Choose Your Language

Friday, 5 March 2010

Pet Hates (POLL: What Turns You Off A Module?)

After writing this blog, I realised that a lot of my time when designing Better The Demon is to try to either include interesting and unique ideas that would attract players, while at the same time avoid those aspects of a game that players do not like. A while ago, I addressed the question of what motivates the player, and in particular asked about certain rewards that excited the player. Today, I would like to know what turns you off a game. What are your "pet hates" that simply drive you away or make you put a game down sooner than another?

The Death System

One of my own personal concerns is the way death is handled in some modules. I recognise there needs to be some kind of penalty for dying, but at the same time can see the frustration of being metaphorically beaten down by something as simple as a slow response from the player or the computer. In other words, I do not like my PC being penalised for my lack of ability to press a combination of buttons at a given time, which ultimately leads to their death.

I have tried to address this issue in past gaming by introducing a couple of ideas, which Better The Demon continues to follow. Firstly, there is a new essence, called the Life Essence, which if found and carried can help to keep a PC alive longer than expected. (Concept first introduced in Soul Shaker.) Secondly, if the PC dies without a Life Essence, then an XP death penalty is applied to the PC instead, which must be repaid before they start to accrue further XP. In other words, the PC does not lose any XP or gold upon each death, but simply has a set amount (50 xp per level) set on them to be repaid with new XP gained before it can start to be added to their goal. (Concept first introduced in my PnP days to replace level draining.)

I have also made it that when a companion dies, they remain dead and require a raise dead (or resurrect) to be brought back to life. However, careful use of the Life Essence, along with an auto-pause combat option should help reduce sudden deaths for the careful and tactical player.

What About Your Dislikes?

The Death System was just one area that I wanted to make sure did not frustrate players, and I have tried to give as much thought to other parts of the module as this, but recognise other players may find other aspects of a module far more annoying. This is where you step in: tell me about your major dislikes. While the poll includes some ideas I am considering, please feel free to add your own personal frustrations and leave a comment.

Another Quest Underway

I managed to start work on another side quest this week and am pleased with the way it has come together, especially with the number of paths it has available to it. Whether playing a good or evil aligned PC, there are a number of solutions. In theory, once I have managed to write the initial quests and the player's PC has become more established in the module, the rest should become a lot easier and thereby speed up the overall progress. In the meanwhile, I do appreciate the patience of potential players who are still reading and waiting.

Be A Part Of The Design!

As many readers will know by now, area design is my weakest/slowest area to build. I manage to keep at a reasonable pace when it comes to scripting and conversations (just slow instead of painfully slow), but designing areas can almost grind to a stop and often be restarted. However, I recognise that there is a great deal of talent out there and am not too proud to ask if anybody is interested in helping design some of the areas I already have in mind. In other words, I am not asking for a person to have to come up with everything from scratch, but am asking for an area designed on a predetermined need. However, the final outcome of that design is very much in their hands.

If this interests you, then please let me know, as I am quite prepared to release this mod in both my name and theirs. I am looking for a level of quality and attention to detail as my own, but has the gift of an artist/designer to do a better job than I can. There is no immediate pressure to come up with x number of areas in x amount of time, but is something I would love to discuss with anybody who may be interested. I won't go into too many details just now, as I do not want to give too much of the module scope away. :)

This project is something I can eventually do on my own, but it would be finished that much sooner (and hopefully to a higher quality visually) if I do have somebody to work with. Rest assured, this project will be finished (God willing) and so any time invested by a volunteer will not be wasted, and at the end of it, I hope we would have something that is quite different to the norm ... for better or worse. ;)


Starwars said...

Difficult vote this time around.

I'm split between linearity and non-interactivity. I can accept non-interactivity in a game that is otherwise open, for example in an old-school dungeon crawling type of thing with, say, the SoZ world map.

But I think non-interactivity is what tends to turn me off many times now, especially when it's coupled with linearity. I really don't like it when I feel like I'm just pushing 'continue' in the story and the only real gameplay is a few lackluster battles in between the story points.

Dialogue and story in a RPG should be a gameplay element as well, so they need to be interactive. But, how much non-interactivity there is also depends on how much I like the story of course. But it's very rare that I play a module where I feel the story is so good that it can "carry" the game.

Kamal said...

On area design, you had said you were going to download and give my campaign a try. I am going to release all my areas to the Vault when the campaign releases, so feel free to ask me about any of them if you find something that would meet your needs and I'll tell you if it's a prefab or one of my own.

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Starwars,

I share your comments there. :) And while I too like a good story (and is almost a must), I do find lack of interaction or "things to do" while going through a module something that can quickly make me feel as though I might be "wasting time". Don't get me wrong, I also like a good dungeon crawl now and then, but it needs to be backed with a sgood story and some positive gameplay. :)

Hi Kamal,

I have started your mod and am looking through it now. I noticed it is packed full of areas! If you are into designing areas and are interested in creating a few to meet the module needs, then we can always give it a try. If you are, email me on the email address in the blog. :)


Kamal said...

At this point I'm kind of burned out on building from the push to get my campaign out there. I'll get back into it at some point.

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Kamal,

No worry. :) I've spent the last 3 years working on this module, so I'm sure I'll get there in the end. If you ever get back into it and fancy trying, let me know. :)


Quillmaster said...

I voted "Other", as I have 3 pet hates ;)

One is lack of attention to detail, like placeables that look like they've been slapped down with no real thought, or NPCs that look nothing like their portraits. It might seem like a little picky issue, but trust me, when you get bombarded with it, it can really draw your attention away from what could otherwise be a good mod.

2nd is lack of dialogue choices. Even if a story has to be linear, there's no excuse not to have different roads through a conversation. They can still culminate in the same conclusion, but have subtle differences that affect the player experience, such as a change in reward, xp, or even player alignment.

3rd is combat/storytelling ratio. If a story is complex, try to break it up with some combat. Too much combat can be dull, but so can too little.

Actually I'm sure my 3rd reason was initially something different when I started typing this, but I got a phone call after the 1st sentence that broke my chain of thought.

Saw your post on my blog btw and responded. The movies can import screen caps as backdrops and has a lot more versatility than Powerpoint (as long as you have the expansion), so well worth seeking out on the bargain shelves. ;)

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Geoff,

Thanks for commenting. :)

I must admit, I have to agree that attention to detail is one of those things I too find lacking in quite a few modules I have tried. And it's not just in the placing of objects as much as linear flow that frutrates me.

Yes to dialogue choices too. I believe you are like me though and end up doing a ton more writing just to allow another choice. ;)

And I agree with balance. I also like a module to have a sprinkling of other things like puzzles as well, just to keep the player with different things to do.

Yep. I saw the reply thanks. :) I guess it is a bargain basement purchase, as you say then.


Anonymous said...

Voted other.

First it's the attention to detail. Examining the end boss and seeing a "Humans are the most common race..." is just frustrating. Also, the lack of speak triggers. When you finaly reach someone important (like the boss) then he shouldn't wait for you to talk to him. It takes a bit from the atmosphere when you can run around him for a few seconds and then talk to him. These are minor flaws, but are common enough to have become a pet hate.

Second, lack of realism. It's stuff like not being able to open a door when you picked/bashed dozens like it before for no explanation.

Third is too much combat. Some modules have just too much of it. Like three dungeons in a row with nothing else than battles and loot and one (small and unimportant) conversation each. I have yet to finish that module.

If not for these I would vote dialog choices and interactivity.

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Anon,

I certainly agree with your descriptions of a poor mod, and I hope these are all things I will not have in my own. Here is my own approach, which I hope to consistently keep to:

DESCRIPTIONS: Nearly every interesting object should have a unique description. Even the less interesting objects should have a description other than the system default ... or at least should have unless I miss one or it really is not required.

TRIGGERS: I have developed a "speech" trigger system that allows me to have various speeches throughout the game. I intend to use it whenever I can, especially if a boss has something to say, assuming PC destruction is not his/her first objective. ;)

REALISM: This is definitely one of my own. I know the arguments that a CRPG is fantasy, but I cannot help but recognise there are some limits where fantasy is abused. I hope my own module will address most (if not all) of these issues. I even wrote a blog on the subject of the "door" issue you mention, saying most doors should be pickable/bashable/knockable unless there is a very good reason. Another example, is gold weighs in my game, and the economy is better structured.

COMBAT: Getting the combat balance correct is a hard one - and is even one that is subjective according to the players mood on the day. That said, however, I hope I will not be adding combat for combat sake, and even try to have systems in place that allow a player to decide whether to take a more combat oriented path or not, especially when it comes to overland travel.

DIALOGUE/INTERACTIVITY: I have been working hard at choices, even to the point where I had code in place to allow multi-PC chat options even before SoZ came a long with Party Chat conversations. Therefore, not only do I hope that the player will have choices when required, but is also able to use the best PC for the job in every sense. In other words, even the choices made with every PC (and not just the leader of the party) will have a strong bearing on the game.

Thanks for those comments Anon, as it gave me the chance to respond with solutions that I hope will help players enjoy the mod more.