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True non-linear open world system concept


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#1
Charles_Mattias_Wolf

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I have noticed many games have attempted to build "open world" concepts, only to fail due to the limitations set upon them by the "box" of RPGs.

we have not truly changed the underlaying systems of an RPG since DnD was invented,  pick a class, level it, use the abilities specifically created for it, go from zone to zone designed for each specific range of levels (1-10, 10-20, etc) or make the levels truly useless by scaling all enemies to match (when you are level 10, so are the enemy mobs), the player is often also made out to be some super hero of their own story, a chosen one, as it were,  even when they attempt to go wholely dark.    in addition, most times armors and other equipments are built more as "stat sticks" to increase ones Strength, Endurance, Intelligence, etc.   This System, while it has many advantages, it also has many flaws, the biggest would be that it ultimately always ends up being a linear story following a tower scheme, going from leveling zone to leveling zone to end game zone to leveling zone to end game zone, etc.  depending on expansions.

In a wider view of other genere's of gaming, shooters, racers, the new MOBA systems, outside of competition, what keeps people returning to these games, you do not, on a general basis, level up, or see new maps, or even really aquire new abilities,  you are more often on the same maps, repeating the same actions.  is it truly just the competitve system they bring that keeps those parts fun?  or do we as humans actually have a desire to return to places we have explored before?  we can see in games that have made a more open world system (skyrim) that people do enjoy going back to old places revisiting areas they would have, otherwise long since "outleveled" 

so how do we go about creating the solution to these issues while keeping the core of an RPG alive,  to give players the ability, and control they desire over their characters, while being able to give them a story to enjoy, a world to explore.  it is not as difficult as you would think.  the biggest issue with this system is actually a developers point of view as it can hinder the value of what expansions would be,  this can be offset with other current age systems, like an in game store for additional content patches.

so how would one create a system that could do all this and still keep people entertained for years? to simplify the answer I came up with, without going into heavy detail to protect my creation until its ready to be released:

- remove general level, replace it with individual skills gaining level upon 'use' player made abilities with simplified system variation to create balance.  this also can extend the longevity of zones as people will not feel the absolute requirement to 'move on' to the new zones due to outleveling them.

- remove classes, replace with role systems.  I have brought it down to 2 / 5 roles to truly optimize the system:  Tank, Healer, Support, Scout, Assault.  this gives players a sense of uniqueness (a tank/healer would play differently to a tank/support or a tank/scout) while shifting the systems to allow for more "normalization" as such focusing on any given role would not create an imbalanced system (like in PoE, how some classes can be very weak compared to others, purely because of how they were created, like monk and ranger)

There are other aspects to the system I am not solid on yet, but I wish to get feedback from communities on their thoughts upon these ideals.

(or potentially spark interest from obisidian in the system, as I would happily work with them to make it into a reality faster then I am currently, as it is effectively just me working on it currently)



#2
Hynkel

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The reason classes exist is because DnD is designed to be a cooperation game. Having flawed characters force players to rely on each other. 

 

That's why games such as the Elder Scrolls and Fallout, where your character fights alone, ditch the class system ; but that's also why Baldur's Gate and Pillars of Eternity don't. These games need flawed characters so that they can restitute the feeling of a party where everyone fills a role.

 

But I do agree that classes limit creativity. Actually, a lot of tabletop RPGs don't use a class system (e.g World of Darkness). But it can be extremely hard to balance. You can't allow players to pick whatever they want (say, backstab at level 1, barbarian rage at level 2, Tenser's transformation at level 3...) without turning the game into a brokenfest. There are ways to force specialization and balance things up, but building such a system can be very challenging from a game design aspect.

 

I also agree that power growth from leveling up is an issue, but I don't like the solutions your suggesting. Abilities getting stronger upon use creates some really really bad incentives (having your big tank stay still in front of a weak goblin for hours so that your healer gains healing proficiency points) ; and "roles" sounds like an even more limitating version of classes to me.

 

The issues you're pointing out do not come from the XP system, but from how RPGs tend to be about "numbers going up". People like stat boosts because it feels rewarding, even when it's completely artificial (you go from dealing 10 dmg against 100 HP monsters, to dealing 100 dmg against 1000 HP monsters). Games such as Diablo or some J-RPGs and MMOs rely almost entirely on that concept, but C-RPGs are far from being above that.

 

I'd like for once to have a very ballsy RPG design where you only gain new abilities from leveling up and no extra HP or stat boost whatsoever ; where levels are about complexifying the game by giving the player more options, instead of artificial gratification ; where bad combat planning can still get your super high-level warrior killed by 1st dungeon monsters. 

 

But to be honest, I'm not sure how players would react to the idea !



#3
CrumpetsForBreakfast

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It sounds like an MMO system or heavily based on the MMO design formula used today. Roles are more limited than classes, because roles didn't exist in 3rd and previous editions of D&D a fighter could focus or not focus on various things.

 

The area problem is just because of repeating content and addictive cycles which MMOs use.



#4
Amentep

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I think the reason people go back over older areas in open-world gaming has less to do with the character build and more to do with the idea that open-world games are at their heart about exploration, and typically that exploration is multi-level (ie going back to an area with more experience either alters the area or allows you to experience more parts of the area).  The narrative, while existant, is secondary to the exploration.

 

Traditional RPGs are about narrative more than exploration.  Therefore returning to an area only becomes important to the player if the narrative itself returns the player to that location.



#5
Fenixp

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I'd like for once to have a very ballsy RPG design where you only gain new abilities from leveling up and no extra HP or stat boost whatsoever ; where levels are about complexifying the game by giving the player more options, instead of artificial gratification ; where bad combat planning can still get your super high-level warrior killed by 1st dungeon monsters. 

Oblivion did basically that and people hated it :-P

 

Seriously tho, it's not a concept that would be unknown in games. The original Metroid already had expansive levels with very little stat growth, but with a lot more complexities unlocked along the way. The original System Shock worked like that too, actually. But yes, I don't think it'd fly in more traditional RPG games.



#6
Hynkel

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I'd like for once to have a very ballsy RPG design where you only gain new abilities from leveling up and no extra HP or stat boost whatsoever ; where levels are about complexifying the game by giving the player more options, instead of artificial gratification ; where bad combat planning can still get your super high-level warrior killed by 1st dungeon monsters. 

Oblivion did basically that and people hated it :-P

 

Oblivion aligned the monsters' level to the player's, which is the exact opposite of what I had I mind ;)

 

But yeah, you more or less nailed it with Metroid and System Shock (I was actually thinking about Megaman when I wrote this :) )



#7
Charles_Mattias_Wolf

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The reason classes exist is because DnD is designed to be a cooperation game. Having flawed characters force players to rely on each other. 

 

That's why games such as the Elder Scrolls and Fallout, where your character fights alone, ditch the class system ; but that's also why Baldur's Gate and Pillars of Eternity don't. These games need flawed characters so that they can restitute the feeling of a party where everyone fills a role.

 

But I do agree that classes limit creativity. Actually, a lot of tabletop RPGs don't use a class system (e.g World of Darkness). But it can be extremely hard to balance. You can't allow players to pick whatever they want (say, backstab at level 1, barbarian rage at level 2, Tenser's transformation at level 3...) without turning the game into a brokenfest. There are ways to force specialization and balance things up, but building such a system can be very challenging from a game design aspect.

oh I fully agree that abilities need to have ways of being progressed into,  it is a part of the skill system I have been attempting to work on,  as the players would be given basic abilities that have simple evolutions attached initially, but they would be able to find more in the world from trainers, or from progressing with abilities they have found to certain points to unlock new abilities.  IE: using a basic flame ability might unlock a fireball.  etc.   giving people specific abilities early on would turn the game into a brokenfest, like you said. 

Challenging, yes, the role system along with an evolution system gives players reason to focus, gives players focus on what role they will take in a party

 

 

I also agree that power growth from leveling up is an issue, but I don't like the solutions your suggesting. Abilities getting stronger upon use creates some really really bad incentives (having your big tank stay still in front of a weak goblin for hours so that your healer gains healing proficiency points) ; and "roles" sounds like an even more limitating version of classes to me.

 

I agree, that would be a potential issue, but I am looking at building a system where everything is 'dangerous' if you do not attack and avoid, or, in the case of strong end game armor that will make it do no damage, it would notice and run, as it would see no hope in winning.  thus weak mobs will have intelligence to run from 'geared' individuals.  this also might prove an issue with abilities being used on these mobs, but attack abilities will gain experience to the amount of damage they deal, so low ranking mobs that would be deamed "weak" would likely die in one hit and not give much experience to the weapon on its use as the total damage being done was less due to it being a one hit kill.  

not wearing armor would give all enemies the ability to one hit kill,  and armor will have durability loss that increases with every hit the same creature does to you.   so you will lose your armor faster if you just keep letting one mob bash on you.  making it an unwise move.

Rather then think of Roles as limiting, think of roles as "this is a tank / support" it can use its support abilities to control mobs, while tanking others.  but now ask, are you tanking close up, or using support slowing abilities to kite the enemies? 

 

The issues you're pointing out do not come from the XP system, but from how RPGs tend to be about "numbers going up". People like stat boosts because it feels rewarding, even when it's completely artificial (you go from dealing 10 dmg against 100 HP monsters, to dealing 100 dmg against 1000 HP monsters). Games such as Diablo or some J-RPGs and MMOs rely almost entirely on that concept, but C-RPGs are far from being above that.

again, you have made a good comment on the numbers going up, and I agree, players like the feeling of getting stronger by certain numbers being able to be increased.  I was thinking of making a more "fallout" style Attribute system, where they exist between 1-10 and players start at around 3 for each stat for a 'normal' human, maybe letting players put a few stats up to 6 or 7 but have these abilities effect the games non combat systems more then their combat systems.  As for feeling stronger with numbers rising.  As I had mentioned above, armor reducing a set amount of damage, but I am also intending to divide "armor" into a more 'resistance' system entirely, where physical is redivided back to Piercing, Bludgeoning, Slashing, with Cold, Frost, and shock, being added as the elemental attacks, giving each armor a unique amount of damage reduction to each of these numbers.  giving the ability to make armors that are really good in some dungeons, but really bad in others.  

 

I'd like for once to have a very ballsy RPG design where you only gain new abilities from leveling up and no extra HP or stat boost whatsoever ; where levels are about complexifying the game by giving the player more options, instead of artificial gratification ; where bad combat planning can still get your super high-level warrior killed by 1st dungeon monsters. 

 

Precisely my intent.  you gain new abilities by "leveling up" old ones instead of leveling a general level.  it is 100% meant to be a system to give players the most options possible to fufil their chosen "roles" once you find it.  but putting them together exactly how you want can be time consuming and thus give a player a sense of accomplishment when they have this kickass ability that does feel a bit broken, because they have put the time and effort to build it that way.  it encourages players to go back to lower level zones to relevel new abilities they have created to potentially refine their skills. 

 

But to be honest, I'm not sure how players would react to the idea !

 

 

 

It sounds like an MMO system or heavily based on the MMO design formula used today. Roles are more limited than classes, because roles didn't exist in 3rd and previous editions of D&D a fighter could focus or not focus on various things.

 

The area problem is just because of repeating content and addictive cycles which MMOs use.

 

you would initially assume that roles are more limited then classes, but when Classes were intially designed, they had to be set to niche limits for the pen and paper experience to work the way it did.  I am working toward a system of exploring and options, giving players the nudge to explore and make a name for themselves, yes I was working on a multiplayer / MMO system, as i enjoy the concepts of players working together to attain a goal they would not be able to attain on their own.   a good narritave based game ends, a good open world game can last for a long time.  especially in the presence of other players.

 

 

I think the reason people go back over older areas in open-world gaming has less to do with the character build and more to do with the idea that open-world games are at their heart about exploration, and typically that exploration is multi-level (ie going back to an area with more experience either alters the area or allows you to experience more parts of the area).  The narrative, while existant, is secondary to the exploration.

 

Traditional RPGs are about narrative more than exploration.  Therefore returning to an area only becomes important to the player if the narrative itself returns the player to that location.

this is wholely a great point.  traditional RPGs are about narritave, and in the singlular-player based system (by that I mean how the player in many games is given special accomidation and feeling just for being the player, usually being a chosen one pushed into a quest of epic preportions, and while this is by no means a bad system, it has a tenancy to lose that feeling of specialness if you introduce a multiplayer system of any sort, but it is still often the case with games that support multiplayer) can turn on rails - and thus even minimal linear pushes through the story, or you happen to always be there at the right time for the big battle as if it was waiting for you, no matter how much dilly dallying around you did before hand.

so instead I am opting to return to a journal system, where the player can be read back or read back themselves the idea of how their characters journey has come about.  Giving the player a sense of control to their characters life, it is much more true to 'their' journey.  this does not mean I will not build narratives that the players will be sent on, but I can contain and spread them out and make them feel more unique by making the player join in as they see fit.  
 

 

 

I'd like for once to have a very ballsy RPG design where you only gain new abilities from leveling up and no extra HP or stat boost whatsoever ; where levels are about complexifying the game by giving the player more options, instead of artificial gratification ; where bad combat planning can still get your super high-level warrior killed by 1st dungeon monsters. 

Oblivion did basically that and people hated it :-P

 

Seriously tho, it's not a concept that would be unknown in games. The original Metroid already had expansive levels with very little stat growth, but with a lot more complexities unlocked along the way. The original System Shock worked like that too, actually. But yes, I don't think it'd fly in more traditional RPG games.

 

like Hynkel said in his last post, Oblivion was one of the first to attempt mob scaling to level, which is the wrong way to think about my system,  I was more building it to a concept of small stat growth that makes your selection of options more important then how high your level is.  if your fighting creatures that constantly shoot electrical shocks, your not going to have a good time in metal, but you might be better off in ceramics.  for example.   

Ultimately by attempting to give all the players 'more options' then they could account for, in weapon types, in damage types, in armor types, in ability types, have them evolve, slowly from experiencing other abilities.



#8
Nail

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I have noticed many games have attempted to build "open world" concepts, only to fail due to the limitations set upon them by the "box" of RPGs.

we have not truly changed the underlaying systems of an RPG since DnD was invented,  pick a class, level it, use the abilities specifically created for it, go from zone to zone designed for each specific range of levels (1-10, 10-20, etc) or make the levels truly useless by scaling all enemies to match (when you are level 10, so are the enemy mobs), the player is often also made out to be some super hero of their own story, a chosen one, as it were,  even when they attempt to go wholely dark.    in addition, most times armors and other equipments are built more as "stat sticks" to increase ones Strength, Endurance, Intelligence, etc.   This System, while it has many advantages, it also has many flaws, the biggest would be that it ultimately always ends up being a linear story following a tower scheme, going from leveling zone to leveling zone to end game zone to leveling zone to end game zone, etc.  depending on expansions.

In a wider view of other genere's of gaming, shooters, racers, the new MOBA systems, outside of competition, what keeps people returning to these games, you do not, on a general basis, level up, or see new maps, or even really aquire new abilities,  you are more often on the same maps, repeating the same actions.  is it truly just the competitve system they bring that keeps those parts fun?  or do we as humans actually have a desire to return to places we have explored before?  we can see in games that have made a more open world system (skyrim) that people do enjoy going back to old places revisiting areas they would have, otherwise long since "outleveled" 

so how do we go about creating the solution to these issues while keeping the core of an RPG alive,  to give players the ability, and control they desire over their characters, while being able to give them a story to enjoy, a world to explore.  it is not as difficult as you would think.  the biggest issue with this system is actually a developers point of view as it can hinder the value of what expansions would be,  this can be offset with other current age systems, like an in game store for additional content patches.

so how would one create a system that could do all this and still keep people entertained for years? to simplify the answer I came up with, without going into heavy detail to protect my creation until its ready to be released:

- remove general level, replace it with individual skills gaining level upon 'use' player made abilities with simplified system variation to create balance.  this also can extend the longevity of zones as people will not feel the absolute requirement to 'move on' to the new zones due to outleveling them.

- remove classes, replace with role systems.  I have brought it down to 2 / 5 roles to truly optimize the system:  Tank, Healer, Support, Scout, Assault.  this gives players a sense of uniqueness (a tank/healer would play differently to a tank/support or a tank/scout) while shifting the systems to allow for more "normalization" as such focusing on any given role would not create an imbalanced system (like in PoE, how some classes can be very weak compared to others, purely because of how they were created, like monk and ranger)

There are other aspects to the system I am not solid on yet, but I wish to get feedback from communities on their thoughts upon these ideals.

(or potentially spark interest from obisidian in the system, as I would happily work with them to make it into a reality faster then I am currently, as it is effectively just me working on it currently)

Try out new Zelda



#9
CrumpetsForBreakfast

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It isn't a case of role based characters "initially seeming" more constricted than class based characters. It is simply a fact by virtue of a roles tightly defining what a character can and cannot do whereas a class is just a package of stuff you start with. The inception of role cased systems for the MMO genre brought about the so called Holy Trinity which is a rock-paper-scissors style concept that ensures a tank needs a dps and healer to succeed, a healer needs a tank and dps, and a dps needs a tank and healer. From a historical view the MMO industry has been stuck in this design pattern ever since with very few variations.

 

On the other hand D&D and other games have had things like multiclassing since decades long gone. There is very little restriction in a table top role playing game, a character with fighter class can be a sniper, can be a socialite, or like Indiana Jones, or the modern concept of a "tank" character. Class systems just give you a base package and you fill in the details as much as you like, AD&D did this with proficiencies and non combat profiencies among other rules like class kits and feature buy systems. D&D 3.5 did this with an extensive skill list and near limitless feat list, flaws, traits, alternate class features, and beyond limitless multiclassing options. The only limitation in computer games is due to the limit of options developers make available, and I don't see how an alternative system increases developer productivity and reduces costs.

 

They also had story heavy progression rules like in 2nd edition AD&D when a druid would stop leveling until they could succeed or defeat various ranked druids, eventually they could rise to be the boss druid or they could step down from power and become the hierophant druid. In D&D 3.5 the designers also specifically added tests and organizations which would guard access to certain prestige classes but also feats.

 

So those features have always existed but if people didn't use them that's kind of their own fault. It's not like you can say it's never been done professionally before.

 

There's a wealth of material out there now, all easily accessible, so anyone interested in design can easily find out what designers came up with before.

 



#10
Katarack21

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They have that. It's called MMORPG's.






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