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how to make your rpg work


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Really enjoyed the first post.

Really annoyed by the reaction to it.

 

Let's be clear: this thread is NOT about whether or not Dragon Age 2 is a good game. This thread is about worldbuilding, and how to make it work, using DA2 as an example of flawed worldbuilding. This argument is COMPLETELY DISTINCT from whether or not you manchildren have a soft spot for the game.

 

All good points in the first post, but I'd like to respond to the simulation aspect. Dream already brought up the QA and design problems posed by it, but I think there's more to the problem than that. I think simulation design has its own uncanny valley effect, where the harder a game tries to make a world feel alive by simulating realistic behavior, the more difficult it becomes to make that behavior really convincing. Fable, Skyrim, and Stalker all tried to do it with budgets many times larger than Project Eternity's, and while they all were successful in many ways, when bugs or inconsistencies occur then they stand out more because they break the intended illusion so starkly. And, let's face it, the illusion is never really THAT good.

Dwarf Fortress is a really interesting example, but the genius of its ASCII graphics is that it allows your imagination to fill in so many gaps. And, let's be clear, it's REALLY REALLY unlikely that PE is going to have any simulation aspects that are remotely that complex.

 

Project Eternity is going to be a heavily narrative game. The strength of its storytelling and its worldbuilding, as described in the OP, will be MUCH more effective for crafting an immersive experience than simulated systems that are inevitably buggy and disruptive to immersion.

Edited by Alex Sherman
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Alex has a good point.

 

One might think that instead of trying to create simulation to focus on micro encounters that promote immersion.

 

Kind of like the arrow in the knee fiasco. It was clever to have some dialogue built into your random encounters with otherwise worthless npcs. But when the 14th soldier tells you he was an adventurer until he took an arrow in the knee, it becomes a joke.

 

The nice thing about a narrative game is that you can create areas that are not revisited (without another play through). Within these pocket encounters you can devote a bit of time to making the NPCs that are not critical to the story still have some minor speech or interaction.

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Personally I am fine with what the OP says in the first post. I am slightly baffled as to why it was needed to mention Dragon Age 2. You don't need examples of good and bad world building to talk about ... world building. That said like many topics I see on the forum I realize Obsidian is comprised of people who have been doing this for a long time with a strong vision of what they want to do with this game. That said, I trust they don't really need the OP's advice, regardless of the fact that World Building is a key foundation block for a good RPG.... or most good games period honestly.

 

If I want to learn about or educate someone on good world building I sort of prefer the classics though and I lend them my copy of the AD&D 2nd Edition World Builders Guide.

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Oh, one thing that I hated in world design: incomprehensibly powerful npcs.

 

I remember Ultima Online, my character got to the point where I could solo almost any monster in the game, even dragon types. But a guard could teleport to me and 1 shot me in town. That was a clear mechanic to enforce rules, but it made no sense.

 

Please dont have idiotic power imbalances in power. Makes for a break in immersion.

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Thats true, for many the DA series has become a paradigm of how not to produce an RPG :)

More like it's become the boogeyman of RPGs. Don't do ___ because the ghost of Dragon Age will get you!

 

*giggle*

 

But yes, I do understand that my "simulation" comments may be outside the realm of PE's budget. I was NOT however suggesting we turn PE into M&B:Warband.

 

MY MAIN POINT IS THAT DA2 DIDN'T HAVE NPCS REACTING TO YOU LIKE THEY SHOULD. If you're going to have civillian NPCs in your game, spend five minutes to give them enough AI so they simulate proper civillain behavior! Gosh! BG2 did fine with a relatively static world, though it WOULD have been a more immersive game were it not so static.

 

I am not proposing we turn PE into Dwarf Fortress, but that we be mindful of systems we can have because this is a computer game and not a PnP one. We can add systems and SHOULD where we can, to simulate the world. Having non-player entities and having the player be subject to certain world-systems, do build immersion, although I do agree such systems could be buggy and backfire, simple systems, like civillain behavior, are absolutely necessary.

 

Personally I am fine with what the OP says in the first post. I am slightly baffled as to why it was needed to mention Dragon Age 2. You don't need examples of good and bad world building to talk about ... world building. That said like many topics I see on the forum I realize Obsidian is comprised of people who have been doing this for a long time with a strong vision of what they want to do with this game. That said, I trust they don't really need the OP's advice, regardless of the fact that World Building is a key foundation block for a good RPG.... or most good games period honestly.

 

If I want to learn about or educate someone on good world building I sort of prefer the classics though and I lend them my copy of the AD&D 2nd Edition World Builders Guide.

 

I apologize for using DA2 as an example, but it's basically "garaunteed replies" - which I like :p - also, I do need to use examples of both bad/good world building, because I can't talk in high language on a forum, it's going to jump over everyone's head. I need to provide concrete examples of what I'm talking about so everyone can be clear of what I'm saying.

 

Anyway, I can attribute the thread's negativity to my lack of description.

 

I'm actually doing a video on this subject. Hopefully will finish it soon. I suppose I'll post it in this thread when I'm done.

 

I'm sure none of you want to hear my horrible voice prattle on about what I think is important about RPGs, but I assure you I'll be providing enough video evidence from... you know, video games, to hopefully dredge up my points a bit better. You're all welcome to have dissenting opinions, but... I think such opinions have less value... when they don't try to use evidence. No offense, I mean, I'm guilty of this as well, it's hard to cite a video game, after all, but I think we're only going to be able to make intelligent points about video games by citing them, after a certain point. I'm not trying to simply state my opinion, but show Obsidian why my way of thinking will produce a better game. By you know, copying games that work.

 

And yes, yes, PE is just supposed to copy BG2.

 

And I'm sure it will be a fine game if they ONLY do that.

 

But we've learned a lot since BG2. We can improve upon what IE games did. And by improve, I don't mean copy Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, or Social Games. By improve, I mean learning by using other RPGs. VTMB, Mount and Blade, NWN2, DA2, DAO - all have important things to contribute when we examine them. That doesn't mean turning PE into a non-BG2 successor, it means acknowledging that we can improve the genre. That it's not nostalgia talking. That isometric cRPGs can work in a modern setting and can be "modernized" without turning them into slop.

 

What I think we have learned, over the years, is that good RPGs have believable worlds. Believable worlds come about by good emergent systems, or by good writing. I think this is why Morrowind is so beloved and Skyrim/Oblivion are so detested. I mean, Skyrim/Oblivion had detestable guard/prison systems. They really break your immersion when someone teleports half a continent away to arrest you for that mug you stole in some guy's tavern. Or when infinitely respawning guards come after you to kill you.

 

Obviously, bad systems will kill immersion. Buggy systems less so, but will too, but good emergent game design will enhance immersion far better than an amazing plot. An amazing plot is alive only for the first time you play it. Amazing choices can only be so deep - it's hard to write a branching narrative that is complex and will entertain for many playthroughs.

 

Computers can make RPGs be very dynamic.

 

And I'm not saying we should cast away good plot or good characters, just that we can enhance both by adding as much simulation as we can afford to.

 

I think... I mean this is obviously impossible right now, but the ideal way to simulate the "Game Master" for cRPGs, is not to try and write/hard-code some crazy choice-consequence series of plots, but to make something like L4D's AI director and combine it with Mount and Blade's economic/warfare systems or Dwarf Fortress's society simulation. Again, this is way out of scope for PE, but the idea I think it theoretically possible - that we could have a psuedo-random cRPG that doesn't give you "kill 10 rats" as quests over and over, and it would be immersive. That is obviously a very different game from what PE wants to be, but PE can be what it wants to be and more than that, if it's mindful to implement cheap simulation where it can. That is my suggestion, but probably my better points are my original three. I'm not putting emphasis on them, because I... I think - or hope - Obsidian already knows how important good world building is.

 

VTMB succeeded because WOD is an amazing world.

DA:O was rocky because BioWare was creating a whole new world. And they got a few weird mechanics and story elements and got started off on the wrong foot, but delivered an okay game.

In DA2 they really fell apart in the world building, which is what the draw was to their games.

Mass Effect is so beloved because it has a pretty... well, it has an okay universe. It's not ideal at all (way too many humanoid alien races for my liking), but it's plausible and consistent and it has conveyance! The prothean focus was really well done. When the reapers became though... squid ships and protheans were no longer the main focus... ME2/ME3 began to crumble. ME2/ME3 definitely have a huge lack of conveyance and consistency, though ME1 provides enough plausibility most people can enjoy the series.

Edited by anubite
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I made a 2 hour rant video about dragon age 2. It's not the greatest... but if you want to watch it, here ya go:

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I think that when making an RPG work, the designers need to allow the player to consistently role-play the PC how they see fit. What I mean by this is they need to avoid fleshing out the PC for the player or trying to tell the player what the PC's motives are, as these should be up to the player. The PC should never surprise the player, never have knowledge the player does not, and never do anything that the player does not consent to.

"I am the expert, asshat." - Hurlsnot

"You need to be careful, lest I write another ten page essay on mythology and how it relates to Sailor Moon." - majestic

"I won't say what just in case KaineParker is reading" - Bartimaeus

"Oh no! Is there super secret ending as well? I don’t care." - Wormerine

"Get some poor minorities, that keeps WASPs away easy." - Malcador

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I think that when making an RPG work, the designers need to allow the player to consistently role-play the PC how they see fit. What I mean by this is they need to avoid fleshing out the PC for the player or trying to tell the player what the PC's motives are, as these should be up to the player. The PC should never surprise the player, never have knowledge the player does not, and never do anything that the player does not consent to.

 

I generally agree with this, though I don't think it hurts to give the PC a previous history that you as the player are expected to roleplay. Of course, having a blank slate works, but having an interesting backstory can add some interesting conflict to the story (eg you were raised by wolves).

Edited by anubite

I made a 2 hour rant video about dragon age 2. It's not the greatest... but if you want to watch it, here ya go:

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I think that when making an RPG work, the designers need to allow the player to consistently role-play the PC how they see fit. What I mean by this is they need to avoid fleshing out the PC for the player or trying to tell the player what the PC's motives are, as these should be up to the player. The PC should never surprise the player, never have knowledge the player does not, and never do anything that the player does not consent to.

 

I generally agree with this, though I don't think it hurts to give the PC a previous history that you as the player are expected to roleplay. Of course, having a blank slate works, but having an interesting backstory can add some interesting conflict to the story (eg you were raised by wolves).

 

While I prefer the blank slate, when I stated "avoid fleshing out" I meant more in a morals and personality sort of way.

"I am the expert, asshat." - Hurlsnot

"You need to be careful, lest I write another ten page essay on mythology and how it relates to Sailor Moon." - majestic

"I won't say what just in case KaineParker is reading" - Bartimaeus

"Oh no! Is there super secret ending as well? I don’t care." - Wormerine

"Get some poor minorities, that keeps WASPs away easy." - Malcador

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Another DA2 rant. Yawn.

 

It's not a rant about DA2. It mentions about what it did wrong and I learned from what it did wrong.

 

What I've demonstrated applies to ALL RPGs, or should, if they are to be called RPGs. RPGs are ABOUT their worlds more than anything else, DA2's world was not convincing - it wasn't plausible, consistent or conveyed.

 

What DA2 does wrong is very important. But it's not my focus of this topic - it's to remind Obsidian to focus on conveying the images, the sounds, the feelings of PE's world - as well as a logical consistency to its world and people. Perhaps I'm preaching to the choir, but eh, why not. It's the internet. Perhaps I want validation, or my points disproved, which I don't see you doing.

Do you know how utterly arrogant you sound? It doesn't lend your message any credence. Basically you read like a troll.

 

As with any game, DA2 had its good points and its weaknesses. I personally found it entertaining enough to play it to nearly the end. It has some design elements that remain appealing to me. What you need to do is accept the fact that it is mainly an action RPG.

"It has just been discovered that research causes cancer in rats."

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Okay I don't think Dragon Age was the greatest rpg in the world or anything but your criticisms of it are extremely harsh.

Don't mix DA and DA2. Lore and plausibility (behavior plausibility) in DA was done fairly good, totally not so in DA2.

 

PS:T was hardly plausible and it didn't really have conveyance in the way you describe

Wut? Thieves actually afraid when they caught, every npc doing something consistent with who they are, completely different reactions on you by different people, fractions, every named npc has their goals and reasons understandable and logical from their point of view and well backed with lore. One of the most "alive" worlds I've seen. Without complexly scripted simulation - almost nothing except barebone and rare travel scripts, but mass of details, insignificant if not to look at them, but forming the perception.

 

For me plausibility in the game world and plausibility in character actions are very important. Every small insight in some area that makes character seem more competent in who they are is a great thing. Doesn't matter if it's from real life, or true only in game world, just make that believable. Perfect example of such thing is thief and mage teaching in PS:T. That small dialogues, when you learning from or teaching some specific tiefling, talks with street thieves when you are really surprised finding their hand in your pocket, learning to become a mage (from some granny) with those trials and explanations... Such small things add depth to the world, allowing you to not to alienate from it when you find something inconsistent, but try to explain and imagine reason of it yourself.

Pretty much same applies to character and npc behavior it's really bad for the immersion when you could tag a person as "lawful stupid" or "chaotic stupid" and be done with his personality. It could be completely avoided with small bits of information like in PS:T: girl eager to blow up some factory not solely cause she is chaotic, but she has her reasons and well thought from her point of view motivation. You could completely skip that if you're not interested, but for one who are - that's very important 3(?)-4(?) lines of text.

 

So, imo, complex simulation mechanics could add something good but not too necessary in rpg's, they are by far not the main thing forming the immersion. For example the game could have good simulation mechanics but still fail in plausibility (Two Worlds, if i recall correctly) and lack in complex calculations and be the very believable one (PS:T).

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Because BioWare social network is North Korea of the internet.

 

end of line

 

 

Do you know how utterly arrogant you sound? It doesn't lend your message any credence. Basically you read like a troll.

 

As with any game, DA2 had its good points and its weaknesses. I personally found it entertaining enough to play it to nearly the end. It has some design elements that remain appealing to me. What you need to do is accept the fact that it is mainly an action RPG.

 

Huh? But it's not an action RPG. Anyway, I do acknowledge it does a few things right, like some of the Qunari scenes. What you sound like to me is an overly sensitive fanboy. You just have to accept that the game is bad and why it is so; because you can't put your fingers in your ears and ignore it. You have to acknowledge the game's flaws. You have to talk about it.

 

I'm not unintelligently just "hating" on DA2. I JUST recently replayed it for the second time to make this analysis. I'm studying the game. Examining why it sucks. Because it does. So that we don't make a game like it ever again.

 

I'm making a video that will expose all of DA2's flaws and HOPEFULLY BioWare will see it, though it seems it's already too late, from what we've heard of DA3 so far... they're making the same mistakes they did in DA2.

 

Anyway, just get over it. The game is bad, this thread isn't really about that. It's about conveyance, plausibility, consistency and simulation.

 

If you want to argue how DA2 has one of those 4 elements, I'd be happy, no I'd love to hear it, as I could use it in my analysis video, but so far, I've not found enough evidence that DA2 has these elements in any significant degree. Or, you could try to consider a good RPG that has NONE of those elements, suggesting that my initial analysis wrong, that RPGs don't need those elements to be convincing and/or good.

 

I don't exactly want to turn this into a DA2 thread... unless it's constructive discussion about its flaws/merits, as I have only done in this thread. Instead of whining about how I'm hating on the game, why don't you construct an argument about the features Obsidian should take from it? I'd say DA2 is probably one of the biggest lessons Obsidian could learn about RPGs today. It's very... provocative.

Edited by anubite

I made a 2 hour rant video about dragon age 2. It's not the greatest... but if you want to watch it, here ya go:

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