Putting the 'role' back in role-playing games since 2002.
Donate to Codex
Good Old Games
  • Welcome to rpgcodex.net, a site dedicated to discussing computer based role-playing games in a free and open fashion. We're less strict than other forums, but please refer to the rules.

    "This message is awaiting moderator approval": All new users must pass through our moderation queue before they will be able to post normally. Until your account has "passed" your posts will only be visible to yourself (and moderators) until they are approved. Give us a week to get around to approving / deleting / ignoring your mundane opinion on crap before hassling us about it. Once you have passed the moderation period (think of it as a test), you will be able to post normally, just like all the other retards.

Without combat?

Rabby

Liturgist
Joined
Jul 30, 2003
Messages
131
Location
USA
In my overflowing abundance of free time, I started pondering about the past RPGs I've played, and what they would become if combat was stripped away. It seems that of all these games, maybe only Planescape: Torment would still hold together without the fighting. Even Fallout and Arcanum, to me, seem to rely heavily on combat as part of the gaming experience -- not to mention games like BG2. While relying on combat is definitely not a bad thing (who doesn't enjoy splattering a super mutant's limbs all over the ground?), it just came to me as a slight shock that RPGs, where the most prominent features should be in its story, interaction and the like, is perhaps the only genre that doesn't contain a significant number of games that don't involve combat. Well, okay, the FPS genre is probably more intent on killing folks, but I think my point was delivered.

More specifically, in all RPGs, most (if not all) of the skills and character attributes seem to correlate to combat prowess. Take the D&D ruleset, for example, isn't charisma the only attribute that has nothing to do with battles? (I realize this is a blatant generalization, as it's perfectly feasible to include dialogue that uses attributes like intelligence, etc. And that for the sorcerer/ess, charisma is most certainly related to combat. Please bear with me here. :P) In Fallout, aren't most of the perks related to enhancing combat abilities? I suppose the case could be made for Fallout that there are certainly more non-combat skills than combat skills, but I find that unless you're "trying something special," you would usually rely heavily on at least one combat skill. Again, this is not bashing such a system, but just pointing out how intrinsicly important beating other people up is in CRPGs.

Given the extreme wealth of knowledge that's present on the board, could someone tell me if there were non-combat oriented RPGs? I can think of a few that are made in Asia, where perhaps combat is replaced by a card game/Mahjong, but they are certainly not very well known unless they feature women taking off their clothes. I also considered The Sims, but found it difficult to stuff into the RPG category. While you're certainly playing a role (lets face it, in which game are we not playing a role?), the interaction with the world is, though fun and interesting, very contrived and limited. Also, the character itself doesn't seem to grow and develop -- it's more of the character's possessions. Also, short of making up little stories, there really isn't a plotline in the game.

My second question is: Why on earth is this the case? Is it due to demented human nature (demented 13-30 male target audience nature?) that entertainment must contain big hammers to smash people with? Did we simply classify all the RPGs-with-no-combat to be adventure games? Doesn't it fly in the face of multiple-solutions, interactivity, and immersion that we discuss here for games to be so heavily reliant on one form of interaction alone?

And finally, if you're still reading, I'm curious as to what type of RPGs could be made that feature NO combat in the sense of monster-hunting that's so prevalent in CRPGs today. Spinning off of the upcoming Republic game (which I'm definitely looking forward to, by the way :wink:), perhaps politics would be a good topic. Perhaps a run-for-office game with character skills of inflammatory speech, underhanded dealing, foreign knowledge, etc, and an overlaying story-arc of playing an individual who wants to run for office, and eventually succeeding/failing. (Hey look! That's already multiple-ending!) I know that there was actually a game made in Taiwan that is similar to this, but I've never played it and cannot comment much on it.

Or, perhaps, the story of a wannabe musician and his/her path to renown? With attributes of sense-of-rhythm, charisma, taste in outfit, "traits" like perfect pitch, and quests done to build relationship with record companies.

The most poignant point that I've gotten from writing this big long thing is that. . . can it be that combat is used in CRPGs simply because the developers don't know how to fill 40 hours of gameplay?

Much appreciations for your response ahead of time. :D
 

Saint_Proverbius

Administrator
Patron
Staff Member
Joined
Jun 16, 2002
Messages
11,431
Location
Behind you.
Charisma in D&D does have to do with combat, though. It has to do with the number of henchmen you can hire to do your bidding, which is ultimately killing something. It also determines how powerful a sorcerer is, which is definitely a combat class. Paladins get bonuses to abilities, most of which are combat related, from Charisma. Turning of undead for Clerics and Paladins is based on Charisma.

I think that's the real issue, D&D evolved from table top wargaming. It's basically a combat game. Since it's the most well known RPG format, most others fall suit.
 

Rabby

Liturgist
Joined
Jul 30, 2003
Messages
131
Location
USA
Saint_Proverbius said:
I think that's the real issue, D&D evolved from table top wargaming. It's basically a combat game. Since it's the most well known RPG format, most others fall suit.

If that's the case, I'd say it's really quite a shame that developers are unwilling to risk new concepts, and produce similar games over and over again. Look at The Sims! As far as I know, much of its success is in the new concept which captured much of previously untapped market. Yet, besides independent games perhaps, non-combat CRPGs are virtually nonexistent. Knowing that there are vast possibilities for creative, immersive, detailed, fun environments that are ignored for the sake of clinging onto what works leaves me a bitter taste in the mouth.

Is anyone here familiar with a Japanese game named Princess Maker 2? I think there's an English version at Home of the Underdogs free for download. It's certainly not an RPG, as the game's objective is to raise your daughter, but I think the building and training of her attribute could be enjoyable for those who like to spend hours tweaking their IWD party. :wink:

But games like that, I think, could be a step away from the combat-intensive CRPGs we are inundated with. The genre of raise-your-blah appears to be pretty much dead, even in Asia, as this particular game is many, many years old. A pity, in my opinion.
 

Rabby

Liturgist
Joined
Jul 30, 2003
Messages
131
Location
USA
Argh. . . please ignore this post, and feel free to call me an idiot.
 

Psilon

Erudite
Joined
Feb 15, 2003
Messages
2,018
Location
Codex retirement
I wonder if anyone will take the GURPS license, with all its non-combat skills (Savoir-Faire, Area Knowledge, Fast Talk, and the like), and make something like that. Could be neat, though I'd expect it to be relatively short.
 

Rabby

Liturgist
Joined
Jul 30, 2003
Messages
131
Location
USA
Psilon said:
Could be neat, though I'd expect it to be relatively short.

Do you think one of the major uses of combat is to simply make the game longer then? Isn't that kind of like building a house out of soda cans because you don't have enough bricks?
 

Psilon

Erudite
Joined
Feb 15, 2003
Messages
2,018
Location
Codex retirement
Combat can certainly be used that way. Only the first band of orcs requires major scripting. After that, developers can throw in orcs willy-nilly with only the occasional tweak.

Writing good fast-talking, however, takes a lot of effort. You can't mass-produce "Fast-Talk: Critical Failure" dialogue without ending up like Morrowind.
 

Diogo Ribeiro

Erudite
Joined
Jun 23, 2003
Messages
5,706
Location
Lisboa, Portugal
Rabby said:
My second question is: Why on earth is this the case? Is it due to demented human nature (demented 13-30 male target audience nature?) that entertainment must contain big hammers to smash people with?

Yup, Tom and Jerry are to blame for this.
 

Voss

Erudite
Joined
Jun 25, 2003
Messages
1,770
And any warner-brother's cartoon.

But, yes, Rabby, combat is filler. The cans are handy- and someone does the work, and then a machine presses them out (Or, more accurately- someone downs all the good stuff, then scatters the empties all over the landscape). The bricks on the other handed, are hand-crafted using traditional methods.

Examples:
IWD2 (X pointless battles to the next snippet of conversation),
DS (hell if you take the combat out of DS, all you're doing is walking!)
POR2. (because there really isn't anything else to do)
 

Rabby

Liturgist
Joined
Jul 30, 2003
Messages
131
Location
USA
I think I can accept that games must have some sort of "filler" activity, much like musical compositions, and that the filler Beethoven used was much more interesting than the filler Weber used -- akin to the difference between, say, Fallout and Morrowind.

So, would it be fair to assume that the reason developers haven't used other kinds of activity to fill their games (say, little puzzles as opposed to slashing people's heads off) to be the dominance of D&D? I've always found it interesting that the Final Fantasy series (and many other RPGs from Japan) tend to squeeze in little mini-games (in FFVII there were the squatting-race for the wig and snow-mobile race, to name a few. If I'm not mistaken, Chrono Trigger also had similar mini-games) while RPGs from the States (Canada included :wink:) tend not to. Seeing how frequently developers like Mr. Sawyer and Mr. Cain make references to D&D, has that particular PnP experience single-handed shaped the landscape of CRPGs?
 

Deathy

Liturgist
Joined
Jun 15, 2002
Messages
793
Voss said:
DS (hell if you take the combat out of DS, all you're doing is walking!)

Yup, and even with the combat, it's just walking and watching.

I can't help myself.
 

Voss

Erudite
Joined
Jun 25, 2003
Messages
1,770
I don't think its a simple D&D equals violence forumla. Or, more accurately D&D = just violence, since the system is set up around combat, and other things have simply sneaked in over the years.

I think its mostly a matter of what marketing people tell the general audience (and thus the devs) what they will accept in a game. And largely, that's
"Let blood!
Blood!!
Blood!!!
Be your motto!"

But yes, D&D is the primary shaper of the CPRG genre. But there really isn't any way it could be otherwise, since even the games that aren't like D&D are largely the results of conscious descisions to not be like D&D, and are therefor shaped by it. (You must, after all, know who/what you're rebelling against, otherwise theres a chance of doing something similar) That and a fair number of gamer designers, even today, can still remember when D&D was the only game in town. And thats even more true of older games, which of course, influenced later and current games. Its all a fairly vicious undercurrent that underlies the entire genre.
 

Spazmo

Erudite
Joined
Nov 9, 2002
Messages
5,752
Location
Monkey Island
The bulk of D&D rules are geared towards combat because D&D is meant to include combat. That doesn't mean it has to be all combat. I'll be the first to admit that D&D's rules for non-combat situations are very simplistic, but that's the way it should be! Dice rolls here and there to see how convincing or threatening your character is, but it ultimately is a matter of the player's ingenuity.
 

Tris McCall

Novice
Joined
Jul 30, 2003
Messages
77
Location
jersey city, new jersey
Rabby wrote:

" In my overflowing abundance of free time, I started pondering about the past RPGs I've played, and what they would become if combat was stripped away. It seems that of all these games, maybe only Planescape: Torment would still hold together without the fighting."

Honestly, I thought there was *way* too much fighting in Planescape:Torment. That it's got more dialogue than the other games doesn't pardon its tedious combat sequences. The trip to the Outlands in particular -- those strange pack animals running at you for no reason -- comes to mind. But how about the five thousand constructs you have to kill in order to get to Nordom? Talk about pointless destruction.

(That Outlands trip was the Torment instantiation of my least favorite role-playing game combat convention: the creature that can only be hit by blunt weapons folllowed by the creature that can only be hit by edged weapons. This guarantees annoying inventory shuffling in the middle of what should be a fierce battle. And what does my fighter do with his five foot polearm and longbow when he's using that spare mace?)

Really, there are too many reiterative set-piece battles in all of these games. The cheesy romance-novel storylines may be cliched, but at least the dialogue trees give you some options and a few differing outcomes. The battels don't; it's just reload and reload until you've killed the foozle.

Tris



[/quote]
 

Rabby

Liturgist
Joined
Jul 30, 2003
Messages
131
Location
USA
Voss said:
But yes, D&D is the primary shaper of the CPRG genre. But there really isn't any way it could be otherwise, since even the games that aren't like D&D are largely the results of conscious descisions to not be like D&D, and are therefor shaped by it.

Perhaps a fun CRPG would be to play the role of a CRPG developer in an alternate universe without D&D. :wink:

Tris McCall said:
Honestly, I thought there was *way* too much fighting in Planescape:Torment. That it's got more dialogue than the other games doesn't pardon its tedious combat sequences.

Just to clarify, I didn't mean that there was little combat in Planescape: Torment. When I said it held together without the combat, that's exactly what I meant -- without the combat, I believe the story and interactions with other NPCs would have still formed a very capable game. And I didn't think P:T RELIED too much on combat to deliver the experience that it does. Whether or not there was a large quantity of combat could be a factor in the decision, but in my opinion isn't the sole consideration in whether or not a game could still be similar if combat was taken away. For an example that's not P:T, perhaps the Quest for Glory series would work without combat as well, given the horde of very interesting games from Sierra that WERE without combat.
 

Psilon

Erudite
Joined
Feb 15, 2003
Messages
2,018
Location
Codex retirement
Quest for Glory 2 didn't really have much combat, not counting the caravan intermission. There was the EOF initiation, the duel with Khaveen, the final showdown, and a few desert encounters. That's about it.
 

roguefrog

Liturgist
Joined
Aug 6, 2003
Messages
516
Location
California, USA
That Outlands trip was the Torment instantiation of my least favorite role-playing game combat convention: the creature that can only be hit by blunt weapons folllowed by the creature that can only be hit by edged weapons. This guarantees annoying inventory shuffling in the middle of what should be a fierce battle. And what does my fighter do with his five foot polearm and longbow when he's using that spare mace?

I've completed PS:T 3 times and still don't know what you're talking about here. I don't recall ever having to tediously switch weapons to kill a monster in the outlands. Either because another party memeber had a different weapon or I just blasted it with magic. This is a very subtle problem not worth mentioning because that combat portion was simple something to do as you traverse the distance between the portal and Fork-Tongues place which was a grand ETA time of 10 seconds. (Practically)

how about the five thousand constructs you have to kill in order to get to Nordom? Talk about pointless destruction.

Pain in the ass. That's why I ran through all the rooms until I found him. :lol:
 

Skorpios

Liturgist
Joined
Jun 29, 2003
Messages
197
Location
Australia
I think that PS:T was a step in an interesting direction, because the protagonist's internal development (memories, realisations, relationships) was just as important as his external achievements (phat l3wt, levels, bodycount).

The downside of this was much of this internal action was scripted, basically forcing the player to go along for the ride, which impinges on roleplaying to a certain extent. Torment got away with it I think because the Nameless One was such a unique character to explore we didn't really care that we had no choice in the matter. The wonderful Planescape setting helped in this regard as well.

If TNO had been a weaker or less interesting character, I think our impressions of Torment would have been a lot harsher.

But using it as a beginning point, I think a combat-free RPG would be a very interesting project. I think the 'action' would have to revolve around relationships and other internal events and that would be very challenging to write - and very text intensive. I think it would tend more to the 'adventure' genre than what we recognise as RPG - not that this is necessarily a bad thing.
 

Rabby

Liturgist
Joined
Jul 30, 2003
Messages
131
Location
USA
Skorpios said:
The downside of this was much of this internal action was scripted, basically forcing the player to go along for the ride, which impinges on roleplaying to a certain extent.

Not to mention that, compared to establishing a combat design and then stuff monsters into dungeons, these scripted actions takes much more manpower and craftsmanship to make it work. I see that what you're saying is that to leave combat out of a game would be to turn it into a ride, and if the ride's good, the game's good. And if the ride's bad, well. . .

I was more curious, however, as to the possibilities of establishing a recyclable design that's not actually combat. Things like resource-gathering in RTS games probably fall under this category, but that particular example is really not very interesting compared to RPG combat.

I remember, many years ago, I played a racing game on the PC called, simply, Lamborghini or something to that effect. In the "career mode," you'd race all over the US and collect money from these races, which can then be used to upgrade the vehicle. While so simplistic and one-dimensional that this probably can't be considered an RPG, something like that is what I had in mind. If that particular game had involved more complex vehicle fine-tuning, interactions with other drivers, and relationships with racing teams, I think it might serve to be a better example.
 
Joined
Nov 5, 2002
Messages
2,443
Location
The Lone Star State
Rabby said:
So, would it be fair to assume that the reason developers haven't used other kinds of activity to fill their games (say, little puzzles as opposed to slashing people's heads off) to be the dominance of D&D? I've always found it interesting that the Final Fantasy series (and many other RPGs from Japan) tend to squeeze in little mini-games (in FFVII there were the squatting-race for the wig and snow-mobile race, to name a few. If I'm not mistaken, Chrono Trigger also had similar mini-games) while RPGs from the States (Canada included :wink:) tend not to. Seeing how frequently developers like Mr. Sawyer and Mr. Cain make references to D&D, has that particular PnP experience single-handed shaped the landscape of CRPGs?

Ugh, no JRPG mini-games, thanks. I can't stand those things.

I don't really see how you lay down combat-oriented stuff on D&D. D&D has tons of non-combat skills, they just don't make it to the PC. All stats also have combat and non-combat uses. For instance, strength determines how hard you swing your sword, but also if you keep your grip when dangling off a cliff, if you bust down a door, how much you can carry, how much you can lift, etc. And like SP said, try telling a paladin or sorcerer charisma is a non-combat stat.

Just what are you looking for in a game, really? I don't want to play Barbie dress-up all day. The main thing is just to give options. Bashing someone's head in is a legitimate option. In fact, one of the things that frustrates me about adventure games is I find myself asking why do I have to trade the elf's scarf for the dwarf's pendant to hand to the gnome who's blocking a door when I could just take a nice, sharp knife and kill him in his sleep, or persuade him into letting me past, or cast a spell to immobilize him, etc. Compulsory combat certainly isn't a good thing. In fact, it's just the other side of the coin of compulsory pacifism. More problem-solving would be very positive, and it's in the spirit of D&D anyway. Problem is, it's more time-consuming to implement multiple options. Railroading someone into combat, or hunting down the magic gem to trade for the ancient key to unlock the mystic portal, or talking to the village elder and running all his errands, is much easier. That's the real problem.
 

Sharpei_Diem

Liturgist
Joined
Dec 4, 2002
Messages
223
Location
We're here
i think that play options could be expanded by just including time and certain, reasonable, logical consequences of time.

Lets take a guard keeping watch over a prisoner you've decided you need to get at. Conventional RPGs have you attacking the guard, or talking with him to trick him. If time was applied, then perhaps you could pick the lock during a shift change or while he was eating. Or maybe you could sneak in when he went outside to relieve himself(or knock him out when he does). Or maybe you could open/majick/jimmy the lock when the guard fell asleep at 2:00am. Actually, non-lethal combat should be more of an option in general....Arcanum did a pretty good job with these kinds of things: people going to sleep, different people arriving at a tavern at night, the ability to knock people out. It's too bad that it didn't have the people respond to your presence(hey, are you just hanging around in my room waiting for me to sleep so you can steal the plans to the city sewer system you were just asking me about?), but it was a good first step...
 

Skorpios

Liturgist
Joined
Jun 29, 2003
Messages
197
Location
Australia
I guess we will just keep hitting the scripting/AI wall. In the case of your guard above, giving him a schedule simply adds another level of complexity. All those actions - shift change, meal breaks, sleeping, etc - would have to be scripted. That is a lot of manhours to invest in a very simple situation: man guarding door. You can see why most games just take the simple path of combat/diplo/sneak options instead and leave the poor old guard on eternal guard duty until your character happens along.

And as you pointed out in Arcanum, the simple fact that NPCs don't have actual awareness, and having many different options just open up more situations were scripting can 'break' could create totally implausible or even worse, totally unplayable situations.

If the designer only gives you three options in a given situation then testing those options is fairly straightforward. Imagine trying to playtest a game with infinite options!

After reading more about Lionheart (and getting more and more depressed about it) I'm thinking about one of the central premises as a candidate for a non-combat RPG.

Imagine if you were possessed by a spirit - how would you deal with that fact? What if the spirit offered powers beyond those around you? Or insights into the minds of others? What if the spirit made demands that went against your personal ethics? Do you fight to regain the sanctity of your mind? Do you compromise with the spirit for mutual gain? Do you abdicate responsibility totally and just go along for the ride and see where the spirit's desires take you?

Personally I'd like such a game to be in a contemporary setting so the decisions you have to make are as powerful as possible. Not sure if that would qualify as a RPG or an adventure though.
 

Voss

Erudite
Joined
Jun 25, 2003
Messages
1,770
So your argument is, its hard, so no one should expect developers to do it?
Come on.
:roll:
And anyway...
That type of situation (the guard, with shift breaks, etc) was being handled all the way back in Ultima V.
Can't be that difficult.
 

Rabby

Liturgist
Joined
Jul 30, 2003
Messages
131
Location
USA
Voss said:
So your argument is, its hard, so no one should expect developers to do it?
Come on.
:roll:
And anyway...
That type of situation (the guard, with shift breaks, etc) was being handled all the way back in Ultima V.
Can't be that difficult.

I don't think we're saying work is infeasible, but rather brainstorming ideas for other possible designs that can "roll by itself" much like combat can.

Skorpios said:
Imagine if you were possessed by a spirit - how would you deal with that fact? What if the spirit offered powers beyond those around you? Or insights into the minds of others? What if the spirit made demands that went against your personal ethics? Do you fight to regain the sanctity of your mind? Do you compromise with the spirit for mutual gain? Do you abdicate responsibility totally and just go along for the ride and see where the spirit's desires take you?

That's definitely an interesting premise, though I suspect it's the type of story where the execution is crucial in success. Some stories seem to survive even under brutally tactless delivery (many fairy tales and children's books), but in my opinion some tend to need an exquisite touch to blossom to their full potential.

I'd probably expect lots of battling of wills between the spirit and the PC in a story like that, and it would be so extremely tough to execute the non-linearity and action-consequence without stuffing it into an existing set of ethics and morals (i.e., should you "punish" the player for acting "evil"?). Also, a big hurdle I think would be to develop a character (the spirit) complex enough, yet can still be believable under continuous attention of the player. Lionheart seems to get around this by simply not allowing non-scripted interactions.

Here's a random story idea based on that just for my own amusement since I'd never be a game developer myself: Maybe the player could play an emperor/empress, who is possessed by a spirit sent from another nation's sorcerer. The game could be played on two levels -- a strategic level where you wield the might of your nation in diplomacy or war with your neighbors, and a personal level where you engage in willpower battles against the spirit, making choices or performing deeds that would whittle/strengthen your mind. To succumb to the spirit grants you unnatural powers, but means the spirit controls much of your actions. To constantly struggle with the spirit means you are in full control of your nation, yet the presence of another force in your body damages you physically and mentally. No preset morals or ethics would be involved, and the motivation of the game would be in building your own nation, in reputation with other nations, and the sheer attempt to remain in control (or not).

Added Later: Has anyone played Betrayal at Siboot, or a name similar to that? The mechanics of the game is to build your relationship with some 11 other competitors for a leader-sort-of job, and obtain information that would give you an edge in the nightly psi duels. Not that it's actually related to what we're discussing here :P but I thought the idea of building a game based on relationships, and having that as a game mechanic instead of scripted events, is actually present in that game, and makes an interestingly play.
 

ecliptic

Liturgist
Joined
Feb 11, 2003
Messages
915
One of these posts reminded of the old man's ramble skill in Anachronox. Hahaha, those were some great stories.
 

As an Amazon Associate, rpgcodex.net earns from qualifying purchases.
Top Bottom