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RPG Codex - Articles On Video Game Design 309

chadeo writes "Ok all you arm chair game developers, listen up. Over at RPG Codex there are currently 4 articles, written by professionals in the industry, on RPG design. There is A Christmas lesson in CRPG design by Timothy Cain, Thoughts on RPG development by Leon Boyarsky, Hand of Gosh Darn Good Design by Chris Taylor, and Treatise on Combat to Pink Floyd by Gareth Davies. All of them are a great read, and you can join in the discussion with the authors and see how your ideas stack up. What do you think is the key to a great RPG?"
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RPG Codex - Articles On Video Game Design

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  • MMORPG (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Nevermore-Spoon ( 610798 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @04:27PM (#4865149)
    Since I am a long time die hard RPGer (Ultima series, Drangon warrior series, Elder Scrolls, kings quest) I've found that standard play-by-yourself RPG's no longer hold my interest the way MMORPG. Adding the element oe experiences and relationships with other people make RPG's Incredible
  • by DrJAKing ( 94556 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @04:32PM (#4865199)
    72hr rental on a 14th century scottish castle
    24 crates beer
    3 day's worth of pizza and junk food
    7 guys who should know better
    no mobiles
    plenty coffee

    (oh, and some dice, books, figures, mats and shit).

    My point being, it's all about the people, the social dynamics,the fact that you're out-of-time. The system, and the way it's played are secondary, and arguing about that is part of the fun.

  • by steesefactor ( 563098 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @04:39PM (#4865263)
    The evolution of console rpg's would take a huge leap forward if they once and for all decided to eliminate random battles. A lot of times you just want to explore, not slog through 20 battles with same monsters every 5 steps. This is an artificial extension of game length that seriously hurts the gameplay of most console rpg's these days.
  • by stratjakt ( 596332 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @04:47PM (#4865349) Journal
    The other problem is that the games generally rewarded you for spending a month in the field next to your hometown killing imps, then trucking through the game at level 1 zillion.

    Final Fantasy 8 is probably my favorite in the series, as it was the first to *punish* you for doing this. The more you level up, the more the monsters around you level up. If you dawdled around killing imps for too long, it'd bite you in the ass when you run into a white dragon at the same level as you.

    You were much better off to find the thingymajoo that makes you avoid monsters altogether, and proceed through the story.
  • Re:Plot (Combat) (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kintanon ( 65528 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @04:50PM (#4865369) Homepage Journal
    One annoying and disturbing trend I noticed recently is the "actionifying" of RPG combat. It started with FF7 in my opinion, where you had to hit the button at the right time for Cloud's sword to fire. IT was worse with Legend of Legaia (Which I liked, and I enjoyed the combat, but my wife HATED It because she plays for the storyline) and then I've seen recent games where you have to hit multiple buttons in a row during combat as dials and boxes move around and occasionally sync up. It means that instead of pressing one button a few dozen times per combat you have to dedicated a lot of though to the combat itself. This is REALLY annoying when you like to just level up and go to the next story. If you want to make a fighting game, make a fighting game. If you want to make an RPG make an RPG. There should never be a human reflex based combat portion. I'm playing the role of my character, not myself. If I have only one hand, and that hand only has one finger, I should still be able to play the game.

  • by tigertigr ( 610853 ) <tigertigr@ya h o o . ca> on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @04:53PM (#4865409) Journal
    No kidding. If we want to just level up, we have Progress Quest [] for that.

    However, because games and gamers have become more sophisticated, it's going to take an even better story to impress people nowadays. I mean, I remember when I first played Phantasy Star on the SMS years ago, I was gripped by the environment and the characters and it seemed like such a cool story at the time. But now when I fire it up in an emulator, the story seems kind of weak. Don't get me wrong, I still love the PS series, though.

    If I see another game using the tired old cliche of collecting gems/crystals/whatever and combining them to defeat some evil dude, I'm going to scream.
  • by sckienle ( 588934 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @04:59PM (#4865464)

    OK, there are two. The personal interaction was always important to me. But the main aspect of any RPG which managed to keep my interests was the flexibility to allow for real freedom of action.

    For example, you run into a locked door. How about removing the hinges? Chopping the wood? Going through the transom? Digging out the mortar out around it? Way back when I was DMing the original D&D, my friends would come up with this sort of thing all the time. Of course, it meant I had to constantly be thinking. But that was the whole fun on it. It wasn't "follow the line and use the objects exactly the way we intended" play.

    Of course, that's why I didn't use the canned scenarios then, and why I don't play much RPG on the computer today.

  • by Sean-Yo Ma ( 51722 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @05:08PM (#4865541)
    It never ceases to amaze me how ignored multiplayer options for console RPGs are. I think most people will agree that Secret of Mana is a great game only made better by playing it with a friend. There's simply no excuse for how few since then have supported multiplayer. Keep in mind I'm referring to console RPGS. Are there any out there BESIDES Secret of Mana that let you do this? Alon D'ar for PS2 has some multiplayer elements but other than that, I can't think of a single console RPG that lets more than one person play simultaneously.
  • by phorm ( 591458 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @05:15PM (#4865599) Journal
    Really, a good RPG in many ways resembles a good book. If the storyline is well laid out, believable (not in the perspective of currently reality, but of perhaps characters actions/reactions), and flows well, then the game is good.

    Then, we throw in playability/complexity. If you're spending 20 hours just to figure out that you had to visit some village in the middle of nowhere and talk to the old man behind the in... playability gets a low grade, unless of course there's lots of hints to that objective beforehand.

    Graphics and sound count for a lot nowadays, and especially cinematics. Sometimes when the plot or gameplay has dragged, trying to get to the next cinematic has pulled me through the boredom.

    Treasures/gifts/secrets: Treasure boxes, GF's, summons, spells. All those things that RPG geeks say to friend "Hey, I've got the wings of wonder, you haven't found them yet?", or "Check out this spell of almighty flatuation, it does 3000 damage+poison effet".

    Still, if the game's story sucks, then no manner of graphics or effects will make it worth playing. RPG's often act as "books/movies you can play", which is what makes them so immersive and oftimes addicting.
  • by voodoo1man ( 594237 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @05:17PM (#4865618)
    Yeah, I bet they'll really remember all that spaghetti confusion-driven time-traveling bonanza on half-hour long scroll and click random-encounter combat. And the next 10 sequels. The cutscenes are starting to become less and less worth it.
  • by perljon ( 530156 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @05:58PM (#4866067) Homepage
    Compared to Grand Theft Auto, all RPG's suck. I guess you could say that GTA isn't really an RPG but a new genre, but nonetheless all RPG's bore me now.

    The reason I play games is so that I can do things that I want to do in reality, but can't because a) they are immoral b) are illegal c) there are rammifications/risks associated that I don't want to deal with. For example, I want to run around and kill people, but that's immoral and illegal, and I don't want to take anyone's life in reality or deal with the consequences of that action. But running around and killing people is fun, in the fake world.

    So, in an RPG the environment should be as real as possible and not use tricks to 'add to the game play' but still are fake. For example, animals in almost all games just appear out of now where or are spawned from some spawn thing. I want animals to come from the breading of two other animals, and to be hunted and eaten and the related things.

    I want the characters to be where they are for a reason. For example, shops should only be open in the day, and when it is night, the shopkeeper should go have a beer or go see his girlfriend, and when he's tired he should walk back to his house and go to sleep. At night, when I go to a shop, I should find a locked door. And when I break in, I should find a shop keeper dashing for a weapon or sleeping. Not an empty bedroom. And when I see people on the street I should be seeing them because they are on their way somewhere, not because they are handing out the same mission over and over again.

    And as far as missions go, they should be based on something and never repeated. Bar owner one asks you to kill the competition bar tender 'cause you look like the kind of person that would do it. He may repeat the mission to other people, but when the competitor is dead or something else happens, that mission should go away forever. A moving story spurred by real actions and human-like motivators. I mean, this can be pre-programmed but they should be based on an emotional need and picked out of a pool of possible solutions that fall in line with the NPC's character.

    I always hear the excuse from coders that it's just not practical to code all this stuff in when it doesn't add to the game play. But it does affect the game play. The more transparent you mike the line between reality and game, the more fun I will have killing people or whatever it is I want to do. Things will start to appear that will be ultra cool that the programmers didn't even think of. For example, because animals like to drink, they will congragate around the water hole. Other patterns of reality will show themselves on accident as well that the player WILL recognize and will contribute to gameplay. (ie, the bar tenders daughter never goes out alone and is always escorted by a trusted guard, and there will be a frog plague because everyone killed off the snakes... )
  • by Maul ( 83993 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @09:39PM (#4867552) Journal
    Sure there is. Have NPCs run as AI processes with random needs and plots, in response to player action or the plots of other NPCs.

    This would work on a small scale. However, there are still problems on the large scale. The AI still has a finite set of needs and plots that it can select. These needs and plots have to be created by a human programmer. Eventually you'd probably see a quest repeated, given that there are thousands upon thousands of players.

    What you need is an AI "DM" that is smart enough to draw from data it knows (perhaps extensive knowledge from fantasy novels, fairy tales, world legends, etc) to create new events worldwide. Perhaps the AI can create an event such as a "war" between two kingdoms. Then the AI must create quests in realtime appropriate for every level range / class of player that are associated with this event. I don't know of any AI that fits this qualification. Essentially the AI must have the creative capacity of a human as well as the capacity to keep track of every single player's actions.

    Such a MMORPG might exist in the future, but I don't think it is a realistic expectation for at least 10 years. I might be wrong, however.

"What the scientists have in their briefcases is terrifying." -- Nikita Khrushchev