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Development Info Tim Cain at Reboot Develop 2017 - Building a Better RPG: Seven Mistakes to Avoid

Alienman

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Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire Make the Codex Great Again! Grab the Codex by the pussy Codex Year of the Donut Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 [Steve gets a Kidney but I don't even get a tag.]
What kind of reviewers find character creation too hard? IGN reviewers?
 

CyberWhale

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Fallout and Morrowind were my first cRPGs ever and both of these had super-intuitive character creation. Every attribute represented what it's name suggested it would.
SPECIAL could do with a lot of under-the-hood improvements, but to this day it's still my favorite system presentation/idea wise.

P.S. I never played a PnP game before (or after) that.
 

Alienman

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Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire Make the Codex Great Again! Grab the Codex by the pussy Codex Year of the Donut Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 [Steve gets a Kidney but I don't even get a tag.]
Finding it all a bit typical. Changing stuff that works because some people couldn't wrap their head around the system, making it easier for all instead of celebrating the people that enjoy the complexity. I guess it all comes down to money, like you said "We lost a lot of potential players to that".
 
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Lurker King

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Think of an RPG like a mountain. In my older RPG's, the only way to the top was going up cliffs, but many of you like rock climbing so it didn't matter. But a lot of people never even tried to do it. So I am building a road that lets people drive to the top of the mountain. The mountain is still as high as it used to be and the view is just as spectacular, but now more people can enjoy it.

Let’s stick with your analogy. If you decide to climb a mountain, you will need a lot of background knowledge about climbing (the tools you need to bring, how you use these tools, how much physical effort this activity requires, etc.). The same thing holds for cRPGs. And the way of thinking of most developers is this: “ok, since people never need to learn how to mountain climb, we will devise an easier way to introduce to mountain climbing so that they don’t feel discouraged by the difficulty of the task”. I think this is naive, because they don’t want difficult tasks in the first place, because they are corrupted by handholding. You need to make a decision: either you make a compelling system with a misleading tutorial and ensure that people will not be able to ask for refund, or make a superficial system to please the wider audience and alienate the grumpy audience. There is no middle ground.

Be truthful to your own character, make the games you want to make, and people will follow. Look at how Dark Souls targeted an untapped audience. More than 600 million people play chess worldwide. Don’t tell me that there is not an audience for the abstractions of character building. You didn’t try so many things. Why don’t you try to support on-line competitions involving your combat systems? Why there is no public attempts to school people in the olden ways? Why all your marketing attempts seem like the promotion of every other generic cRPG that is out there flooding the market? If you can’t seriously try the things you enjoy, you could be just as well working for Goldman Sachs. At least you would be well paid.
 
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Vault Dweller

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Think of an RPG like a mountain. In my older RPG's, the only way to the top was going up cliffs, but many of you like rock climbing so it didn't matter. But a lot of people never even tried to do it. So I am building a road that lets people drive to the top of the mountain. The mountain is still as high as it used to be and the view is just as spectacular, but now more people can enjoy it.
It's a creative way of claiming that attracting more casuals won't make RPGs any less complex. The last 15 years have debunked this claim rather thoroughly. People who need paved roads to get through the character creation in Fallout will need guided tours to get through the rest of the game, which would result in a very different design. See the Elder Scrolls evolution: Daggerfall -> Morrowind -> Oblivion -> Skyrim -> Fallout 4.

In other words, people who don't like rock climbing don't really care about mountains and if you build a road, the only crowd you're going to get is some tourists. You know that and we know that.
 

BilboBaggins

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Mistake #1 - Steep Learning Curves: Tim thinks character creation in Fallout, Arcanum and other RPGs was too complex. He's experimenting with creating a completely numberless character system that uses geometric shapes to visualize attributes.

Sounds like some phone/tablet app bullshit for Starbucks Gamers.
 

Black Angel

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TimCain you said that Fallout, Arcanum, and other RPGs character creation are 'too complex', they are not. They have some bad things in there, as some have mentioned (like some skills being literally useless in Fallout, so tagging them is big mistake), being 'too complex' is not one of them.

Look at Underrail and Age of Decadence which was released in 2015. Their character creation are just as complex, but it was as essential part as the other aspect that made them proper, and good, cRPGs in the first place.
 
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Guess we just attained megathread escape velocity. Where's Hiver?
cat.gif
 

J_C

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Wow, long thread. I will admit I don't have time to read it all, but let me say this. I think there has been a misunderstanding of my talk. I never said I don't like complex systems, just that I don't like the presentation of so much complexity in the first few minutes of the game, like in character creation. We lost a lot of potential players to that. That isn't hypothetical. I have emails and reviews to back me up.

Think of an RPG like a mountain. In my older RPG's, the only way to the top was going up cliffs, but many of you like rock climbing so it didn't matter. But a lot of people never even tried to do it. So I am building a road that lets people drive to the top of the mountain. The mountain is still as high as it used to be and the view is just as spectacular, but now more people can enjoy it.

There is so much misunderstanding on this thread, but I know you are smart and RPG-savvy people. That makes me think my first point of the talk is even more relevant: the need to reduce the learning slope to introduce something new. In other words, I think I need to simplify my talk.

Anyway, it took 30 hours on three flights to get back to Los Angeles from Croatia, so I am operating with severe jet lag. I will try to explain this more later.
With all due respect Tim, but we have heard this so many times. So many developers told us that the games won't be dumbed down, it will just have an easy option to the more casual players. But the game will be just as complex for the hardcore crowd, we have been told. But I think the people who find the simple character creation of Fallout 1 difficult, will find the rest of the systems difficult, so you have to make every mechanics simpler. Those people who need a very simple character creation just want a simple RPG lite game like Fallout 4.

Let's assume you make a game where the character creation is very simple, but the mechanics are just as complex as the good old RPGs. Your casual RPG player will enjoy the character creation and will happily continue the game. Then they encounter their first combat, where they will fail hard because they won't understand the complex mechanics of the game. The other option is that you make all of the mechanics simpler to keep the player in the game. And thus, we gut a dumbed down game.

I will be so happy if you can make a game which is truly as complex as the good old RPGs, yet it is much easier to get into, but I'm not holding my breath that this will be possible in a satisfiable way.
 

CryptRat

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I think there has been a misunderstanding of my talk. I never said I don't like complex systems, just that I don't like the presentation of so much complexity in the first few minutes of the game, like in character creation.
Except that complex character (party) creation is half of the fun in RPGs to me. Deal with it.
 

Vault Dweller

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"... a PC game I worked on was Icewind Dale, which required you to roll six whole second-edition D&D characters before you could even start playing the game. No one would get through character creation nowadays. You know, people back then loved it, and there are still people that would love that, but I think the thing is when it comes to the console, and maybe all gamers, it has to be accessible, people have to be led into it. " Feargus Urquhart.
 

Black

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Kev Inkline

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"... a PC game I worked on was Icewind Dale, which required you to roll six whole second-edition D&D characters before you could even start playing the game. No one would get through character creation nowadays. You know, people back then loved it, and there are still people that would love that, but I think the thing is when it comes to the console, and maybe all gamers, it has to be accessible, people have to be led into it. " Feargus Urquhart.
I started IWD the 2nd time in my life last week, MediantSamuel can attest. On my previous attempt ('00) I played only through the starter village.

It took me 2hrs to create the party. The best part of the game so far.:cainapproves:
 
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Wow, long thread. I will admit I don't have time to read it all, but let me say this. I think there has been a misunderstanding of my talk. I never said I don't like complex systems, just that I don't like the presentation of so much complexity in the first few minutes of the game, like in character creation. We lost a lot of potential players to that. That isn't hypothetical. I have emails and reviews to back me up.

Think of an RPG like a mountain. In my older RPG's, the only way to the top was going up cliffs, but many of you like rock climbing so it didn't matter. But a lot of people never even tried to do it. So I am building a road that lets people drive to the top of the mountain. The mountain is still as high as it used to be and the view is just as spectacular, but now more people can enjoy it.

There is so much misunderstanding on this thread, but I know you are smart and RPG-savvy people. That makes me think my first point of the talk is even more relevant: the need to reduce the learning slope to introduce something new. In other words, I think I need to simplify my talk.

Anyway, it took 30 hours on three flights to get back to Los Angeles from Croatia, so I am operating with severe jet lag. I will try to explain this more later.

how can that be acceptable? games are about interaction, the approach to the mountain is you may look but not touch, so it kills interaction and videogaming in the blink of an eye!

something is lost when one makes things easier, you're talking about extracting a heart from a body and trust that the brain work!

it's too simplistic, told this way. unless you can make a clear example of a segment of gameplaym which, simplified, still results in no loss in interactivity, which is manipulation and simple use of brain energy for problem solving, the initial point of the frowners (me) is still valid.

but then again, i don't know what exactly this new graphical approach to skills really is, so i admit it could still somehow not ruin interaction.
 
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MRY

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The best part of the game so far.
FWIW, this has actually always been my beef with intense character creation (or faction creation in, e.g., MOO2) -- the most interesting and exciting choices all get made at the outset, not only when you have the least framework for making them, but also in such density that the fun of them is somewhat diminished. As I've mentioned before, one thing I like about the Lone Wolf game books is that every time you level up, you get something as cool as what you could get at character creation.
 
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Lurker King

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Feargus Urquhart said:
"... a PC game I worked on was Icewind Dale, which required you to roll six whole second-edition D&D characters before you could even start playing the game. No one would get through character creation nowadays. You know, people back then loved it, and there are still people that would love that, but I think the thing is when it comes to the console, and maybe all gamers, it has to be accessible, people have to be led into it.".

cRPG developers are guilty of “mutually indulgent log-rolling”. They consider player’s ignorance as facts of life and this passivity lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy. Adam Smith was a wise man: “They are likely to make common cause, to be all very indulgent to one another, and every man to consent that his neighbour may neglect his duty, provided he himself is allowed to neglect his own.”
 

FeelTheRads

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Wow, long thread. I will admit I don't have time to read it all, but let me say this. I think there has been a misunderstanding of my talk. I never said I don't like complex systems, just that I don't like the presentation of so much complexity in the first few minutes of the game, like in character creation. We lost a lot of potential players to that. That isn't hypothetical. I have emails and reviews to back me up.

Think of an RPG like a mountain. In my older RPG's, the only way to the top was going up cliffs, but many of you like rock climbing so it didn't matter. But a lot of people never even tried to do it. So I am building a road that lets people drive to the top of the mountain. The mountain is still as high as it used to be and the view is just as spectacular, but now more people can enjoy it.

There is so much misunderstanding on this thread, but I know you are smart and RPG-savvy people. That makes me think my first point of the talk is even more relevant: the need to reduce the learning slope to introduce something new. In other words, I think I need to simplify my talk.

Anyway, it took 30 hours on three flights to get back to Los Angeles from Croatia, so I am operating with severe jet lag. I will try to explain this more later.
With all due respect Tim, but we have heard this so many times. So many developers told us that the games won't be dumbed down, it will just have an easy option to the more casual players. But the game will be just as complex for the hardcore crowd, we have been told. But I think the people who find the simple character creation of Fallout 1 difficult, will find the rest of the systems difficult, so you have to make every mechanics simpler. Those people who need a very simple character creation just want a simple RPG lite game like Fallout 4.

Let's assume you make a game where the character creation is very simple, but the mechanics are just as complex as the good old RPGs. Your casual RPG player will enjoy the character creation and will happily continue the game. Then they encounter their first combat, where they will fail hard because they won't understand the complex mechanics of the game. The other option is that you make all of the mechanics simpler to keep the player in the game. And thus, we gut a dumbed down game.

I will be so happy if you can make a game which is truly as complex as the good old RPGs, yet it is much easier to get into, but I'm not holding my breath that this will be possible in a satisfiable way.

Yep. Until proven otherwise, I can't believe the "hardcore but ready for the modern gamer" or "modern but totally hardcore as well" marketing speak anymore.
Especially not if you start with saying that Fallout and Arcanum had difficult character creation.

It took me 2hrs to create the party. The best part of the game so far.

It's also the only good part of the game lul
 
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Lurker King

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FWIW, this has actually always been my beef with intense character creation (or faction creation in, e.g., MOO2) -- the most interesting and exciting choices all get made at the outset, not only when you have the least framework for making them, but also in such density that the fun of them is somewhat diminished.

You seem to nurture the misguided assumption that once you make your build, either it is sacrosanct and definitive, or is a waste of time. THIS IS WRONG! You are ignoring that there is a reflective equilibrium between character build and gameplay, e.g., it is very common to reload in Underrail to try a different build after a couple hours, and this is great.
 
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Lhynn

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It's a creative way of claiming that attracting more casuals won't make RPGs any less complex. The last 15 years have debunked this claim rather thoroughly. People who need paved roads to get through the character creation in Fallout will need guided tours to get through the rest of the game, which would result in a very different design. See the Elder Scrolls evolution: Daggerfall -> Morrowind -> Oblivion -> Skyrim -> Fallout 4.

In other words, people who don't like rock climbing don't really care about mountains and if you build a road, the only crowd you're going to get is some tourists. You know that and we know that.

Agree, sort of. Im a fan of making games more complex as you progress through them. Sadly this isnt the case with games nowadays, they start simple and stay simple, because theres no reason to add stuff past the first hours because of reviews and the public perception of the game usually hinges on the first hours of the game in general, so all the depth that could be added is wasted.

But it can happen, it sort of did with FNV and its faction mechanics and final quests.
 

MRY

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I'm not sure I understand the "misguided assumption" you're mentioning -- i.e., I'm not sure whether you're proposing the idea that players should be prepared to abandon ineffective builds midway through (which is an interesting idea, though not one that fits with historical practice, let alone modern practice) or that players should be willing to tough out ineffective builds because that's it's own reward (which is something I tend to agree with). But while I think you're right that players can figure out the system via a manual or tooltips sufficiently to figure out how to min-max (if that's their thing), I'm not sure that really gets at my problem, which is that I think the challenge of figuring out how to min-max a system at the outset isn't really the kind of strategy that narrative RPGs should be about. It is a different question with rogue-likes and open-world games, perhaps, but I think in narrative RPGs it puts the solution before the puzzle. You aren't figuring out how to overcome some contextual obstacle, but just how to power-up your build. The choices are simply too abstract IMO, too metagamey. It's more interesting to figure out how to execute a specific strategy in the face of a long-term goal, or a specific tactic in terms of a short-term obstacle, and to have that be the point of decisionmaking. There's no reason you can't have both, of course, but I still found it disappointing in older RPGs how most of the fun stuff you could do with your character happened before the game began. (There are exceptions, PS:T and FO being two of them.)

(Also, one small nit: I think you mean "reflective equilibrium," assuming you're talking about the Rawlsian idea.)
 

Haplo

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Fallout and Morrowind were my first cRPGs ever and both of these had super-intuitive character creation. Every attribute represented what it's name suggested it would.
SPECIAL could do with a lot of under-the-hood improvements, but to this day it's still my favorite system presentation/idea wise.

Exactly! I've yet to see a game with character creation and development mechanics as elegant, clean and impactful as Fallout 1/2 S.P.E.C.I.A.L. None comes close IMO. Sure, I'll admit that Agility is a bit OP, but otherwise I've found the system perfect.
Too complex? :negative:
 

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