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Showing, not telling and other concerns

Discussion in 'Iron Tower Studio' started by Jora, Jun 21, 2006.

  1. Jora Arcane

    Jora
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    So I'm playing Prelude to Darkness right now and loving the fact that there are so many varied and innovative uses for skills such as speech, nature, literature and lore, and music. However, I much more prefer the way Arcanum, Fallout and Torment handle the actual use of these skills in dialogues. When I tried to persuade someone in PtD to stop gambling, the option was something along the lines of "Try to persuade him to stop gambling". In the other games I would actually have had to engage in a debate about the subject, read the arguments the PC makes and choose the right counter argument for the opponent's answer. This was great in the Bedokaan village in Arcanum where you had to actually think of what you say to the leader to form an alliance between elves and his people. And it was great in Torment to actually have the chance to tell Dak'kon each of the messages of his Circle yourself and not just choose a "Reveal him the secrets of the Circle" option.

    I read some of the early PtD discussions on this board and noticed that you liked the way rarely used skills can be improved by paying trainers to train you. Do you still think this way or is every skill equally useful in AoD? Are there purposefully less useful skills that are there for just some spesific moments? You called outdoorsman a flavor skill in Fallout saying that it wasn't even supposed to be supported. Are there such skilsl in AoD? Hopefully not. Or at least make it clear in the character creation ("This is here to make the game look cool, it's not a choice, don't put too many points in it!").

    Lastly, non-transparent walls cause much pain and suffering. Adjusting camera every time you enter a small room isn't fun.
     
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  2. galsiah Erudite

    galsiah
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    Another PtD inspired enquiry:
    How are you handling display of usable objects in the environment? Is there a "highlight everything I can interact with" button as in PtD, or is it the mouse-hoverathon of PS:T? [don't tell me there was such a button in PS:T too - if so I wasted needless hours of my life :?]

    Is there any other user interface stuff you consider note-worthy - e.g. stuff that you didn't like in Fallout / PS:T / PtD... that you've done differently? (Most of the UI discussion I've seen has been on the layout of the view, rather than on player interaction with things. Links would be good if I've missed something.)
     
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  3. Jora Arcane

    Jora
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    One thing I don't like about the cursor and clicking in Fallout and PtD is that it's often hard to target objects so that they become highlighted and/or can be interacted with. Clicking is much easier in IE games.
     
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  4. Vault Dweller Commissar, Red Star Studio Developer

    Vault Dweller
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    That's how it's done. You'd have to read and understand arguments and positions and choose an appropriate response based on that understanding. That plays a large role in the game since there are no good or evil parties and positions, but different points of view.

    Equally useful. However, if there are occasionally useful, mostly flavor skills that can't be practiced and used a lot, like Gambling in Fallout, for example, then paying for training makes sense.

    Nope.

    Rotating the camera is very painful in PtD, iirc. It's very easy to do in AoD.

    Small pickable objects aka inventory items - click the Eye icon to get a small inventory window showing every pickable object around you. This window comes up automatically when a battle is over. Locked items (items in nearby chests, etc) won't be shown, obviously. No pixel hunting.

    Large objects that you can interact with (doors, windows, walls, mechanisms) - click to see the list of options text-adventure style.

    Can't think of anything at this point. I wanted simplicity, convinience, and something that's easy to use, but those things are subjective.

    In unrelated news, we are finishing up an 8-page interview that should be posted before the end of the week. Plus 7 new screens.
     
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  5. Pegultagol Erudite

    Pegultagol
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    I am getting more excited about this game every time I read about it. Please keep up the good work!
     
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  6. Jora Arcane

    Jora
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  7. Roqua Prospernaut Dumbfuck Repressed Homosexual In My Safe Space

    Roqua
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    YES!
    I like the PtD way much better. Give me a choice and ambiguity and let my imagination handle the details.
     
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  8. Naked_Lunch Erudite

    Naked_Lunch
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    Actually, I agree. I mean, when you have specific dialogue options like arcanum did you're rather shoehorning things in limited by the developer. When you just have the generic skill descriptions such as <Intimidate> you leave it up to the player and his mind to formulate the conversation. Not saying the whole games dialogues should boil down to skill tags (<info> <gives info> <quest> <gives quest> etc) it's better than trying to accomodate for whatever type the player's character is.

    One could fix this by instilling an "Personality" factor, like in Wizardry 8 and Gearhead, I guess. That way if the player wants to play a mean guy, instead of imagining he's saying mean stuff with the <skill> tag, the game can just pick from 3 or 4 "mean" sounding phrases and use those.

    Eh, whatever. Do what you'd like, VD. It's not my game, just my opinion and it's certainly not a game breaking issue.
     
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  9. Jora Arcane

    Jora
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    But is there gameplay in that? I fear that If you keep the level of interactivity of non-combat skills so low, especially in a game where there is no party and playing a non-combat character is much more encouraged, people would just choose combat skills because that would at least offer something to do.

    Fights can be fought in different ways. Similarly to your idea, maybe it could be possible to implement different ways of persuading someone with actual dialogue options? There could be alternative arguments that reflect different points of view. They could lead to the same outcome or to something different. Maybe changing the tone of your argument (accidentally or otherwise) in the middle of a debate might make the opponent wary of you and not believe in your ability to understand the situation?

    I just think that using arguments instead of just goals offers much more.
     
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  10. Roqua Prospernaut Dumbfuck Repressed Homosexual In My Safe Space

    Roqua
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    Thats a good point. I still like ambiguity better but I see where you are coming from. i suggest you check out The Burning Wheel and their Duel of Wits system. It sounds like its right up your alley. Not really for me, but it definitely spices up conversation without forcing characters to choose pre=scripted dialgue choices. Unless you like to be forced into playing the role the designer picked for you and saying what the designer thinks the character you are supposed to playing would and will have to say.
     
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  11. Jora Arcane

    Jora
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    Thanks for the recommendation. Duel of Wits seems very interesting.
    That may be a wrong way to look at it. IMO persuasion skill is about getting another person to do what you want by saying things he wants or is willing to hear. So the skill is both about understanding the other person and tailoring your words to suit your ends. Who knows best what the person wants? The DM (in this case Vault Dweller) of course, followed by the PC if his skill is high enough. Choosing a speech (or nature, or music...) skill option isn't about saying what you want to say but relying on your character's knowledge about the situation and the other person(s).

    It's also about stating cold facts. I don't think that saying that someone's cattle is dying because a hunter is hunting a species of predators in the area leaves much room for the speaker's personality to affect the message.

    (And of course, I don't mind saying things the developers have written for me as long as there is more than one way to express the same thing and/or the writing isn't horrible.)
     
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  12. Roqua Prospernaut Dumbfuck Repressed Homosexual In My Safe Space

    Roqua
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    What’s wrong with vague choices? They do the same thing without putting words in your character’s mouth that they would never have in their mouths. All your examples could go the other way.

    Either way does exactly the same thing with the exception of one puts words in your character’s mouth and the other doesn’t. We can chalk this up to personal preference (but I think I’d win because I prefer the choice that more accommodates roleplaying, but you prefer the more popular option, like RT combat).

    Duel of Wits is really the only example I can think of that could do it differently (besides I guess Obliviojn had a mini-game with dialogue or something like that, but that doesn’t seem to be a very popular way to go).
     
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  13. Jora Arcane

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    My choice has more playing whereas you prefer role-imagining (which is popular among the TES fans, isn't it? :wink: )
     
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  14. Roqua Prospernaut Dumbfuck Repressed Homosexual In My Safe Space

    Roqua
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    YES!
    Sure, the devs putting words in your character's mouth is roleplaying.
     
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  15. Jora Arcane

    Jora
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    I didn't mean role-playing, just playing in general.

    edit: "putting words in a character's mouth" makes role-playing a non-combat character more interesting and satisfying.
     
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  16. Azarkon Arcane

    Azarkon
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    Until we have sophisticated AI that can parse and understand what you type, that's the best option.

    Otherwise you can never really hold a conversation with a NPC. That defeats the whole purpose of having great writing in a game. What's the point of The Transcendent One waxing philosophical if your responses are:

    (tell him to shut up)
    (persuade him that he's wrong)
    (say that you don't care)

    Might as well fire all the writers, then, and replace the whole game with generic text. And then ask yourself: what's the point of playing? What am I buying here that I can't "imagine" myself?

    Games do have value, and there's more to that value than your imagination. It sounds to me that some people are falling into the trap of their own theoretic principles. Following the philosophy that things like writing, graphics, and sound are just "fluff" and that CRPGs need none of them to support "true" roleplaying leads to the reductio ad absurdum that the best CRPG has no graphics, no writing, and no sound. In other words, it doesn't exist.
     
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  17. Roqua Prospernaut Dumbfuck Repressed Homosexual In My Safe Space

    Roqua
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    I agree in a sense to both of you, but for different reasons. I like A-guy’s example, that’s what I like since I let my imagination do the work. But since games are supposed to move rpgs from imagination to a concrete thing and pre-scripted dialogue are kind of where it needs to be.

    But I strongly disagree that they should aim for “great” dialogue for your character. Because great dialogue needs a lot of personality, and that’s what I’m supposed to give my character, not the devs. I want bland and general so I can easily replace it in my mind by what my character would say.

    p.s. plenty of games had great writting for npcs and no prescripted choices for your characters, like wiz 7 and 8.
     
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  18. RGE Liturgist

    RGE
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    Daydreaming on my couch - best 'game' I ever played. Playing even good games has begun to feel like work in comparison.
     
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  19. Jora Arcane

    Jora
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    More questions insipred by Prelude:

    In PtD the towns and cities feel like they are full of life. There's a market dedicated to selling food in the Barrier Fortress, with different stands specializing in different products. There's a barber shop in the Citadel, a street musician you can perform with, people crowding in the taverns at nightfall and heading to home after midnight. Many of the quests are related to the relationships between all kinds of people, making the NPCs more than filler (villager #1, #2, etc.). It wasn't all about politics and faction intrigue, but about all sorts of things in life.

    What's AoD going to be like? Are there lovely details, do many of the politically less important people have personalities and quests attached to them? Or are the quests made to serve the main plot or the faction rivalry quest lines?
     
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  20. Vault Dweller Commissar, Red Star Studio Developer

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    No, it won't be like that. The game is designed differently.
     
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  21. Jora Arcane

    Jora
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    I'll be interested in seeing what you've come up with. Whatever road you've chosen, hopefully it will be as (or more) immersive as PtD. Just asking because you've mentioned Prelude as an inspiration so often.
     
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  22. katzenjammer Novice

    katzenjammer
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    Will there be any generic villagers to add atmosphere, though?
     
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  23. TalesfromtheCrypt Arcane

    TalesfromtheCrypt
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    I liked the way Arcanum handled it because even if your persuade skill was high, you still had to think about what you were saying.

    I did'nt analyse the whole mechanics, but I think it worked like this:

    I think a high persuadion skill in Arcanum allowed you to have success even if you chose a "worse" dialogue option, a dialogue option which wouldn't lead to diplomatic success if a character with a low persuadion chose it.
    So the persuade skill only broadend the number of dialogue options leading to success, but it didn't indicate the right dialoge option through something like
    [Persuade] Dialogue Line

    And choosing the right dialogue lines could often be kinda tricky, since you were presented with many valid ones.
    I remember one situation:
    I wanted to steal an item out of an old Elvengrave, and upon arriving there I met a group of Elves standing next to the body of a human explorer they killed.

    They tell me they don't wan't anybody disacrificing the grave side, and ask me in a hostile way who I am and what I want here.
    You can chose to pretend to be an scolar who is send to explore these ruins, but of course you don't want to steal anything. If you chose to say at one point that you are "a man of science" the elfes will kill you since they anti-science zealots.
    Anyways, if you manage almost to convince them of your good will, the leader asks you the question what you would do if they let you go:

    You are presented with two options:
    1)I will tell nobody about it, I promise.
    2) I will tell everybody about it as a warning of what happened here.

    Now, at first glance the option 1) seems the right thing to say, however turns out that if you choose this option, the elvenleader will accuse you of being a lier who would say everything to save his skin and the group attacks you.
    If you chose the 2nd option, he will actually respect your honesty and leave you in peace, just telling you to get away as quick as possible, since its actually in the elfes interest that people hear about what happened to this grave robber and take a lesson from it, meaning don't bother the graveyard again.

    Now where was my point again. I think that this system I described is superior to the "[Diplomacy/Persuade]Dialogue Line" approach (no matter if the actual dialogue line is written out or left to your imagination) because it has at least a bit of challenge in it.
    You still have to think about what to say and can fail.
    Of course unfortunatly this challenge is easily avoided by the option to reload your game and just try another sequence of dialogeoptions until you come to the end that satisfies you. However, that's a general problem of the saving system. You can reload after a failed gambling attempt, after a failed pickpoting attempt etc and still gambling and pickpoting exist without giving you instant success.
     
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  24. Jora Arcane

    Jora
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    Yes, that was a good idea. Even the bandits at the bridge dialogue in Shrouded Hills can lead to a fight even if you have high enough persuasion skill.

    The only solution is to design the situations to allow failures. If the player chooses the wrong answer, don't reward him with a "Lol go home quest failed" text. Find a way to develop the situation further to a new, different conclusion. The elves at the tomb might send the PC back to Tarant coated in tar and feathers (resulting in reputation damage for being a man who doesn't get things done, for exapmle) but with a nice amount of experience.
     
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  25. jeansberg Liturgist

    jeansberg
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    So there'll be no wedding planning, then? I think I'll skip on this one. :evil:
     
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