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HunterOG

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  1. It occurs to me that there is at least one other reason for 'resting' which is to run the clock on the game so as to get to certain events, or wait out certain status effects. This is something I neglected, but I think it's fairly incidental to the other stuff I was talking about. Oh well :-P
  2. This is an excellent and elegant distillation of my original post. If the term 'recursive partial success' had been in my lexicon I might have managed to cook a real meal that evening. The execution works more or less as I'd enjoy seeing it as well. I threw out a couple iterations or approaches, but this one would work for me. The long and short of it is that I think the binary 'success/fail' behavior of a lot of non-combat skills (pickpocketing in this instance) in these games are some of the weaker design aspects. Aesthetically and thematically, I love the abilities. Mechanically speaking I'm essentially flipping a coin several thousand times which seems woefully simplistic, especially when compared to such a dynamic and sophisticated combat structure.
  3. Hey Chrononaut! Judging from your response, we're bound to have slightly different preferences here - but I'd like to refine a few of my statements so as not to sound so much like I'm requesting a point-and-click television program Hopefully I can allay some concerns about soap-opera-ness and also demonstrate how, mechanically, such ideas could be implemented. I'd say that any CRPG is a mix of mechanics/cosmetics. I'd agree that the change I'm suggesting is more cosmetic than mechanical, but I don't think it has to be to the detriment of the game mechanics themselves. One of the things that separates the good IE games from the great ones (IWD/BG1 vs. BG2/PS:T) is that the great ones managed pack in huge amounts of storytelling into the empty space from earlier games (the fact that they did the same thing with the mechanics, at least in BG2s case, didn't hurt either ). One thing a lot of people talk about really liking was Dakkon's development in PS:T, for example. I think it could be interesting to ground some (not all) of that type of activity in a space, rather than whipping around and just pestering him for his life story, apropos of nothing. Other things worked very well in the field and made a lot of sense to me. Take Edwin studying his nether scrolls in BG2 - I totally bought that he was hanging back in the party, reading those things whenever we were walking somewhere, biding his time... ***Disclaimer*** One thing I want to make clear is I don't want to force players to engage in this sort of activity if they don't want to. I hate lengthy cut scenes, tiresome voice-acted conversations between characters, and the padding of game time by forcing players through circuitous, farcical means of party management (walk across town to the blacksmith, then ten blocks away to the alchemist! booo...) The base camp thing that kicked off the post was more of a statement of opinion - that stuff already exists in games and people like it or they don't. It's become a trope at this point. After sleeping on it, here are some questions that maybe I should have posed that would clarify things: 1. Where are party 'safe zones'? 2. When the party is in a safe zone, how does it behave? 3. What sort of game features would define a safe zone? Here it goes: 1. Where are party 'safe zones'? A 'safe zone' would be anywhere that the party took a load off and engaged in their own thing while they were there. I liked how Dragon Age handled the campsite - you could choose if you wanted to go there whenever you entered the world map. You didn't have to, but the option was available. The camp itself lacked interest but I still appreciated the element. What if you gave the opportunity to make camp in other, more interesting locations as well? In between some levels of a deep dungeon, you could make camp under gigantic ruins or over a vast abyss. Climbing up a mountain, you could huddle in a cave near the summit. Travelling through a deep forest, you find a huge, hollow tree to camp in. J. Trudel's suggestions were all great as well. At these locations, your party could have the opportunity to meet NPCs. This wouldn't be so different from a random encounter but would give it a sort of character. Also, if you were attacked while camping, there could be a geographic element to the encounter, if you're trapped in a cave or fighting on a mountain ridge. Since inns are already in pretty much every RPG ever, set them apart by designating them as a safe zone (at least when you get there). Your companions can spread out over the inn and do their thing, and that way your PC can move through the space without you pushing the party through a mass of obstructions. If a fight breaks out, there's strategic interest in that your party is scattered, and maybe they have to fight their way through the space to gather with one another. This sort of scenario's interest would be dependent on combat mechanics - if there was any added enjoyment to be had by fighting with a scattered party on occasion. The stronghold is in, by the sounds of it, so might as well give it some life. If there's nothing to separate it functionally from a camp site then I agree, it's inconsequential and probably redundant. All things being consistent, I'd MUCH rather have a campsite whose functions follow me to a degree than one I have to trudge back to. One thing I am not suggesting is that, every time the player clicks a 'camp' button, the whole party fans out wherever the PC is standing on the map. 2. When the party is in a safe zone, how does it behave? I described this in the original post, so I'll try and sum it up by saying that they do a couple things differently than usual. They are outside player control, which means that they are free to act in accordance with their personality as dictated by the space. They interact with the PC independently of the party as a whole (in private, or with a select set of party members). They can get into their own kind of trouble, and the player has the option to intervene, or let it play out, or let other party members intervene, etc. Also, your entire party could occupy the safe zone, not just the six active members. This is a chance to see party members interact that might not typically be in an active party together (though PE's limited cast might not be much of concern in this regard), two thieves, for example. One thing I found strange in games where you cart everyone around (Dragon Age) was this tacit implication that while you were in the city, everyone else was camped outside (even if that wasn't the intent). I'd love to see inactive party members strolling through the marketplace, playing cards, or at least sidled up to a bar. Mechanically speaking, I would still keep everyone's inventory accessible and seek to streamline party management in every way possible. I'd even extend party management to everyone who wasn't in the active party. No way in hell would I expect the player to track down individual companions or anything like that. 3. What sort of game features would define a safe zone? This is more about mechanics. Basically the safe zone is the place where you would have unfettered access to the whole party and their joint abilities/inventory. It's where you can make any and all preparations. Sure, this can all be done with a series of menus, but I described above my personal justifications for tying this player activity to an area. In terms of what's there? I don't know about shops - personally I like the shopping aspect of the game to be separated from the party (Dragon Age had a shopkeeper following you around, which rang false), so I'd leave shopping to towns and outside vendors. Specific camp sites, as described above, might have a shopkeeper hanging around. I'm a bit of a crafting-hater, and consider 96% of that activity to be padding of game time (BG2 had almost enough, as far as I was concerned). I prefer the narrative component of meeting the guy/gal who can make the item, and as an artist I even get a little offended that someone who spends most of their time slaughtering monsters can also slap together a holy sword whenever they please. I imagine there's a bit of a debate when it comes to limited access to gear and things like that. I understand the desire to be able to get at anything whenever you want, camping or not, and the tedium of inventory restrictions. However I can see from the designers perspective the huge strategic component of forcing players to limit their available decisions once they enter into the combat structure. I'm of the opinion that the developer must have the ability to limit access to assets. That being said, I think that in camp, you have maximum fluidity and control. In the field, you're stuck with what you brought; if you want to switch things up you better hoof it back to a safe zone. Dialog wise, this is where the script can really breathe when it comes to party interaction. As I said earlier, I wouldn't want to cram it down a player's throat - but I do believe that for many people this is the most memorable part of a game. You can't downplay the importance of characters in a party. They're almost always more compelling than the broader narrative (which is generally predictable), they offer the most sustained relationship with the PC, and their interaction as a group makes the whole story feel more human. Instead of having your companions pipe up from their place in line and go on a monologue, you can have a contextual environment for conversations, fights, rivalries and friendships. The players' level of engagement is absolutely up to them. Now a footnote on: Resting and Spatial Impact This is in regards to some mechanical concerns that might arise about safe zone locations, but it ended up being a bit broader. 'Resting' basically serves one purpose in an IE game - the resetting of spell count and activated abilities. The classics would discourage players from doing this over and over through monster attacks, but such tools were often circumvented by reloading the game. Since then, there's been all sorts of ways to dictate ability use vs. combat challenges. It's a crucial part of making the game fun - where do you force players to commit to the their choices, and where are they allowed to change their mind? I always liked the memorization mechanic in D&D. A 'mana pool' basically encourages the player to figure out the most efficient spell and just use it over and over again. That, or it uses a sort of rock/paper/scissor spell mechanic (fire magic beats ice!) that, once the player has deciphered it, is completely predictable and repetitive (which JRPGs do and is TERRIBLE). By engineering a scarcity to magic use, the designer treats it a lot like gear and consumables - players have to treat magic in a preparatory way. They develop a strategy that is personal to them, rather than being dictated case-by-case with the enemies they encounter. It's really one of the best parts about these kinds of games - a gameplay element you can't find anywhere else. By tying resting to spell use, the designers made it temporally independent from other party decisions. Resting, mechanics wise, is actually a complete misnomer. It has nothing to do with rest in the human sense, and everything to do with the opportunity to make tactical spell loadouts. If there are eight beats to game segment: O - O - O - O - O - O - O - O You may have the chance to revamp your whole party and gear in two places, say: O - X - O - O - O - X - O - O But you also have the chance to rest in places, and therefore change up your spells in two other places: O - S - O - S - O - S - S - O The location of these opportunities is a pretty big deal in terms of how the game is designed. In a classic IE game, you could pretty much try and rest whenever you wanted. Players could determine for themselves if they felt like save-scumming in order to have exactly the spells they wanted at all times without having to deal with monster attacks (or just fight off the monsters and rest again). I'm not opposed to this design choice, though at this point you could view the idea of 'resting' as kind of inconsequential: why not just have spells recharge after every combat scenario? That's if we're talking strictly mechanics. In actuality resting is also a cosmetic addition to the game, though it's aesthetics are pretty wonky. So my suggestions draw more attention to the physical activity of resting - linking it with an area and character action rather than a button click. This can yank the mechanic away from mages and it would seem that something might have to step in to take its place. Maybe mages went into a meditative state? Maybe they just get to gather their thoughts and their spells are replenished right away (I would not like this)? Maybe they can't recharge their spells until you leave that portion of the map, at which point (whether you actively enter camp or not) resting and recharging are implied? Maybe you can only rest/recharge at certain spots on the map, like little camp sites or lean-tos? Maybe resting would stay exactly the same. One thing it does is imply a sense of time to an area. It implies the passage of time in a very specific way - often it actively tells you "You rest for 8 hours." That's what I mean when I say the aesthetic are wonky. It feels strange to wake up, walk across a field, fight a couple monsters, and then lie down and pass out for eight hours. Or to be in a huge field of monsters and find a little hidey-hole, obscured by fog of war, and find eight consecutive hours of peace and quiet. The implication of time doesn't really jive with the space that is visually evoked. Then again, who cares? It does get me thinking about the mechanics of party replenishment and where this occurs. Older games largely put it in the hands of the player, whereas newer games tend to decide when your party is recharged on your behalf. Depending on when a party gets to heal/recharge - it can really dictate how the developer chooses to carve up the space that they occupy. I think a lot of designers take the easy way out by just having your party heal up at the end of every battle. This way, they don't have to think about the challenge of consecutive engagements. This is definitely easier on the designer, but it's also a missed opportunity for the kind of resource management that defines the best of these games. Older games had a nice compromise where you could choose to keep pressing forward on a steadily diminishing number of assets. Getting as far as you can in this fashion was actually a big part of why these games were fun. You had the opportunity and satisfaction of accomplishing a lot with a little, getting to your destination running on fumes. When it got to be too much, you could rest up and heal, but you didn't have to. This is a lost dynamic in many games today, and I hope they endeavor to keep it intact here. And if I remember correctly there are instances where you weren't allowed to rest, and then you had a great interaction between player and designer in the form of an protracted combat challenge, where you'd have to fight continually without an opportunity to heal. I'd like to see more of this as well. Reading that last paragraph back to myself, it occurs to me that I really, really like the opportunity for the player to deprive themselves of resting up if they want to. But I also like the camaraderie of the safe zone. I'd love to see both, when all is said and done. Oi! Too much writing! Thanks if you read all of it.
  4. I think this is arguing semantics. He says that choice is illusory because your choices have predefined boundaries. You say that's bull because your choice is, nonetheless , a choice. I don't think either of you are wrong. At least from my perspective. I just see a difference in focus. One can focus on the fact that in a game, no choice can be made that isn't permitted by the system. And, usually, these choices are in the system by design. Or you can focus on the fact that, the system notwithstanding, you can still make your choices (provided they are permitted). And perhaps more importantly, you can have your own reasons for making those choices- that is something that cannot be contained in code or a system. Whether there are infinite paths that you can take, or just two, you can still be an agent to decide what path you go down. I suppose you can even argue with only one path you decide whether to go down it at all. Thanks PieSnatcher - I didn't intend to take an adversarial stance or anything - I mostly wanted to draw the connection between player choices and the labor involved in game design. I think the attitude of the designers toward narrative, and what they're focused on, can often show through by what they emphasize in the final product. I like choices in games, but it does seem the enjoyment that I derive from those choices is different from Micamo. To each their own.
  5. Hey Folks, I was reading Chris' post regarding companions, and it got some wheels turning. I wanted to throw out some ideas I had regarding these elements of the game - which I would say are probably my favorite part of just about any RPG. In this post, I wanted to open up a discussion about party behavior during those 'quiet moments.' Here's certain elements that I like, that I'd love to see implemented: RELAXATION Base Camps, Party Spread, Party Character The concept of a base camp, a place for the player to relax, interact with their party, and engage in routine maintenance, is something that I've always liked about RPGs. I liked it as a kid and I still like it today. However, there are multiple ways of doing it, and I don't think it necessarily needs to be something so simple as 'when you rest, everyone is hanging around a campfire.' Different games have handled it in all sorts of ways in the past. Base camps can be big or small. They can travel with you (Dragon Age, Breath of Fire) or remain in a fixed place (Diablo or BG21 for example). In some games, you can make functional improvements to the area (Suikoden II is one that always springs to my mind). Technically speaking, they function pretty much like towns - you don't get attacked, you have the opportunity to buy things, and there's people to talk to. The big distinction in my mind is that your party members are hanging around. For the majority of the game they are following your commands, but in this one area they are given their own identity, in that you must approach them as an NPC. They also respond to the player in a more direct way - in many respects, they're an empty space that the player fills as they progress through the game. Typically, much of the player's time is spent carving up spaces they visit, killing what's there and taking things away from it. The Home Base is the one area that players add to; they grow the space by populating it with other characters and their belongings. I don't think the presence of a base camp can be underestimated when it comes to player psychology. It not only roots the player in the world by giving them their own space, but also gives them a chance to interact with the party as characters in their own right2. Depending on the kind of mood you want to set, the character of home base can really dictate how you feel about your characters. If the camp is small and nomadic, it establishes the group as rootless wanderers. However, if it's large and stationary, with the opportunity to expand it, it paints them as a concrete force in the world and gives you a sense of their expanding influence. Improvements to the base camp can also be a huge player motivator. I find it hard to resist blowing my cash on making improvements to my town, or shack, or whatever. When these improvements have a functional aspect, it's even more fun. When the physical improvements are linked with even more characters is when I get really invested. The condition of the home says a lot about the player's situation. And i don't think it necessarily needs to be a constant upward trajectory. It could be in varying states of disrepair depending on the situation in the game at large. What if, for example, a party member took it upon themselves to tidy up the camp, and when he/she wasn't there it just degenerated into a pig sty? This could be a great storytelling device. From a design perspective, it makes party management much easier without feeling too abstracted. You generally have access to all the members of your party at once, you can move all your stuff around between them, and you can do that all important number crunching as you compare different load-outs. I haven't yet read much regarding PE's implementation of Base Camps, but it sounds like you have a stash at the very least, which I imagine means that there is also a designated area surrounding it. I'd be interested to know more about what sort of form the home base for the players will take. Party Spread is a term I use to describe the times in games where your party detaches from you when you enter a non-combat area. Final Fantasy games did this a lot. FFX, in particular, would have your whole party hang around outside a merchant stall where you could talk to them in turn. This would happen pretty regularly throughout the narrative, and it was a feature that I always enjoyed. Furthermore, in larger areas, it gives the developer a chance to have Companions act independently of the player - they have an opportunity to engage in something mysterious, covert, or at least in an active way.3 BGII and Torment had a lot of great NPC moments where they engaged with the world at large, but I was usually a chaperon when this happened, which sometimes made it feel like these people, despite having a well realized back story, didn't always have a will of their own. I enjoy this device quite a bit. For one thing, it sort of takes the concept of a base camp and overlays it onto an area that you're visiting. If your party is entering a new area and they fan out over it in a particular way, it can really give a lot of character to how you, as a group, impose yourselves on a space. This can help establish your characters as individuals or a coherent group. I've always felt that Inns or taverns in RPGs to be, if not an afterthought, at least underutilized in their social function. They tend to behave like any other area in a town. Furthermore, the moving of your six characters through a tight space crowded with a lot of people was often a clusterf*** and just felt silly. If, every time you entered an inn, your party were to sort of let it all hang out, you could open some interesting doors for scenarios. BGII had a lot of taverns. What if when you entered, Korgan sidles right up to the bar, Minsc harasses patrons with rousing nonsensical stories, Edwin sits in a corner and reads, and Keldorn posts up by the door, waiting politely. This sort of dynamic could encourage players to visit taverns and also establish their identity in a particular area. Also, the use of this sort of thing could help to preserve the party members' identity through the entirety of the game. One phenomena I've noticed in IE games is that, despite having side-quests and back stories, once you've cleared these out of the way the characters are then effectively brainwashed - you've ran through their part of the script and they just follow you around from then on out, rarely complaining or speaking their mind. I totally appreciate that at a certain point there isn't going to be any more side-missions, but including an opportunity for the party to express itself at semi-regular intervals could be a good way to keep the player from dehumanizing their companions. Party Character A party is a group of individuals, to be sure, but I'm wondering if there isn't an opportunity through the methods I described, as well as others, to define parties as a group as well. They tend to all orbit around the Player, which is as it should be, but often to the exclusion of one another. There's the obvious instances of when characters chatter at one another as they walk around, or chime in on a conversation the player is having, but are there subtle ways that the party could be given a 'group identity' that allows the player to see how his gang is viewed from the outside? I'll think on this a bit but would welcome any ideas. +Too Long, Didn't Read+ + I'd like to see a home base, and would be curious as to what it's going to look like, and if it will be used in a storytelling capacity. + Inns could be redefined as places for the party to detach from the player and socialize with NPCs and one another. + What your party does when it's not engaged in adventuring is an underutilized piece of gaming real estate. Cheers, Folks! ============================================== 1. Baldur's Gate 2 left me with very mixed feelings about how they implemented these. On one hand, I loved how your 'stronghold' provided a whole set of side-quests to undertake, how it served to define the nature of your character class in the larger society, and how the spaces were often well populated by NPCs. On the other hand, I never felt like I actually lived there, in that once I had taken over the stronghold, my party functioned in the same way as when that place was a dungeon. They often felt empty and cavernous, huge mausoleums where I could almost hear my footsteps echoing off the walls. 2. I don't mean to imply that party members have no identity of their own, merely that their actions are almost entirely controlled by the player. The occasional loss of player control gives the companions a chance to 'express themselves' in a way which would not be possible otherwise. They could loaf around, cook food, spar, do pushups, talk to one another, etc. 3. One thing that distinguishes IE games from FF is that the field and combat areas are not so divided. I do appreciate the the sudden departure of party members can be awkward or inconvenient if combat is prone to occur at any point and time.
  6. FREEDOM FORCE! I loved this game - it took a lot of the combat systems from IE games and made it into this wonderful, spatially-oriented entity. The game could be paused like BG and characters could escape danger by putting up shields, flying into the air, all sorts of stuff. Projectile attacks moved at varying speeds, objects could be picked up and thrown, certain attacks would knock guys in all sorts of directions. Most of all the multitude of characters had vastly different speeds which let the player really mix up the dynamic. If you dig this sort of thing I couldn't recommend the game more. In IE - I think mages make the most of these sorts of mechanics, and thieves to a slightly lesser extend (via backstabbing). General fisticuffs however were often pretty static. One thing I'd like to see implemented is the use of melee characters to 'screen' spellcasters - use them to defend your weaker PCs more in a more active way than just putting them out front and hoping that they're targeted - which the engagement system sounds like it'll do. I think developers are acutely aware of this kind of thing and I'd argue it's in the front of their minds when it comes to changes being made in the game design. It can be pretty tough to balance, though. If things are too fluid then moving has no purpose because the other guy can always catch you. If countermeasures are too powerful, combat becomes just as static as before, as everyone will just lock each other down. In some ways the older games do it best, I have to agree with some others that BG2 had me moving guys around like crazy, pretty much all the time. Try out a party with no heavies and you'll definitely find yourself micromanaging the bejeezus out of your men.
  7. Just curious - do people prefer to loot from menus, or is more enjoyable to loot straight from the ground? There's a part of me that thinks that, unless the menu/window that pops up provides any pertinent information beyond the item name, then what's the point really? I like the idea of a loot radius, and would even be happy if it went so far as to extend to an entire room or decently-sized exterior area (within reason). Maybe party makeup/stats or other triggers could determine what would be dug up in a room - then the player clicks the 'search room' button and is greeted with a screen that shows them everything they've found and can take. On the other hand, to take this sort of mechanism to that kind of extreme could detach the player from the area's geography. I'd be curious to know how much the 'grounding' of loot to the physical floor of an area helps to establish the player within the space. One touch from Diablo II that I liked a lot was the 'looting' of environmental elements: how you could click on a mummy and it would sort of crumble at your touch, and the items would pop out and drop onto the floor. This sort of device, when applied to slain enemies, might serve to act as a graphic signifier as them having been 'looted' while also giving players something to click on that wasn't too small. When such a device is applied to corpses, it also reminds you as the player that 'hey - this guy is dead' instead of the body looking like a cardboard cutout. Maybe some enemies would simply drop their loot (small monsters) while other would have to be activated (humanoids). Good question. When one considers the level of specificity in games like BG2 - how that one pixel could matter when shooting off your fireball or trying not to be spotted - then having to differentiate between two tiny piles of stuff is almost an extension of that game mechanic. Maybe it is the rush (no, I refuse to believe it!). I think Blizzard might've had it here - or at least the most pleasing implementation of looting up to this point. Loot pops out of enemies and onto the floor, carpeting it in a satisfying glitter and behaving very much like a pinata. A button press brings up the names of loot and provides the player something to click on that isn't too small, while also identifying the item's value via color. I haven't played D3 so I don't know if they changed it at all but it felt 'right' at the time. The one thing that I sort of missed in this system was the iconography, the little symbols of the items - which I think really builds a connection between the player and the item. However, armor would flip up and land on the ground with a satisfying 'clunk' - a sort of sight/sound design choice that was easily understood and engendered Pavlovian response. The downside is it might make the process overly procedural, and the ultimate effect is pretty cartoonish. It fits in the arcade stylings of Diablo but may feel out of place in IE games.
  8. RE: 'skill level by use' - sorry about that - I'm jumping in kind of late here and haven't had the chance to catch up on everything that's been referenced thus far. I'm mostly interested in exploring the implementation of new ideas, so if I throw something out there that's already been nixed, I'm not trying to be difficult, I swear! Thanks for the heads up though The more I've been reading over talk on the boards, the more I find myself wondering about player motivation. It's interesting to think that we all love these games, but that there's been a dearth of them recently, and that almost all of us enjoy them in retrospect - the reasons we loved them in the past might not be what drives us to play a game today. It's really interesting seeing the variety of preferences that folks who've been excited about this sort of game tend to have. Perhaps certain kinds of theft have different manners of execution? Stealing a coin purse could be fairly impersonal and done through stealth, while stealing a ring or amulet would have to be done in close quarters, during a conversation. Depending on the variety of NPC behaviors, maybe certain items can only be stolen when an NPC is engaged in a specific activity (this kind of Walsingham brought up - following someone and taking their stuff when they set it down). The idea of a precondition for pickpocketing certain items was something I had thought about as well! I think that could be a rewarding gameplay element, and also get people more engaged in dialog with NPCs. If someone mentions an item of value that a character is holding, then you would know to look for it. I think this happened in BG occasionally, but it was never a requirement - rather a clue as to who you might want to steal from. It could really broaden the dynamic without having to completely reinvent its functional elements. As I think about it more, I find that in many cases these sorts of mechanics can't help but come up against the manner of abstraction that an IE-style game engages in. In most instances, your decision making as a player is limited to a few specific areas: the field and command cursors, dialog trees, item/inventory management, and combat mechanics (which are usually embedded in the field interface). One could either fold a new mechanic into the existing interface, or frame out a new interface for its use. In the above post I'm mostly concerned with remaining under the comfortable, pre-existing umbrella and how that relationship could be improved, but it does lead me to wonder if stealth abilities mightn't get their very own interface of some kind. I'll think about this some more, but if anyone has any interesting examples I'd welcome them.
  9. Hey Micamo! Thanks for reading the long/rambling reply. You make some good points. I'd like to touch on what is being discussed here. First off, my original statement about 'why' there's so much pointless fighting in RPGs still stands: the designers spent most of their energy developing and refining a combat system, so they fill out the product with with that particular element because that's what they know, and that's what is most efficient in terms of gameplay hours. Also, considering the primary market for games is adolescent males, whose biological imperative is to kill or sleep with everyone they meet, it's arguably a crowd-pleaser. This is often to the detriment of the narrative experience and to the sophisticated players' collective chagrin. I think the phenomena exists for a very pragmatic, if sometimes cynical reason. But we totally went off the rails, so now on to less related, but perhaps more interesting topics. A couple of things. First, the DM is not there to "tell the story", or at least, they shouldn't be. An RPG is a conversation: There's a story but it's a story about the PCs, who (should be) controlled by the players. Second, the DM is limited just as the CRPG developer is, though in different ways: A DM has limited time to prepare and limited ability to improvise, while a CRPG developer has limited time to develop the game and limited ability to write scripts that can handle things they didn't expect in advance. These are effectively the same limitations though they have them in different amounts: A DM typically has a few days to prepare and a few seconds to apply their brain to an improvisation problem, while a CRPG developer has years and years to prepare their game but extremely limited ability to write code that can be creative like a human DM. This is a critical difference between being a tabletop DM and being a CRPG developer, but it's not the difference you seem to think it is. First Point: Yes, a round-table RPG is a conversation, to be sure - that's a better description of it than I'd come up with. Though I wouldn't say it is only about the PCs, the player characters are given context within the narrative that the DM creates. One thing that's pretty interesting is the exterior boundaries of that story, and how in a tabletop game they're plastic. The DM can change and the players can move to other campaigns, and the players usually bring their own back story to the 'first chapter' that the DM has orchestrated. I hesitate to put one role's importance over another, as it definitely depends on the personalities of the people playing the game. But you're right - it's an ongoing dialog between multiple parties who all have the opportunity to shape the narrative. Second: I wouldn't say the limitations are the same at all. I think it's a huge difference, and its applications result a very different play experience. Let's say you, the player, are having a conversation with an NPC. In a tabletop game, you could say any number of things, with all sorts of inflection and references contained therein. In a CRPG, your conversation will permit you a very specific number of particular options. There's no room for any gray area whatsoever - your choices are clearly defined before you as the player are even aware of what they are. Improvisation on the part of a DM might not be nearly as important as improvisation by the player; in a CRPG the player has essentially no room for improvisation beyond what is coded into the engine. I believe that to be a very significant distinction. This is just you being a bad player. It's the DM's responsibility to come up with interesting problems but it's your responsibility to come up with interesting solutions. If you're going to sit there and expect the DM to monologue the plot at you, the conversation can't happen. I put this out there by way of example via extremes. I wasn't implying that any game should (or would) unfold with me sitting there wanting to be told what was going on with no input on my part. Nor did I mean to imply that I thought it would be in a player's interest to willfully act against the DM. I just wanted to emphasize the amount of effort that goes into designing a play experience, and how frequently the DM/Designer has to answer queries from the player. In some respects, a CRPG is one extended monologue provided by the developers. They have to sustain a reality using this incredibly complex technology that we, as consumers, have the luxury of sitting back and enjoying pretty passively. If a tabletop RPG is a 50/50 split in responsibility, I don't think it's unreasonable to say that a CRPG is 90/10 (or even 99/1), with the lion's share of work falling to the developer. In a tabletop game you cull away the decisions that don't matter for the purposes of the type of game being played. Like, unless you're playing a game that focuses on struggling for basic survival against the elements, you don't ask the players exactly what they're eating and how they get it, you just assume that they get enough to eat. If the issue of food and water is meaningless (because it's a murder mystery game instead of a wilderness survival game) the DM just zooms past them and only focuses on the relevant choices. You do this for the same reasons I'm against pointless combats: If something doesn't contribute to providing the experience the players (the DM included) signed onto the game to receive, it's meaningless and should be discarded. We refer to the scenes the DM presents as the "frame", and how much detail the DM assumes away as the "hardness" of the frame. You can have a soft frame where you ask the players dozens of little questions, or you can have a hard frame where the players are asked a handful of big questions. You use a hard frame in the unimportant scenes and a soft frame in the really critical ones. This concept of hardness applies to CRPGs just as much as it applies to tabletop gaming: You don't have to implement every little thing the player could ever conceivably decide to do. Include the choices that propel the game in a meaningful direction (for whatever direction of "meaningful" applies to your particular game) and exclude or assume away the ones that don't. This makes perfect sense - and I like the terminology you use. Ultimately I suppose the level of desired 'hardness' (*har har*) would come down to the player, and where the player is getting their enjoyment from the game itself. For the sake of argument, I think this falls under the umbrella of earlier statements of mine to the effect that in a tabletop game, the 'hardness' of the frame has a level of flexibility based on the interaction between DM and PC. In a CRPG, the developer has to anticipate how important they think certain decisions will be in the mind of a player. An excellent play experience means that you and the developer were of like mind in this regard, while a poor experience is when you want more - or fewer - decisions regarding a certain event, but this isn't a guaranteed outcome even in the best circumstances. This is kind of what I was getting at when I said that if the player is enjoying the game, they won't be asking so many questions. Some people, as hard as it is to believe, like those pointless fights. Maybe they're still working out the combat system, or maybe the enjoy it simply for its own sake. I can see why a developer would want to give their game the benefit of the doubt, and throw a few more fights in the mix. If they place the importance of this part of the gameplay over that of the story, then it's an easy decision on their part. I had read another post by you wherein you said that your patience for games has diminished significantly since you were younger - you no longer want the 80+ hours of game time that you did as a kid. I'm the same way. I'm much quicker to say that a game is wasting my time than I ever was ten years ago. Stuff that seems 'soft frame' when you're fifteen just reads as filler when you're older. So don't think that I'm an apologist for games with lots of pointless combat - I commend you for walking away when you've had enough! Bull. This might be how the Call of Duty cutscene-gameplay-cutscene formula functions (and can even be used to great effect in a game like Spec Ops) but it has no place in an RPG developer's lexicon. In an RPG the story is the result of the game, what happens when you write down what happened in the session and cut out all the out-of-character and metagame stuff, not the game itself. Interesting! I was all ready to refute you out-of-hand but the more I thought about, the more your statement overtakes my own thinking. Which is not to say that I don't have a rebuttal I'll admit I was wrong in assuming on what you as a consumer were paying for. I certainly can't speak on your behalf and tell you why you bought game X - that's not for me to know. And the truth is that any of us on this board are most likely paying for both - game and story. In a perfect world they shouldn't be in competition with one another, but would exist as the harmonious experience that it sounds like we're both after. What follows is probably the meat of what I'm getting at. When the beginning and the end of a particular game are preordained (as in CRPGs) - I find that I'm not really comfortable with the manipulation of the interior details being described as 'narrative' or even 'story.' I tend to lump choices like 'I shoot him' or 'I let him go' into gameplay elements rather than story elements. This is part of the reason why I think there's such a significant difference between tabletop RPGs and CRPGs. As a player in a tabletop RPG, I take part in conceiving the story, ad-hoc, alongside the DM and other players. We grow the narrative out of the gaming experience. We can riff on each other and give one another immediate, significant feedback. As a player in a CRPG, I can sort of nudge the story elements down certain paths that the developer has cleared for me, but at no point can I operate outside the structure that has been packaged and sold to me as a product. I can't help but view the 'experience of deciding' through the abstraction of the game itself: the door A, B or C that has been erected by the stage hands. It's a decision, but a decision that is designed, is heavily constrained and lacking in the complexity or context that defines a choice in real life. It feels more like the illusion of choice than real choice. On a philosophical level, it more resembles tying my shoes than it does defining myself in any significant way. This closes the gap between 'player choice' and all those stupid bandit attacks and brings them much closer to one another than to the actual manipulation of a narrative - at least in my mind. I cannot for the life of me feel like I am telling the story, because I know any decision I make is already written into the code. I suppose this sort of thinking makes me a gaming Calvinist. It's also why I'm prepared to view 'Story' and 'Game' as binaries when it comes to CRPG design. Once the code is written, the conversation is over - the player is just choosing which parts of it they want to hear. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, but I do think it is a defining part of the medium as it currently exists. Hopefully that clarifies a few of my thoughts on the topic. Let's be clear: I'm not saying "I want lots of different choices so I can play the game over and over to see all the different outcomes." I want different choices so I can have the experience of deciding. In a book or a film you experience it through empathy with the characters, but in an RPG you experience the game through the experience of being the player character. When I replay Torment I do mostly the same set of choices every time. Understood. I sort of lumped my primary response to this in the paragraph above. It's funny, because despite all I said, Torment is one of my favorite games of all time, though I go about replaying it differently than you do, in that I try a different route each time. No matter what path I choose, the narrative still manages to be compelling despite so many elements remaining constant. In many respects, I feel like PS:T has probably predicted this entire debate by however many years it's been since its release - the whole game is about the illusion of choice, the choices that are made for a player beforehand, and the motivation for making choices at all - you as a player are thrust into a game where player decisions have apparently already been made any number of times beforehand. The writers for this game were brilliant! I was about to sum up some sort of blanket argument and then I remembered that I don't actually disagree with your statement regarding games with lots of boring, pointless fighting. In fact, I agree whole-heartedly! A toast to you, sir! POSTSCRIPT Also - someone showed this to me earlier today. This is certainly no accusation, but is hilariously relevant to any discussion about what us fickle players actually want: http://www.neatorama.com/2013/08/04/The-Internets-Dream-Game/
  10. Thanks Sacred_Path; I tried to hit each of your talking points: The use of the stealth mechanic crossed my mind, and I'm unsure as to how I would prefer it to be used. On one hand, the ability implies a level of stealth, so to 'activate stealth mode' would in many ways just be one extra button to click (at least in terms of how stealth is used in IE style games to this point) before doing the same old thing. This style of game, being the abstraction that it is, always verges on the ridiculous. Whenever my party swarms some stationary farmer like a horde of bees it crosses my mind that any sane human being would probably move aside or freak out. That's part of the reason why I think it might make more sense to incorporate it into character conversation/interaction, it might sit more comfortably in that interface, rather than the field view. I talked about pairs of pickpockets a little bit further down, and I do think that it could be implemented into a game if the designers felt that it had merit. I think it could be great fun if it were to go in that direction. Also, a pickpocket may work alone in some respects, but generally is a member of a party. Who's to say they wouldn't take part in the execution of the crime? Yeah, I never liked the 'reputation' style numeric myself - I find it to be too broad a rubric that is applied to very specific player actions. At least when they're global. For whatever reason I took a lot of satisfaction in my reputation when it came to particular locations, like in the Fallout games. By locking my behavior to geography it definitely gave it more meaning than just being generically 'righteous' or 'villainous.' It also made me feel 'known' in places I'd been and 'unknown' in new locales. In terms of consequences, I'm imagining scenarios that are scripted directly into the game and are specific to a particular theft - the altering of character behavior or the environment. This could be in conjunction with a more general reputation system that encompassed the 'mathy' parts of the game - reaction rolls, shop prices, etc.
  11. Thanks Prometheus. In response to your questions: If you steal an item in conversation wouldn't the person suspect you for stealing the item? Sometimtes. Let's say you're playing and you enter into a conversation with an NPC. This is the first time you've spoken, so he reaches out to shake your hand. If your pickpocket is high enough, this gives you an opportunity to slip the ring off his finger during the handshake. In this instance he might not necessarily notice what is happening - or maybe he would eventually notice, but only if you dawdled and talked to him for too long. When I envision the mechanic working this way, I tend to imagine in the context of a classic IE game, where dialog is often interspersed with descriptions of characters' looks or actions. In a game such as Fallout 3, where acting is visual, this sort of mechanic might not make as much sense. I don't like learning by doing skills. First If you make pickpocketing learning by doing all skills should be learning by doing. Second I would need to pickpocket each enemy to raise my skill if I want to get the good items. Fair point. It can be tedious to repeat the same skill ad-naseum just to boost it up (I will never, EVER craft another iron dagger for as long as I live). However if the mechanic were to auto-fire when it was switched on, or be woven into the interface fluidly enough that it can be performed very easily, this might not be so tiresome. One Thing they could do to make pickpocketing more interesting is to make trusting modifiers to pickpocketing. If somebody likes you(you did a quest for him/ the faction reputation is high, etc.) it would be easier to steal from him. But if you stole from a lot of people or he doesn't like you it will be more difficult to steal from him. For Sure - I agree 100% here. I think the best way to prevent a lot of reloading from pickpocketing (and other skills) is to make them not random. If you make an auto saving system(like you suggested) a lot of people will complain. That would almost definitely be the case (especially in this style of game) - but I figured it couldn't hurt to throw it out there. As someone who doesn't have to move product, it can be fun to entertain more draconian design methods.
  12. When big, open RPGs went to voice-over for the majority of their dialog is when I feel that the script was tossed into the trash can. What makes it even worse is the hiring of six voice actors for several hundred characters worth of dialog (which I still find incredibly surreal). I for one would hope for something more akin to classics like BG, Arcanum or PsT. Even when conversations were rote, they had a texture and flavor which is hard to find in newer games. The peasants in Baldur's Gate say some pretty funny/interesting stuff much of the time, and the fact that dialog didn't have to be spoken freed it up to be more literary. I think the constant use of voice over is part of an effort to make games more cinematic and 'immersive' - but in an open world game where you have to talk to tons of people with not too much to say, it generally ends up being boring. I think if writers are allowed to cut loose with the expository stuff and freed from financial constraints of casting people to read the lines, the maximalist impulse can't help but creep out, and we'd see more well-wrought dialog. It existed before, after all.
  13. I think the definition of 'game' is appropriate to discuss here - the physical product of a game and what it means for a player and the people who made it. An RPG - one in which players sit around a table and the interaction is entirely amongst human beings - is a flexible system. The DM is a person, and so they can adapt to player choices and mold the narrative accordingly. If I say I want my character to eat something he/she found on the ground, there's someone who we, as a group, have agreed is an authority on what that experience will be like. Everyone is playing the game, but the DM is telling the story. His audience is there, right in front of him, and has the opportunity to respond. A CRPG, JRPG, or any 'game' in which the player is not in direct, present communication with the people who created it, must be created at one particular moment, and played at another later (usually much later) time. As such, this system has far less flexibility when it comes to offering the players multiple narrative choices. Life is full of questions, games are games because they set up a structure in which the questions are extremely specific, and the answers (unlike in real life) have a quantifiable result that contributes towards 'winning' or 'losing.' A video game takes a tremendous amount of human effort to produce - more than could even be conceived by most of us (myself included). For each 'choice' that the player is offered, the developers have to do exponentially more work in order to create a response. Let's say you were a DM in a game of dungeons and dragons, making up a story on the spot. As a player, I sit there and say 'Then what happens? Then what happens? Then what happens? etc..." How long could you keep things interesting? How much work would you need to do beforehand to keep me from getting bored? What would you do if I simply refused to do what you, the DM, expected me to? Now, let's say for every potential narrative tangent that exists, you have to have a team of professionals animate characters, create backdrops, write dialog, record speech, code the scene, ensure the fight is "fair," and on and on. The sort of causal density you're hoping for is just unfeasible for a narrative form that requires so much investment in the physical product. It's easy to describe the consequences, but it's far more complicated to create them. In the end, after all that work, you're not even really offering the player that many choices - maybe three or four, but certainly not enough to even approach real-life decision making. Maybe to make things a little clearer: An RPG is generally two separate parts, woven together. There is the story, which is the narrative that is told to you. This is the part of the game that could be transposed to another medium - a movie or a book or a comic, for example. Then there is the game - which is the part that you play, the interactive element to the experience, and the primary content of what you are buying. Story and Game certainly influence one another in terms of texture and tone, but generally there is a clear dividing line that can be drawn between the two. Gamers often have a warped view of narrative, in that they believe that being given 'more choices' will lead to 'a better story.' This is sort of a misunderstanding of the very idea of a narrative; generally a story is told to you - you don't get to decide what happens. The reason stories are rewarding is because they fulfill a sense of causality that we, as people, hunger after, and they show us the consequences of actions that we couldn't have predicted, but nonetheless are able to believe. Furthermore, to give the player an illusion of choice could be seen on one level as socially irresponsible (that's a loaded statement and you should probably just ignore it). A story also takes a lot of work to flesh out, and to dilute that effort by offering the player a choice that doesn't actually contribute to the narrative as a whole actually detracts from the making of a story that has an impactful ending. A great book is the product of a series of incredibly considered events - there has been no Great American Choose Your Own Adventure Novel (maybe some day). You wouldn't read one book and wish for it to be three other books at the same time - you'd just go and read three more books. Stories in games often work the same way. This, of course, doesn't necessarily completely answer your complaint about bad guys with no context in video games. Sure, in most games you are descended upon by a horde of nameless, faceless baddies that exist only to chop you to pieces. Consider that the gameplay in almost every RPG is based around combat mechanics. The combat system is actually the 'game' that you are playing (plus a lot of walking around, and maybe some menus). The more the developer can encourage the player to participate in that system, the more mileage they get out of the game (not the story) they've made. If the game is fun, then there's no problem - the player won't stop to question the inanity of the story (Mario is one example, but this applies to pretty much every game ever made). If the game isn't engaging enough to occupy the player's whole attention, they (you) will get bored and wonder why they're wasting their time. They'll see through the lack of options in the gameplay and attribute their dissatisfaction to a lack of options in the story. But the game is what the player purchased. There are hundreds of fantastic genre books/short stories published every year, dozens of great movies, and many compelling television programs, and they all explore the choices you can imagine and beyond. From the standpoint of the game designer - why would I want to bother writing a bunch of inconsequential decisions into the story I'm trying to tell? Many good games include generic bad guys with the proper context. And one should keep in mind that some guys are just plain bad. Why would a bandit want to talk to you? He kills people on the road for a living - that's his job. What's the point of a monster, other than to eat unlucky travelers? Of course, some games are just plain bad - and it's your responsibility as a consumer not to play them. One game that touches on these issues, if you haven't played it before, is Shadow of the Colossus. I'd highly recommend it, in that it plays a lot like a console RPG with all those filler elements (random battles, pointless items) emptied out. It's sort of billed as a game that's 'all bosses' - but that doesn't really capture what it's all about. It's a commentary on game design in addition to being a meditation on the notion of predestiny and player motivation in games. It might soothe the hurt of having to mow down all those bandits in a future life.
  14. So I saw the mention of stats relating to pickpocket and it got me thinking; pickpocketing is one of the most enticing things in an RPG - it's always super appealing in concept and whenever I play a thief I power level that particular stat because I just cannot wait to get my hands on what everyone is carrying. The downside is that the implementation is almost always the same - save in front of the mark, keep reloading until you are successful. Essentially the only reason to bolster the stat is to save yourself the tedium of loading your game over and over again. Couple this with the extremely stiff penalty of your target turning immediately hostile and you have, in my opinion, a broken mechanic. It shatters suspension of disbelief and introduces a grinding exercise. So here are my questions: 1. Can the pickpocket ability be implemented into the interface in a different way than we are used to (the thief/steal cursor on the map)? How can the mechanic be revised in order to make it more enjoyable, more flexible, and less upsetting to the flow of the game? 2. How can the mechanic be implemented in such a way that, ideally, a player never reloads, regardless of whether or not they fail? 3. Would there be any benefit to specialty pickpocketing? ========================= 1. Can the pickpocket ability be implemented into the interface in a different way than we are used to (the thief/steal cursor on the map)? How can the mechanic be revised in order to make it more enjoyable, more flexible, and less upsetting to the flow of the game? I'm of the opinion that the current style of pick pocketing in RPGs (the specialty cursor) doesn't really work. For one, it relegates the target to a static object on the board, an impersonal dice roll. Considering that the target of a pick pocket is supposed to be a living, breathing character, it seems a bit mechanical for something so intimate. Beyond that, the two executions we generally see are either 'NPC as chest', in which the mark has a specific object on him that can be lifted on a successful roll - or 'NPC as shopkeeper' in which we get a sort of inventory screen that has variable success rates for a whole mess of items (often everything that character is carrying).1 I don't really buy either of these and I've found that neither of them are particularly rewarding afterward. Pickpocketing should feel like a heist - you should feel like you got away with something, right?2 If you find something really rare or special, it should feel special. Beyond that, there's an emotional element to theft that hasn't really been explored in games. For example - just because you succeed in lifting someone's magic ring, who's to say that they won't suspect you after the fact? What if you were steal something from an NPC that was super important? What if the loss of that particular object was a death sentence? These are just a couple examples, though I shouldn't get ahead of myself. First, the steal: how to improve it? My initial impulse is to include more circumstantial opportunities within the context of dialog trees. If your pickpocket is high enough you can be granted the opportunity to snag something off a character during certain parts of a conversation. This can also implement a sense of temporality to the activity - what if you were to steal someone's ring off their hand when they met you for the first time, or during a specific interaction? This would make the opportunity a one-time affair, which actually solves a couple problems, namely: A - Players won't know they missed an opportunity if their skill wasn't high enough, so they won't feel deprived of an experience. B - Players would be encouraged to invest in the ability beforehand so that they are alerted to the opportunity when it arises. C - By tying the act into the dialog tree, you can have the player fail while still acknowledging what they tried to do (eg. a handshake goes on a little bit too long, and the target feels uncomfortable from there on out). It still doesn't solve the constant reloading issue (but we'll touch on that later). Despite that, I think it could be a decent system to incorporate without impinging on a preexisting mechanic. Another way to approach it would be to allow the pickpocket, upon reaching a certain level of proficiency, to sight and nab whatever he wants once he's achieved a high enough level (for example, when he walks near an NPC a little window pops up that shows him an item up for grabs). No dice rolls, no reloading, no chance of turning the 'NPC circle' that hostile red. He either can steal it or he can't, and he won't get the chance unless he can. This may seem to destroy the sense of danger from the experience, but when was it ever really a risk for the player? Who but the self-proclaimed masochist wouldn't reload after screwing up? The risk factor in respect to the pickpocketing mechanic is a red herring - due to mitigation done by the player it could be said that it essentially does not exist. But what could be introduced to replace it is the consequences of stealing from someone. That, arguably, is where things would get really interesting - were he to steal something extremely dangerous or valuable. A third angle could be the chance of guaranteed success, but items that are fixed based on your skill level. Initially your pickpocket will only manage to pilfer loose change and pocket lint, but as you level up he'll be able to pilfer more valuable items. So let's say the skill always works, but it only boosts from being used, and let's say you can only pickpocket an NPC once during the whole game. Then the challenge becomes picking your targets at the right time, and choosing who to practice on, and who to save for later.3 Then the pickpocket is encouraged to sneak around more (so he can steal from enemies and raise the stat) and must also decide if a particular mark will be around later, when his skill is higher. Consequence One thing that I think is completely under-explored is the consequence of theft. In most games if players can get away with it at the time then it essentially didn't happen. This is bogus and definitely rings false. After burgling entire towns in some games, I start to really loath the citizens for being so stupid - how else could I have robbed everyone blind? If the pickpocketing mechanic is made more intentional (as opposed to a dice roll) it offers up the chance for narrative engagement in the act. The opportunities are endless and I don't really need to get into the specifics as I'm sure you can imagine your own scenarios. Of the things which could be stolen: court documents, heirlooms, genie's lamps, royal seals, family crests, sacred relics, secret passwords, unlabeled tinctures, and on and on. The theft of any one of these things could spiral out into the narrative and offer up something for the player to engage in. The act of stealing it could have more importance than the thing itself (which is the basis for many great crime stories). This, granted, is a ton of work for the designers. But it would offer a certain facet of interest that I think games very much lack - namely the connection of items with the world the player occupies. I think that more acknowledgement of what the player chooses to take would do a lot to make the game feel more real, and help to add facets to the concept of ownership in games. Furthermore, it would add mystery to items in the game. These days so many items are completely transparent. As soon as you get them you know exactly what they are - "I give thing X to guy Y and get Z in exchange." Remember the thrill of grabbing something and having no clue as to what it was for? How much more exciting would that be if you stole it? 2. How can the mechanic be implemented in such a way that, ideally, a player never reloads, regardless of whether or not they fail? I touched on this earlier. My primary notion that I would want someone to take away is that idea of player risk - that when it comes to pickpocketing there is actually none - because they'll just reload to avoid the punishment. How can a designer discourage this, or make the player not even want to? One way is go straight Dark Souls - just lock down the action in the file and force the player to live with the fact that they didn't succeed. If they fail, too late! The game is saved and you can't go back. This may seem punitive, but depending on the implementation of the mechanic it wouldn't have to be so bad: if the whole town didn't turn hostile and try and massacre them, for example. Another would be to implement guaranteed success - sidestep the dice rolling for the particular mechanic and instead make it a proverbial door to open.4 Still another would be to downplay the punishments so that they are more subtle, and less obvious. Maybe the NPC won't talk to them anymore, maybe they take a hit to reputation (which happens in many games already) - maybe something happens that the player can't actually see until later on down the road. Depending on the style of the game, the pickpocket could be the only one who takes the rap, rather than the whole party. His poor reputation could be mitigated by player action using the other characters. 3. Would there be any benefit to specialty pickpocketing? This is more of a sidebar, but still fits in with the idea of revising the mechanic. Pickpocketing is a general skill, at the moment, but who's to say that we couldn't have specific kinds of pickpockets? Depending on the type, the player could have different opportunities presented to them. A cutpurse, for example, could always succeed at filching coins from characters. A sleight-of-hand artist could specialize in taking rings/watches off characters right in front of them. Pickpockets could have proficiency in stealing items relating to their other skill sets (weapons, amulets, etc) or their race (short guys stealing items off the bottom half of the mark) or other traits that would allow them to thrive in a specific environment. What if there were pickpocket teams? Criminals of all types generally work in groups as it is, how much more interesting could things be if crooks worked in pairs or even larger groups? Going too far could make the mechanic clumsy, but lets say you had one character with high charisma chat up an NPC while a pickpocket raids them for stuff. What if you had a high-minded cleric speaking with an NPC, and had the option of your rogue stealing something during the conversation? The upshot would be an item, but it could damage the relationship between the two party members. Conclusion This is all to say that I think the mechanic could be redefined to great benefit. I think that right now it occupies the dice-rolling side of CRPG design - the part that that deals with chance and probability. The numbers part of the game works great when it comes to battles and gameplay elements that aren't so binary, and offer the players a chance to correct their mistakes, mitigate a bad roll, or the possibility of moderate success/failure (as opposed to complete failure) - but I don't know if that mode really works so well for pickpocketing. It might be better implemented as the opportunity for player discovery - a reward system that doesn't operate on a strict success/failure dynamic, rather a door to be opened. If you made it all the way though, thanks! I welcome any thoughts or input. Cheers Owen =================================================== 1. I neglected to mention the gold you can lift off of peasants and other generics in CRPGs - I don't really consider this a full implementation of the mechanic, more of a bone thrown to the person who invests heavily in the skill. 2. Actually, my personal favorite implementation of theft in a game so far is Assassin's creed. Even though you're just stealing token amounts of spare change from NPCs, the physicality and slow intention of the action is extremely rewarding. The fact that it was easy didn't bother me in the least. 3. You may notice that most of these suggestions are based on the principle of guaranteed success. That hasn't slipped by. I think that failure in theft is a very compelling notion, however it doesn't really tie in with top-down style games for one reason in particular - the goal of a pickpocket who is caught is escape. Fleeing in CRPGs almost never makes sense and usually feels stupid. You're just watching a bunch of little dudes chase each other across the map in a slow mockery of pursuit. To incorporate an escape mechanic into the genre in any meaningful way would require a ton more work and I'm not even certain of the returns, to be honest. 4. I can totally see the opposition to pickpocketing being 'too easy' - but I think that if there were going to be risk involved without constant quicksaving there needs to be some opportunity for player remedy, or at least the notion of partial success/failure. Right now the mechanic works like a coin flip, and unless the player can somehow circumvent the punishment they'll just reload their save and break the system.
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