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Antagonists


Walsingham

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I was about to go to bed, but a thought occurred to me:

 

In every RPG I can think of, and in fact in shooters and even some simulations, the 'bad guy' is entirely scripted. Event triggers or sometimes time triggers cause pre-set actions to be thrown at the player.

 

This works for a bit, but becomes very tedious very quickly. Plus with save and reload, the shock value of big shifts is either obviated entirely or so heavily scripted that the narrative impact is lost in annoyance.

 

What I want - what I suggest we ALL want - is to be Holmes vs. Moriarty. To pit our wits against a clever and resourceful and CHANGING opponent. By which I mean changing and clever at an operational level.

 

I accept that this will be genuinely difficult to do. But I also suggest that it is at least one way in which gaming might take a proper step forward.

"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues

 

tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

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I was about to go to bed, but a thought occurred to me:

 

In every RPG I can think of, and in fact in shooters and even some simulations, the 'bad guy' is entirely scripted. Event triggers or sometimes time triggers cause pre-set actions to be thrown at the player.

 

This works for a bit, but becomes very tedious very quickly. Plus with save and reload, the shock value of big shifts is either obviated entirely or so heavily scripted that the narrative impact is lost in annoyance.

 

What I want - what I suggest we ALL want - is to be Holmes vs. Moriarty. To pit our wits against a clever and resourceful and CHANGING opponent. By which I mean changing and clever at an operational level.

 

I accept that this will be genuinely difficult to do. But I also suggest that it is at least one way in which gaming might take a proper step forward.

Two words... "Doomdarks Revenge" (the sequel to "Lords of Midnigt"). My all time favourite games ;)

 

The antagonist is "scripted" as so far as she has objectives which are not unlike your own. Recruit warlords, troops, find and kill you on the field of battle to the best of her abilitity.

 

Was my first sandbox rpg/strategy hybrid game too.

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice.” - Albert Einstein

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One of my favorite bosses in recent memory is the Old Monk from Demon's Souls. I like the concept of the final boss being a PVP match since it brings the challenge up and makes it unpredictable.

I'd say the answer to that question is kind of like the answer to "who's the sucker in this poker game?"*

 

*If you can't tell, it's you. ;)

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I'm not sure I'd have been happy with whatsisface the legate calling me gay and laughing in a voice which hasn't broken yet, while griefing by hiding in inaccessible map segments. Hence pvp strikes me as ...suboptimal.

"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues

 

tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

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I do believe there was somewhat of a nod to this in the first witcher game, specifically the confrontation with Azar Javed in the second chapter. In case you're not familiar with the game i'll not spoil it but while the protagonist conducts a rather noire inspired investigation the malefactor makes his own moves and delightfully if the hero makes a misstep he can be thoroughly thrashed in the following confrontation.

 

Obviously this is not quite as exhaustive as I believe you are suggesting, with a strategical game of chess being played between protagonist and antagonist but for an old crpg fan it was very refreshing. I suppose with the reactive nature of alpha protocol and the various aspects playing into the mission hubs that there is a gesture towards this kind of idea, but there are very few counter measures enacted against Mr Thornton (Grigori informing to the U.S. embassy guards?) while he blazes a trail across the globe.

 

I would definitely like to see something like this brought into games, very interesting idea.

Quite an experience to live in misery isn't it? That's what it is to be married with children.

I've seen things you people can't even imagine. Pearly Kings glittering on the Elephant and Castle, Morris Men dancing 'til the last light of midsummer. I watched Druid fires burning in the ruins of Stonehenge, and Yorkshiremen gurning for prizes. All these things will be lost in time, like alopecia on a skinhead. Time for tiffin.

 

Tea for the teapot!

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It's been a while since I've played The Witcher. I confess I didn't notice any skipups being capitalised upon.

 

However, what you describe is certainly on similar lines to what I'm angling for.

"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues

 

tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

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Concept 1 (derived from above):

 

- The protagnoist has a number of strengths which they build up during the game.

- The strengths derive from changes in the game environment, cities converted, artifacts held, skills learned

- The antagonist will register growth in each of these, and will attempt to remove or counteract the protagonist's strength in each area by various means

 

- Not sure how the antagnoist woudl compose sufficiently clever means

"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues

 

tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

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Just off the top of my head: A city converted could be plagued by banditry or terrorist attacks such as the dapper old gent did in stonebridge, weaken infrastructure. The quest to repel these attacks would come at the cost of some other asset being gained, so you do not have an option for an optimal ending unless certain infrastructures have already been developed (a draconian secret police or such like.)

 

An artifact could be corrupted by its guardians through infiltration of their ranks, an easily overlooked comment on a guardians strange behaviour being the only indicator that wrongdoing is afoot which if not followed up would see you losing the asset or seeing it corrupted.

 

Companions and allies could be brought over to the antagonists side if the protagonist fails to gain sufficient influence with them or fails to live up to their expectations. Dispossessed noblemen could be promised the return of lands and titles, religious leaders could be manipulated by church decree or doctrine, charismatic freedom fighters could rise up amongst the common folk to lead suspiciously well funded and equipped revolts or plague might break out in the strongholds of the protagonist due to tainted water supplies or the collusion of a prominent trader.

 

Most of these would be combatable by quest or side mission that hides their importance I would think, but certain acts such as the artifacts corruption or plague outbreak could spill over and raise up other antagonists or factions that can be swayed by either side of the conflict or manipulated into ignorant service. A clever antagonist could take advantage of almost any situation where the player is given a choice or performs some service, automatically courting the opposing side or spinning negative aspects into the protagonists deeds.

 

The variables and world states might be a touch beastly to keep track of unless some method of chokepoint is implemented, but replay value and reactivity would be out of the court and it would be interesting to see a protagonist lose through poor planning and lack of attention.

Edited by Nonek

Quite an experience to live in misery isn't it? That's what it is to be married with children.

I've seen things you people can't even imagine. Pearly Kings glittering on the Elephant and Castle, Morris Men dancing 'til the last light of midsummer. I watched Druid fires burning in the ruins of Stonehenge, and Yorkshiremen gurning for prizes. All these things will be lost in time, like alopecia on a skinhead. Time for tiffin.

 

Tea for the teapot!

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Good point. The challenge must not be linear and flawless. The antagonist must have weaknesses, which would come from a list, and be exposed through flaws in their machinations. Expert players would be able to spot which flaws were evident and infer appropriate places to strike.

"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues

 

tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

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Both points; while good, fail at taking the lowest denominator as a variable. By which I mean that frustrated tweens will rage quit when things don't go their way. Problem with C&Q in games is that it often is Choice and fatal Consequences (by fatal I refer to extreme determinism) which means that often you find yourself ill-equipped to deal with the consequences of your choices.

There is a proper length for a highly reactive game and that length is short, because there is only so much that can be developed before the deadline and because there is only so many butt hours that someone is willing to put in playing a game.

I'd say the answer to that question is kind of like the answer to "who's the sucker in this poker game?"*

 

*If you can't tell, it's you. ;)

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*chuckles*

 

Well, maybe you are right and frustrated tweens will quit.

 

However, let me take devil's developer for a moment.

 

Tweens may, for biological reasons, be forever tied mainly to shooty stabby games. But the young gamers become older gamers. Gamers with substantially more disposable income. Perhaps a richer adversarial system would attract them more.

 

Maybe not.

 

It would be interesting to trail something like this, in an experimental fashion, by having a 'Wizard of Oz' setup where players think they are facing a super clever AI, but are actually facing a refereed team of human baddies.

"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues

 

tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

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I actually would love to see an experiment like this, in fact I think I would like to do an experiment like this one day.

 

I will admit to a personal bias towards your earlier post, I've seen that line of thinking go awry. It soon becomes a self-absorbed project that appeals exclusively to the tastes of the developers. To the point of fault, actually.

 

Personally I think the bests antagonist in Video Games have taken cues from film.

The antagonist is always the driving force behind the plot, everything should emphasize this.

They are in a favorable condition compared to the protagonist, they are in a position of power.

 

Both your examples lack this, Nonek focuses on the general situation rather than the villain and Wals; you want the hero to be the villain's shadow. (I mean that in the archetypal sense)

I'd say the answer to that question is kind of like the answer to "who's the sucker in this poker game?"*

 

*If you can't tell, it's you. ;)

village_idiot.gif

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Orogun, if you've got time I'd like to hear you develop all those points a bit further.

 

I'm not entirely sure if I'm talking about ebing in the villain's shadow, although that makes a lot of sense. I'm thinking Holmes Vs. Moriarty. Maybe kick off independently, come to blows, be in his shadow at first, and then depending on how smart you are, fight your way out of his shadow and put him on the run.

"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues

 

tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

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Orogun, if you've got time I'd like to hear you develop all those points a bit further.

 

I'm not entirely sure if I'm talking about ebing in the villain's shadow, although that makes a lot of sense. I'm thinking Holmes Vs. Moriarty. Maybe kick off independently, come to blows, be in his shadow at first, and then depending on how smart you are, fight your way out of his shadow and put him on the run.

Ok, when I say shadow I mean the archetype. In Jungian Psychology its describe as those aspects of ourselves which we suppress and deny. e.g: Darth Vader to Luke, when facing his fears Luke kills a spectral Darth Vader who appears in the same face as Luke. Meaning Luke's fear of giving into the Dark Side, his connection to it through his father and subsequent rejection.

 

I put it as an example because the Shadow is always shaped in an image contrary to whom it came from. Much like the villain in one of your examples was shaped by the hero's actions, so in that aspect the villain becomes a shadow to the hero. Contrary to what I consider to be the norm of the antagonist driving the plot and creating the situation that allows for a hero to exist in the first place.

 

Although this case is not an absolute there is the exceptions in which the villain isn't the driving force, I would consider the Holmes vs. Moriarty to be a variation of this. Both men are masterminds and finds themselves at times competing for the same goal but to use for opposite means. In which case the plot is driven by the competition and the situation is independent from the villain.

I'd say the answer to that question is kind of like the answer to "who's the sucker in this poker game?"*

 

*If you can't tell, it's you. ;)

village_idiot.gif

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Tweens may, for biological reasons, be forever tied mainly to shooty stabby games. But the young gamers become older gamers. Gamers with substantially more disposable income. Perhaps a richer adversarial system would attract them more.

Isn't that why MMO's are popular, pitting player versus player?

 

It sounds like you are suggesting a multiplayer crpg with the AI controlling the other players :shifty:

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice.” - Albert Einstein

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For some reason reading your posts Orogun I began to think about the relationship between Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter in silence of the lambs, polar opposites who shared a strange empathy. Obviously that is more drawing on older myths of the hero(ine) bearding the ancient evil in its lair and coming forth with the weapons or knowledge to slay the dragon, but an antagonist who begins the game at the opposite end of the usual scale, bound by the protagonists faction and answering questions to shape his opposing personality (and maybe the protagonists) would be a very easy way to formulate later responses and actions. Something along the lines of an inverted virtue test as used in the old ultimas.

Quite an experience to live in misery isn't it? That's what it is to be married with children.

I've seen things you people can't even imagine. Pearly Kings glittering on the Elephant and Castle, Morris Men dancing 'til the last light of midsummer. I watched Druid fires burning in the ruins of Stonehenge, and Yorkshiremen gurning for prizes. All these things will be lost in time, like alopecia on a skinhead. Time for tiffin.

 

Tea for the teapot!

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There's just the problem of consistency and immersion. A player's experience may change midway through the game rendering the earlier test useless.

 

Although I gotta say that i'm not too thrilled about the idea. Villains are kind of dear to me, they're flamboyant, amoral, powerful and infinitely more interesting than the heroes. I kind of feel like the fact that this villain/polar opposite will come out as mild version of what a villain should be. Rather than feeling true enmity towards him there is going to be a mild response.

 

I guess we should also take this time to differentiate between a boss and an antagonist.

I'd say the answer to that question is kind of like the answer to "who's the sucker in this poker game?"*

 

*If you can't tell, it's you. ;)

village_idiot.gif

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The thought of a computerised antagonist who is not merely operationally opposed to the player, but a dark shadow cast by the player's expressed personality... that's some platinum grade awesomeness waiting to happen.

"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues

 

tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

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Might also allow both parties to be proactive in seeking advantage over the opposing side, striking at assets that they know the other side will try to capture and setting traps or false trails. Given a standard choice of which four or so quests to pursue, the smart antagonist could wait to see what the protagonist chose to do and while he is busy with that go after one of the others. While the protagonists could set his own snares and misdirections in the quest areas he has conquered.

 

I can see Oroguns point in that the stranger and the threat not shown can be more dramatically effective than the more symbiotic relationship though, Omen Deng as opposed to Conrad Marburg I suppose.

Edited by Nonek

Quite an experience to live in misery isn't it? That's what it is to be married with children.

I've seen things you people can't even imagine. Pearly Kings glittering on the Elephant and Castle, Morris Men dancing 'til the last light of midsummer. I watched Druid fires burning in the ruins of Stonehenge, and Yorkshiremen gurning for prizes. All these things will be lost in time, like alopecia on a skinhead. Time for tiffin.

 

Tea for the teapot!

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One recent game that I've been playing is Mount & Blade, I put this forth as an example because there is no definite villain. All parties want the same thing, to conquer all of the land and your relationship with kingdoms and nobles plays into creating antagonists.

 

E.G: In my recent playthrough I rose to prominence by offering my sword in vassalage to the Sarranid kingdom who at the time was at war with the Kingdom of Rodhoks with whom the share a border. With each victory I gained renown and my relationship with the Rodhoks declined.

A bit after I decide to support a claimant to the throne of the Sarranid; which meant starting a rebellion. The first castle I took was on the border with the Rodhoks, it was at this point that they decided to declare war on my rebels due to the old offenses I incurred on them.

 

This is the closest I've seen to what you both describe, it works for M&B because there is no story attached to it. When you put it in the context of storytelling it could make or break the villain and I don't think that chokepoints work in storytelling. BW has proved that with DA.

I'd say the answer to that question is kind of like the answer to "who's the sucker in this poker game?"*

 

*If you can't tell, it's you. ;)

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