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Nov. 14th, 2011 @ 02:53 pm Game Design: Storytelling In RPGs
I recently read this article touting the author's game and talking at length about game design. One interesting thing about that was the accusation that jRPGs have "more story than the gameplay can support". That is, they have some elaborate story, but then you can only play it by talking to people (meaning read monologues) and fighting (meaning hitting the Attack button till the enemies die). Actually I don't think much of the story in most of these, Suikoden being the main exception, but I agree with the idea that you're pretty limited in how you can experience the story. The Japanese have those "visual novels" that are really just stories where you press a button to read the next paragraph, and the "Ace Attorney" games aren't much more interactive -- but I bet we could do better. Better even than Bioware's somewhat better character interaction.

I've been reading a very long, bizarre fanfic based on the game "Fallout 3", and thought it was interesting partly because it has a lot more characterization and interaction between people. Also for its realistic attitude toward violence, making characters physically and emotionally traumatized and in need of more than a magic healing potion. The game (I only got to play it in the last month or so) would've been awesome if it had somehow tapped into that level of plot and character. Now that I've got a fast PC I've actually gotten to play "Skyrim", and while that's pretty good despite wonky controls, it's the same sort of loner quest. (Magic is handled such that a mage is pretty much expected to run around bare-handed in a bathrobe, but to balance that you get two-fisted Force lightning and a flamethrower at level 1.)

Oh, here is that Planar RPG experiment, as an EXE and Python source. The author of the above article thinks that a game ought to be designed by finding some fun mechanics, then building the story around that. Thoughts on this concept of whether any fun can be had by boiling a freeform RPG down to extreme basics?
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From:terrycloth
Date:November 14th, 2011 08:55 pm (UTC)
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Hmm. It makes me wonder if the concept might work better as a kind of wargame instead of being billed as a distilled RPG? You wander around from town to town trying to muster an army, but there are inevitable losses as you travel. If you can get a certain number of recruits to the battle by the target date, you win the day!

That seems like a more believable explanation for why you'd be wandering around at random to get more powerful, although you could also build it around martial-arts style training or something.
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From:kris_schnee
Date:November 15th, 2011 10:42 pm (UTC)
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Martial arts sounds like a neat idea. It could be broken down into training, fighting worthy opponents, and taking on gangs or something. (Seen "Kung Fu Hustle"?) Koei, the company that did a bunch of Chinese/Japanese historical wargames, had some system where "troops" were your hit points. Seemed silly, but fits the mechanic I stole from the Linear RPG.

How about if there were enemy parties randomly moving/chasing you, viewable only within some range, and instead of losing HP by travel you had battles plus continuous loss of "supplies", such that it's not instant death if you run out?

I was trying to go through the actual mechanics of "Skyrim" and other open RPGs, thinking that there's a cycle of moving toward a goal while looking for loot/monsters/new stuff to explore, plus on the longer scale, leveling up and getting better gear. A lot of what I like about those games is exploring a setting with interesting things to see/learn, but the absurd reduction of that is "read a travel guide and roll dice every third page".
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From:terrycloth
Date:November 16th, 2011 12:05 am (UTC)
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'Supplies' is better than hp I think, yeah, since in most games you can heal up in the wilderness until you run out of potions/mana/whatever.

I think the basic play-flow, for me at least, goes:

(1) In town, sell loot, buy supplies to a certain percentage of my inventory capacity.
(2) Head towards a quest goal. On the way, I may or may not stumble across an opportunity to explore.
(3) At the goal OR at the random exploration site, I expend supplies (if I have enough) and gain loot of varying value per inventory slot, and have to decide what to take with me and what to discard.
(4) When my inventory is full, I abort and go back to step 1.

The character gets upgraded by:
(a) gaining experience by exploring a site or a goal.
(b) buying equipment by selling loot.
(c) 'quest perks' for completing goals.

Higher level and better equipped characters would have to expend fewer supplies to explore a given site and maybe could carry more? So your stats would be things like 'carrying capacity' and 'combat ability'. Actually, maybe only those two. n.n Or have site-clearing and 'random encounter' clearing (supplies you lose just for travelling a given distance) be separate stats.
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From:kris_schnee
Date:November 26th, 2011 11:14 pm (UTC)
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Oh, sorry; I overlooked these two comments. I like those ideas.
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From:terrycloth
Date:November 16th, 2011 12:09 am (UTC)
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So if those are the mechanics, the way you make it interesting to explore is by adding some complixity. Barriers you can't get past until you get the right key, areas where you tend to find different mixes of loot, special items you can only get in special ways.

And of course interesting 'color' for everything. You're not moving across level 5 terrain and stumble across a level 3 optional exploration site with 3 units of 200% value loot, you're exploring the mountains and find a small cave with some silver coins inside.