Friday, 22 May 2009

POLL: What Gaming Style Do You Like?

Now and then I come to a point in design when I question what would be the best way to go for players' enjoyment. I know that ultimately the module will mainly be governed by what I want it to play like, but, at the same time I still want to appeal to gamers as I guess most builders want to. Having started to prepare the conversations for the main quest, I found I was writing quite a lot of text to help fill in the background of the story, which may be tedious for some gamers? I know there is always the option to allow players to skip past the "verbose" path, but at the same time, it got me thinking what the current feel is from other players out there.

For this reason, I thought I would offer another poll to readers who may be able to help me focus on the style of game they might like to play with respect to the quantity of text to read as background to the story. Once again, I am not saying that anything will fundamentally be changed, but feedback may have an impact on options and gaming styles available. So, please take a look at the poll and let me know what you feel about NWN1/2 modules.

In the meanwhile, I have also been helping to play test ZORK by Ampraphael. This is an amazing adaptation of the original Zork text adventure, and for those players with a fondness for the old generation text adventures, I don't think you will be disappointed with what he has done. Amraphael (a.k.a. Ronnie) has done some great custom content for his version and his area designs are second to none, really bringing to life the text of the old game. While ZORK is not a D&D adventure, it certainly has enough challenges and interesting design to keep an avid explorer interested and should be approached as such. I am sure that when released, it should attract a number of fans of the old game who (I would have thought) will be delighted at the chance to revisit this fantasy world.

16 comments:

Shaughn said...

I voted for the verbose conversations. While playing I enjoy being able to talk to the different NPC and learn different things from them and their environment. If the conversations are short and only contain the important information it can make it feel more like the story is being spoon fed to you. With longer conversations those important plot pieces can be mixed in with mundane as well as interesting but non-plot information.
Books on the other hand I find them tedious if they use the giant item description. With conversations you have the options to provide feedback to the NPC, use your skills and whatnot. With the book description at times it feels more like rambling narrative.
Those are my opinions and hopefully they help.

dgraf said...

I voted "it all depends". I have found that either a game hooks me in fairly quickly, or it doesn't. When it does, its a lot like a good book - good plot, well paced, twists and surprises, good dialogue and doesn't let me languish in any one place too long. Then there is always the game that doesn't do any of the above, but is so beautiful from a graphics standpoint that it keeps me going just to see what the next scene will be.

Frank Perez said...

I voted for "More action, less reading split," but I feel a need to explain my vote. I believe that practically all game text should be in aid of story dynamics (what others might inaccurately refer to as "action"). If the text moves the story along or puts the story in its proper context, by all means, put it in. If the text does nothing for the story, delete it. Writers are sometimes tempted to include a lot of background information that should have been left on the cutting room floor. J.R.R. Tolkien was wise to keep the text of the Silmarillon away from his Lord of the Rings (although his son Christopher was shrewd to have published it for raving fanboys everywhere).

The only exception I would make for this rule is if the text is entertaining on its own. Umberto Eco is a master of unnecessary but entertaining exposition, but most writers are not Umberto Eco and would only bore their readers if they tried to emulate him. Writers with a funny bone can spice up their text with some humorous asides here and there, but they risk losing their main story's focus if they overdo it.

Just my tuppence worth, which I guess is a bargain, considering the volume of the words that I wrote. :P

Quillmaster said...

I voted depends. I like books if they are valid to the story/setting. I think the best way to supply them is to regard them as optional reading, but at the same time have them contain info that might help the player, so that they feel grateful for having taken the time to do so.

The same goes for conversations really. It's nice to provide shortcut options for those who can't be bothered with reading, but nicer still if there are hidden bonuses to taking a heavier text route, such as rewards or important info.

I'd say I'd like combat to be nearer the 50% mark. Too much leaves me feeling bored with the lack of story (although, as you know, I am a heavy Roleplay fan), particularly if the creatures I'm fighting don't appear to have a logical reason for being there other than for combat. Too little leaves me yearning for action to add some excitement.

In general, while working on my own creation, I try to alternate between story and combat. Where the story becomes heavy, I try to throw in some light combat, and where combat becomes heavy, I try to break it up with some convo. Again though, in both cases, it's important that such interuptions feel like they logically belong. A good example of this takes place in my Relbonian Chronicle project where the player has to battle through some abandoned mines that link up to some crypts full of undead. At the halfway point, the player bumps into some grave robbers who wrongly presume the player is help that they've sent for. Ultimately they turn on the player, but not before a conversation takes place, where if the player is successful, they can have one of the mob switch sides and help the player.

Anonymous said...

It all depends. I like long dialogs with npcs but they can end up very tiresome sometimes, even if they are not boring themselves. And though I find pure hack and slash boring, action can be much interesting if done.

Two examples are Moonshadows and Trial and Terror. These modules have few dialogs and much more action, but I never got tired playing them.

About books, unless they refer to something interesting (such as the time of troubles if the reader knows little about it), they quickly become tedious. The Readable Books hakpack helps, but is not enough. I frequently leave some books behind "to read them some time later".

So, it all depends.

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi All,

(Shaughn, dgraf, Frank, Quillmaster and Anon)

Thanks for you input. I think you all do reflect my own "concerns" about getting the balance right.

Thankfully, having my version of "Readable Books" in the module, I hope will help alleviate some of the "eye boredom" that can accompany large amount of texts. At the same time, I hope these texts will be interspersed enough (and of interest) to help fill in some of the background for those players interested in such a read - and there will definitely be rewards for knowing the material as I stated in an earlier post. :)

At the moment, my main concern is working in the conversations then. I am not sure how I can easily shorten some conversations (or provide shortcuts) as it will leave the player a little lost if they do not do some reading. I just hope I can write tightly enough to get across what they need to know without them losing interest early on. After all, at the moment, I have noticed that the earlier conversations appear to need backstory to get the player in the picture.

There again, perhaps I am too close to the story to be a sound judge of it. Maybe it is something that will come out in play testing by others.

In the meanwhile, I am still interested to hear as many opinions as possible over this, so keep those commenst coming.

Again, many thanks to those already responded.

Lance.

Wyrin said...

i think i could legitamately vote for all of those options!


it does all depend - but one thing i do find that holds true - I find the gui for reading books much less engaging. I find it much easier to get drawn into a conversation in cutscene mode. Plus on some larger monitors the NWN1 style or item descriptions can be quite small to read large amounts of text.

Anonymous said...

I could listen all day! the more background, the deeper the immersion.

But I prefer if the extra info is delivered via conversation rather than books. Conversations, especially cutscenes, are more dinamic and entertaining than reading the occasional tome scattered around. Also, reading books seems sometime completely optional ("extra effort points" for both builder and player) while all the info shed via conversation appears somewhat more important.

Regards,

Nacaal

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Wyrin & Anon,

It appears conversations are more "palatable" than books for you both then ... and then a preference to cutscenes.

Hopefully, if the trend continues, most people appear to be happy to read more and become immersed. And if I can try to keep the books "easier" on the eye (using my Readable Books) and have then be of some worth (in respects of a reward as I have planned), then maybe even these texts may hold more interest than usual.

Bottom line, at the moment - and good to see - is that there appears to be a preference to having background reading (in one form or another) than not. At least that relieves some of the fear than I might be considering doing too much text.

For those still to give some input, keep the feedback coming ! :)

And many thanks to those who have contributed already. :)

Lance.

Mazena said...

Stories are what I like most, that means a lot of conversations and whatnot (: Still, I do like some well planned and enjoyable hack 'n' slash in moderate doses. I do not like mods that focus on the hacking part too much, tend to get boring.

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Mazena,

Good to hear you are another who likes background. :) Makes me feel a little more relaxed about my conversations.

I just checked out your blog by the way, and am adding you to my own lists. :)

Lance.

Mazena said...

Ditto! <: Will keep an eye on your blog, most interesting entries so far.

Tybae said...

Hi Lance. Long time no speak to. :)

I voted for "It Depends". The deciding factor in this case is my mood, combined with the DM's playstyle. Sometimes I just like to kill everything and let God sort them out, sometimes I prefer to talk my way out of combat. That's as a player.

The character has a lot to do with it too. A Barbarian isn't going to try to talk his way out of a fight as often as a Bard. I could go at this all day, but i'll be brief. ;)

Usually I can tell how things are going to go with a new DM in the first 10 minutes. Sometimes I adapt my playstyle sometimes I don't. In the end, it all depends on what the character would do, which is why I play characters opposite of myself. I just think of what I would do in that situation and do the exact opposite. Makes things fun.

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Tybae,

Good to talk with you again. :) And thank-you for dropping by on my blog. Be sure to come along often and help to keep me going. ;)

I know what you mean. Sometimes I can feel too tired to get too deep into a plot and like to just kill a few bad guys, and at other times I like to get wrapped up in the plot. The problem is, I guess, is how to combine the two into one game without doing an injustice to the other.

The poll still seems to be around a 50-50% split at the moment and so there is definitely a need to try to develop a module where there is a way to read less if need be. I suppose I will have to try to make the conversations and books as versitile as possible, but I am still veering towards giving those who want to get involved a bit more experience. This is not because I want to penalise the "action" player, but so I can reward players who want to play the game at a deeper level.

Now ... to sort out those Holy Books. ;)

Lance.

Tybae said...

That's a very good idea. Maybe give the character bonus XP for getting certain combinations of books and reading them?

I'm never one for rushing through the conversations. You find out a lot when you read more in depth. Sometimes, you get a glimpse into the future of the story, the back story behind what's happening currently or find out a major NPC's weakness(es).

I'm one of those people who try to do everything in the module and explore everything, so bonuses when that happens whether it be XP, items or knowledge are very desireable. :)

Oh, and I'll be sure to stop by more often. :)

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Tybae,

You sound like a player after my own heart. :)

You can be sure there will be bonuses in XP for doing more reading as well as other benfits like you mention. Check out my post here: http://worldofalthea.blogspot.com/2008/08/so-much-to-see-do.html

The "Role-Play Test" has already been implemented and just waits for me to add questions as and when I get some. I decided that many of these answers are the kind of things the player can pick up along the way from speaking to NPCs and reading books. ;) So, players who want to do more reading and pay closer attention will be rewarded.

It's good to hear you will be dropping by more often. :)

Lance.