Drama among role players


roleplay

A team member sent me a link to an interesting article release this week by Larry Everett on Massively Overpowered  which I thought was interesting. I posted a response on the forums but thought I would re-post here. I am still gathering my thoughts on how to find a solution that would work in a game like ours, which is designed to attract role players of all kinds, but that will require some team brainstorming so will have to get back to that.

Here is my comment:

I too have had a similar experience with role play drama and it caused me to leave the game.

I have role played in games for many years, both online and pen and paper. My experience has been overwhelmingly positive and the vast majority of role players are there to have fun, are not mentally deranged, and do not take it all too seriously, just like the vast majority of PvPers are not violent psychopaths.

Anytime you get a group of people together you are going to eventually have drama. I know a guild of PvP gamers who are constantly infighting, so much so that their guild is failing badly. I have friends who complain about the drama in their church, or their academic institution. It is a huge part of human nature and our need to socialize, belong to a group, etc. Drama simply is a part of life everywhere.

Back to role players..one of the biggest problem is that there are so many different types of role players.

There are Casual role players, who stay in character but otherwise just play the game. There are what I call more Hardcore role players who not only stay in character, but separate player knowledge from character knowledge, and the Intense role players who write pages of bio and expect everyone to read them as soon as they meet your character so you can become part of their story. They are more apt to blur player and character knowledge by sending “tells” to defend their character and let you know how wrong you are.

I once played a SWG Emu game and when looking for a group of role players, I found a what appeared to be a nice group. Eventually, it became evident to me that this was unlike other games I had played. Not only did I get the “read my bio, you are totally not getting my character” tells, but had a very nice guy who was studying to be a minister try to save my “real life” soul. I stuck around too long, left angry and disgusted.

Unfortunately, there was no where else to go, which is true of many games out there, especially one like this without a role play server. So I left the game. Now, I played on an unofficial rp server for SWG (the actual real game) for many years and never had any issues. The majority of folks were casual or hardcore, we all got along, and if there was drama, we could easily go find other individuals or groups who shared a similar play style. I also found that the vast majority of non-roleplayers would join in with us sometimes and really enjoyed our role play. This to me is the perfect setting for a role play scenario. It is FUN, not stressful or at least not any more stressful than another other social game.

Sadly, many run into those Intense groups which do not suit their style and suddenly all role players are dramatic, mentally ill, or perverts. This is no better than labeling every PvP player as violent, anti-social, and cruel. There will always be the fringes and the goal here would be to find a place to play where others share your style and/or are mature enough to respect your style may be different from yours before you get to the point where you are so traumatized that you leave the game.

Respect and maturity are certain part of the answer. But even among adults, there are always those who are less mature for a variety of reasons. I think part of the solution must be that the role play guilds/groups need to be open about their style of play. They must make that clear to new members when they join in the role play, and they need to use “tells” to remind each other that this is supposed to be fun.

Visit the link above and let me know what you think.

Teila

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Classes are boring


tTltVLI

No, I do not mean those classes you take in school. I mean, of course, classes in MMO’s. Again, I did a bit of research into games with classes (your typical paladin, wizard, etc.) and those that did not. Few MMO’s do away with classes and those that do often replace classes with something that is REALLY a class but has a different name.

Why are classes popular? First of all, they make character creation easier. You choose the class and then you choose from within that class various options. It is fast, quick and you know if you choose a wizard you will get a character high on wisdom, and able to throw fireballs at the enemy. Easy…which is really the goal of many modern games these days.

The other reason is balance. If one has 8 classes in their game, they can balance the damage and defense for each class, making them almost equal, much easier for design. That way, you don’t have a game full of just Paladins.  Of course, if you dig deep into most games, you realize the balance really is an illusion. There will always be the most powerful class for fighting and most people will play that class who want to fight. Yes, the wizard might stand a chance, but the bard and the rogue need to use other means to compete.

Balance is good, right? But is it good? Having played many DnD games and similar pen and paper games, I rather wonder what balance takes away from the game. In a DnD game, balance is based on party more than on individuals. If you enter a dungeon with a bunch of Paladins, you may find yourself stuck when confronted with a locked door.  You need that rogue. Of course, in DnD, as the campaign goes on, the party members can learn skills in lockpicking that have nothing to do with being a Paladin. But..in most MMO’s you can only choose the skills/abilities that are within your class. The Paladin cannot learn lockpicking most likely. So a party full of Paladins in an MMO dungeon would simply be out of luck unless they can find a rogue, but of course since rogues are boring and can’t fight as well, they are rare and unusual creatures…maybe.

Now, I have some odd ideas of how games should be. I like the idea that balance comes from outside the set of rules that define a game. In the real world, everything balances out naturally. If there are too many bakers in town, some of the bakers will move to another town or they will switch professions, maybe specialize in wedding cakes. During major changes, such as wartime, the demand may switch to recruiting soldiers or people to work in factories that produce products demanded during wartime. During the holiday season shops hire extra people to handle the demand.

The point is that outside influences create the balance in the real world. It is not about having a factory worker balanced with the waitress, but about the demand for factory workers vs. demand for waitresses.

So..what if this were extended to a game? Give players the ability to create their own “classes” and choose their own abilities/skills for those classes. Give them the ability to change their mind if outside influences suggest that they would be better off if they did. Bob the Baker might decide to join the military if a war is threatening his village. In doing so, he may have to put aside some of his baking abilities in order to learn more fighting skills.  But Bob is still Bob, with the same friends and maybe able to bake some great bread for his buddies in his platoon.

One thing I have discovered when sharing ideas with others is that gamers are pretty rigid in how they see games. I get the…”this will never work” from those who see games as working this way or that, the typical MMO, this is the way it has always been done. I see very little flux in the way people/gamers/developers think about games. Unfortunately, this is why we see only minor evolution in the way games are made and how the player fits into the entire structure of a game. Games market their great event systems which really are just a short burst that involves a handful of players and then everything goes back to the same old stuff. Players really only have the illusion of impacting the world because they are stuck in the same roles.  How many games actually allow you to have a class called baker?  You must mold your character to the game rather than allow you, based on how you play, who you play, and what you do actually create change in the world.

If Bob the baker comes back from the war and reopens his bakery, he will be a very different Bob from the one who left. He will have war stories and buddies from the war. He might be more compassionate after seeing the horrors of war. Or maybe he will be angry and bitter due to his experiences. The player gets to decide. For role players, this would be an ideal situation and a real way to drive stories. For those casual gamers who are not interested in role playing or anything deeper than XP, this might be a chance to surround yourselves with a living world full of dynamic evolving characters, even if you just want to drop by to kill a few rats. The joy of players creating the stories is that they are totally unpredictable compared to a bunch of NPCs repeating the same dialogue and repetitive quests.

I am most certainly talking to a blank wall here, but regardless, I think I will continue to muse about how to engage players in a different sort of game.  Please feel free to comment and share your ideas or your concerns with me.

Teila

Posted in Emergent Gamplay, Musings, Skills | Tagged , | 5 Comments

The End Game game…..


cherrybomb-remix

I am not trying to start a controversial thread here so hope you will bear with me. I know that the vast majorities of folks here who also play games, especially MMOs, are motivated by the very things that we see in most games, the achievement, the rewards, the progression, etc. However, I want to talk about another way to play an MMO.

Recently, we have seen more games attempt to change the grind that goes along with these games. Crowfall seems to be adapting the passive skill features from Eve Online where players gain skills without actively participating in raising that skill and even when they are offline.  When my son drew my attention to a video of Crowfall’s passive skill methods and it made me think….deeply.

So when do you have fun playing a game? Is that early grinding period enjoyable for you? What about the mid-level grinding, when the monsters and NPCs you encounter are more challenging. Or maybe it is when the game puts out the new zone for those who have reached the top so they can start over again…or the next new zone?  Or do you prefer the end game, when your character has reached the top and there is nowhere else to go.  Is this when you quit the game or is this when you begin to play?

I guess if you accept Bartle’s taxonomy of player types, those that like to achieve may not enjoy a game where they achieve by doing nothing. The grind may be the chore one must do in order to deserve the reward.  Those who have the time to spend hours upon hours in-game might feel especially cheated when others drop by casually and can still keep up.

So that group of players may not like passive skills and prefer the grind. I imagine in most MMO’s out there today the achievers make up a huge segment of the gaming population. Since many games focus on that part of the mechanics, it could be a big loss.

But are there other ways to measure achievement? Does it have to come from the constant grinding and repetitive behavior over and over again, for months or even years in the case of many WoW players.

What about the end game? What happens when a game actually does not continue to add more and more levels and zones with harder creatures?

I often use a particular game as an example, mostly because it is a very good example of a tedious grind as well as an example of an end game that succeeded, until developers changed the game.

I played Star Wars Galaxies for three years, actually more since I started during the beta testing. The game allowed you to choose a profession and then grind up through the skills to until you had mastered them all. At that time, you could take a second profession if you wished.  You were limited after that and would be required to remove skills if you wanted to learn new ones outside your currently chosen professions.

However, for many of us, the grind was just the mud you had to wallow through to get to the end game. Fortunately, we had macros available so we could park our avatar somewhere and write a macro to allow our characters to acquire skills while we were offline. It mostly worked, although often you were disconnected in the middle of the night to come back and find out leaving your computer on all night long was all for nothing.

Eventually, your character would become a top level dancer, or musician, or bounty hunter, or resource collector, or tailor, or whatever profession you chose. Then the fun began.

In my case, it meant I could form a band with some friends. I ran a business, where we would rent out to parties and events, getting paid in lots of credits. I was courted by organized crime, who I guess thought I could add something to their group…but the fun was in resisting even though the crime boss was sure he could convince me to turn to the dark side. I started a factory to supplement tips and had clients who bought stuff from me. I received a discount on clothing so I would “model” the clothing when I danced and advertised for the tailor.

I owned several houses on different planets. Had several ‘romances’ (fun, not real ones since I am married after all), made lots of friends, and felt completely immersed in the world. While I obviously made no difference to the mechanics of the game, the look of the world, etc., I did make a difference to the community and many others made a difference to me.

The achievement was not in XP anymore, but in acquiring fame, riches, friends, developing my character, roleplaying, and simply enjoying every moment in the game. My culminating experience was when a friend and I put on an opera in one of the local theaters and filled the place. Years later, someone found me on the internet and remembered that performance.

Of course, the game changed, and when Jedi’s became playable, the game required one grind 10 professions to be a Jedi and suddenly the vibrant world turned into robot avatars, all grinding away. No one talked anymore. No one had parties. No more chit chat with the gals in the cantinas as we danced away and flirted with customers.

The end game was reset and the joy was gone. One by one my friends left and so did I. To this day I run into people, many of them like me, older, a mother or even grandmother, and we find out we played SWG…and we talk about those glorious golden days.

So…the end game.  Maybe the end game can be as much fun as the rest of it for many of us. Maybe achievement could be measured in other ways. Maybe the grinding could be replaced by player directed game play.

You may be interested in the mysterious of the world and travel to collect artifacts, compare with others, and figure out what may have happened in the past. Maybe you will even publish a book on these mysterious, with your ideas out there for others to see. Could be that you wish to join a religious organization, rise to power, go on pilgrimages, dedicate a new cathedral. Or you may want to own a ship and be a merchant or a pirate, becoming well respected or infamous.

Possibly you may achieve through becoming rich through your business, whether that be a series of taverns, a party planner who throws extraordinary parties, or a politician, who uses his oratory skills to gain votes in the local election.

Of course, you may want to be a notorious criminal or an assassin, or a judge who likes to see others hang. Or maybe you will run a secret organized crime syndicate, like my friend in SWG.

Do we really need to grind the same thing over and over again to succeed in a game?  Do we have to play hours upon hours to keep up with everyone else?  Can we just trop in to have an ale at the tavern, tell some tales, listen to some tales, make friends and then go have dinner with the family in real life?

You may think..no one will want to play this game. Maybe that is true. But what if there is a large number of people out there who do want to play this game.  Who is going to make it?

I would love to hear your thoughts, even if you want to say…you crazy old lady!

Teila

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Si Fi detour…


We took a little side job to create a character system UI and one of our demos for the project is a Sci Fi version of the UI. The challenge was to make it from all original art and whatever was available in the UMA package. This system will be used in our game with a few extra features and our own artwork.  We plan to show off our UI at a Unity User Group meeting in the near future.

Anyway, two artists, a programmer, and me, the designer have spent a couple of weeks trying to make a simple functional UI. We want it to be simple enough for a new Unity User but to look nice enough that someone could use it in their game. The goal is something they can easily replace with their own art. With a little knowledge of working on Unity UI’s, they can even make changes to the interface.

First version is Sci Fi, which is a big detour from our original medieval world. But we have had a blast!

Here is a sneak peak at the design. I would to hear your opinion, good or bad. Like I said, we are going for simple, minimalist, but aesthetically pleasing.

Screen Shot 04-30-17 at 06.51 PM

 

We will be making a bit more content, including facial marks, tattoos, scars, a few original pieces of clothing, and some aliens to add to the mix.

Here are few examples of the facial and body marks. There are many more and they have been so much fun to make.

These are also a sampling of more customization features that will be in our game. We want players to be able to make the characters in their stories, whether a beautiful noble lady, a veteran of a war, covered in scars, or even a poor beggar with bad teeth. A world of only the beautiful is boring. A real story, full of conflict and challenge creates characters whose lives are branded on their body and soul.

Stay tune as we reveal more information about the Science Fiction UI and the upcoming Fantasy UI…and then finally, more information bout LoA’s UI.

A backdrop for the front page of the UI made by one of our fabulous artists is below. Wait until you see what will be in front of it soon!

sci fi doorWM

Don’t worry about LoA. While the artists and I are getting this ready, the programmers have been working on various aspects of the game and getting everything ready to move to our cloud server. Then we can invite more folks to join us in testing the world!

See you soon!

Teila

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Roleplay makes games more fun!


Found this and thought I would share!

Shared from Creators.co

via Dungeons And Dragons Changed The Way I Game — Falcon Game Reviews

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Emergent Gameplay and Role Play


 

FireandWolves

All this talk about Zelda, Breath of the Wild, has brought out some great discussions of emergent game play.  I thought I would muse a bit about what some are calling “the future of rpgs”.

As a role player, I have seen emergent game play in many games, especially MMO’s, over the years that I have been playing games. I decided to do a little research to find out how emergent play is defined and I have listed the first four I found.  They are similar but some focus on mechanics and how they allow the player to create new game play and others on how the players change how they use the mechanics to create new game play.

Emergent Gameplay: A title where the mechanics afford the player to create new strategies and utility beyond their original intent or utilization.

Emergent gameplay refers to complex situations in video games, board games, or table top role-playing games that emerge from the interaction of relatively simple game mechanics.

Emergent gameplay is a game design term that refers to video game mechanics that change according to the player’s actions.

Emergent gameplay is the concept of placing tools around the player and encouraged them to explore creative strategies or interactions and exploit them toward victory or goal achievement.

The first definition, I think, defines the emergent game play you see in Zelda, BotW. There is no real story but the player is allowed to use almost everything in his environment to create new game play through experimentation. This creates a fun, casual type of game play that can change as one explores and finds new ways to interact.

The last definition seems to me to best describe a pure role playing game, where the tools are there, but the players drive the game play.  Mechanics are important, as they are what provides the tools which the player can use to create their own stories, but it is the creative application of those tools that make the game fun. So rather than using objects in the environment to create new experiences, such as in Minecraft or Zelda, BotW, the player uses events in the environment as the impetus, or force, to drive their own game play or stories.

Emergent game play is really a requirement for a role play game. Much of it can come simply through interactions with other players, or player directed game play.  As villages grow, characters evolve, communities emerge and what happens in those communities creates many stories involving many players. However, mechanics, if done well, can also create situations, maybe a crisis, a danger, or even something exciting, good or amazing like a traveling caravan entering the village.  The game mechanics might drive the environment, creating a drought that affects the village. Or it might drive the animal or npc AI that can create new experiences. The revelation of hidden resources through mechanics can drive a gold rush or cause conflict between those trying to exploit this resource.

In LoA, we are currently testing a dynamic ecosystem that will drive events. These events will in turn create seeds for role play.

An example we have tested in our game is documented below:

Our test world contains specific animals with their own AI. The woods and grasslands contain deer and rabbits. The wolves occupy the same area but have their own specific hunting grounds.

In the valley below, the villagers raise chickens and sheep as well as their own fields of grain along with vegetable gardens. The villagers enjoy a nice venison steak and rabbit stew so they also hunt the animals. They also on occasion crave a nice wolf skin.

Wolves favored food is deer but they will eat rabbits as well if they see a rabbit before they see a deer.The rabbits’ and deer’s favored foods are the herbs of the grasslands and forest. Like any ecosystem, there is a balance between food available and number of animals. So during a drought, there is less food for the rabbits, so less rabbits, and the same with the other animals. Seasonal and weather changes create certain needs for both the villagers and the animals.

Now, let’s look at this as a drive for emergent game play.

Most of the time, the wolves stay in their preferred hunting grounds, far from the human village. They happily cull the deer population and catch rabbits. However, it is fall and the humans have decided to go on a great hunt so they have extra meat to smoke for the winter. They lay out traps, get out their bows, and have a successful hunt.

Unfortunately, the wolves have a difficult time finding food after the hunt. The deer population has moved out of their hunting grounds and the rabbit population is scarce. The wolves move a bit further down the valley, looking for food. If they fail to find food there, they finally move into the village at night, seeking sheep and chickens.

The villagers awaken to find the remains of their livestock. In anger, they go after the wolves, killing some and driving the rest out of the hills above the valley. All is well for a while, but then the rabbits overpopulate. The wolves are gone and they have few other predators in the area.

The rabbits now invade the village gardens leaving much less food for the villagers.

What kind of emergent play arises from this example in a multiplayer/MMO experience? How does this drive role play?

Simply the fact that the villagers need food and furs for food or trade drives the big hunt. A change in the foods available in the winter creates a need for preservation of food. The hunt creates an event that brings together a community with a goal. The “Great Hunt” becomes a story. The interaction between the players before, during and after the hunt can seed more stories.

After the hunt, when their livestock is killed by the wolves, the players must band together to protect their stock. Again, stories are created, this time based on protecting what belongs to them. Once they realize that the ecosystem has been affected by their actions, the next story will be to solve the problem. This means seeking out solutions that will maintain the balance.

Solving problems in a community can bring out all sorts of emergent events, such as new leaders, conflict between those with different ideas or views, and possibly creative solutions that go beyond anything the developers considered.

The game play is no longer about killing for experience or eating for buffs, but about maintaining their community. It becomes personal rather than just a game.

How does this drive role play?

Let’s start with a definition of roleplay that I think embraces how the majority of players actually role play. I do not include the script type role players in this.

A roleplaying game is a game in which the participants assume the roles of characters and collaboratively create stories.

When you consider the best sort of role play is one that emerges from the experiences the of the players, then you can see how the above example can enhance the role play. In a pen and paper game, the best moments happen when someone suddenly discovers a way to solve a problem that is unexpected, or difficult to find. The players get excited, their voices raise, and in the end a cheer erupts from the table.

The same is true in a video game environment. Experiences change the dynamics of the players’ communities. It creates villains, heroes, victims, and innovators. While the mechanics are certainly a huge part of what drives the game, the players reactions drive the role play. I can imagine all sorts of emergent play from the ecosystem example. Some players may defend the animals, fighting to protect them. Others may be angry about the loss of their own stock and fight to kill or chase away the wolves and/or rabbits. Others may use this as a way to earn money, offering to guard the sheep or the gardens from predators. Still others may become player quest givers, hiring other players to help out.

Stories can emerge from this type of game play, stories that impact more than just the tiny village. Maybe the wolves head off to find chickens in other villages. Possibly, the lost grain that might occur from a similar situation, such as an explosion of the deer population, might change the price of wheat or flour or even affect trade.  Areas with an excess of grain might be able to charge higher prices to sell to the suffering villages.

Wars over food resources could erupt. Bandits, both players and npcs, could find it worth attacking wagons carrying food or grain and then sell for more on the black market, so one might find an increase in highway crimes. Entire villages could migrate and even animal populations might migrate to areas with more resources.

This is just one example. Emergent game play driven by players’ reactions to mechanics could include all sorts of scenarios. The important thing is to make sure those mechanics are tools that encourage players to explore and interact with the world and each other instead of an impediment to creativity and innovation. As long as the players are the ones who are creating the emergent game play, the world will be vibrant and dynamic.

Not because of physics, not because of flashy mechanics, but because of mechanics that make sense and give players the ability to use them to create their own stories. Stories emerge from the game play, not like Zelda, BotW, but through the players themselves, the role players.

The video at the top of the screen is a developmental video showing the AI creating a situation where the players can react. Wolves avoid fire but will attack when the fire goes out. Players react by lighting torch to chase wolves. A story emerges.

 

 

 

 

 

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Medieval Monday: What’s to Drink?


Another great Medieval Monday blog from Allison Reid. Hop over to her site to read it. #writing #indiedev

Allison D. Reid

Much of what we drink today on a daily basis would not have been available in the Middle Ages. Coffee wasn’t brought to Europe until the 1600s, and was met with suspicion—even sometimes condemned by the local Church. And though Britain in particular is now known for his proud heritage of drinking tea, it was not introduced until the 16th century, and did not gain popularity until the 17th.  Anything that required refrigeration was difficult to keep, and only consumed fresh, when available. So what did medieval people drink on a daily basis?

drinking-brawlThere is a persistent rumor that water was avoided due to widespread contamination of waterways by pollutants and bacteria. This is actually not the case. While plain water was certainly nothing exciting enough to sing songs about, it was regularly drunk by itself, or used to water down other drinks. Even though they had no…

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