linear vs. Interactive", "A story-less RPG" and many others. Depth is not easily defined, but that is as close to a definition as you are going to get .
Note about RTS combination with RPG
Real time strategy games are continuously adding elements of the RPG genre into them. In turn, RPG games are implementing RTS strategies in their creation. There is a new breed of games coming in and they will be in the form of cross RPG/RTS games. I have suggested before about elements that can be added into RPGs from the RTS side of things, but the additions that directly come from the RTS playing field will follow. Inventories have been discussed as possible additions to current RTS games. This would bring them more into line with games like X-Com (though, it was a Turn Based Strategy with RPG elements). Other elements that directly relate to RPG/RTS cross genre games are multiple units, inventories (already stated), stronger characterisation for RTS, and strategy elements for RPGs.
Note about my intentions
I want it clearly stated here about what I am trying to achieve with this document. This document started off as a combination of all the discussions at GameDev.Net and there was also a main contribution from my own thoughts and beliefs. I do not expect everything that I talk about in this document to be used and put in one game. I do not want to make a game that only uses these new systems. What I want is for people to realize that the system that has been being used for a long time now is flawed and can do with some improvements. You can't change the world overnight, but I hope to make my little dent in this genre of games for the long haul. I did not think that I really needed to state this, but recent events have led me to believe otherwise. I hope that you take this document the way that I release it and the way that I intend it.
Note about where this is all going
At the moment I am laboring to come up with some pictures for this document. There is far too much text for the amount of graphics (none) that is in it. Hopefully I will be able to get some images made once I get back to my place. The other thing that needs to be done is some character work. It has been said that there is not enough character in this document and that I need to lighten it up and make it a little more humorous and less like a textbook. I have so far strayed away from my usually chirpy nature and my numerous smiley faces because I have been too lazy to get a copy of the smiley faces. I hope to characterize this document more to that which most of you expect from me, and I hope to get the images done soon. Once I have my basic engine completed, I will use some screenshots and a bit of graphic editing to get the required results and the point across. Thank-you everybody for your continuing support and ideas
I hope you find this document informative and/or useful...
The story side of things
Every RPG has a story line. Something that gives the player a goal, something to strive for, a quest that will mark the end of the game when completed. Usually this involves the player fighting some greater evil. This story is tried and true, but do you not want more? There are few (if any) surprising plot twists in RPGs and I think that this is a real shame. RPGs are one of the remnants of the "old days" as it were, before 3D came into being. Zelda graced our video game platforms and we were happy. Surely we can afford to put some story back into the games which we love to make.
Linear vs. Interactive
This was a thread on GameDev.net that discussed which medium of storytelling is more effective. In RPGs I would have to say that there is a lot of potential for interactive story telling. Generic quests that could be randomly placed (and any blanks filled in) would be fairly easy to add to a random map generating game. Players like something that is going to be different the second time around they play it. I suggest that there is probably some usefulness in creating quests that aid to the actual finish of the game, but are not required in any particular order. This would make it a little bit more fun for the players out there who are seeking something new. I do not think that this is a final step, but I would like to see this implemented. BBS' as I recall had some very good multiple-user dimensions (although not classic style MUD's, as most would know them). They provided quests randomly to the player, but also had some fixed quests, which the player was required to complete. I don't think that it would be too difficult to implement this into an RPG, because they both the same basic game concept and tile design (for the particular game that I am talking about: LORD II by RTSoft).
Adding a choice, "Bulletin Board Quests for the Bounty Hunter"
Something that was posted recently by Whirlwind was how quests could be posted on a bulletin board. The player then decides which quest to undertake, and therefore has some decision about the outcome. This could also make for some Bounty Hunting coming into play in RPGs, which is something that I have not seen since the days of Text-Based Adventure. There may need to be a balance between this system and a possible "Anti-PKing" system. Karma may be altered to accommodate this, and possibly a "guild" based system could allow Bounty Hunters to play their role.
Time critical events
In many a game, there are some obviously time-critical events that unfold but are very important to the storyline in a game. What this ends up doing is proving to the player that the whole world does revolve around them because time stops and waits for them. What I think needs to be done about this is that some time critical events can give the character bonuses but still remain time critical. An example of this is if the character must catch up to a wagon that carrying some escaped bandits and then stop them from leaving the town, the player then must hasten their character to complete the task. If they manage to complete it, then the character gets a bonus of an item or an NPC etc. If they do not manage to stop the wagon then there is no reward and the story continues. This way it seems like there is more interactivity and that each decision the player makes has consequences. Although this is only one example, there could be a multitude of quests that could be added with such yes/no outcomes. It is then like a branching tree in the story. If the wagon is not stopped, it may cause further hindrance to the characters quest later in line. If the wagon is caught then the player may be able to find a shortcut to their goal.
Adding Reason, "I want a dragon NOW! Daddy! NOW!"
This is yet another of my rants and I still choose to say this. There should be nothing in a game that does not have a reason to be there. This is the reason that is in a game. If you want a dragon in your game there should be a genuine reason for doing so instead of just saying "because everybody else has one". This is also true for genres. You should not make a first person shooter just because everybody else does. As such, you should not fall into the same trap about CRPG's or Roguelikes. Here is where I start to rant about a real reason for having a dragon in a game.
In my game, the reason that I have a dragon is to mock all of a certain breed of games. In my game, the dragon shall not be the hunted, and shall not be the prize. No dragon is ridden because that is not of the dragons will. What the dragon is to represent is the greatest of the magicians. It will stand defiant against those who face it and they won't even know that it is there. This is because dragons' are not a fearsome beast to be hunted. They are a proud, masterfully skilled being who hold great wisdom and wield the magic finer than any other could. They are the remnants of the past that refuse to lie down and be ridden over. They symbolize everything that there should be in magic. As is magic, the dragons are rare, few and far between. They can only be found by the true of heart in a time of great need, and none other will ever find their trace. They are the timeless ones who represent watchers over the world and the keepers of the peace. They are there to challenge only those who would threaten the world, and only bare those who fight against such evil. The dragon is the key to the world, the glue that keeps everyone stuck, the wise, timeless ones whom the loremasters communicate. They are hidden to all because they appear to those who do not understand as human. They hide in the midst of their enemies. The reason I want a dragon is to mock everybody's beliefs about the use of a dragon in a game, and I want him or her to understand that I have imagination for using such. This is not about just going with the flow and copying others, it is about challenging the reasons that the very fabric of a game is based on and so there is a reason for everything.
Do you think I got a little carried away? I tend to rant a bit when I think that something that should be said should be said a bit louder. That is a long description for a reason, and it is a reasonable excuse, (not the best) and it is an excuse that I have already stated to others. It is merely an example of why you have something in your game. You should do the same for everything in your game.
A story-less RPG
Before you all start saying "But A story is in integral part of an RPG!" I have to say that this rant is not about that in essence. Nazrix meant his thread to be about the actual body of a game. The idea basically pertains to there being a setup story for any characters, and a conclusion that is attainable. The story-less part of the proceedings is the actual game. In the game you do not get told the story, you basically attempt to achieve the final goal in whatever manner you see fit, and whatever manner is available within the game. By doing so, the player creates their own story, where they interact with whichever characters, complete whatever quests, slay whatever race, and eventually reach their goal. This would greatly add to replayability value.
The distant future of gaming
There has been some discussion as to the possibility of self-generating storylines in games. This is not so unbelievable as it seems. At the moment it would require a vast amount of Artificial Intelligence to achieve anything interesting and believable and any storyline that is created is unlikely to be as emotive or as artistic as one that any human could write. This does not detract from what can be achieved with a self-generating story. It would be the ultimate Interactive experience for a player as they could choose to do whatever the game allowed them to do, but would also give them diverse endings and different reasons and explanations of everything that they have done and why. This is much more of an extremely futuristic dream, but it is one that should not be forgotten. At least the diversity of the story ought to be interactive enough.
NPC's are the populace of your game. They are what give the player a reason to fight and they are what give the player a purpose in the game. Without NPC's the story line would have to be developed through cut-scenes and this would detract from game-play. NPC's usually give the character advice, and of late have been providing opinions of other characters. Another use of NPC's is as secondary party. You can have NPC's accompany you to aid your cause. The NPC is an important, yet often overlooked quality in an RPG.
Monsters, are they the stupid NPC's?
Monsters are your general enemy. Nobody knows why you fight, but you do. Monsters are usually looked at as stupid NPC's, but they are often smarter. NPC's, in the majority of games that I have seen, tend to stand around and all they really do is talk. Monsters have AI that allows them to hunt the player down. So far, there has been disappointing Monster AI for RPG's. If you think about the quality of Bots as opponents in First Person Shooters (FPS) then you can ask yourself why you don't get that kind of quality in Tile Based, Isometric RPG's. On the whole, the rendering time for an RPG is greatly smaller than that of a FPS, but still the AI is better in those shooting games. One thing I think that should be used in monster AI is battle calls. If a monster sees you then they are likely to make a battle cry and charge you. This would alert those around it to the danger and the player would have a much more interesting battle. With the current system, it is far too easy to rope one creature in at a time for a nice even match up. Another thing, if a creature gets too injured, then it should make an attempt to escape. I have seen this done poorly in some games.
NPC's again: Why should I wait for you?
It has been a tried and true method of setting up a sequence of events to have NPC's scattered everywhere who tell you to "Go see <NPC X>" to get quests or advice. These NPC's are always in the same place and never move from them, at least not so as to make a difference. No NPC is going to be waiting around for a stranger. If the player expects any favours from NPC's then that player is also going to have to do favours for NPC's. This would allow the player to befriend NPC's and also become enemies with NPC's. The more an NPC trusts the player, the more likely that NPC will want to talk about certain things with that player. This could allow for a truly well known character to be an attraction for NPCs (well, if that character was well known for good reasons) and if the character was infamous, the NPCs might reject the character and ban them from town.
Furthering NPC's: Emotive response
NPC's have been saying the same old things for eternity. "Do this quest for me…" or "Do this one and I will give you…" but that is pretty much all that NPC's have been used for. In step with what was mentioned in "NPC's again: Why should I wait for you?" the player should have the ability to befriend or begrudge an NPC. This would allow for emotions in the game. To get a player attached to the game, a certain involvement in the game needs to be created. I think finding an NPC that the player feels comfortable with and attracted to can achieve this. By recording visits and topics that were discussed, the game can actually figure out whom the player has an interest in. Flirting was a method that was discussed on GameDev.Net to get the player to visit that NPC more. If the player keeps coming back to flirt with the same NPC then you can make that NPC ask the player to do different things. This would make a fine experiment whether or not it would ever be implemented in a game. If a player gains an affinity with an NPC, you can use that NPC to further the story by such methods as kidnapping or killing that NPC, therefore making the player exact out revenge.
Conversing with NPC's, "click here for this quest"
The method that is currently used to communicate with NPC's is all well and good, but it tends to give away the story too. The player would have more fun if they were actually required to remember exactly what quest they were on when they needed to ask about it. I am not talking about drastically changing this, I am merely stating that if you display a topic in a menu, it gives away the surprise. A simple modification where an NPC says, "What do you want to talk about?" and the player has to type into a subject box a keyword for what they want to talk about. This would allow a lot of versatility in subject matter, and would allow for expansion to the game without having to patch the conversations.
NPC speech and listening in on conversations
(Thanks to 'The Alchemist'). Not all NPC's are likely to want to speak to your character. This means that the Mayor of the town may be unlikely to talk to you about the dragon's lair because you are a stranger. This means that a new method of communication may be required. The idea that was put forward was that the Mayor may be unlikely to tell you about the Dragon's lair, but is likely to tell someone about it. This means that the player can overhear conversations and gather information like that. I am not sure how this would be implemented, but It certainly would add a new element into the game. There are also prospects for gossip behind people's backs, so you may find out what people REALLY think about your character.
NPC and monster Advancement, allowing your party to improve
Too many times I see the powermaxers getting stronger and the NPC's getting weaker. There needs to be a balance. NPC's should be able to gain levels as well, and monsters should be able to increase their effectiveness to be a worthier opponent to the player. There needs to be some increase for the monsters, to be able to keep even with the character and make the game more challenging. No more shall the monsters be simple to kill. There should be no genocide! Accompanying NPC's should also increase levels so that they become more effective in alliance with the player.
Learning 'goblinish', breaking the language barrier
(Thanks to Taharez and Staffan). Instead of just assuming that goblins and humans both speak the same language or both are unable to understand one another; you could have a different language specified for the goblins and allow the human player to learn it. This is quite a difficult task that is somewhere in the realm of Tolkien's efforts into creating his world. I think that this would really be useful if your game could get a following because you would have a similar novelty such as Star Trek's Klingon language. This could also be a quest for the player. The player comes across a goblin and the goblin and human start trying to communicate to each other. Your game may have lessons on different things and you may also be able to 'teach' the goblin your language (make it easier for the goblin to tell you what it means). Just a thought about bringing the player into the game really, but it is not just about goblins in particular. This language idea holds for all races.
Recruiting a party or being tutored on your journey
In games like Diablo II a teacher (Cain, the elder from the preceding original game) accompanied you, but you never travelled. By this I mean that your character did not trek all over the countryside accomplishing his/her goal. What I would like to see is for your character to be accompanied by a party. This was already part of the game, but I would like to also see a wider variety of characters following you. Tutors, fighters, builders – whatever suits your game. It would make quite a party scene if you could wander in with a retinue and attract some attention in town.
The uses of a bard
The bard is a member of the ancient times that was held in great esteem. One who could make music and sing of greatness is one that is welcomed wherever they go (provided they stick by the rules). As such, if the player become accompanied by a bard they are more likely themselves to be accepted in a town. People also could learn of the player's great deeds and so news could also travel to other towns of the great hero and of his/her deeds. The bard could also be a means of saving a game. Once the player reaches the town, the bard has saved that character's reputation as it was in that town at that particular time. This would be an interesting alternative to saved games and save spots as they are in current.
Sending your party off
Imagine that you are in a battle that you cannot run from, and you are running low on health potions. What do you do? Do you take the simple teleportation/portal approach in your game to allow people to simply materialize in town to get the required help? This would go against the very essence of magic and would make it a common occurrence. It has been suggested that you could designate a member of your party to go to town to get the required help for you. This idea means that you can send any member of your party on an errand that you see fit and they will go and carry it out as best they can. This would require a fair bit of Artificial Intelligence, but would add to the game rather than detract from it as I see it. This is something that I think we can all look forward to in future CRPGs.
An NPC-less world
As Solthar suggested, you could make a world where there were no NPC's to interact with. Something that should first be mentioned though is that NPC's are almost non-existent in RPG's as it is. The problem stems from a lack of AI for NPC's and from scripted speech. Anyway, before I begin ranting about NPC's I should get back to the topic. A world without NPC's is quite a feasible idea, and I think it could be done quite well. A game that reminds me of an NPC-less world, though it could have been done better, is Myst. Myst did really well about telling its story without NPC's. It used books and notes to pass on information, and I think that such things could really make an intriguing game. If you could wander around an empty world and were required to figure out what happened to the inhabitants then this would make a truly interesting plot that I do not think has been visited in any RPG-like games. Another game that comes to mind when thinking about this sort of plot is Ecco the Dolphin, in which the seas of his home were stripped of all life and he was required to find out what happened to his family. This is an element that I do not think has been visited enough in games to date.
It may seem strange that I am campaigning for games without NPC's when I have so often supported NPC advancement, but the truth is that without NPC's you can have a non-interactive medium in which to tell the story, instead of a poorly done interactive (if that) one. It is because NPC's are not interactive that I say they should either be advanced or removed. If they stay as they are now then they will detract from the game, whereas if you can work a lack of NPC's into a story then it will enhance the gaming experience. It all comes back to consistency, immersion and reasoning.
Multiplayer games and the NPC's responsibility
For multiplayer games, my stance on NPC's somewhat varies. Instead of NPC's as the smart ones with which the entire interaction takes place, you have stupid NPC's that fill up space and are there mainly to entertain the Players. These NPC's have to sacrifice everything, even their lives, to entertain the player. The way that I see it is that these NPC's are not terribly intensive in their AI cycles, and as such should not really be classed as NPC's. Seeing as they are there to please the players during times of inactivity (meaning, times of the day when the world is less populated by Players) they should keep the player entertained. This is why NPC's must freely give their lives to save the hours of boredom from creeping up on the player. Seeing as games are mainly there to occupy time for players, as long as they are happy in killing the NPC's, they are enjoying your game.
There are alternatives to just "turning a blind eye" to the killing. You could add in plot elements of outlawing them. This would not be a bad thing as such, as it could give the player a bit of a side-story from whatever they were currently seeking to do in your world. For example, by killing Shopkeeper Bob the player-character gets run out of town by the guards and you flee into the woods (because you have nowhere else to run really). In the woods you could join an outlaw band and this could lead to other adventures.
Don't punish the player for boredom; just give them an alternative. If the player is bored then it is your fault as a game designer not to have given them other opportunities to explore, or given them the knowledge that the opportunities exist. If they act out in boredom then you should give them something else to do. Boredom does not condone the killing of PC's in any way. Player killing is frowned upon no matter what.
"Free saves" vs. "Save Spots"
(Idea thanks to SonicSilicon). There has been some discussion of late as to how much power the player has in returning to the past. I know that playing some games, when I die I just reload an old game. If I wanted to get some non-random information from an old TBS (Turn Based Strategy) game, I would save the game, get the information, reload the game and have saved a lot of money on the information. This is blatant cheating at its worst. Knowing this, I would really want to remove these kinds of activities from games. For one game that is very popular at the moment, I use a special spell that returns damage upon the attacker. Using this, I die many an occasion and eventually remove the bosses. How do we go about preventing this kind of obvious cheating? It was suggested that if your character had all of his or her actions saved (like pen and paper RPG) then you would end up with an uncheatable save system, but this does not bode well for beginners. So there needs to be a balance that can be struck to allow fun for beginners and a challenge for advanced players.
One method of saving that was suggested was a power symbol. This requires the player to engrave a symbol of power into a certain place in the game, it allows for a specific location to be saved, and also for a kind of password required to load games. This would work well in a fantasy RPG because I think that it would utilise the use of magic perfectly.
To add to the challenge for harder players, a hardcore mode should be available. This is already available in some games out now, and I think that it will become more popular as time goes on. I think one main aspect to link with this is the difficulty of the game. The game should not be so hard as to make it impossible for the character to live. This is a problem that is facing most games with this feature, but I still think that this mode is required for future RPGs.
The other definition of the Save-Spot is where you actually have to go to a specific area to save the game. This is similar to a waypoint from Diablo II, but may be handled differently. You may need to actually go into a temple to save your character, and then you would be here for when you return.
There could also be advancement in save methods for characters. For example, in easy difficulty, the player can just reload their character as a free save. For those characters with a little more advanced ability, the player is required to use the save spot or a symbol save. For advanced characters, the character is in hardcore mode, and is dead if ever killed. This would have to suit the style of game, but I think that forcing the different methods onto the player would definitely be an improvement for the games of which I am referring to.
"Learning through death sucks…" the advent of the save game
Save games were created for FPSs to allow the player to return to a previous point in time and avoid making mistakes again. Before this, RPG's were quite happy just storing the character's current position and statistics. RPG's then took up the save game idea to allow the player to approach dangerous situations more carefully than the first time. Even Turn Based Strategy (TBS) games have save games. I recall playing a TBS where you had the option of paying a person in the bar 3 specified amounts of gold, and the more you paid him the more likely his information would be correct. To make sure I didn't waste my money and to get free information, I would save before I asked, ask the person offering the largest amount, reload and go and find the gems (that were located somewhere on the map). This certainly ended up detracting from the game, although I never really bored of that game, I just grew out of it. RPG's get the same way, before you try something that could be dangerous, you save to make sure you don't lose any items, attributes or skills that you may have gained.
Why should I be able to increase my health?
There was a post by DarkMage139 on a far away little known board that asked a simple question. "What if health was constant and you just modified it with armour saves?" This is a very good point, and it really makes you wonder at whether your character can really handle more hits or whether it is just their armour that is making the difference. The example was given that you could give each character 1000HP and they would then be required to maintain this number. They could increase their armour or decrease it, but if they had no armour, then they would be as vulnerable as the first day that they played. At least then the player would have a reason not to lose their stuff or die. An interesting idea I think.
The spread of disease
Disease seldom makes an appearance in games and I think that there can be great potential for such to be worked into storyline and into gameplay. It may just be yet another quest the character may embark upon, to rid the world of a plague. It may be the character whom is responsible for the spread of the ailment. More apocalyptic reasons for Health deterioration could be used instead of war etc. There is more than just physical battles that need to be fought in the world, so mind battles may be also good for the player to consider.
Bright (or not so bright) Ideas
Simply enough, it should be possible to lay snares for your opponents. This would work well in both single player and MMORPGs. You basically are able to place certain types of physical or magical snare around the map, and these snares can affect the whole game. 'Traps' is also a term that is used when referring to "Game-Designer placed Puzzles" where the game-designer has placed a puzzle in the game which is a trap. So as not to confuse traps with these 'puzzles' or 'traps', we will refer to the player placed trap as a 'snare' instead. Skills should also be available that allow the player to search for snares and therefore ensure a bit of safety. This has various ways of being implemented, but basically allows the character to 'see' snares more effectively with a higher skill level.
Note: Snares can also be useful if eating is going to be implemented in your game. Catching food may be another use for snares. See "Linking eating and sleeping with energy" for some information on eating.
Running for mayor and running a town
I would like to see RPGs where a character could run for mayor in a town and start running it on his/her own. This means that they can build up the town to their specifications, and they would also be required to protect it from nasties. I think if you had a MMORPG (Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) then this could work with heroes saving the town at the request of the mayor. I think this could add a little bit of fun into the game. People can do something that suits their personality a little more. This also allows a sim game to be brought into the RPG realm and allows a player to make their character rich and prosperous by doing different kinds of work than just hacking and slashing.
Combining RTS and RPG, A simple harmony
Using fairly simple methods, it should be possible to combine RTS and RPGs into one game. This would allow for a person with more of a mind for strategy to be able to play out their role in the RPG. There could be generals that have gone up through the ranks that could direct a battle, other players may be in the battle themselves and could choose to follow orders or to take on a personality. This allows for a lot more scope in games. A player may look at the world in a very small view, or look at it in a larger view, and maybe even look at it in an Epic view. Truly it would be difficult to implement this effectively, but we are game designers right? Anything is possible!
Transportation or "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!"
There is far too little use of transportation methods in RPG's today. I would like the ability to buy a horse that I could ride everywhere. This would allow a player to charge into battle on their battle hardened war-horse and trample foes. It would give advantages of speed of travel and would give an attacking advantage, but it would make the character easier to hit (or at least the horse). It may also build a bond between the horse and the character which could allow them to do other things together, like a horse and rider that were well trained with each other may be able to jump over a fence that other less trained characters-horse combinations could not. This is not limiting transportation to only a horse though, why not have magic carpets, dragons, bulls, mules, wagons, whatever your imagination desires. It is just too unimaginative to have a medieval setting without a hint of transportation. This should not be too hard to implement because all it is, is a few more statistics and a new image sequence. Not a real challenge, but a worthy one.
Idle actions, "Eating, sleeping and relieving oneself"
(Thanks to Taharez). Just one of the bits of candy that are placed into games really. This is mainly about adding in a feature that has the character doing some amusing things when they are bored. If the character has been idle for a while they could lay down, take an apple from their bag and take a bite, or relieve their self behind a bush. It would be location based, but it would add a small bit of amusement for curious players. It is location based because the character should not be relieving themselves in public (in the street) or in the presence of a king. They should not be napping or eating in the presence of a king either for that matter. Other suggestions for idle actions are cleaning of weapons or armour and polishing of these items.
Beggars and thieves, preventing the player from leaving cash lying around
After a rather amusing post by MadKeithV (in "RPG's – When Is There Too Much Role playing?") that suggested: Any character that wandered around town without at least 1 Gold Piece was to be considered a beggar. This was to do with some old traditional law, but I think that it could easily be used in games. The main reason for this digression was due to the fact that in some games, I would drop coin on the ground in town so that I would not lose it in the event of death when fighting some bosses. The enforcement of the 1GP rule may be difficult, but if you set it up so as your character entered the town, s/he takes out a coin and starts tossing it in the air. It may not be a great implementation, but you could add in some fun features if the character was ever caught out of cash. The main thing that I wanted was, if the player was to put a pile of gold on the ground, then the beggar's scramble in and take it. If the player objects to this then the guards can say; "The law states that any coin that reaches the ground is property of those who gain possession of it first. They call it the Beggar Law". This would at least make the player think twice about leaving gold lying around. It may even increase the status of the NPC Beggar to become a "more acceptable" member of society.
Automating tasks: How players can implement scripting
Having just written a lot about triviality in games, I can see that people will be thinking "but it is boring to have to eat and sleep all the time". I do not know if it is possible to automate sleeping, but eating certainly seems likely. Scripting is something that is behind the scenes in most games. It handles the Artificial Intelligence (AI) and sometimes the definition of objects and their purposes. It should be possible to allow the player to write their own custom scripts to deal with certain events. For example, you have an eating script that will check the supplies of the character and if they have enough supplies and they are also hungry enough, the character decreases the supply and reduces their hunger. I am not going to provide a scripted example because I would prefer to generalise instead of localise the issue. The scripting language would have to be very strict so as to combat cheats in the game. You could provide default scripts for the game, and allow advanced users to update these scripts to aid them more effectively.
Dynamic game-worlds - Watching the grass grow and the search key
Already I have written about a game world that is non-static. This was discussed as towns that could be built and destroyed, but now I take a different step to non-static game worlds. I was recently thinking about items that are dropped on the ground and also about mowing the lawn. These two things came into a reasonable partnership. What is needed is for the grass to grow, so to speak, and cover up lost items and bodies. These items would only be visible to a player who was within a certain distance of them and would become more visible as the player got closer. Thinking back to the original Diablo, items could be lost under dead bodies and behind walls, but now they changed that so that you can always find an item by the shining/glittering in the corner of it. This may have been a great addition for the player, but I think that it detracted from the gameplay. What made it glitter in a dark tomb and why was it so visible after being hidden under a huge pile of bodies? This is why I suggest that there should be a search key.
The hobbit and the hole
Digging should be available in games. Uses of it are for digging traps and making tunnels. It would be great to have an "underground" syndicate that was accessible by a tavern in which you must prove to be a member before entering. This idea (of the "underground" syndicate) is from "Magician" where there is an entrance to the "Hall of Worlds" in the back of a Tavern. This was only accessible by those who asked of its whereabouts. It is also an idea that would allow for a tunnel system under towns and cities (such as the thieves' network under Krondor).
Bartering and the abolition of gold
It was recently stated that gold was not something easily come by, and as it is the peasants were unlikely to ever see a gold coin. They mostly traded by methods of barter with one another and if anything were more likely to have coppers than any silver or gold. I think that even if this is true that it could complicate the game world with adjustments to a barter system and possibly combination gold, silver and coppers system. Anyway, to expand upon the bartering idea, the feasibility works like this:
Each item is given a "weighting" as to its actual value in a credit like system. Each item is then compared to another based upon this weighting. There is also a random element that makes the values appear fuzzy to each other. By this, I mean that if you are trading a pair of gloves with a slightly more expensive pair of boots, then the shopkeeper has a random value that could allow such a trade to happen. Also, greedy shopkeepers could only trade for items when they had a clear profit over the player by doing so. It could also lead to a system where a character gets goods for providing services (both by the player-character and for the player-character) and could allow things like debts and repayments. Because you add in new elements, the game can become more enjoyable or challenging. Budgeting could be fun.
Bartering also solves the problem of carrying around gold all of the time. It just adds the new problem of carrying around items, and if the items are valuable then you might have to trade for a LOT of crap if you really wanted something cheap (like food). Anyway, that is enough for this rant.
Inventory, "how come I can't stack?"
I have seen a number of games where the inventory space that you have (e.g. 3 squares along the bottom) is not capable of carrying an item that is just oriented around a different axis (e.g. 2 squares up). Surely you should be able to collect these items and place them on a different orientation? I sometimes wonder where the game designers' imagination has gone. Sigh…
Inventory and container objects
Something that I have seen in some games is the use of containers that can fit in your inventory and add to your total inventory total. I think that this is a good idea, or the character may also be able to find more backpacks that have larger containment. This would really make the game a new experience, and would add to some different items than are currently available.
To expand upon this idea, I wish to explain what I mean about the backpacks. You may pick up an empty backpack and have it in your inventory (we differentiate the two by 'inventory' is equipped and 'backpack' is not). You may not place any items in this backpack, because otherwise you can theoretically have unlimited space (recursive). You may change the current inventory container with a backpack, and any items within it will be swapped over. Items may be able to still remain in a backpack, if you are placing it on the ground. Just a little bit of an explanation as to the use of this system, because it appears that some people did not understand my meaning.
Inventory space and weighting
Another system that could be looked into is a weight system. You give each item a weight, and allow the character to carry only a certain amount. If the character is overburdened then they are likely to move slower and tire quickly. If they are unburdened then they are free to fight and run as they can possibly be. This is something that I have only just recently seen emerging in games.
Enemies, Armour and Weaponry
Monsters, weapons and armour: what your enemies should do
What I would like to see is the ability for enemies or NPC's to pick up items, weapons and armour for their own personal use. It would be really funny to see a character hack a lot of enemies to death, but decide to leave the really expensive item on the ground (due to inventory limitations). The player wants to come back for the item when they have time to rearrange their inventory, and then their NPC companion decides that he/she likes the look of it and takes it. This would allow NPC's and monsters to get special attributes that are available from your weapon, item, or armour. It should be obvious why a goblin would not have on humans plate armour, so there must be limitations on this system. There should be a reason as to why a monster has any items on them. If you wanted to get money off a monster, you should sell their hide (or something similar) because it is unlikely that a hyena could ever have gold on its person.
Does the armour fit me?
(Idea thanks to MadKeithV). How likely is it that the armour, that you scavenge off a creature that is half your size, will fit you? This is a valid point and I shall expand on it. What was the creature doing with humanoid armour and weapons in the first place? UFO: Enemy Unknown was a game where if you found an enemy weapon, then you needed to research it (in your base) before you could use it. For a fantasy RPG, I think that you may need to take these kinds of weapons back to the weapon/armour smith to identify them (and clean them) and give you any hints on how to use them effectively. The player should still be allowed to use these items without taking them back to the knowledgeable person, but they will suffer in their effectiveness without the 'identify' on the item. They may be able to learn to use the item effectively over time, but it would be quicker to go to an expert for identifying. Armour that is obviously too small for a player should not be allowed as armour for that player. If you had to wear armour that was 2 sizes too small, your effectiveness of movement would be hampered. Maybe they should be able to, but it decreases their battle speed or movement. This is just one more speculative idea for you to think about.
Germs! "Eeew! Orc sweat!"
(Idea thanks to MadKeithV). Another brilliant brain-buster from our exalted Moderator (do I hear the sound of a suck? Who is the one who is kissing the fish?) Is what are the hygienic consequences for donning the armour of a freshly slain Orc? The Orc had probably been wearing that armour for weeks without taking it off, and it is probably infested with who knows what kind of bacteria. What is to say that the player couldn't catch some kind of nasty infection from wearing this alien armour? This would come back to the "identify and clean" situation that was mentioned above.
Blatant racism and the redefinition of a race
There is a lot of racism in RPGs and although some is fair to those who may not deserve the praises, it can be unfair for those who are condemned for little reason. I have noticed that whenever an elf is mentioned that most would think of a fair being of splendor and right. I think that the elves are a people who gain credit where credit may not be due. It is from these prejudices that you can draw from in your game to cause havoc. Just because legends speak of Elven folk, tall and fair, that every elf you meet is going to be trustworthy and have no will to pursue needs to their own ends. Also, legends that have been built about such racism include Dwarves as coarse ruffians and Orcs as evil and dark. The only non-racially good and evil race that has been consistently depicted is humans. This is because we all understand human nature and know that there is both good and evil within our actions.
I would like to see a devious, untrustworthy elf (gee, I really am sounding like a dwarf ) join the characters party and use the racism to their advantage. Likewise, an Orc that may have no ill will to any human may be of great value to a character but is deliberately used as such because the player would be racist towards such a character and would most likely smite the would-be friendly Orc.
Are we all so blindly devoted to finding a true race that depicts all that is good about its species and one that depicts all that is bad. Hitler himself managed to touch on both of these subjects. He was searching for the one true race that was superior to all and would lead the world to salvation as he saw it (ridding it of Jews) and really he was one of the evil race of which he did not see. Everything is hinged on the black and white in the fairy tales that make up the legends that RPG's are based on. The coming of the grey is the revolution that should be taking gaming. There should never be a clear-cut good or evil. It should be up to the player to judge the rights and the wrongs, as they are the ones who are playing god.
Enemy stupidity… "Give them a tactical approach!"
Recently, I was thinking about tactics that I used when playing on my own and in multi-player games. For example, in Diablo (the first) I played a Warrior. Whenever I came across archers, I would charge past the hoards just to take those out first. The archers always did more damage in the long run, and it was ALWAYS more profitable to take them out, if you had enough strength to do so. When I was in multi-player with my friend, who played a Rogue, I would hold the battle away from him while he absolutely slaughtered the enemies that I was battling. Eventually we got beasty enough to just charge blindly around levels, but that is a different story…
As I was alluding to, the enemies would just hit me as the battlefront and would quite simply be wiped off the map. This could be a problem if there was one warrior, who holds them all back, and many spell-casters and ranged attackers. The warrior would take all the damage while the others DID all the damage. What I suggested is that smarter enemies (technically, I think that they all should be smart. I will write up a rant on that ) should have a front that draws in the tanks (Warriors, Paladins, Barbarians all) and once that battle is joined, another wave comes in from the sides, attacking the casters and shooters. This way there is a tactical element brought into the fray, and also this means that I don't get absolutely pummeled while my friend comes off without a scratch!
This would be a bit of fairness for enemies, and wouldn't be totally difficult to implement from the way that I look at it. It is much the same as the AI is at the moment, only with a bit more 'teamwork' for the minions. It also makes the game a little more fun, because when that second wave hits the casters and shooters, there is going to be a lot of adrenaline pumping, and that is something that will keep the players coming back for more.
Reasoning against Enemy Stupidity
Like I was saying before, Enemies should not be stupid and should pose a decent threat to the player. The reason that it would actually MAKE SENSE to have smarter enemies is due to none other than evolution itself. It all comes back to survival of the fittest. If the enemies that you were facing were always as hostile and stupid as you have seen then there is no doubt that they would have been wiped out long before. The only reason that they wouldn't have been wiped out is if they were stronger, in which case the humans would have been wiped out. It all comes down to evolution, as genociding would cause the weaker race to be totally slaughtered from the face of the planet.
Now you are probably thinking "So? Why spoil our fun?" and I am inclined to agree, to a certain extent. Killing should NOT IMHO be removed from games. It is one of the prime reasons that games sell these days. I am just saying that the player shouldn't be able to slaughter an entire race, and if they started to then the race should start breeding its stronger elements into majority. This way, the races will all have strengths and weaknesses, but they all remain on a relatively similar level to each other. All I campaign for is a bit of a challenge in my enemies. Now I just provide reason for it.
The petty 'evil' minions – When they know when to quit?
I was just thinking about how players go around slaying hoards of the "Evil Lord's"™ minions just to get experience and money. Already I have stated my opinions towards that kind of a game (Murder based experience or "End Goblin Genocide") and so I will get to the point of this idea. Once a player-character becomes powerful enough, should the minions not know when enough is enough? In Diablo, you could be able to walk around in Hell without any problems, yet when you went into the dungeon the stupid enemies would keep attacking you and bounce off your armour dead. I would just like to see a game where once you have undoubted superiority over a specific sort of minion (provided that you are using a relevant system of you vs. the bad guys a.k.a. anyone else) where they would see you and run away. Running at the very sight of you. I think it would look best as though they were mice running away with you stepping at their heels. Just something to give the player that added feeling of superiority .
What do you see? Hiding what is not in sight
(Idea thanks to MadKeithV). Our moderator made a point about putting the character down the bottom of the screen and having the world rotate around them. I was quick to dismiss the idea, as an Isometric world (such as what we were discussing at the time) would become distorted. Due to the reality that isometric was out, top-down views were still in the picture. Basically, the world rotates around the character so that the player is never allowed to see behind them. I think that if this were done correctly, then the results would be extremely good and would benefit the sneaky attacker. This would be harder to implement, but it would simulate more about how the player cannot see behind themselves.
Another version of this that was suggested was to rotate the character around the screen depending on which way they were facing. If the character stops moving then the screen centres on them and the player can then see around their character.
Player sight; adding fog, decreasing the light, or blurring
I was thinking recently about what the player would see from an isometric viewpoint that was just out of his character's sight. Would this distort the player's view more as they observed further and further around their character? This idea involves a zoom function that allows the player to view their character from different distances. This allows for obvious landmarks to be seen from a distance, but not so clearly as to distinguish enemies or items. In truth, we can all see about 12 miles to the horizon, but we can not see in detail at that distance. This would be very interesting to insert into a game.
The vision Mosaic
Paul Cunningham suggested that as a player saw further, the more mosaic-like their vision became. That is a simplified version of what is explained. If you were to have a general field of view in which your usual graphics were shown, then you would have a basic top-down square tile view. You then zoom out of that region. The tiles that you had before are the same resolution and the new tiles appear blocky or more pixelated. This continues as your zoom out until your vision suffers so much that you can see nothing. There are things that need to be addressed in this, such as limitation. A player may use a loophole in the system to spy out towns just by looking for large shapes of colour. This is why I still think that the fog of war effect should be used. You can only see what is immediately around your character, and anything that is out of their vision is then unseeable. This can be done with fading, as it often is.
Systems of Magic
Localising Magic, Tactics and Placement
Arjan recently suggested that magic could be localised. This would mean that you could place a magic spell on a panel or on a specific creature, and this could also affect you or your party. This would bring tactics into the game, where you were required to place an enchantment on a panel, and risk it not doing anything due to no creature passing it, or placing one on a creature, risking it coming close to your party and hurting them. This would add a whole new element into game-play that I have not seen, but would definitely like to.
Magic herbal brew
Casting spells with herbs for a new magic system. It really is quite simple to understand. Basically, you collect the ingredients for your spells, you then combine them using the correct method, and voila! You have an instant spell, ready to cast. I have seen this implemented in Might and Magic before, but that was just for potions. You collect the reagents and combine them to create something new. This allows for new combinations to be made without actually having found a recipe. You could also have volatile combinations that could cause harm to the player.
Magic channelling and "using the flow"
I have seen a lot of magic mana systems that use the surrounding area to draw from. This could be used in games and the competency of a magician would be based on how well they can channel that energy. If you had your "mana" replaced with a "channel" which allows you to use the mana in your current area more effectively. Different types of mana can mean different types of spells and of different strengths. If you could channel mana more efficiently, then you would do better in places where mana was scarce. This has a lot to do with Raymond E. Feist and Pug going to a land with no magic, where the magic was actually stored in crystals. This would be a very good puzzle to put in a game.
Co-operation of casting, bringing in a helping hand
Adding in the ability to help others cast spells, or have continuous spells and being able to maintain a number of spells. A system that I was designing about a year ago was a multi-threading spellweaving system. It allowed players to cast a spell and to have others support that spell. The main attributes behind this were:
The system requires a certain bandwidth of your concentration factor to be taken up with the task of channelling magic into it. The spell took up a bandwidth of your channel ability for magic. As other people aided your spell, you required less bandwidth for both of these. You could supply more bandwidth to each of these to help create a stronger spell. This also allowed for multiple spells to be cast by the same player as well. Instead of having a system where you and your friend both work together by casting different spells, you each help one another. Being hit (or hurt) took up a bandwidth of your concentration. If your spell's concentration bandwidth was interfered with, then your spell would attempt to burden any other helpers/casters and if it could not, the spell was broken. This allowed for both a protection spell to be aided by two people (so as to reduce the chance that it would be interfered with) and then these two could work together to cast other spells.
This system allowed for continuous spells, this required your concentration to never be interfered with and for you to provide a continuous channel for the magic to continue this spell. The spell would continue until such time as you moved too far away from the spell or something broke your concentration.
Another idea to come from this system was that of remote casting. This is not a spell system that allows you to just mystically make a fireball appear where you know a friend is. It is something a little more complex than that. Because we are dealing with channelling magic through a magician, we require an open channel to the mana of the land. A magician is actually required in the place that you wish to cast. This is only really an issue if the other magician does not know your spells. You must take control of the other magician's mind, and then you cast the spell through them. To take over the mind of the magician, you and the other magician are required to cast a mind-control spell each (host and client version of it) to allow the connection. You can then cast the spell using their channel and they can maintain it. This requires the mind control spell to be active to work, so it costs a little more in both of the bandwidths.
The benefit of this system is that a mage that does not know a certain spell is still able to aid in the casting of it. A drawback is that it is slow to actually select what spells you want to aid and what spells you do not wish to. It would add to the fun as a whole though and aid team spirit.
Putting the mystery back into magic: When click casting defeats the purpose
Something that has come to my attention is the role of magic in games. By my interpretation of its definition, I see Magic is a powerful yet difficult to understand force that can be wielded by those with knowledge of how to use it and awed by those who cannot. Magic in games seems to differ greatly with my view. The way that magic has been displayed in games really seems to be just as a draw card. It is there because there are a lot of people who would like such magic to exist and wish that they were able to control it. Magic is yet another example of the "Click 'N' Kill" (CNK) problem, but I prefer to term it as "Click 'N' Cast" (CNC). The problems with CNC is all that it was with CNK, but the new problem arises in making Magic "Magical". Theoretically if you use any defined laws in spell casting as rules then we can examine a simple example.
To cast a spell, you would need to follow a basic procedure:
And these steps were converted into a simple CNC system where, in less than a second, you can have unleashed 5 fireballs in the direction of an unsuspecting beast. Well, first I am here to say that this is really taking the magic element out of what is considered magic. At least the player could be asked to remember runic combinations in order to cast spells. One idea that I believe is really of worth, for some of the more Arcane magics, is asking the player to "invoke a symbol". This idea came from Katherine Kerr's books when invoking seals of protection required certain combinations of power symbols. I would not ask the player to have to accomplish a task that was by no means achievable, but I do think that with a certain degree of difficulty in such a task that the experience would be rewarding to the player knowing that THEY had actually achieved something.
To actually invoke these power symbols, a player would be required to either hold down a mouse button whilst drawing the shape on the screen or by pressing a key to start the logging process and doing the same as above. We are talking about very basic symbols that can easily be interpreted if we separate our screen up into squares (or a square number, i.e. 9 boxes or 16 boxes). The only things that you need to log to get a reasonable interpretation of what they are trying to do are:
To interpret these results accurately, you may want to discard boxes that the drawn symbol just entered (clipped) and you would come up with a reasonable estimate of what the player meant. This would also add room for bad casts where there could be damage done to the player (revenge of the Gods as I like to think of it) or a completely wrong spell could be cast. This brings the player more into the game by REQUIRING them to participate actively in it by actually learning the "spells" themselves. This is how I see the first step of putting the magic back into magic.
If you wanted to use different types of magics in your game (elemental, runic, seasonal, etc) then you might have different methods of casting different sorts of spells. This means that for elemental, then you might need to draw some kind of elemental symbol followed by some spell specific symbol, and for runic, you might need to draw the different runes. You may just have a panel, which the player can click in an order of runes and then click on a cast button. I do not really think that the implementation details are that important, just that it should require the player to take an active role in the game, which is something that current games are lacking.
Note: I do NOT want to REMOVE Click 'N' Cast entirely from these games, but I am suggesting that for the more powerful spells that a different method should be used (or at least cast time should be increased). Pressing specially marked buttons in a specific order might be what you want to use, or the method of casting that I suggested, but for basic spells – Click 'N' Cast is just too popular to leave for dead. People still need a familiar system to help with the introduction of a new game.
Chaos and Order, Gods and Prayer
This is yet another version of a magic system that could be used. It all started when thinking of chaos and order, the two blind gods in the beginning. One created and the other destroyed and they contributed to creating the fabric of the universe by both grabbing loose strands and weaving them into a thread, and by grabbing the thread and tearing it into strands. This is just a wordy introduction to the creation of the universe. From these loose strands, the power of the new gods came. The gods that can be worshiped and can grant gifts to those who worship them.
What happens in this system is that the character chooses certain gods that they wish to worship. Worship consists of offerings and sacrifices (whatever is necessary for the specific god) and by prayer. Prayer is the means of casting; the player asks for power from their god of choice and the god grants them the ability to cast the spell in their name.
The beauty of this system is that it allows players to choose different types of spells that they may wish to cast, because they can choose to worship any god. There are consequences though as a character must swear allegiance to that god and must obey their rules or be hunted down (give the player a reason to wait before making a decision on which magic to use). The character may worship any number of gods, but the gods that they worship must not be in conflict with any other god that they worship, otherwise that character would be a traitor and probably end up being hunted down or just hit by lightning. This restricts the combinations of which gods that the player may choose to worship, and thus limits what kinds of combinations of spells that the player can have.
Dynamic Magic Casting, "Mixing and matching Glyphs"
The following explanation of this system is just a direct copy of the post that Solthar made in "What do you think of my new magic system?". I may endeavour to rephrase the text, but that will have to wait until a further time, as I am very busy at the moment.
I took my dynamic spell idea I posted here ages ago and revised the hell out of it. Now I have a Brand New Ideaä that's - get this - 'User Friendly'! First Let's start with the bases of the system, The Spell Objects. Now these can be anything the developer wants them to be, from cards to runes. For the hell of it I'm going to use glyphs in this example. Now, there are 6 different Classes of Glyphs, each of which cause a different effect.
They are as follows:
Say the user combined these glyphs: Fire, Lance, Hostile, Low, Other, and small. The mage would get a low powered fire lance that flies toward the targeted person/beast
Now lets try Fire, Sphere, Neutral, low, Self, small. Now they get a glowing ball of flame - or a magical torch
Now one final example: Fire, sphere, benevolent, low, Nearest Friend, and small. The target would get additional protection vs. fire damage.
Basically, with this system, all the programmer would have to worry about (besides balancing) is what each effect does if the intent is hostile, neutral, or benevolent.
The fact that magic use is so common in games, and the other belief that magic is supposed to be all powerful and hard to come by (also see "Putting the mystery back into magic: When click casting defeats the purpose") leads us to a conclusion. There needs to be a method of regulating magic use within a game, because too much magic use will just make the idea of magic passé. With a little thought of the beliefs pertaining to medieval times leads to making some headway. In these times, people were very fearful of magic users. They believed that people with such powers were evil and as such were the cause of plagues, blights, droughts, mutations, weather, bad luck, actually – they were pretty much blamed for anything that could and did go wrong. Murphy's law was the doing of evil sorcerers and witches .
How does this fit into games? Well, you can probably guess that I am asking you to consider putting in an anti-sorcery cult or something of the like. That is one way of looking at it, but it doesn't just have to be a cult, it could just be the ordinary citizens of your world banding together to remove the sorcerers presence. If they ever catch a person casting, then that person is to be lynched or driven from the town. It could also be interesting if the townsfolk started to suspect that you were using magic if strange things started to happen (and they couldn't blame goblins that is ). There is more on this in the Plot Elements section with "Dragon Dreams and Magic".
Candle Magic - A magic system with self-moderation
Candle magic is something that is practiced by those who believe in real magic (I will not state my own stance on such beliefs as real magic) where candles are burnt to empower the caster to wish for things. This is not how I would have it, exactly, in a game-magic system. The system works as so:
The character collects a 'candle set' in the form of a box. This box may or may not be empty, and the player may get such a box from a store or a quest, or just randomly find one, it is of little consequence. This box will contain spaces for candles of different types, and also for whatever other ingredients (such as talismans, powders and incenses) and the collected set can be used to cast different spells.
The casting part works by the character placing out the candles, lighting them, placing out the talismans, and calling upon the power invested within each of the objects. Depending on the candle types, the player may be able to set targets, or distances or something along those lines. Each candle colour, or type, has a different quality that can be used when casting. This works similarly to the aforementioned glyphs (Dynamic Magic Casting, "Mixing and matching Glyphs") in that the spell is built up through the candle colour, size, power, type or whatever. This allows for very dynamic casting properties, which is a plus in modern games.
The self-moderating aspect works in that it takes quite a long time for the character to set up the candles, and to cast the spell. This is why the candle system should only be used for very powerful spells and not the quick-cast ones that are required in battle. This brings in the tactical element of whether a player should go to the hassle of finding the spell components when they have simpler, though less effective, elements in their control.
Types of spells that this system could work with include radius-related spells, where everything, or just selected things, are affected within a certain radius. The smaller the radius, the denser the effect will be in that radius. Other things that I can see include protection spells (such as barriers), healing spells (on a large group), wide scale destruction or natural disasters (including meteor storms, earthquakes, lava eruption, weather effects such as hurricane winds and blizzards, and more). Another possible use of this system includes the summoning of daemons and creatures. If you can't fight daemons with magic, fight daemons with daemons. Enchantments could be placed on other players or objects, adding to a teamwork methodology.
Balancing this kind of magic is also yet another possibility, as using one type of candle reduces that candles power, whilst it replenishes another candles power. Magic elements can be teamed up
A tactic that this system may help employ is that of teamwork. If the sorcerer-type could team up with a warrior-type, then the warrior could watch over the sorcerer while casting was taking place. This then builds a bond, as the sorcerer looks after the warrior through spells, and the warrior looks after the sorcerer through brute force. Also, the sorcerer may then channel the magic from the candles and enchant the warrior and maintain that enchantment while the warrior goes into battle. This brings another element of teamwork into play, and would greatly reduce Player Killing, as the Player Killers would need to be social with other Player Killers to allow for this ability.
Enchantments are a form of magic that has been generally glossed over in games. This magic involves the gathering of magical energy into a certain object or about a specific individual. Enchantments can be small, in the form of talismans, which allow the player certain helpful additions to their current character attributes. Talismans have been around for a while in games, but they have mainly been in the form of static magic items.
The revolutionary approach that I am suggesting is to allow the players to make their own talismans. The player may enchant an object that is devoid of any current enchantment. The power of the enchantment can depend on the strengths of the actual casting of the enchantment, and of the strengths of the caster of the enchantment. Casting an enchantment would require certain specific ingredients that the caster would draw essence from. These could be in the form of plant-life, animal life or remains, excrement (just to add a disgusting element ), rocks and gems, or possibly magical devices (such as scrolls etc.). This then gives a large number of possibilities to the player about what talismans they want and also gives them the chance to experiment with each combination or learn about some in due time.
Enchantment does not have to be just for talismans though. An apt sorcerer may enchant people with spells that could make them more majestic, quicker in battle, stronger, more alert, or even slower, weaker, less energetic, and more cowardly. These enchantments may be constructed in much the same way that the glyphs system works (Dynamic Magic Casting, "Mixing and matching Glyphs") and then cast upon a character (player, NPC or enemy). Depending upon how you implement the system, the caster may be able to enchant a character that they have met, or the character may actually need to be within visual range, or even in contact with the caster. As it depends on how you implement the system, it allows you to moderate how much power you can allow some sorcerers.
There should definitely be a decay effect upon the enchantment. This means that the enchantment starts to wear off, and the effect becomes weakened, until it reaches a point where the magic is just dispersed and is gone. More apt sorcerers will be able to keep an enchantment from decaying quickly, and there should also be the opportunity for powering up an enchantment for when the magic starts to dwindle.
Magic Balancing - The contrast of colours
I have already alluded to this in some of the previous thoughts. This mainly is used for the generic spell creation systems, such as the glyphs (Dynamic Magic Casting, "Mixing and matching Glyphs"), Candles (Candle Magic - A magic system with self-moderation) and Enchantments. Basically, it involves having ingredients for spell making with converse pairs. Each element that can be used has an opposite that has an opposing force to the original element. In this way, there can be a system where balance can become an essential part in moderating magic use.
In our example, let us take the element fire (or an element that represents fire in a spell). This element has a converse ('converse' being a term I am using to mean a combination of 'counter' and 'inverse'), which is none other than water . As more of the fire element is used, the strength of all fire elements decreases. This means that prolonged use of any particular element reduces its effectiveness. Additionally, the continued use of the fire element causes the water element to become more effective. Because of this, there may be a more balanced use of different spells. As time goes on, the balance of magic within the game changes and the scale tips between the converse pairs. This adds a bit of variety into spellcasting, as it will be more beneficial to know a specific set of elemental spells and their converses.
This can become more complex as well if you introduce a multi-directional converse system. There is no direct inverse, but a combination of two or more inverses of a specific element. We take fire again as our initial element. The converses in this new system are water and earth (combined). As fire is used, it loses in effectiveness, but water and earth do not both gain. Water has the converses of fire and wind, and as water is used, it decreases in effectiveness. To increase water magic, both fire and wind spells need to be used. They reduce their own effectiveness and gain water's effectiveness. Also, to increase fire's effectiveness, water and earth spells need to be cast. The reason why you would do this is to vary the spell casting even more than the previous system did. It requires a balance between 4 elements to keep itself stable. An element is only as strong as the weakest of its converses.
Here is a list of each of the elements and their converses, just for this example. Note that we need 5 different elements to actually balance the system, otherwise it gets out of sync.
Now to get into some implementation rich example work. I will just step through it as dot points, as I think that it is the cleanest and most effective way. The effectiveness of each element is a percentage that is balanced by its converses. An element is only as strong as 100%-its strongest converse.
I hope that wasn't too hard to follow. I made a little program that modeled this system and adjusted a few flaws. Basically, the effectiveness of the other elements is not adjusted directly, but instead the new value that the element is trying to balance to is stored in another variable. As time passes, the element's effectiveness slowly tends towards this other variable. I do not think that I explained that as best as I could. It might be better if you try to follow the code of the modeled system. You can get a copy of the balancing program from http://www.crosswinds.net/~dwarfsoft/Discussions/Discussions.html as one of the links off the page. It has a few more features than I have discussed here, but it will do for example purposes.
Magic Saturation – The devastating effects of "Total Power"
In line with the previously stated magic balancing system (Magic Balancing - The contrast of colours) you set up your magic system to do auto balancing with also the converse elements gaining as an element is depleted. This covers what would happen if an element gained to about 95% or more. In such a case, it was suggested by Solthar, the magic becomes so saturated in the current area that unpredictable things happen. For example, instead of a fireball targeting a single enemy, it wipes out a much larger range around the enemy (possibly including the player-characters current location). In the event of Fire reaching 100% saturation, the effect could be one of widespread destruction of the whole area. Additionally, if Fire reached 100%, the player wouldn't need to cast anything to cause a sudden outcropping of fire magic in some form. If Water reached 100% then the air could turn to water.
Another thing that I was thinking of in the case of a total power on one or more elements, the 'natural' effect of the world could be to cast random spells of these elements until a more stable balance was restored. If both wind and fire managed to reach a 100% saturation level, then the world could cast a 'natural' wind spell, fire spell, or wind and fire spell at the character, or at any random creature or location. This could be beneficial or detrimental to all inhabitants.
Also, if a saturation level reaches below 5% then the spell could just fizzle, disallowing any more casts. Not that it would be a complete fizzle all of the time, but only a small number of casts will be able to be managed. Once a saturation level reaches 0%, no surprises, the magic of that element is unavailable. It would be good to see a player casting frantically to kill something while running away, only to have their magic fizzle and then to be slaughtered (not that I condone it as an end to the player-character). It gives me the image of the gun that won't load and either won't fire or misfires.
Statistics and Murder
Abstracting your Statistics and "Pumping Iron in the Gym"
There was a rather interesting post by pacman about how you would go about abstracting statistics and methods of testing your current levels. The method that was suggested was, for example, to go to gym and lift weights to test for strength. This would mean that any time that a player wanted to see how strong they were, they would need to go and (effectively) ask the right place to tell them. I think that this would be more realistic and more interesting than just displaying a bunch of numbers on the screen. Numbers do not mean anything (unless you are a technical genius of their implied use) but a test could tell you your relative strength. If you can do 100 repetitions of a 70Kg weight, then you are probably have a strong character. If you can only do 50 repetitions of a 70Kg weight, then you are just as strong, but you have less stamina.
Murder based experience or "End Goblin Genocide"
The document could NOT be complete without this section. This is a very debatable topic on ease versus accuracy. I think that accuracy wins out in this one. A bit of background knowledge: "End Goblin Genocide" is a post (by Landfish) about the arbitrary slaying of goblins. Although it was generally about goblins, it was more loosely fitted to mean the end of a weaker race that could just be slain for experience and/or gold. Why these creatures seem to have an abundance of gold? Nobody knows. Murder based experience has taken over the games which we hold so dear and it is quite sad to see what it has been degraded to (more on this in "What's with statistics? When swordplay becomes swimming"). If your player has a specific reason, it is probably acceptable if you killed a few beasts, but for no reason other than a few gold pieces and 1 lousy experience point? It seems a little…. Murderous! A hero that goes around slaying creatures that couldn't hurt a fly isn't a hero! It's a butcher! It also becomes a little strange when your experience as a cleric (where you are a healer of people) goes against your role because you must kill creatures in order to gain that experience.
What's with statistics? When swordplay becomes swimming
Statistics have been around since the days of tabletop RPG's. They were implemented into text-based MUD's and have failed to be reduced with the coming of graphics. Statistics are what makes the whole RPG scene work, but there is far too much control by the player in how they distribute their statistical points. If I make my point by saying that the player manages to get to a new level where they can increase their statistics by killing things with a sword. They have an opportunity to increase any statistic, and they choose… Swimming. It isn't very likely that all of that hacking is going to make them better at breaststroke now is it? This is one reason why we all prefer skill-based advancement that gradually improves a certain skill as we use it. Once that skill has reached a peak, it is possible to go somewhere to train in that particular skill (to improve it) and then the same cycle starts again. No cleric goes around gaining experience from killing people! A cleric should gain experience by healing people.
There is the obvious disadvantage to this system that if a player really wanted to build up a skill then they could just go out and practice it continuously. I have come up with a solution to this. When they go back to ask for a level increase, the master of the skill looks at the time length since they last visited for a raise (more importantly, the last time they got a raise) and would say "Sorry, I don't think you have had time enough to practice… Come back Wednesday" or something along those lines. This would force the player to find other things to occupy their time. It would combat powermaxing (to a certain degree) and would make the game more realistic and interesting in my view.
Skill based advancement or "Redefining the Role"
One way of looking at skill based advancement is as a method of redefining the role. The role is what the character chose to do in the beginning. If the player does something that is out of character, they should gain less experience for doing it. For example; our cleric is a very religious person; this cleric then goes out hacking Gretchin's to death. Our cleric is not going to gain strength as fast as a warrior who had done the same thing. By giving better increases in different areas of expertise, you can make a player act their role in the game.
The Web of Skills
C-Junkie suggested that skills could be worked into a web so that there would be no need for a character class. Instead of the character class, you have a starting character that can choose to use certain skills and from there they can advance to use more diverse and more specialised skills. From this you can end up with a very diverse field of characters from one single base character… More on this next version…
Choosing your character or the "Which one is better" syndrome
Child scene to set up character (thanks MadKeithV or Ingenu, whichever of you it was). This idea was suggested a while ago and I thought it deserved a mention. There is so much emphasis in the beginning of a game as to what character you choose to play. This may be a wrong decision for you as you do not know what the game-designer intends about each character and their class. A way to allow a customisable setup is to add an initialisation mode. The idea that was suggested required the player to act through a sequence in a child form of their character. Depending on what they choose to do in certain circumstances determines what attributes they gain for their character. The setup is completely non-threatening to the character, but the player may choose to be violent (hence increase their strength and decrease their charisma for example) to anything. This would allow for a reasonably diverse character build for the actual game.
Including a place for the character, "There's no place like home"
Allowing the player to build and destroy buildings in the town. This is mainly to give the players something of their own in the game. If they can build a house in a town, then they know that they own a piece of the game. That is theirs and nothing can take that away from them (except maybe a crazed Orc warlord). If anyone takes it from them then they will have a reason to go after the creature. Having a place of their own also allows them to stash things there, which allows for a more diverse collection of items for the player.
Role-playing a non-human
This is an idea that has been pondered over on GameDev.Net (forum: "Roleplaying a nonhuman") but has several important questions to ask. Would role-playing a goblin be different from role-playing a human? The answer, quite simply, is yes. The problem we face is how do we make it a different experience. This is a tough decision as it is almost impossible for any of us to think how a goblin thinks. One suggestion is abstraction (I refer to it as abstraction instead of what it was referred to in the thread). This means, that all humans that the goblin sees, look the same. The same armour, the same colour and generally the same look as every other human. All text from humans becomes unrecognizable, so the goblin cannot speak to the NPC's (unless they had learned the language).
Game and Game-world, Timing and Art
Standard Time and the creation of a short-game scene
Some discussion of late has gone in the direction of standardising the timing in games. People were saying how they would like to have a set length for games and a more in-depth story or better game-play. This would create a Computer Games alternative to the Short Film. This would allow for more arty games and more depth. I do not think that this is a real possibility for all games, but it would be nice to have a cheaper alternative that offers less in the way of time wasting but more in the depth.
The added benefit for a short game is that the depth that can be provided can then be used to enhance its replayability aspect. Games that remain replayable while maintaining the same enjoyment as the first time through are greatly more appreciated than those without such an element are. More on replayability in "Replay-ability – The value of non-linearity"
RPG's and Character aging, and the implementation of timing in games
In games, I am surprised that aging has not been a factor that is taken into account. I am not talking going the full hog and killing off your character with old age, but simply making them more adept at learning/training as they reach their peak (at 25) and then start becoming a little more feeble as time goes on (this is to help combat Powermaxing). In some RPG's there was some very poor attempts to use an atmospheric effect for time. It would get darker for night, and it would get lighter for day. That is all well and good, but when do any of these characters sleep?
When do characters sleep? More timing factors in games
What is the answer to my question? Whenever they want to at the moment, or not at all. There should be a tiredness factor, which continues to chew up that player's energy after a hard day slaying goblins. This energy is also in combination with two other variables, health and hunger (and possibly thirst, if it is separated from hunger). If a character is awake too long, they are decreasing their energy and therefore needs to find a means to replenish it. This could be done incorrectly by allowing the character to eat to avoid sleep, or there could be a strict guideline that forces the characters to both eat and sleep and try to get a required amount of energy.
Linking eating and sleeping with energy
Like I have already said, there needs to be a fairly strict scheme as to how this is accomplished. You need to eat. You need to sleep. You need to have energy. You need to eat and sleep to have energy. This is a little different to the ways that things like this have been tackled in the past. What has tended to happen instead is that you have an energy bar, you can eat and the energy bar increases, or you can sleep and the energy bar increases. This means that your character could go for a year with out either eating or sleeping. A little unrealistic, so our system forces the player to eat and sleep as well as maintain their energy bar. I think that this would provide a far better gaming environment, as long as eating and sleeping did not cut into game time too much. We need to attract players, so we do not want to make them act through tedium. Maybe if your game used either one or both of these tasks in a fun way, then it would be worthwhile (see "Learning Experience")
Standard Timing in Games
As has been a discussion of late, timing in games has come to the fore. This is about creating a standard in the length of game-play in our games. There is still some debate about the exact length that a game should be, but the point has been accepted that if game length was to be shortened that it should be done with more concentration put into the storyline/game-play. There needs to be far more depth in the story that would actually benefit the person who played that game more than once. By "more than once" I mean more than one times to completion, not by coming back to the game and the player is just continuing from their current position.
Games and art, or Games AS art (my rant)
One thing that I think a lot of developers tend to forget is the art aspect of a game. There are so many games that are produced purely for commercial benefit and little more. This is acceptable to a certain extent. I like to look at a game as an art form. I believe that it is a culmination of a game-designer, the programmers, the graphics and sound artists, and the game-teams artistic expression. It is more than just the sum of its parts. For this reason, I think that less emphasis should be put on the graphics and the sound, and more emphasis put on the gameplay and storyline. Because it is a combination of all of its parts, there needs to be a balance in the content and the presentation. I am quite happy playing less graphic intensive games that actually have a great content in them. For this reason I believe that commercialisation is killing games as a whole. Something that could help this is the shortening of the game length (as mentioned above). This allows for a concentrated game experience for less time intensive playing. I would like to see concentration of story and gameplay that allow for a new experience in gaming. This is one step for bringing the art form of gaming back into computer games. Games should be art; they are made from artistic expressions, so should deserve a title of art. Let us all strive to make games that deserve an artistic title.
Building your game world
The advice that was given to me when I asked about creating a history for my game was quite astonishing. I was very surprised to see an answer that was so true and so broad. What you need to do is to grow your game world. This does not mean that you must create a simulation of your world and set things in motion and see what happens. Everything must grow together. To have a truly functional world that has reasons for being, you first need some main characters. Shape a world around your characters, give the character something that they must have done at some point in the past and then decide, according to their character, what the outcome was. Doing so, you will get a feeling for the surroundings of the character. Then, when you have several such surroundings, you should shape where these places are, give a reason for why they are there and how all came to be. I was originally looking just to write a history of what came before the story of my game as to explain all, but I realized that what I needed to do was to shape the history around the characters in the game. Everything must be moldable, the characters, the world and the history. They each grow on one another and as such they complement each other. You need to grow each of them together and mold them to your will. This is how you will make a truly great world, which has a depth and is logical and reasonable. This is not the only way, but a good way none the less.
Death and Karma
Characters coping with death: Reincarnation
If you are going to implement timing in games that would eventually kill the character of old age then you are going to have to think of a method for a player to live on. Even if you want a way for your character to be recreated, you should come up with a scheme that is believable and is explanatory and does not leave the player thinking how sudden everything is. In group-oriented games, you could bring one of the dead parties using summoning spells or at a healer. This is more believable (using game laws and rules) and more interesting than games where your character just suddenly appears at the rallying point with no items and no explanation. It is a little harder to implement a new system into single party RPGs. There are a couple of ways that I propose you could approach the situation. If we are generally talking about the death of the player in the wilderness, then we could use the age-old belief in reincarnation to our advantage. If you had different characters (with different graphics) you could bring back the player as one of these. How much do you take away from the character? Well, you could put them back at the start with all their strength (and muscle, body building type skills) but leave them with the knowledge skills (such as spell casting) and agility skills. It might even benefit certain characters to die from time to time, but there needs to be rules to the reincarnation theme. Simply put, based on how much good or evil the character has done, a status could be made. Maybe the system should reward characters for staying alive for a certain amount of time, and penalise them for dying more quickly. This means that there could be a bit of good and a bit of bad in it for the player, which makes it a tactical decision.
Characters coping with death: Possession
As with what was said above, there are ways to explain the sudden reappearance of their character. The way I was originally looking at possession was similar to that which was explained in Raymond E. Feist's books when referring to the Oracle of Aal. Basically, as the character ages (because that is what this example entails) they choose a mind fit for them to occupy when they are close to death. This requires them to learn this skill to a certain mastery in order to make it more probable that they will successfully possess the other mind. The consequence is that they become more insane with each time that they do it (but this factor decreases with their mastery). This example is a little bit divergent from that which was described in Feist's books, but I think this is more practical in implementation. This becomes a factor for aging, but what happens if the character dies in combat? Well, a solution to this is that the skill that is required for possession is linked with certain temples. These temples are devoted to your cause, and as such have subjects that are willingly giving up their freedom to give host to you and your wisdom. This creates an unlimited supply of subjects, and would detriment the character on death, but not by a large margin. With the last breath the characters dying words invoke a magic to place themselves in a new body because their mind/soul have not yet been called into the light (or dark, depending on what role and what deed). This would also make it possible for the God/Gods of the world to punish you at the end of the game for denying death and living through the imprisonment of other, but that is a different story.
Characters redeeming their wrongs through battle
An anonymous poster suggested that characters die and are then taken to the underworld. In the underworld, they are required to fight their way through to their body. What they have to do is fight without magic and with sheer physical (melee fighting) strength to get to the outer world. The battle should be very difficult, but they get back into their body and they are then wounded instead of dead. This would mean that a player could not ignore their physical strength and instead, devote them to magic, unless they didn't intend to die at all.
Definitions of RPG
What is an RPG? More to the point, what isn't?
So many games out there today are claiming "we are the best RPG, we have all these features" yet when it comes down to it, the main feature they are missing is the role. An RPG is a game where the player is required to role-play their character, and I think that this is lacking in games today. I have heard some people say that an RPG is an open-ended game, where there is no restriction on the player in what they choose to do and how they choose to do it. This definition is reasonable, but there should be some effort to urge players to stay "in character". The whole meaning of an RPG to me is a game where you can be your character and act out a role using your character as a medium through which to do so. An RPG is not a game where you are required to relentlessly hack and slash through hoards of beasts to destroy some greater evil. The problem with most games that call themselves RPGs is that they fit the description of the hack 'n' slash. This game may be entertaining for the time being, but it has a limited life, and that life should be coming to an end. On the topic of "End Goblin Genocide" I have to state that no goblin will blindly attack you if you did not provoke it. Is it really in your Role to be killing that goblin?
Putting the 'R' back in 'RPG' or Redefining RPG's
The role of the character in RPGs has been steadily degrading until the point that most games that claim they are, are now no longer RPGs. So how do we go about redefining the Role? If an RPG really is the open ended game that was described, what is to stop that player from making their character go… out of character? There is a simple way that I can see of keeping a player in character. A determined player can always act out of character, so maybe their role could be redefined as they go. The way to keep a player in character is to give them a set of skills that they excel in. By using these skills they gain experience in this kind of skill, and by training this skill (requires the experience) they gain a new level in the skill. For any skill that is deemed out of character, they gain less experience and are limited in the overall scheme of things by setting a limit on what level they can train that skill to. If they let their natural skills deteriorate while concentrating on skills that are not in their character, they could get their role switched and then they lose the ability to be able to increase their old role's stats but now can increase their new role's stats with more affinity. This would make it smarter to choose an appropriate role at the beginning of a game instead of switching half way through. It would be costly to do the switch and so most people would stick with the role that they originally chose.
More about Role-Playing as "That would never happen in real life!"
I recently read a reply to a message that people who continuously complained about Roles were fanatics. The reason they gave went along these lines:
"Role-playing is where you endeavor to act the part/role that you are given. Well, I would never be in a situation where I was required to run through a cave with a big sword with lots of monsters trying to kill me. It just doesn't happen!"
This is one of the major misconceptions about Role-playing. What I would define as being role-playing is trying to act out that role WITHIN THE GAME when faced with certain situations. Another one that I would accept would be acting out your role as it would be done IF you were faced with such a situation. This broadly terms what Role-playing is to me, but is not necessarily a strict definition within itself. Role-playing does not require you to dress up in costume and run around trying to save princesses, just to get into the "spirit" of the game. It may be fun to do occasionally, or at parties, but it is definitely outside of what defines Role-playing in an RPG. That is what we discuss endlessly, that is what we refer to, and that is what we love.
Creatures and Combat
A new combat system: 'Come back or I'll bite your legs off!'
It was recently suggested that there should be a new combat system based on anatomy. This means that an attack is localised to an area (such as head, torso, left arm, right arm, left leg and right leg) and that area takes all the damage. I would think it would be interesting for such a system to work (such as that in MechWarrior) in an RPG and I think it could produce some quite interesting results. Basically you could train your character at finding weak spots or in specific forms of battle. Based on the skills that they have (and some small random factor) depends on where they hit. If the player is not trained very well, then they hit all over the place (and therefore make for inefficient battle). If the player is trained very well, they will attack the same area and therefore make more use of their attacks. I can also see that this system would make for some interesting death scenes where the opponent gets their leg lopped off. Another thing that annoyed me about a certain CPG was that when you cut off a zombie's leg, they fell over dead. I would rather see the zombie flailing on the floor in pain before they died of lack of blood. Maybe they could crawl after your character and try to make a last feeble stand against you.
I have been thinking recently as to how it is possible to increase the size of an army. In some CPGs there seems to be a very limited variety of creatures. What I think could be done is that creature's morph with each other into a new creature of which they can spawn a few more of that race. How do we go about this? Well, going back to genetics, we each inherit traits from each of our parents. We do not inherit all the traits from each parent, but rather, randomly assorted traits from either our mother or our father. To achieve this with monsters, we simply take either one or the others specific statistic and add it to the new creature (making sure to use a custom random function generator so we actually have a spread between the two). The easy part is creating the creature's statistics; the hard part is the image. For a 3D game, it is possible to merge vertices and you could come up with a rather unique creature with this method. Using the same system mentioned above about the anatomy of a player, you could swap anatomy of monsters to come up with a monster that had strange combinations of anatomy and that had different skills on each of these. For example you have a zombie that merged with a sabre-wolf (that had a power attack using claws). The zombie and sabre-wolf then merge into a sabre-zombie (or whatever you would call it) that had mainly the traits of a zombie, but had the arm of the sabre-wolf. This would make a super zombie with sabre-wolfs claw attack. Mixing the images in an isometric implementation of an RPG would be fairly simple, because it just uses transparencies to build up the final image. It would then build a list of all the necessary images for this creature in memory for quick blitting.
Variety is the spice of life, Bio-diversity
Now that I have added my thoughts on the Monster Generator, which would pump out endless minions for every player's slaying frenzy, I must say that it is not a good idea at all. Sure, there are the obvious benefits of having endless masses for you to slaughter, but what would be the point of your game anyway? I think that if you choose to have a story that is deep and does not revolve entirely around killing, you could go with a more rewarding approach. You then populate your world as you would at any other time. I am talking about bio-diversity. It is all well and good to populate your land with all of the old favorites from your legends, but what will make your game stand out against all of the others? You need not fear creating your own races to mingle in your world. Most writers create a new race in their books to fill in the gaps of what they tell the story. It is not so hard to base your new race around certain species of animals. You could have bird, lizard, rhino, frog, etc. as a base for your creatures. Otherwise you could go for a completely new type of being that resembles more of a god. Give your creatures a reason for being where they are, give them a goal that they wish to attain and then you will have a community that will be an asset to your world.
Realistic Sword-fighting – "Aiming for the head"
It was suggested recently by Nazrix that sword fighting should be handled in a more realistic manner. This was originally misconceived to mean "we need to imitate a real sword fight" but what was meant was that damage that was associated with a particular attack should affect the player in different ways for different areas. This doesn't sound all that different from what we were discussing in "A new combat system: 'Come back or I'll bite your legs off!'" but the discussion tended also to how you would handle a localised sword fight. This new system would mean that it was more difficult to kill anything and that a single opponent creature would be of near-equal skill. As an example, you could select different locations on the opponent, and would be able to block by means of clicking on the area to attack with left click to lunge/stab and right click to swing. A double click could block, as the opponent would be seen to ready him or herself for an attack, because this would be visible to the player. MadKeithV suggested all of the 'mouse-clicking' configurations. Also, an attacking opponent would show 'weaker' spots in their armour or on their body which would give the player a little opportunity to quickly strike them down if they know what they are doing.
Flowing fighting – Bringing in the arcade fights
After going through the realistic sword-fighting debate which eventuated into system that was suggested by MadKeithV (in Sword Fighting - RPG), I decided to think about possible extensions of such a system. The extension would mean that benefits for apt players of the game would be available, without making it so difficult that only a guru could figure out key combinations. Using the simple mouse clicking combinations, aided with possibly one or two modifier keys (shift and ctrl possibly) using the system mentioned in the above article (Realistic Sword-fighting – "Aiming for the head"), I thought of how arcade fighting games could be used to advantage.
In arcade games, you hit a number of keys or buttons to create a single move. By hitting many buttons in sequence, you can create attack combinations. I was thinking about how you could control a flowing attack sequence in a 3rd person Isometric RPG and using the above system I came to this conclusion. There are certain attacks that would be slower for a character to achieve, and there are certain issues that affect speed in attacks.
Combating PKing. Playing God "…And Justice For All"
You can combat PKing by becoming a God and punishing PKers, or you can have a "natural"/automated system which punishes PKers. It is very disappointing that so many people decide to go into such a Role as a PKer, but there is little that can be done to stop those peoples mentality. What can be done is to implement a system that would force Player Killers to behave, but that usually means imposing rules on the game that makes it difficult for situations such as duels. There is one way of doing this that I have been pondering on for a while. If you implement a virtual "law enforcement agency" with certain laws that prevent fighting [and specifically killing] in the streets (as you would have expected in the medieval times). You then have NPC guards who can "overpower" the PC (without attacking and knocking them out, like in "Might and Magic") and drag them away. There is a "case" heard about what happened based on who started the fight. Whoever dealt the first blow is the offender and gets punished accordingly. There could be an Arena where duels could take place for public entertainment that would be devoid of such rules. It would also add a random element as to what kind of skills the character you got pitted against had (so that is where the word pitted came from). The other benefit of the arena is that it adds a roman element to a medieval game, which could do well for the atmosphere and other such elements in the game.
I have seen other methods of removing the Player Killing factor in Diablo II where both of the players are required to click on the "Aggression button" before they are allowed to trade blows. The button can only be pressed when the player is IN TOWN, which then also removes the coward element of chickening out when you are almost dead. It certainly was an improvement from Diablo (the original) where you were killed more often as not by friendly fire in the back from a "helpful" Rogue (note that I was a Warrior). At least in Diablo II, if you have an Amazon standing behind you when in a friendly mode, fire from her bow does not damage you. I find this helpful, because I am there mainly to take damage [away from the Amazon] and let the Amazon kill to get us the Experience Points.
Another way to indirectly punish Player Killers is to use the Reincarnation or Possession systems (discussed in "Timing in games" or "Old age in games"). Base on some recorded data on how that player has been going through there last incarnation; they get placed in an appropriate new incarnation. It follows a similar law to the pathway to Nirvana:
You may want to expand those two points into a longer list that includes steps and has a "neutral" choice in it, but I think that the two points there describe the consequences of actions in using the system, and sum it up quite nicely. You could explain the same thing using the Possession system using the following:
I would prefer to see actions and consequences in games and also reasoning for what happens. Reasoning is something that is often just overlooked or thought of as specific hassle. If these issues were addressed, then the game would be a much more enjoyable experience for everyone. If a game explains why it uses something, then it gives added depth to the entirety of the game and will definitely be remembered for its finer attention to detail. This is providing that the entire game includes attention to detail.
Combating PKing. "Good and Bad Karma"
(Thanks Arjan) Maybe a character with bad karma cannot go certain places and vice versa for a character with good karma. By acting in certain ways in the game, a player gets a karma value (or an alignment) and this states what they can do and what they cannot. If we are talking about PKing, the character who goes around killing other players gets a bad alignment and therefore will not be allowed into a populated town. They will be hunted down by bounty hunters, but they may also be able to enter the bounty-hunting guild. By doing so, they are no longer going to be hunted, and they can become what they have already been (a PKer). Bounty Hunters are exiled from populated areas (general public, not Bounty-Hunter populations) and thus cannot really live with others. By doing so this allows for both different roles to be carried out.
If you wanted to remove PKing altogether, using an aging and death system (as mentioned in the appropriate topic) you can then remove attributes/statistics from players that continuously kill others. This is a little harsh in my opinion, but effective. Personally, I like the alignment and karma idea.
This is all part of an ongoing rant. I will add more to this section in the future as time sees fit. This is mainly a section devoted to rants about "genre-lising" and game content. Expect to see controversial material placed here. If you disagree with any of it then feel free to comment, as all of this is open to debate, though my views will not change towards what is posted below. Enjoy
Consistency, Immersion and Reasoning
I cannot believe that it took me so long to write this little rant. It is the basis to making a game that people will love playing. Although it is the basis, it does not guarantee that the game will be great, as there are several other factors involved as well as peoples' personal preferences. Let me now continue with my ranting.
Consistency is one of the great keys to immersion. Consistency basically means that the rules that govern your game are uniform for all those within the game and all those who play the game. I.e. if NPC's can teleport wherever they want but player-characters can never learn to teleport then the game becomes inconsistent. If the rules governing teleportation infer that a player-character must be of a certain class to learn the spell then it would be consistent.
Immersion is the absolute key to maintaining a player's interest and for creating a good game. Immersion comes from many aspects of the game and includes:
Reasoning is one of the important aspects of maintaining consistency. Without reasoning, the player feels that the world is jumbled together, rather than living together. If you want to have a dragon in your game then great! If the dragon has no reason for being in your game then it should not be… This is reasoning.
Each of these reasons has an important place in creating a game that involves the player and allowing the player to become part of the game. If the player cannot understand the game, then they are likely to hate it. If the game doesn't make sense to them then they will think that it is ill constructed, not that they should even think that it was constructed at all.
Replay-ability – The value of non-linearity
Games these days are moving towards needing a replay value. If you have a completely linear game then once you have played it once, it will be the same the next time you play it, just as it will be the same the time after that and the time after that… The plus of non-linearity is that you can replay the game some various number of times and get a different experience out of it. The number of branches in the storyline all add to replayability, but can also detract from the strength of the storyline as you need to come up with a lot of relevant and exciting twists if you wish to keep the player interested. (More on non-linearity in "Linear vs. Interactive" and non-linearity combined with replayability in "A story-less RPG")
This rant is not just about the story though. There is a new requirement to have games that can be replayed with different experiences while still having the same fun factor as the original play. This also comes under "Standard Time and the creation of a short-game scene" a little, as it talks about Depth in games. Depth is something that is lacking in games, a lot of games seem hollow and really the background and reasoning in others doesn't exist. Read the note "Note about "Depth"" for a more descriptive example of what I consider depth as.
"Genre-lising" – The art of anti-categorisation
Well, I eventually got this into the document. I was going to leave this out, because at the time I considered that I would have to remove every word 'RPG' and replace it with an alternative. Anyway, here is what the Game Developers have decided about the term 'RPG'.
The term RPG is non-descriptive and is obsolete. When the term RPG was invented, it was for the purpose of categorising the pen and paper games that were around at the time. Along came the computer, and people wanted to play in fantasy battles. The term CRPG was invented to term the RPG's that were played on computers, but since then the term has dropped back to RPG. It was used loosely to categorise games in which the player characterised a hero who walked the imaginary lands and carried out deeds that pertained to their role.
Like I said, the term RPG is obsolete. Since then, the computer industry has expanded and people have formed their own opinions on what IS and RPG and what definitely ISN'T one. People's opinions are different, and as such by classing your game as an RPG you are in effect lying to those who may not consider your game a part of that genre. The act of classing your game, or any game, as an RPG is what I have termed "Genre-lising". It is the collective opinion of the people at the Game Design Corner at GDNet that Genre-lising is a cause for less advancement in the games that we love.
How does genre-lising stop advancement you ask? Well, if you are creating a game that you genre-lise as an RPG then you are already limiting the elements that you are going to put into it. From a development point of view there should be no genre classification on any games that are being made. This allows any NEW and INNOVATIVE ideas to be implemented without people saying, "but RPG's don't have that"! By genre-lising you limit the elements that people will expect in your game, and you also place the pressure on yourself to include elements that people familiarise with the term RPG.
I am not asking that the term RPG be removed for good, or that genres should not be used to classify anything. All I am saying is that from a creation point of view, they should be considered obsolete, so that new elements and attributes for each game can be explored. Games that are on the shelf can be classed by genre, because the consumer will identify with this, but your game has to be classified an RPG by people AFTER it has been made. You can't just say, "I will make an RPG", because some people might argue that your game does not fit in that category. I don't think that any game really should fit in any one category because to do so would be limiting the opportunity for freedom of expression.
I think that I have now ranted enough on this topic, so I would just like to see designers think in terms of elements that they could put in ANY game and what might be relevant to their current project without thinking if it will be classified in any genre. Genre-lisation is what is killing game ingenuity. Games like "Thief" are games that decide to take a cross-genre approach. Why can't your game do the same?
Clichés – How to start a new trend
Clichés are a very destructive force that is threatening the broad "genre-lised" RPG band. These days I hear a lot of people complaining that RPG's are "Only Medieval" and that there are too many clichés in these 'types' of games. As much as I hate to typecast, I have to agree that, to a certain extent, clichés are destroying a great deal of these types of games. There seems to be little reason to include certain aspects in games other than "everybody else has them" and "they are always in these types of games". At least if you are going to include a clichéd element, then reason as to why that element is included.
Another reason why you may want to include a cliché is to use it against what people believe. If you wanted to really go against the players' beliefs then you could include Elves and Goblins in your game, where Goblins were good and the Elves were evil. Then, the player would unwittingly trust the Elves and kill the goblins. For this reason, I choose to go against the clichés and set my own trend. (Relevant topics include "Adding Reason, "I want a dragon NOW! Daddy! NOW!"" and "My Learning Experience Approach")
This section is about elements that you could use for plots or stories. It is just a bit more from the ideas that we have been having over in the Game Design Corner niche.
Dragon Dreams and Magic
Here is the first of the new section about Plot Elements. Let me get straight into defining the background of the story, as that is what this is about. This plot element is basically a description as to why the world is why it as, and why certain things are as they are.
It is well known that the world is contained within the dreams of a sleeping dragon. There can be no direct contact between the dragon and those inhabiting its thoughts, but the environment of its dream can be influenced by magic. Magic is basically the way in which the caster modifies a bit of the dragon's dream by the ability to control certain impulses within the dragon's head. By manipulating the dream, certain effects can be constructed, and certain 'spells' can be cast. This is how magic is and has come to be. The dream is not solid, it is malleable, and as such can be manipulated by those who learn how.
However, the dream is not something that can just be changed at will. The dragon resists change, and therefore resists magic use. Twice before in the past too many magic users had affected the dragon's dreams… And twice the world had nearly been destroyed when the dragon had woken up. Due to this infringement, magic is seen as destructive and is frowned upon by all (Also read "Moderating Magic"). This is why there must only be selected use of magic. If there is too much magic use, then the dragon will wake up causing wide destruction throughout the land. This will render magic impossible for a long time and those who rely solely on it are likely to come to bad ends after being sought out by the other inhabitants.
Adding in a 3rd dimension for Isometric RPGs
Does anyone remember X-COM's UFO: Enemy Unknown? It had a limited 3rd dimension added to it. The height box allowed your forces to move up or down into 3 possible heights, which allowed for different levels in the towns and spacecraft. I think that using certain strict guidelines, it is possible to get a height field into the game. The way that I see it, you need to be able to bind the height by a certain region. For example, we are using cubes to represent these boxes; an isometric tile represents the area on one face of these cubes (because we are thinking about moving around this 3D environment without a restriction on viewpoint). The centre of view is at position <x, y, z> (which is our player coordinate) and is bounded by some value. To make it possible to view with a height-field while keeping a reasonable frame-rate, the bounding occurs to reduce the number of cubes that we need to consider when rendering. Now to actually put this into a definite example we use numbers. Our player is located at <20, 45, 3> and we have a vertical bounding of 10 for example. We then need to render each "layer" (height field) of this world between [z = -7] and [z = 13]. The x and y bounds are dependant on your screen and layout, and is already covered in any isometric tiling example.
Adding THE 3rd dimension for Isometric RPGs
On a more 3D oriented approach, I have seen people who have been apparently making "outrageous" statements about having a random tiling system that uses 3D. Well, I do not think that this is as an outrageous statement as it seems. In a similar way that any of those 3D games use objects that can be placed anywhere in their world, you can create "3D tiles" that can be placed anywhere in your world. These "3D tiles" can be placed on the map the way that the actual tiles used to. It is a fairly simple concept that would add the benefits of a full 3D engine (being that you could add in rotation and 3D stuff like that) and lighting (such as shadows, highlighting etc.). Simple concept, a little harder when creating "tiles", and a fairly simple way of introducing a new look to a simple isometric tile engine. It should still be faster than any 3D game as well, because you already have a defined bounding box (i.e. within a certain range of tiles) and the rest can be clipped by the screen (or clipping region). This can also be used in combination with the height fields that were mentioned above (height-field * local-z position gives you a placement on your overall height). I would definitely like to see this implemented into isometric style games. About what I said regarding "more difficulty creating the tiles", it may not be difficult at all, because a lot of the tiles are already created using a 3D renderer. They are just pre-rendered so that they can be blitted to the screen using the old isometric blitting engine, whereas the 3D version just needs to import the 3D file and use that. The importing is what is going to be the difficult part, but I leave that for a specific implementation…
Adding unlimited maps, allowing the option to explore
What really annoys me about isometric games at the moment, is the fact that you have such a limited area to explore. There have been many algorithms developed that can create realistic randomly generated terrain, but I have not yet seen a system that allowed full openness in its world. A certain popular Roguelike (that is the sequel to another slash 'n' hack Roguelike) of late has been using a method which has been part of discussion for some time, but I haven't actually seen implemented. Instead of having your world consisting of dungeons of different levels or depths, the new system uses an open world that is broken up into lots of little square/rectangular maps. These maps are stored separately, and are loaded when needed. The maps that are loaded are based on simple rules:
The reason why you load the surrounding maps is this; because your player wishes to roam freely around the world without any noticeable load times (that is the major concern for us) then you need to have the next map that they are going to get to already loaded. To do this effectively, you just load ALL the maps that surround the current one that the player is in. Due to memory restrictions you can choose for this to be a small buffered layer of maps, or if you have fairly free resource space then you could load more. The more you can have loaded, the further the player has to go to reach the limit of that which is already loaded. Now that you have this delay factor, you have some extra time to load some more maps from disk when the player enters the new map. On leaving the map that the player was on, they enter one of the surrounding maps that has been buffered into memory. The maps that are now considered out of range of the player are released and the new maps that are considered in range of the player are loaded.
This very simple concept has not made any noticeable impact on the majority of the isometric games industry. I would really like to see some thought actually put into this as it would really open up a New World of fantasy, science fiction, and "present day" game implementations that really allow for Role-Playing on a large scale. Limitations or boundaries in such games really seem to push people away from computers with the message "we can make your old pen-and-paper RPG look really snazzy, but we can't make it have the same freedom" which is something that really is not true. For roguelike games, Diablo II used a system, which seemed to work on a similar principle; a large open world that was divided up into smaller "maps" that were loaded as the player moved from map to map. It was a poor implementation of the system in that the load times tended to lag the game dramatically when moving from one map to the next. Perhaps this is just a minor detail that they overlooked because they were using computers that were too fast for testing this (I am thinking SCSI Hard Drives with fast disk caching). This would mean that they did not change the priorities of their disk reads so that they became less prominent on the system. Another reason for it may be that they were not loading/creating the next map until the player came within a certain distance from it. This is a major mistake, and I think that it really should not have been done like this. The boundaries in that game was far too restrictive, and I think that on the map implementation level that I have seen many Beginner Game Programmers (i.e. Proficient Programmers who are new to Game Programming) create far better map and world systems than that in Diablo II.
My Learning Experience Approach
What am I doing to change the world?
I am attempting to open up peoples eyes to the wrong that is out there in our beloved RPGs. My first task is to complete a game engine that would act like your general RPG. I prefer to call this project a Learning Experience rather than a game, as it is both a learning experience for me and the players (it could be equated to an experiment). It would have the underlying story line that every RPG has (facing some kind of evil, this evil must be destroyed). It is all in the setup that the player decides the outcome of the entire experience (remember, it is not a game). The initial setup (after they choose the character class and whatever) is a dream state where they cannot be violent (not yet) but where they see a creature of, let's say, goblin decent. Once this "dream" state has been completed (does not need to be long, but could determine some of the player's mindset and attitudes to this creature) the player then talks to an NPC about the dream. This NPC gives the player the advice that "It must be the same evil that is causing the death of our stock" and then tells the player "you must fight this evil". So, the player now has a quest… Kill the nasty at the end of the game (you really are going to love the ending). The player then goes to another NPC (probably told by the first NPC) who tells our hero "If the goblin that haunts your dreams is not destroyed, then it will pollute your mind and drive you insane". So now our hero has to fend off attacks in the physical and the mental.
Now that we have a basic setup
So the player trundles out of town, searching for something to kill that will give the vital experience to increase a level (I haven't removed this, because this is a learning experience for the player, so I want to emphasise my point). Player originally doesn't find any demons out and about, but instead finds some "evidence" that they (the goblins obviously) have been around the area recently. The player then goes back to town ready to sleep for the night…
Be free from that which haunts your dreams
The player is now asleep in town. The Dream State returns. At first the player wanders around their dreamscape, they wander a little further, they see what appears to be a bad guy (goblin) and so follow. The player then eventually finds some goblins and kills them (quite abrupt right?). Based on a warning from the NPC who told our valiant hero to hunt those that haunt the players dreams (your spirit must return to your body or the energy will be drained and you will die). In the morning you wake to murder news in the town. The evidence points to goblins (because who else would have killed them right?) and our player says that goblins haunted that nights dreams and so the blame is placed on the goblins…
So about the finale
The finale is really quite simple, I am sure you have seen this coming for a while. The player finds out that it is his or her fault that everyone has been dying. The dream-state is really just an expression of the insanity that had plagued their mind, what all along they saw as goblin, was really human. The story is by no means over, this could be the first act in a long game (the player fights their dreams and their wake to redeem themselves). This then would be a game, but I think it serves its purpose as a learning experience, an experiment, and a pretty cool example.
This document was brought about due to great many discussions over at GameDev.Net and as a result I am indebted to those who have made small and large contributions that have shaped the way that I think. I have added links to the forums that most likely aided my progression to the above thoughts, but I am sure that there are many messages to which I owe credit to which I have not included links. For example, I learned recently that the "child setup" was forwarded by Ingenu my fellow moderator or NPCAI / IOL, (I would call him a friend now) who came up with the revolutionary idea on how to choose an appropriate character. To anybody who I owe credit yet did not credit you, I apologise and ask that you send me an e-mail stating such along with what you believe you added. If it is something that was posted on GameDev.Net then it is possible that I overlooked you (I have a rather large amount of posts), if not then it is probably likely that either I had the same idea as you or someone on GameDev.Net did.
Thank you for considering this document worthwhile of your consideration and reading time.
This document is an accumulation of many threads on GameDev.Net and all the ideas that were discussed within them. I am indebted to many more people than is possible to list here. I will endeavour to include all of the people who posted the most influentially, but that will have to wait until I have ample time. The following threads have been the major influences on this document, either that or I recommend that you read them. They are likely to contain the conception of some ideas that are discussed in this document. Very interesting:
"NPC AI in RPGs" – Topic Posted by dwarfsoft.
"NPC AI in RPG's (2)" – Topic Posted by Nazrix.
"RPG NPC AI, Scheduling and Needs…" – Topic Posted by Ingenu.
"Yet Another NPC AI thread…" – Topic Posted by Diragor.
"NPC Learning" – Topic Posted by dwarfsoft.
"Artificial Intuition" – Topic Posted by Paul Cunningham.
"Why make scheduling so strict?" – Topic Posted by C-Junkie.
"RPG character aging, fast or slow?" – Topic Posted by Paul Cunningham.
"Artificial Powermaxing" – Topic Posted by Paul Cunningham.
"A new outlook on RPG's…" – Topic posted by Solthar.
"What's with stats? (RPG)" – Topic Posted by Maitrek.
"End Goblin Genocide" – Topic Posted by Landfish.
"Standard Time" – Topic Posted by Freakshow.
"RPG's - When is There Too Much Role Playing?" – Topic Posted by Whirlwind.
"Monster Generator" – Topic Posted by jtecin.
"RPG monster rant" – Topic Posted by Tebriel.
"Improving Iso Games" – Topic posted by Wavinator.
"RPG world dynamics" – Topic posted by shaggynick.
"Saving Games" – Topic posted by chronos.
"Magic Growth" – Topic posted by Magic Card.
"Audience games" – Topic posted by Paul Cunningham.
"Let players make Traps" – Topic posted by Paul Cunningham.
"Must RPGs have a story?" – Topic Posted by Nazrix.
"Sword Fighting - RPG" – Topic Posted by Nazrix.
"You shalt never have another pointless death."- – Topic Posted by Nazrix.
"Character Growth and Stories" – Topic Posted by Nazrix.
"Disguises and identities" – Topic posted by sunandshadow.
"NPC'S ARE PEOPLE TOO!" – Topic posted by dwarfsoft.
"Game Attributes (RPG-like)" – Topic posted by dwarfsoft.
"Controversy in Story / Setting" – Topic posted by Wavinator.
"You Don't Know S*** About Games!!!" – Topic posted by Lubb.
"What 'roles' do you want to play in an rpg?" – Topic posted by Silvermyst.
"Start at any level (RPG-like)" – Topic posted by Wavinator.
"Generating Random Missions (long)" – Topic posted by Wavinator.
"MMO Story" and "MMO Story" – Topic posted by capn_midnight.
"NPC-less World" – Topic posted by Silvermyst.
"What do you think of this for a dynamic magic system" – Topic posted by Solthar.
"Different attacks (RPG[-ish]) - Balancing" – Topic posted by dwarfsoft.
There was a nice feature on Gamasutra.com that Ernest Adams wrote about "Putting the Magic back in Magic" that I think deserves a mention. Note, that I read this article AFTER writing my document (well, at least the majority of it). This man is an inspiration due to his great thinking and seems to have a lot of similar ideas that I do. (E.A. If you believe that I was trying to cheat you then I must apologise but state that I was writing my own ideas at the time, and it was rather late at night).
"My DOC – The future of RPGs" – Here is the original discussion of this document posted by dwarfsoft. This is here just for the sake of history so that you may find anything that you consider useful.
"Our DOC – The future of RPGs" – This is the new discussion of the document. It has been reposted by dwarfsoft for any comments to be made. This is where you can have your say about what is right and what is wrong. You can add your opinions and your thoughts or even any other information that you have gleaned that you think is relevant.
I have now added a dedicated site to this document. You can find it at http://www.crosswinds.net/~rpgfuture/ which also contains a few links to things such as the bulletin board and to other peoples HTML versions of this document. If you want to browse through this document on the net, then that is the site to go to.
If you want to see the good HTML version, as edited by Voodoo4 – http://www.crosswinds.net/~FutureRPG/
Cheers, Chris (http://www.crosswinds.net/~dwarfsoft/)
NPCAI/IOL! – Check it out!