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Unwinnable Battles


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I've become more and more intrigued with the idea of the hopeless battle. What I see as the biggest obstacle is that the majority of players would not catch the idea that it is impossible to win the battle and therefore would end the game at that spot because they could not finish it.

 

However, we do have something of a precedent in PS:T. There are areas that the player cannot access unless he allows tNO to die. In fact, if I recall correctly, access one such area is necessary to finish the game.

 

PS:T had a disclaimer saying that the PC would die during the game and not to be freaked out by it. If the design team could do something similar, then it might actually work. Moreover, lost battles might make for more interesting games.

 

I'd prepared a longer statement, but I'm starting to feel a bit guilty about taking up the space in a thread ostensibly dedicated to MassEffect. It looks to be a charming game, but I'm more interested in talking about the design aspect in general. If the mods feel it's necessary, they can split the thread. If someone else wants to create a new thread dedicated to yet another discussion of freedom, meaningful choices, and lost battles, I'd be thrilled. In any event, I'll stop cluttering this thread.

 

I think I'm in a minority with the way I look at things, but here's my perspective in regards to unwinnable battles and RPGS:

 

I prefer to think of RPGs as nothing other than a storytelling medium. No different than a novel or movie in that regard, but with interactivity and choices. That said, I don't feel that expecting a player to reload or rely on out of character information maintains that medium. I believe in exceptions, such as if the player is exceptionally poor or the player is attempting to go somewhere that is reasonably out of bounds. All of this leads to me disliking the concept of unwinnable battles based on assumptions I'm making of the concept. Basically, for me to be okay with unwinnable/hopeless battles, you'd either have to make it so they don't force the player to reload or they exist to punish the player for behaving in a manner you, as a designer, don't want them to behave.

 

Of course, those 'unwinnable' battles we have seen so far in CRPGs have actually been winnable. For example, you are fighting waves and waves of goblins, and you defeat all of them. A cutscene starts, where sixty more turn up, and everyone decides to retreat. You have no choice in the matter. You are not retreating because you and your character feel it an impossible task to fight them; you are forced to do so because the narrator has decided so. Crucially, the parts where you DID Have control, you were still fighting a 'winnable' battle, and 'won' that conflict. This is done so that the story contains a defeat for the party, but people don't get frustrated rusing headlong into the fray, not realising that there is another option. Sadly, this perpetuates the belief that inv ideo games, every battle is there to be won, every container is there to be opened and every area is there to be explored.

 

Tentative steps were taken towards remedying this linearity when some games decided to give in-game 'hints': for example, a cutscene begins when you approach a band of heavily armed soldiers, and one of your party members speak up: "They look too strong. Perhaps there is another way." The problem is that these messages are often extremely unambiguous (to avoid the confusion / frustration above), and often the player once again has no way to do things differently than one, prescripted, prepared way (i.e. a specific path to sneak through, a specific lever to pull; a specific boulder to drop down a cliff, a specific thing to set on fire.)

 

That said, I don't think it too difficult int he current system to create "unwinnable battles". Firstly, the premise needs to clearly be set that the upcoming battle will be "extremely difficult" (not "impossible". Perhaps some party members arguing; Elanee says, "there are too many, perhaps there is another way". Khelgar says "Nah, we can take them on." etc) , and perhaps objectives are set as to what the player could do. (i.e. The player's primary objective is to kill the mage and drive back as many as he can; failing that he must try to evacuate the townies by sea, burn down the granary and ensure the safety of the local medicine man.) Today's players recognise 'bonus' actions when they see them, and thus they will realise that the aim is to achieve the primary objective and as many of the side-ones as they can in a set time, as the invasion tide washes over them. Some might take Khelgar's advice and try to fight them all, but the overwhelming difficulty of the task would soon make them draw connections between the objectives and the nature of the invasion.

 

In the execution itself, people should be given some hints but should always have freedom to act. Remember NWN2's mission where you are helping the thieves smuggle stuff in that long winding path, and Qara suggests setting things on fire and saying "FIRE!" to distract the mercenaries? Well the problem with that was that you HAD to do it (you just decided who would do it), and it was done in a cutscene. A much better way would be to have, say, a pile of wood off to the side; examined by player, it says "this appears highly flammable." If the player set it on fire, the script would have the soldiers check out what is going on with some float-text (or even a cutscene THEN). If a number of such 'tricks' are prepared either in the nromal game engine or as specific scripted events, combined with the player's freedom to go around doing as much as he can before he is overwhelmed by waves of invaders, the gameplay becomes a lot more emergent, a lot more frantic, and there is definitely a sense of beign run over, and of multiple solutions.

 

That is of course a limited example, inspired from the comment about the initial attack on IWD2. But you see wher eI'm going.

"When is this out. I can't wait to play it so I can talk at length about how bad it is." - Gorgon.

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many tnanks, friend. I hope to collect my thoughts and respond to some of these views.

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I think every battle should be winnable. SOme battles should be very very very very very tough and you will need an extraordinary luck to win, but still winnable.

Murphy's Law of Computer Gaming: The listed minimum specifications written on the box by the publisher are not the minimum specifications of the game set by the developer.

 

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Unwinnable battles are not a bad ideas. In fact, depending on the nature of the game, it's a great one.

 

Pyramid Head in Silent Hill II, for instance, was a reoccurring horror that could not be beaten. The idea that there are some things you can never shoot, stab, or beat to death, is only threatening to role-play when the PC is defined by their ability to pwnzor all the other creatures in game. This definition applies to the PC in many popular FPS, action games, and RPGs.

 

In fact, I'd say that unbeatable monsters and unwinable battles are not a role-playing consideration but, rather, a thematic one.

"When is this out. I can't wait to play it so I can talk at length about how bad it is." - Gorgon.

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I like to stick to role playing in my role playing games.

Murphy's Law of Computer Gaming: The listed minimum specifications written on the box by the publisher are not the minimum specifications of the game set by the developer.

 

@\NightandtheShape/@ - "Because you're a bizzare strange deranged human?"

Walsingham- "Sand - always rushing around, stirring up apathy."

Joseph Bulock - "Another headache, courtesy of Sand"

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I like to stick to role playing in my role playing games.

 

Role-playing is not a synonym for 'able to kill everything.' By your definition, Cthulhu PnP doesn't have role-playing.

"When is this out. I can't wait to play it so I can talk at length about how bad it is." - Gorgon.

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Anything that can die should be killable. Now I am not saying that it should be easy to kill a foe. In fact it could very be near impossible to kill a foe, but if you have enough fire power to do so, or use some brilliant strategy, then the foe should be killable. I mean, take CoC for your example. How many high powered critters in that game can stand a full nuclear assault? Not many I believe. Of course, not many PCs would have nuclear weapons, but it does not change the fact that the critter needing such a weapon to kill it isn't killable.

Murphy's Law of Computer Gaming: The listed minimum specifications written on the box by the publisher are not the minimum specifications of the game set by the developer.

 

@\NightandtheShape/@ - "Because you're a bizzare strange deranged human?"

Walsingham- "Sand - always rushing around, stirring up apathy."

Joseph Bulock - "Another headache, courtesy of Sand"

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Sand:

"Anything that can die should be killable. "

 

You've said this already, but *why* should this be? And how does having NPCs that can't die take away from role-playing? I've never seen a definition of role-playing that included the ability to kill everything.

"When is this out. I can't wait to play it so I can talk at length about how bad it is." - Gorgon.

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Maybe, just maybe, the player wants to make a RP choice and go on a killing spree. GEE, WHO WOULD HAVE THUNK IT! :)

 

Now, is that good role playing? Probably not, but nonetheless it should be an option for the player character to try.

Murphy's Law of Computer Gaming: The listed minimum specifications written on the box by the publisher are not the minimum specifications of the game set by the developer.

 

@\NightandtheShape/@ - "Because you're a bizzare strange deranged human?"

Walsingham- "Sand - always rushing around, stirring up apathy."

Joseph Bulock - "Another headache, courtesy of Sand"

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Sand:

"Anything that can die should be killable. "

 

You've said this already, but *why* should this be? And how does having NPCs that can't die take away from role-playing? I've never seen a definition of role-playing that included the ability to kill everything.

An important aspect of roleplaying games, for some people, myself included, is that there is a standardized set of rules that apply to everyone. Giving specific creatures the "immortal" flag without any reason behind why they are completely immortal is breaking that standard because you are making them exempt from the rules.

 

Japanese RPGs are absolutely horrible about this. Ridiculously horrid. So horrid about it that it is not funny.

 

I want to acknowledge that in a pre-defined system that lacks the ability to improvise, such as we find in a computer game, there are limitations. All this said, I accept giving different rules to other characters only when absolutely necessary for the intended design. My ideal is that the rules apply to all, but I understand the the reasons behind special rules in rare exceptions.

Edited by Tale
"Show me a man who "plays fair" and I'll show you a very talented cheater."
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Agreed, tale. If you are going to make rules for a CRPG make sure the rules apply to everyone. PCs and NPCs.

Murphy's Law of Computer Gaming: The listed minimum specifications written on the box by the publisher are not the minimum specifications of the game set by the developer.

 

@\NightandtheShape/@ - "Because you're a bizzare strange deranged human?"

Walsingham- "Sand - always rushing around, stirring up apathy."

Joseph Bulock - "Another headache, courtesy of Sand"

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Sand:

"Maybe, just maybe, the player wants to make a RP choice and go on a killing spree. GEE, WHO WOULD HAVE THUNK IT! :)"

 

An unbeatable NPC in no way means you can't go on a killing spree. It just means that if you run into that NPC, then you'll die.

 

Think of it this way: I have an RPG in which I can walk anywhere. I decide to walk on hot lava, and I die. My role-playing has not been hampered; I've just run into the fact that my PC is not all-powerful.

 

In Silent Hill II, you can attack Pyramid Head. However, you're human and he's a supernatural creature. You don't do damage, but he does lots. If I decide to attack Pyramid Head and die, my role-playing has not been hampered. I've just run into the fact that my PC is not all-powerful.

 

Within many games, especially sci-fi and fantasy, there may be creatures that a human being cannot destroy. Like stepping on lava, they're not within your abilities. Again, it's a thematic decision.

"When is this out. I can't wait to play it so I can talk at length about how bad it is." - Gorgon.

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I think that a good example of well done unwinnable battles is in Xenogears. You'd get into a fight and if you were good enough you'd cause your enemy to expend more energy than he wants to. Thus you get a certain amount of benefits from it.

 

If we were to use the "there's to many of them we should go around" problem you'd probably set up a point that if a character killed X amount of opponents he'd cause somthing that would either make the reinforcements stop or would somehow cause yourself to get where you need to be without much effort (for example you kill to many and a general appears and kills you, but you wound him so the portion thats attacking you pulls back).

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I think a good compromise is having an unrealistic or high difficulty win probability. Like there are just hordes and hordes of enemies and if you get past them great you are massively pro and maybe there is some nice reward past them and if you don't then your story changes. i think they could work that into a game quite nicely. I mean if theres no reward just some trap (though id be pissed if they pulled that crap) or something and basically the same outcome would happen from both paths. Then I don't really care. I think for the most part rpg's seem to be heading in the right direction. Intresting story, nice combat, "structured non linear openness," characters of varying talents, and all that jazz. But i mean it doesn't really matter an unwinable battle is kind of irrelevant since it's just such a meager part of a game compared to the key elements needed for a good game.

There was a time when I questioned the ability for the schizoid to ever experience genuine happiness, at the very least for a prolonged segment of time. I am no closer to finding the answer, however, it has become apparent that contentment is certainly a realizable goal. I find these results to be adequate, if not pleasing. Unfortunately, connection is another subject entirely. When one has sufficiently examined the mind and their emotional constructs, connection can be easily imitated. More data must be gleaned and further collated before a sufficient judgment can be reached.

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Japanese RPGs are absolutely horrible about this. Ridiculously horrid. So horrid about it that it is not funny.

 

So Tale, you are saying that there is a rule everyone should follow for it to be RPG'ing, and yet a huge section of RPG's ignore this rule?

 

If you want to play the same game you have always played, and abide by the same rules of CRPGs you always have followed, then of course this idea seems anathema. But bear with me a little here.

 

(I realise that the later parts of this post overlaps a bit from my earlier one. Basically I'm integrating ideas of 'hugely difficult but not artificially coded to be unkillable' and the increase in immersion that this actually provides.)

 

The idea of making something unkillable, by adding an artificial 'unkillable' tag, so that even if you sat there chopping at his skull for 60,000 years he would not die - yes, that is rather stupid, and detracts from immersion and roleplaying. However, JUST as bad for immersion and roleplaying is the sense that the player can kill anything and everything. Why should it be possible for a player to defeat 6,000 goblins all by himself in a non-magical setting, for example? Is it raelly fun, and roleplayish, to leave every area completely devoid of sentient life before you move on to the next?

 

Let us take the example then, of the goblin invasion in IWD2. The invasion is deliberately neutered and toned down by scripts to make it winnable for the player. The goblins each have a specific area to attack, and if the player is tardy and all the NPCs are killed, the goblins, instead of proceeding to advance, simply stay there. So it's just harder, but still very possible and much much easier than it should be. The entire series of battles are pre-scripted in order to make it possible, at the expense of realism, immersion and roleplaying capabilities (you're railroaded: fight this bunch, then this bunch..). In the end you are left not feeling that you were part of a massive battle in an open field, but rather that you just went through another dungeon crawl where everybody stays in their room and never moves around.

 

What if the goblin invasion was freed from such constraints? What if A) there was a huge number of goblins, which makes the invasion realistic (as oposed to a "GREAT INVASION" of about thirty goblins), B) they actually moved around, and progressively advanced to the town, so that if you were too slow you would actually be overwhelmed, and C) there were alternative objectives and outcomes such as kill the leader, get as many townies out as you can and so forth? Possibly, if a player was extremely powerful, good at tactics, lucky, and so forth, then he could win the battle. (Thus the idea of the unwinnable battle is rather misleading, I suppose, in this case.) But this is very nearly impossible, as it should be, iun the context of the story. Thus most players would choose instead to kill a little then make their way to the objectives.

 

Sand, a very simplistic comparison here: What if instead of being artificially coded to be invincible, Bloodlines' werewolf was simply 3-4 times as strong as anything you've encountered before? If you were particularly determiend adn skilled, and lucky, you could perhaps after many many reloads, defeat the werewolf; but most would quickly realise that the sensible way is to look for an alternative solution. If the possibilities of such solutions are capably extrapolated in the game itself, then soon the players would get used to the fact that in that game, rushing headlong into the fray is not the answer, and will get used to looking for such possible solutions - or choose to fight anyway.

Edited by Tigranes
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Sand, a very simplistic comparison here: What if instead of being artificially coded to be invincible, Bloodlines' werewolf was simply 3-4 times as strong as anything you've encountered before? If you were particularly determiend adn skilled, and lucky, you could perhaps after many many reloads, defeat the werewolf; but most would quickly realise that the sensible way is to look for an alternative solution. If the possibilities of such solutions are capably extrapolated in the game itself, then soon the players would get used to the fact that in that game, rushing headlong into the fray is not the answer, and will get used to looking for such possible solutions - or choose to fight anyway.

 

Man, some of you are just not paying attention. That is exactly what I have been saying! Sheesh. ;)

 

The critter is still killable, within the rules of the game, and if you have the strategy and good enough weapons then you should be able to win in a straigh on fight, but it will be difficult as hell to do so.

Murphy's Law of Computer Gaming: The listed minimum specifications written on the box by the publisher are not the minimum specifications of the game set by the developer.

 

@\NightandtheShape/@ - "Because you're a bizzare strange deranged human?"

Walsingham- "Sand - always rushing around, stirring up apathy."

Joseph Bulock - "Another headache, courtesy of Sand"

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Japanese RPGs are absolutely horrible about this. Ridiculously horrid. So horrid about it that it is not funny.

 

So Tale, you are saying that there is a rule everyone should follow for it to be RPG'ing, and yet a huge section of RPG's ignore this rule?

I would have thought all posters on a forum devoted to a domestic CRPG developer would know the answer to this question already. Japanese console RPGs are (for the majority) less RPG than Canadian bacon is actually bacon. This should be evident by the consistent and complete lack of any element of actual role-playing. The Japanese definition of RPG is fairly all-inclusive, to the point where it will even include games like Metal Gear Solid. Indeed, the second Metal Gear Solid game even goes so far as to reference itself as an RPG in its own narrative. What we know of as Japanese RPGs are fantasy adventure games that merely use an approximate of an RPG combat and leveling system

 

If you want to play the same game you have always played, and abide by the same rules of CRPGs you always have followed, then of course this idea seems anathema.

Que?

 

But bear with me a little here:

 

The idea of making something unkillable, by adding an artificial 'unkillable' tag, so that even if you sat there chopping at his skull for 60,000 years he would not die - yes, that is rather stupid, and detracts from immersion and roleplaying.

Glad you see that.

 

However, JUST as bad for immersion and roleplaying is the sense that the player can kill anything and everything. Why should it be possible for a player to defeat 6,000 goblins all by himself in a non-magical setting, for example? Is it raelly fun, and roleplayish, to leave every area completely devoid of sentient life before you move on to the next?

Never said the player should. You can go to the mall and try to kill all the people there, but there are mechanisms to stop you from accomplishing this goal without the shopkeepers being immortal. It is the job of an RPG to try to represent these mechanisms. If the player goes out of his way to break the computer logic's ability to do this properly, so be it. Let the player screw the game up, or introduce the stand-in (Bif the Understudy) mechanism we saw in Baldur's Gate.

 

Let us take the example then, of the goblin invasion in IWD2. The invasion is deliberately neutered and toned down by scripts to make it winnable for the player. The goblins each have a specific area to attack, and if the player is tardy and all the NPCs are killed, the goblins, instead of proceeding to advance, simply stay there. So it's just harder, but still very possible and much much easier than it should be. The entire series of battles are pre-scripted in order to make it possible, at the expense of realism, immersion and roleplaying capabilities (you're railroaded: fight this bunch, then this bunch..). In the end you are left not feeling that you were part of a massive battle in an open field, but rather that you just went through another dungeon crawl where everybody stays in their room and never moves around.

 

What if the goblin invasion was freed from such constraints? What if A) there was a huge number of goblins, which makes the invasion realistic (as oposed to a "GREAT INVASION" of about thirty goblins), B) they actually moved around, and progressively advanced to the town, so that if you were too slow you would actually be overwhelmed, and C) there were alternative objectives and outcomes such as kill the leader, get as many townies out as you can and so forth? Possibly, if a player was extremely powerful, good at tactics, lucky, and so forth, then he could win the battle. (Thus the idea of the unwinnable battle is rather misleading, I suppose, in this case.) But this is very nearly impossible, as it should be, iun the context of the story. Thus most players would choose instead to kill a little then make their way to the objectives.

What is the point you are trying to make with this example? These goblins use the same rule system as the player. They have non-arbitrary hit die and are not set to be immortal.
"Show me a man who "plays fair" and I'll show you a very talented cheater."
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One quick thought, even following the same rules for pcs and npcs alike, a dm can always make unwinnable battles. Designing a good module usually entails making sure the battles are winnable.

 

For this reason, I don't understand why this is an issue. I'm not saying we should make the enemy impervious to harm. The idea, at least for me, isn't that we make the enemy invulnerable, only that the player cannot win. There is a difference. Oh, and to keep true to the sand variant, the player does have a chance. If he rolls all 20s and the enemy rolls all 1 for several hours, the pc could somehow win. Hell, face low level characters with an ancient dragon and, unless the world has gone mad, the battle is unwinnable.

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One quick thought, even following the same rules for pcs and npcs alike, a dm can always make unwinnable battles. Designing a good module usually entails making sure the battles are winnable.

 

For this reason, I don't understand why this is an issue. I'm not saying we should make the enemy impervious to harm. The idea, at least for me, isn't that we make the enemy invulnerable, only that the player cannot win. There is a difference. Oh, and to keep true to the sand variant, the player does have a chance. If he rolls all 20s and the enemy rolls all 1 for several hours, the pc could somehow win. Hell, face low level characters with an ancient dragon and, unless the world has gone mad, the battle is unwinnable.

 

Exactly, Cant! Someone is getting it!

Murphy's Law of Computer Gaming: The listed minimum specifications written on the box by the publisher are not the minimum specifications of the game set by the developer.

 

@\NightandtheShape/@ - "Because you're a bizzare strange deranged human?"

Walsingham- "Sand - always rushing around, stirring up apathy."

Joseph Bulock - "Another headache, courtesy of Sand"

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I guess my point is that we are violent in our agreement. Tigranes, Tale, you, and most folks agree that the npcs and players should follow the same ruleset. There are arguments to be made for breaking the ruleset for NPCs. Some folks have made legitimate arguments to do so. However, at it's most basic, we can follow the ruleset and make a battle unwinnable. What Tigranes has done is shown various ways of making that battle unwinnable but still enjoyable to the player. Hell, I cited some ideas for this myself in the other thread.

 

I will repost it here:

 

The idea of having an impossible battle has real potential. I don't see it as something simple like a battle the PC cannot win. Instead, I see it as a battle the PC cannot win but his decisions prior to and during the battle have "meaningful consequences." Will, he cut and run early? Will he, knowing that everything hinges on his survival, make sure he gets out alive? Will he selfishly insist on being the last one to leave? Must someone be sacrificed? ...And, if so, who? Will he take on the role of Captain Ahab and fight unto destruction... not only his own, but of his cause as well?

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Man, some of you are just not paying attention. That is exactly what I have been saying! Sheesh. ;)

 

*chuckles*

 

Which is better, someone who agrees with you, but doesn't read what you've written, or, someone who reads your posts, but disagrees?

"When is this out. I can't wait to play it so I can talk at length about how bad it is." - Gorgon.

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Someone who reads and disagrees, of course. ;)

Murphy's Law of Computer Gaming: The listed minimum specifications written on the box by the publisher are not the minimum specifications of the game set by the developer.

 

@\NightandtheShape/@ - "Because you're a bizzare strange deranged human?"

Walsingham- "Sand - always rushing around, stirring up apathy."

Joseph Bulock - "Another headache, courtesy of Sand"

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Here are my thoughts - I think they've mostly been said by other people already, but never mind...

 

I agree that unwinnable battles need to be handled with care and skill. It's rather sloppy presentation to have you clearly defeating an opponent (e.g. Malak), and then have a cut scene force you to run away. Instead, the designers should carefully engineer it so that you are losing and losing badly, for believable reasons, before triggering the necessary cut scene and defeat.

 

New games don't exist in a vacuum, so exactly how you handle unwinnable battles has to be influenced by gamers' past experiences of RPGs. I don't see this as an excuse to say you can't do different stuff because it's not what people expect, just that you have to take their expectations into account when pushing the envelope. If I'm playing an RPG and I lose a seemingly important battle, I get nervous. Have I just screwed the game up, or at least, blocked myself off from the 'best' outcomes of the game? Should I reload and try again, or not? It spoils the immersion and makes the game less fun.

 

I've played D&D or similar RPGs where I've made decent progress until suddenly coming across an enemy I couldn't defeat the first two or three times of trying. I could have given up, accepted this as a defeat, and tried to advance by other means - the problem is that, with hindsight, I know that I wouldn't have got anywhere - this was a main quest path encounter and there was no alternative solution. It wasn't even that hard a battle, it was just that I'd never used buffs before (never having needed them), and suddenly I did need them and I had to figure out how they worked. I wouldn't have progressed beyond this point if I hadn't viewed the battle as a puzzle that I had to reload and find a solution for. So when I'm faced with an unwinnable battle in any new game, I need very strong signals (cutscenes?) to persuade me not to keep reloading and retrying. Because I will tend to do exactly that, long after it stops being fun, because I won't have confidence in the developer that the other path, the path of accepting defeat, is either properly written or fun.

 

I wonder if developers or gamers will be happy with a battle with a tiny tiny chance to win. Either most gamers will accept the easier path of defeat, in which case the designers are still having to produce dialogue and responses for the 'victory' outcome that will only be experienced by a small minority of players. On the other hand, if most gamers keep trying to get that elusive 'victory' outcome, they're going to get bored playing again and again with only a tiny chance to success - it stops being fun after a while. Surely as a designer you'd want to avoid both these cases.

 

So I think unwinnable battles are good, because in life some battles are unwinnable and the consequences of that are interesting. Make them truly unwinnable, but also convincingly unwinnable - don't interrupt a battle you're winning with a cutscene that tells you it's hopeless - send twenty werewolves instead, each 10 times more powerful than your party or character. And above all, constantly reassure the gamer that he's on the right track and hasn't missed something vital.

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SteveThaiBinh:

" Instead, the designers should carefully engineer it so that you are losing and losing badly, for believable reasons, before triggering the necessary cut scene and defeat."

 

I don't think cut scenes are necessary. Maybe a cut scene afterwards of a dragon munching on your body or your skinless corpse swarming with maggots, but it's much more effective to have the PC killed in game.

 

" New games don't exist in a vacuum, so exactly how you handle unwinnable battles has to be influenced by gamers' past experiences of RPGs. I don't see this as an excuse to say you can't do different stuff because it's not what people expect, just that you have to take their expectations into account when pushing the envelope."

 

Hmm, I think our focus is slightly different. I agree it's about managing expectations, but there's no way to know what a gamer's past experiences are, save what their experiences have been in your game.

 

A player learns quickly whether they are Superman or not. If the player doesn't think they're Superman, and understands that their character is both moral and vulnerable, they won't approach each encounter with a sure expectation of victory.

 

Take Neverwinter Nights: one of the first things a player learns is that they can easily slaughter hordes of goblins, and then rest for twelve seconds and be fine. In that context, an unbeatable foe is unfair, because it goes against the heuristics of the game.

 

Now, take Call of Cthulhu: one of the first things a player learns is that tossing themselves into combat is a good way to die. Later on, they fight many, many foes in typical FPS style, but that knowledge never leaves them. When they encounter a unique foe that cannot be killed, they don't conceptualize it as the developers 'cheating' them, but as a realistic outgrowth of their world.

 

Even in a game where you can usually kill foes, there can be expectation management.

 

Imagine if you will, an in game scene in Planescape: Torment where the Lady of Pain is floating across the street. You decide to attack her with your axe, and not only does the blow do no damage, but the next thing you see is the Nameless One exploding in bloody, red chunks.

 

Surprising? Yes. But everything you know about the Lady of Pain tells you that she's not 'beatable.'

"When is this out. I can't wait to play it so I can talk at length about how bad it is." - Gorgon.

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