Corvus’s recent post this week on the side quests in Ultima has jump started my brain on my RPG idea. For once I have more of the story figured out and less of the actual game play. At this point I don’t know if this will be a RPG enjoyed by fans, or just by me.
The story follows one of two sons of the most famous and powerful knight in the land. A year before the game takes place the other son, who has always been the stronger of the two left the land to fight a war overseas and has left the player with his mother. After a few major plot events (that I can’t say if the game ever gets made), the player decides to find and drag his brother back home with the help of his three friends. Along the way he’ll see what the world is like outside of his village and deal with a lot of bad blood in his family. Corvus’s post on sidequests touches on an issue I have with them in most rpgs.
Having never played any of the Ultima games I can’t speak with first hand knowledge about them, but their ideas of side quests is something I want to (and should have) seen in more RPGS. I believe you know what’s coming up next … I blame Bioware, in the rpgs I’ve played from Bioware side quests are nothing more then more errands for the player. A good side quest should show more of the world behind the grand epic plot the designers have created, not just be more about the plot or provide the player with a few more trinkets for their inventory. An example of having good side quests in my opinion would be from the game Chrono Trigger, which expanded the world and locales allowing the player to see more of the various eras. In the RPG I have in mind, the main quest itself is a set path, but for players who like the main character want to explore the land there will be plenty of things to do. One underlining concept of the story is the character seeing the world for the first time and the effects his father and brother have had on it. He knows as much about the various cultures of the land as the player does (without the blurbs on the locales in the manual).
Combat is another issue that will be polarizing the gamers, as it will be different from anything out there. The first change is that unlike just about every RPG ever made in the last 15 years, each character starts out the same skill wise with everyone else. Each character can follow certain disciplines and basically create their own custom class . Combat will be real time and all four characters will fight at the same time, the AI will have to be intelligent to understand and use all the skills the player has given to each member. I would love to have opt in co-op with other players. Interaction between the characters and the environment is another big deal. Since each character starts out with roughly the same abilities, they can each interact with the environments and each other the same way. Such as using a party member as a stepping stone to leap into the air to attack a large enemy. Or pushing a boulder down a hill at a horde of foes . One problem with RPGS is that they advertise the ability to create a unique party, but if you dare build one without a medic or healer you will never win, and it’s more of a way of allowing the player to handicap themselves.
The reason why players will create their own classes for the characters fits into my philosophy on what RPGS should be like (in my opinion of course). The characters should not be defined by their skills, but instead by their personality. Each character will be different compared to the other 3 and will set up their group dynamic. I want to develop moments where the group comes together or splits apart and that can’t happen in RPGS where one person is set up from the start by the game as the only healer. One problem I have with rpgs that let the player make all the choices is that it dilutes the impact of the story. In the way that it’s hard to tell an emotional thought provoking tale if the player will just make choices that avoid those topics. To me, the player’s effect on the story should be learning more about the world, not telling the story. Not to say that all RPGS should be like that, but we need to see more diversity in storytelling. The player will not be able to change the outcome of the story, but instead will have leeway on how side quests will be handled. The big lesson to take from this entry is that not every RPG should be designed the same way either in story telling or general game play. I think CRPGS need to break away from their DnD roots, and JRPGS have to stop trying to imitate Final Fantasy (emo kids and all).
As a point of reference, my favorite Rpgs are those that have their own way of doing things, such as the Shin Megami Nocturne series. The only CRPG series that I can remember off the top of my head that deal with mature issues and forces the player to choose their opinion on them would be the GeneForge series.
Josh , level 2 game designer, chaotic lawful (because an entry on RPGs wouldn’t be complete without a little satire on Dnd)
A recent debate has lead to some very interesting discussions over game credits. The news is that over at Mythic (the designers of the new Warhammer MMO), they have decided to only give credit mentions to people currently employed at Mythic, if someone left the company after working on the game they would not be mentioned. Before I start this discussion I want to state for the record that my opinion is heavily biased due to my position in the games industry right now . For those that don’t know or haven’t read my bio, I’m trying to break into the industry now .
There are three sides to this debate: the gamers who play the games, the workers who create the games, and the producers and other people in charge who manage the workers. As a gamer I will admit that I do not read the game credits, and chances are most gamers on this subject will probably call for less credits so that we don’t sit through a 10 minute end scene. This discussion to be honest doesn’t concern the gamers even though they do interact with the credits (via the end scene).
As I mentioned above I’m still trying to get into the industry, and if there is one thing I’ve learned over this past year is that this is the hardest industry to get into. The end credits serve an important purpose for people in the industry. First it is recognition for their contribution to the title, and more importantly proof of their skills. The one truth I’ve learned about this industry is that once your in your in for life, all you need is one quality title that has your name on it. Without giving fair credit to the men and women behind these titles it would make getting them future jobs a lot harder. As someone whose main focus is on game design I can’t just create and ship a title on my own , my talents aren’t as easily quantified as an artist or programmer. Game credits are the proof that I have the creative and analytical skills needed for designing games. Right now I have three game credits, for titles I tested for Sharpnel Games and I make sure to mention that on any job site and on my resume. Having that proof puts me a little higher up as an potential hiree then the guy on the streets. Without game credits it would be very hard to prove to prospective hirers the talents of the people they’re interviewing. However there is another side to this argument, what constitutes the right way of leaving a company?
The viewpoint from the manager’s position, is that if a person was fired or laid off then they don’t deserve that recognition. Unfortunately this is really a grey area, what happens if someone had to quit due to getting into an accident or an unforeseen family problem? Should they be punished and hurt future job prospects for something completely out of their hands? On the other hand what about people who quit halfway through a game because they found a job that pays a few dollars more an hour? There are too many different cases I could use here, but you get my point. Just saying that because someone doesn’t work at a company anymore isn’t a concrete reason to remove their name from the credits in my opinion. I can understand the point of view if someone was just plain awful at their job and had to be let go, but it really comes down to what they contribute.
My opinion on this whole debate is as follow. Regardless if the person either works at the company at the end of the project or is let go for whatever reason, if anything they produced or contribute(for in house testers or QA staff) is used in the final version of the game then they should be mentioned on the credits. Even if it’s just a “special thanks” the company used something that the person produced or created that will be experienced by everyone who plays the game, so they should receive credit for it. If the company throws out the contribution or gets someone to recreate it or go a different route, then leaving the person off the credits is ok, but if the person is just copying what the original person created then they should be credited.
Unfortunately I don’t have clout on this topic to the big names of the industry, I don’t even know if they look at this blog. At this point in time I don’t know how this is all going to play out. From a designer point of view, having someone use my work without giving me the proper credit sounds very similar to plagiarism ; I know about that, having to cite my works from all the damn papers I’ve had to write over the years .
In case you missed it,a somewhat big news for MMOs was a group of players in Final Fantasy 11 spent over 18 hours fighting a boss to only be defeated by exhaustion. There are other examples of quests taking a long period of time to accomplish in FF11. Even though I could personally never do anything of that scale in a MMO, a small part of me thinks that is cool.
Time and reward, two important factors for any quest or mission in games. Probably more so in MMOs, the phrase “punishment fits the crime” works here… in a good way. Getting a pair of shoes for a 2 minute quest is ok, but for a 10+ hour one I better get something useful. I think this feeling of being rewarded for time spent is in our psychology. No doubt a sense of satisfaction at achieving a huge quest would be lessen by a less then adequate reward. Unfortunately I think MMOs at this generation are not the best places for these epic sized quests.
First off,I’m not a hard core MMO player, I never got a character to the level cap in WoW or even tried one of the many raid quests in it. My experience with a huge quest was getting my Warlock mount, and I can say that if I didn’t receive help from someone in my guild at that time I would have never gotten it. I have two big issues with these types of quests, keeping the accomplishment and that there is a third factor when dealing with them, real money.
One of the many hooks of MMOs is the ability to play different character types and see and play things from a different angle. My problem with epic sized quests is that they are at odds with this principle. I don’t know about you, but if I have to do the same 5+ hour quest for every character I make, I’ll probably crack up. I really want to have my major accomplishments saved on my account (such as achievements on Xbox live). If I received my epic mount for one guy, I should never have to go on that quest or have to spend in game currency again on that time sink. I know what the supporters are going to say about that “it’s part of the game play, you need to grind for the reward”. I agree with that, except once I’ve paid my debt to society I don’t ever want to do that again. Another sneaky trick designers use is create gear that can only be equipped by the specific character who picked it up, which of course will be the rewards for those huge quests. I can rationalized not giving that super item to your friend’s level one character, but can I please share the wealth between my other guys? Personality , moving from a character system to accounts is what I want to see (I’ll be describing how I want future MMOS to be in a bit).
Next is money, yes I know I buy a lot of video games that of course cost a lot of money and complaining about a MMO doesn’t make sense, I’m cheap in a very hypocritical way. A lot of the quests in MMOs come down to jobs that I’m paying money to do. Going back to that mount quest I remember some of the time sinks associated with that quest. Having to kill X amount of enemies, getting rare materials or items, and of course having to kill more X amount of enemies. All this while my $15 for the month is counting down, I can see why a lot of mmos for the casual player takes months to reach the cap. Let me say this about WoW, if the game was free to play I would have it installed on my computer right now (at this very moment, a Blizzard employee has just started laughing uncontrollably for no apparent reason). Recently with MMOs I see a “lifetime subscriber” option. Where players spend a huge amount of money to basically never have to worry about a fee to play the game ever again. I just wonder with all the features Blizzard has put into WoW with a 2nd expansion coming out, if that option could work with WoW? I will admit I would be tempted with a game the size of WoW to pick that option. With that said it’s time to talk about my dream MMO.
Ok first off no set classes, this game will feature a classless system. Players will only have one character but all options can be unlocked for them. Players can specialize up different skill types and pick and choose which ones to have available for use (think traits and such featured in other MMOs). Unlocking new classes will require challenging quests (or epic sized quests) to give a real sense of accomplishment. Major quests (the raid level quests in MMOS) will have huge effects on the world such as giving the group that finishes them access to unique content for a set period of time. Due to the classless design, there shouldn’t be “character levels” in the traditional sense. How far you have developed up the skill trees will determine your overall effectiveness, but there isn’t a set cap for development. Maxing out every tree would not be worthwhile as the player can only use a set amount of skills and traits at one time, and over loading yourself won’t do a thing to help your character.
For the hardcore MMO players out there don’t worry, I don’t think creating MMOS is going to be in my future. Maybe someday I’ll resubscribe to WoW and get a guy to the cap and do all that uber content and raid with the best of them and see how great it is… ok probably not. Right now I’m keeping my eye on the WarHammer MMO and who knows maybe there will be a MMO for me someday.
If there is one mechanic that has become over saturated in games today it is the Quick Time Event (or QTE). Most modern gamers will say that God of War popularized this , others Shenmue, but the real old school will say Dragon’s Lair.
Before going on, a QTE is requiring the player to enter in a button sequence to determine if the character will live or die. If we were loose with that definition we could say that applies to every video game ever made, as aren’t you just entering a string of commands in to determine if you win or lose ?
I just want to say that I was a huge fan of Dragon’s Lair, Space Ace, and any other game of that type (and yes I enjoyed Shenmue, sailors and all) which I’ll will be classifying in one minute. Back in the late 80s an animator by the name of Don Bluth wanted to create what could be described as an interactive cartoon (which would be the classification). Using the power of the laser disc (which as we all know would never die 🙂 ) Dragon’s Lair was born. Games like Dragon’s Lair had the player controlling the responses of the character in specific situations, where making the wrong decision meant death. Since the mid 90s we saw the last game of this type with BrainDead 13 ( I think, I don’t remember anymore after that). While the genre itself has seemed to die the mechanic has made its way to modern games.
Today it seems that every action game has a QTE thrown in for good measure. I have two problems with this, first is the cool factor. QTEs are used so that the player will watch the cool stuff happening and not actually participate in it. Second is that it becomes more of an annoyance in action games. When your busy fighting and shooting it becomes jarring to have to stop what your doing and enter in a button sequence to finish off an enemy. Then there is the problem of the game picking up either a button you pressed or while your still holding the control stick automatically failing the QTE. Back to my original point, QTEs have become over saturated in action titles. Hell Resident Evil 4 had a fight that was nothing but QTEs and missing one command meant death. Now I’m going to play the optimist card and say that we could bring back the genre, but in a different way.
One of my favorite types of books growing up were the choose your own adventure series and I believe that the model used in those books could be applied to a new sub genre of adventure games. Imagine a game where you do control the responses of the character, but you can still explore. The biggest change is that actions and choices aren’t all binary, life or death or yes and no. Many actions will set the player down a completely different path heading towards a new ending. Yes some actions will result in the player’s death or failing (“do you want to jump into the pit of death? Y/N?”). Another idea is that during action sequences the player has “chances” used each time they make a wrong choice in the scope of the sequence, such as not parrying a sword slash when all the chances are gone the player will be killed. Most of the interactive cartoons of yesteryear were linear experiences, same path every time. With this idea the player should have a different experience each time, I also want to avoid having one “good ending” and dozens of “bad” endings.
While I’m being optimistic I’m not blind to some problems with this idea. First is , are there people interested in this type of game play? Also the challenge of this would be that storytelling and animation would be the key features of this genre, not game play which means that the writers and artists will have to step up and this goes against my game play comes first principle. However the act of creating interesting choices and showing their implications outside of a standard rpg could be used to make some unique stories and show the consequences of your actions in a way that most games can’t.
This idea of mine is still in it’s infancy and I don’t think I’m the guy for the job, as my prototype story for my action title isn’t going to be winning any awards I can say that for certain.