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Letting go of the checklist: Zombra says you shouldn't do everything in RPGs

Discussion in 'General RPG Discussion' started by Zombra, Oct 22, 2017.

  1. Delterius Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    Delterius
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    If I were to follow both of these suggestions then I'd follow sidecontent and skip the dialogue. This is not a good defense of a plot driven RPG.
    We weren't born gamers. We all instinctively learned about the basic mechanics of these games. That the accumulation of 'Experience' makes you more powerful.
    No I did not.
    RPGs are games about character creation and development. It just so happens that nearly every RPG is a story of a person whose life is more filled with killing and mayhem than a Die Hard movie. As such, their story is a progression from impotent nobody to badarse legend. In particular, this is a story where the PC goes from a small fish in some childhood gang to awesome shadowrunner in Chinaland. All because of an exotic father figure. Its a love letter to cheesy 80s action movies about teens learning to fight honorably (hopefully?) and live like some folk hero who speaks chinese.

    Now, what is the primary thing that tells that story? Is it the dialogues with Duncan? The flashbacks? Hong Kong doesn't have nearly as much of that as it is, much less to become the primary mode of storytelling. The answer is, as with every game, the gameplay. And as with most RPGs, the character, progression and reward systems. You'd need something like Undertale to subvert that and, even so, its just a subversion. Its not a entirely new kind of game of roleplaying. You just do the opposite of killing everyone you meet.

    As such, the narrative feedback from pursuing side content should flow very well. Especially when its mostly more dialogue in an already dialogue heavy story.

    All that said, I NEVER said that I, personally, pursued every conversation because of the XPs. Nor did I say that I talked to every character to the very end. Unlike the NPCs from the Kreuzsbazar I did start ignoring the people from HK half way through the game. I only recognize that ignoring Experience Points has absolutely nothing to do with ignoring pointless loot. The former, by definition, isn't pointless.
    Its not like I found every conversations dreadful from the moment it began. Its a degenerative process. You start interested in the supporting NPC that the game put in your way. And then you move to the next. And the next. And the fourth time you feel like their story could be told in a single panel or two, instead of 5, you start feeling exhausted.

    Its like a really long loading screen. What's behind it is still a goal of yours. You just wish it wasn't so damn long.
     
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  2. Zombra Arcane Patron

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    No, I don't believe you would. You've been saying all along that you enjoy dialogue. You'd read some of it and skip some of it.

    Of course. That doesn't make the games about the mechanics, any more than Pac-Man is "a game about a joystick". You're telling a story about a disembodied yellow mouth eating ghosts - the joystick is how you tell that story. The joystick is cool, and xp mechanics are cool, but they're not the goal.

    Well expressed. I still disagree, but I see where you're coming from. Personally, I don't see the "wimp to asskicker" as being central to the story of any of these games. There is certainly plenty of violence on the way, but they could just as easily feature protagonists who don't "level up" and just go from fight to fight. There aren't even any scenes of learning new moves or new spells like you'd see in a kung fu film; just "you levelled up and you can buy level 2 fireballs now". Again, this is all really secondary to the actual goals. There's never a scene where the character says "I'm weak now, but I'm gonna train hard and beat that dragon!" Is there?

    Already conceded that it's OK if some people found the writing itself overwrought. I thought it was fine ... likely because I didn't feel constricted to always exhaust every dialogue. Eating one piece of super rich cake can be enjoyable, but after the third piece you're like oh god no take it away.

    To extend this metaphor, would it have been better to have added more hors d'oeuvres? Quick, shallow dialogues that got straight to the point? Sure, I could see that. I could be misremembering, but I feel like a lot of convs could be to the point pretty quickly.

    Balderdash. They're exactly the same: numerical rewards to increase character stats. Yes, better DPS and armor class are character stats even though they're a function of gear, and better gear can be bought with loot.

    Understood ... I feel like this supports my point. When you run out of patience for the life story of some disposable nobody, cutting it off will restore your ability to pay attention when one comes along you actually care about. Going back to the food metaphor: "Take all you want, but eat all you take." Just don't take the stuff you don't have "room" for.

    Nice simile :)
     
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  3. Iznaliu Arbiter

    Iznaliu
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    I don't think that dynamic was built into any of them, but what's important is that many of the players see it.
     
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  4. ERYFKRAD Barbarian Patron

    ERYFKRAD
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    Serpent in the Staglands Shadorwun: Hong Kong Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
    Zombra even storyfags would be ashamed.

    While the overarching goals you state are what consists the plot, the plot itself is but a vehicle for running the shadows: scoring Intel, preparing gear and krumping gits.

    Frankly if I were to describe SRR to a non gamer it wouldn't be about the exp gains, or the damn plot, but about running the shadows, covert ops on a shoestring budget and far less about finding my middle-aged dad.
     
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  5. Zombra Arcane Patron

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    Sorry to reopen the conversation after you graciously dropped it, but a new idea occurred. Want to get this out, no replies necessary or expected. [​IMG]

    After some more thought, I realized that it doesn't matter whether a given RPG is, narratively speaking, a zero to hero killing power level up story. The player still gets to choose how they will level up. "I must exhaust every conversation because there might be xp there" really is another version of "I must hunt every basement for rats because there might be xp there". You can't exalt one of these behaviors yet disdain the other.

    If you play the game at all, you will get xp and level up; completion of that story (and game) objective is always a foregone conclusion. "XP is a story goal as well as a game goal" is simply not sufficient reason to trash dig, farm rats, or endure endless conversations, unless you absolutely have no other way to continue; and I've never seen an RPG that harsh or restrictive. (Maybe Dark Souls, but SRR is no Dark Souls.)
     
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  6. orcinator Savant

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    You see, when you play bad game you can ignore the bad and it become good!
     
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  7. Delterius Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    Delterius
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    Not wanting to come back to this, but ignoring the bad and praising the good is an ancient Codex motto. Just look at Arcanum.
     
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  8. Zombra Arcane Patron

    Zombra
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    Serpent in the Staglands Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
    Close. A game can be good if you don't actively make it bad. It's stupid to say "I had to do too many side quests" when you can finish the game without doing any. Likewise, there is a significant difference between "The game made me read too much text" and "I chose to select options with too much text". Believe it or not, the player has some control and responsibility for what happens in game.
     
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  9. Lacrymas Arcane

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    While some of Zombra's points have merit, they very much depend on the context and the overall execution. The "ignore the bad parts and it becomes good" point isn't one of them, though. I had no qualms about skipping 90% of the dialogue in PoE because I know it's all bullshit that goes nowhere, but that's not the case with Hong Kong. Some conversations do go somewhere, even if they are self-contained, like Ambrose. Not to mention that Crafty "unlocks" the "good" ending. Maximum Law, even if he's obnoxious, gets replaced with pseudo-robots and you are instinctively drawn to find out what happened to him. Companions obviously unlock their missions. Hong King glides somewhere in-between the "vapid" and "interesting" border and that's why it's doubly aggravating. You don't know what will be interesting and what won't be. This fuels a collect-a-thon round-em-up after every mission, going around and talking to everyone to see if they'll say something worthwhile.
     
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  10. Zombra Arcane Patron

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    Serpent in the Staglands Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
    Good post, wanted to touch on this point quickly since it's been mentioned a couple times. Hidden paths and endings are fine, and you wouldn't know they were there unless you looked up a walkthrough or spoilers. If you're looking up spoilers to make sure you're "winning", you shouldn't complain about the existence of hidden endings. Just play the game and get the ending you get.
     
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  11. Roguey Arcane Sawyerite

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    If you don't give a damn about Hong Kong's story does it really matter whether you get to save your old man or not? Ultimately it doesn't make that much of a difference. You get a few lines of different text and get to feel good if you like to feel like a hero.
     
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  12. Siobhan Arbiter

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    One point to add to the Zombra/Lacrymas debate is that irrespective of how one feels about large amounts of text in RPGs in general, it does not gel with the rest of the SRR-design philosophy.

    The one thing that makes those games refreshing --- or despicable, depending on preferences --- is that they completely gut the usual RPG timesinks. You cannot grind, you cannot loot-whore, there aren't myriads of side quests, there is very little worth buying, there isn't even a real character system for anyone but the main character, and exploration means clicking on some superimposed icons. Everything is condensed down to the bare minimum and that makes for a very focused, fast-paced experience. So throwing in tons of meandering dialogue with no immediate payoff is a strange decision.

    The gameplay teaches you that if something is there, it matters because the designers would have cut it otherwise, but then the writing wants you to unlearn that and sample from a rich buffet as you see fit. That's schizophrenic design.
     
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  13. Jedi Master Radek Arcane

    Jedi Master Radek
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    Heresy was never as strong as with this post.:decline:
     
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  14. Zombra Arcane Patron

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    Try it for one game.
     
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  15. Darth Roxor Prestigious Gentleman Wielder of the Huegpenis

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    remove larpers from the premises
     
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  16. Jedi Master Radek Arcane

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    I have ever found your paragraph about not bugging all 20 tavern patrons during PnP session as non intuitive, even if logical. Maybe it is good that I don't play them? I would be the worst player ever.

    GM: You are going through the dark alley
    JMR: Are there any trash bins to loot?
    everyone: No!
    JMR: Strange place!
    GM: There some homeless people in the shadows
    JMR: Hello homeless people!
    GM: Owls are doing owl sound during the night
    JMR: Kill them and loot their bodies!
    GM: You see cockroaches marching through the dirty canal
    JMR: Collect them all!
    GM: Old lady dumbs shit from the window
    JMR: Collect it and sell it to the nearest vendor!
    GM: You enter a big plane where a huge battlefield took place few hours ago
    JMR: [breathing heavy from physical exhaustion] Ha! I was right to take this big cart with us that I found near the road after we killed bandits and then killed merchants who send us after said bandits. If we had let the merchants go as you suggested we would not have this glorious cart for all that wealth laying around!
    GM: Law enforcements "This huge cart shows that those are the murderhobos we are looking for!"
    JMR: Great! More loot has come!
     
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  17. Roguey Arcane Sawyerite

    Roguey
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    LARPing is when you do things the game doesn't acknowledge. Role playing is what you're supposed to do. :M
     
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  18. Sigourn Arcane

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    How is this analogy remotely similar?

    Regarding Zombra 's comment:

    In a cRPG it doesn't make sense that my righteous Paladin decides to take on a quest for a band of robbers. I just do it because EXP and loot, else I'm skipping whatever already limited content the game offers me. If cRPGs offered unlimited possibilities, sure, I would act accordingly (already the scenario I mentioned would provide me with the chance to report the robbers to the authorities, and very few games allow you to do that, like Arcanum's bank quest vs Skyrim's "let's rob a ship, but you won't be able to tell the guards about it") to my character's motivations and goals.

    But they do not. As much as I like cRPGs, there's one thing that is undeniably broken in them: the idea of "replayability" is directly related to the amount of gated content and the fun of the gameplay itself. A game with gated content (New Vegas' questlines) will be more replayable than a game with no gated content (Skyrim's ability to be the Archmage of Winterhold despite having next to no magical requirements; casuals justify this with "just don't do the questline bro!"); likewise, a game where your build vastly offers a different way to play the game will be much more replayable than a game where essentially you are doing the same shit with a different weapon (Dark Souls is much more replayable combat-wise than New Vegas could ever hope to be).

    More power to people if they are autistic enough to purposely avoid content; I find that cRPGs offer very limited amount of content. They are nothing like Skyrim in scope, which (if it was a proper RPG) would be a good game to put the whole "I'm going to act like my character" idea to test, since there's so much shit you could do. In cRPGs? No thanks, I don't mean to turn an already short 25-hour experience into a 15-hour experience.
     
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  19. Darth Roxor Prestigious Gentleman Wielder of the Huegpenis

    Darth Roxor
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    Your character has all the time in the world, ergo it's LARPing. Now, if there was some proper time-management factor in the game, it would be something a lot different. But since there's none...
     
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  20. Roguey Arcane Sawyerite

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    Being particular about words there. "My character would not be interested in completing this task" is role playing.
     
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  21. Darth Roxor Prestigious Gentleman Wielder of the Huegpenis

    Darth Roxor
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    yeah well wot if my character is not interested in completing the main quest and would rather hitch a plane to Abu Dhabi?
     
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  22. Roguey Arcane Sawyerite

    Roguey
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    Then you stop playing. :M
     
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  23. ERYFKRAD Barbarian Patron

    ERYFKRAD
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    Why the hell is your character intent on going to Abu Dhabi anyway?
     
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  24. Zombra Arcane Patron

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    Roguey gets it.

    This is actually a really good question. There are a lot of moving parts here.

    The basic assumption around here is that in an RPG there is a bunch of stuff to do and you have to do it all or you are "doing it wrong". What you are devil's advocating here is the other extreme; doing nothing because "my character wouldn't want to". Of course this is a straw man. You can base your behavior on either of these rationales, but they are both exaggerated and stupid. "0%ing" is even dumber than "100%ing", but 100%ing is still extreme; it continually surprises me that OCD completionism and eschewing anything like actual role-playing are not only seen as normal, but expected behavior; and to do otherwise is viewed as "heretical" (thank you Jedi Master Radek).

    By my lights, the "right" way to play is to imagine I'm taking the game's story seriously, and attempt to portray, as much as the game allows, a character or party who actually exist in that world and also take the story seriously. Now. Taking the story seriously means making a character or party who is interested in pursuing the main quest; for example, in Wasteland 2 the story is predicated on the fact that you are playing as desert cops. You can make a bunch of characters who are all dentists and don't want to enforce the Rangers' vision in any way, but at that point you have to do as Roguey says and stop playing, because the content only supports an active group of Rangers. You have to "buy in" to a certain degree. This means making a party who are desert cops and will therefore care about the robot invasion ... but that's all you have to do. It doesn't mean they have to want to rescue every kitten and it doesn't mean they have to be passionate about digging in trash cans; they might care about kittens and they might love garbage, or they might not, but either way it still makes sense for them to fight crime and storm the robot army HQ. Part of my point is that role-playing is more satisfying when you make decisions about what is and is not important to you within the framework of the main story. Not only is it perfectly okay to say, "Fuck this, I'm here to kill a dragon!", it's simply more fun than treating an RPG like a checklist of tedious obligations. Of course if you or your character care about Baldor's disappearance and want to investigate it on the way, do that too!

    Again: seriously, try it for just one RPG. Let go of the checklist.
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2017
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  25. KazikluBey Augur Patron

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    PC RPG Website of the Year, 2015
    But but..
    [​IMG]
     
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