Sunday, July 27

The Quest for the Holy Grail - Part Two

So…, player centred story building in games.

In an effort to be productive in my criticisms and claims I want to offer a suggestion for resolving the problem. This suggestion offers an interpretation of turn based RPGs.

I want to see turn based resolution of everything, not just combat. Bargaining with a merchant. Researching clues, histories, spells in the library. Begging the ancient master of whatever to take on a new student. Travelling between locations. Dialogue with other characters - particularly when such discussions have critical relevance to the plot. Playing a sport in game. Any of the extraneous and often annoying mini-games included in the typical RPG video game for padding purposes. Use the same, unified mechanic for everything.

I want multiple possible outcomes for "battles". If an invading orcish army comes to my character's village and my character is a diplomat and not a warrior I want to be able to 'fight' the orcs verbally from the village ramparts (having just finished my orcish language lessons in the library - after hearing about their intent from pilgrims). Depending on my character's skill I want to be able to generate a range of responses from the game - convince the orcs to attack someone else, convince to orcs to leave, convince the orcs to join our cause, and maybe others. Even engage the orcs in a bout of fisticuffs if that's what interests me.

I want primary character (and secondary character for that matter) death to be permanent. None of this cowardly continue crap. Given this, the world should remember, allowing a successor to see what has gone before. Players can create new characters that start their journey a day or two after the death of their previous character, or at the beginning of the campaign (harder) or anywhere in the timeline (hardest).

I want all battles to be skippable. That is, if there is a battle that I encounter (say a shopping battle for bargain hunters) then I can skip the battle part and go right to the result. The result should be undesirable to a carefully balanced degree. If my character is exceedingly wealthy I don't want to spend ten minutes in battle haggling over the price of a minimal object (say a couple of potions), I can afford the incredible mark-up that is the result of not bargaining so I skip the tedium of this event. Haggling a significant discount on a high-priced high-powered magical artefact early in the game just because I've focused on such skills would be rewarding, however.

I want every single fucking cut-scene to be integrated into the battle mechanism. Convincing someone to repent their evil ways and atone for their sins at the monastery can be enhanced in the battle by adding script elements to this progression. Convincing the same person to join me in my crusade to rule the world would evoke an entirely different script. If I choose to skip a scripted battle then the game can impose a cut scene on me. This cut scene will depend on what best suits the game depending on character actions, alignments and world structure.

I do not want a world map that my character has to walk across - unless it's using the balance board from WiiFit and I'm burning calories. Make it travel battles I can skip if I want - with requisite penalties.

I want the structure of the world to change based on the outcome of various battles. Structuring key battles will make this easier, developing a large matrix with many key battles would make it extremely immersive and offer a chance for players to experience / shape entirely different stories.

I believe that a single, unified system such as this one will allow the necessary focus required to keep the target in view, but allow for enough freedom that will enable creative interpretation of such a structure and evolve it into new and interesting ways that enable players, rather than neutering them.

Is this ludicrous or can you see this working? Would it make an RPG more exciting for you, or would you flounder around trying to work out what to do as you seek the next story 'trigger' (which ironically won't be as obvious or necessary in this kind of structure)? While it terrifies me, I would love to know - what do you think?

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