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Interview Vince D. Weller and Mark Yohalem RPG Mega-Interview by Chris Picone

Discussion in 'RPG News & Content' started by Infinitron, Feb 3, 2018.

  1. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

    MRY
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    His life is way more interesting. I'm a generic well-off American whose life has entailed no meaningful struggle. It's easy to masquerade as a nice guy with that background.
     
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  2. Trashos Arcane

    Trashos
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    Speech control is thought control. Science knows it, politicians know it, you know it, I know it. The day the Codex turns into a PC cesspit (and it's getting there), I am out.

    You are a brave man though, and you have my respect despite any disagreements (and I have plenty).
     
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  3. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

    MRY
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    To clarify, I was talking about self-restraint, not moderator intervention. Part of what is wonderful about freedom is that it nurtures the best qualities in people, but one of those qualities is judgment. (Autonomy means setting laws for yourself, after all.) Stealing liquor from your parents is a fun and sometimes necessary part of adolescent freedom, but if you never get past stealing others, liquor, you aren't meaningfully free, you're just a slave to impulse rather than fiat.

    (Of course, the cruelest victory of tyrants is when they make us put chains on ourselves, so it's hard to know what is slavishness and what is autonomy. I'm relatively confident that treating people kindly is the latter, though.)

    Anyway, enough derailing!
     
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  4. Arulan Arbiter

    Arulan
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    An excellent interview.

    I strongly agree with Vince's stance on magic. The combat-focused use of magic, and often of the most generic kind (ranged elemental magic attacks), is a great failing of a lot of RPGs. Not only do I agree that magic should be far more creative, and used for non-combat scenarios, but I think its systems and thematic significance in the setting should be (typically) of the unknown and mysterious. That is, the game should keep the strings that pull it all together hidden for as long as possible, if not forever. The player should feel like anything is possible. Like they're only grasping at straws of some esoteric knowledge. Because once they pull back the curtain, it all becomes mundane and predictable.
     
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  5. Duckard Savant

    Duckard
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    I can finally stop reading MRY's user name as an angry cat noise. Speaking of MRY, I want to point out one of few the things I disagreed with.

    Not every game needs to minimize the deviation between what the player feels and what the characters feel. In particular it's not necessary in a game like X-Com since we don't embody any of the characters individually. Instead, we command them like an officer might command his troops. Soldiers will naturally have thoughts and feelings different from those of their commander. Bringing this back to single character RPGs, I'd say that the only character that should feel what the player feels is their own custom avatar. Often we take control of NPC companions during combat. These are characters that otherwise have unique personalities and desires. It is not wrong for them to feel afraid and ran away in dangerous situation, even if the player doesn't feel the same way.
     
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  6. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

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    Those were separate points. I find mind control/panic annoying as a player irrespective of mimesis (X-Com and Gold Box alike). I agree with you point though!
     
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  7. Blakemoreland Hybrid Boss Magister Patron

    Blakemoreland Hybrid Boss
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    Grab the Codex by the pussy
    Politness is not speech control, it is just a basic condition of any meaningful conversation. Conflating the two things on the other hand is a good excuse to indulge in internet insults and petty bickering.
     
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  8. azimuth Educated

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    What? This is basically the opposite of both my experience and what I tend to hear. You've never played a roguelike or similar? You're basically saying all of your best gaming memories are created by save scumming.

    Around half of my best gaming memories as an adult are tied to games with enforced ironman mechanics in some form -- for example, the brilliant Invisible Inc., where failure necessitates improvisation that is both thematically fitting and strategically interesting.

    As a kid, I would save scum constantly to avoid even the slightest disadvantage, but if you're still playing that way as an adult, I recommend holding back and seeing how a little failure can add some spice to the story that is your campaign (whatever the game).

    That said, I do grant that reloading after a hard battle to try it a different way has its own appeal, but "reload after every failure" is not the way all of us think games should be designed.
     
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  9. StaticSpine Arcane Patron

    StaticSpine
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    MRY With all that deep understanding of mechanics, strong opinions on different game design aspects and (cult followed) Primordia behind your back how come games are only a hobby for you? Is it all about financial well-being, is it that trivial?
     
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  10. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

    MRY
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    I love the law, and I've probably never been better (certainly never been adjudged better) at anything in my life than being a lawyer. If I wasn't a lawyer, I'd probably want to be a teacher (in fact, I went to law school after being unable to get a job teaching English). Making games full time doesn't really hold that much allure to me. The ability to walk away makes everything about it that would otherwise be exasperating fairly trivial.
     
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  11. Diggfinger Arbiter

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    "...the true intellectuals among us figured out a long time ago that RPGs are about a level 1 character’s epic quest to become a level 20 character".

    Vince for President!
    :mrpresident:
     
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  12. thesheeep Arcane

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    Right, I've never played a roguelike and all my best gaming memories stem from save scumming.
    That's... a very creative interpretation :lol:
    Both is so far from the truth that I won't even comment on that further.

    My experience with Invisible Inc. was that I played through it once and had 0 desire to replay it. Really don't know why some people praise that game so much, I found it rather boring.
    A better example to me would be Battle Brothers or X-Com, where you can recover from setbacks (and it is indeed part of the design).

    But by far not all games are like that, nor would I say they should be.
    In the vast majority of games, failure ends in reload. Inevitably, as you want to proceed in the game. What else are you gonna do?
    Not reload and uninstall?
    Play the entire game again just for a chance to have a better position for the failure?
    Even if I had unlimited time, I wouldn't do that. No, I reload from a position before the situation and try to tackle it again - again, if it is realistic that I can actually win.

    It has nothing to do with avoiding disadvantages. That would be reloading after each fight if you got hurt just to be in a better position for whatever follows, which would indeed be nonsense. Or saving after each positive round in a TB combat game.
    What I'm talking about is advancing in the game and/or getting to gated/optional content.

    It is true that I never play Ironman in some games, if it can be avoided.
    But that is not to avoid any kind of disadvantage, it is to save time. I simply don't want to spend forever trying to beat a game like Battle Brothers.
    When I made a really stupid move that resulted in a wipe in a situation that is too dire to have a comeback or when I just want to try and see what is behind that very hard mission (I know it will likely be too much, but I still want to check and see). In both cases, I've gained some knowledge, reload the game and proceed in a different way.
    Without save games, I'd have spent many previous hours for naught and would just have to start all over again. Which in almost every game means doing all the easy first hours stuff again and again and again...
    I know that is what some people like, but for me that is just a waste of my time (since it involves no challenge I haven't overcome already).

    I prefer playing many games in less time to trying to get perfect at a single game, playing only that for a long time. It is a personal preference, nothing more.
    Hence it is good when a game offers both modes for people that like them for whatever reason.
     
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  13. Arulan Arbiter

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    Have you ever considered making an RPG that strongly incorporates a system of law, trials of some sort, and the need for characters with the skill to understand that system?
     
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  14. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

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    Here was my joke on what that would actually look like.

    The kind of law that interests me doesn't seem easily reducible to gameplay. In fact, gameplay might treat the subject matter in a burlesque fashion (like Phoenix Wright) that would trivialize something that I consider important. For example, you could have CCG-style gameplay where you collect case precedent through a mix of exploration and advancing levels (like learning spells in AD&D) and then you use that precedent as spells and counterspells until you win the case, with the facts of the case and the judge(s) before whom you're appearing operating as special circumstances that set the value and effects of precedent or something. Then winning (or losing) battles would create new precedent, so there would be a strategic overlay where sometimes you might deliberately lose or something? But ultimately that feeds the worst impressions of the law (arcane and arbitrary rules that are just part of a cynical game). Even if there were some truth to that impression, there are plenty of forces out there spreading that perspective, and I'd rather not lend them whatever little force I can add.

    I do try to work legal themes and even elements into my games, though -- Primordia had a law clerk robot (who opined about positive law), an LSAT exam question as a puzzle, and a difficult-to-resolve case as a choice-with-consequences. A big theme in Fallen Gods is lawlessness as a destructive force, and of law as a kind of covenant that binds people together. But even though my favorite legal drama takes place in an Icelandic saga (the Saga of Burnt Njal), the few times you actually interact with the law are pretty conclusory -- you're not researching and reconciling law, you're just deciding an outcome.

    If I can somehow manage to make games that encourage people to believe in law as a cultural patrimony, part of what defines us and binds us and protects us, I would be very happy with myself. Simulating legal practice would be a fun novelty, but it's not essential.

    Incidentally, I think something like Vince's Inquisition setting -- in which players would navigate among, bend, break, and invoke religious rules, natural law, and supernatural bindings -- would be a good vehicle for talking about "legal" law without actually talking about it.
     
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  15. Mastermind Arcane Patron Bethestard

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    If by now you can't bore the entire senate into begging you to stop with multi-page theorems and formulas on the exact parameters of the continuum between RPG and popamole then I'm afraid your time here has been wasted.
     
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  16. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

    MRY
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    I think the conventional answer is to say that the question can't be answered in the abstract because it would prejudge the issue should it arise in an actual case or controversy, which naturally would have to be evaluated on its own particular facts. Then when pressed on whether an already-released game is an RPG, I would insist on answering "under established usages." "IGN would call that an RPG, Mr. Senator." "But would you?" "I'm afraid I haven't played it sufficiently to form my own opinion."
     
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  17. agris Arcane Patron

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    You jest, but I haven't seen a meaningful exchange in a senate nomination hearing in years.
     
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  18. Harg Harfardarssen Cipher Patron

    Harg Harfardarssen
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    That's kind of cheating. I think if Matlock beheaded lying witnesses he might have a wider fanbase.

    Alternate joke: You should read it in the original Klingon.

    FWIW, if you are doing possible market research on this game, I think that a multi-multi-generational narrative a la King of Dragon Pass would be more effective than legal practice simulator, if only because that's what worked for me. Your reference to Njal's saga reminded me of the legal history class that taught me to stop edgelording and love the law. By placing the development of the law over a millennium of problems and solutions and solutions to the problems created by the solutions (and cultural and social changes creating new problems addressed with repurposed old solutions amidst the intersection of multiple dispute resolution traditions [civil/anglo-saxon/danelaw]), it really humanized the idiosyncracies and helped me to see the law as a human achievement iterated over generations, like a city or a religion, representing the compromise of a million different perspectives rather than as a failed attempt at perfect organization (a paradigm which I think or project is at the heart of most cynicism about the law).
     
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  19. SCO Arcane In My Safe Space

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    A million compromises can still be wrong, but I'm always glad when someone grows up from edgelording. Technology will save us all (mindreading tech when?)
     
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  20. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

    MRY
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    Fair enough, but that's not why I enjoyed the saga so much. The saga is great for many reasons, but the special part of the legal drama for me is the climax where there is a trial between the good faction and bad faction at the Thing. The good guys are going to win, but then the bad guys, advised by their lawyer, challenge the qualification of one of the jurors selected to hear the case because the juror lacks sufficient acreage of land. The good guys are staggered and rush back to their own lawyer (I don't think it's Njal; I think he's burnt by this point). He's so furious with them for making such a sloppy mistake in impaneling the jury, he slams his spear into his own foot. Then, notwithstanding this injury, he recites to them an obscure legal rule that permits a shortfall in qualifying acreage to be made up by a sufficient head of cattle. The good guys rush back, check with the juror, confirm the size of his herds, and then return to the Thing, where they provide the counter legal rule. Now it's the bad guys who are nonplussed. They rush back to their lawyer, and he stands there dumbstruck, eventually saying that he of course knew that rule, which he had learned from an old, wise, and now dead lawyer, but that he believed himself to be the only living lawyer in Iceland aware of it. "There's nothing more I can do for you," he tells them. (I may be messing up some details, but that's the gist of it.)

    People find different entry points into a historical moment. For a long stretch of time, we all had those entry points because of our religions (e.g., the Latin mass), but as religious devotion has faded and religions have modernized, most of us have let that path from the present to the past grow over. The same is true for the fading of national folklore -- in a generation, we'll need some American Elias Lönnrot to remind us about George Washington and the cherry tree. So any time something bridges the past to the present for me, it becomes an instant favorite (Hector scaring Astyanax with his horse-hair helmet is another example).

    I already loved Njal's Saga for its beautiful language, its compelling characters, its values of moderation, familial love, honesty, integrity, etc. (personified in Njal, but present in others), and its clever literary technique of phasing out familial and pastoral scenes as the feud consumes the community. And I already loved Commonwealth Iceland for its literacy, its independence, its dignity, its ideal of mutually-strengthening marriages. But I loved it as a stranger admiring something from the outside. At that moment when the legal expert explodes in frustration at the trial team's sloppiness, however, I felt an instant kinship with the skald who recounted the story (who had to have understood the law himself) and with the lawyer inside the story. Across that vast gap of centuries and continents and cultures, here was a very specific human experience that was, mutatis mutandis, my own: I myself had once slammed my fist into a desk so hard I bruised it under similarly frustrating circumstances regarding sloppy trial work by friends and colleagues, and I too had provided an obscure legal rule (not quite so obscure or brilliant, but I'm not saga hero) to rescue the case.

    So, while The Long Ships was the book that got me to start reading the Heimskringla, the sagas, and the eddas, it was Njal's Saga that made them feel like "my own." (Yeesh, another wall of text.)

    I'm pleased to hear of your experience, but I am not doing market research. Fallen Gods is not a multi-generational game, though it has some commonalities with KODP. It will take me a long time to finish FG, and after that, I have no idea what I'll make. Ultimately, while the law is one thing I like to explore and venerate in my game stories, it's the not the only thing. Also, I don't really make games for other people, even though I am certainly desperate for others' approval -- it's hard enough figuring out the needs and wants of the small number of people I regularly spend time with, so I would be hopeless at catering to the public as a whole. I just make the games I want to make, and hopefully I won't get guillotined for making them. (Or for posting about them here.)
     
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  21. Darth Roxor Prestigious Gentleman Wielder of the Huegpenis

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    meanwhile VD is standing somewhere by the wall, arms crossed and gaze fixed on the floor, murmuring "why won't anyone ask ME any questions?"
     
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  22. ERYFKRAD Barbarian Patron

    ERYFKRAD
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    Serpent in the Staglands Shadorwun: Hong Kong Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
    Well I did ask if the Inquisition game would have party creation. :M
     
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  23. Arulan Arbiter

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    Recently I've been thinking about RPGs that demand you play as the character, rather than the player. Some examples include Fallout, The Age of Decadence, and Gothic. If you're too naive in Gothic, the NPCs will take advantage of you. If you wander into a dark alley in The Age of Decadence as a Merchant, you're likely to get robbed, or worse. If you're too careless with critical information in Fallout, your Vault may suffer. The idea of playing the character may seem like common sense, but I find that people are too conditioned to want to see and do everything, like they're checking off content from a list. They rarely evaluate decisions from the character's point of view. As discussed in the interview, perhaps death can be enough motivation at times, but I'm really curious about how mental statistics, such as the discussed sanity, would work out.
     
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  24. CSH Picone Educated

    CSH Picone
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    Not sure if this answers your question, but (from the interview):

    Vince: AoD was a solo game because working your way up in a faction to secure your future required a single character. You don’t show up for work with your five closest friends who don’t have anything better to do today.

    TNW is more about adventuring and dealing with multiple factions at once (to ensure your own survival) which does call for a band of like-minded individuals. Not sure about the Inquisition game yet but we’re leaning toward party-based as well.
     
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  25. ERYFKRAD Barbarian Patron

    ERYFKRAD
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    Serpent in the Staglands Shadorwun: Hong Kong Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
    Party based!= party creation though.
     
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