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Author Topic: RPG elements  (Read 1173 times)

lucusLoC

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RPG elements
« on: February 12, 2010, 01:08:14 pm »

there was a discussion on rpg leveling on another forum, which is extreamly relavant here. i thouhg i would post it so that it could be discussed.

Quote from: StoneyMahoney

HP, XP and leveling were a solution to an ancient problem in tabletop RPGs. Actions had to be simple enough to be resolved mentally in a few seconds, so the statistics and rules of RPGs had to be streamlined:

"Alan, you are attacked from behind. Reflex save = 20, your Reflex bonus = +2, roll 18 to pass [rolls 6] you don't notice the attack. Your flat-footed AC = 12, +1 weapon so roll 11 to hit [rolls 15] you're hit, damage is 1d6+1 [rolls 5] 6 damage, you're on -1HP so you are now unconscious and bleeding. Right, next player..."

A combination of precalculated situational stats and simple status indicators like HP made table-top RPGs fast to play. Gaining XP until you level up before adjusting and recalculating those stats stops character advancement from getting in the way of the action by getting it over and done with periodically in a single session of number-crunching to be completed at the GM's discretion.

These stats first popped up in computer RPGs because they mimicked the rules of their table-top brethren and ran on very slow computers. Action complexity has obviously increased over time, just look at the mental-arithmetic unfriendly 5-figure HP maximums many RPGs have, but the basic building blocks of HP/XP/Levels have been left in place so long that now everyone has an entrenched expectation for them to be there. Any game in which they are absent 'obviously' isn't an RPG, by popular misguided definition.

With this reliance on these over-simplified stats, RPGs have crippled themselves and, despite decades of development, haven't come anywhere near fulfilling their full potential. With the calculating and graphical power of computers today, RPGs could have on-the-fly recalculation of stats every time you are hit to reflect the actual wound location and severity, complete with accurate graphical depiction, plus damage to armour affecting it's ability to protect you from repeated attacks as it weakens in specific areas. How about abilities and skills that change realistically when you use/forget them, tactics learned the hard way equating to actual changes in behaviour in later similar fights, physical statistics and appearance that change reflecting your character's past, both played and back story... the possibilities are limitless.


i think df gets a lot of this right, especially the combat, but i do hope the leveling system eventually makes it to the same level of detail. with the new rusting attributes and skills i think we are one step closer, but i think the attribute range needs to be tightened up a bit, and not be as arbitrary.


forgt to link to the original thread: http://www.bit-tech.net/news/gaming/2010/02/12/fable-3-has-no-experience-health-bar/1#last
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Tenebrous

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Re: RPG elements
« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2010, 11:43:56 pm »

I think part of the reluctance to let go of simplified/abstracted statistic systems stems from what we would stand to lose, as gamers.

I think that what defines "RPG elements" in a game (whether it be an RPG or not) is the ability to 'play' the system: in your average Final Fantasy, the player has the option of progressing their character towards different play styles and, perhaps eventually, becoming master of them all.

Conversely, a more complex and abstract system like Dwarf Fortress, while interesting and fun, is very difficult to control as a player; there are only a few examples of Dwarves being 'gamed' (Cross-training, Social workouts, Morul), and many of those will be rendered obsolete as DF nears completion.
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Kilo24

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Re: RPG elements
« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2010, 12:49:42 am »

I think part of the reluctance to let go of simplified/abstracted statistic systems stems from what we would stand to lose, as gamers.

I think that what defines "RPG elements" in a game (whether it be an RPG or not) is the ability to 'play' the system: in your average Final Fantasy, the player has the option of progressing their character towards different play styles and, perhaps eventually, becoming master of them all.

Conversely, a more complex and abstract system like Dwarf Fortress, while interesting and fun, is very difficult to control as a player; there are only a few examples of Dwarves being 'gamed' (Cross-training, Social workouts, Morul), and many of those will be rendered obsolete as DF nears completion.

It's not necessarily the ability to game the system, it's mainly the ability to understand the system.  A system in which you have no idea what the statistics spat back at you do is a poor system (which unfortunately is frequent among many console/computer RPGs who've tossed out the meaningful reasons for having statistics.)  Most don't bother explaining what statistics actually do beyond a terse 1-2 sentence explanation, and instead make the game easy enough to not encourage you to learn the rules.  As a result, most rules in CRPGs that aren't based on tabletop rulesets are stupidly complex when what they actually do is far simpler than what a decent tabletop RPG is capable of - Temple of Elemental Evil, for example, is still one of the deepest RPGs around in terms of mechanics despite being a direct cut-and-paste of D&D 3.5.

And I very much disagree that Dwarf Fortress has few ways to game the system- there are a hell of a lot more ways than that to trick out game mechanics than in most games.  In addition to the ones you mentioned, engraving everything for perma-happiness, giving nobles all one large overlapping room, giving one weapon/armorsmith job to every unskilled dwarf to maximize chances of a strange mood getting you a legendary smith, setting dwarves to operate pumps in spare time, the one-tile-wide moat...  That's an issue of game balance, which is a smaller focused subset of game mechanics.  And the difficulty of balancing the system doesn't diminish in a game with lots of mechanics- it increases.  Poorly documenting rules isn't an excuse either, that's just sloppiness (though frequently understandable.) 

Having a well-designed game means that the ways of gaming the system are as much fun for all players involved (and that usually comes about through rewarding players the most who play the game as it was intended.)

Most tabletop systems are far more capable of handling a variety of situations than CRPG systems.  That's because they have much better-designed rules (for the most part.)  CRPGs generally have obtuse mechanics focused around combat that the player doesn't understand well - this means that if the game is to be playable to most players, it won't need the players to understand the mechanics, to do well which means that they're basically useless complexity.  Very few model the game world any better as a result of those complex rules (with the exception of Dwarf Fortress), so why the hell are they there when very little more work would get you rules that will result in an easier-to-understand game?

Dwarf Fortress falls victim to this very badly as it is currently - you basically need the wiki to get started as a new player because the mechanics are so poorly described by the game.  As an exception to what I'm talking about, the Paper Mario series does a pretty good job on keeping the game mechanics simplified but also diversified and transparent to the player, so they actually understand the decisions they're making.

Ultimately, Dwarf Fortress is really the only game that really needs a computer to be playable to model the systems it needs.  The rest use it for graphics and sometimes to make a long list of check marks on a not-quite-completely linear premade scenario, but the rules they have can easily be simplified and lose almost nothing.  Tabletop rules generally handle more and handle still handle them better, because if any rule for any game is meant to be meaningful to a player, it needs to be able to be understood by the player first.  (That's why I started off the game I'm currently coding with tabletop rules - I wanted players to be able to understand the depth of the game as pain-free as possible.)

Eh... that was something of a tangent, but still connected.  The basic notion here is that CRPGs currently require computers because generally their rules are poorly designed and actively worse than good tabletop games, so they do technically use the computer's capacities - it's just hard to make rules that can interact with players meaningfully that are too complex for a tabletop game and not too complex for a computer because a human player must be able to understand the rules that go into the game as well.
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Grimlocke

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Re: RPG elements
« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2010, 02:10:14 am »

Though the above poster has a good point during most of his post, there are some things that could have used more thought or more research.

Especialy the second last paragraph is something I cant agree with. There are many CRPG games that contain elements that only they could have.

The most obvious one being those from realtime combat, like aiming your bow or timing your melee attack. But also some other ones that are simply too complex for a tabletop RPG, like large-radius damage, being under attack by dozens and dozens of foes and even things like searching areas for items or people (as in walking around a 3 or 2D enviroment trying to find your loot or your assasination target).

Further things I couldnt agree with is DF 'falling victim' to its complexity, and some game mechanics being difficult or impossible to understand due to their complexity. Both these reasonings make no distinction between intuitive rules and non-intuitive rules.

Intuitive rules would be things like 'an arrow to the head hurts more then an arrow to the left big toe' or 'steel masterwork swords hurt more than copper daggers'. The player does not need to know these rules in order to understand or suspect them; they simply make sense and their absence could even leave the player with a sense of disappointment.

Non intuitive rules would be more often found in games with many fantasy elements in it. For example, the player could not intuitvelly understand that magic attack X would not harm armour Y. Games with too many of these rules are confusing, and without anything explaining them the games would lose much of its quality.

This is where I think DF does, or eventualy aims to do, great. Where I would realistically expect the game to do something, the game actualy goes ahead and does it. Examples aplenty with fluid dynamics and the combat system (even without mentioning the next version). In fact, the game even has many rules that are intuitive but that I was still utterly but pleasantly suprised to see because all other games never had them. Its what got me to like the game so much, all those quirky little mechanics.


Now for something more related to the OP: I do not think that computer games adhering to the old tabletop rpg basic systems is necessarily a bad thing, but I do agree that modern games leave far too many gameplay possiblities unused. All but very few of them are build from these basic tabletop rpg systems, and fail to go beyond it far and/or often.

The obvious reason would be corporate cowardice, in which game companies want their investements to be secure ones and thus stick to known-to-work formulas. It is understandable, but very limiting and quite disappointing. Even so I do not understand why they pour tons of time and money in the coding of graphic and physics engines, yet still refuse to use them to their full extend.

Never have I seen a game that uses a physics engine to calculate melee combat damages, and I know of only one example of a game that uses its 3D enviroment to let the player decide the arc of his sword (rather then just pitching in random annimations). And that game is an old one. Modern ones could do far better, but they dont.

It is ironic that CRPGs seems to fail as one of the worst in this aspect despite being a genre that generaly has a lot of gameplay rules to it.
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Muz

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Re: RPG elements
« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2010, 05:29:10 am »

tl;dr. So much ranting, guys :P

Anyway, I agree that games should be instinctive. Game rules should be instinctive. But they should be easy to understand. Everyone can pick up HP and XP really easily, even 5-year-old kids. When you have more complicated rules, people get confused, and frustrated at rules they forget later on, like with AD&D (D&D 2). A computer's role is to remember the rules for the player. I'd agree with what the previous posters said about this :)

But computer game rules are not a bad thing. XP is good.. DF uses XP, in the form of skill points, just handles it with more detail and actually lets you lose it. Not a new concept. DF uses hit points, but with body parts, instead of an overall "health pool". Also an old concept.

It's not easy to design a completely new, realistic system. I've been working on one for years. I've tried realistic physics, but it's difficult to get realistic stats. How many stabs does it take to kill? How much damage does armor absorb? How to simulate a person stabbing vs a person slashing, vs a strong person pulling his arm back and lunging into the person's chest? Even worse, how do you simulate a person defending from that? He could jump back.. he could pull his chest back, he could swing his arm to block, or turn his body, and how fast is he?

Unless you know a true weapon master or someone skilled in anatomy, you'll get most of your demands off mark. Your spears may be too weak to kill, though a thrust could be as deadly as a gun. You could possibly do something stupid like make carp capable of ripping a swordsman's leg off.

Using an old system gives you tried and tested estimates. A sword does 1d8 damage, a dagger does 1d4. You gain HPs after a while, which simulate your character's ability to avoid damage. Both are probably unrealistic, but you know how people use them. They're balanced. DF is a game with you against the computer; it doesn't have to be balanced. But with PvP games, it matters a lot more like what pencil and paper RPGs had to do too.
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Tenebrous

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Re: RPG elements
« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2010, 10:19:16 am »

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This is a hole








in what would otherwise be a huge wall of text.
Also, if you're looking for a physics based combat game, may I recommend Hammerfight? I think it has been mentioned before, alongside words like 'Dwarfy' and 'awesome'.
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