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J.E. Sawyer: Obsidian's Five Hard Lessons Of RPG Design

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J.E. Sawyer: Obsidian's Five Hard Lessons Of RPG Design

Game News - posted by Jaesun on Thu 18 August 2011, 06:11:45

Tags: Obsidian Entertainment

In a talk at GDC Europe J.E. Sawyer, project director for Obsidian Entertainment (Fallout New Vegas) discussed the "challenges that the RPG industry has faced in adapting from its pen and paper roots." 

Five Hard Lessons
Sawyer outlined five hard lessons that he's learned over the years: 
Mechanical chaos is frustrating. RPGs often rely on random number generators, "in part because that is the only way to simulate things in a tabletop environment." However, he said, "In some cases, where you can reload, mechanical chaos is pointless." It also can be frustrating either way. 
What you can perceive is the most important thing. Games "often focus on statistics, but we often can't perceive the effects in games." Small stat upgrades don't mean anything to players at all when they can't see the effect.
Conversely, he said he's "implemented broken things in games but players don't notice it," because there's no external statistic reflection. 
Strategic failures are the biggest disappointing failures for players. When building a character or a party, "you're making long-term decisions," said Sawyer, "but many RPGs effectively punish you for making bad choices."
The idea of player vs. character is a false dichotomy. Developers with a traditional tabletop background expect players to be roleplaying when they play games. However, he said, "it will be the player doing the action... ultimately games are about the players trying to accomplish a goal." There is a definite question of "how much are we asking the player, and how much are we asking the character."
Good gameplay is better than whatever your ideas or whatever the player's expectations are. Simple and understandable: don't follow genre conventions simply because they exist. Beyond that, "attempting to execute something because you think it's a good idea or players insist it's a good idea doesn't always result in something good."
Sawyer goes into more in-depth on each point here.
Thanks RPGCodsex Is The Best!
Spotted at: Gamasutra

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