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Cause and Effect

XP Behavior Lawful Chaotic Reputation

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#1
TRX850

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This is in response to the many threads in disagreement over how XP rewards and quest objectives should be handled. There have been many good arguments from many different perspectives. I will summarize my own personal opinion on the matter, and leave the floor open for you to add constructive criticism. This isn't about right or wrong or an aversion to change. It's about creating a "balanced" system for all play styles that doesn't prevent certain behaviour, but rather reacts to it.

Thankyou, and keep smiling.


My thoughts on Cause and Effect (in a nutshell):

- Cause should be controlled by the Core Mechanics. You can run around and hit things. It's your choice.

- Effect should be evaluated by the Reputation System. If you hit things you shouldn't hit, there are consequences.

- The Core Mechanics should only deal with numbers.

- The Reputation System should adjudicate character behaviour.

- If the numbers say your character has been a naughty boy, then your reputation influences the appropriate factions.

- If you continue to be a good boy, you remain in good standing with the appropriate factions. Or it may even increase your standing.

- If you continue to be a naughty boy, the appropriate factions react to you accordingly, i.e., If you go looking for trouble, you will find it.

If a player's actions seem unlawful, or despicable, or grindy, or in bad taste, do not prevent it from happening by excluding it from the core mechanics or blatantly denying them XP. Add incentives or disincentives in the game content that allow the player to make a choice as to whether they continue that play style or change. The same goes for lawful behaviour.

We need to treat players like adults and let them accept responsibility for their actions. I would like to play Project Eternity as a good guy, as a bad guy, as a good guy who turns bad, as a bad guy who turns good, and maybe the odd neutral play style too. I don't want to be pre-judged by the core mechanics, only judged by my actions that are then handled by the reputation system.

Love, peace, and chicken grease. :geek:


Some background threads to this post:
 

- Degenerate Gameplay

- Balancing Stealth vs Combat

- Good vs Evil Roleplaying Rewards

 


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#2
TRX850

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As a side note, are we going to see a character's soul react in some way when the character's actions are at odds with their alignment? P:E won't be using alignment though, hence the reputation/faction system.

 

If you're playing the equivalent of a lawful or good character, and you kill innocent people, shouldn't your soul react with a guilt warning, and eventually enforce some kind of penalty?

 

And if you're playing the equivalent of chaotic or evil, and you perform an uncharacteristically good act, shouldn't the same thing happen?

 

I would still hope one can achieve a character arc that transforms from light to dark or dark to light. You don't *have* to stay with one alignment or play style the entire time. Your choice of deity at character creation (if any) should determine your starting allegiance. But you could swear a new allegiance as the game progresses.



#3
IndiraLightfoot

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Nice topic, TRX850! :)

 

And many of your ideas in your first post sounds great. I have only one objection, really. I've grown tired of universal reputation systems in CRPGs. If I mess something up in one corner of the world the grapevine gets effective like the Internet. I'd rather see a more piecemeal reputation system that actually is corrupt and contradictory in itself. But yes, consequences, big and small, please!

 

As for souls and alignment I think Dishonored did it very well: The godlike entity in the game didn't sort you into a certain alignment in that game, but your actions had good, bad or even neutrally wierd consequences. So, I'd love to see the soul as quite a plastic beast that can be quite different things - it should follow the wide diversity if character choice.


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#4
TRX850

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I agree the reputation system doesn't need to have an immediate and all-encompassing effect. Regions are good. And corruption is good too.

 

I'm all for shady factions making accusations against the player, or trying to frame them. As long as factions are affected (eventually) by your choices -- good or evil -- random, or by design -- and you can *see* that effect upon the game world through the action and dialogue of those factions.

 

If I hack up a forest of random bears (a chaotic act), it may anger a druidic faction. So there are consequences.

If I betray a local crime lord, I'll expect an assassin's blade while I sleep. So there are consequences.

If I divert from one quest on the way to another, and encounter some random bandits on the way, I can talk, run, sneak, or hack the living s**t out of them. It's my choice. And I want the appropriate xp for it, regardless of whose quest it is. If those bandits happen to work for one of my quest-givers, all the more reason to roleplay out the consequences.

 

I don't want to ever be prevented from roleplaying my character's "alignment" or ideology because a form of morality was incorrectly built into the grassroot core mechanics. But I'm more than happy to allow the consequences of my actions be decided by a dynamic reputation system, and accept responsibility for those actions.


Edited by TRX850, 29 January 2013 - 05:05 AM.

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#5
JFSOCC

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I want my reputation not to be based on any kind of moralist system, but rather how it affects those who would know. Faction reputation seems a fine way to do that. And I want to have plenty of actions possible that don't factor into your reputation at all.
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#6
IndiraLightfoot

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Heh, I certainly agree with everything you guys posted!

 

Freedom of action and lots of consequences is the way to go, and unintended ones can be fun at times too. As a side note, for the main plot lines of a hopefully vast game like this it will most likely be vulnerable to us messing something up without our understanding, but I'm fine with that. I think I get more annoyed with systems that tell me what I've done just after each encounter. Perhaps that was one of the lower points of the reputation system in FNV: You immediately got transparent feedback of what you've done. Weirdly, I sorta like when I get ambushed by a silent assassin and then reads the order on his dead body afterwards and realize that I have myself to blame for his getting hired in the first place. I know some players want to do all things in a game in one play-thru else it counts as bad design (As with the various "factions" you could join in Skyrim, coz yeah, not only could you joined them all, but also there wre no consequences for doing so, and no surprises when a faction realizes that you're two-timing them).

 

As for alignment: In PnP D&D it was sometimes fun and comforting with LG, NG, CG, LN, N, CN, LE, NE and CE. It also tied up well with whole pantheons and powers-that-be in all kinds of planes and dimensions. But in CRPGs I've come to appreciate more open systems that treat each action as tied to specific causes and effects.



#7
curryinahurry

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There is no alignment system, and if the game is properly designed then your actions should always please some factions and displease others.  Hopefully the game will keep things a bit cloudy as to white hat vs black hat groups and every faction will have their own motivation and believe what they are doing is right.  

 

Reputation is trickier and I would prefer it kept as generic as possible otherwise it can become a metagaming crutch for people want to get certain results.  Of course, there are many who want just that, to know that they are being the good guy or bad guy, but I would prefer a system where one is capable of being a hero while being secretly (or openly) hated by segments of the populations.



#8
Lephys

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I like your analysis and this discussion. And yes, the player should be able to do whatever he wants, within the constraints of the initial core system (i.e. a player in a racing game shouldn't be able to go shopping for clothes at the mall, or go hunt some deer in the woods, because that obviously isn't in the interest of the game design's goal.)

As long as you pay attention to the boundary between obstacle course and sandbox, everything's fine.

In other words, anywhere your player is presented with a situation, and hacking people to bits would provide SOME viable outcome to that situation, the game shouldn't artificially prevent you from doing so (i.e. make the target invincible or leave off any "*attack*" option in a dialogue-controlled segment).

But, that's quite different from the insistence that any situation always have a killy option available, or which specifically killy situations should be available. I mean, in Fallout 3, you could nuke a whole town. But, you couldn't just go around nuking all the towns out of existence. The game specifically set up a scenario in which there was the opportunity to nuke a town, and it didn't say "Yeah but you can only help the town, and you can't nuke it, 'cause that would be really extreme."

So, to use that example, "There's a nuke in the town, and it's almost functional, and the player is capable of fixing it, so the game should take that into account," I agree with. But, "If there's a town, I should be able to nuke it, because both nukes and towns exist in this game world," I don't agree with. If that makes any sense.

#9
TRX850

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The real artistry in game design is in providing the illusion that the player is in control. Whereas in reality, the game designers have anticipated the vast majority of player choices, including the weird stuff, and provided an outcome for each of them.

 

If P:E relies heavily on quest xp, they should still allow combat xp so that if someone does want to divert from a quest, or abandon it, or go off and be a maverick because that's who their character is, their choices can still be discreetly handled without breaking the illusion.



#10
JFSOCC

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that's an interesting point, should the game /allow for/reward player behaviour which is not calculated for.
In some cases yes, outsmarting the game should be rewarded (without using meta-game thinking)
But not rewarding psychotically killing several guardsmen in the middle of a city, I think, would be equal to teaching the player some sense: no good will come of it.
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#11
Lephys

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If P:E relies heavily on quest xp, they should still allow combat xp so that if someone does want to divert from a quest, or abandon it, or go off and be a maverick because that's who their character is, their choices can still be discreetly handled without breaking the illusion.

The behavior you're suggesting isn't confined to combat. If someone asks you to bring them 25 herbs so they can make some potion (that they can't make with less than 25 herbs), and the player brings them 24 herbs, then abandons the quest, should they still get 90-something-% of the XP?

Or, what about the possibility of a combat-only objective: "Clear out this cave of goblins." If the player kills all but 3 goblins, should they get awarded XP for part of the accomplishment of "clearing out the cave of goblins"? The goal isn't any more achieved than it was before, because there are either 0 goblins in the cave (and it's not cleared out), or there are greater than 0 goblins in the cave.

Then, there's the matter of what is the XP representing. If you get XP for "Clearing out a cave," should you ALSO get XP for each goblin kill? Doesn't the last goblin kill actually accomplish both things? So, you're basically awarding XP specifically for slaying, but it's simply conditional. Slaying is the method, and clearing the cave is the goal. But no other action than slaying is required. So, when you kill the last goblin, do you get 50 goblin-kill XP, PLUS 100 objective-completion XP?

If you do, aren't you getting double-XP? You're getting XP for the chosen method of completing the goal, AND for the actual completion of the goal. But, if that's fine, then what if you opt for a non-combat method? What if you travel about and acquire parts and plans to build a gas bomb, and you toss it in and gas them out? Should you get XP for each goblin you gassed out of the cave, AND for clearing the cave?

If you get XP for the kills plus the goal, and you only get XP for the goal and not the gassing, then aren't you favoring one method over another? You're telling the player "the more you accomplish things without killing, the worse-off you're going to be. Meanwhile, you can always kill and abandon goals before accomplishing them, and you'll still progress."

#12
TRX850

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Spoiler


As was discussed a few times in the other threads, the goal probably won't be to have equal opportunities for XP for all play styles for all quest objectives, but focus on providing well designed encounters and quests that over the entire campaign provide about equal numbers of opportunities for different play styles. Per-encounter or per-objective would just be way too messy and bad design for all play styles, rather than a memorable design for one particular play style.



 



#13
Xienzi

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As a side note, are we going to see a character's soul react in some way when the character's actions are at odds with their alignment? P:E won't be using alignment though, hence the reputation/faction system.

 

If you're playing the equivalent of a lawful or good character, and you kill innocent people, shouldn't your soul react with a guilt warning, and eventually enforce some kind of penalty?

 

And if you're playing the equivalent of chaotic or evil, and you perform an uncharacteristically good act, shouldn't the same thing happen?

 

I would still hope one can achieve a character arc that transforms from light to dark or dark to light. You don't *have* to stay with one alignment or play style the entire time. Your choice of deity at character creation (if any) should determine your starting allegiance. But you could swear a new allegiance as the game progresses.

 

You know what would be a fun idea? Faction and deity non-standard game overs.


Edited by Xienzi, 30 January 2013 - 12:25 AM.


#14
TRX850

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You know what would be a fun idea? Faction and deity non-standard game overs.

 

Examples?



#15
Lephys

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As was discussed a few times in the other threads, the goal probably won't be to have equal opportunities for XP for all play styles for all quest objectives, but focus on providing well designed encounters and quests that over the entire campaign provide about equal numbers of opportunities for different play styles. Per-encounter or per-objective would just be way too messy and bad design for all play styles, rather than a memorable design for one particular play style.

I understand that it's not going to be equal XP for every single scenario/instance. But the fact remains that the only time kills already won't provide XP is when they are in no way designated a part of any objective or accomplishment in the entire game. And I still haven't seen any examples brought to light that indicate that is inherently going to be a problem (that there will NEED to be oodles of living things just drifting about with no purpose to their existence other than to provide XP, essentially...).

Purely evaluating the mechanics I don't see the system, at its core, restricting anything beyond a reasonable fashion when you DO factor in playstyle preferences. Unless they balance the game wrong, of course (like killing these 50 orcs gets you 100XP, but sneaking around gets you 7,000 XP, or simply never factoring kills and CR into XP rewards WHENEVER you grant them).

Assuming they're doing their job in designing around the given system, wanting to kill all the things you possibly can without actually finishing off whole groups and/or completing any objectives or sub-objectives (really just lesser objectives) should not even be a viable playstyle.

The only reason you would even desire to do such a thing is if you didn't care about the meat-and-potatoes of the game at all and simply cared about gaining XP on a kill-by-kill basis just because it pleases you. So, it makes no sense. "Those things I completely voluntarily killed even though the game established the fact that their deaths didn't offer any form of progress in the story, a quest, or character progression SHOULD have given me character progression points so that I would've had a reason to kill them in the first place!"

If taking the XP award away from a given creature death makes a player say "Then what's the point in killing it?", then no matter what else that creature's death provides, the player doesn't value it at all. So, how silly is it to accomodate that player with XP when nothing but his desire for an XP reward provides any reason whatsoever to do so?

"I hate eating asparagus, but I like eating asparagus when I ride a rollercoaster afterwards!". That would mean I don't like asparagus, no matter what, and I DO like rollercoasters.

If you enjoy combat, and/or you're going to tackle entire groups/objectives no matter what, then it literally doesn't matter whether or not individual enemies always grant you XP. The only time that matters (via process of elimination) is when you place zero value on the objectives and/or combat and only wish to gain XP points for the sake of gaining XP points.

Again, assuming things are balanced well. If they aren't the complaint still doesn't apply to the system, but rather to the specific balancing values/decisions.

If I am somehow mistaken, PLEASE, please correct me.
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#16
Xienzi

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You know what would be a fun idea? Faction and deity non-standard game overs.

 

Examples?

For example... Well. Considering the recent update, maybe if you see an old woman in rags on an road and you rob/kill her, you'll receive divine punishment from Woedica herself? Little things like pissing off someone really, really powerful. As for faction related non-standard game overs... remember when you could have The Nameless One permanently bound to one place?
 


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#17
TRX850

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@Lephys, I take all your points into consideration.

 

But some people will want to powergame. And IIRC, they said they would allow that in P:E as a valid play style.  And killing everything might seem irrational, but if you are powergaming, and you want to antagonize every faction you can so they come after you, then that's a perfectly valid choice. It means more XP for powergaming. It might not be an interesting playthrough in terms of storytelling, but to be fair, the player has probably already played the game a few times by this point.



#18
Lephys

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Powergaming is perfectly fine. But it's simply a decision based on factors. You either want to kill everything because the virtual killing is fun, or you want to kill everything BECAUSE it gives you a reward (i.e. powergaming.)

Having lots of optional XP already accomodates powergaming. And it's perfectly rational to say "I want to kill these things because they give me XP." What is not in any way rational (and should in no way be accomodated) is the following notion: "I SHOULD want to kill these things, and therefore they SHOULD give me XP!"

Is that a clear distinction? I am in no way stating that you're suggesting that should be accommodated, but I know of no option other than further clarification when I specify the exact problem to which I'm referring, and you respond defending a scope that is broader than that to which I was referring.

It has absolutely nothing to do with liking XP, or liking killing. It has everything to do with irrationality. I'm suggesting that that's possibly been the discrepancy throughout this whole debate (amongst multiple threads).

If you want XP, you're going to make sure you meet the requirements for it. If you just want to kill, you're going to do that regardless of the rewards. If you want neither, then you don't even want to play the game. There is no "None of the above." It's irrational to demand that something you dislike give you a reason to like it (in spite of disliking it), rather than simply choosing some other thing that you actually like from the start. Anything that doesn't fall under those criteria should already give you XP (and is fully able to in the objective-only system.)

If someone wants to speculate as to whether or not they'll end up granting XP for all the appropriate actions/scenarios, then that's a whole 'nother story (and something we'll only be able to guess at until we see the final product.)

Edited by Lephys, 30 January 2013 - 04:23 PM.


#19
TRX850

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Myself and others have given examples of chaotic or evil play style that comes under the irrational banner though. A paladin would be irrational if he thought he should kill everything. A blackguard would be in keeping with character.  All along I have been talking about "character" and not simply the player. You are not your character. You play the role of another person.

 

Part of the problem is when lawful or good characters grab extra XP by killing a few random things because they know there are no consequences, or at least there weren't in previous IE games. That's where a behaviour system should come into it.

 

But if a chaotic or evil character kills a few random things, it doesn't (or shouldn't) matter if those creatures were part of another side-quest or not. That's irrelevant to the "character".

 

I think maybe the confusion lies between differentiating player from character. Maybe?

 

Edit:

 

Btw, I did mention powergaming in one of the other threads, but I fear it became lost in the sea of white noise that is now the P:E forums. :p


Edited by TRX850, 30 January 2013 - 05:18 PM.


#20
TRX850

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One example that might shed some light is a series of "Let's Play" videos on YouTube by a guy called mynameisnotlily, where his character is usually evil or chaotic. As a player, some of his choices are downright irrational and sometimes painfully bizarre. But it's because he has built his character to behave that way. And once you get to see him roleplay it out, it's actually one of the best RPG series I've ever seen. He's done BG and NWN that I've seen so far, and probably others. He wastes a lot of gold. And kills a lot of innocents. And turns quests around in such a way that it makes for compelling viewing.

 

That's just one reason why irrational behaviour is valid behaviour.







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