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Game News Colony Ship RPG Update #2: Design Goals, Mechanics

Infinitron

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Tags: Colony Ship RPG; Iron Tower Studios; Vault Dweller

Vault Dweller has posted a new Colony Ship RPG update over at the Iron Tower forums. This one is about the game's party mechanics, which as you might expect, aim to be more grimly realistic than those of other RPGs. Vault Dweller explains, with lots of images from Spaghetti Westerns which I won't include here:

Design Goals

Typically, RPG party members serve a purely tactical role, giving your more bodies to control in combat and access to different combat abilities. In a sense, you’re role-playing an entire squad as outside of combat there is very little (if any) difference between the character you created and the characters you’ve recruited or created next.

It works great in RPGs that are mostly about combat, but calls for a different approach when it comes to non-combat gameplay. The main problem is that party members offer nothing but combat benefits (occasionally, freaky sex to relieve combat stress and party banter), giving you very few reasons to treat party members any differently than the main character.

In short, the problem is that in most RPGs party members are mindless zombies lacking any free will, agenda, goals, etc – the very qualities that separate an actual “character” from a zombie. Thus, our main design goal is to create proper characters that have a will of their own, as well as agendas, beliefs, goals, and other infuriating qualities.

No, it doesn’t mean the “gotcha!” design. It means that if you want to play a character that does things a certain way, you either run with a posse that has a very similar outlook on life (which doesn't always guarantee smooth sailing) or do your best to avoid pissing them off. Needless to say, if you’re a treacherous scum, don’t be surprised if your men take the lessons you teach them to heart. In other words, all unpleasantries caused by your party members should be the direct result of your own actions, aka dynamic reaction based on your choices in quests, conversations, reputation, and such.

To give you a very simple example, if you decide to double-cross a religious faction, don’t be surprised if a religious party member won’t stand for it. He might leave you, he might turn on you, he might join your enemies in a fight, etc. His exact decision won’t be random but will depend on a number of different factors.

Furthermore, don’t expect the party members to follow you anywhere for free, which might create tensions and personal dilemmas.

Last but not the least, party members aren’t immortal heroes. It will be possible and even easy to lose them if you insist on getting into every fight (think of saving Vardanis in AoD). You should even be able to lose an entire crew and come back alone, Flint-style, with all the proper consequences (fewer people would want to follow a suicidal maniac). Much like in AoD, not every fight will be winnable by ANY party at ANY point.

Mechanics
  • Your Charisma determines how many people can follow you. So far the formula is: 1 follower at CHA4, 2 at 5, 3 at 7, 4 at 9.
  • XP will be divided by the number of people in the party, so a smaller party will level up faster.
  • Large pool of potential recruits, including mutants and a droid. The droid won’t require XP (more for you) and will be upgraded rather than leveled up (think Lore/Crafting plus parts you’ll need to scavenge).
  • All party members will have unique feats the PC won’t have access to. They will have good stats and skills and will be created with the same love and affection you create your own character.
  • In AoD the content was determined by your stats, questlines, and skills. In CSG party members will often have valuable in-game knowledge that would unlock certain places and extra quest solutions. Basically, 50% of gating will be outsourced to the party members.
  • Your party members will be able to participate in conversations but you won’t control their lines. Think of letting Virgil to handle the conversation with the assassin near the crash site in Arcanum. Basically, you select a line for your PC to say or “let party member X handle it for you” (and hope for the best).
  • You won’t be able to take equipped items from the party members, but you’ll be able to offer them proper replacements (i.e. no ‘disarm and dump’). Other than that you’ll have full control of party members in combat (if they object to your leadership, they will do it before combat starts) and when leveling up.
  • Unlike the player’s character, the party members will have a complex personality & beliefs system that would determine their reaction. Most likely these stats will remain hidden from the player and you’d have to figure out what you’re dealing with by talking to them and observing how they act/react.
  • Instead of going for AWSUM!!! characters with troubled past, we're going for a low-key gang of colorful characters.
You control your party members' level-ups, but not their dialogue. I wonder if they'll attempt to autonomously use their own skills during dialogue. That'd be new.
 

Aenra

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:d1p:

If nothing else, i just saw someone describe my issues with 9/10 party based cRPGs
Now please Kickstart the damn thing. We can discuss EA later.
 

The Great Deceiver

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Serpent in the Staglands Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2
This does sound very interesting. Too bad it'll probably be released in 2022.

L0ZdTnW.png


When it is, I'm buying it though. Can't have too many sci-fi cRPGs.
 
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Infinitron

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You control your party members' level-ups, but not their dialogue.

In which RPG you would control their dialogues?
:abyssgazer:

Storm of Zehir, Wasteland 2? Of course controlling companion dialogue isn't very common, but as it happens, it seems that most RPGs where you don't control it haven't used skill-based systems, and most games where you do control it have. So what happens in a skill-based system where you don't control companion dialogue? Do the companions use their skills that you've given them on their own?
 
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There is no companion dialogue control in W2, there is only a control which companion will use dialogue skills for dialogue checks.
 

Athelas

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A classical problem of the traditional RPG is that certain parts of the character system are basically restricted to the main character (in this case, the charisma stat, and probably a few skills and stats for the purposes of dialogue checks). Of course, having something like charisma be usable by multiple party members - and useful - is very difficult to pull off unless you go for a JA2-like strategy layer where you want to have multiple characters training militias at the same time.
 

Vault Dweller

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So what happens in a skill-based system where you don't control companion dialogue? Do the companions use their skills that you've given them on their own?
They should (which should apply not only to dialogues but to other non-combat areas such as lockpicking, fixing something, etc). Scripting it is easy, writing it might take a while.
 
Self-Ejected

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A classical problem of the traditional RPG is that certain parts of the character system are basically restricted to the main character (in this case, the charisma stat, and probably a few skills and stats for the purposes of dialogue checks). Of course, having something like charisma be usable by multiple party members - and useful - is very difficult to pull off unless you go for a JA2-like strategy layer where you want to have multiple characters training militias at the same time.
That isn't really a problem but a shitty convention.
 

Forest Dweller

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So can we assume from this that you can have a lot of philosophical debates with your party members (i.e. "flavor" dialogue)?
 
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I take that the AoD dungeon crawling game will sorta be a test run for some of the mechanics we'll be seeing in Colony Ship?
 
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Couldn't features such as the religious companion reacting to the player making the decision of attacking the religious faction be tied to backgrounds chosen when said companion is made by the player instead of being a stock character? Just asking out interest and general muffedness of the fact that only the protag is generated.

Or would it spoil this?

'Unlike the player’s character, the party members will have a complex personality & beliefs system that would determine their reaction. Most likely these stats will remain hidden from the player and you’d have to figure out what you’re dealing with by talking to them and observing how they act/react.'


My party members are moving on their own.
 

Vault Dweller

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So can we assume from this that you can have a lot of philosophical debates with your party members (i.e. "flavor" dialogue)?
Not sure what qualifies as a lot, but if your companion feels strongly about something, be it religious beliefs or local politics, you will be able to discuss it with them.

I take that the AoD dungeon crawling game will sorta be a test run for some of the mechanics we'll be seeing in Colony Ship?
Yes.

Couldn't features such as the religious companion reacting to the player making the decision of attacking the religious faction be tied to backgrounds chosen when said companion is made by the player instead of being a stock character? Just asking out interest and general muffedness of the fact that only the protag is generated.
I don't think it would work.

When you create your own party, you create permanent characters (i.e. you aren't planning to lose them or trade them up). They are meant to be devoted slaves, not characters blessed with free will. The purpose of the personality system is to create tensions and problems when the PC does something that rubs the party members the wrong way (i.e. when the PC makes decisions he should think about how his decisions would affect his party members). Thus, if we were to let you make your own team and assign personality points yourself, most likely you'd simply create characters who'd cause least amount of trouble.
 

Daedalos

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I haf ta say. These news get me sufficiently hyped about dis gaem.

Hope it turns out great!
 

Declinator

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What the update should have said:
The main problem blessing is that party members offer nothing but combat benefits (occasionally, freaky sex to relieve combat stress and party banter), giving you very few reasons to treat party members any differently than the main character.

In short, the problem great thing is that in most RPGs party members are mindless zombies lacking any free will, agenda, goals, etc.
 

Vault Dweller

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What the update should have said:
The main problem blessing is that party members offer nothing but combat benefits (occasionally, freaky sex to relieve combat stress and party banter), giving you very few reasons to treat party members any differently than the main character.

In short, the problem great thing is that in most RPGs party members are mindless zombies lacking any free will, agenda, goals, etc.
In a combat-heavy game like Wiz, M&M, BG/IWD, etc.

Seems good, but maybe too good to be done in an organic and believable way.
It's more than doable. It's not a new feature, it's a feature that's been always done half way.

The way I see it, all attempts to breathe some life into party members always fell short because the party is one of the main RPG conventions, a toy that must never ever be taken away from the player. The party members can say what they want when you talk to then, they can even participate in conversations with other NPCs, but when you're "questing", you lead and they follow without question, ready to back you up no matter what. You make all decisions, they stay silent and indifferent. Even if they say something like "did we really have to burn down that orphanage?", you say something and they happily move on. On rare occasions a party member can leave the party, but it never really affects you as you just tell another tool to take his place. That's what we want to change.
 

Kem0sabe

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What the update should have said:
The main problem blessing is that party members offer nothing but combat benefits (occasionally, freaky sex to relieve combat stress and party banter), giving you very few reasons to treat party members any differently than the main character.

In short, the problem great thing is that in most RPGs party members are mindless zombies lacking any free will, agenda, goals, etc.
In a combat-heavy game like Wiz, M&M, BG/IWD, etc.

Seems good, but maybe too good to be done in an organic and believable way.
It's more than doable. It's not a new feature, it's a feature that's been always done half way.

The way I see it, all attempts to breathe some life into party members always fell short because the party is one of the main RPG conventions, a toy that must never ever be taken away from the player. The party members can say what they want when you talk to then, they can even participate in conversations with other NPCs, but when you're "questing", you lead and they follow without question, ready to back you up no matter what. You make all decisions, they stay silent and indifferent. Even if they say something like "did we really have to burn down that orphanage?", you say something and they happily move on. On rare occasions a party member can leave the party, but it never really affects you as you just tell another tool to take his place. That's what we want to change.

No one plays RPG's where they let NPC party members die or dead after a fight, or choose any action that would make that NPC leave without reloading afterwards. It's unrealistic to expect people to deal with the consequences of their actions when those actions are quickly reserved at the touch of a load game button.

Unless you plan to go with a delayed consequence system akin to the witcher series, i dont see this system working in an organic way during gameplay.
 

Vault Dweller

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No one plays RPG's where they let NPC party members die or dead after a fight, or choose any action that would make that NPC leave without reloading afterwards. It's unrealistic to expect people to deal with the consequences of their actions when those actions are quickly reserved at the touch of a load game button.

Unless you plan to go with a delayed consequence system akin to the witcher series, i dont see this system working in an organic way during gameplay.
Then you misunderstood my intentions. Yes, nobody lets party members die but in 99.9% of RPGs that's a manageable situation. They died because you fucked up during a fight, so you reload and try harder. We've all done that. If your party member asks why you burned that orphanage and you say "fuck the orphans!" and he/she leaves, then you reload and say "you know what, you're right" and you and the party member in question are best buds again.

I'm talking about combining what we did in AoD (tons of choices at every step) with the party members having opinions and agendas that interfere with your ability to do as you please. In other words, the consequences will be instant and reloading to avoid the negative outcome will force you to make a different non-cosmetic choice (that might have lasting consequences).
 

Kem0sabe

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No one plays RPG's where they let NPC party members die or dead after a fight, or choose any action that would make that NPC leave without reloading afterwards. It's unrealistic to expect people to deal with the consequences of their actions when those actions are quickly reserved at the touch of a load game button.

Unless you plan to go with a delayed consequence system akin to the witcher series, i dont see this system working in an organic way during gameplay.
Then you misunderstood my intentions. Yes, nobody lets party members die but in 99.9% of RPGs that's a manageable situation. They died because you fucked up during a fight, so you reload and try harder. We've all done that. If your party member asks why you burned that orphanage and you say "fuck the orphans!" and he/she leaves, then you reload and say "you know what, you're right" and you and the party member in question are best buds again.

I'm talking about combining what we did in AoD (tons of choices at every step) with the party members having opinions and agendas that interfere with your ability to do as you please. In other words, the consequences will be instant and reloading to avoid the negative outcome will force you to make a different non-cosmetic choice (that might have lasting consequences).

Ah, now i understand. Would also be nice if you implemented delayed consequences as well, i loved how those made save scumming for story choices less of an option.
 

oscar

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A large pool of recruitable NPCs is a good counterweight to reloaditis. In a game where you've got only four guys to last you the entire game hardly anyone is going to walk away from a fight accepting the permanent loss of 1/4 of their muscle or their only healer.

However an even better candidate is Vince's plan where having more party members is actually often a pain in the ass as they act out in dialogues with NPCs, mess with other party members, betray you etc. Perhaps after that incredibly difficult fight that you only just won after the heroic death of that warrior you're almost breathing a sigh of relief for all the unnecessary fights the dumb psycho had dragged you into with his unthinking tongue and inability to keep his mouth shut.

Or being the dumb brute yourself but having another npc be the wimpy talker who you get to smooth things over or get a bargain (though he has his own opinions on the world and how to persuade) would be novel.

Party members often should be liabilities that almost seem more trouble than their worth. This can also be balanced interestingly. You could have the choice between a weaker but calmer soldier who will follow your lead or a more powerful but hotheaded and unpredictable warrior who often gets you into trouble.
 
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