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story decisions as a game mechanic


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I started this topic on the DAIII Bioboards and got little to no support for the idea. I was honestly surprised by that, so I thought I'd bring the idea here to see if I am really insane in that I like the idea or whether I just don't fit with Bioware's audience anymore. So here goes:

 

I would like to see some story decisions that involve a degree of chance rather than certainty. I present the following situation: You and your merry band roll into a village to learn that a zombie attack is imminent. You decide to help fend off the attack.

 

In a standard cRPG, there are going to be a number of things that you can do to improve your odds. Recruit citizens of the village to help fight. Donate armaments to those citizens so they aren't fighting with shovels and pitchforks. Build fortifications. Et cetera.

 

In this odds based system, I would propose an out of the box solution. Say you tell everyone in the village to hide in their basements as the attack approaches. You take one individual and place them in the center of town and build extremely sound, extremely tight fortification around them. Then you set up every flammable material you can find in the village in a field around the fortification. You hope that, when the attack commences, the zombies all converge on the single human since he is the only living thing in sight. Once they do, that individual lights the fire and all of the zombies die in gouts of flame without a single casualty on your side. You get mad hero points with the village because every last one of them survived and there was little to no property damage.

 

Here's where the odds come in: say you choose to pursue this out of the box solution. There is a 25% chance that the zombies largely ignore the character in the fortification and rampage through the town until they find the villagers cornered in their basements. Casualties are higher than they might have been because you've put your fighters in disadvantageous positions. There is a 30% chance that the zombies break through the fortification and kill your decoy though he/she still manages to light the fire and kill the zombies. There is a 10% chance they kill your decoy before he/she can light the fire. There is a 40% chance that your decoy dies from smoke inhalation while trapped in the fortification or that the fortification catces fire and kills him/her with the zombies. There is a 50% chance that the fire spreads to the village and burns down many people's homes.

 

Knowing all of that, do you take the risk on the crazy plan that might just work and create the best possible outcome or do you just batten down the hatches and do it the old fashioned way knowing that a number of casualties are a foregone conclusion?

 

Obvious problems are that in a game with outcomes based on odds rather than purely on decisions you could make different decisions on different playthroughs and end up with the same outcome. Also, the player might feel like they have less control or agency if their decisions alter the odds of outcomes rather than directly alter the outcomes.

 

The benefit, to my mind, is that it would allow the player a sense of triumph unlike anything else we've seen the way games are currently designed. Say one player takes the safe choice every time such a choice presents itself and even though their bets are safer, they fall on the wrong side of the dice roll and get the worst possible outcomes. Tragedy... dejection. On the other hand, say the player gambles every time and wins every gamble and just utterly crushes the game and everything works out as perfectly as it possibly could. It would give you the feeling of truly beating the odds in a way that is just impossible in a game where all outcomes are predetermined once you make a choice about which road you will choose.

 

So PE-ites... what do you think? Would you like a game where an element of chance... of risk is involved in the story and the decisions you make? Or am I really the only one that thinks this is a good idea?

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I like the general thought and concept of the attack, and to defend a position in a dynamic way that's different from each time I play, but I'd still wish to have some sort of "control" on my tactical management, say I don't want to place a guy in the middle of town to lure in the zombies attacking, what if I instead wish to attack them head on and lure them out of the town (with my entire 6 party team/kiting them away). Could I not simply just bait them away from the village?

 

I could have one of my members dedicated to taking out stragglers, thinning out the zombie horde as I go along, I could position myself so that even if the zombies go for the villagers I'll have a guard or two holding that position in a choke point, taking out 1 zombie at a time as they enter a doorway...

 

Which takes me to another sense of wonder for us here at the board... I remember often using Spartan choke points in Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale... would it not be an interesting feature if enemies could actually press into you and push you backwards, e.g., overwhelm you (even if you stand by, what you think, is a safe chokepoint).

 

Another point, could enemies crawl through windows and/or crash windows and enter that way?

 

You say that the attack is imminent, the "zombie horde" is approaching the village as we speak, will I have enough time to even think about barricades? What is it that makes the villagers stay when they very well know that the zombies are after them and not their homes and houses? Could I not escort them out? How did I get into the village? There should be safe escape routes (Unless the zombies suddenly miraculously are coming from every angle and point after I initiate the event).

 

What about the undead rising from the ground, from the nearby cemetery as an act of atrocious Necromancer that I will have to defeat to stop the waves of zombies (would they "resurrect" after a while and continue fighting, endlessly until the Necromancer is dead?).

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A degree of chance to straight dialogue choices? (as in, not skill checks) Its certainly an idea and I don't think I'd oppose it. Though I have a higher priority on more choices, as opposed to developing a single choice (assuming limited resources - that's mere preference mind you).

 

I'm not surprised the BSN shunned a topic with 'mechanics' on its title, btw. A single one of their romance thread has more posts than the builds and mechanics subforums combined - their priorities lie somewhere else.

Edited by Delterius
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I like where your head is at and I personally would probably find it to be an enjoyable mechanic. I sadly don't have the time to commit to P&P RPG anymore and truly miss the amount of depth and out of box decisions that the format allows, so naturally I would love to see anything that allows the player to branch out and take a chance with an outlandish idea. That being said I'm not sure how the rest of the PE demographic would feel about something like this. While we're on that note...would the devs even bother implementing an idea that will largely be ignored/ridiculed/underappreciated? The average player is not going to take a high risk scenario given the option. They are going to default to their tried and true method of "smash it in the face until it dies".

 

Ironic then that in a way it would be a "High-risk High-return" (thank you Kaz) situation for Obsidian to consider including.

Do not criticize a fish for being a turtle when it is, in fact, a fish.

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Just thought of something. Maybe when the outcome is random the writers may want to avoid straight wins and losses, rather making the more 'succesful' and the least succesful outcomes be more different than simply being more and less effective mirrors of each other. So that you can appreciate the story beyond posessing the will of not-reloading and trying again.

 

Say, the plan could work or fail in part, but each with a twist. Once the fire could preserve the lives of the villagers but sacrifice much of their material wealth, while it could work in part but leaving the villagers with something to survive the next weeks of cold/hunger/whatever.

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Smart idea. Really I'm all for anything that expands past a black and white or fully linear story line. IRL few decisions have only two choices or outcomes. Most have multiple outcomes of varying "success" based on differing viewpoints and resulting from a plethora of methods of attack.

 

Edit:Implementation into a video game format though...that's a scary thought.

Edited by PB_Popeye

Do not criticize a fish for being a turtle when it is, in fact, a fish.

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Like the premise of introducing randomness to plot branching. I would suggest when implementing something like this, make this a bit more of a "deterministic chaos" in the sense that the randomness is not a 50/50 toss up and that player action can influence the randomness. Using your example, if the human bait is not inside a fortification, the chance that the zombie would ignore it falls to 10%.

 

We have yet to see it. When carry to the extreme, I would like to see a game that have this sort of randomness in the overarching plot. eg. PC belongs to faction A. Faction A is at war with Faction B, C and D. Throughout the game, the player have opportunity to eliminate or form alliance with different faction with certain randomness involved. The ending would be a show down with the last remaining faction. So the "final boss" can be different characters depending on who is the last remaining faction.

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I dunno. It sounds good in theory, but when you place it in a video game, suddenly it becomes a case of getting the best result by taking the risky-but-high-reward outcome and just reloading until it succeeds.

 

From that perspective, it's not a lot of fun. You're saying 'Save yourself some time and accept the slightly worse results, or reload half a dozen times and guarantee your character a better result'.

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I dunno. It sounds good in theory, but when you place it in a video game, suddenly it becomes a case of getting the best result by taking the risky-but-high-reward outcome and just reloading until it succeeds.

 

From that perspective, it's not a lot of fun. You're saying 'Save yourself some time and accept the slightly worse results, or reload half a dozen times and guarantee your character a better result'.

 

Hence my second post in the thread. Even if you're up to accepting whatever plot outcome appears, merely having the spine to accept it isn't as fun as both/all possible outcomes being interesting. That's why I posed the writers may want to avoid straight wins and losses in favour of more interesting twists to either, as a example, the plan described on the OP working well (but with unforeseen consequences) or only partially.

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I think it's interesting, but a balance needs to be struck between what the player can reasonably prepare for and feeling helpless to variance. I'm not sure if it'd be suitable for major quests, but I'd like to explore something like this in the random encounters.

Spreading beauty with my katana.

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Honestly I'd like it but I also confess if the catastrophic failing was too bad I'd also just quicksave and reload until the plan worked. I'm not sure I'd be alone in this either. So in the end I'm not sure if it would be worth a lot of development resources.

K is for Kid, a guy or gal just like you. Don't be in such a hurry to grow up, since there's nothin' a kid can't do.

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Randomness? Not that much a fan of it.

 

It's more to my liking if you get a limited amount of time to set up your defenses. Or can only do so few quests before the zombies invade.

 

You can't do everything before the zombies arrive, but atleast you did what you could. And the consequences depend on what you did, rather than a randomniser. Which I think allows one to make it much more personal. And replayable.

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^

 

 

I agree that that is such a stupid idiotic pathetic garbage hateful retarded scumbag evil satanic nazi like term ever created. At least top 5.

 

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Formerly known as BattleWookiee/BattleCookiee

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I don't think I would be a fan of this randomness in questing - I am all about more options for quests but prefer to have them determined by actual interaction between the gamer and the world including but not limited to multiple types of dialoge interactions with one or more individuals (perhaps several more), prior quests or other interactions related in some manner to the new quest and factions or other groups you have had (or not had) relationships with already.

 

Going through a series of choices in getting a quest and then having the nature of the quest dependent on a dice roll totally out of the characters (or players) control doesn't float my boat at all I'm afraid.

Nomadic Wayfarer of the Obsidian Order


 

Not all those that wander are lost...

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Knowing all of that, do you take the risk on the crazy plan that might just work and create the best possible outcome or do you just batten down the hatches and do it the old fashioned way knowing that a number of casualties are a foregone conclusion?

 

This is a silly situation in a game where you can reload. You're not "taking a chance" in order to "possibly" get an outcome. That would be true in real life where there's no possible option to reload and get a different outcome. In a GAME, this sort of thing means that the devs are holding the cool outcomes hostage dependent upon your willingness to do it over and over and over until you get what you want. It's like rolling your stats instead of assigning points. It doesn't contribute anything meaningful to the game and, in fact, makes a lot of people crazy.

 

If you really want random-ish outcomes, pick your options by rolling a die or flipping a coin. The result will be the same and you won't have created a massively annoying game feature in the process.

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Grand Rhetorist of the Obsidian Order

If you appeal to "realism" about a video game feature, you are wrong. Go back and try again.

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Hassat Hunter poses a good suggestion, I think. Impose a "time limit" on a quest by dictating how many preperations you can make. If zombies are knocking on your door, maybe you can only accomplish 3 of 7 tasks to prepare for their eminent arrival before they bust in. The tasks may seem mostly equivalent in worthiness, but may change the outcome of a quest based on which you choose - maybe in what order you choose them. In a sense, you provide a pseudo-random mechanic to the player. It's completely deterministic (especially if you've played before), but outcome isn't immediately made obvious from choices made, and further playthroughs may yield new outcomes.

 

On a similar note, perhaps you need prepare for the zombies, but don't know from whence they will come. You can prepare for a quest / encounter, but must account for uncertainties in how it will take form. Thus quests / encounters can have randomized elements, but they'd be implemented as a game mechanic, and the player granted control into how they decide to handle them.

If the player is informed that assualt may come primarily from any of three sources - magic, archery, or phalanx, they could choose how best to distribute resources to prepare for any one in particular, or all three possibilities. Accounting for all would be safest, but you'd be effectively guaranteed to take heavy casualties. You wouldn't necessarily lose if you make the "wrong" choices, but combat could flow much differently then you had planned for, and you'd have to account for it mid-battle. This succeeds in making encounters more dynamic, and gives a level of randomness to quests without arbitrarily (much) imposing on the player experience.

 

Could players reload and try again if they are unsatisfied? Yeah, but the option wouldn't present itself as being almost a necessessity to producing satisfactory outcomes. In this latter implementation quest outcomes aren't arbitrarily random, just quest application.

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I think it's a fine idea, just not in Project Eternity as it is meant to be similar to old school IE games - which this mechanic is not. It would be nice to have this mechanic in a game where everything you did had a risk factor or chance to it - which would enforce the face you should just roll with the punches. In fact I'd be will to say this shouldn't really be in an rpg, or it should be in a game with rpg elements but isn't strictly an rpg. People spend to much time designing and preparing characters in rpg games to enjoy leaving aspects up to chance.

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I'm not sure there should be a chance specifically that the stuff you did would produce the OPPOSITE effect, you know? I mean, where do you draw the line there?

 

"I choose to not kill this guy who might've deserved it, because I am merciful."

 

*Some game-engine dice roll*

 

"Oh no, he died of a heart attack mere moments after you decided to spare him!"

 

That could just get REALLY annoying.

 

BUT, using the zombie-assault example, I DO think it would be cool if the chance affected how things panned out. i.e. you planned out this elaborate trap for the zombies using a single person and lots of fire, but now some other things in the town caught fire, and you've got to make your way through town rather quickly to try and douse flames, fighting some straggling, flaming zombies along the way who just haven't had the decency to re-die yet. OR, the person in the center of town panics (assuming they were supposed to light the fireworks) and fails to do so, and you've got to end up lighting them, which would be difficult. OR, the basement folk get attacked after all, and you've got to try to go help them.

 

I'm just very, very against the "Welp, it turns out everyone died anyway" odds. I don't mind people dying, and bad things unavoidably happening in an RPG story, but I don't want it to seem like I have the ability to do something, then turn out that, through random chance, I actually couldn't accomplish half of what it was suggested I could.

 

Random behavior/occurrence-development: GOOD! 8D

Random consequences? Baddddd...

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Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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BUT, using the zombie-assault example, I DO think it would be cool if the chance affected how things panned out. i.e. you planned out this elaborate trap for the zombies using a single person and lots of fire, but now some other things in the town caught fire, and you've got to make your way through town rather quickly to try and douse flames, fighting some straggling, flaming zombies along the way who just haven't had the decency to re-die yet. OR, the person in the center of town panics (assuming they were supposed to light the fireworks) and fails to do so, and you've got to end up lighting them, which would be difficult. OR, the basement folk get attacked after all, and you've got to try to go help them.

 

It would be vastly superior if they just gave you a button to push and made you figure out the explosion timing on your own. Also, if they let you soak the thatch on the other village buildings in order to prevent the fire from spreading. Of course, if you don't think to do that . . .

 

Presumably you'd also have to figure out how to get and keep the zombies' attention when they first show up. Which would all be enormously more fun than some random result.

Edited by PsychoBlonde

Grand Rhetorist of the Obsidian Order

If you appeal to "realism" about a video game feature, you are wrong. Go back and try again.

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It would be vastly superior if they just gave you a button to push and made you figure out the explosion timing on your own. Also, if they let you soak the thatch on the other village buildings in order to prevent the fire from spreading. Of course, if you don't think to do that . . .

 

Presumably you'd also have to figure out how to get and keep the zombies' attention when they first show up. Which would all be enormously more fun than some random result.

 

That would, indeed, be quite awesome, 8). You've just gotta tread carefully along the edge of "too complicated." Not because being able to set up a zombie trap in a town and having control over luring the zombies into position and igniting it yourself, specificailly, is too complicated, but because venturing beyond a certain level of choice complexity either means programming for a truckload more choices (basically, whatever could be possible with the level of realism you've created), OR shattering everyone's hopes and dreams by falling short with the actual choices available.

 

Games tend to do that. You know the ones. "Hey look, if you fire an arrow at this bucket, uber-realistic physics take over! Oh, but your arrows only affect about 7 different objects in the game world, because we didn't really expect you to use ingenuity with anything but buckets and a handful of other objects that WE thought up really specific instances for, AND because we didn't have the time or the means to program in all that stuff..."

 

It's one of those things that, if you don't go all the way with it throughout the whole game world, you might as well not have done it. You give someone a swingset and they'll enjoy it as best they can. But, if you give someone a playground, then tell them they can only use the swingset, they're going to be upset.

 

However, if they CAN get things to that level, then I SAY YAY!

Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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Maybe when the outcome is random the writers may want to avoid straight wins and losses, rather making the more 'succesful' and the least succesful outcomes be more different than simply being more and less effective mirrors of each other.

 

 

I like Delterius's idea of making random outcomes fairly even in value to the player, especially in cases where the player has no say in the matter. I think it's one of the cheapest ways to generate replay value.

 

Now if the player is informed about a high-risk high-return option in advance I think there could be room for some inequality in results. Example: You may take the oil of speed on the desk, or attempt to mix it with a mysterious potion sitting next to it. (The result may be an improved oil of speed, or the potion blowing up in your face dealing acid damage.) A non-risk choice should be present if a lot is at stake. If you guys think reloading behavior compromises this mechanic I suggest you check out this thread (shameless plug) where I basically suggest that information about deliberate choices made by the player be stored independently from save files, thus making results of random events be consistent between reloads for the particular play-through.

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