Author Topic: Simple but Dynamic RPG  (Read 4628 times)

Offline apophispro

  • Newbie Mark III
  • *
  • Posts: 30
Simple but Dynamic RPG
« on: April 05, 2012, 12:24:15 PM »
Hi everyone,

I'm a big fan of RPGs. Obviously I really enjoy strategy games too, but it's the RPG where I have a desire to make games myself. I've largely had a frustration with the story and mechanics of most RPGs. There are a few I have yet to play that I think sound more along the lines of what I'd like to do: Fallout 2, Arcanum, and Planescape.

I'm a fiction writer amongst other things, and I study both philosophy and narrative theory.

There's a distinct lack of great characters in RPGS. In literature of course there is good and bad depending on your taste, but you can see the influence of Socrates, Descartes, Newton, Einstein, Galileo, Napoleon, and all of these fascinating individuals throughout history in many characters. In games most characters seem to be what would come directly from the mind of a 13-year-old boy. The brute, the businessman, the strong woman who's still feminine, the wizard, the king, and so on. Pretty much all of them are stereotypes and caricatures even in the better games.

I loved Morrowind. I thought the atmosphere was fantastic despite the abundance of sandstorms. I really enjoyed that monsters didn't scale with your level so you started out as a pathetic weakling and ended up strong. I also liked that the world didn't feel like it revolved around you at all. Guilds had feuds, and you could be kicked out of one or the other because of them. There was only one method of transportation, and other than that you could get lost. I just felt like nobody cared what I was doing (until the end obviously), and I liked that. Exploring the mountains and accidentally sliding into a den of thieves twice my level. Doing a quest to find a lost gem, getting the reward money, and then killing them for the gem anyway. All of that stuff was fun and made it feel like a bit of a real world.

I felt that they ruined all of that in Oblivion. None of the guilds affected each other anymore. The world was obviously structured so that you could do anything you wanted to without much trouble. They added the fast-travel system which killed any sense of exploration. They turned what felt like a living world (or close to it) in Morrowind into the RPG equivalent of whack-a-mole (get quest, fast travel to location, fast travel to other location, fast travel back). I haven't played Skyrim yet because I need a new computer first.

Dragon Age was fun for a little bit. I have an issue with any RPG where the focus becomes killing monsters. Dragon Age was mostly just linear maps of monster killing with scattered story. Then it claimed player choice. In any game that claims player choice I always test it on the first run-through by picking all the dialogue options I'm obviously not supposed to. From the beginning they all just led back to the options I was supposed to pick. Even when I could vaguely influence an event it didn't matter. My favorite example was going to visit the Count/Earl or some title like that. He had a village that was going to be overrun by zombies. You could help fight or leave them there to die. So I left them there. Then I came back, and the village was destroyed. I thought maybe this was actually going to be a real decision. You get into the castle, and you can either save his family members or kill both his wife and young son. So I killed them both. The whole thing ends, and he wakes up from the coma he's been in. He's grief-stricken about the loss of everything, says I forgive you, and then gives the same please go kill the dragon for me speech that he would give had you done everything right. No choice.

The Witcher was just a story with choices in between a game. The game was going places and killing things. Then every so often you hit a conversation or something that influenced the story, and that was the story part. The only way they really influenced each other was in where you ended up going. Separation of story and game doesn't count for me as a real RPG.

So what I want, and what I've wanted for a long time now, is a game you can have a real impact on. I don't want a totally open game because I think that defeats the purpose to some extent. If you have too many options then there's no impact anymore. I don't want the game to be linear though. I want it to be so that you start out, and there are genuine different directions you can go. Different choices will end you up in different places doing different things. Everything will center around this major storyline that is happening in the game as well as the setting, but the story isn't happening without you. You're not just a pawn moving from place to place to allow the next scripted event to happen. When you come to the end, it's your fault that it ended that way. Not just in the six different endings summed up in epilogues or ending dialogue, but you actually made choices along the way and watched the story change as a result. I want real characters, developed ethical decisions (not good or evil), and a game that changes to some extent along with the story.

I don't draw particularly well, and I'm not a great programmer. I could use some sort of basic scripting engine, but I'd rather limit the amount of programming I need to do. I also want to limit the amount of visual work I need to do. I really want to be able to focus most of my time on developing story, characters, dialogue, and what happens in the game. I'd like control over RPG game mechanics as well (not things like physics or AI but things like if you have to eat or that shops lock up at 8). I was thinking about using Flash and just doing the whole thing top-down using the arrow keys for movement. I thought that would really simplify any visuals and scripting needs so I could focus on other things. I don't really want to use a mod-engine for two reasons. The first is that I want the control over the game mechanics. The second is I would like to be able to sell the final product for a small sum.

So I'm looking for recommendations. This is something that would happen gradually over a decent length of time, but what would you recommend I use to do it? What will minimize visuals and programming to allow me to focus on story and the game itself? I want to create vivid and compelling characters and game world. I don't need them to look that way. I can worry about that if there was ever enough interest to produce something like this with a team. I don't need complex AI either. Ideally some kind of path-finding would be taken care of for me, or I could just simplify it in some way. It shouldn't be too hard in top-down. The only AI would likely be basic things like if someone attacks, engages in conversation, ignores you, and some basic path-finding. I also might even like to add some simple daily routines for people, but I don't know how hard that would be. It's not necessary if it's too difficult. Then there would be basic collisions like walls, trees, and other people. It would be really nice if that sort of thing would be mostly taken care of for me as well. I've never used Flash before so I don't know what it does or if there's another program that does it better. I have used Maya so I'm comfortable with software though. The world as a whole would be mostly different areas and terrains. Perhaps a forest and then villages and cities. Some kind of area transition would probably be necessary. Also I'd like to have the capacity for some changes to the world. For instance if the world starts to become more dangerous (for reasons happening in the story) then people begin to leave town, more guards show up at cities, people start locking doors during the day, etc. Just a good amount of freedom in the way that I can create certain mechanics to vary the game.

Any thoughts on whether top-down in Flash would be a good idea, how complex that would actually be, or if something else might be better would be appreciated. Thanks!

Offline keith.lamothe

  • Arcen Games Staff
  • Arcen Staff
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 19,506
Re: Simple but Dynamic RPG
« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2012, 12:59:27 PM »
It's difficult for me to imagine making an RPG without doing a lot of coding ;)  Did some stuff on a PS2 rpg-maker about 6 years ago and in a PC rpg-maker a few years before that.  Neither was really all that satisfactory, but complete game experiences were possible with relatively little effort.  Inevitably I ran into a wall where to do what I wanted I really needed to be able to write or rewrite the logic, and thus it ends.

That said, have you tried the mod tools for Morrowind (or Oblivion or Skyrim, I suppose) ?  Presumably you'd be able to just use the stock assets for art and do some kind of scripting to achieve the degree of dynamic interaction you want.

At the more conceptual level, "reactive" RPGs are definitely one of my favorite kinds of games too, and there are very few that do more than scratch the surface of letting the player make meaningful decisions that impact the story itself.  One reason is that it's not financially efficient: even if you only have one "real" player choice with two options at the middle of the game and write two separate (even if similar) stories for what happens after that choice, you wind up spending time/money/etc writing an extra half of a scenario when most players will still only experience one "full" scenario (making multiple playthroughs something more than a small percentage of players do is quite tricky).  There's some compensation if you can convince potential customers who want those kinds of choices that you actually deliver it (this can be difficult), but in general the additional financial payoff of making a commercial game with branching storylines is not proportional to the additional effort involved.

Which is why amateur (or commercial-but-you-have-total-control-and-can-endure-lower-margins) projects can do it :)  The game generally won't be nearly as long if you're "articulating" joints of the story to allow the player those kinds of choices, but I know I would find a genuinely "branchy" RPG that was 4 hours long more interesting than a totally linear one that was 20 hours long.
Have ideas or bug reports for one of our games? Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games better!

Offline eRe4s3r

  • Core Member Mark II
  • *****
  • Posts: 2,822
Re: Simple but Dynamic RPG
« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2012, 03:28:36 PM »
What we need for RPG's is a character system like MIKU from Vocaloid eh, its actually called Project Diva nowadays ;p

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UuA6cLzhJls&feature=fvwrel

Like that is for music/dancing/voice synthesizing

Auto Voicing of any Dialog
Auto movement patterns adapting via IK to the environment
Slider-Based face, hair, cloth building, procedural texture system for all elements.

I mean sure, its all pretty cute and anime like, but hey, that'd be enough for characters of Indy RPG's.... you don't even need to voice characters...

This reminds my I am extremely sad there is no sidekick like Midna from Zelda Twilight in AVWW, i thought Zelda gave Inspiration? Why not take that as Inspiration? It would be negligible coding and just take some writing effort, inventing some weird non-human language like in Zelda would be no large problem either, i guess just initial character design would be a challenge.

ps.: Sorry for drifting off with that ;p But i  just played Zelda Twilight, and if you ask me the 1 thing that stands out, it would be Midna and how she behaves towards you as player when you turn beast-wolf thing. I think that is a great mechanic to have not to mention by having her around, the player never really feels alone ;p

Something that in AVWW happens nearly instantly, it actually feels pretty desolate to play the game, with barely any interaction with npc's or a friendly or sarcastic character spicing it up.

My point being, by the way, that your RPG can branch or not be static or reactive, it matters not if there is no character players create a strong bond with. Given that with dynamic/reactive rpg's you can not make the main character react to things, a strong side-kick character is needed for the player to get a reflection surface of his actions. Without such feedback the dynamic nature of a reactive RPG will become its downfall (because of repetitiveness) while it equally will make static RPG's bland, just look at Skyrim, we have followers but they all have NILL character. Bland and boring. After a while, playing Skyrim becomes repetitive even though it is largely reactive to what you do. Also your choices rarely if ever get any deep feedback from characters you care about.

Thus, it is not relevant whether your RPG branches or not, if there is no strong story and emotional connection it will flicker out like any other RPG... (Although some RPG's make you care for characters well.. this is also why many still consider BG2 superior to Skyrim
« Last Edit: April 05, 2012, 03:58:34 PM by eRe4s3r »
Proud member of the Initiative for Bigger Weapons EV. - Bringer of Additive Blended Doom - Vote for Lore, get free cookie

Offline Oralordos

  • Sr. Member Mark III
  • ****
  • Posts: 434
  • Suffering from Chronic Backstabbing Disorder
Re: Simple but Dynamic RPG
« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2012, 11:15:51 AM »
It sounds like you have thought this out quite a bit. That's a lot more detail than I would have put into anything I'm making. Of course, I'm more likely to make a story similar to Minecraft (none) than anything else. I am currently making a top down RPG engine for a sibling. I am trying to make it as versatile as possible too. If you want, you can use it. This would give you the advantage of not having to program. Anything you can't do with the engine, you can tell me and I'll see if I can't add it to the engine. Progress is slow though, I have school and AVWW so my progress is slower than I would like. The engine will have multiplayer at some point if you decide to use it, so if you want to factor that in or have it disabled for your game is something to think about.

Offline apophispro

  • Newbie Mark III
  • *
  • Posts: 30
Re: Simple but Dynamic RPG
« Reply #4 on: April 13, 2012, 11:35:43 AM »
That would be amazing. I'll send you some details via PM.

Offline keith.lamothe

  • Arcen Games Staff
  • Arcen Staff
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 19,506
Re: Simple but Dynamic RPG
« Reply #5 on: April 13, 2012, 01:35:11 PM »
The engine will have multiplayer at some point
Just to make sure you understand: if you want it to support MP, you want the current design to at least be built with that in mind.  Otherwise it can be extremely painful to retrofit for.
Have ideas or bug reports for one of our games? Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games better!

Offline Oralordos

  • Sr. Member Mark III
  • ****
  • Posts: 434
  • Suffering from Chronic Backstabbing Disorder
Re: Simple but Dynamic RPG
« Reply #6 on: April 13, 2012, 01:55:25 PM »
The engine will have multiplayer at some point
Just to make sure you understand: if you want it to support MP, you want the current design to at least be built with that in mind.  Otherwise it can be extremely painful to retrofit for.
wince I've had those pain on another project. I have the designs at least mapped out on how that will work.

Offline keith.lamothe

  • Arcen Games Staff
  • Arcen Staff
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 19,506
Re: Simple but Dynamic RPG
« Reply #7 on: April 13, 2012, 02:11:18 PM »
wince I've had those pain on another project. I have the designs at least mapped out on how that will work.
Well, glad you know :)

Can still be very painful; We started real coding on AVWW in Jan/Feb 2011, and I had an MP framework in sometime in March 2011, and it worked then.  But we didn't really keep testing MP for regressions due to time constraints (and the game itself continuing to change a lot).  The framework kept stuff from totally getting away from us, but it still took me two solid months (November and December 2011, roughly) to get MP to an alpha state, and a fair bit of work here and there over the next couple months to get it to beta.  And you probably know more than I do about how broken it's still been much of the time since then :)

By the way, as of 0.926 my understanding is that AVWW's multiplayer is without serious bugs.  As in, it would be ok (not stellar, a few things we want to clear up) for 1.0.  If you find that's not true please let me know :)
Have ideas or bug reports for one of our games? Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games better!