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Editorial Chris Taylor - Hand of Gosh Darn Good Design

Discussion in 'News & Content Feedback' started by Saint_Proverbius, Dec 6, 2002.

  1. Saint_Proverbius Arcane Patron

    Saint_Proverbius
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    Tags: Black Label Games; Chris Taylor

    <b>Chris Taylor</b>, one of the main designers of <A href="http://www.interplay.com/fallout">Fallout</a> and <a href="http://www.interplay.com/games/print.asp?gameid=224">Stonekeep</a> for <a href="http://www.interplay.com">Interplay</a>, as well as <a href="http://www.lotr.com/">Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring</a> for the <a href="http://www.nintendo.com/">GameBoy Advance</a> provides his unique spin on the design of CRPGs.
    <br>
    <br>
    <blockquote>On my ring finger, you have story itself. RPGs without story are tactical combat and level treadmill games. Those can be interesting games, but not really conducive to creating a great role-playing game. The quality of the story can help determine the quality of the game, especially for RPGs. Planescape Torment would have been a good game without it's wonderful story, but was elevated to a great game by the quality of it's writing, story and dialogue.</blockquote>
    <br>
    <br>
    Kudos to you, <b>Chris Taylor</b>! Thanks for the time.
     
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  2. Sol Invictus Erudite

    Sol Invictus
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    Finally, it works!

    Now, onto my points:

    * It's called an index finger, not a 'pointing finger'.

    * Unlike what Mr. Taylor believes, the opposable thumb is in fact the most important finger on the human hand. It's one of those really important things that separates our species from apes, woodpeckers and marmots.

    The opposable thumb is what allows us to pick stuff up, grasp things, and to create tools and use them. I wouldn't be typing this if I didn't have a thumb. Oh, and the site wouldn't exist, either, for we'd be trying to scoop up termites (full of protein goodness!) with straws.

    Beyond that, I agree with the allegory.
     
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  3. ctaylor Novice

    ctaylor
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    Doh, I had put a "middle-finger" joke in there about the importance of the thumb, but removed it since it wasn't that funny and forget to clean up the text around it.

    Didn't mean to insult anyone with thumbs.

    And it's a pointing finger. I point, it fingers. Pointing finger. If it was an index finger, it would be organizing my books and creating some sort of master list. Boy, this english is easy to master!

    pax,
    -Chris
     
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  4. Sol Invictus Erudite

    Sol Invictus
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    Here Chris, made a new logo for you. Hope you're pleased. :)
     
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  5. Saint_Proverbius Arcane Patron

    Saint_Proverbius
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    Character creation is always a bit point in a game, since that's typically the first thing the player is going to see. The more interesting the system, the better the game is typically. The more options the system offers, assuming all those skills and attributes are fairly well balanced, the better as well.

    One thing I really don't care much for are the character creation systems that generate your character based on a question and answer session with an NPC. There's just something about them I don't like. I guess it boils down to a layer of unrequired abstraction based on someone else's interpretation of the answers.

    For example, in Ultima 9, I answered every question with the most evil, nasty, hateful answer they offered. What class did I end up with? Paladin! I wasn't going for Paladin, I didn't want to be a Paladin. In fact, I was going for something far removed from what I think a Paladin is.

    I cringe when I hear people say the story is the most important part of the CRPG. Too much story often gets in the way of role playing, which is the real important part for me. That's not to say there shouldn't be story elements, it's just that those elements should be free for the player to discover, not crammed down the player's throat. If there's too much story, the game feels like you're passively wading through the events, waiting to do something predetermined to get to the next part of it.

    This is one of the faults of PS:T, IMHO. Other than side quests and picking your character stuff, there wasn't a hell of a lot of freedom in the game.

    Arcanum kind of screwed up there, if you asked me. Attributes were highly important, I'm not arguing that. However, they were also able to be raised fairly easily through the game. Because of this, you get people halfway through the game with 25APs naturally, 50APs when hasted. That totally throws off the combat because you can cut down an army in one round like that.

    Because of the importance of attributes, combined with the easy raising of them, I made a Half-Ogre that was unstoppable with the Sword of Air at 34th level. I computed his average damage per round as 594 points because he had a 20 dex(with items) and could haste himself.

    I totally agree here. There are too many mainstream CRPGs that totally botch evil, like most of the Infinity Engine games, where the only real consequence of evil is having to give money to a temple.

    I like EoB's method of handling this. You can't really be evil in the game, so don't allow that alignment choice. It's pretty simple.

    However, I don't think the consequences for actions should ever be, GAEM OVAR for pulling a simple boner. IWD2, for example, if you kill a town's person, you're basically screwed because the whole town attacks you. Even if you managed to wipe them out, you can never get out of town again, thus the game is over.

    I agree here as well. The problem with this is that most developers these days merely recycle things about settings. Not too many developers create worlds anymore. They license them, or make a world that's nearly the same as another license. It's basically, Hey, D&D sells, let's make a world just like it. rather than actually trying to make something more fleshed out and less mainstream.

    Ahh.. I wish there was still such a range. :D
     
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  6. Mistress Liturgist

    Mistress
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    Yes, although when a character creation system is overloaded with useless and unnecessary extras, it gets rather tedious. A nice balanced system is of course, highly desirable. Interest without overkill. I think a lot of character creation in some DnD related games also revolves a little too much around choosing the look of your character and the way it sounds. Portraits are nice - but I think some people make a bit too much of them. Its all down to how you play your game I guess. I couldn't care less if my PC has black or brown hair really.....

    I actually quite like these on occasion. I at least like it where you get the choice between question and answer determination and generating the stats yourself. Bethesda didn't do too bad a job of this in Morrowind. I think if you have a very set idea of what you want your character to be beforehand though, they can be annoying.


    While I wouldn't say a rigid story was the most important part of a CRPG, a sense of story is nice. Yes, it is far better to have freedom to play your chosen role and discover the game and your purpose, but this can go too far - I hate playing a game where I end up feeling, "well....what is the point again?". I suppose part of what I would term "story" is a sense of background, history to the game and the situation the character(s) are in. The rest, I would say is an ongoing sense of ultimate direction, and a continuation of interest throughout the game. It is definitely true though that a lot of games bog you down with too much "story" and keep you on a set path - most these may as well just be point and click adventure games, or an interactive storybook.


    This is definitely the case. The interpretation of "evil" in these games on the part of the player is fairly weak. Of course, the games are mostly tied to the good vs evil motif - the player character being on the side of good, come to save the day. In terms of playing an "evil" role, the only way to see this is, instead of being the heroic good doer, you are the moneygrabbing mercenary hired for the occasion.

    Maybe that's why I liked Dungeon Keeper so much as a game - it turned the roles around. I like being on the side of evil - its fun. I'd love to play as a member of the true forces of evil in a CRPG, come to reign terror on the "good". I'd just really love to play the "other side" more often in games.


    It would definitely be nice to see greater variety in terms of the worlds RPGs are set in. Again with the evil, but it would be nice to see a few more settings of a darker, bleaker nature.
     
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  7. ctaylor Novice

    ctaylor
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    Thanks for the logo... Very nice. :)

    pax,
    -Chris
     
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  8. DarkUnderlord Professional Throne Sitter

    DarkUnderlord
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    At the risk of sounding, well...

    Do we really need "Black Label Games"? I mean, I can understand the funny, but can't we just call it Black Isle like it's supposed to be?

    This is a reminder: You need to kill Calis. I'm not sure why, but you said to remind you.
     
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  9. Spazmo Erudite

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    Black Label is a separate company. It's the name for Vivendi's new publishing arm, if I remember correctly. I didn't think they were developers, though. What are you working on now, Mr. Taylor?
     
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  10. Rosh Erudite

    Rosh
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    Would you mind clarifying that?
     
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  11. Saint_Proverbius Arcane Patron

    Saint_Proverbius
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    Ignorant? ;)

    Well, we could call it Black Isle, but I don't think Black Label Games would like that very much.

    Spazmo is correct. Black Label Games is a division of Vivendi Universal. They're not part of Interplay nor are they Black Isle. Most recently, Chris Taylor has worked on Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings for the GameBoy Advance, by the way.

    I had to deal with MyPHPAdmin to get this thread working, which is scary stuff. Calis gave me information on how to do it, but it wasn't very explicit. Now you know. :)
     
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  12. DarkUnderlord Professional Throne Sitter

    DarkUnderlord
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    Yes. Better yet, I'll do it to your benefit and explain it in big letters, bold, underlined and in italics so that you can understand properly this time:

    I AM IGNORANT

    I'd heard about them being an arm of Vivendi, I just didn't realise Chris had actually worked for them (or still works for them, or had anything to do with them, or... I'll just shutup now). I thought Chris was still with BiS and putting him with Black Label was a kind of a joke (This is the part where I'm shown to be even more ignorant, isn't it?). So uhhh... there you go.

    Yes, yes I do know now. Seems I learnt a lot from this thread. Thank you all for the education.

    *Quietly backs out the door and leaves everyone to it*
     
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  13. Saint_Proverbius Arcane Patron

    Saint_Proverbius
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    I don't think Chris Taylor was ever with BIS. They formed after he moved to Starfleet Command, which was published under the 14 Degrees East division.

    Just for kicks..

    <Saint_Proverbius> The only thing I really didn't like about SFC was that horrible "save the freighter from the sun" mission.
    <FalloutsChris> Doh! That was one of mine.

    It was a good, Federation-ish mission. The trouble is, I never could do it as Gorn, which was my favorite race to play in the game. I eventually used to dread seeing it pop up because of that. If you've never played the game, Gorn basically fly around in bricks. They're slow to accellerate and slow to turn, but they can take a hell of a beating and keep going. They could also dish out much damage since they had plasma weapons like the Romulans(well, Roms had better ones) and Federation style phasers.

    Gorns could just tractor beam a ship and beat the hell out of it.

    But anyway, now he's at Black Label Games because the bastards at Interplay let him go, so he went to Universal.

    So, Chris, if you're still reading this.. One more time.. I demand a tactical starship CRPG set in Battlestar Galactica's setting! Who wouldn't love that?
     
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  14. ctaylor Novice

    ctaylor
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    Aye, Black Label Games is part of Vivendi Universal Games. Universal Interactive started doing more non-Universal properties and more M rated games, so they created BLG.

    BLG has nothing to do with Black Isle.

    I was never part of Black Isle, but I did steal their cookies occasionally. When I left for the Flat Cat strategy game division of Interplay, I think Black Isle was going to be called Rabid Wombat or something like that.

    I've been at BLG/UI/VUG for over a year now. Time flies.

    RE: Battlestar Galactica. BG (no relation to Baldur's Gate here) is a neat license. I get to hear bits and pieces of BG sound effects in the distance from where I sit. Brings back fond memories.

    pax,
    -Chris
     
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  15. Saint_Proverbius Arcane Patron

    Saint_Proverbius
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    Hey, Chris, hypothetically speaking, how would you handle something like advancement in a Battlestar Galactica starship CRPG where new hulls most likely wouldn't be an option?
     
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  16. Chadeo Liturgist

    Chadeo
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    RE: Story in a cRPG

    Ok, I will come right out and agree that I think story is THE key to any kind of roleplaying game. Well story is not the right word really, but it is close.

    I think what you guys were getting at is that when you see the title RPG, what you really want is a detailed (or at least believable) world simulation, with reactions to your actions, and with a role that you get to pick and play throughout the game.

    Fallout, and perhaps some Ultima games are the only ones that I have seen even try to do this. I assume there are others as well, but they are by far the exception rather than the rule. Still, the key to fallout is not just that you can beat it without killing anything, it is that it has a detailed, fun, real, world to play in.

    The key balance to pull off with story is to make sure you are not just going from point a to point b to point c, and at each point you get another bit of the story. Also if you are prevented from doing a then c then b due to the story, it is just annoying.

    The best way I have seen to pull it off is to have a story that depends on some number of key "goals" happening, but it is totally flexible on how those actual goals are accomplished.

    The best of course would have a game that had a set number of goals, and each goal had multiple ways of being achieved, and based on what you did to achieve various goals other goals would open up, or other methods for solving previous goals would open.

    You need to have a story though otherwise the game becomes pointless. Imagine playing in a MUD with no GM's and no other players. Yuck. I suppose if the world reacted to you in a believable enough manner it might be fun to try and accomplish a goal you devise. Still I think the reason why MUD's work is because you know there is another human out there who is impressed that you are a guildmaster. Its not much fun to become a guildmaster in a world of npcs.

    Then again people play the SIMS and seem to love it, and from my point of view it is totally and completely pointless and dull. So who knows, perhaps some people would like a detailed world with no point. Still give me a diablo any day over a SIMS (not to go off on a tangent, but am I the only one who thought the first diblo had a ton of style that the second one totaly lost? I guess I feel the way about diablo 1/2 as most of you do about fallout 1/2).

    Examples:

    Play your stats with the illusion of creating your role, combined with a dull story is Baldurs Gate, or Final Fantasy, or IWD, or blah blah Even games like diablo would fall in this group, though they can be fun for other reasons.

    Play your role with the illusion of creating your role, combined with amazing story and setting is Planescape Torment, or even System Shock, or Thief (though SS and Thief are not really RPGs, they are close enough to fall in this group in my mind).

    Pick your role combined with a detailed world to play in and a point, Fallout, Ultima.

    Pick your role combined with a detailed world with no intrinsic point, most any mud or MMORPG (these rely on human interaction to become fun). The SIMS would fall in this group as well.
     
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  17. Saint_Proverbius Arcane Patron

    Saint_Proverbius
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    Well, you can still have a story in a game that allows role playing and it's important. However, I cringe when I hear people say, "It's the most important thing in an RPG." It's not. It's the most important thing in an Adventure Game, though.

    Look at NWN. When you have the story being so uncompromising that the player can't do anything other than go through the motions of the story, then there's a problem. It's no longer role playing, because your role in the game is fairly meaningless. You're just the person who kills enough stuff, or brings back enough items, to get to the next level of the story. You're not a major figure because your actions are relatively inconsequential to the plot.

    In other words, you're not driving the story.. The story is driving you.

    When your actions are defined by how the story is supposed to be, you really have very little role in it. Your role should be the most important thing in the game, and story should be second to it since you should be able to pioneer your way through it based on how you built your character.
     
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  18. Chadeo Liturgist

    Chadeo
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    I agree that you the player are the most important thing to the game. Yet without a good story you do not have a good RPG. Heck, the most mindless FPS makes you the key figure in the story, yet the story sucks.

    I can't even imagine what a game would be like where you were plopped down into it with no first quest, and with no overall goal. You would just wander around talking to people trying to find a quest. When you were done with one quest you would go onto the next.

    If the quests were all connected, then you would have a story like I described, if the quests were not connected and you had no goal...then it would just be a mindless "get x exp and gold" game.

    Your actions must shape the course of events, yet the events need to follow some kind of plot with a point. Even if the point changes with your actions.
     
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  19. Hierophant Novice

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    "He who understands why Diablo sells a million copies understands human behavior. He who understands human behavior understands game design." And I don't think "because people are stupid" (alternately, "broken") is an answer to why Diablo (and Sims, etc) sells billions of copies while Fallout, etc, languish with paltry six-digit markets.

    This site and board appears to hold Fallout as the definitive RPG. To me, that suggests that its audience holds role-playing in higher esteem than story. However, there is also a large audience that enjoys a good story (as demonstrated by, uh, the book market). Does NWN "qualify" as an RPG, despite its condescending attitude towards playing a role? I think the point is moot -- the market has spoken, and even Diablo qualifies to wear the title of RPG. I think attempting to take back the moniker is futile.

    Hence the debate between story and expression is pointless. According to the definition commonly held by the game-buying public, neither is essential to an RPG.

    Who defines the standard for "good RPG"? Who gets to be the judge? We all have our own standards, and we are our own judges.

    -Hierophant
     
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  20. Saint_Proverbius Arcane Patron

    Saint_Proverbius
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    I would disagree, since FPS games typically suffer from what I'm talking about with the weaker role playing, greater story emphasis games. You don't have much of a role in an FPS other than the guy who clears the levels and finds the exits to get to the next level. This is right on par with those RPGs I'm talking about, like NWN. You kill the orcs in the mine(clear the level), you get the item to show Aribeth(find the exit), time to move on to the next mission.

    This would depend on the quests, wouldn't it? If the quests were good, had several methods of completing them based on your abilities, then what's to say it's not good? After all, you're basically summing up Fallout 2 here.

    Fallout 2, you leave arroyo and you're pretty much in generic quest world. Of course, there is an end to it. Once you're beefed up enough, you can take down the Enclave. However, how many quests in Fallout actually relate to the Enclave or the GECK versus how many there are?

    You can connect quests to the main plot and still have them be side quests. Look at Fallout's "Find the missing caravans" quest, it was related to the main plot by the mutant in the cave, for example. You can do this in a manner where the player is offered the freedom to be who he wants to be in the game, still provide a story, and make it open ended.

    This is a far cry from all the story parts being linear and constrained.

    I agree here. A player must have a role. If the story is good, all the better.

    I fail to see your point. Just because something sells well doesn't mean it's better at all. Betamax may have lost the video cassette format war, but it still found it's place in the market with people who wanted to do video work since it's quality greatly surpassed that of VHS. Even the high fidelity VHS paled in comparason to Betamax.

    Like I said, you can have a good story and have a good CRPG. However, when you make a story that doesn't allow the player to play a role he makes for himself, you've just made a crappy CRPG.

    Futility be damned.

    How very zen of you.
     
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  21. Sol Invictus Erudite

    Sol Invictus
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    Aren't we all biased? Doesn't everyone have a right to an opinion? I believe that if we, as experienced 'entertainment connoiseurs' specifically pertaining to RPGs have every right to refer to Fallout as a "good RPG" as long as we point out why we think so.

    I just think that when someone says that NWN is a "good RPG" he too should be subjected to the same kind of exposition as the rest of us, and that the 'facts' he states should be true, just as well.

    For the record, I thoroughly enjoyed Diablo as well as its sequel, and they are no doubt very good games, but I do not believe that they should carry the moniker of "RPG" which quite specifically stands for "role playing game", and all of which that moniker entitles.

    Diablo is, if anything, an action game in the style of gauntlet, with a few statistics but zero character development (in terms of story). It's not as if you make any choices in Diablo that affect the storyline, do you? As long as you don't, it shouldn't be called an RPG. The same applies to Neverwinter Nights, which is by far an inferior game to Diablo and too offers very little choice in character development and story aside from the choice you get to make to 'save Aribeth' if you play a Paladin. The difference between that choice and the norm are a few choice lines of dialogue, hardly much of a decision, I would say.

    Arcanum, Morrowind and Fallout allowed for a much greater degree of freedom. So compare these three aforementioned games with Diablo and you will see why they aren't in the same league.
     
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  22. Hierophant Novice

    Hierophant
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    My point is that you can explain why NWN is not a good "RPG," but most of the market will not understand what you are talking about. I think many people come to these boards, having enjoyed Diablo or NWN, and see "those were not good RPGs" and then decide that y'all are a bunch of whiny elitists. I enjoyed Diablo (yet not II, btnhnt) and some of the modules made for NWN, and I will agree that they are not good role-playing games, but the fight against the market will, I believe, only ostracize you.

    What do you intend to do about the wide public perception that Diablo was a good game and called an RPG? What is the path towards world domination that will lead the ignorant herds to realize the truthâ„¢ that RPG means immersive expression?

    -Hierophant
     
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  23. Chadeo Liturgist

    Chadeo
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    I think you said it yourself. Nothing. See, I have no clue why so many people loved Survivor or Who Wants to be a Millionaire, or American Idol. Each show was an amazing television hit in America. Why? No clue, if you ask me they all sucked. Yet will that stop me from trying to tell people why Buffy, or Firefly are amazing shows? Not at all.

    The point is that for those of us who did play a game like Baldurs Gate and found that it was a poor RPG can come to this site and see that NWN will be much of the same. I personally have never played NWN, nor do I ever intend to after reading the review on this site. I have found it next to impossible to read any main stream news site that reviews RPGs as they seem to enjoy the games for reasons different than what I am looking for in a RPG. Thus I was rather happy to finaly find a site that had reviews that matched my own standards of what makes an RPG an RPG.

    I own every blizzard game ever made (blackthorn anyone?) and I have enjoyed each and every one. Still I do not think blizzard has ever made an RPG.

    Does it make us "elite" if we say a "good" RPG must include the "role" aspect? I don't think so. If anything it is just us being a bit picky in what we call a "true" RPG. I honestly could care less if a million NWN clones get made and sell a million copies. As long as true RPGs still get made, and this site points them out to me, I will be happy.

    Just because I can not understand how someone could ever like the SIMS or American Idol does not mean I think I am somehow better than them. To each their own. Still if you called American Idol a "Character ensemble drama/horror/comedy in the same vein as Buffy" I would take issue with it. Just like people on this site take issue with game developers calling NWN a RPG in the same vein as Fallout.
     
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  24. Saint_Proverbius Arcane Patron

    Saint_Proverbius
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    Okay, I'm failing to see a downside here. So, basically, we're not mainstream. This site was never intended to be mainstream.

    That's kind of the point of it. You see, if people want mainstream, where they can brag about the ph4t l3wt they hauled in while playing NWN or Diablo 2 a few moments prior, there's hordes of nearly identical sites like that on the internet. Personally, I prefer discussion with a little bit more depth to it, such as what we currently have here.

    If I wanted to run a site that catered to the mainstream, I would have either signed up on GameSpy or made a The Sims/NWN/Diablo 2 fan site.

    Whatever I intend to do about it, it's certainly not going to be bowing down and selling out.
     
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  25. Rosh Erudite

    Rosh
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    Your point in this is what? Sure, Diablo will sell millions of copies, because it is a shallow game that is designed to be approachable, be able to jump right in to play with a number of friends, and frankly any idiot could play it. Relevence to this site: 0%

    Let's take a look:
    1. Good story.
    2. Non-clichéd and imaginative setting
    3. Interactive story
    4. Ability to play a number of different ways and actually role-play a character

    To me, that suggest you don't have a clue what makes up a good RPG. A good RPG is the character's interaction with the story, and being able to play in a number of ways through it, deciding to be good, evil, or whatever.

    Before you get snitty because I essentially called you obtuse, let's look at the following. Is the story in Fallout poor? No.

    Of course, I could also point out why the games are called role-playing games, but that would be a little too obvious.

    Despite your rather pathetic differentiation between story and role-playing (which tie in hand in hand), if you want to go play an interactive CGI movie of Final Fantasy, feel free to.

    How about the fact that Diablo and NWN have nothing of a story? Diablo's story comes into play less than 10% of the time, the rest it's the same combat all the time.

    Your point in this is what? I would call it even more pointless to go to a site that is about discussion about involving RPGs and tell them they should basically become just like the thousands of other sites who regurgitate the same paraphrased bit of PR spin.

    Unfortunately, that argues most of your argument rather moot.

    Thank you for that uh..."enlightening" tidbit, Mr. Pointless.

    Good for them. Most of those who play games are also complete idiots, and I believe clannies are better used to feed bears and provide subjects for pharmaceudical testing.

    See above.

    Hey, if we wanted to be just like every other site in pandering to everyone...we'd might as well just stop right now and go read off of GameSpot or GameSpy. If the clue didn't occur to you already, this site is about the niche market of involving CRPGs. The use of "niche" is a bit in doubt, since Fallout even had the abolity to draw in casual players and some clannie trash.

    Being called a good game and called an RPG are two different points. So it was a good game? Moot point. It was called an RPG? Not really relevent to this site, and I'll explain why.

    It might surprise you that a fair portion of the market, including a lot of the D&D fanboys, don't like how Diablo is called a CRPG. Only those who care about immersive RPGs or that kind of gameplay would care to visit this site. Those who want the same spin and regurgitated nonsense can go to the mainstream sites.

    Then again, I could also mention that this site is about immersive CRPGs and giving a critique about those that would call themselves such, but that would be a bit redundent as you've likely already read a fair portion of it.

    I would also guess that you would have a much better time telling those that enjoy a story in FPS games that they aren't in the mainstream and few would care or tell them that they were in the wrong/minority because of the many more people who play multiplayer FPS games online.
     
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