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The importance of (or lack thereof) "downtime" in RPGs

Discussion in 'General RPG Discussion' started by Crispy, Jul 12, 2019.

  1. Crispy Who's really in charge here? Undisputed Queen of Faggotry

    Crispy
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    It's easy to talk about the importance of all the main aspects of RPGs: combat, interactivity, C&C, character development, etc. But what's often not mentioned, or overlooked entirely, is what our characters in RPGs do, if anything, between adventures -- in their "downtime".

    Very rarely is this kind of thing emphasized or even seen in single-player RPGs. You may have your own "house", or stronghold or whatever, but there's typically nothing to do in it. There may be things like storage containers, even furniture (that is often unusable, for aesthetics only), maybe even an NPC or two acting as a vendor. But why is this so? Why are we as the players not afforded the ability to enjoy the spoils of our labors more in a non-antagonistic or lower-stress environment?

    MMOs sometimes cater more to this. Things like crafting and player housing are designed specifically with the downtime-oriented player in mind. Some people (a surprising amount) actually prefer non-confrontational activity in MMOs. Say of them what you will, but the desire to just "live" in the gameworld and not attempt to conquer it exists in substantial numbers.

    Is this a good thing? Should there be more effort made by RPG designers to allow the player to rest and relax, not just in a shallow, your-character-sits-in-the-chair-and-does-nothing meaningless way, but more "to do" in-between dangerous ventures out into the wilds and into dungeons and so forth? Say, for example, more effort were put into tavern life and conversations or into improving whatever domicile you were afforded in the game.

    It seems to me that in doing so, even if in a minor yet tangible way, you're providing more contrast and thus emphasis on the action bits. Comedy relief is of great importance in dramatic movies and there's a parallel that can be drawn here. It may sound silly, but all work and no play make Jack a dull LARPer.

    What do you think?
     
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  2. Shadenuat Arcane

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    First thing that amazed me even in your first kiddy JRPGs is when all characters decide to go a tavern, sit down and have a dinner and discuss what happened before.
     
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  3. Grauken Divide and Confuse Patron

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    For me downtime is shutting down the game and doing something else
     
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  4. nikolokolus Arcane

    nikolokolus
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    I think there's a way to do it that borrows from tabletop games where "downtime" is made into its own thing. If I'm running a Dungeon Crawl Classics game, I have a carousing table that players can participate in if they want to risk it. Basically it works if you offer experience points for "gold spent" or lay in additional hooks or opportunities for profit (and calamity).

    I think it would have to be a very specific kind of CRPG; probably a dungeon crawler, or some kind of sandbox game where you're not on choo-choo tracks trying to save the world in some designer's misguided attempt to "tell a story" 'cause they weren't talented enough to hack it as a real author.

    EDIT: The new version of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (4e) has something like this baked into its ruleset with its "Endeavors", and it works if you are running a picaresque game, where it's assumed that significant intervals of time pass between adventures and money dwindles down to nothing.
     
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  5. lukaszek the determinator

    lukaszek
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    my characters go to tavern, tip bartender and hear local gossip
     
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  6. Mustawd Arcane

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    I remember thinking about this in 2014/2015 when I played Telepath Tactics (Craig Stern ).

    The game goes from mission to mission with very little breaks in between. I used to play a bit of chess and that setup felt like playing chess game after chess game one after the other. It’s tiring.

    IRL I used to take a break between chess games, do a postmortem and generally think about the game itself a bit before jumping back in to another one.

    I think the same applies to RPGs.


    I feel like going. to town, resting, talking to NPCs, trading and crafting all qualify as downtime.

    Also, there are many instances in RPGs for you to do other things like gamble. This is present in games like Fallout, FF7 (which has a lot of distractions), and the Witcher.



    Depends on who you ask. There are different ways to look at it. One might argue that it detracts from the immediacy of the main quest. How important can the main quest be if you spend all your time gambling, getting drunk and getting into brawls?

    My response to that is to simply create situations where the player has the choice to fuck around without breaking the importance of the main quest.

    Need to get to your next super important destination? Oops...Caravan that was gonna take you broke and it’ll take a night to fix it. Or oops...there is a huge storm that makes traveling impossible or deadly if you do. Or oops, the King/Mayor/Ruler of whatever town or city you’re in insists you stay for the night/day...and it’s up to the player to do what they will with that time.

    Do you just skip it all and go to bed? Or do you fart around all day/night?
     
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  7. Kutulu Magister Patron

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    PC RPG Website of the Year, 2015 Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire Make the Codex Great Again! Grab the Codex by the pussy
    I enjoy downtime in RPGs!

    I also prefer it when it doesnt get cut short artificially, like if i find a decent tavern i want it to stay a decent tavern!
    No ninjas attacking in the night or firestorms forcing me to enter some caves.... there is ofc a place for stuff
    like this in gaming but there is nothing more ridiculous than having multiple peaceful situations interrupted in a row.
     
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  8. Crispy Who's really in charge here? Undisputed Queen of Faggotry

    Crispy
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    Combatfags (of which I consider myself to be) and grognards are going to argue that anything besides the main quest and the meat of the game is unnecessary and fluffy.

    This is the crux of the matter. Is it worth it to invest more resources into the design of these kinds of non-critical activities thus detracting from what could possibly be more polished or sophisticated combat systems or character depth or main story or whatever?

    I actually feel like the majority if RPG fans couldn't care less about what I'm calling downtime features.
     
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  9. DJOGamer PT Magister

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    What the hell are you talking about. RPG's are one of the few game genres where downtime is not only extremely common but the player can also make their own downtime. Walking around a city, seeing shit, talking to NPC's, reading books at some libary, that's downtime.
    You what game genre has actually a lack of downtime, despite it's importance? Action games.
     
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  10. Crispy Who's really in charge here? Undisputed Queen of Faggotry

    Crispy
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    This is a valid point but generally speaking the first three of those examples are going to be involved in advancing the game's main story, thus considered "work", whereas the last is quite the rarity in RPGs.

    I think your problem is the disparity between how you and I would define "downtime". I've made my version clear enough and you can discern my point without too much effort. Arguing over semantics is pointless.
     
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  11. Sabotin Novice

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    I don't get it, a sane person would go afk and do something else rather than look at a game and do absolutely nothing, right? Even in MMOs when you're sitting around you're at least socializing or trading or playing minigames or something. If that's the kind of activities you mean as downtime that's just an issue of pacing and it's not divorced from quests, character development, exploration etc. and really depends on the type of game. I don't think there's any rpg at all where you're high strung the ENTIRE time and even your Diablos and CoDs have slowdowns and breaks...

    Looking at it that way it's part of side content, which rpgs obviously need. Although I prefer content that's not just randomly attached it's still possible for even those sort of things to work for me. It's really a case by case basis for this.
     
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  12. Beastro Arcane

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    This then you describe housing and crafting?

    Downtime in MMOs begins and ends with medding and getting your party back in shape to keep fighting. The time it took in games like EQ could be sizeable, especially after recovering from a wipe or a near wipe.

    Yes it was something that was annoying, sitting around waiting to do something, but that forced social interaction both within your group and in the zone you were in, something which I almost feel is looked upon as a negative by MMOs despite how beloved things like Barrens Chat were.

    In RPGs I don't know how you'd go about doing that, I think the closest would be having to do minor things of q questy nature are that are small and "unepic". You can still look on them as work, but they wouldn't be tied to plot or be full on quests. Those are typically called side quests. I know, but we all know how much those either devolve into busy work or become the meat and potatoes of a game rather than the main quest (TES games) rather than being an enjoyable break from the games focus.
     
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  13. PorkyThePaladin Arcane

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    I think downtime is related to a more general concept of world complexity. If the game world is very complex, then it should naturally offer more interesting things to do, not all of which will involve "active" stuff. For instance, imagine a procedural game with complex NPC behavior. In a world like this, it might be fun to just sit around the town and watch the NPCs talk and get into conflicts with each other, and other shenanigans. Eventually I expect Dwarf Fortress to have this sort of thing in spades.

    Interesting mini-games can also fill this space. I really enjoyed playing Gwent in Witcher 3 during my "downtime". Or poker in RDR1.

    Sometimes, well done quests can also meet this need. Again, going back to Witcher 3, the whole Kaer Morhen questline, when Geralt goes back to their home fortress with the other Witchers is so well done, it felt like well spent time with old friends.
     
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  14. luj1 You're all shills

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    Basically this
     
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  15. luj1 You're all shills

    luj1
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    The concept of "downtime" belongs in an MMO you cockgobbler. All that stuff e.g. housing, crafting, etc. is pure decline.
     
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  16. RaptorRex888 Educated

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    Whenever you're not playing your character is their downtime.
     
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  17. Serious_Business Best Poster on the Codex

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    I do not care about limp dicks, Crispy. I don't care about them at all. When will you understand this properly. What do I need to do to make you understand
     
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  18. ScrotumBroth Scrotal Projection Patron

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    Grab the Codex by the pussy
    Unless it's actually fun for players, like mini games in Witcher series for example, downtime for LARPers is not welcome.
     
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  19. Carrion Arcane Patron

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    I'd say the most basic and common form of downtime is the breather you get when returning to a town after finishing a quest and collecting your reward, selling your loot and spending your coin on better equipment before hitting the road again. I guess nowadays about as common is talking to your party members about their daddy issues.

    But yeah, pacing is important, and I like it when games manage to include some lighter content through their quest design and/or entertaining side activities. As mentioned, the Witcher series is particularly good at this, its minigames as well as its more relaxing quests that usually feature alcohol, sex, or both. One particular thing the series does well is turning its side activities into actual quests, which makes them more interesting than your average minigames.
     
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  20. HarveyBirdman Learned

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    Visually display a limp versus non-limp dick. Let the dick do the talking.
     
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  21. sullynathan Magister

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    Minigames are good uses of downtime, but for some games, the act of exploration qualifies as downtime because it's not particularly strenuous on the player
     
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  22. Alex betthurt

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    Downtime in P&P campaigns offer players the ability to affect the game world in ways that wouldn't work that well otherwise. In a game like high level D&D, for instance, a magic usermight research new spells, build a tower, craft a magic item and maybe even do something more exotic like establishing a secret society to further some shady aspect of magic. A cleric could build a temple, set rules for his order, proselytise nearby communities, (or do magic stuff like the m.u.). A fighter could design his keep, increase the size of his army, build siege weapons, etc. A thief might set up protocols, for his guild, set traps in his hideout, etc. All these things allow the players to act a bit like GMs, to build up the game world however they want, as well as interact with the setting in ways that wouldn't fit normal play.

    It is a bit hard to translate these to computer games, though. Not only would you be limited in how you can interact with these things in a CRPG; taking away the capacity for creative expression and limiting the kinds of interaction to the scope of the game. In most CRPGs I can think of, it wouldn't make sense to allow, for instance, a PC to spend a month working as a crew member in a trading ship. Many RPGs end up limiting the timeframe in a way that taking a one month break wouldn't work. Then others wouldn't have the resource to have a ship and its crew feature in it if they weren't supposed to be part o the story already. Others don't feature enough of the world that working in a ship might work, etc. My point is that any game that is going to invest significantly in downtime options will either: a) feature this downtime as a prominent aspect of gameplay and, if not designed around this, will at least have it be a major aspect of how the game is played. Or b) will be a sandbox game with a lot of subsystems as to capture these possibilities and the consequences they might bring. Which would be pretty cool, except games like this are rare and usually end up feeling empty, possibly because it lacked all the manpower necessary to make the sandbox work without feeling completely generic.
     
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  23. Lilura RPG Codex Dragon Lady

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    I like dual downtime. It gives me a break, and gives my companions time to shine.
     
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  24. InD_ImaginE Cipher

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    The closest downtime in usual western RPGs are Bioware style talk with your companion or NPCs around the city. The problem is the fact that it is entirely possible to exhaust 80% of the conversation options in one sitting.

    "Trails of" JRPG series and I am sure some other games like Shadowrun series have the good idea to lock the NPCs conversation based on mission/time progression. It is even one of the highlight of "Trials of" series where lot of NPC have mini-stories of their own and them telling you their stories in between mission creates a sense of living world. Conversation with companion/party members are limited in sense that you can only do 2 or 3 companion side story at a time. It gives the NPC you choose chance to shine and allows some degree of replayability.

    Besides that maybe just give side activities in form of mini-games people can enjoy. Yakuza series while might not be an RPG has Arcade/Shogi/Baseball or even something as simple as combat challenge and usually has nice sub-stories tied to the side activities as well. Good example in western RPGs are The Witcher series I think. The tavern brawl, Gwent, or Dice Pokers are good downtime also with a little, simple, sub-plot tied to them. Guild War 2, an MMO, has the jumping puzzle thing as well. JRPGs in general often have fishing minigames.
     
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  25. Poos Arcane

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    downtime for me is save then kill everyone or get killed then load
     
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