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RPG limits?

Discussion in 'General RPG Discussion' started by hexer, May 17, 2019 at 3:18 PM.

  1. hexer Arcane

    hexer
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    Let's see if some generally accepted design staples limit the creativity of RPGs.
    I think about these things a lot both as a game developer and a player.

    Some devs adopt them by default, probably thinking it's a magic formula for success,
    and ignore the fact their fantasy game will end up feeling the same as most others.

    1. Gygaxian dungeons

    The idea of dungeons being detached from the main compound (castle, etc.) and placed in the middle of nowhere without a backstory always baffled me.
    DnD is filled with such "logic" - dungeons don't need an explanation, they need monsters.

    2. Elves, dwarves, orcs, goblins, trolls

    I cannot play a fantasy game with Tolkienesque races anymore unless the games themselves are based on Middle-earth.
    I've had enough of their endless iterations for the rest of my life.

    3. Filler sidequests

    There are good sidequests - the ones that expand on the world and make it more interesting - such as Modoc/Ghost Farm from Fallout 2 or the ones from NieR:Automata that had impact on the main story.

    But then there are those that are added simply to bloat the gameplay hours numbers or help player reach that sweet level spot so he can progress in the main story.

    They're disconnected from the main story, forgettable and tedious.
    Sometimes they feel like those DnD 3rd edition supplement books that had hundreds of monsters/items/prestige classes that felt authors made them with a random generator.

    If a sidequest isn't super-creative or doesn't affect the main story,
    I say the designer will automatically, consciously or subconsciously, spend less effort on it and players will notice that in the end.
     
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  2. JarlFrank I like Thief THIS much Patron

    JarlFrank
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    Weird thread title. None of these are an actual "limit" as in, the limits of technology that prevent us from implementing certain features, or the limits of game design preventing us from making certain features fun (as in, there's a limit to how much simulationist realism you can put in before it turns from fun to tedious - having to eat and drink to prevent starvation, and sleep to prevent tiredness which would give you a stat debuff can be interesting, but if you make the player character go to the toilet twice every day or he'll shit his armor, you kinda crossed from fun to tedious).

    Actual limits would be things like, you can't make a 100000 km² megadungeon consisting of a single map without loading screens, due to obvious technical limitations.

    That said, I think especially today there are very few hard limits from a technical perspective. You can do a lot of cool shit, as long as you have the budget and manpower to implement it.

    This thread seems to be more about how certain genre tropes constrict creativity and lead to run-of-the-mill content implementation, though, which has nothing to do with "limits" of any kind.

    1. Gygaxian dungeons can be cool if done right and filled with proper monsters and traps. They fit the dungeon crawling subgenre of RPG perfectly. And if it's properly Gygaxian, it will have some kind of backstory to it that explains why it's there. Sure, it won't be anything super realistic, but it'll be enough to make it more than just a random dungeon in a random location. A well-done dungeon crawl is just lovely. But it has to be done right - fill it with cool encounters and cryptic hints to its backstory. If it's filled with filler combat, it belongs in the trash.

    2. Yeah they've gotten stale long ago, but it's fine if a game is directly based on D&D rules (like the recent Pathfinder: Kingmaker), or if it puts an interesting spin on it (Shadowrun elves and dwarves are fine). But if you're creating an original fantasy world from scratch, without any pen and paper RPG system as your foundation, then you should try to come up with something fresh. Less elves, more thri-kreen please.

    3. Filler is always shit, be it sidequests or encounters. Then again, not every sidequest has to be something epic or unique. "Deliver this thing to that dude" can be a valid sidequest among a dozen more cool and interesting quests. And maybe it even has a twist in it, like if you open the letter you're supposed to deliver, the seal will be broken, and the people you delivered it to will attack you for knowing too much. As long as a quest is interesting, it doesn't have to be super unique or complex.
     
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  3. hexer Arcane

    hexer
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    I wrote that title on purpose because everything can be quantified and described mathematically.
    So yeah, creativity can be limited, it can be of lower value than possible.
    Think of it like geometry.. you can either create a triangle or a fractal.. and describe both mathematically.

    Thanks for your answers, I'll take them into consideration!
    But feel free to post things you yourself consider creativity-killers!
     
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  4. Voltigeur Literate

    Voltigeur
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    Totally agree with the race thing, and I'd even expand it onto the whole setting.
    If it's some generic D&D western fantasy sludge, it gets difficult for me to care, it really does.
     
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  5. Barbalos Educated

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    Labyrinthian dungeons that are supposed to be a villain or monster's home or base always bother me. As I'm navigating I'm thinking "how do these people even get around this place?". It's even worse in some modern day urban-type area "dungeons" when it takes 30min to an hour to get from one place in a compound to another because Game. It breaks immersion for me when I notice that.
     
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  6. V_K Arcane

    V_K
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    Anything can be a dungeon though, if properly designed. Including forests, cities and bodies of water. It's just a gameplay thing - anything in RPG that isn't a dungeon or a hub automatically becomes filler space that only bloats the size of the game.
    Personally, I'm generally not a fan of quests - as in, having a NPC telling you exactly what to do. I much prefer "emergent" quests - where you encounter a roadblock and have to work out a solution.
     
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  7. Darth Canoli Savant

    Darth Canoli
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    Yes, delivery quest expertise for Arcanum but there were a mythic preceding :

    Deliver a mysterious box but nobody seem to want it, what to do with the box ? Deliver it anyway ? Open it ? Keep it for later and "forget" it in your backpack ?
     
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  8. JarlFrank I like Thief THIS much Patron

    JarlFrank
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    When I was at university they built a new building on campus to hold seminars in. The layout was confusing, the numbering system of the rooms had no logic to it so even if you knew the room number you had to search for 10 minutes, and there were doors that freely opened from one side but required an access card to open from the other side. I never had any seminars in that building because it was mostly used by sociologists (who are heavily SJW infiltrated so it's literally a villain's base) but I accompanied a friend to her seminar room in there after she told me how confusing the building is. I wanted to see it for myself.

    It was the fifth week of her seminars so she had been to that room several times before. It still took her fifteen minutes to find the room because of the confusing layout and room numbering system that made no sense. I tried helping her find it by looking at a layout map on the wall, with the room numbers on it. Even that didn't help much. When we finally found her room she said goodbye and entered her seminar. I was left alone to find my way back out. I decided to go back out the way we came in. But one of those doors required an access card to open for some reason (even though going through the other way hadn't required anything at all) so I had to find a different way out. Took me at least 10 minutes to find the exit.

    There's nothing unrealistic about buildings being designed like that. :M
     
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  9. Barbalos Educated

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    I know there are places like that, when they are logically designed it's not immersion breaking. However many times it feels very contrived with blocked doors/passages, convenient air-ducts, required detours etc. Those are the type of things that contribute to me losing immersion. I think convincing level design is fairly difficult and most game designers aren't really up to the task of designing areas that are suitable for a game while not being too illogical.
     
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  10. V_K Arcane

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    I'll take artificial and fun over realistic and boring any day.
     
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  11. Mr. Magniloquent Learned

    Mr. Magniloquent
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    Baldur's Gate 1 had good examples of "classic" "Gygaxian" dungeons. Most were relatively small and consisted of caves or very minor ruins. Bestiaries were largely mundane and loot was tame. When they were larger, they had plausible scenarios. Gnolls taken over a long ruined and nameless fortress. Various operational mines. Durlag's Tower, grandiose as it was had a lot of justification. The only two dungeons that stick out are the maze-like ruins under the Firewine bridge, and the mysterious frozen wizard island.
     
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  12. PorkyThePaladin Arcane

    PorkyThePaladin
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    To be honest, I think the 'dex can provide excellent ideas for new fantasy races. Warpigs, Crispies, Prospers, Fluents, Drogs, Excidiums, etc.
     
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  13. lukaszek the determinator

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    what about dice that some claim are required in rpgs. Even worse if it MUST be d20 with stats/bonuses/thresholds being lower than 20
     
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  14. JarlFrank I like Thief THIS much Patron

    JarlFrank
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    Narrow genre expectations. The issue you already mentioned of fantasy defaulting to elves and dwarves, but it goes beyond that. I've read plenty of fantasy books, both new and old, and there's a lot of cool shit out there. Oldschool pulp sword and sorcery, and sword and planet which combines fantasy and scifi. New Weird like China Mieville's Bas-Lag. The cool magic systems Brandon Sanderson keeps coming up with. One of my favorite fantasy authors is Martha Wells, not a big name in the genre but great adventure fantasy that is terribly underrated. One of her coolest works is her The Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy, which is set in a fantasy world that reached early 20th century levels of technology (WW1/interwar period levels of tech). This world is invaded by people from another dimension who ride airships and wear nazi-style black uniforms. The people of Ile-Rien manage to reverse engineer a portal and go to the world those invaders come from - only to find out it's a world with a medieval tech level and the invaders only use it as a proxy to stage their invasions from. So you end up with 3 different worlds with different tech levels that can be traveled between with portals, and there's magic but also modern firearms and shit. It's cool. It's creative. It's different.

    Meanwhile Obsidian claimed Pillars of Eternity would have a "non-generic" fantasy setting, yet all they did is rename goblins to some other name and add "matchlock muskets" which are actually flintlocks (lol), but literally everything else about it is as generic as it comes. There is barely any experimentation setting-wise in fantasy RPGs. Morrowind was great fantasy that felt alien, but Elder Scrolls became boringly generic in subsequent games. Arcanum tried something new by dropping an industrial revolution on the elves and dwarves. But games like that are the exception. The majority of fantasy games just copy the same old fantasy tropes.

    It goes beyond elves and dwarves, too. Magic is almost always glass cannon dudes throwing fireballs and magic missiles around. Tech level is almost always pseudo-medieval. Etc etc.

    A lot of RPGs tend to try to copy successful games that have gone before, rather than trying to find a new niche for themselves or creating a game that stands on its own as a creative new offering in the genre. It's become especially prevalent in recent times, the 90s and early 00s saw a lot more experimentaton because genres and design principles weren't as codified back then.

    Also the genre expectation of "RPG = fantasy". The majority of RPGs still goes for the classic D&D style fantasy cause that's what's most closely associated with the genre. Or, if it's an RPG made in Eastern Europe, it tries to clone Fallout as closely as possible (sometimes the result of that is great though, as we can see from Underrail and ATOM RPG). There's little variation on these themes: most RPG devs go either for fantasy or for post-apoc.

    But where's my cheesy Flash Gordon style sword and planet adventure? Why can't we have a modern urban fantasy RPG where you can battle secret witch cults with SMGs and grenades? What about a cosmic horror RPG set in WW2 where you are part of an SS division investigating ancient Hyperborean ruins found in Antarctica but all you uncover is Lovecraftian horrors? Why not give us an RPG set in a fantasy stone age where you can craft your own stone age weapons like stone spears and axes, and face off against dinosaurs and mammoths, maybe you can even tame a raptor and use it as a mount? A modern crime RPG where you can decide to work as a henchman for one of three different mafia families and eliminate the competition, meanwhile trying to keep the cops off your heels?

    There are so many cool settings RPGs could try their hands at but genre expectations keep most devs going for classic D&D style fantasy.
     
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  15. PorkyThePaladin Arcane

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    You guys aren't even covering most egregious creativity killers:

    Hitpoints: this overdone abstraction always leads to dull combat, because if you have a hitpoint bar, combat inevitably devolves into a spammy exchange of attacks and numeric comparisons. As opposed to real combat, which revolves around avoidance of damage.

    Mundane archery-like magic: magic is always just a fancier form of archery, with more visual effects. It has some utility too, but you have to be quite dull to sleep/confuse enemies when you can just blast them. This is not what magic should be like. Why not make magic truly different in every way? It should be learned by going through dramatic rituals, performing experiments, obtaining long lost secrets, etc, not by leveling up or buying scrolls at the store. And it should do dramatic, epic things, not be an archery substitute.

    Crazy power curves: numeric bloat almost always leads to your character/party being demigods by the middle of the game. This is stupid, because it marginalizes the world. The greatest knight/gunfighter/etc could still be taken out by some peasant if he wasn't careful in RL (look at how Wild Bill Hickock died), and this keeps things poignant and interesting.

    Evil villains: even RPGs hailed for blurred lines (such as the Witcher series or Arcanum) inevitably have you facing off against some villain. Whyyyyy? Obviously RL is much more nuanced, so why not create games with gray characters as well?
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2019 at 5:27 PM
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  16. frajaq Learned

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    a thousand times yes, i'm so fucking sick of this shit
     
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  17. lukaszek the determinator

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    rpgs is basically interactive fairy tale/myth/you get the idea.

    its same problem as tolkien races really since all of it is extension of that one book for children
     
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  18. Duckard Savant

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    I don't have a problem with anything that has been listed in this thread except for filler sidequests, but only because filler implies it's a waste of time.

    Generic fantasy races are insipid, but there are games with interesting variants on them. All the "this is unrealistic" stuff doesn't matter at all, since we're talking about RPGs, and not simulation games.
     
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  19. Dorateen Arcane

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    The world needs more traditional D&D inspired role-playing games, like Realms Beyond and Knights of the Chalice. Not less.
     
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  20. V_K Arcane

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    FTFY.
     
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  21. hexer Arcane

    hexer
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    Great discussion bros, I too can say I found solace in books!
    Can you imagine a Lord of Light or a Stranger in a Strange Land CRPG?!
    That's the stuff we need!!

    When I show my stories to colleagues who play it safe, they're like "but that's not what the mass market wants! it won't be mainstream"
    To Hell with that cowardice, it's not called fantasy so we can only dream of it in the same way.

    And yeah, Pillars of Eternity was the latest example of false marketing, at least when it comes to their KS campaign.

    "In this fantastic new world we're creating without any IP restrictions that held us back in the past, there will be NO gods. Until the sequel!
    And wait until you see all those cool new races we came up with just for you, our naïve fans."
     
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  22. Gregz Arcane

    Gregz
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    Pathfinder (modern D&D) has something like 50 playable races:

    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?200645-Pathfinder-Player-Race-List

    Asking a cRPG to implement all of them? Probably outside of budget.
     
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  23. Sheep Dumbfuck! Dumbfuck

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    STORYFAGGORY.
     
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  24. Old Hans Arbiter

    Old Hans
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    heh my new rpg has all kinds of cool new races like the Kordox poeple. they are a short bearded race who enjoy living in their mountain halls mining for gems
     
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  25. Mastermind Arcane Patron Bethestard

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    I'm playing Elminage Original right now. It has hit points, damage based magic and sleep/confuse.

    In no way do they lack utility. Sometimes you want to kill shit. Some enemies (IE: phoenixes) can nuke my whole party in one shot and have too much health to kill with damage spells. To make matters worse they are often grouped with fire elementals which are weaker but also have AOEs so even high health party members like Lords don't survive the round, and if they do they're too busy healing themselves to resurrect downed party members. Most of my successful encounters against them revolve around paralyzing/petrifying them before they can get off a cast of Ass Rape, or beheading/instant kill spells. Monsters also tend to have very good weapons that you might want to relieve them of with a thief, which means you have to immobilize them so they don't kill you while your thief disarms and steals their beaks and claws.

    Lack of imagination has nothing to do with the presence of direct damage spells or hit points.
     
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