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  1. #1
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    The Modern RPG and Tabletop

    Note: The below pertains mostly to RPG games featuring real time, "twitch" combat/shooting. Turn based RPG's are fine as they are, for the most part.

    I believe video game RPG's are trapped in a bygone era. Levels, skill points and hidden number crunching still determine the damage we do with weapons and spells, and the mana we use to cast those spells. I'm the one choosing a weapon, swinging it and timing the strike. I'm the one breaking my opponent's block, throwing a spell at just the right moment or at just the right body part. Unlike in table-top gaming, I am in complete control of the sword, the shield, the lock pick or even the flame-throwing spells.

    So is my damage not down to timing, body part struck, weapon chosen, the timing of my opponent's block/parry, etc. Why do I still need arbitrary levels and hidden number crunching to determine how much damage I do? I would posit that we don't need these things, not any longer. That the time has come to move beyond levels and skill points and hidden number crunching in our RPG.

    We do this by making weapons matter. Lighter swords should be wonderful - against lighter armor. They should tear through leather and help bleed adversaries out. Warhammers should stagger people around, do extra stamina damage and possibly even break worn shields, sending chunks flying everywhere. Heavy axes should splinter and eventually cut through shields, and maces should dizzy and daze when they hit a helm.

    Likewise...fire spells should cause panic. Ice should freeze and slow (Skyrim got this one right, anyway) and shock should do...well, that. Maybe knock someone from their feet, or daze them momentarily. Poisons and magical enchantments should only this those that do not block a strike. Different weapons should be preferably in different situations, and every weapon should have its role.

    The time has come, in my opinion, for RPG's to move beyond the hidden numbers. Get rid of levels. Get rid of leveled loot. No more hidden number crunching. Rage is an action game, but what makes it an action game to Fallout's RPG is not the lack of skill trees or levels but the lack of choices and roles.

    Perhaps if we rid ourselves of levels and perks and skill trees and allow the player to play the game - as opposed to playing the spreadsheet - we can spend time on choices, consequences, dialogue options and having some meaningful impact on the game world. If we then must also have unlocking skills, fine, make them skills I can see on the screen, like Amalur or the Witcher 2. Make them visible and thus tangible things I do - not addition or subtraction of hidden number crunching in the background. The time has come to fundamentally alter the fabric of the video game RPG, and I would welcome other thoughts on how best to go about this.

  2. #2
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    Cue Wizardry! ;)

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    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Vexing Vision's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blackcompany View Post
    Likewise...fire spells should cause panic. Ice should freeze and slow (Skyrim got this one right, anyway) and shock should do...well, that. Maybe knock someone from their feet, or daze them momentarily. Poisons and magical enchantments should only this those that do not block a strike. Different weapons should be preferably in different situations, and every weapon should have its role.
    I want a combination of Die By The Sword, Magicka and Arx Fatalis. This would do all of that and more.


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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by FunnyB View Post
    Cue Wizardry! ;)
    I honestly didn't think about that, but I am curious what he would have to say on the matter. I still the hidden numbers and "spreadsheets" have a place in more strategic, turn-based games. And I think those games still have a place as well.

    But in terms of real time, twitch-based games...I think these things are just...hangers on from a bygone era. We have control, so give us control. Maybe that way devs can spend their time on more interesting and meaningful things.

    Edit: Did I mention, I firmly believe the Sword and Sorcery setting is worn out. In the last few days I have, sadly, discovered that I am mostly just...over it. Its gotten so stale and predictable for the most part that I think I may be sick of it as a setting for the RPG genre.

    Fantasy was once called Fantasy because it was fantastical. Now, its called Fantasy because it fits in the established genre.
    Last edited by Blackcompany; 26-04-2012 at 02:22 PM.

  5. #5
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    You're talking about action-RPGs though, rather than 'the modern RPG' in general, right? We have those rule systems to abstract real-world systems and the model combat in a way that lets it progress in a turn-based fashion. I agree it makes less sense when you're playing something like Skyrim - which abandons turn-based systems but still keeps RPG calculations behind some of the scenes - but to do away with that altogether would upset a lot of game systems we take for granted.

    If swords are realistic, then they'll do the same damage at the start of the game as they'll do at the end. There'd be no sense of progression or change over time, no way of conveying the growth of the player's powers. I'm not saying this should be the way all RPGs are written, but I think you need to develop alternatives to those systems as well if you're going to start removing stats-based gameplay.

    It also depends on what you're looking at in an RPG. I know a lot of people who really play those games as a form of number-crunching, and the old "watching numbers go up" joke rings true for everyone I think. Statistics are fun, and RPGs are basically lots of probabilities mixed with slowly managing the change of those probabilities. For whatever reason, people like that, and they'd play it no matter what the setting or situation.

    I think you mentioning things like skill with a sword suggests that you're really looking for an action game rather than an RPG, no? What you really want is, say, Quake 3 levels of skill appreciation but with fantasy combat settings.
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    The numbers allow you to build the sort of character you want to play around with, even in action-RPGs. Otherwise there is no way to differentiate between different characters. Without them, can't make a character that is good at X: if the game mechanics and your player skills make X a worthwhile tactic, then it's worthwhile, otherwise it isn't, and that's always the same. There's a big difference between "I have defined my character to be good at X, Y, Z, and so she will be good at X, Y, Z and not good at other things" and "I want my character to do X, Y, Z, and so she will do them even if it is bad play".

    Removal of such numbers, classes, levels, stats, removes the ability of the player to define their character and have the game respond to their character through that definition. That's a massive part of RPG gameplay. Abandon it at your peril.
    Irrelevant on further examination of the rest of the thread.

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    It does depend what you want, really. There's, effectively, a tradeoff between fantasy and fairness. Hiding more complex calculations and rules from the player allows for more complex systems, which enhance the fantasy, but are deleterious to the 'fairness' of the game. Giving the player all the information makes the game more 'fair', but necessarily needs to be simpler in order to be comprehensible, therefore limiting the fantasy.
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  8. #8
    We have those statistics because the point is that you are NOT the one doing all of that. Although the gameplay mechanic involves your swinging the sword or blocking with the shield, the idea of an RPG - even an action RPG - is surely that you are playing as a completely different person - complete with their strengths and weaknesses. Those stats are there to simulate your character's strengths and weaknesses. If they were not there then you would just be playing yourself everytime, no longer playing a role.

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    Perhaps a more interesting rephrasing of the question is: why aren't more pure action games using choice'n'consequence and choose-your-own-adventure approaches that are popular in modern RPGs?
    Irrelevant on further examination of the rest of the thread.

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    Secondary Hivemind Nexus thegooseking's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SanguineAngel View Post
    We have those statistics because the point is that you are NOT the one doing all of that. Although the gameplay mechanic involves your swinging the sword or blocking with the shield, the idea of an RPG - even an action RPG - is surely that you are playing as a completely different person - complete with their strengths and weaknesses. Those stats are there to simulate your character's strengths and weaknesses. If they were not there then you would just be playing yourself everytime, no longer playing a role.
    Actually, that reminds me of another thread I was going to start...
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    Stats are part of the workings of the game, so I don't think we can do without them. What I do agree is that we don't need to specify everything. In a believable context is ridicule to think of a +2 sword. You shouldn't be able to mathematise everything in the game. If you have two equal swords but one is sharper than the other you should be able to tell that one's better but you can't quantify how much.
    I don't own any +2 to slicing kitchen knife. I do own professional and common knifes, and I can tell their differences by looking and using them.

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    Lesser Hivemind Node TillEulenspiegel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NathanH View Post
    Perhaps a more interesting rephrasing of the question is: why aren't more pure action games using choice'n'consequence and choose-your-own-adventure approaches that are popular in modern RPGs?
    Because genre expectations. [Developers think that] FPS players don't want CnC. See "action mode" in ME3.

    There's obviously no objective reason why that sort of mechanic should be linked to RPGs and not adventure games or even story-based action games.

  13. #13
    Genre expectations are made to be broken. As long as the core concepts of a genre remain intact - although that only applies if you are specifically setting out to make a game in the genre. There is rightly no law that says a game has to conform to any genre at all.

    ME gets a lot of stick for not being an RPG but to be honest, they have been entirely consistent to their own core concepts from start to finish and I reckon those core concepts (such as character influenced options, cause & consequence etc.) are what they identify an RPG as.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mtrc View Post
    I think you mentioning things like skill with a sword suggests that you're really looking for an action game rather than an RPG, no? What you really want is, say, Quake 3 levels of skill appreciation but with fantasy combat settings.
    I think his point is, why can't rpgs have the level of skill appreciation of, say, Quake 3 or a fighting game without the number crunching? Although I suppose you run into problems like, how you make your character persuasive and influence npc reactions in a world without stats or any number crunching, considering that you can't literally speak to an npc and are speaking through a character.

    Quote Originally Posted by NathanH View Post
    Removal of such numbers, classes, levels, stats, removes the ability of the player to define their character and have the game respond to their character through that definition. That's a massive part of RPG gameplay. Abandon it at your peril.
    I would agree with this, though. Unless you have every character be able to use every dialogue option and be as persuasive or aggressive as you like, all the time, you would only be able to define a character through combat, I would think.
    Last edited by cosmicolor; 26-04-2012 at 04:18 PM.

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    But there have been plenty of games that were engaging and requiring a high level of skill. The earlier quoted Die By The Sword had you controlling your character with WASD, while controlling your sword with the mouse in an unbelievably intricated and detailed hit-location system where you could perform non-scripted disarms simply by hitting the opponent's weapon at the right spot with the right force.

    It was glorious, it was challenging, it was amazing - and it sold like turd because everyone was complaining that it was too difficult.
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    That's on GoG, right? Does it work with Windows 7? The last game I tried with that sort of system I admittedly found incredibly uncomfortable to control, though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmicolor View Post
    I think his point is, why can't rpgs have the level of skill appreciation of, say, Quake 3 or a fighting game without the number crunching? Although I suppose you run into problems like, how you make your character persuasive and influence npc reactions in a world without stats or any number crunching, considering that you can't literally speak to an npc and are speaking through a character.
    I think then we enter semantics territory, where we ask "what does being an RPG actually mean"? If we mean "meaningful games where I play a character in a reactive narrative" then I get the point. But numbers and statistics are part and parcel of the term 'RPG' when we describe a game now. Whether or not it should be aside.
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  18. #18
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    Not touching this thread.
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  19. #19
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    Interesting thread. So basically you want action RPGs to finally remove the only thing that ties them to RPGs? And then we can call them action games, right? I'm all for it, personally.

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    I guess if you are a developer and you are making a choice'n'consequence choose-your-own-adventure action game you may as well make it a member of the Genre Formerly Known As Action-RPG to hook a few more people in. I mean, Mass Effect games aren't all that much of Type Of Game Formerly Known As RPGs, and wouldn't really need the class and skill elements to be good games, but I prefer having them.
    Irrelevant on further examination of the rest of the thread.

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