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Gambler
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« Reply #60 on: March 04, 2008, 03:02:01 pm »

Quote from: Mouse
To try and rephrase the mini-game/sub-game thing, we could do with coming up with a word or phrase that encapsulates its meaning in a less controversial manner.
Um, "focused interface"?
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Mouse
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« Reply #61 on: March 04, 2008, 04:36:53 pm »

Focused interface is good. I'll go with that from now on.
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inhuman
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« Reply #62 on: March 04, 2008, 08:11:04 pm »

I didn't go through all the pages and thus I can't tell if the subject has shifted drastically;

I just thought that the game "Konung - Legends of the North" was noteworthy in a thread such as this because for reasons you don't need to know, you need to conquer all of the 12 or so towns in the game and you can conquer almost every town either by force, by doing their quests, or by dialogue options either through charisma (stats), bluffing (stats) or using in-game information your character has to blackmail or persuade.

Unless you're an obsessive compulsive, don't bother with the game though. It has lots of nice ideas; freshingly absurd and lighthearted dialogue and usually simple motives for NPCs instead of pretentiously lame ones, party management, town management and whatnot; all gone horribly wrong and often broken. It was a pain to go through the game twice (that's, I gave up during my 3rd play) just to have played with all three characters/heroes and see how different the game would be.

I can tell that the game experience varies only slightly, but there are interesting differences on all game characters' perspectives on other towns/clans, and that was a lot more interesting to me. For a beginning, picking one of the three heroes mean you'll have to go after the other two heroes and face their clans, conquer their towns. Where one of these heroes and his clan can represent evil warmongers to others, others can represent illiterate woodsmen to him. No clear cut "this is the good guy, your friend and that is the evil guy there". Perspectives shift for all three clans. Also, every hero's own clan is particularly good at something initially. If you pick Constantin of Byzantine camp, you'll have tanks in armors with good fighting abilities, best smiths and equipment from the get go. One of the other heroes will recruit other towns more easily etc. but none of the heroes are characteristically limited to the initial clan advantages.

If only the game wasn't %75 grind with huge amounts monsters every screen, respawning every time you come back; a better travel interface instead of having to LARP through all areas (unless you used teleportation scrolls), better and more managable inventory, no broken branching, etc...


I'll play Konung 2 soon, hoping it actually improved on the first and fixed the issues.
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Decay
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« Reply #63 on: March 05, 2008, 12:50:06 am »

Short introduction as a start: Me, lurker.

A BIG "Thank You" to the OP, for his informative article (another proof that the real world is more mind-boggling than most games), and all other participants that contributed more ideas into this article. It's a very very nice post as of the moment I'm typing, and hopefully it'll grow more in the near future (been optimistic here).

As a response to Mouse and galsiah and others' collaboration on incorporating focus interfaces into the over-arching one and on reducing player fatigue, one solution to player fatigue is simply an automation (SKIP button basically) to unwanted/repetitive elements. I.E., I hate the move-mouse-by-pixels to search for item, so I'd love for a button that does what I have to do in seconds (or faster), so I can get to the more entertaining/meaningful part faster. I could substitue the above situation with trying-to-talk-to-everyone-I-see, with a button that checks skills (perception, information gathering, wisdom, etc.) and highlights the person that I should talk to. However, the proposed solution is not as efficient as using current exisiting interfaces, since it needs new code, and maybe changes in the basic engine, as well as its premise on the lack of consequances to pc actions. I.E. if a counter is placed for opening locks, with the significance being that security is raised, nobles/higher class in the hierchy wants better locks, a locksmith is needed, and for a possible way to complete a goal the pc could disguise as a locksmith, etc. Which, however, requires changes in coding as well (more counters, scripts, dialogues), and efficiency is lost as well.

But what is the "efficiency" I'm throwing around? My definition is simply the application of resources in a way that with the smallest input generating the biggest output, in this case being the reasonable development time, money (for graphic engines/scripts/writings, etc.), manpower that will enable the greater enjoyment in players (since this is the indie scene, otherwise replace enjoyment with hype and money) along with some amount of money. So with the resources, it's well possible that impoving the dialogue trees with actual consequences will have more impact on player's experience than writing a new engine to support better simulation of real-life situations (meaning player action besides combat causes consequences). But, just to get out of the supposively-existing efficiency problem (without considering human/natural disasters and humane errors), I'll presume the resources been infinite.

The personal best would be an complex engine with consequences regarding all player actions (of course, some consequences should be negligible) with an emphasis (not overly done) on time. Couple that with a great art direction (like the fallout series minus the new one), PST-grade/better writing, and interesting backgrounds (world, lore, etc.) would make for a dream-game.
However, the time and genius needed for creating a efficent way to manage and implement all the c/c and scripts, or creating good AIs that reflect real-world actions (actually go hostile when pc intrudes into one's home, get scared if pc's intimidating, and more detailed consequences), are beyond my imagination, so for now, I propose a more modest way of improving.

One way at a time.
Yes, one facet of the game world at a time. Starting with better writings, actual c/c from dialogues & actions, going to including consequences for breaking into houses, bribing (reputation as someone with spare money = people asks for more bribes, but greedy people will come to you and offer services/goods, people who dislike "bribing" will have a lower/worse reaction, may even demand explanations. Bribe more times = rich, thieve's guild starts to collect information on you, robbers and thugs may try to make you into their victims if you don't have any reputation that scares them. Bribe even more = etc.), then AIs (not the radiant one, that hurt my eyes), and further down.

... That was a rant, sorry. Embarrassed
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aVENGER
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« Reply #64 on: March 05, 2008, 02:41:33 am »

What I propose is that a dialogue's resolution, whatever it may be, is based upon the actual human player's intelligence and observation, augmented by what his PC has discovered in game, and not strictly on stats.

I disagree. This way, investing your hard earned skill points into Intimidation instead of something else (i.e. a combat skill) would be fairly pointless. It's pretty much the same as demanding that a player must move his mouse with the speed and agility of a trained acrobat if he wants to make a successful pickpocket check.

Quote
However, if you had first went to the tavern where the guards like to hang out and got to know this barmaid he's always pawing, you'd find out he's manically superstitious and has a fear of snakes.  You buy a medallion from a tinker with a snake emblem on it.  You wear it and when you try your intimidation it works.

At best, this could give your character a bonus to his Intimidate roll, but it should definitivelly not be the decisive factor.
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« Reply #65 on: March 06, 2008, 01:14:53 pm »

I disagree. This way, investing your hard earned skill points into Intimidation instead of something else (i.e. a combat skill) would be fairly pointless.
Yes, if there was a system where your Intimidation skill wasn't ever used, I presume that skill would be cut so that you wouldn't waste your points on it.  I think I'm pretty much in the minority on this subject anyway.
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« Reply #66 on: March 06, 2008, 05:51:10 pm »

I disagree. This way, investing your hard earned skill points into Intimidation instead of something else (i.e. a combat skill) would be fairly pointless.
Yes, if there was a system where your Intimidation skill wasn't ever used, I presume that skill would be cut so that you wouldn't waste your points on it.  I think I'm pretty much in the minority on this subject anyway.

All that this example shows is how useless skill points are as a game mechanic.  (http://roguelikedeveloper.blogspot.com/2007/01/skills-vs-classes.html for more)

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Vince
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« Reply #67 on: March 06, 2008, 06:04:07 pm »

Quote
Characters may still be able to level up - just a level 10 character should not be any better at backstabbing or casting spells or swinging a sword than any other level 10 character. Levelling up should be about better luck, or improved health, or something else accruable that gives the players a fighting chance against tougher monsters.
Critical fail.
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Priapist
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« Reply #68 on: March 07, 2008, 03:52:19 am »

Quote
Characters may still be able to level up - just a level 10 character should not be any better at backstabbing or casting spells or swinging a sword than any other level 10 character. Levelling up should be about better luck, or improved health, or something else accruable that gives the players a fighting chance against tougher monsters.
Critical fail.

I can't say I'm a fan of the idea, though at a previous point in the blog...

Quote
I want everyone who goes through the process of sneaking up on an unsuspecting monster and hits them in the back with a bladed weapon to get a massive damage multiplier. They've made the effort, they deserve the multiplier. Same with magic spells. If they've got some oil and a big red book of fire magic, and know that the monster they're fighting is vulnerable to fire, then they deserve an easy kill for covering the monster with oil and hitting it with a fire spell.

...it sounds reasonable. It rewards intelligent play and tactics. It gives the player more gameplay avenues than standing toe-to-toe with something and whacking away. But I don't think an entire system should be distilled down to just that.

For instance - setting things on fire ought to be a product of more than just inventory play. If the character is a good enough thrower to toss an oil flask a fair distance and bust it on the head of a monster, then use their skill with magic to cast a ranged fire attack to ignite it, then that's ideal circumstances, and rewards intelligent tactical play, creative inventory use, and also specific character development.

The same thing could be accomplished by a brutish thug with no finesse or magical ability. The character holds a flask in their hand and smashes it as a melee weapon onto the critter's head, presumably splashing a bit on himself. They then use their torch to ignite it at close range. You're still rewarding the intelligent tactical play, the creative inventory use, but you're penalising a bit according to lack of skill.

Of course, there's more to develop, play-test and balance, but the beauty of roguelikes is that they provide that sort of complexity. To gut it of a lot of what makes it charming seems counterproductive, even if it makes life a bit easier.
« Last Edit: March 07, 2008, 03:55:58 am by Priapist » Logged
Squirly
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« Reply #69 on: April 08, 2008, 09:19:52 am »

The Guild 2.

I've searched the whole forum and I don't think there's a mention of it anywhere so I think I'll throw this in here.

In my eyes this is the pinnacle of non-combat RPG and under-rated to boot. I only found it over the weekend so it's still fresh for me - hence if I seem over-eager it's probably because I haven't stumbled on any game-breaking designs yet. *holds thumbs*  Grin

Anyway, the game puts you into the shoes of a commoner in 1400, Europe. You have a choice of maps which have 2-3 towns - usually places like Lyon and Nottingham and Z├╝rich. You can choose from 4 classes, craftsman, patron, rogue and alchemist. Classes can advance in every skill (bargaining, stealth, rhetoric, empathy, charisma, martial arts etc.) but depending on the class, certain skills will cost more XP to increase. Craftsmen specialize in iron and wood work, creating various items from raw materials (which you can either buy or harvest yourself) which they then sell at a profit. Patrons run inns, grow crops, and brew beer (amongst other things). Rogues commit highway robbery, blackmail, extortion etc. (difficult class to play) and alchemists specialize in all things herbal and spiritual, ie: they can create tinctures and ointments and set up a church as well. There's a choice of protestant or catholic for your character too - things can get hairy in the town square.

There is no magic - this is a "real" world for all intents and purposes. You don't complete quests, you get XP for using your skills and actions like charming people, marrying, getting a kid, acquiring a public office (and all it's benefits), bribing people, pickpocketing, burglary, highway robbery, holding sermons, winning a court-case and so on. The list is long and there's lots more to do.

The game is ambitious in what it tries to represent. The world is full of people, other families which will compete with yours for riches and power. Bribing and shmoozing the powers that be is what will get you forward, as well as make things easier if you're being accused of a crime (like, say, bribery). Seeing someone else commit a crime will mark it in your evidence log. Gather enough evidence and you can take them to court or blackmail them if they've been picking on you and yours.

It's very much a stat-based game. If you're being prosecuted and your rhetoric sucks it's usually best to just shut up. Similarly, if you're the one accusing someone knowing that the defendant is guilty won't help you if he/she's more convincing than you. Or if the tribunals characters are made up of un-empathic gits. Or if the evidence you gathered sucks. Or... well, you get the idea.

Some might say the animations are clunky and awkward - I put that down to there being so many of them. In this case it's quantity over quality but the quantity and variety end up making for a richer experience - honestly, I don't care if the woman my character is kissing is currently standing a step above me, turning the animation of kissing into one where I bury my face in here ample cleavage. I mean, that's more of a "woohoo!" anyway. Smile

Also, there's so much detail to the world anyway, I'll overlook the odd quirks and focus instead on the sun rising over the hills, illuminating the winding path that leads from my house down to the town square, drawing attention to Archibald Faust who's busy ripping off that noblewoman I've had the hots for. What a dick! Engarde!

I get very involved and it's fun.

So anyway, give this a look. It might require a bit of time to get into but I think it's one of those games which pays off dividends in the long run. I haven't been able to tear myself away.
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caster
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« Reply #70 on: April 08, 2008, 10:09:48 am »

Great thread with a lot of good and or interesting ideas.
OP was very accurate and entertaining.

I can only agree with this idea of non/combat gameplay as essential to what a RPG is all about.
Lets just hope AoD will have many, many solutions and options in this style and that it will show people that RPGs are really not games in which you can kill enemies by using different skills. Sadly the most commercial RPGs were not anything else but that.

I can still remember playing Icewind Dale for the first time and choosing a bard precisly because i thought i could go through the game in a different way. Compose my own songs based on my adventures and play them in inns, use those same skills to make friends all over the gameworld, earn my living etc. etc.

What a disapointment.


One other thing, maybe not directly related to this discussion i would like to notice and suggest is non/lethal combat.

It is combat, yes, but it provides the player with similar extended options and consequences as non/combat options do.

Lets say you run into some, not so good, robber and manage to subdue him without killing him.
What do you do?
Once he is on the ground, begging for his life, option to start dialogue pops up.
If you dont feel like talking you can finish him off .
If you dont feel like killing absolutely everyone you come across you start the dialogue.

From here a great number of options can present itself.
You can let him go after scaring him and thus you would clean that road.
You can extract some important information from him... for example some murders were dumped on that robber but talking to him reveals that somebody else was pretending to be him and he saw where they went or has some clue about their identity.
You can strike a deal with him and lure some rich people to him and share the spoils, then later turn him in to authorities and collect raised bounty too.
You could discover that he has a poor family and that he did it all from desperation and decide to help them somehow.
And thats just for starters.


Another example would be getting into a fight with a guard or guards.
Or a fight in some tavern.

None of these would need to end in killing anybody or large numbers of buystanders too. And they could all have different effects and provide other oportunities.
Also if you get defeated there would be no need to reload the game because other events would folow that defeat.
Maybe someone would find you lying in the gutter and carry you somewhere to nurse and help you.
Maybe someone would feel gratefull if you started a fight because of them.
Maybe someone would steal your money and items while you were unconciouss thus forcing you to dig through slime of the city untill you find them and your property. With all the different paths that could take you.
Maybe that guard would build some healthy respect for you.


And so on and on. Web of possibilities grows like fields of possible futures in Muad Dib fried eyes. Ahem...

Anyway... even if this is combat it avoids that *killing solution* Vince talked about and provides a player with various choices and consequences, just like non combat gameplay does.

An ideal game, imho, would have healthy portions of non combat gameplay, non lethal combat options and some usual combat. We all love some action. It only turns into a problem when the whole game is based just on that, especially a RPG game, and there is nothing else to it.
There has been too many games like that and its high time we get something better. Where the hell is AOD already??

I just wanted to say that non lethal combat can provide us with many great options and consequences as non combat gameplay could, too. And reduce that *kill everything* stupid game design to something much more enjoyable, interesting and believable.

-edit-
fixed some typos
« Last Edit: April 09, 2008, 06:50:09 am by caster » Logged

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galsiah
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« Reply #71 on: April 08, 2008, 12:16:58 pm »

Good thought in general, but I'm not keen on the motivation here:
If you dont feel like talking you can finish him off .
If you dont feel like killing absolutely everyone you come across you start the dialogue.
I'd much rather see a game give the player strong reasons to want to kill / not kill an opponent, than to simply give the player an option and leave it to his whim. In most coherent situations, only a carefree psychopath makes such decisions based on what he feels like at the time. For anyone who cares about their future, practical considerations vastly outweigh gut-feeling - even in the absence of morality.

Of course leaving someone alive should often provide opportunities (/difficulties), but killing someone should certainly not be a dead-end. In most contexts, killing ought to bring serious long-term consequences - particularly if the person killed has some significance. It shouldn't be something a pragmatic player can decide on a whim.
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« Reply #72 on: April 08, 2008, 01:31:50 pm »

I haven't read the entire thread that closely, but I wanted to weigh in on the problem of developer time and procedurally generated dialog.

The way that I see it, there is no reason that 90% of the dialog in a game which offers viable non-combat options can't be procedurally generated.  The system I propose would involve assigning "dialog stats" and "quest stats" to NPCs, in the same way that combat stats are assigned now.  Essentially, dialog stats will determine how hard it is to convince an NPC of something (think of how the player's  Strength and the NPC's Defense are used in combat).  Quest stats will be fields allowing for randomly chosen desires/fears/motivations to be assigned to each NPC.  An example is the easiest way to demonstrate.

Player wants to get past the gate.  The gate has a guard.  The player has three immediate options:  1)  attack the guard, 2) hide until either the guard says something to himself, talks to someone else, or in some other way gives a clue about motivation (success is based on stealth ability), or 3) go talk to the guard.
When you talk to the guard, you will have a randomly selected set of options, including trying to bribe him, trick him into letting you pass, or intimidate him/appeal to authority.  With a sufficient skill check, you can succeed at any of these, but the skill checks are so high, that you will only succeed if you really outclass him, much like how you can one shot kill rad scorpions later in fallout, because you're so much stronger than them.  You will also always have some sort of small talk/feel out the situation option, the purpose of which is finding out the guard's motivation.  So he may say "I can't be bothered by you now, I'm looking for my lost dagger" or "You can't come in here.  Don't like it?  Tough, I don't like that I forgot my lunch either."  Better writers than me could obviously craft better options.  The key is that all of these possible lines are procedurally generated, so that no two guards will say the exact same thing twice.  The more frameworks, and objects included, the lower the chance dialog which just feels repetitive.

The real aim of the encounter is to obtain some information, either by overhearing, or asking.  In addition, once you initiate the fact finding with the guard, randomly generated NPC's could be placed on a bench talking about a problem the guard is having, or something similiar.  So, armed with knowledge about what the guard wants/fears, you have to set out to find it.  This will be accomplished by randomly generating NPCs who either have the item the guard wants, know a secret about the guard you could black mail him with, etc.  Ideally,  either multiple NPC's, each with a different possible "key" to pass the guard are generated, or multiple existing NPC's have the keys and accompanying random dialog assigned to them.  Of course, these NPC's probably won't just give the item/information up, and they will each have something THEY want.  Again, randomly generated.  In this way, an entire bargaining chain resulting in getting the key to get past the guard has been procedurally generated. 

Of course, it doesn't have to stop at bargaining.  Maybe Farmer Bob won't give you his sandwich unless you get revenge for stealing his pig/having sex with his daughter/building his fence on Bob's property.  So you have to go to the person Bob designates and work out a solution.  Of course, for a non-violent resolution to that, you'll probably have to do a favor for this person too.  This could result in a pretty interesting and unique quest line to get into the castle, and none of it has been custom made.

The key to this whole system is to have a large selection of possible tasks, each with multiple frameworks for the introductory language (since having a randomly picked dialog choice with randomly filled in information will keep things feeling more unique and less procedurally generated) and each with a variety of randomly chosen solutions.  Since we don't want to eliminate combat from the game entirely, we could even have randomly generated combat encounters like saving a daughter from kidnappers or recovering a stolen item from a local street tough thrown in.  Of course, even these encounters could have randomly generated non combat solutions (maybe sometimes the street tough's gang can be turned against him, and sometimes he's standing below a window you could push a flower pot out of to knock him out).

Another important point is that each of these randomly generated quest lines will actually have different possible solutions.  So maybe you don't have the skill set to complete the line for the sandwich, but you do have the skills to get the information to blackmail the guard.  A wide variety of stats could be incorporated into these randomly generated quest lines, to make sure that every skill in the game is actually useful.  When you get to short circuit the entire quest line because you have a high enough medicine skill to cure the sick kid instead of having to barter for the drugs, you'll really feel like you're character is interacting with the world, instead of ignoring his own skill set just because the linear quest design doesn't permit him to remember that he's the chief of surgery.  And unlike with conventional games, no hand written events are skipped by using skills as a short cut, so you don't have to worry about missing content.

I know this is all rough, and maybe a little bit confusing, but I think there is real merit here.  While implementing these random quest fragments is more time consuming than throwing together filler combat, the return on investment is MUCH better than time spent hand crafting dialog.  I think this system is preferable to abstract persuasion too, because it allows the player to use diplomacy in the same way for random encounters as key story dialogs, much like how a combat character uses the same combat engine to fight 30 rats as the king of the trolls.  I'd love to hear what people think of this idea.
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caster
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« Reply #73 on: April 09, 2008, 07:10:33 am »

Good thought in general, but I'm not keen on the motivation here:
If you dont feel like talking you can finish him off .
If you dont feel like killing absolutely everyone you come across you start the dialogue.
I'd much rather see a game give the player strong reasons to want to kill / not kill an opponent, than to simply give the player an option and leave it to his whim. In most coherent situations, only a carefree psychopath makes such decisions based on what he feels like at the time. For anyone who cares about their future, practical considerations vastly outweigh gut-feeling - even in the absence of morality.

Of course leaving someone alive should often provide opportunities (/difficulties), but killing someone should certainly not be a dead-end. In most contexts, killing ought to bring serious long-term consequences - particularly if the person killed has some significance. It shouldn't be something a pragmatic player can decide on a whim.
Yes, of course . I completly agree with that.
That line was really not a true motivation. I was just hurrying along to provide examples such system could provide. And those were just basic ones.
I would like to see this system in games precisely because in such situations and in most fights killing is not as easy option as it is represented in games. It shouldnt be, as you said.

Why is it easy in games? Because you are not killing characters with any depth but one dimensional "enemies".
That has even become the true prime goal in most of the games - to kill specific NPCs/enemies. Not much else.

So for this system to truly work NPCs should have more depth and the whole game should be designed in a way that makes you think before you act. With short and long term consequences even killing off a particular NPC would cause made known, depending on situation, in a believable way to the player. Sometimes by providing him with pieces of info that would let him anticipate consequences (by thinking and using logic, yes!) and sometimes with just situations in which results of actions are quite clear on in themselves.

So if you decided not to spare that robber you would later on come across a small hut in the woods with mom hanging from the tree and kids drowned in a nerby pond. - and he did tell you about desperate situation of his family, right? What the hell did you expect, huh?
(I would use situations like this to kick that usual non-thinking player in the gonads from time to time)

And of course leaving somebody alive doesnt have to have positive consequences either.
Thats street brawler can come back with his friends. That bully psycho guard can get so ashamed that he will try to kill you when you least expect from some ambush. etc etc.

It really can grow to be a complex system because it only depends on imagination of designers and how far are they going to take it.
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« Reply #74 on: April 10, 2008, 09:44:01 am »

I haven't read the entire thread that closely, but I wanted to weigh in on the problem of developer time and procedurally generated dialog.

The way that I see it, there is no reason that 90% of the dialog in a game which offers viable non-combat options can't be procedurally generated.  The system I propose would involve assigning "dialog stats" and "quest stats" to NPCs, in the same way that combat stats are assigned now.  Essentially, dialog stats will determine how hard it is to convince an NPC of something (think of how the player's  Strength and the NPC's Defense are used in combat).  Quest stats will be fields allowing for randomly chosen desires/fears/motivations to be assigned to each NPC.  An example is the easiest way to demonstrate.

Player wants to get past the gate.  The gate has a guard.  The player has three immediate options:  1)  attack the guard, 2) hide until either the guard says something to himself, talks to someone else, or in some other way gives a clue about motivation (success is based on stealth ability), or 3) go talk to the guard.
When you talk to the guard, you will have a randomly selected set of options, including trying to bribe him, trick him into letting you pass, or intimidate him/appeal to authority.  With a sufficient skill check, you can succeed at any of these, but the skill checks are so high, that you will only succeed if you really outclass him, much like how you can one shot kill rad scorpions later in fallout, because you're so much stronger than them.  You will also always have some sort of small talk/feel out the situation option, the purpose of which is finding out the guard's motivation.  So he may say "I can't be bothered by you now, I'm looking for my lost dagger" or "You can't come in here.  Don't like it?  Tough, I don't like that I forgot my lunch either."  Better writers than me could obviously craft better options.  The key is that all of these possible lines are procedurally generated, so that no two guards will say the exact same thing twice.  The more frameworks, and objects included, the lower the chance dialog which just feels repetitive.

The real aim of the encounter is to obtain some information, either by overhearing, or asking.  In addition, once you initiate the fact finding with the guard, randomly generated NPC's could be placed on a bench talking about a problem the guard is having, or something similiar.  So, armed with knowledge about what the guard wants/fears, you have to set out to find it.  This will be accomplished by randomly generating NPCs who either have the item the guard wants, know a secret about the guard you could black mail him with, etc.  Ideally,  either multiple NPC's, each with a different possible "key" to pass the guard are generated, or multiple existing NPC's have the keys and accompanying random dialog assigned to them.  Of course, these NPC's probably won't just give the item/information up, and they will each have something THEY want.  Again, randomly generated.  In this way, an entire bargaining chain resulting in getting the key to get past the guard has been procedurally generated. 

Of course, it doesn't have to stop at bargaining.  Maybe Farmer Bob won't give you his sandwich unless you get revenge for stealing his pig/having sex with his daughter/building his fence on Bob's property.  So you have to go to the person Bob designates and work out a solution.  Of course, for a non-violent resolution to that, you'll probably have to do a favor for this person too.  This could result in a pretty interesting and unique quest line to get into the castle, and none of it has been custom made.

The key to this whole system is to have a large selection of possible tasks, each with multiple frameworks for the introductory language (since having a randomly picked dialog choice with randomly filled in information will keep things feeling more unique and less procedurally generated) and each with a variety of randomly chosen solutions.  Since we don't want to eliminate combat from the game entirely, we could even have randomly generated combat encounters like saving a daughter from kidnappers or recovering a stolen item from a local street tough thrown in.  Of course, even these encounters could have randomly generated non combat solutions (maybe sometimes the street tough's gang can be turned against him, and sometimes he's standing below a window you could push a flower pot out of to knock him out).

Another important point is that each of these randomly generated quest lines will actually have different possible solutions.  So maybe you don't have the skill set to complete the line for the sandwich, but you do have the skills to get the information to blackmail the guard.  A wide variety of stats could be incorporated into these randomly generated quest lines, to make sure that every skill in the game is actually useful.  When you get to short circuit the entire quest line because you have a high enough medicine skill to cure the sick kid instead of having to barter for the drugs, you'll really feel like you're character is interacting with the world, instead of ignoring his own skill set just because the linear quest design doesn't permit him to remember that he's the chief of surgery.  And unlike with conventional games, no hand written events are skipped by using skills as a short cut, so you don't have to worry about missing content.

I know this is all rough, and maybe a little bit confusing, but I think there is real merit here.  While implementing these random quest fragments is more time consuming than throwing together filler combat, the return on investment is MUCH better than time spent hand crafting dialog.  I think this system is preferable to abstract persuasion too, because it allows the player to use diplomacy in the same way for random encounters as key story dialogs, much like how a combat character uses the same combat engine to fight 30 rats as the king of the trolls.  I'd love to hear what people think of this idea.

It's an interesting idea. It would be nice to create some kind of prototype of this system. As always, I believe this kind of system would work better for a sandbox style RPG.
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"Hasta la victoria, siempre."

"Who has time? But then if we do not ever take time, how can we ever have it?"
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