Choose Your Language

Friday, 27 July 2012

Design Changes? (POLL: Realism To Fun Ratio)

It's been a difficult couple of weeks since my last update due to various life turmoils. Suffice to say, the module has taken a back seat as I have had to deal with health issues and other upsets. I'm not downhearted, but simply report this to let you know why there has not been much to update you with today.

Future Design Changes

As I slowly approach the end of module one, I am giving some thought to what I will be keeping or losing in the final two modules of the campaign. Recognising how long this module has taken me (far too long), I have decided to re-examine some of the design concepts I started with for the campaign, and leave out those aspects that are simply not "worth" the time they take to include. Note well, I believe everything I have included is "worth" it from one viewpoint, but I have to recognise that it is not worth it, if it adds too much time to the overall development to the point where some players are no longer around to play it! Here are some of the changes that I will probably make:

1) Simplify Party Influence

One aspect that I am considering losing is the "influence" system I currently use. Please note, that I am not talking about doing away with choices that make differences in play, but about an underlying system that monitors the PCs friendships with NPCs, subject to how they treat them. The problem is (as it works at the moment), is that every step the PC makes can (if used) alter the way an NPC will respond to a player subject to a "score" the party has with the NPC in question. Keeping track of this is quite awkward, especially when it comes to tracking quest states where the NPC may be "required" to have some form of talking relationship with the party. Having to do write around this system slows down other aspects of module building, which I can do without.

2) Immortalise Quest Handlers

It grieves me to have to do this change, but having to work around whether a player will or will not kill an important NPC with respect to fulfilling a plot is another system that eats into time to do properly. At the moment, whenever I create an NPC that handles a quest, I am having to consider potential workarounds should the player decide to kill the NPC for some reason or another. I enjoyed this aspect when I first started it, but soon realised that it becomes almost impossible to work like this without ensuring at least some NPCs remain alive to deliver the story. If this means making them immortal (or plot) from the start, then I believe it must be a compromise to my own design desires to allow the game to work with more stability.

I believe the above two changes are essential if I hope to ever finish the final two modules of the campaign. Thankfully, I already have 90% of the areas for the next two modules designed, by help from other builders; and once this module is completed, I will have 90% of the scripts required for them as well. What I am trying to do now, is reduce the amount of conditional work that only serves to make further module writing spiral exponentially out of control.

POLL: Fun v Realism

I would be interested to hear from other players and builders about what aspects of a module they consider as "acceptable" with respect to what can and cannot be done in a module. With this in mind, I have put up a poll asking what players like (or accept) as fun for their style of gameplay. Here are two examples of my own, which I offer as a guide to readers when thinking about answering this poll:

1) I played Legend of Grimrock (nostalgia), and never questioned its logical flow. As just one example: the need to find a key for a locked door and yet not be able to pick it or bash it. It offered very little in the way of options for overcoming a locked door, but I still found it relatively fun looking for a key I needed. Even more unrealistic, the key could often be found sitting in a small alcove somewhere else. This design went quite against my own, but I still had "fun".

2) I like to drop into and play some of Two World 2 now and then, and noticed they also used a kind of "influence" system where a player might upset the locals if they bumped into them. At first I found that quite realistic and an interesting idea. However, as I have played more, I have found the system quite "pointless" in some ways, because (a) I only bump into them by "mistake" as I run by and (b)unless I do this a lot, it has little bearing. Even when I did have my influence taken to an extreme (I ended up having to fight someone), it just caused difficulty with the game as I had to wait for the system to allow me to speak to anybody else after that. (My own system is a bit better managed than that I hope.)

Let me know what aspects of a game you have played that have been fun or not ... or has even worn off as the game continues. Please vote in the poll and leave comments/examples of games you have played and your own experiences with them.


Kamal said...

Fighting people because you bumped into them, no matter how often, seems over the top. In real life, the people will actively avoid bumping into you. So while npcs being annoyed is "realistic", their underlying behavior in not avoiding is not. Besides, no one expects that kind of behavior, and something like that sounds like lots of work for little payoff.

As for key hunting, you just need to be consistent and logical. If the player is allowed to pick/bash, then they should be able to pick/bash everywhere unless there is a logical reason they can't such as a metal door (no bashing), or magically locked.

Immortal quest handlers: yes, build them in. I don't think people really need to design for when they suddenly draw swords on the king that's been giving them orders all game and is now going to send them off to the big bad.

I generally only have non immortal quest handlers when I have conflicting quests, A wants you to kill B, B wants you to kill A. Or B simply has quests. And that generally mostly turns up because I made an evil module, and now an ambiguous module. Main questline required people are plot.

I'm not one that's big on party influence, so I can't say I have an opinion. Maybe it's important to you or others. I wouldn't care if you dropped it. As long as I would see conflict if I make decisions that anger a party member, I don't need the ability to win them over to my side.

Frank Perez said...

Sorry to hear about the health issues you are facing. I hope everything is okay with you.

The way I see it, realism and fun are not mutually exclusive. Not totally anyway. If I had to make a choice, I would choose fun over realism in a game.

That said, if something in a game does not make sense, it may spoil my willing suspension of disbelief. Even in a fantasy setting, there have to be internal rules that dictate what is or is not possible in that world. Once those rules are established, events must make sense in light of those rules.

For example, resurrection is possible in the Forgotten Realms. Hence, it peeved me when I was never allowed to resurrect Shandra Jerro in NWN2 even though I could have. It does not make sense that my party would not make the attempt.

Just my $0.02.

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Kamal,

If you bumped into too many people, it could happen. :)

I think you have hit the nail on the head when you say consistency. And thankfully, your post does reflect much of my own thinking now. In other words, why waste too much time trying to add something that does not bring much return in gameplay.

Hopefully, I will be able to maintain enough tension in conversations without relying on any influence system that can only tie me up in knots.

Hi Frank,

My own health is an ongoing issue, but thankfully not life-threatening. My wife has had some health issues as well lately, but hopefully that will be sorted in time. They just can't help but affect things.

Your comment reminds me of my own strong desire for good "logical flow", and I agree with your comments completely. Trying to accomplish the degree I have set myself, however, is becoming more and more difficult to pull off .. and impractical. For this reason, I am trying to refocus my efforts on aspects that will help draw ones disappointment from any potential failings in this area by giving the player other areas to distract their attention ... and, of course, keep it fun!

For example, my "logical flow" would want it to be possible for PCs to be able to raise any NPC according to 3e rules (if they can do so), but just think of the extra work involved to cover that potential .... extra conversations ... change in NPC motivations ... So, I have to recognise the drawback of trying to maintain a too high demand on logical flow I can sometimes set myself, for the more "simpler" and "less realistic" (even less consistent) side of module design, just so I can concentrate on the more definite aspects that every player will play ...

Great comments guys!

And do please vote if you haven't already.


Kamal said...

I voted limited choices. I'm really somewhere between options 2 and 3. But I'd rather err on the side of fun.

Hoegbo said...

I hope things turn out for the better for you and your wife soon.

I always like reading your opinions and reflections about gameplay and game mechanics. And on this i have to add from my own experience that forgoing realism to "fun" is better imo. Things get too complicated fast if you are keeping it realistic. Espe ially nowadays when people are used to ios type games like angry "insert various creature whatnots here"
I hope to see this mod finished so i can install nwn2 again :)

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Roger (Hoegbo),

Good to hear from you again! :)

My wife has a small operation tomorrow, and I have a couple of blood tests for an ongoing problem.

Yes, experience and limited time has taught me to come down on the side of fun and not to stress over realism so much nowadays.

Do make sure you keep that NWN2 to hand. :) I certainly look forward to your feedback.