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Vince
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« on: May 14, 2011, 09:55:14 AM »

Chris Avellone was kind enough to share his innermost thoughts on choices & consequences with the less fortunate. Some concepts and ideas can only be described as "really fucking cool" and are a must-read for any developer.

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In the good ol' days the formula was simple: kill monsters, level up, find better items; but as the stories grew in complexity, more advanced role-playing elements started emerging. The way I see it, storytelling in RPGs has led to choices and choices to consequences.

Choices take many different forms: multiple beginnings, non-linearity, multiple quest solutions, branching dialogue trees, etc. whereas consequences create reactive worlds, mutually exclusive content, multiple endings, etc.

Now, the "original" formula is simple and easy to grasp. Choices & consequences - not so much, even though they've been around for more than a decade. Since you've been around for awhile and worked on games that actually did push the genre forward, I'd love to see what you've learned.

1. What are your thoughts on choices & consequences in general? Is it a logical next step in the evolution of RPGs, a distraction from what RPGs used to be about, or something in between? What lessons have you learned? What works and what doesn't? What feedback do you get from players?


Choices and consequences are important to role-playing games and should be part of their structure, especially if you are including the options of choice when the player builds their character whether it's with the skills you offer, the background you offer, or the morality, reputation, or influence system you're incorporating into the design. I don't feel choice and consequences have to be specially scripted, they can be - but one of the lessons I've learned over the past many years is you want to design systems that allow for choices and consequences and avoid special case scripting when you can, as the former gives the player more freedom and makes the experience more fun.

2. Letting the player decide what to do next, thus breaking a linear quests progression and encouraging replayability, is one of the most important choices. Now, on one side of the spectrum we have a fake "do locations/side quests in any order" setup and on the other we have branching quests and multiple story arcs. Where is your golden middle as a designer and why?

The golden middle is you present the character with an interesting narrative-driven situation (not a linear, paced story) with a great supporting cast (ideally, as reactive as possible), and then let them mess with it however they want to see where the ripple effect takes it.

3. I believe that story and non-linearity are diametrically opposed features.

Interrupting here to clarify my opinion; I don't believe they are diametrically-opposed features, it just depends on what direction the story is coming from. If the game allows for a player-driven story based on game mechanics, that's a tough act for any narrative designer to try and beat. It's a matter of subjecting the player to a strong story or allowing them the tools to create one. The latter is more what games should strive for, and I'd argue it's part of the appeal of open-world games vs. linear-level-missions in games... people have more fun with that freedom, and if it can be applied to stories and game narratives, all the better.

A strong story will give you little freedom, which isn't necessarily a bad thing (worked for Planescape: Torment, didn't it?), whereas a truly non-linear game can work only with an outline of a story, giving the player no more than a sense of purpose and direction, like "go and find a chip (water or platinum) and see what transpires".

Any thoughts on how to craft a better story in a non-linear environment or how to infuse a story-driven RPG with meaningful choices?


A non-linear story can still have good sounding board companions and good NPCs to talk to (Fallout 1 and 2). Also, Fallout 1 did have core story elements ingrained in the world that did make the story extremely strong, and there were specific choke points the player was expected to hit although the presentation camouflaged them effectively.

The difference lies between a strong story, and a strong world. Fallout succeeded in having both, and in addition, had a strong range of game mechanics that the world supported to allow the player to tell their own stories and solve objectives "their way." (Note that some of those quest objective solutions did require special case quest scripting, so that's the challenge).

4. You've talked before about creating a good story with reactivity. Care to elaborate?

You can pull a character through a story by having events unfold around them, or you can make it clear that events are happening because of what the player did - and *specifically* what the player did. Part of the fun of a world and a story is how your presence is causing changes in it, seeing those changes play out, and being made aware exactly how you caused those changes. Being an agent of change, the spark lighting the fuse, or the butterfly wings that spark the hurricane on the other side of the world is pretty gratifying. It's much different than the player being passively subjected to a changing story they are having no effect on - or if it's obvious the events that are changing have nothing to do with their actions.

This is probably putting me out of a job, but it's what I believe and what I've noticed from both computer game GM'ing and pen-and-paper gamemastering: Special casing reactivity I've found is generally a waste of time compared to giving the player a series of game mechanics and encounters and see what happens. This is an example I've used before, but as a narrative designer, I can't compete a player's story about how their dwarf fighter with 3 hit points exploited a crack in the canyon terrain and the limited range of motion of orcish axes to lure 20 orcs to their death one by one. Simple, but that's a legend being made right there. Once you add reputation systems, faction systems, and more, and the range of player-made stories increases without narrative designers having to do much work at all.

5. Speaking of reactivity... Consequences should have some effect on gameplay, but at the same time a developer can't always alter gameplay significantly to make choices more meaningful. What's reasonable to expect, in your opinion? Any ideas on how to make choices and consequences make noticeable difference and effect within the boundaries of a story you want to tell?

Again, weave it into a game mechanic. Even two dialogue choices that lead to the same result aren't meaningless if one makes you more Chaotic and one makes you more Lawful, which we used in Torment. In some cases, the NPCs would never know if you were lying - but you would, and it would matter to your character's alignment that you're willing to deceive everyone around you. Same thing with Reputation, Influence, Faction Reputation, Town Reputation... all of these can be an easy method of creating and tracking overall consequences in an area.

6. Going back to non-linearity, any thoughts on the honeycomb quest/mission design? What are the advantages and disadvantages over simpler designs?

To clarify, "honeycomb" mission design is something one of our System Designers, Matt MacLean, suggested for Alpha Protocol. If it had been early enough in pre-production, we would have used it (and hopefully still can). It applies to a mission design where the player is giving an overarching objective (say, "force the Montaine troops to evacuate the border garrison") and then give the player about 5-6 "satellite quests" orbiting the main quest, all of which can affect the set-up or success of the central mission. The player can choose which of those 5-6 missions he wants to undertake, and they all react to each other and cause a reaction in the central objective as well.

We did this to an extent in AP (optional missions, missions affecting other missions for each hub), but there was much more we could have done with this system, and all other things being equal, it's my goal that it be a focus for at least one of our titles in the future, as it's a really interesting idea.

The disadvantage is it can get extremely complex if done improperly (special casing events), the advantage is that it's a better means of giving the player reactivity without a linear quest progression... and more importantly, it gives the player choices in how they want to complete the objective. They wouldn't need to do all 5-6 missions at all, and they could accomplish these satellite missions in any order they wanted. A speech character may simply target 3 missions that cater to diplomacy (say, sowing gossip or convincing soldiers or officers that the main capital is going to be attacked), and suddenly the garrison gets a high-level order to move its troops to the capital to defend the monarch.

7. Let's talk about diplomatic solutions to problems. Since all conflicts can be resolved with violence, which is the legacy of the olden days when violence was the only way to solve anything in RPGs, how do you feel about the "talk your way through the game" path? Can it actually compete with the "kill 'em all" path in terms of excitement or is it, at best, a side dish, something to do between the killings? If yes, what are the challenges of getting it done right? If no, why not?

It caters to a small % of players, and those players find it meaningful if that's the power fantasy they want. To cite the best example, in Fallout 1, I think it's pretty ego-boosting to point out the flaws in your adversaries' master plan so much that he suicides after talking to you. I really can't be more of a talking badass than that. It is difficult to implement a speech/sneak path, and the main obstacles to it are many, so here's my opinion on how to approach it:

The speech path should present more than a skill check challenge - there needs to be some other obstacle associated with it. I usually veer toward exploring conversations (asking about back history, reading lore, discovering evidence to a criminal case), exploring the environment (discovering an enemy encampment, learning a secret path into a fortress, discovering a rival caravan is already sending an emissary to scout a new trade route), or being able to draw logical connections between two topics... as an example, without it being given as a quest objective, realizing that the local historian who's obsessed with the Montaine family tree would be interested to learn of an exiled Montaine living in a remote city, and then returning to tell the historian that is a simplistic example of paying enough attention to a conversation and its topics and remembering who might be interested in that information... but again, this involves the player remembering and knowing who to speak to next. We sometimes do this within a dialogue tree - if a player has enough presence of mind to return to a previously-asked dialogue node once they've obtained information learned from a later node is an example of a speech-based challenge.

We did something a little different with the Fallout 3 pen-and-paper game and also with Alpha Protocol - in the Fallout PNP game, we allowed players with a high Speech to gain a little mini-dossier psychology profile of the temperament and the psychology of the person they were speaking to either by purchasing them or speaking to them for X period of time - what the NPC's triggers were, what they were uneasy about, what they got angry about, etc, and then once the player had that information, then they would attempt to use those triggers (without the need for a speech check) to manipulate a situation. As an example, when we were playing Boulder in Fallout PNP, Josh Sawyer's character Arcade got a dossier on the leader of the Boulder Dome, enough to realize that the leader would almost always refuse any request or become unreasonably angry if a comment was phrased as a challenge to his authority or any hint that he was managing the situation improperly - but almost any other comment that built up the leader's skill as a manager or drew in a compliment about the progress he made would almost always generate a favorable response, and then Josh could choose how he wanted the target to respond by structuring his comments and debates accordingly. If he wanted to make the leader mad and lose face in front of his followers, he knew how to do it - if he wanted to make the leader agree to a course of action, he knew how to do that, too, but there wasn't a "speech check" to win the conversation, only hints on how to manipulate it. Alpha Protocol did this a bit without a speech skill - if you gathered enough info on an opponent (intel), it began to give you a picture as to what attitudes (aggressive, suave, professional) and mission approach (violent, stealth, diplomatic) they respected and what they didn't, and the player could use that to navigate the conversation to achieve a desired result, even if that result was something that might seem unfavorable at first, like making the person angry.

I always liked how the old Fallouts had the empathy perk that forecasted whether a topic would make someone mad or not, but you never knew if that might be a good thing or not unless you really paid attention to the NPC's outlook and philosophy. Was making X person mad a good thing or not?

8. You've mentioned awhile ago that one of the core problems with dialogues revolves around the fact that the player is more motivated to kill and loot (back to the roots again) than to have a civilized conversation. How would you balance these options, making the peaceful outcome every bit as appealing as the alternative?

Obsidian has a rule in quest design that any non-violent path has to have a reward that's comparable to killing and looting everyone in the scenario, and has similar repercussions. Whether this is XP bonus greater than killing the opponent, alignment shifts, barter rewards, or whatever, speech-defeating someone can't yield you less in the long run than it would if you killed everyone. Often, it can yield more if you're patient... or if you decide to shoot the person in the face after you verbally crushed them. In some ways, it could be considered a speech bribe. I'll be honest, KOTOR2 was a huge speech bribe as well - once people figured out that's how you could make Jedi or Sith from characters by interacting with them, suddenly there's a lot more incentive in getting to know your allies and playing the influence game. I will say this doesn't always work (I've seen YouTube footage where people simply rapidfire through the FNV DLC1 Dead Money conversations just looking to mine the XP awards, which makes me die a little inside - but hey, it's more than they would otherwise).

In any event - using Speech or other dialogue skill is also a mechanic you need to showcase early in the game to play fair with the player so that they know what kind of world they've stepped into. I've always felt Mass Effect 1 did an excellent job on the first level with showcasing how every skill is valuable in the context of that mission and what sort of results you can expect to get from using it... and Goodsprings in Fallout New Vegas was also a good example of it as well, especially with dialogue-based skills (it was a design mandate that every skill be highlighted in Goodsprings, including low-level weapon tier selection from guns, melee, explosives, etc.). The player needed to see in the first area how their skills could shine and how they could be used to solve quests before they "settled" into their character.

9. Some might argue that speech checks represent the "correct" response, which isn't much of a choice. Any ideas on how to fix it, instead of, say, dropping it and replacing with something else?

I'm in favor of dropping Speech checks and using the system described above where it requires some thought on the player's part rather than clicking the "win conversation" button. Again, I prefer Speech giving insight into a character's personality, and then you have to use deduction to figure out what responses to choose based on what you know of the target's psychology, as described above.

This was part of the reason for the influence system in K2. It turned paying attention to a character's personality as a game in itself, aside from gathering Light Side/Dark Side reactions... suddenly, knowing what Canderous, Kreia, and Atton believe in and why made you pay attention to what responses you gave them beyond simply good or evil and added a new axis to the conversation choices.

10. Multiple quest solutions. Do you have any preferences when it comes to the design? Also, limiting the number of options/skills forces the player to do things a certain way, which could break the immersion, whereas letting every build to solve a problem kind of cheapens the experience, making it seems like virtually anyone can do it. Any thoughts on this issue?

Depends on the character building options you've given in the game and the game mechanic tools you've given them - and recognizing by giving them those options, you need to make them viable in the level design and world design. If you provide Sneak skills, you need to honor that choice with a Sneak path. Same with Speech, combat skills, science, etc. It only cheapens the experience if there's no reactivity or solution based on it.

In Alpha Protocol, we tried to include instances where people clearly had more respect (and you gained more Rep) if you used Stealth only in a mission, or if you had done enough dossier research to bring up evidence, or hell, if sometimes you murdered every Russian thug you could find - in addition, they would be reactions that none of the other paths would get, and it had a game mechanic bonus as a result.

Making a reaction for every situation is tough, but if you plan it from the outset, it's not an impossible task to design a global system for it (either Torment alignment shifts, K2 influence shifts, FNV faction and town rep, and AP's perception-based rep of the main character).

* * *

Thanks, Chris. Best wishes and all that.
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« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2011, 10:59:02 AM »

Quote
The golden middle is you present the character with an interesting narrative-driven situation (not a linear, paced story) with a great supporting cast (ideally, as reactive as possible), and then let them mess with it however they want to see where the ripple effect takes it.

That's gold, Jerry!

This is the type of story I like the most, a narrative-enriched situation presented to the player, rather than a linear storyline. Players will construct their own linear storyline as they play with that situation.

I don't like pure sandbox, I feel direction-less, but with tight linear narratives I tend to feel like I'm just jumping hoops to get the storyline to progress to the next plot point the designer has laid out. If it's a good story I'll play it once to experience it, but I never feel interested in trying it again.
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« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2011, 11:27:15 AM »

Very interesting interview, thanks for posting it, Vince.
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« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2011, 11:30:45 AM »

Again, a great interview.

I wonder what would his comment be on the new dialogue system as used in DeusX HR, concerning the part with dialogue combat or battles, as they call it.

Especially in the sense of making dialogue important, engaging and rewarding experience as opposed of just figuring out what is the win option and clicking through as fast as possible.

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« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2011, 12:08:27 PM »

Quote
The golden middle is you present the character with an interesting narrative-driven situation (not a linear, paced story) with a great supporting cast (ideally, as reactive as possible), and then let them mess with it however they want to see where the ripple effect takes it.

That's gold, Jerry!
No, bro. THIS is gold:

"...a little mini-dossier psychology profile of the temperament and the psychology of the person ... - what the NPC's triggers were, what they were uneasy about, what they got angry about, etc, and then once the player had that information, then they would attempt to use those triggers (without the need for a speech check) to manipulate a situation. As an example, when we were playing Boulder in Fallout PNP, Josh Sawyer's character Arcade got a dossier on the leader of the Boulder Dome, enough to realize that the leader would almost always refuse any request or become unreasonably angry if a comment was phrased as a challenge to his authority or any hint that he was managing the situation improperly - but almost any other comment that built up the leader's skill as a manager or drew in a compliment about the progress he made would almost always generate a favorable response..."

This is a great way to improve the non-combat design and involve the player the same combat decisions do: you have several combat options, each has pros and cons, you choose one that would work best (in your opinion which is based on what you've seen so far) on your opponent. What Chris is taking about is a good way to introduce the same level of depth to your dealings with NPCs. You can have 2-3 persuasion lines, but the outcome would depend on the NPC.

The example is perfect and realistic. Some people will refuse to listen to any argument if they think that the way they are running things is questioned. Some people will agree with you only if you convince them that your idea is actually their idea, etc. Makes perfect sense.

Also this:

"...a mission design where the player is giving an overarching objective (say, "force the Montaine troops to evacuate the border garrison") and then give the player about 5-6 "satellite quests" orbiting the main quest, all of which can affect the set-up or success of the central mission. The player can choose which of those 5-6 missions he wants to undertake, and they all react to each other and cause a reaction in the central objective as well. "

Beautiful. Takes non-linearity to the next level.
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« Reply #5 on: May 14, 2011, 02:37:16 PM »

Those two statements stood out for me as well, together with the "win conversation" comment.
Getting insights like this is I guess the very reason you do those interviews (see last paragraph at the end) as they sure won't be able to implement all the features in non indie games, so I hope we see some of that in your (hopefully) next game.

There really is potential to make dialogue more meaningful and connect it gameplay wise in a more fleshed out way than it is right now with the bivariate fail/succeed due to high persuasion skill mechanic we see in conversations nowadays.
There's not much of a choice after all in-game wise outside of char generation so far.
Giving different conversation approaches/tactics with certain characters that you repeatedly meet and build a relationship with over several follow up quests (thus eliminating instant reloads by giving you potential gains after some more game time) as MCA mentioned would go along way in this regard. Same goes for making intel gathering more important in convos, maybe by placing  some of it in optional content/ side quests thus REALLY rewarding exploration other than by showing some nice art or loot.
Same goes for optional items, the blade of the immortal in Planescape would be a good example.    



General thoughts of the interview:

Also once again a reassuring confirmation that its not the designers that lack good ideas nowadays but rather that the big budgets of AAA games make any kind of risk taking and fulfillment of their vision gameplay wise impossible.
At best we get a watered down version of their original concepts (Obsidian), and even that is most likely only possible by cutting production costs significantly by buying an established brand and modified engine and focusing on content.
So its pretty much left to two parties to advance a genre in any form:
a) Blizzard and maybe Valve thanks to their reputation and money print press Wow and Steam respectively, which allows more risk taking and development time for polishing  and
b) the indies, mostly by cutting down production costs in technical areas and catering to unserved  niches.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2011, 02:40:20 PM by Fryjar » Logged
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« Reply #6 on: May 14, 2011, 03:38:54 PM »

The [Speech checks] ---> [Gain information] ---> [Use info to inform dialogue choices], is certainly a nice model. Part of what's nice about it, is that you wouldn't need to treat it as an isolated system: sometimes stealth/combat/exploration might provide similar information. Similarly, the available dialogue choices, and the PC's likely success with them, can be determined in part by the PC's stats (and other relevant context) - an ugly belligerent buffoon can still screw things up even if he has the right information.

One potential problem with such a setup, is that it relies to an extent on player knowledge. So in a game world that doesn't change from playthrough to playthrough, the player might already know what approach to take with NPC X from his previous playthrough - even if his current character would have no means to find the relevant information. Of course you needn't give non-speech-based characters the relevant persuasion options, but it's still a bit of an issue for a second speech-based character. Either you allow a speech-based character to by-pass all the information gathering elements the second time through, or you give him a strong incentive to search for information the player already knows.

One replay-friendly approach might be to switch up the personalities of characters each time, so that the optimal persuasion approach from the previous playthrough might well not work this time. That's probably not satisfying outside of a sandboxy game though.

A better fit might be to make sure the player has some reason to do the information-gathering elements each playthrough, but switch up the availability of the information. So e.g. in the first playthrough, guard X might have had useful insight into the personality of faction-leader Z; in the second playthrough, guard X might be clueless, while guard Y has the insight - and the means of gaining-access-to/persuading guards X and Y can be very different. I think this fits better, since it doesn't require messing with anyone's personality. It might be that guard X overheard some pivotal conversation/discussion/argument/admission, in the reality of the first playthrough, while guard Y overheard the same thing in the reality of the second playthrough.
Of course this doesn't address how you'd make the information-gathering elements required. Removing all persuasion options to start with seems a bit daft, as does removing only the useful approaches.

Another option would be to have the reactions of high-profile NPCs vary significantly according to their current mood/knowledge/circumstances, as well as on long-term personality traits. That way the player might know the long-term personality traits of an NPC from a previous playthrough, but he can still be in the dark on how the NPC's mood/attitude/outlook/goals/fears have been influenced by recent events - whether those be large-scale plot events, or a recent argument over cutlery. Hopefully that would make any information-gathering element still seem worthwhile.
Naturally, as Chris makes clear, you'd want to avoid trivial win/lose conversation outcomes wherever possible, anyway. So even if a player already knows how to push an NPC's buttons, he still won't always be sure which ones he wishes to push.


In terms of the "general-mechanics beats special-casing", and honeycomb-like approaches, I couldn't agree more. It remains pretty tricky to do well though - particularly where narrative elements are concerned. Whatever intermediate mechanics (or even intermediate quests) you involve, you're still going to have to hand-write NPC dialogue statements to cover all potential outcomes reasonably. In general, you're going to have a large set of intermediate data deciding between relatively few NPC statements/statement-combinations. The interactions between intermediate mechanics might be highly nuanced and responsive, but an NPC's set of eventual responses is going to be relatively coarse.
I guess a good way to approach this issue is to make sure that each NPC makes decisions based on different weightings/thresholds of the available data. That way each NPC's responses will be relatively coarse by necessity, but the set of responses of all NPCs will be precisely tuned to each individual PC. If many of these NPC responses have interacting consequences of their own, things ought to feel suitably responsive.

To take an AoD example, you wouldn't want all NPCs in a faction to evaluate their response based on e.g. [If (Faction_Reputation*Word_Of_Honour > 10) ], since that would mean that any PC meeting those criteria would pass every such check, while every other PC would fail all of them. If instead, each NPC interprets the available data using different formulae/thresholds, you'd get a much wider range of potential PC-faction interactions.


Specifically on the honeycomb approach, I think it's important that things wouldn't become too isolated from the rest of the game. Having the primary focus of the 5/6 satellite-quests be to influence the central quest is great - but I'd like to see it matter in the medium/long term which of the satellite quests were taken on, and how they were accomplished. Of course this certainly couldn't be special-cased much at all, or you'd quickly be in combinatorial trouble - it'd just be nice to see such satellite quests not be entirely 'forgotten' by game systems once their influence on the central quest had been calculated.

One natural thought on the honeycomb-quest approach would be to use it as a hierarchy to construct an entire game. You might have e.g. one central high-level mission, with 5 satellite missions that are themselves pretty broad. Each satellite mission would then have its own satellites, and so on until you hit a reasonably low level (see attached 'artwork'). So long as it were generally required to use two or three satellites for each central quest, each playthrough would cover a significant amount of ground, while still varying highly from most other approaches.
A clear advantage over a more linear style would be the player's sense of purpose/involvement with the progression of the game - he'd be fully in control of pursuing his ultimate goal from day one. Rather than hoping some essentially external story would grip him, you'd be putting him at the centre of things from the outset. However, I guess you'd want to keep quite a few satellites hard to find/understand/address, in order to keep some sense of exploration/surprise/suspense - and indeed, not have the impact of a satellite on its central quest be too predictable/reliable.

I'm sure I had a point somewhere Confused.

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« Reply #7 on: May 14, 2011, 05:03:47 PM »

Great interview, nice to read. Though, the problem I see with all that stuff (Choice&Consequence) is, that it doesn't need much to make it way too complex than it really needs to be. Hell, even when it comes to "deeper dialogues," most players most likely won't even notice differences on a second playthrough. Sadly.

When it comes to a reactive quest system, I think the honeycomb way really is the one to go. I see it only as important to try to cover this system as good as possible, so people won't get a repitative feeling out of it (recognizing a pattern, etc).

Using the speech-check not as a win-in-dialog function, but to unlock informations is a nice idea. Wonder why nobody thought about that before. But in any case, this could (would?) result in even more dialog text than the game might have already, which then (nowdays) leads to higher costs for more lines to speak by voice actors, yadda-yadda...

Quote
I will say this doesn't always work (I've seen YouTube footage where people simply rapidfire through the FNV DLC1 Dead Money conversations just looking to mine the XP awards, which makes me die a little inside - but hey, it's more than they would otherwise).

Heh, didn't know people are farming the xp you get in fnv from winning the skill-checks. Damn, it's just so little xp, can't believe people actually care about them.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2011, 05:10:17 PM by Lexx » Logged
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« Reply #8 on: May 14, 2011, 08:19:47 PM »


Using the speech-check not as a win-in-dialog function, but to unlock informations is a nice idea. Wonder why nobody thought about that before.



If this is what you meant:

Quote
We did something a little different with the Fallout 3 pen-and-paper game and also with Alpha Protocol - in the Fallout PNP game, we allowed players with a high Speech to gain a little mini-dossier psychology profile of the temperament and the psychology of the person they were speaking to either by purchasing them or speaking to them for X period of time - what the NPC's triggers were, what they were uneasy about, what they got angry about, etc, and then once the player had that information, then they would attempt to use those triggers (without the need for a speech check) to manipulate a situation.

I agree, its brilliant.



Heh, didn't know people are farming the xp you get in fnv from winning the skill-checks. Damn, it's just so little xp, can't believe people actually care about them.

Better to dump XP for everything, except for completed quests.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2011, 08:23:33 PM by Davaris » Logged
galsiah
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« Reply #9 on: May 14, 2011, 09:31:37 PM »

Better to dump XP for everything, except for completed quests.
Fixed.

I'd really like to see the more abstract elements of character progression divorced from the PC's actions entirely. That way the incentive is for the player to make decisions based on game-world consequences alone. If a designer needs a "+1000xp" for quest completion in order to motivate the player, then there's something wrong with the quest, or with the way the game world reacts to it.
Pure time-based progression would be one way to go about it. Non-progression would be another. Putting the abstraction into the reality of the setting would be a third - e.g. having gods/demons/magical-forces/... grant characters powers according to their own criteria. The last only works with some settings, and you'd still have to be careful with the incentives you provided - but importantly, any incentive would be coherent with the setting. Doing weird stuff to appease the gods can make some sense; doing weird stuff to appease game designers less so.

Using the information-provides-clues-to-dialogue approach widely would give the player a more natural reason to pay attention to dialogues/writings.... He'd still be mining for gameplay advantage in some sense - but in a much more satisfying, context-relevant sense. Of course you'd hope that any dialogue is also inherently interesting, but giving the player a game-mechanical reason to care about it beyond xp would be great.

As for quest completion motivation in the absence of xp, a honeycomb format (or similar) could be pretty helpful there too. So long as the player and PC have some game-world-based reason to want to achieve some goal, there'll be significant satisfaction in completing a quest regardless of xp. What's important here is that quest outcomes all contribute to other quests, and that the player gets a significant choice both in his high-level goals, and his lower-level means to achieve them. Once the player is free to formulate his own plans, and to see the game world respond to each element, he shouldn't need a designer giving him a pat on the head every time he jumps through a hoop.
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Davaris
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« Reply #10 on: May 15, 2011, 01:53:43 AM »

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Pure time-based progression would be one way to go about it. Non-progression would be another.

How does your character improve his abilities, if he is not awarded XP? Do you have a character that never changes? Or is it just the equipment/money he earns that makes him more capable? If it is equipment/money that gives him his new powers, then leaving it for him to find or earn, becomes XP.

If you are saying you naturally improve as a factor of time played, you could just leave the game on and your PC would improve.

As for non-progression, people like to improve their capabilities in real life and in games. If I went to University, and did not become more capable at what I was studying, I would stop going. If my boss stopped paying me and I needed money to live, I would get another job, or if was independently wealthy, I wouldn't be motivated to work very hard. If I played tennis, golf, or chess and never improved, it wouldn't be enjoyable.

 

I'd really like to see the more abstract elements of character progression divorced from the PC's actions entirely. That way the incentive is for the player to make decisions based on game-world consequences alone.

Another method of awarding XP is to only do so, when the character fails at something. That way they are more likely to accept the consequences.

If these XP awards in dialogue affect reputation, they would be reluctant to use mining, as options would close off elsewhere in the game.


« Last Edit: May 15, 2011, 03:26:13 AM by Davaris » Logged
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« Reply #11 on: May 15, 2011, 04:06:08 AM »

How about being awarded XP only for completing portions of a main objective?

Find the location of the water chip, for example; you get a certain percentage of the reward for discovering a new location and determining it isn't there, but once you've found where it is you get all the leftover XP for the objective.
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Davaris
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« Reply #12 on: May 15, 2011, 05:00:55 AM »

How about being awarded XP only for completing portions of a main objective?

Works for me.

Find the location of the water chip, for example; you get a certain percentage of the reward for discovering a new location and determining it isn't there, but once you've found where it is you get all the leftover XP for the objective.

What if you don't need to visit a location, to learn if an object is not there? You could use your speech skill to ask someone and determine if they are telling the truth. Also people could tell you about locations in Fallout and they'd appear in the world map.
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Hiver
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« Reply #13 on: May 15, 2011, 06:35:20 AM »

Im not sure how would you then allow the player to gain skills he needs in order to progress enough that he manages to deal with a bigger portion of the plot.
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« Reply #14 on: May 15, 2011, 07:05:37 AM »

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No, bro. THIS is gold:

Yep, that is pretty damn awesome. Makes me really want to create that 'dinner party murder mystery' RPG around the concept.
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