The RPG Scrollbars: Great ideas more RPGs should steal

They say that they who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it. When it comes to game design though, good ideas fall through the cracks and get forgotten all the time. This week then, I’m going to list a few of my favourite small features from classic or obscure games alike that I think would be cool to see more often, and quite probably ask you for a few of yours. Sounds like a plan? Excellent! Remember, we’re looking for small, specific stuff rather than, say, ‘good combat engine’. The kind of spark that perhaps only one or two games have ever tried, or which have faded for whatever reason over the years, but new games really should steal. Let’s start obscure, with…

Clothes Matter – Hard To Be A God

Clothes are important in most games, though it’s been a while since games routinely let you run your characters around in their underwear just to see what the NPCs had to say about it. For the most part though, that’s all they’ve typically cared about. In something like Fallout for instance, nobody cares whether you’re dressed as a dapper chap or a blood-soaked bandit, unless you count a minor Charisma penalty. Hard To Be A God is one of the few to really understand that in a dangerous world, people are going to make snap judgements. You dress as a bandit, and people will treat you like one, be it refusing to serve you, or allowing you into their camp. Finding the right outfit made for an excellent mechanic, minus the slight problem that like most… it forgot to factor in ‘just underpants’. Very awkward when talking to old ladies.

Criminal Trials – Chrono Trigger/Conquests Of The Longbow

Two scenes I’ve always loved in games – correction for pedants, ‘always’ meaning ‘after playing them, obviously’ – are the courtroom sections of both Chrono Trigger and Conquests. They serve very different purposes. Chrono Trigger’s is largely a gotcha, in which your actions at the very start of the game are used against you in a rigged court – whether you walked on the grass, helped a little girl, that kind of thing. Conquests of the Longbow meanwhile asks whether you actually played the role of Robin Hood as an honourable outlaw or simply a thug with delusions of grandeur. For instance, did you kill your enemies instead of merely humiliating them?

I’ve long wanted to see this kind of scene in an RPG done properly, where the game actually keeps track of people you’ve killed, houses you’ve broken into, all the stuff you’ve stolen, and throws it back at you. At the very least, you’re not going to be able to complain when you find yourself on the 666 Express bound for the Bad Ending.

Uh. That said, maybe do it a little better than this…

Enemies That Don’t Engage – Dark Age of Camelot

You know the guys I’m talking about. You’re wandering through the capital city of some world when some bandits clad in rags glance over at your party of platemail covered fighters, mages buzzing with power, clerics humming with divine power and… bards there too. Anyway, they look at this team of hardened heroes who have slain gods and they decide, we can totally take these assholes. And it’s so tiring! Even if you only have to swat them away, that’s swatting time that could be so much better used getting on with business.

Single-player RPGs need a fairly common feature from MMOs, which is that at a certain point the trash mobs will just ignore you, or better yet, run screaming. However, to be more specific, I thought I’d expand this to a feature I really liked in Dark Age Of Camelot, where fighting certain monster types would win you brownie points… or pixie points or whatever… with their enemies, allowing your character safe passage through their space where another might get attacked. Obviously, there’s factional version of this in MMOs, where the Horde will befriend one side of a conflict and the Alliance the other, but what I liked about the DAOC version was the sense that the faeries were looking down on you and going, nah, that one’s alright. Let them get on with it. At least until you killed them for XP too.

Fight To The Defeat – Risen

Earlier games did this too, but Risen is the first where I really appreciated that the human characters weren’t your usual RPG psychopaths with exactly two settings – “Hello, Friend!” and “WE MUST FIGHT TO THE DEATH!” For the most part, they don’t want to kill you, and if you get into a fight, they’ll deem honour satisfied by knocking you on your arse and stealing your wallet. It’s a small thing, but it goes a long way to making the world more believable. Of course, if you actually do push them, all bets are off. And fair enough. But I’ll still take falling down over every world being just one accidental shove away from turning into Falling Down.

Short Epics – Way Of The Samurai

Now, I don’t actually like Way of the Samurai very much, but it’s a good example of something that Japanese games do better than most Western ones – consider replay value. I know it’s a question of taste, but I don’t like that something like The Elder Scrolls will let a single character do literally everything if they want, up to and including being the head of the Thieves’ Guild AND the Fighter’s Guild. In general, I want to see more games exploring shorter-form stories but with far more scope for variance and surprise. A fifty hour game where you can do anything is a fifty hour game where not a whole lot of interesting stuff can happen. I’m not saying they shouldn’t exist, but that it’s past damn time we saw more five hour games that warranted repeat play and fit better into most of our modern gaming schedules.

Spellcrafting – Morrowind/Daggerfall

Now, I know what you’re thinking. I’ve often complained that – say it with me – HEROES. DON’T. CRAFT. But that’s the kind of crafting that should best be left to blacksmiths and the like. I make an exception for creating awesome magic spells out of parts – combining interesting effects and unleashing them on my foes. Especially with cheat codes to cut out any pesky safeguards or economic restrictions.

Transmogrification – World of Warcraft

Honestly, for ‘transmogrification’, read more or less anything that separates the stats of armour from their look. MMOs have long realised that most players want to have their own look in games rather than simply wearing the same stuff as everyone else on their tier, but it’s been quite slow to make it across to single-player games. Isn’t it boring when you reach the end of the game and everyone’s basically wearing the same gear, maybe with a few mismatched parts and colours due to bad loot or just the designers not being fashion designers? Isn’t it far more fun to just have a big wardrobe of awesome clothes to choose from, and give your character a look that you feel best represents them? Absolutely, it is! And if you disagree, you can always just wear stock armour like a dull person.

The Mule / Auto Sell Trash – Dungeon Siege

There is little more tedious than inventory management. Just allow a quick way of selling all the worthless crap and moving on. At this point, I am sure someone will ask “But what about the economy?” In response, I would like to gesture to the entire genre and very loudly go “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.”

Inconvenient Magic – Ultima / Original World of Warcraft

Okay, I’m definitely losing some of you here – but bear with me. I love magic users in games. They’re my default, go-to class. However, while part of the appeal is the surface level hurling of fireballs and whatever, a deeper one is the sense of a character being connected to something important, something awesome, something primal. The more it comes down to just ‘click an option from a list’ or ‘click the left mouse button’, the more that’s lost. Annoying as it sometimes was, I miss hunting for reagants in Ultima VII (take a shot) or the need for soul crystals in World of Warcraft. The latter especially, yes, I understand why they went bye-bye. But I still miss that sense of needing to prepare, along with other elements that make it a little riskier, like Wild Magic in D&D. I still think it’s a shame that even The Witcher 3, a game I otherwise love dearly, didn’t really have the guts to enforce the need for alchemy on anything but its highest difficult levels, and generally treated going up against something like a Vampire with the right equipment as cause for a damage bonus rather than an essential thing.

History – Darklands

Do I have to explain it? Our history is full of awesome periods for RPG goodness. Yet any time the concept comes up, it’s still 1992’s Darklands that everyone goes back to – and even that has dragons, witches, the Wild Hunt, kobalds and the like.

Creative Challenges – A Tale In The Desert

I add this one somewhat reluctantly, because I admit it’s here more for the concept than its success over the years. However. A Tale in the Desert – launched way back in 2003 and still running – is a social MMO at least initially based on ‘tests’, like producing awesome fireworks displays, or proving yourself a good judge of character by burying cash in the desert, telling trusted people where to find it, and then hoping it’s still there by the end of a timer expiring. While many of these offer fairly easy potential for rigging, it’d be cool to see more online games at least glance over what’s been going on when working on community focused challenges.

Ongoing Single Player Adventures – Final Fantasy XV

Sorry for bringing consoles into this, but Square is finally doing something I’ve kinda wanted to see for a long time – continuing to add content to a single-player game after release. I don’t just mean patching in more features, but adding time-limited content like a Chocobo Carnival that only ran for a few weeks. More is planned for later on. Like Hitman, it’s a cool way of keeping players coming back, and a method with a lot of cool potential for events, special quests, holding celebrations outside of MMO spaces, and more.

Desperation – Pathologic

A big problem with most RPGs is that their difficulty is basically the opposite of what it should be. You start out weak, broke and clueless. By the mid-game, you’ve broken the economy over your knee, you know exactly how all your skills work, and usually the most the enemies can do about it is pack on the hit-points and lay down more fire not to walk in. I’m not saying I’d like all games to be along the Pathologic style, where every day brings fresh disaster and deprivation… but it’s definitely a concept worth exploring in something other than its own remake. Or my pitiful attempts to play Dark Souls.

There’s a few of mine. How about a few of yours?

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140 Comments

  1. Lachlan1 says:

    Great article, I especially agree about the clothes and agro enemies. It’s silly to be able to have a scary mask on have characters still recognize you too. I can’t think of anything to add at the moment…

    • Rinox says:

      Yeah, it feels a bit silly to have endless cosmetic options in games like The Elder Scrolls, only for none of them to matter in any sort of way other than for your own viewing pleasure (and perhaps some stats bonuses). How hard could it be for NPCs to acknowledge this to even a small extent? In Daggerfall you could loan money from banks (the amount was proportionate to your level iirc), and one would assume that a bank clerk would be more likely to loan a significant sum to a handsomely dressed stranger than to a half-naked Khajit sniffing moon sugar. Appearance matters, or should matter.

      • c-Row says:

        But how would the developers rate the endless possible faces a player could create with a custom face editor? I could see this being possible in a game where you can choose from a given set of faces (or face parts), though.

        • cheese lol says:

          You could certainly do it with machine learning. Train a model on randomly generated faces.

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            MajorLag says:

            That’s actually not a bad idea. You’d have to have more than one though, to account for different cultural tastes, I think. As long as the system was consistent enough with how an actual person might judge appearance, then any seeming incongruity in it would probably get passed off as “personal taste”.

        • Rinox says:

          I think it would probably be enough to acknowledge some wider variations instead of small details. Like the fact that a player is bald, has a moustache/beard, or has a particular hair colour, stuff like that. So you’d still include all different types of moustaches, beards, glasses and hair styles within those broader categories. I guess the game could also detect some facial features as chosen by the players just from how far up or down certain sliders are set during character creation. That way it’d be pretty easy for the game to recognize if your character has a giant nose or not.

  2. Snowskeeper says:

    I’d like to be a zombie with armour fused to my fake videogame flesh.

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      phuzz says:

      And what did you schools career advisor say when you told them that?

      • Snowskeeper says:

        They were very supportive. Got me set up with this weird jacket thing, to help me get a feeling for what being unable to move my arms easily feels like.

  3. Thankmar says:

    Just a quick thought on the time-limited thing: the concept of time limited content is sold by giving it an exclusive feeling, to give the player the feeling to be part of something happening *right now*, which cannot be repeated. an event (in its original meaning), if you want to call it that.
    Personally, I think this should not be more in games, it should be much, much less there. When videogame stuff seeps into my real life, trying to dictate what to play when, I feel mistreated. I have to either plan my life around that event so I can take part, or get the feeling to miss out. Thats something games should seek to achieve?

    For me, games should instead embrace even more that they are potentially entirely disconnected from real life (apart from taking up some lifetime). Thats one of their qualities (hello there, free saving). Time-limited content serves only the publisher, which get a spike in player count and possibly microtransactions for “exclusive” content. (That is, of course, connected to the representation thing. I have to say, I accepted that it is something many players want in online gaming (offline as well), but never really understood the need. But then, I never understood the concept of “fashion” as well).

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      I disagree. Done badly it can be like that, but done properly it can create a sense of being involved in something larger – the current ‘Return to Drangleic’ thing for instance, or the fun of water-cooler chat with folks while waiting for the next episode or whatever. As for planning life around things, the FFXV Chocobo festival was available longer than most movies are at the cinema. The Hitman stuff was more limited, but with the promise of more of it coming along, and no individual piece being that important. I don’t want great swathes of stuff locked off or limited, but I do want more of a sense of community feeling around solo stuff, and a big part of that does involve people playing and talking about stuff at the same time rather than being all “Aaargh! Spoilers!” etc.

      • Menthalion says:

        Disagree

        • Hedgeclipper says:

          Agree with the disagree, time limitations are horrid and unnecessary.

          • April March says:

            Agree with the agree with the disagree (wait… *counts on fingers* yeah that’s right). Games should serve the players, not the other way round. For an example, right now my computer is on the fritz and I’m using my girlfriend’s Linux netbook, so I can’t play most of my games. If a new, time-based content came out for a game I like, I’d just end up losing it and feeling sad.

            Then again, I usually don’t play games right after they’ve come out, and I don’t have anyone to have ‘water cooler’ chats… so perhaps I’m unique in this regard. I understand the logic behind Hitman’s events (if they weren’t time it’d be a matter of time until they were ‘solved’ by the community), but I’m still not buying the game, so as far as I’m concerned it’s just content I won’t ever get to play.

      • Sparkasaurusmex says:

        Right now it can seem like a good idea, but years down the line when you want to revisit the game where is all this cool extra content?

      • lordcooper says:

        The movie comparison doesn’t work. In this instance you’ve already paid to see the movie and then get told a week later that they’re showing a few additional scenes, but only on Tuesday.

        If I’ve paid for a thing then please just give me the whole thing. I don’t want to miss parts of a game because I was on holiday or bought it a week too late.

      • Abacus says:

        The time limited stuff in Hitman is one of the reasons why I won’t be picking that game up. I’ve missed so many elusive targets and many of them have been really well done from what I have heard. So what’s the point? And this stuff is going to be finite, I imagine by the time the next ‘season’ starts they will probably stop doing elusive target support for the current one. Basically anyone who waited for all 6 episodes to be released as a full product is getting less for their money and I just can’t abide by that. I’ll never get to assassinate Gary Busey in that video game because IO and its publisher are very anti-consumer.

      • Nibblet says:

        Ncsoft initially based Guildwars 2 on that idea, which predictably led to an overly expensive game where all the work of their massive dev team was wasted on time limited content.
        As a result the base game stagnated and people eventually lost interest.
        They abandoned that approach after a year or so, but the game never really recovered.

    • Rorschach617 says:

      My thoughts on time-limited content (TLC).

      In any game where the player has to think himself into such-and-such a world at such-and-such a time, where the game takes place in a snapshot of that world’s history, TLC can break immersion faster than an Uruk-Hai in a St Patricks Day hat.

      But, if done well, and mainly concerning cosmetic changes and minor mechanical variations, it is hard to imagine how time-limited content cannot add to the immersion in an MMO game world?

      These worlds should change with the times in a similar way to the real world. If I may borrow the “Clothes Matter” argument for a second, fashions for what constitutes Rich clothing or Bandit clothing should change as the game progresses. Play the game 2 years ago and everyone was wearing ruffs because that was the fashion. Rejoin the game today and discover that the fashion is for, I don’t know, purple pantaloons and ridiculous cod-pieces. It adds to the feeling that the game world is a real place at a relatively small cost. It has to be said, all the bandits would be wearing Dragonforged steel by that point, the way players sell their trash :)

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      cpt_freakout says:

      I think that’s the beauty of it: you don’t have to take part. What you say about real life is true also from another perspective: missing out is perfectly fine. After all, festivities make that moment special for those who take part, but you can always count on there being more, eventually. You’ll just take part in something else.

    • TheLaughingDead says:

      I agree with Thankmar about the disconnection between life and video games. A way that time could be taken into account though is if the certain time-limited event would repeat once a month or year, like Metal Gear Solid 5 does with the NPC FOBs. Or, the event could be something that only runs on in-game time, so everyone might have different events, but everyone also knows what you are talking about since they have also gone through that event.

  4. varangian says:

    Re the economy let me add my Lols to yours, a realistic economy is always going to be a huge overhead for a single player game so never going to happen. But I would like to see a bit of recycling in games where there’s crafting. For instance in Skyrim I really wanted that Dragonscale armour so I bashed away at the forge whenever opportune, enchanted the resulting armour or weapon then either flogged the stuff or upgraded myself or my follower and flogged the obsolete gear. I churned out enough to equip a small army and I always thought it a shame it just sat there in a shopkeeper’s inventory. How much more amusing it would be if the bandits could do some abstracted shopping/thieving so you’d sometimes find yourself at the pointy end of one of your own weapons whilst trying to bash a hole in that armour you’d lovingly crafted last game month.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Heh. I know X-Com Apocalypse at least intended to have raids on your base leading to your weapons and tech leaking onto the black market. I can’t remember if that actually happened, though it WAS X-Com Apocalypse, so I’m guessing the answer is ‘hahaha, no’.

      • Arathain says:

        I think the system was that anything you sold on the black market could end up in the hands of gangs and security forces. It was a push back against the usual X-COM practice of having your engineers constantly churning out weapons to sell.

        I also think that made it into the final game, although it’s too long ago for me to be sure.

        • Sin Vega says:

          It did make it into the final game, although even if you hoard everything, alien and alien-derived gear will eventually find its way into the hands of other factions regardless, particularly if you’re doing really well (it had a reactive difficulty system that pushed back harder the higher your score).

          On the face of it that might sound like it undermines the system, but it arguably makes a lot of sense – the whole city is a hotbed of corporate espionage and you’re hiring all the best researchers and engineers on Earthto work on advanced alien technology. Sooner or later, someone’s going to leak a blueprint or sell research data or hack into your system. Plus, there’s nothing stopping another corporation from doing their own research on any aliens they found lurking without reporting it to you.

          Oh, Apocalypse. You were the best. If only you’d had more time.

          • Sin Vega says:

            (bah, internet died mid-edit)
            Also, any corporation fully taken over by aliens would suddenly get a boatload of their weapons to assault you with. Just in case you thought there was no harm in letting the Gravball League fall to xeno-jerks.

    • ZippyLemon says:

      That sounds like an idea Peter Molyneux would have and try and design an entire 40 hour game around.

      Which means it’s a good idea! Don’t let it get into the wrong hands though.

  5. Merus says:

    The one thing I wish everyone stole from Dark Souls is the one thing no one seems inclined to steal: the debuff system. Dark Souls’ debuffs are all generic – poison is poison, of the same effect, no matter the level – but for it to be applied, enemies and environmental effects fill up a resistance meter until it’s full. So many games struggle with debuffs – they don’t work on bosses, whether an enemy gets it off determines whether your turn works, debuffs don’t stay balanced properly. Having a meter to fill up fixes so many problems and creates a new design space.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Not debuff related, but I’ve said before how much I like Divinity: Original Sin treating everyone equal in the eyes of magic, to the point that someone found a way of one-hit killing the final boss by slapping down a lava scroll the developers didn’t expect them to have hung onto that long.

      • Arathain says:

        Have they met any gamers? Seriously, who here doesn’t finish a game with their most powerful consumables untouched because “you might need later”.

        My wife performs a very useful service for me when she and I play RPGs- she reminds me to use stuff. The generic phrase is “use your grenades!”, which now applies to all rare scrolls, potions, stims, and what have you.

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        MajorLag says:

        Never underestimate the ability of human beings to game a system. I mean, look, we found a way to beat Super Mario World by manipulating sprite data and then executing it using the undefined proc behavior occurring when trying to load unmapped memory.

        We like systems, and we like exploiting them, and we’re good at it. The best in the universe as far as we’re aware.

        All the more reason games should have consistent systems that allow us to exploit them.

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    Drib says:

    The clothing thing in particular.

    Fallout 4 is hardly an RPG really, but some on, I can come stomping into Railroad HQ in full Brotherhood-Of-Steel power armor, face hidden, and everyone just goes “oh it’s that guy, not a brotherhood paladin here to murder us all. Door’s open bro!”

    New Vegas did the playing dress-up thing a bit, at least.

  7. Samudaya says:

    So many fantasy games have cut out magic altogether lately. That’s really my biggest concern when it comes to RPGs. Will this upcoming game have magic? Will the magic be interesting like Morrowind or dull standard like Skyrim?

    • Snowskeeper says:

      I want more games like Grim Dawn, where the rational response to magic is high explosives.

    • Urthman says:

      It’s not really an RPG, but Magicka’s system of having to spell out weird nonsense words to cast spells that can easily backfire or go awry is the best at making me feel like I’m using magic rather than just shooting a re-skinned bazooka. Ultima Underworld is second.

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        CdrJameson says:

        Recent board games have put some of the mystery back into magic recently by having spells be less predictable. They usually have the desired effect, plus a random element (which can be great! Or… not so great). This needn’t be random – it could be based on you fluffing the keys for the casting requirements – but it does make magic a bit more magical.

        On the other hand, it could be random. Like in Flood when you occasionally pulled out a rubber chicken instead of your flamethrower.

    • brucethemoose says:

      I want a game where magic is tied to physical fitness, or maybe more integrated with weapons.

      So your bow/gun could be a conduit for a spell, or be enhanced with one. You could fling spells off a sword. Or maybe it’s Avatar-style, where it’s tied to martial arts and hand-to-hand prowness.

      • Nibblet says:

        The Secret World did a version that, and it is kinda awful.

  8. baseless_drivel says:

    Nice article, nice ideas. I’m totally going to bookmark it, remember these ideas some time down the line, and repeat them as if they were my own.

    You mention Japanese games doing things differently from other games, and while I’m not completely sold on the idea of better replay value, there’s certainly something different in general.

    For all the hubbub about the “indie scene” and all the creativity that comes out of it, I feel like Japanese studios have been doing weird stuff for decades already, even from the relatively big-name developers. That’s not to say that there hasn’t been some really creative stuff elsewhere, of course.

    On that note, I feel the need to bring up Dragon’s Dogma again — a somewhat flawed, but extremely memorable RPG in Western style.

    In particular, I really enjoyed the combat and magic styles. As much as I enjoy games like Guild Wars 2, some of the “magic” is figuratively lost when you see everyone rapid-fire flinging fireballs like it’s nothing. And Black Desert looks like a great game, but watching gameplay videos of it make me feel like a recovering epileptic.

    Some of that also goes for general MMO and RPG combat style, where everyone skates around as if on ice, with no regard for the impossibly large greatswords they’re swinging around. christ, imagine if Dark Souls played like that.

    In Dragon’s Dogma, swinging a giant buster sword takes massive effort, and casting the best spells makes you a sitting duck for far too long. But with some *ahem* combat strategy, it’s quite literally game over for your enemy OR you, should an enemy get off a tornado or meteor spell.

    Yeah, I kinda miss reagents too.

    And on another note, RPG or otherwise, why don’t more games accurately portray gun magazine reloading? For all the realism in modern games, guns are still mostly just treated like bullet hoses with minor reloading inconveniences rather than the more decisive tactical tools that they actually are.

    I sometimes force myself to play with “real” magazines in shooter games, and it really adds another level of strategy and planning. I just wish it’d show up in more games other than stuff like Rainbow Six, even as an option.

  9. Chaoslord AJ says:

    Clothes matter – Gothic and Fallout New Vegas had faction armor. Most games recognize “naked”. Morrowind recognized cheap vs rich cloths (also rank and reputation). But yeah I guess charisma bonus is the cheap way out rather than making a voice-over for every NPC regarding your apparel.
    Fight to the defeat – so immersion-breaking esp. in say Skyrim. Probably players don’t like their “spoils” fleeing the scene. By the next game I hope you can load the bandits on a horse and deliver them to the law alive.
    Spellcrafting – was adorable but I don’t think it’s coming back. Too complicated for the players today.

    • Snowskeeper says:

      You are a player, today. Is spellcrafting too complicated for you?

      • Chaoslord AJ says:

        What I’m saying is the quality and depth of gaming today reflects the target audience.
        Games are praised for being easily accessible, hand-holding and showing every collectible on a map. That’s why games like Pathologic are considered niche and every major release feels like an AC rehash.
        Spell maker also complicates design as players have more choices. Thousand steps pilgrimage wouldn’t be the same with my handy 8-sec-1pt-levitation.

        • Snowskeeper says:

          I know exactly what you’re saying. I just think what you’re saying is actively contradicted by the fact that you’re saying it. Unless you believe that you’re the only one (or a member of a small group of people) who enjoys complicated systems, which is its own can of worms.

          For the record, ‘accessible’ doesn’t mean ‘simple.’ It means ‘easy to access.’ It refers to systems that are simple to get into, regardless of how complicated they are otherwise. Accessibility is, objectively, a good thing. That’s not a difficult thing to understand.

          • Archonsod says:

            “Accessibility is, objectively, a good thing.”

            Unless you’re designing a bank vault or similar :P

            The removal of spell crafting actually complicates TES rather than simplifying it. Magic is now a limited tool with specific effects, and it matters which specific magic school(s) you’ve invested in. In Skyrim for example if I want to focus on dealing damage it means giving up the ability to do something else (or at least do it well). You’re therefore confronted with a lot more tactical decisions as a player than you had with the crafting system, where any particular obstacle could usually be overcome by running off to the nearest spell maker and putting together something specifically designed to do so.

          • Snowskeeper says:

            Agreed.

    • Shinard says:

      Skyrim really pissed me off on the fight to the defeat thing, because it felt like they got halfway through implementing it then left out anything to make it actually work. By which I mean, whenever you fight bandits and get their health down low, they’ll stop attacking you and surrender. So far, so good. But you can’t do anything other than kill them or leave them alone, at which point they decide not to bother surrendering any more and just charge in and try and kill you. It feels incredibly off when the best response to a heartfelt plea for mercy is a sword to the chest.

  10. RedViv says:

    Tyranny (MORE PEOPLE SHOULD PLAY IT) scratched two of these itches for me.
    Well, 25 hours is still quite a lot, but I have enjoyed all 3 playthroughs, where I would not even be done with a single normal playthrough of Pillars in the same time. And the spellcrafting is quite fun. If the game does get a sequel, and I really strongly hope so, I want to see that aspect expanded the most. Let me ACT OUT the power my character acquires more often.

    • Snowskeeper says:

      My main issue with Tyranny was the odd storytelling. You’re actually punished for trying to do your job–not in meaningful, interesting ways, but by the loss of reputation points. Frequently you don’t even have the option to try. And even if you do embrace the favouritism the game forces on you, if you [spoilers] eventually decide to betray them, you have to wait for totally arbitrary windows. Having to turn over a major character because I had no option to refuse, despite the fact that I knew that within twenty minutes of turning them over I’d be presented with the option to betray my allies again, was particularly grating. Things only got worse, in that sense.

      • RedViv says:

        It’s a far better RPG if you disable the tendencies in dialogue, I found. Otherwise you’re heavily inclined to just min-max and not to go with your *character*.

        • Snowskeeper says:

          I had the reputation indicators turned off, if that’s what you’re referring to. I was absolutely not min-maxing. I had to turn the difficulty down to the minimum because I lost one of my companions–my tank–due to my choices, and found myself unable to survive combat. Which, y’know. That felt crappy, but I’d rather that than the meaningless, asinine rep punishment the game hands you (and then immediately forgets about) if you attempt to do your job and force the factions to work together. Choosing that doesn’t even change the available dialogue options.

          • Urthman says:

            One problem game developers have is that the minority of gamers who make comments on forums are probably not representative of the majority who don’t.

          • Premium User Badge

            Nauallis says:

            ^ Valid point.

          • Snowskeeper says:

            I wish this question didn’t have a negative connotation. Sorry in advance.

            What do you mean by that?

          • frightlever says:

            “What do you mean by that?”

            Obviously I can’t read his mind, but in general only a fraction of the people who read blogs like RPS will ever comment on a article, for various reasons. Hang on to that idea, because games are generally made to be played by a wide range of players, but feedback is going to be coming from a narrow band of players.

            The people providing feedback will have strong opinions, and while it doesn’t necessarily follow, there’s probably a good correlation between having your own creative opinions (as opposed to subscribing to other people’s opinions) and cognitive ability. So if you’re gathering feedback from people, chances are you’re getting it from the min-maxers or people tenacious enough to argue their point. But this feedback is then used to make a game any slacker can buy. It can get ugly.

            eg less than 5% of Darkest Dungeon players have completed the game – whether that matters is a different question.

          • gaydog2 says:

            “You’re actually punished for trying to do your job–not in meaningful, interesting ways, but by the loss of reputation points.”

            This is a weird complaint, don’t you think? That doing your job has consequences for you, albeit mild and gradual ones. Is it that the consequences are uninteresting and glacial?

            By the way, your job isn’t to unite the armies. The game does a bad job at communicating this. Tunon charges you with, explicitly, figuring out why the archon are acting the way they are, with the implication that whomever is found deficient will be killed.

          • dog2 says:

            *whoever, ugh

          • Snowskeeper says:

            Not at that point. You’re charged with that after you settle the first part of the problem. At first, your only obligation is to make the war run as smoothly as possible, and to act as an intermediary for both armies. You are also expected to discover why the war has been proceeding so slowly, and to punish whoever is responsible, but that doesn’t become the priority until later. This is why Tunon is unhappy with the result of the first act.

            The consequences aren’t glacial. The choice to try to do your job has no impact on the game whatsoever. The devs stop even pretending to allow you try by the end of the game, long before Kyros effectively declares you a traitor. After the first act the game stops even pretending that it wants to let you try to be a Fatebinder. You can’t even report back to Tunon on the things that are happening, despite the fact that many of them, including the situation relating to the betrayal I mentioned earlier which he berates you for, later, directly concern him.

  11. IAmYogan says:

    I’d love to see grand strategy/4X games nicking victory conditions that are complex and based on multiple objectives, a la Emperor of the Fading Suns. Rather than just “have the most land/science/gold”, to win in EFS you had to acquire enough votes in the regular elections to be named regent, then name yourself emperor and survive while everyone else is gunning for you. Really added a level of complexity and strategic thinking that goes beyond the usual squabble for resources. Dominions: Thrones of Ascension did this too, where the victory condition was “claim the thrones of ascension for your god” not just “wipe out all other players”

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Apparently Stellaris is going to be adding more RPG type victory conditions, which I’m looking forward to seeing. Far more interested in that game for its story stuff than the empire building.

      • April March says:

        Can’t think of a single 4X game that wouldn’t be massively improved by the inclusion of victory options that were more than ‘kill everyone’ or ‘fill all these buckets’. Most of them are an epic story ending in a wet fart.

        • Nelyeth says:

          And this is why I so love Endless Legend. Finished your faction-specific questline over the course of the game ? Here, you can either build a wonder to win, or be the first to complete the common final quest (which involves your planet blowing up like good ole Namek).
          With of course the more classic military, expansion, economic, scientific, score, and diplomatic (“you’ve been at peace for so long everyone just kinda agrees you’re the best) victories.

        • monstermagnet says:

          “Most of them are an epic story ending in a wet fart.”

          Thank you. Really needed a laugh like that. I’m still dabbing at my eyes. Christ.

    • Doubler says:

      I think 4X games in general would be massively improved if they didn’t necessarily treat victory conditions as some sort of zero sum game. I mean, my people are living the dream as the dominant culture of the planet but apparently that is rendered entirely meaningless because they didn’t feel the need to be the absolute first to launch into space. Pfft.

    • Sin Vega says:

      Emperor of the Fading Suns was so full of good ideas, not all that well implemented. It’s absolutely crying out for a remake.

      e.g. one faction, the Guild, conducts all manner of trade with all the other factions, and is by far the best source for many useful things. They’re generally benign and non-aggressive, as you’d expect. But if they manage to bank a certain figure, they judge that they have enough resources to simply conquer the galaxy, and immediately close up shop to do exactly that.

      Then there’s the church, whose main goal is to watch and wait (and manipulate, for example by proscribing technology they depend on – itself a really cool idea) for any emperors to get into a desperate situation… at which point they’ll sidle up and offer their considerable resources to help in your cause. And all you have to do is sign a little document saying that the Church has authority over the Emperor. I mean, without it, you’re gonna lose anyway, right? So what’s the harm?

  12. idaddyMD says:

    Two words: Nemesis System

    And count one vote for the “shouldn’t be able to join and beat every guild in the game” sentiment.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Yeah. I was going to put Nemesis in, but the Second Degree Mordor leak hopefully means it’ll get some more attention. Especially if they ramp it up immediately this time rather than saving the really good use of it until the second half.

      • idaddyMD says:

        What I love about the system is simply the immersion it brings. I want my game world to respond to me, the player. This article is nice because quite a few of the points are looking to improve exactly that. If in Skyrim you were limited to only one guild per playthrough, you’re status in the guild coule be referenced in the mainline quest and so on.

        • c-Row says:

          The system mostly works because of the fact that you cannot quicksave your way through the encounters. Most people would probably simply hit F5 if your nemesis got away again, but since you can’t (and dying isn’t instant game over but rather a taunting inconvenience) players are more likely to go with it.

    • Cvnk says:

      It was cool to have nemeses but I found it frustrating that I couldn’t permanently kill any of them (from what I could see — maybe I did and just forgot those I did). Only those that manage to escape should be able to fight again. If I incinerate someone they should stay incinerated.

      • c-Row says:

        I am pretty sure they stayed dead. Some of them were hard to distinguish from each other by their looks, though.

        Unless you killed so many of them the pool of possible enemies got depleted and the game could only solve this by reusing those previously killed. Not sure if that actually happens, though.

    • brucethemoose says:

      There is a bad way to do that system: The XCOM 2 Alien Hunters DLC.

      I know pain is part of XCOM… but dear god.

    • Premium User Badge

      Captain Narol says:

      I was indeed wanting to add too the Nemesis System, would work great to have some emergent gameplay in RPGs.

      But I would also mix it with something similar to the plots/ambitions system of Crusader Kings II, where every little lord has personal goals and act in concordance, the sum of those making the entire world dynamic and unprevisible.

  13. Rizlar says:

    Dragon’s Dogma’s pawn system. Everything about those loveable muppets is brilliant.

    The character creation system is also worth holding up for it’s huge amount of openness, the ability to create characters as varied as little children and giant transvestites and everything in between. Seeing what others have made is a real delight.

    • RedViv says:

      Everything?

      EVEN IN NUMBERS, A WEAKLING IS A WEAKLING STILL.

    • frightlever says:

      No matter how many times I turned around to find all my pawns effing about in that fountain, it never got old. Love that game so much.

  14. Premium User Badge

    Harlander says:

    There was an isometric RPG which I got on one of those short-lived “magazine of a bunch of full games” CDs a while hence.

    It was voiced, and you played a dude bumbling around in a bunch of interior dungeons.

    The idea I’d want to steal from it was its alchemy system. There was a plethora of evocatively-described plants, and when you wanted to brew potions, you had an alchemy set that unfolded from your backpack with all manner of gubbins. You’d have to sear ingredients for the right amount of time, do titrations and distillations, add the right amount of aqua vitae, all in rather pleasing pixel art for the time.

    Unfortunately I can’t recall the title for the life of me

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Hmm, doesn’t ring a bell. Let me know if you remember anything about it. Sounds interesting, and I kinda want to do a column on alchemy at some point.

    • Michael Fogg says:

      Wasn’t that actually an Amiga game, by any chance?

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        Harlander says:

        Might have been a port, but I definitely played it on PC.

  15. Oni says:

    I’ve been expecting someone to steal Alpha Protocol’s conversation system for years. It was absolutely dead simple mechanically — just put a not too strict time limit on choosing a response. But it was amazing how much it changed the dynamic and made simple talking with NPCs more exciting.

    I love Alpha Protocol for many reasons — but I can totally see why some of it’s techniques / ideas didn’t take off. But this just seems like a no-brainer and I can’t believe nobody else has experimented with it.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Quite a lot of games do the timed response thing. The main difference with AP was that the timer ran while the character was talking, so that you have to choose before it’s your turn, rather than reacting to a specific line while they fill in time.

    • Shinard says:

      Scrolled down looking for AP, glad to see someone else had the same thought. I’m not sure the timed responses were the entire reason the conversation system was so great, though they definitely helped.

      I think at least part of it was not locking you into a chosen path, forcing you to min-max “good” or “evil” like Mass Effect, but letting you choose the best option for the conversation. And supporting that through the narrative as well – you’re a spy, you’re meant to manipulate people. Actually, the narrative support is really important – it just helps roleplaying when you don’t have to choose between “answering as your character would” and “answering in a way to get the best outcome”.

  16. Premium User Badge

    Dios says:

    “Do I have to explain it?”

    Yes, yes you do, writer person that should know that not everybody knows literally all of the things.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      You want me to explain the concept of history?

      Well, let me see. In the beginning, stuff happened. Then some people made up poems about it. Then some other people started writing it down. And now we know all kinds of cool stuff about interesting time-periods that were not our own but have intriguing potential.

      • ThePuzzler says:

        “History – Darklands
        Do I have to explain it?”
        At this point in the text, yes, that would be a good idea. I’ve never heard of Darklands, and I’m wondering whether you mean procedurally generated history like in Dwarf Fortress, or whether you mean that playing the game creates a history like in a Paradox strategy game.

      • Sin Vega says:

        Typical Cobbettite propaganda. That’s not how it happened at all.

  17. Method says:

    I used to set aside time in Ultima Online to run set paths in obscure places to gather reagents for spells/scribing.

  18. Rinox says:

    Oh God yes, the idiocy of common highwaymen gleefully trying to take on your artifact wielding demi-god character annoys me so much. Sure, if they are mindless animals or demons, I get that. But a supposedly sane, rational creature walking to their inevitable death is just ridiculous. It’s one thing to die a defiant death against impossible odds when you are the defender…but it’s just mind-blowing stupidity to try and waylay enemies who could destroy you by looking at you (and look the part). Please stop.

    On an amusing note, I am reminded of a game of the original Rome: Total War in which I had conquered every province in the entire world map, except for a small one in Gaul where the Eastern Roman Empire held out. I was desperate to make them my vassals and thus ‘reunite’ the Roman Empire, so I offered them an insane amount of gold and other diplomatic advantages and kindly asked if they would like to become my vassal. Their answer? “Your empty threats do no worry us. We will take our chances.”

    Darwin award for these guys.

    • Hedgeclipper says:

      Thinking about it a bit more when did moral systems go out of fashion? More than NPCs not doing the whole suicide by PC thing why do they all fight to the last gasp? If their buddy gets graphically murdered in the first few seconds the smart ones should run and I’m pretty sure that used to be a thing.

      • Rinox says:

        Yeah, totally. I guess that’s part of what Richard meant with the ‘fight to defeat’ point too.

        Even mindless animals (and one would assume monsters, if they were real) don’t usually go for a TO THE DEATH scenario if you really tear through half of the pack in a matter of seconds. But in video games, they all seem to be afflicted with a terrible strain of rabies (sans foaming at the mouth).

      • Wulfram says:

        Morale systems tend to clash with the loot and XP thing that most RPGs are built on. Enemies that run away are frustrating if they hurt your progression.

        • Rinox says:

          That’s a fair point. On the other hand, if you’re so powerful that you can’t even be touched by a whole group of opponents anymore then wouldn’t the experience gains from them be minimal anyway? Given the way most modern RPGs scale experience gains.

          • c-Row says:

            Personally I think this would be a great idea to scale the XP gain of high level players.

      • c-Row says:

        When talking morale systems, wouldn’t it make sense to mark a player killing dozens of helplessly outleveled enemies as cold-blooded and ruthless? Some NPCs could react accordingly, either being terrified of you or outright refusing their support. Come to think of it, doesn’t Divinity: Original Sin have something similar?

    • April March says:

      Did they have a magic potion?

      • Rinox says:

        I did realize that it basically sounded like the premise of Asterix while I was writing it, yes. :-D

  19. Rao Dao Zao says:

    Not sure how much it counts because it’s not that obscure, but I do miss item degredation these days. You know, the more you use your sword/shield, the more it deteriorates until it disintegrates.

    Nox was really good in that stuff deteriorated but you could never repair it yourself — so if you’re a long way from town down a dungeon, you might have to improvise with a less good weapon to stop your favourite sword from falling to pieces (or just give it up and move on with your life). Morrowind too, stuck out in the wilds of Solstheim with no hammers I discovered that Rickling swords were actually pretty good — they didn’t last long but there were enough of the irritating little blighters to keep me in good supply until I got back to civilisation.

    • Hedgeclipper says:

      I think its the sort of system that only works when the game design really thinks it out – as you say making do in the wild can be fun in the same way survival games can be – but mostly its just an irritating time waste that forces you to spend twice as long at the merchants while you compare item wear and swap otherwise identical kit.

    • Ragnar says:

      I disagree because I find it often leads to not using your best weapons in order to save them for later.

      There’s already a problem with not using consumables because we might need them later, why add weapons to the consumable list?

  20. benzoate says:

    Although I realize that it’s completely impossible to do anymore, I really loved Asheron’s Call magic learning system. Basically each spell was made up of different components, and each component had a word associated with it. When you cast a spell you said those words out loud. That meant that you could learn spells by listening to other people casting theirs to get the right combination of components.

    Obviously ‘teh internet’ breaks that as everyone would just google the combinations, but for a few months back in 1999 it was blowing my mind.

    Also another vote for limiting factions, and even better, pitting them against each other. Dammit, now I’m going to spend a few hours running from those ostrich things in Gothic again.

    • frightlever says:

      Gothic needs a remake with a better UI. I don’t think I could fight against that again. Took me three tries before the game “stuck” with me.

    • c-Row says:

      Randomizing spell syllables maybe? Your personal seed could be the same every time so in a New Game+ you could just jump right in with all the knowledge you previously gathered, while at the same time it wouldn’t be possible to simply look them all up on the internet.

  21. Mortivore says:

    I would love more RPG’s to just get rid of those obnoxious quest markers. I loved skimming through my journal in Morrowind (as much of a pain that it was), figuring out the world and where I needed to go next. Not a ‘Follow this arrow and you’ll be alright’ but an extensive guide on how to get there gives so much more emersion when exploring. I really wish more games would do this; leave the sense of exploration to the gamer instead of covering his HUD in markers and arrows. All of this makes me realise how much I want Morrowind to be remasterd..

    • Premium User Badge

      Nauallis says:

      I would temper this a bit with being able to have the option to turn quest markers off, in most games, on normal difficulties. I know that the option comes default on a few “hardcore/realistic” difficulty settings, but I can’t think of a single game I’ve played that I am sure gives you the option.

    • michael.neirinckx says:

      There are games that have a nice middleground here. Metal Gear Solid 5 leaps to mind. In that game you had the ability to manually set way points whether it’s on a map, or by using binoculars and tagging things as you saw them. However, they only lasted for one session.

      Other games have given you the ability to set markers on a map and add little notes, which I think is great for realism and immersion provided that pens/pencils and ink exist in the game world.

    • idaddyMD says:

      You are not alone. Quick travel and quest markers be damned! And, give me a real place with real wilderness over a glorified playground any day!

    • Ragnar says:

      I’d rather it be an option you can toggle.

      While I love the feeling of exploration, and happily walk off the beaten path to see what’s there, I hate feeling lost and stumbling around trying to figure out where it is I need to go to advance the quest. I play in short bursts, an hour here and there, and if I have to spend that hour stumbling around trying to figure out where in the region is the place I need to go then it feels like my time is just being wasted.

      Quest entries usually don’t have enough information for you to figure out where to go just from them, particularly if you’re coming back to a game after a break.

  22. Premium User Badge

    Dorga says:

    make traversal interesting. The geography of openworld games is at the moment almost useless: A terrain is either passable or impassable, there isn’t any kind of nuance. Everything is just for decoration, and apart from the steepest declines, which might as well be flat walls, walking up a hill, down a snowy ravine or a cobbled road is just the same. The artists go a long way to recreate a believable world, maybe researching the topography of a region and even how bridges and roads were made in a certain period, just for the player to cut a straight line to the objective because it’s the most sensible thing to do.

    • poliovaccine says:

      The first thing I picture when I read your comment is the way you could actually stumble and fall in Miasmata. I wish both RPGs and action games would universally steal that mechanic.

      • Premium User Badge

        Dorga says:

        super cool gam they should steal the triangulation mechanic as well; how cool would it be to find the next passage in a quest of the witcher by looking at landmarks instead of just having a gps?

      • floogles says:

        Miasmata is exactly what i thought of too, one of the best hiking simulators, and the mapping system was a joy.

  23. Vedharta says:

    Let me light a candle on my Altar to Morrowind again.

  24. Philopoemen says:

    I really like Underrail’s “oddity” system for gaining experience – it rewards exploration and combat in different ways, and is a great counterpoint to the traditional gain Exp through combat vs say Bloodlines only gain by completing missions.

    Easy to implement, and also seems to cut down level creep, as the oddities stop giving points after so many findings

    • Premium User Badge

      Nauallis says:

      Is it basically explained like the more you explore, the more “weirdness” and shock-value is required to show you something you haven’t seen or experienced before, and so it becomes harder to “level up” that way?

      • Philopoemen says:

        No its more you might locate an item that gives you 2xp per time you find it, like say a Omega Pass say on a corpse, but you can find find 3 times, so you get 6 xp, but you might continuing finding it in an area, but the other times don’t count. Different areas, different enemies, Different oddities.

        “Oddity” is what they call it, but “Item-based” is probably more accurate.

  25. morganjah says:

    Some of my favorite games mentioned here; Darklands and Emperor of the Fading Suns especially.Still love them both. Anyone know where to get a copy of Emperor?

    • Sin Vega says:

      I have a copy floating around somewhere (via some abandonware site or other) but wasn’t able to get it working on Windows post XP (it might be doable on 7 with some poking, I can’t remember clearly).

  26. CartonofMilk says:

    Three things from unpopular rpgs (well the latter two are good but just underrated):

    Two Worlds Equipment leveling system:

    It was highly illogical but made looting more fun. In two worlds, if you found a piece of equipment (well armor or weapon) you already owned, you could “merge” (just drag and drop) that newly found piece of equipment with the former and it would improve its stats. You could do this endlessly so presumably if you found the same leather jerkin a 100 times in the game, you could boost its stats to possibly equal the stats of a big high level shiny bulky plate armor. It allowed you to keep armors/weapons you thought looked better hoping that if you found it often enough you could boost its stats enough you wouldn’t be penalised for not wanting to wear the bulky plate armor.

    Kingdom of Amalur’s the sword and the damage done:

    Not for those who like realism but in Kingdom of Amalur the more damage you dealt, the more the physics system showed it. So by the end when you had crafted that game breaking super hammer and went to fight low level enemies in the early game parts of the map you would hit them and they would literally fly off screen (same with powerful magic) to fall back down to earth who knows where (i sometimes had fun trying to track them down).

    DC Universe Online’s Styles:

    Now this is either very stupid or awesome depending on who you talk to. Personally i feel that this whole system could have been avoided if the initial developers behind DCUO had had any sort of ingenuity and bothered to come up with a looting and equipment system that suited the superhero genre (because you know, superman doesn’t need to fucking loot or wear anything to be more powerful) but i also realise that might have been either really complicated to think up OR, at the very least, not been welcomed/accepted by the rpg community. In fact looting makes little sense in the superhero genre so might have had to be removed completely if making sense had been a priority.

    In any case, in DCUO, what your character is wearing on the equipment screen and what he’s ACTUALLY wearing in the game are two different things (well they don’t have to be if you don’t want them to). So while your equipment screen might say you’re wearing some super chest armor from krypton, in game you might still just be wearing thin barely tit covering spandex. Every piece of equipment you loot has a style associated to it. When you loot a new piece of equipment, you unlock that style. Meaning say you loot a kryptonian helmet, well you can wear that helmet and use its stats but you also unlock the style kryptonian helmet. Now say you’re wearing that helmet but hate the way it looks, well, you can go to the styles tab and opt for just..say, domino mask..or a different style of helmet…or nothing..in which case your character will be shown wearing nothing on their head but the stats of the helmet still will apply. I liked that system because a bit like with the Two Worlds equipment leveling system, it allowed my character to look the way i wanted it to instead of just having to look like a super armored tank because i want those high level armor stats. Basically, DCUO’s equipment system let you have your cake and eat it too.

  27. kyynis says:

    There’s a pretty neat chapter in Neverwinter Nights 2 that centers around a courtroom case against your character. You have a chance to seek evidence and find testimonies before the trial begins, and during the proceedings you can press the witnesses and generally use your dialogue skills to affect the jury’s verdict.

    *** Spoilers for a decade old game, I guess? ***

    Sadly it always ends with a trial by combat, called by either you or the antagonist, depending on the verdict. Still, it’s the journey that matters, right?

    • Michael Fogg says:

      In Daggerfall when you do a crime and surround to the guards you’re actually taken to court and asked to plead guilty or not guilty. Picking the ‘right’ option results in a shorter sentence. They simplified this significantly with Morro and the followers.

  28. ansionnach says:

    Excellent. I like the ideas around reactivity (appearance mattering to some extent, enemies not necessarily motivated to kill but having the sense to turn tail and run rather than be killed). The way Darklands framed its magic as working because of fear and superstition could work with some of these to make a game where being a rogue isn’t just about being silent and pointy, but a conman. A sorcerer’s charisma could also work against the fearful so he may be able strike far into others without any actual spellcasting. A thuggish brute could intimidate. If you defeat certain well-known characters that could cause some to run but others to come after you.

    I really liked the spellcasting in Ultima VIII. Each discipline had a different system and learning them made for an interesting part of the main quest. I never found it a chore and by the time you had became so ridiculously powerful that it might have, you should have found the ring of reagents, anyway.

  29. twixter says:

    I would like to see party combat management like Dragon Age: Origins. I liked how I could prioritize which powers/skills to use in what order, or when to buff/heal other party members. Then as the party levels up and acquires new abilities I could rework the whole system to suit my play style. AI party members that actually do what you want, imagine that!

  30. poliovaccine says:

    Nice idea for an article! On my part, I wish that main characters w whom you form relationships, like those in BioWare RPGs, had more complex systems of emotional motivation and like/dislike parameters – the formula I’m thinking of is basically that of The Sims 4. I feel like that system would work better behind the scenes of a more narrative, character-driven game than it did as an overt, player-driven one in The Sims. Oblivion tried something like that, but it sucked. Morrowind had various degrees of “Persuasion,” “Admiration,” “Bribery,” “Threats,” etc, but that could obviously stand to be brought up to modern standards.

    I think having a system like that underlying all the random NPCs in one of those big open worlds would be a (relatively) quick, resource-lite way to make them feel hand-crafted while actually being the result of algorithms – almost like the Shadow of Mordor “Nemesis system,” but for everyone, instead of just enemies.

  31. Decebal says:

    Time and calendars that matter. In Daggerfall various dates in the calendar were important and you could discover them by reading books. If you wanted to summon a Daedra lord you had to be at their shrine on their day. Making time matter also makes the player think about what they are doing – rather than just fast travel to the next quest spot.

    • poliovaccine says:

      Oh nice one! Not to mention: holidays! Nvm more detailed stuff like the lunar cycle being important to magic…

  32. Premium User Badge

    subdog says:

    Asheron’s Call nailed “inconvenient magic” – not only did spells cost reagents, with formulas that went up in value with the level of the spell. At a certain level, some reagents were even randomized, meaning (in theory) that players had to experiment for themselves to figure out high level formulas instead of reading from a guide.

    On top of that, it had what was called the “spell economy”, which meant that if lots of people in the world were using the same spells, they’d start to lose effectiveness, while rarer spells got a nice boost. It was never more than 5-10%, but it was a novel attempt at keeping magic effects as diverse as possible.

    I would also argue that New Vegas got some of the “clothing” rules right- if you put on a faction uniform, you could infiltrate even hostile areas. It’s not exactly “hey sweet hat!”, but it’s at least a novel acknowledgement of player choice.

  33. internisus says:

    I really don’t like transmogrification. Allowing the player to separate out the visual and gameplay characteristics of a piece of equipment makes it less special. If I can make the ancient spear I just found look like my glowing magic sword, then the latter becomes less unique while the former represents a less interesting decision because I don’t have to trade away an appearance I’ve become accustomed to in order to use it.

    • Sin Vega says:

      I think swords and spears are a bit different to armour. There are usually far more weapons than usable clothes, for a start. It’s just nicer to actually have a choice about how your character looks, rather than most likely having to leave behind the clothes you like because they don’t keep you alive, in favour of the same ugly boring suit of armour as everyone else.

      Like the fucking stupid horned helmets in Skyrim.

  34. onodera says:

    Flat and quality based equipment progressions. Tyranny is a good example. It still feels a bit forced when the same enemies drop better quality equipment when your level is higher, but I prefer it to Final Fantasy style of progression where you go from wooden swords to copper to bronze to iron to steel to mithril to gold(?!) to diamond(?!) to katzbalger(?!) and so on.
    When instead you get a progression from shoddy to common to well-made to masterwork and you can actually spend your money or use your personal crafting skills to improve your armor then you might actually grow attracted to that enchanted sword you got for your level 2 quest instead of selling it as vendor trash.

    • Sin Vega says:

      I’m a big fan of what Darklands did – barring minor changes in quality (which really boiled down to poor/normal/good, with a slight difference in damage as a result), all shortswords are the same, all halberds are the same, all longbows are the same. Choosing a tool that’s appropriate for your skills and your situation is what counts – at the end of the day, stabbing a dude with one sword is much like stabbing him with any other sword. Elite equipment is rare, very expensive, liable to be stolen or left behind if you lose a fight or have to flee, and still only as effective as the hands that wield it.

  35. Boronian says:

    You already said it that earlier games than Risen had a system where NPCs defeated but not killed you. But I am still surprised that you didn’t name the Gothic series here ;-)

    I loved running around in Gothic and challenging people to duels to get their stuff because their weapons looked awesome. Often enough it ended with me beaten up and they taking my gold. It was great.

  36. walruss says:

    I’d love to see an RPG where the lore was actually connected to your effectiveness in battle. The Witcher did this a bit, but I’d like to see a game where, before you fight the big baddies, you need to hit the books, or seek out an authority on the creature. And I think this system would solve the problem of magic use feeling trite. You’d research and discover magic rituals and failing to execute them properly would result in severe consequences.

  37. Dogshevik says:

    When I started reading the first thing I wanted to shout at the author was “Darklands, man, Darklands!”

    But then you had it in the list already…

    Still, besides the rich and diverse background that real history provides for RPGs, there were other factors endearing that game to me. Alchemy instead of real magic as well as the character creation, where you selected life choices instead of distributing skill points.

  38. Chillicothe says:

    Enemies That Don’t Engage

    Going back to consoles myself, but Earthbound had a neat way of doing this in that if you overleveled an enemy by a good bit, you’d just truck right over them on the map, getting a smidge of XP and the usual cash and carry. Smart convenience (a rarity sadly).

    The only games I’ve played in the interrum that did this was Trails of Cold Steel 1 & 2, and only 2 really got to use this as 1 hadn’t had much of any backtracking worth doing.

  39. temujin33 says:

    I’m sick to death of being the “chosen one” or the one destined to basically save the planet. It was an okay plot for the first couple dozen RPG’s in my life, but it does get repetitive and somewhat detracts from the immersion into the story world. Gimme an interesting world to explore/adventure/interact with. Gimme Skyrim with random start, except more better.

  40. Derpkovsky says:

    The ideas of enemies not engaging and people reacting to the clothes you wear are really good! I’d love to see them in more games as well. I am a bit confused about what you want in games though, you seem to want more coherent worlds that make logical sense (‘immersive’ if you will), but at the same time you want auto loot sell and transmogrification!
    Also the things I myself would love to see more:
    – inhabitants connect to where they live. Skyrim did this a bit where every citizen in a city noticably lives in a house which you can steal the key from. I would really love to see this expanded even more, so that a person’s home can tell you a lot about them, or you could steal their clothes so they have to walk around naked / buy new ones.
    – I had another good idea yesterday but have sadly forgotten it now, maybe something to do with the nememis system? I’ll at least say something that’s been said above that I endorse: don’t do questmarkers. I have been playing The Witcher 3 without hud for the last 150 hours and it’s fantastic, but it’s Really annoying to be drawn into the story of a quest and then having to go to your map to see where you’re supposed to go, because the characters didn’t actually tell you where to go. I’d be So happy for a game that let’s me ask for directions instead of making me go to a menu screen.
    Talking about the Witcher 3, it also had a court trial even though it wasn’t in a court. While working on a contract you find out it was a trap set by sentient monsters to protect their kind, but if you saved enough sentient monsters earlier in the game, you can convince them that you only kill harmfull monsters and they wont’t attack you. And oh yeah, i’m totally up for some diversity in historical settings in rpgs!

  41. Mr. Perfect says:

    Dungeon Siege had another feature that I really enjoyed: mobs drop what you see them using.

    In many games, mobs seem to drop completely random crap. A skeleton is wailing on you with a spiked mace? Defeat it and get a spellbook as a reward! But not Dungeon Siege, if you want a forest troll club you go kill a forest troll. Want a Goblin lightning gun? Go find a goblin who has one and beat him up! I don’t know why that should be so satisfying, but it is.

  42. alms says:

    They’re not exactly RPGs, though a large part of their gameplay is an ARPG-like combat/crawling, both Terraria and Starbound have clothing to wear on top of armor sets and extra content that unlocks according to the time of the year.

    (Ofc your point still stands.)

  43. gabrielonuris says:

    The problem is that some features are simply dumbed down for the sake of accessibility. But here is some of them I’d want to see more often:

    Far Cry 2: weapon jamming animations, real time paper map.

    System Shock 2: there is a mission where you must find a circuit board named 35m/dEx inside a storage. If it was made today, we would find said board lying around, blinking and flashing as if it was made of magic glass, while at the same time with a dumb quest pointer above it. But, no, in System Shock 2 you get the coordinates of its location and its name. when you get to the storage, you find a lot of boards: 88j/uiI, 21h/d2m, a lot of them. You can even pick them up. You have to search for 35m/dEx, seriously, you can’t be more immersive than that, and look, without SSAO whatnots and lens flare everywhere!!!

    Vampire Bloodlines: you earn exp points completing quests, not killing mobs. That’s what I call a REAL choice if you’ll kill everybody or ghost the entire game.

    Doom 3: real time interactibility with the monitors in game.

    The Witcher series: studying the monsters’ weaknesses before engaging them.

    Risen 1: the blacksmithing. Not even Risen 2 and 3 had the balls to come with it again. I think Dark Messiah of Might And Magic has that kind of blacksmithing too, where you forge the blade, temper it and then grind it. I don’t care if it takes time, and because of that Risen 2 and 3 came with a childish instant animation. I want blacksmithing back!