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Author Topic: How the game will play aka META mechanics  (Read 11915 times)
zenbitz
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« on: February 09, 2009, 10:40:44 PM »

Hi all.  I have been talking to Martin a bit "off line" about PARPG.  Just finished a Wiki page for y'all:
http://wiki.parpg.net/User:Zenbitz

I mentioned this in the other thread - but I have not seen anything written on it (please point me to something if I missed it)

What will this game be like?   So far, the parameters are "Fallout-like isomorphic RPG". 

So lets start with "Fallout-like" - what does this mean? (Free free to argue!)

1) Post apocalypse world, to be defined.
2) Player is a character with an origin
-- fallout has a SINGLE origin FO1 = Vault Dweller, FO2 = Tribal "Chosen One" but variable statistics/skills/etc.
3) Players wanders the waste land in a non-linear fashion - and is "free" to be good or evil or in between (for lack of a better way to put it)
4) Player talks to NPCs, fights stuff, steals everything not nailed down, does quests for XP (may or may not require "talking" or "fighting"), maybe solves a couple puzzles (I think there are maybe 5 total in FO1+2)
4.5) Player ALSO does non-XP things like "sleep with prostitutes" or "become porn star"... is that it?   What other not XP stuff do people do? (Killing things doesn't count because you get experience points for that)
5) Player "levels" up both skill and equipment-wise, fighting ever-tougher bad guys until the Big Boss at the end.

 What did I miss?   I point out that (at least at this stage) free to add or subtract things from this list!
Some other things players could do (Obviously, this is going to depend on the exact nature of the as-yet-undefined world)

- Found a community
- Trade / Economics
- Become a bandit leader
- Destroy civilization (not just murdering inhabitants)

Basically - fallout is a fighting game (that is not a criticism) - although it's a modified one where most of the "main questlines" can be solved by NOT fighting.

Do we even want a game "to be solved" (i.e, have an ending?)
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Nalanod
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« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2009, 07:15:27 AM »

What will this game be like?   So far, the parameters are "Fallout-like isomorphic RPG". 

So lets start with "Fallout-like" - what does this mean? (Free free to argue!)

To me it means a unique gaming experience where character actions have a tangible effect on gameplay and outcomes.  Everything else is window dressing.

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1) Post apocalypse world, to be defined.

Fallout was not post apocalyptic. 

OK, OK, I'm just saying that to be contrary.  Of course it was.  From here on out I will comment on how these features or characteristics of Fallout could be adapted to PARPG.

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2) Player is a character with an origin
-- fallout has a SINGLE origin FO1 = Vault Dweller, FO2 = Tribal "Chosen One" but variable statistics/skills/etc.

Sure.  All characters have "origins" whether they realize or fully remember them or not.  For the sake of PARPG I would like to see the "chosen one" or "last hope" cliche avoided.  What's wrong with being an insignificant pawn in a harsh, unforgiving world?  It makes the struggle to power (or failure) much more satisfying.

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3) Players wanders the waste land in a non-linear fashion - and is "free" to be good or evil or in between (for lack of a better way to put it)

Survival is often amoral.  It should be extraordinarily difficult to be squeaky clean and a do-gooder all of the tiime.

Quote
4) Player talks to NPCs, fights stuff, steals everything not nailed down, does quests for XP (may or may not require "talking" or "fighting"), maybe solves a couple puzzles (I think there are maybe 5 total in FO1+2)

Experience points are as exciting as hit points.  A ridiculous abstraction that should be done away with.  I saved the puppy by kicking geckos!  Look, my Energy Weapon skill went up!

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4.5) Player ALSO does non-XP things like "sleep with prostitutes" or "become porn star"... is that it?   What other not XP stuff do people do? (Killing things doesn't count because you get experience points for that)

Sleeping with prostitutes can give you a disease.  Becoming a porn star can bring you infamy.  "Hey, you aren't the chief's son!  You are Karl Hungus!  I love your movies!" (disguise check failed).

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5) Player "levels" up both skill and equipment-wise, fighting ever-tougher bad guys until the Big Boss at the end.

Again, levels?  I think RPGs have moved beyond those archaic trappings.

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What did I miss?   I point out that (at least at this stage) free to add or subtract things from this list!

Add or subtract from your description of Fallout?  It was accurate, but brief.  I think you missed on one big point -- consequences of character actions.

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Some other things players could do (Obviously, this is going to depend on the exact nature of the as-yet-undefined world)

- Found a community
- Trade / Economics
- Become a bandit leader
- Destroy civilization (not just murdering inhabitants)

This is the kind of thing I dig.  The first three are kind of similar, but well worth exploring.  Trade and building a community kind of go hand-in-hand (though a bandit leader might "trade" a bit more aggressively than others).

I would contend that killing off all of the inhabitants would indeed destroy a civilization.

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Basically - fallout is a fighting game (that is not a criticism) - although it's a modified one where most of the "main questlines" can be solved by NOT fighting.

Hmmm... I don't see it that way at all.  Fallout is a game that gives you plenty of options to fight, for sure.  But a fighting game?

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Do we even want a game "to be solved" (i.e, have an ending?)


Certainly.  A story must be told.  Time must pass.  Eventually the character will die, even if just from natural causes.  I'm not of the mindset that every RPG must be this sandbox game.  It leads to cookie cutter NPCs, unimaginative locations, and repetitive gameplay.
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zenbitz
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« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2009, 07:45:17 AM »

Well, I was just trying to describe fallout so we could decide what we were or were not keeping. I certainly don't want to do a "Chosen One" vs. "Scouring the Wastland" game...

I didn't find the choice and consequence in FO very compelling, but I gather from the scuttlebutt about other games that they did a good job.    I mean... I guess in FO2 you could screw the ghouls or not, and there were a bunch of double-ended / conflicting quests (i.e, NPC1 and NPC2 hire you to murder each other).   Is FO the only game that does that?  

We are talking about "in game" consequences or, post game slide show?   Most games have basic consquences - if you shoot the town guard, the town gets all torqued at you and tries to kill you.

Fallout is a fighting game in the sense that THE CORE ENGINE is designed around the combat resolution.  The most expensive and valuable items are all arms and armor.  There are 4 fighting skills compared to "Science" and "Repair".    Criminy, 80% of the objects in the _game_ are guns.    Now, it's not a pure fighting game like, say Mortal Combat or even Half-Life.     Note that this is true of most PnP RPGs as well.   Was is theoretically possible to finish Fallout without winning a combat (i.e, you are allowed to run)?  I suppose.  But you could also finish the game with an INT 1 character - I sort of think of that as an aside.

But I will be less obtuse.  How much fighting should be in PARPG?  I am going to say "plenty" but I would like to leave out scouring the wasteland in search of XP in the form of crunchy radscorpions.  How deadly should the fighting be?  I think it should be both deadly and not-deadly.  Deadly in the sense of serious - if you get into a gun fight, you should be worried that your might take a bullet.  Not-deadly in the sense that "Victory... or Death" is not the only possible outcome of a fight.
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Nalanod
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« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2009, 08:01:28 AM »


I didn't find the choice and consequence in FO very compelling, but I gather from the scuttlebutt about other games that they did a good job.    I mean... I guess in FO2 you could screw the ghouls or not, and there were a bunch of double-ended / conflicting quests (i.e, NPC1 and NPC2 hire you to murder each other).   Is FO the only game that does that?  

Compared to many other games it is a great example.  I don't want to just slag on other games and come off like a rabid fanboy, but it is one of the few.  That's what made it cool.

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We are talking about "in game" consequences or, post game slide show?   Most games have basic consquences - if you shoot the town guard, the town gets all torqued at you and tries to kill you.

I think that is a reaction more than a consequence.  Maybe I am wrong.

Also, while I am thinking about it, NO PSYCHIC GUARDS! 

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Fallout is a fighting game in the sense that THE CORE ENGINE is designed around the combat resolution.  The most expensive and valuable items are all arms and armor.  There are 4 fighting skills compared to "Science" and "Repair".    Criminy, 80% of the objects in the _game_ are guns.    Now, it's not a pure fighting game like, say Mortal Combat or even Half-Life.     Note that this is true of most PnP RPGs as well.   Was is theoretically possible to finish Fallout without winning a combat (i.e, you are allowed to run)?  I suppose.  But you could also finish the game with an INT 1 character - I sort of think of that as an aside.

You have a valid point.  But the whole reason to have game mechanics is to resolve a conflict, be it violent or social maneuvering.  Let's add more violence alternatives to our conflict resolution.

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But I will be less obtuse.  How much fighting should be in PARPG?  I am going to say "plenty" but I would like to leave out scouring the wasteland in search of XP in the form of crunchy radscorpions.  How deadly should the fighting be?  I think it should be both deadly and not-deadly.  Deadly in the sense of serious - if you get into a gun fight, you should be worried that your might take a bullet.  Not-deadly in the sense that "Victory... or Death" is not the only possible outcome of a fight.

How much fighting?  As much as a combat oriented character wants.

How deadly should the fighting be?  Very.  If it is too hot, flee.  Also, not everyone will immediately kill you.  I think the most interesting option would be to have violence escalate.  Punch a guy, he punches back.  Pull a knife, he pulls a gun.  Drop your knife and apologize.  And so on.

You bring up another great point.  I think if you act with deadly force, it should be reciprocated.  It wouldn't be Victory or Death so much as "I think I can manage this.  Oops!  Maybe not!  Better make amends or high-tail it out!"
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zenbitz
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« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2009, 08:19:11 AM »

Quote
Also, while I am thinking about it, NO PSYCHIC GUARDS! 

HAHAHAHAHA.  You won me over on that one.  I just finished FO2 yesterday, went to go make (in game!) a "post enclave" Porn Movie... searched a shelf and this porn actress jumped me!  I mean punching and kicking!  So, I shoot her in the arm or something with my gauss rifle... now all these porn stars and fluffers and prostitutes are after me!   I run, because it's not really worth the trouble to stop and shoot them all.

FO (and I agree - really a fantastic game) - not only had psychic guards but sometimes forgetful ones too.  Leave the map, and presto everyones' cool again!   

Well, on thing is clear (so far) - we are interested in "natural" responses from NPCs.
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Nalanod
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« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2009, 08:37:54 AM »

Natural responses from NPCs is my holy grail. 

I remember doing something stupid in Oblivion and the whole freakin' continent coming down on me.

Seriously, zenbitz... stop making me reply!  I have to go to bed!
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zenbitz
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« Reply #6 on: February 12, 2009, 06:51:49 PM »

I have edited the subject of this thread to represent "ideas that will affect how the mechanics are designed".

Please put actual mechanics suggestions in other threads.  The idea is that we can discuss what types of mechanics we might need and why.    Implementation (programming / scripting /writing) details could be mentioned here as they apply, but should also be in other threads.

Example (although this is already promoted to a design principle):

It should be possible to play/finish/enjoy the game as varied types of characters - i.e,. there is more than one way to solve (most) problems - fighting, stealthing, conniving. etc.
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« Reply #7 on: February 12, 2009, 11:03:42 PM »

I still can't handle that "quote" feature yet, but here I go anyway...

1) Post apocalypse world, to be defined.

2) Player is a character with an origin

Yes. The PC should have a background and a specific story to unfold. In this case I would tend to use The Witcher-like approach: you either 1) support humans, or 2) mutants, or 3) stay neutral. In any case, an inevitable evil will occur: 1) either innocent mutants are slaughtered for simply being mutants; or 2) evil mutants kill fellow humans; or 3) a big and bloody war ensues. Note: if you haven't played that brilliant cRPG (The Witcher), go grab it and play immediately. Smiley You won't regret it.

4) Player talks to NPCs, fights stuff, steals everything not nailed down, does quests for XP (may or may not require "talking" or "fighting"), maybe solves a couple puzzles (I think there are maybe 5 total in FO1+2)

In my view, we should bear in mind Chris Avellone's approach in "questology": each and every quest must have at least three ways to be solved. These are:

- fighting;
- sneaking;
- talking.

4.5) Player ALSO does non-XP things like "sleep with prostitutes" or "become porn star"... is that it?   What other not XP stuff do people do? (Killing things doesn't count because you get experience points for that)

By all means. Even if it doesn't award XP, it should affect NPCs attitude towards the PC.

5) Player "levels" up both skill and equipment-wise, fighting ever-tougher bad guys until the Big Boss at the end.

My view of the level system I have described in the mechanics thread.

What did I miss?   I point out that (at least at this stage) free to add or subtract things from this list!
Some other things players could do (Obviously, this is going to depend on the exact nature of the as-yet-undefined world)


- Found a community

Sounds good, but might prove difficult in design.

- Trade / Economics

By all means. We should introduce some basic economic system, and allow the PC to trade a bit.

- Become a bandit leader

Same as "found a community".

- Destroy civilization (not just murdering inhabitants)

Perfect. That was a thing used in Van Buren (ex-FO3) designer docs. I suggest we keep this in mind for further elaboration.
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zenbitz
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« Reply #8 on: February 12, 2009, 11:32:40 PM »

No one seems to understand my "origin" thing:

Should the game have ONE origin (like FO1/2) or a few different ones.  This depends also on how far after the fall we go.
@20 years after, we have 2 distinct character "classes" - either you have "pre-fall" skills, or no.

Should player have a choice of these 2 options?  What about upbringing?
Some upbringing ideas:

1) Lone Wolf / Raised by Hyenas
2) Tribal / "Viking"
3) Townie
4) Farmer
5) "high" tech city (post-fall city, so relatively high tech - like a doctor or engineer with little in the way of survival / fighting skills

Note that this makes the story more complex, as we have to account for multiple possible origins.
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« Reply #9 on: February 23, 2009, 08:53:47 AM »

I'm just trying to get an idea what typical pre-fall and after-fall skills would be. Could you give some examples?

About upbringing: we could tackle this similar to Arcanum. In Arcanum you could choose your "background", which basically influenced your stats and skills in the game. All these backgrounds are described here:
http://arcanum.rpgplanet.gamespy.com/backgrounds.shtml
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zenbitz
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« Reply #10 on: February 23, 2009, 10:47:45 PM »

Assumption:  Fall is 20 years prior to game start.  Change the number 20 and you change this stuff.

Pre-fall:  anything you learn in school.  e.g., Computer programming, biochemistry, art history, pre-ruin culture.
Post-fall:  Stuff that you needed to survive, e.g, animal skinning, arctic survival, melee weapon skills.

Hmmm.... it's not really EXCLUSIVE.  I guess just that some skills would be more rare.     My thought was that the player creates a background for his character, and could only select skills from that background.  Like, if you were a computer programmers, you would not likely have a bunch of rugged outdoors skills, but would have to buy the "in the 20 years after".

Note that mostly this means that YOUNG (<35) characters would be restricted in being unable to have skills that are not realistic.  UNLESS they have some kind of "townie" upbringing that explains it a little.

Anyway - none of that is actually RULES, just a thought to differentiate oldsters from feral kids in the game.
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zenbitz
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« Reply #11 on: February 24, 2009, 11:17:24 PM »


About upbringing: we could tackle this similar to Arcanum. In Arcanum you could choose your "background", which basically influenced your stats and skills in the game. All these backgrounds are described here:
http://arcanum.rpgplanet.gamespy.com/backgrounds.shtml

These backgrounds seem exactly akin to Fallout (SPECIAL) Traits (and to some extent, Perks).    They are certainly cool.  What they are also is very hard to balance.  In FO there were good and terrible Traits (also perks but at least they didn't usually HURT you).

The GURPS/Hero (pnp) mechanism is to have
"Advantages" - things that improve you and cost points (e.g. "Night Vision",  "Combat Reflexes", "Toughness", "Eidetic Memory", "Attractive (5 levels)", "Wealthy (5 levels)".  Some of these work and others don't.

and

"Disadvantages" - things that hurt you and give you points (e.g. "Agorophobia", "Code of Honor", "Blind" - plus the inverse of Attractive and Wealthy).

The points are also used to by starting stats and skills.  I am certain this stuff isn't necessary - however, I suppose it's kind of cool flavor.  It's quite a bit of work to come up with and balance them all properly.   
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Gaspard
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« Reply #12 on: February 28, 2009, 04:22:13 PM »


Quote
3) Players wanders the waste land in a non-linear fashion - and is "free" to be good or evil or in between (for lack of a better way to put it)

Survival is often amoral.  It should be extraordinarily difficult to be squeaky clean and a do-gooder all of the time.

I basically agree with this one. But if there's a hard-core do-gooder who plays this then there might be possibilities to DO GOOD but on the expense of your... health, wealth, experience what-not - that could be determined on the run. Then you'd make a SACRIFICE.
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eleazzaar
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« Reply #13 on: March 10, 2009, 05:38:27 AM »

In my view, we should bear in mind Chris Avellone's approach in "questology": each and every quest must have at least three ways to be solved. These are:

- fighting;
- sneaking;
- talking.

I think that's a great rule for the main quests, but some side quests would only logically make sense if they are only provided to certain types of PCs, or are only reasonably possible to certain types of PCs.

For instance a theft/assasination quest shouldn't be offered to a PC with a strong reputation as a do-gooder, who had no stealth skills.  Similarly there's no reason we have to make an idiot PC able to solve a delicate diplomatic or science side quest.



Open-ended, Choice-rich gameplay

Some of the most significant choices in an RPG are made at character creation.  Wasting so many of the players choices in one blow (especially when he doesn't know what the choices really mean) tends to cut down on the meaningful choices thereafter.

So to make things really feel open-ended, and that the player is in control, "Character creation" should not be considered a one-shot activity before the game starts, but an ongoing process through the game.

In other words, as the PC progresses, he should not only grow more powerful, but he should become a more specific type of character.

There are a lot of different mechanics that further this goal. 
* Skill trees, allow you to start with relatively generic skills and refine them into something better & more specific.  For instance Melee weapons > Staff weapons > Trident, with other options available at each point.
* Primary Attributes that can be improved to some degree as the game progresses
* Some skills/ abilities not available at character creation
* "Alignment" determined by in-game actions
* Just avoiding the concept of "Class"
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zenbitz
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« Reply #14 on: March 10, 2009, 09:31:19 PM »

For instance a theft/assasination quest shouldn't be offered to a PC with a strong reputation as a do-gooder, who had no stealth skills.  Similarly there's no reason we have to make an idiot PC able to solve a delicate diplomatic or science side quest.
I agree with this, but would be happy to supply subtle "hints" to the player that he's missing something.  Or double-end them, so if he's a do gooder - have the local constabulary get him to infiltrate the thief plot.

Quote
In other words, as the PC progresses, he should not only grow more powerful, but he should become a more specific type of character.

There are a lot of different mechanics that further this goal. 
* Skill trees, allow you to start with relatively generic skills and refine them into something better & more specific.  For instance Melee weapons > Staff weapons > Trident, with other options available at each point.
* Primary Attributes that can be improved to some degree as the game progresses
* Some skills/ abilities not available at character creation
* "Alignment" determined by in-game actions
* Just avoiding the concept of "Class"

I pretty much agree with all of the above... but I am not even sure the PC really gets much more powerful.  This is actually why balance can be such a problem in an open ended game.    Maybe we should focus on keeping the PC within relative human norms, but become more flexible (more skills, etc.).

The only thing above I have trouble with is "Primary Attributes can be improved to some degree".   If you make it easy to do so and give the player a choice - he will almost always improve an attribute that helps a bunch of skills or tasks.  It's just more "cost effective" in XP or character points.  So, you have make it very expensive or take away the choice option, or make it only in certain circumstances.    Now, I am not saying they _can't_ be improved... but we have to be very carful to keep things bounded.
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