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Editorial Josh Sawyer - I thought I could organize freedom. How Scandinavian of me.

Discussion in 'RPG News & Content' started by Mistress, Dec 16, 2002.

  1. Mistress Liturgist

    Mistress
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    Tags: Black Isle Studios; J.E. Sawyer

    <p><strong>Josh Sawyer</strong> of <a href="http://www.blackisle.com/">Black Isle Studios</a>, gives us an insight into <a href="http://www.rpgcodex.net/content.php?id=24">his thoughts on CRPG design</a>.</p>
    <blockquote>"A lot of users can't adequately describe why they like certain games -- or even why they like certain features of games. While it's certainly true that developers can listen too much to users, there's a frightening tendency for developers to respond to this deluge of opinion by simply ignoring the users. I think that the best thing to do is to listen to the users, but really examine the source of their praise and their criticism."</blockquote>
    <p>Thank you Josh!</p>
     
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  2. Nagling Educated

    Nagling
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    This is one aspect where Role Playing really matters and as Sawyer noted, rarly makes it way into a game.

    Well we are easly fooled we RPG players and a simple thing like that creates the illusion we like, that choices in the game really changed the outcome.
    Of course this:
    And the if branch that you have to follow changes, we(at the least I do) like it all the better.

    I hope that your belief proves true and if the views you presented above shows itself in this project of yours I belive that it just might. :)
     
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  3. Killzig Cipher Patron

    Killzig
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    Good article JE, I really enjoyed reading it. Thanks.
     
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  4. Constipated Craprunner Erudite

    Constipated Craprunner
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    Zig is not criticizing BIS?
    *Shoots self*
    Seriously though, good article. Though a little on the short side.
    Great to have you on the Codex article list.
     
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  5. Saint_Proverbius Arcane Patron

    Saint_Proverbius
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    In case you haven't noticed, JE Sawyer is one of those people at BIS that we happen to like a lot. What he says makes a lot more sense than most of the stuff we hear out of them. Killzig has said on numerous occations, publically no less, that he'd like to see JE Sawyer be the lead on Fallout 3.

    I tend to agree, since JE Sawyer does seem to have a level head about him. He's sharp as a tack, and that ain't bad.

    It's short, but what's there is good. I tend to agree on the cat thing as well. There are a lot of quests in CRPGs that do seem "beneath" the PC. Fallout 2's "Watch in the outhouse cave" thing, for example. If you're the Chosen One, why the hell would you lower yourself to do something like that?

    I think he's dead on the money with the faction statement as well. If you're going to be the guy who saves everybody from unholy death, it seems rather silly that you'd just end up as a grunt in a faction you join - and stay a grunt. At some point, maybe even late, late in the game, that faction is going to owe you in a major way.

    You could kind of look at it like that scene in Kevin Cosner's Robin Hood movie, where the thieves of the forest ask him if he's going to join them and he boldy states, "No. I'm going to lead you." That would tend to make more sense after the player is established within the faction, since the player is the one that's going to get things done.
     
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  6. Constipated Craprunner Erudite

    Constipated Craprunner
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    Huh. Odd.
    Friends at BIS?
    I have always liked JE, to be honest.
    But that was due primarily to his Brazil av. :lol:
    Agreed, great article.
    This also raises expectations for Jefferson, to be quite honest.
     
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  7. Section8 Erudite

    Section8
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    "Freedom of choice is what you've got
    Freedom from choice is what you want"

    Devo were smart guys. And they whipped it good. Great article Josh/JE, I hope that you get a chance to apply your philosophies to Jefferson without too many time and funding constraints.
     
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  8. Red Novice

    Red
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    Damn good article. Came from the soul. I now actually have hope some day we'll have good CRPGs. Well, given the message spreads or that JE takes over the world and imposes his ways :D.

    They're all simple obvious things which people miss entirely. I can't say I'm better either, but thankfully I'm not a game designer so this type of stuff isn't what I think about usually.
     
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  9. Rosh Erudite

    Rosh
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    Very true, Prov. Sometimes I don't like something Bishop has said, but it's often in devil's advocate, is how I believe in how it was made in the first place.

    Otherwise, yes, he is about the only person there at BIS who seems to have their head on straight.

    Then there's the slapstick janitor duo, Danien and ChunkyPuuk. That team is a riot. And you can't forget about Mr. Kewl McUrquart. :D
     
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  10. Hazelnut Erudite

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    Thanks for that article JE - very true indeed. Many games do make it hard to affect the world. And how often do games frustrate with main NPC's who sound like ansa-fone messages.. :lol:

    I think one major problem is the term 'RPG'! It's used in place of 'fantasy' to describe a game far too often. I found myself describing a game with fantasy setting as an RPG when it isn't the other day!! :shock: The person I was talking to instantly knew I meant a fantasy game.. but this is a sad state of affairs that neads changing. Not that I have any ideas how (make everyone play Fallout untill their carpals give in??)

    I think this article really sums up the term RPG.

    Andy.

    P.S. Neat site BTW.
     
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  11. MacD Novice

    MacD
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    Straight on the money! Especially the part about changing the world. When you're on an epic quest, you kind of expect to SEE some changes due to your interaction with the world. Not just flaoting text balloons, what about something like the guys who mourn the mayors death wearing black arm bands? It's all about suspesion of disbelief, and the way to do that is by immersion. Visual feedback is one tool to get that effect.

    All too often do you do something which changes the world (supposedly), but there's nothing showing it...a rather wierd example of how this is done right is is in (of all things) Super Mario World, when you complete the rainbow worlds, and the whole world changes. Now that's what we're talking about here...if you fail to slay the dragon, I want to see a burned down village; my actions should have consequenses! If I manage to hack into a mayor database and kill uberlord whatever, it'd be nice if people on the streets talk about it.

    Also, what made fallout so cool, was the fact that it wasn't strictly linear. Sure, you would get killed pretty swiftly if you went to the southwest of the map directly after starting the game BUT YOU COULD DO IT IF YOU WANTED TO! You got enough 'hints' about where to go, but you need not follow them to the letter. That bugs me about for example Final Fantasy...the artificial lockout of all the areas....gates which don't open when you'd expect them to, just because you're 'not at that stage of the game yet', being blocked by a puny guard you know you could beat the snot out of, but who's still stopping you from going where you want. *POOF*, there went your suspension of disbelief.

    Wow, this has become quite the rant, eh? :) Anyway, I totally agree with you...and it's quite interesting to read how the dev's think about these things, too!
     
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  12. Araanor Liturgist

    Araanor
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    Good article, it touches on one of my RPG pet peeves. If your actions won't affect the game world, do your actions really matter?
     
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  13. Flink Liturgist

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    I'd make a comment myself, but I see no need as I completely agree with everything already said.

    I hope you get a chance to apply this to Jefferson, great work Josh!
     
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  14. Eldar Novice

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    I really liked a lot of things about this article. First of all, anything that leads me to believe there is a chance we'll see another Fallout title is a good thing. Second of all, I like the idea of the story progressing around the character. I'd also like to see the story progressing outside of the character. I do have some questions about the article, however:

    * Planescape is my favorite game. The main character was set, but the player could take that main character along different paths. Does the spirit of this article speak against such a scenario? Does the idea of freedom controvert the idea of a set main character?

    * Can technology, either now or in the near future, hope to permit computer game design of this nature?

    * How difficult is it to work with various rulesets or settings to achieve some of these design features?
     
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  15. TraHari Novice

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    In my estimation, it's not contradictory to the spirit of this article.

    Planescape was designed such that your past was set to a certain degree, and not only were you given enough freedom to determine your future actions, but you had a healthy amount of freedom in expressing how you felt about your previous actions.

    The PC may still hear about things he or she has done, and be blamed or lauded for them, but in reality, the player herself did none of those things. In a way, it's almost like it's a separate character that the PC is interacting with (in an abstract sense, of course). The PC is still free to determine how they feel about what they have done, and to create their own vision of the character, independent of what may have transpired in the past.

    I don't know if technology is really that much of an issue. Rather, it would seem that the primary limitation of RPGs is generating the incredible amount of material associated with multiple independent storylines with interrelated side quests...

    ...and if you want to make all of that stuff _good_, that takes even longer. ;)

    I'm no gamedev (but I'm working on it, since I graduate this May :/), but it should be possible to lay out any given setting such that this theory of design is applicable. If you're working with a predetermined storyline, it may be difficult if not impossible to lay out the plot such that it allows for this, but you still accomplish something, even if it involves a lot of smoke and mirrors (i.e., Deus Ex).

    Rulesets, at least in the sense of D&D, White Wolf, etc, typically allow the player plenty of freedom in creating their own character. Obviously, there are some differences; different rulesets allow players a certain amount of latitude in determining how competent, experienced, or powerful their character is.

    Most tabletop rulesets are designed so human beings can process them in a relatively short period of time. Sometimes they have to make approximations or simplify calculations in the name of playability. Computers don't have that problem, which means if you want to take a given ruleset and throw in some extra complexity, you can usually do that without tampering with the core mechanics.

    A good example of this might be creating a reputation system in a computer game implementation of D&D 3rd. Even if it's outlined somewhere in some sourcebook someplace, it would be a pain for the DM to keep track of an NPC's opinion of a PC numerically (let alone the fact that it shouldn't be all that necessary, if the DM knows how to role-play properly). Conversely, computers can't role-play very well, but they are very good at keeping track and crunching numbers, so a reputation system thrown in based on existing D&D mechanics wouldn't be a problem.

    Beyond that, I think I could see how your question requires a more complex answer, but an example would be helpful. :)

    - Tra'Hari
     
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  16. Sharpei_Diem Liturgist

    Sharpei_Diem
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    I like the comment about 'let the chips fall where they may'. Too much hand-holding is done in current games. To illustrate what i mean, look at Icewind dale II: the path you can take is strictly linear. You're paraded around from a to b to c, and the creatures in those areas are all balanced so a person can (arguably) win fights easily.

    Compare this with fallout, or actually better yet, Torment. In Torment, as a beginning character you walk outside the morgue and there's abashai walking around all over the place. If you *try* to fight them at that point in the game, you'll get kicked six ways to sunday: There's something much more powerful than you walking around, and if you're smart, you'll carry on your way and hope it doesn't bother you.

    I think games need to reflect this more, especially at the beginning: there should be places/opportunities for characters to gain xp, but there should be places that the pc will be very wise to avoid until much later. I think older games did this much better: In ultima IV, do you descend to the bottom of this dungeon, or do you gain some experience near the top and try to do the same in another one until you have money for better items and some more experience...

    on another note, i'd like to see a option for 'realism' in the game setup, similar to how you select hearts of fury mode in IDII. With realism mode selected, save games might only be allowed in town (preventing reload-syndrome), so if something goes bad for you on your adventure your choice is to suck it up, or play through it all again....Why do this? Dunno, maybe random/different treasure/monsters if playing with this setting?
     
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  17. Eldar Novice

    Eldar
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    I think you've got a good idea of what I meant TraHari. It seems obvious, to me at least, that the Fallout system has a more open concept of what a character is than DnD, even third edition. I love DnD, don't get me wrong, but Fallout has a "classless" system that allows a character to be good at whatever he or she decides to pursue. Want to be a fast talker with a scientific mind? No problem. later, should you decide to need more skill with a SMG, your choices about previous skills don't hurt you at all. Case in point, I finished the game recently with four tag skills. The three I chose at start were Doctor, Science, and Speech. Later, chose to include another tag skill and made it energy weapons. My guy will still use a lot of speech, but don't pick a fight with him or he's very likely to kick your ass. There's no class, just a well rounded character. The only thing that comes close in DnD is multiclassing my character, and DnD often punishes the player for multiclassing rather than rewarding him. In fact, Fallout neither punishes nor rewards the character. You can do whatever you want with your character.
     
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  18. AER Novice

    AER
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    I think that those were all good thoughts, and a very well written peice.

    Deus Ex was an excellent game. I know it wasn't truly an RPG, but it gave the appearance of offering the player all kind's of choice in how they played, and just let the consequences seem to play out as they may (With the exception of a very small amount of forced sequences). It wasn't so much that they game actually let you do whatever you want; it just covered so many options that it seemed like you could do whatever you want. That is what really keeps people happy in an RPG.

    A lot of times it really doesn't take much. It's pretty sad, but Fallout 2 is still one of the best examples of these kind of games. Based on your actions in the game, IIRC, you would see different endgame sequences. Vault city and necropolis could go to war, different towns could live or die, etc. Your actions as a player actually meant something, and it is a great motivation for you to go and play the whole game over again to make it right next time. It immediatly provides strong motivation for playing, which makes things much more fun.

    There are some strong downsides to openendedness, however. First is the huge amount of game content that has to be made - some of which won't be seen by the majority of players. You can make a nice open-ended game or a VERY nice linear game with the same amount of content. Second is that sometimes openended just leaves you with nowhere to go. This never happened to me in Fallout, but it sure did in BG and BG2. The next place to go wasn't clear - the problem, IMO, was that they tried to combine a lot of semi-linear with a lot of open-ended. I would have a bunch of quests to complete at some points, but I didn't want to do them for fear of messing up the main quest. Also, it is hard to have a balanced open game. In BG2, I was always either way too powerful or way too weak for the encounters. There SHOULD, however, be potential encounters that the PC should not be able to defeat but can try. This adds to the feeling that there is actually a world out there and not a gradually-progressing-RPG PC-training sym.

    Bluntly artificial blocks on progress are also terrible. If you don't want a PC to go to a town, don't tell him where it is. DO NOT just lock him out of the town. Like the previous poster said, that kind of stuff really kills suspension of disbeleif.

    One last thing. In a perfect RPG, you would never be able to clear out an entire level of baddies, then rest undisturbed with 9 more levels below you. There should be people coming up to replace those who were killed, or activity of some sort to at least give the IDEA that the enemy base is actually populated and not just stocked with static baddies. Basically, signs of intelligent life among NPCs does a lot to encourage the idea that they are real. Real people move about from day to day, and have lives other than the PC. Which really makes sense, but few RPG developers actually understand it.
     
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  19. Saint_Proverbius Arcane Patron

    Saint_Proverbius
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    The problem with BioWare games is that the main plot is very linear and there's side quests with little to nothing guiding you between the two. They all have that, "You've arrived in a new area, now go do stuff" design that lacks any real focus. I'm not sure if that's their way of hiding the linear plot, but it just feel off. You're on this big, important quest, but don't know where you're headed or there's nothing there to focus you on it. It feels like you're mindlessly doing things just to find out if that's what you're supposed to be doing or not.

    I was highly annoyed in NWN, for example, when I spent several hours fighting my way through a six level dungeon in Act II, only to get to the bottom and discover it wasn't part of advancing the main plot. It foreshadowed the main plot, but it was a totally optional area. It was also much larger and deeper than the main plot areas. After several hours, I thought there would be some major importance. There really wasn't other than some loot and a chat with a bad guy.

    This sense of unimportance could have been offset if you could talk about it with the leader you report to, but that wasn't an option.
     
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  20. Mistress Liturgist

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    I found this problem with BGII - there were far too many pointless and distracting sidequests that detracted from the main point of what you were doing, and added nothing much to the actual plot. You have one major quest with a defined goal, and then about 10 people come up to you during that and ask you to go here there and everywhere. It just really does feel like bulky padding to distract from the fact that the underlying plot is pretty linear.

    This is something I found incredibly annoying - traipsing through massive areas with pretty much no point at all. It quickly gets very boring and tedious. *Walk down path, get attacked by goblins at entrance to cave, enter cave, get attacked by goblins, turn corner, stumble upon orcs, goblins and undead, repeat about 50 times, get some loot, go back* It's not fun.

    I agree - it would be nice if perhaps, doing the optional areas could open up some new dialogue about your findings etc....it would at least make it feel less like a complete waste of time, and nothing but an exercise in achieving that ever important goal of major stat building.
     
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  21. Walks with the Snails Erudite

    Walks with the Snails
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    Yeah, it was pretty awful in BGII. You're supposedly trying to save Imoen, but then everyone and their dog wants you to go do something for them. They really should have put a time limit on that or made Imoen get taken off right before you were going to leave anyway. If you do what actually makes sense and save Imoen the second you raise enough money (with a thief you could accomplish it in a couple of hours, max), you'll get clobbered as your opponents will be too tough for your level and equipment.
     
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  22. Fat Dragon Arbiter

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    I hate to be a thread necromancer, but I just found and read this for the first time and thought it was a good read; thought others might like it too. It's pretty old so a lot of newer members probably missed it too.

    Reading about his design ideas, I'm now more interested in seeing how he's handled New Vegas and playing the game. Sawyer makes a lot of good points and certainly knows what makes a good CRPG, but he still hasn't proved he can do more than talk the talk. Seeing as how he says that making a Fallout game has always been his dream and NV will be that game, I'm hoping it'll turn out good.
     
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  23. hiver Guest

    hiver
    Because your not really a chosen one. that theme was handled very sarcastically in F2 and outhouse quest nails it home for those who for some reason - didnt noticce it before.

    -ow shit... 2002... erm...
     
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  24. tyrannosaurus rex Unwanted Douchebag! Shitposter

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    Happened upon this while looking for an old review. Nice little read. Old but still relevant. Funny how sawyer was perceived over here back then.
     
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  25. Ed123 Arcane Patron

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    Serpent in the Staglands Wasteland 2
    And note how virtually none of them post here anymore. :smug:
     
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