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Author Topic: [gamist RPGs] Player Driven Games and  (Read 7339 times)
Joe J Prince
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Posts: 113

Putting the fun into dysfunction!


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« Reply #15 on: February 10, 2011, 04:29:35 PM »

Hi all

Natespank, I'm confused by your premise in the original post. For me, a sandbox style game is all about wanting to explore the fictional world, as if it were real - embracing the right to dream (simulationism if you will).

Gamism is about play focused primarily on stepping up to meet and overcome challenges. A sandbox style game does not, in my experience, facilitate pure challenge and step on up as well as a more focused game. 

To return to the computer game analogy take Grand Theft Auto yes it is a sandbox game you can roam around as you please. But randomly killing cops and hookers gets tired very quickly. The main 'game' thrust are the missions, that's when you step up.

I'm currently playing in an epic sandbox RPG, using Rolemaster. It's been running for over a decade now though we only game once or twice a year. It is hands down the best RPG I've ever played in.
The game is all about the right to dream. Our GM, Matt, has crafted his world over the years and for various different gaming groups some of whom are running in concurrent campaigns and sometimes the actions of one group affect another how cool is that?

The game is an exploration of character within a dynamic and credible world what the PCs do matters, there is no pre-ordained plot, the future is unwritten. That said there is a vast depth of backstory and intrigue surrounding the setting; ten years in we're only just figuring out who the major powers are!

The point is, though we enjoy a good scrap and levelling up is always rewarding, the gamist aspects are not what makes play so compelling. If the challenge focus was ramped up then I believe the game would suffer for it.

Sandbox play is not conducive to gamism how many sandbox boardgames are there? 

A sandbox is a toy, games (especially gamist ones) have goals.

Cheers
Joe
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stefoid
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« Reply #16 on: February 10, 2011, 07:16:30 PM »

Nates distinction is between the GM having a cast iron plot made before hand  and making it up as he goes along on the other, and his term for the latter is 'sandbox'.

and youre right, neither has much to do with GNS.
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Devon Oratz
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Posts: 75


« Reply #17 on: February 10, 2011, 07:59:03 PM »

I don't particularly subscribe to GNS (I hope that is not a bad thing to say here) but I found this interesting:

Quote
To return to the computer game analogy take Grand Theft Auto yes it is a sandbox game you can roam around as you please. But randomly killing cops and hookers gets tired very quickly. The main 'game' thrust are the missions, that's when you step up.

Actually, later GTA games are comprised of MANY gamist activities that you can undertake in any order you choose. "Randomly killing cops and hookers" is a little unfair, and also a bit limited to earlier entires in the series. The synthesis of these different gamist challenge instances and the connective tissue of emergent gameplay and a pervasive world that joins them really does create one of the most purely simulationist and wide-open experiences in all of video gaming. See also: Morrowind, Oblivion, and the Fallout series. But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.

Quote
I'm currently playing in an epic sandbox RPG, using Rolemaster. It's been running for over a decade now though we only game once or twice a year. It is hands down the best RPG I've ever played in.

The game is all about the right to dream. Our GM, Matt, has crafted his world over the years and for various different gaming groups some of whom are running in concurrent campaigns and sometimes the actions of one group affect another how cool is that?

The game is an exploration of character within a dynamic and credible world what the PCs do matters, there is no pre-ordained plot, the future is unwritten. That said there is a vast depth of backstory and intrigue surrounding the setting; ten years in we're only just figuring out who the major powers are!

The point is, though we enjoy a good scrap and levelling up is always rewarding, the gamist aspects are not what makes play so compelling. If the challenge focus was ramped up then I believe the game would suffer for it.

This sounds really amazing. : )
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Callan S.
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« Reply #18 on: February 10, 2011, 09:55:39 PM »

I think presenting a game world like a menu of gamist challenges works out. With my experience of grand theft auto (with it's many jumps, side missions and the ability to flip a car upside 10 feet after stealing it (I have done this...the shame!), driving insanely fast down busy streets and more), it's a menu of challenges. You could possibly just piddle about, walking in the surf, or, freakishly, stopping at red lights and driving around below top speed, I'll grant. So there are gaps between challenges where you could go all simmo, I'll grant. But really it's a menu presented in the form of a world (awesome!). Also the games mercenaries 1 and 2 were like this, as well as fallout 3 and to a degree, fallout 1 & 2. I remember in mercenaries 1 there was this enemy base that wasn't actually a set mission, but I just loved to destroy. It had killed me before, and given me even more close shaves, but I loved demolishing that thing. It was more of a menu entry I wrote myself. Along with all the other enemy bases I'd wail on...or they'd wail on me, just sometimes... >:)

However, just sandbox, by itself, like "You start in a street in some town in the game world, GO!"? It wont just somehow provide the grist of gamist play. I'll agree with stefoid that just trying to be sandbox by itself supports simulationism first and foremost. I think the gamism essay talks about expecting spontaniously generated challenge.
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Natespank
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Posts: 97

I usually use the male pronoun to mean either sex.


« Reply #19 on: February 11, 2011, 03:41:55 PM »

Maybe I should be more careful with terminology, the thread's could grow into an argument about definitions and terms. I appreciate GNS theory but I don't want to be bound by it... so I'm not trying to make a "gamist" or "simulationist" game, I'm trying to make a fun game that uses some of these ideas.

To risk confusing terms even moreso though- to address the last few posts- does anybody remember the original Legend of Zelda? Let me briefly describe it:

1- I've never seen a manual for it, so I didn't even learn the story until the end. I ended up referring to one type of enemy as "the hamburgers."
2- You begin in the middle of the screen and have no directions. There's a nearby cave and 3 ways to exit the area.
3- Your sword is in the cave- god help you if you don't explore it first because you'll be unarmed.
4- The world is hard to navigate, tis easy to get lost, and the monsters will kill you dozens of times just getting from A to B. I can't exaggerate how many times you die playing this game.
5- There's no map, and you don't have to do the dungeons in strict order, though they get way harder one after the other and most require items from previous ones. The dungeons are numbered though.
6- It's the hardest game I've ever played and beaten.

There's no story or complex setting, it's just a wide open world of set challenges for the player to explore how he or she wishes, and best of luck to them. For the first 50 deaths the game is a pain in the ass- then you start getting really good and it's one of the greatest games ever. Wide open world, do whatever you want, but it's hella-hard with extremely unreasonable enemies and puzzles- I can't convey how absurd some rooms and dungeons are. Excellent game though.

It's all about "step on up"
======================================================

Terminology aside, hopefully... how have you all structured your "open ended, player driven" campaigns? I mean in technical qualities.

1) I'm debating making a greater world with only level 1-5 enemies in it, with the 4 and 5s being rare; all the rest of the challenges will occur in optional quests or dungeons or the like. That way there's no invincible barrier preventing the players from travelling where they like. Zelda does this.

2) The alternative is a world with randomly distributed difficulty areas, which I accidentally did this time- there's one hard area on the map and the players bee-lined to it by bad luck. It's bad for the players to hit a wall of difficulty (they can't possibly kill the stuff here) so early without having more chances to hook into the setting.

3) Is the DM's role primarily to develop an intriguing setting with many nuances? Could you tell us more about your 'sandbox' campaign Joe J Prince?

4) Is a DM attempt to weave stories an infringement upon player freedom and enjoyability? Should storys be left to the players and NPCs, perhaps like Sorcerer's... I forget the term, you use a mystery novel or something to create a SITUATION and then turn the players loose, using bangs and such to keep it rolling.

5) Is it best to arrange difficulty by geography- for example, the level 6-9 stuff is in region X? Or is it best to put it everywhere?

6) What's the best ways to engage the players if they're new to this?

I play again Sunday, I'll post about how it goes on Monday. Have a good weekend!
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Natespank
Member

Posts: 97

I usually use the male pronoun to mean either sex.


« Reply #20 on: February 11, 2011, 03:50:42 PM »

Quote
think presenting a game world like a menu of gamist challenges works out.

I really like the idea of a "game world like a menu of gamist challenges." Does help to have "quests" and such to take over between them though. GTA does that pretty well.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #21 on: February 11, 2011, 09:31:34 PM »

Quote
Does help to have "quests" and such to take over between them though.
Huh? Quests are another entry on the gamist menu, rather than between gamist menu entries? Quests add to the variety of the menu. Or atleast I'm describing how I look at it. Perhaps it'll seem that way for you too now I describe it, or do you mean something else?

In terms of your questions, I've thought of having basically a predesigned sort of campaign that takes all of that into account. BUT you also have the capacity to go 'off road' and leave the pre ordained campaign and simply head through the world. You tell the players the difference, as in what is designed campaign and what is off road. Because heading through the world doesn't, for example, guarantee the right difficulty level - just as in your AP example, players might head into the high level zone straight off the bat. But that's off road - if players can't take that, they stick with the pre ordained campaign and as GM, you never bump them into off road. It's always their choice to go off road and more to the point, they take responsiblity for their action in doing so, so if they decide to go off road end up in the high level zone where they can't kill stuff, they say 'Dang, that's our fault, not the GMs!'. One issue with this idea is how easily they can get back to the pre set campaign if they screw things up. But that's something we can talk about if it's of interest to begin with.
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Natespank
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Posts: 97

I usually use the male pronoun to mean either sex.


« Reply #22 on: February 11, 2011, 11:00:17 PM »

Quote
Huh? Quests are another entry on the gamist menu, rather than between gamist menu entries? Quests add to the variety of the menu. Or atleast I'm describing how I look at it. Perhaps it'll seem that way for you too now I describe it, or do you mean something else?

I was vague. Yes, they're another item on gamist menu. However I prefer to set up situations and develop settings. The players, when driven, will assign themselves tasks and pursue them to completion- thus, "quests" are technically unnecessary. What I like to use quests for is to pick up the slack when the players aren't inspired to pursue some interesting goal- then they can fall back to DM provided adventures and such which might promise more detailed preparation or deliberate hooks. They're all optional but I mainly use them to give a sense of cohesiveness to the campaign, to make them explore or learn about the setting, but mostly to hold the slack when the players aren't entertaining themselves.

An analogy from GTA: imagine the game with no missions. It'd still be fun, but the player would occasionally get bored or uninspired- the missions are perfect for those times. I sorta preferred it back when the missions were less important than, say, GTA 4- when the missions were less essential to the game and more optional fun/challenges.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #23 on: February 11, 2011, 11:35:53 PM »

I think I agree with you on that! In GTA the missions were like an overall spine, but the shit players would get up to provided the meat. I used the missions exactly as you say, I'd have enough of doing whatever, or couldn't think of anything, then I'd think "I'll knock off a bit of the main mission arc!". Usually after going through the rigid structure of the mission, I'd be keen to get to more freeform trouble making and avoiding.
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Natespank
Member

Posts: 97

I usually use the male pronoun to mean either sex.


« Reply #24 on: February 13, 2011, 10:30:31 PM »

Something I especially liked about GTA 3 was the optional missions- the ones I accidentally found while I wandered the city.

I ran my weekly game. I'll summarize it in "quotes" format, and analyze it below. Play reports are pretty handy for learning about gameplay styles.
Quote
We have 3 players and 1 DM- to the dismay of some of our friends we prefer that group size. The region is mostly water: the adventure areas are typically islands and the party has a crappy sailing ship. In the previous game the party had discovered the adult blue dragon's island and the lizardman's island, thinking they were the slaver's island from rumors back in town. At the end of the session they'd lost their first character to drakes and the dragon had forced them to agree to bring monthly food sacrifices. Them having mixed up the islands was a nice side effect of vague directions (earned through streetwise) combined with player mapping (on hexes)- I'm gonna use it all the time now.

The game began back in town at "The Rusty Aye" tavern where the party recruited 2 new members due to Bartok's death (he's a ghost and haunts/pilots their ship now) and one character remake- I encourage character remakes for the first few levels so they get one they want to stick with. They recruited a crazy shifter paladin and a gnomish street magician and, still believing it was the slaver's island, returned to the lizardman island to actually find the slavers.

They raided a rat-infested cave network and discovered a rogue who the rats were eating. They bandaged him up and won his trust- he told them why he was on the island. A princess from the West had shipwrecked nearby and the lizardmen had captured her. The rogue was part of a group of adventurers whom the dragon had attacked- the dragon demanded that he capture this princess and feed her to him in exchange for his and his friends' lives. He revealed that he'd died many times on this quest, but because he had earned entry into the "cult of the Parrot" he was able to respawn- he showed them the tattoo. The players asked how to join and he said that it was full- you could only get into it by replacing a current member. I decided to make the respawn mechanic a little exclusive- they're determined to get in now, next weeks session they will investigate the cult.

For foreshadowing, inside the rat cave were various dead men wearing matching tabards.

The rogue said the princess was in the lizardman village. "Are they cannibal or slaver lizardmen? I think we're on the wrong island..."

The party circled the island to find the village; they rolled some knowledge checks and discovered that lizardmen don't speak common so only the paladin could communicate with them. They also discovered that they frequently trade with others, though not if they're a raider group. The PCs decided to try negotiation and walked into the village to speak to their leader, since they'd learned the lizardfolk are hierarchical. All this stuff is in the Monster Manual and I was unaware of it until it popped up- spontaneously incorporating it greatly spiced the interactions up.

The paladin marched into town and searched out their religious leader. Since the princess spoke common and the lizardfolk spoke draconic, they'd actually failed to communicate with her. The chieftain said they planned to ransom her off and the paladin offered his services as a translator. The chieftain accepted the offer and, long story short, the princess came from a kingdom that had sunk under the ocean except for the highlands. She had fled, and was essentially heir to a wasteland. She signed a contract in blood giving over her kingdom in exchange for her freedom. The lizardfolk, by contrast, felt that an underwater kingdom was ideal- the leader renamed himself to King Grimscale (or something, my notes are elsewhere), and he began summoning the other lizardfolk tribes for an eventual mass exodus which will add a new faction later in the campaign when they travel to this kingdom.

With the princess in tow, they decided to save her instead of feed her to the dragon; they tied up the rogue and went to town where they planned to keep her at the tavern in disguise as a serving wench. The rogue broke free and told the story to the barkeep though and he refused to accept the princess because it might summon the dragon's wrath. The party left town and went to the dragon island; they gave the princess a haircut and boys clothes, and then badly disfigured the rogue, put him in a dress, and spent hundreds of gold disguising him as the princess. I figured that most humans look alike to the dragon, and since technically the princess had given up her claim upon her homeland the dragon couldn't use magic to tell if she was the princess anyway- he'd have to rely on memory, clothes, presentation, etc. They cut the rogue's tattoo off to prevent his respawn and fed him to the dragon, who rewarded them with magic plate armor and an optional quest to capture an orc bloodrager from a far off island and feed it to him.

The party set sail for the lizardman island again; the princess revealed that her sunken ship had a lot of treasure aboard, but they couldn't find it- it was too far underwater. She mentioned that she had retainers aboard who may have survived, so they dropped her off at the tavern (promising potential nobility to the dwarf barkeep in exchange for his hiding her, which is plausible) and returned to the lizardman island to search for retainers. The ended up in a dungeon where somebody was conducting experiments on zombies- a story/setting issue I'm introducing. We ended the game after they cleared the first floor.

We'd played from 3-9pm, 6 hours total, and only wrapped it up because our wizard had to study for her new job in the morning- she's a "professional fundraiser" as of tomorrow.


My gf just arrived so I'm gonna delay the analysis part until tomorrow... the short of it is that the player driven aspects are working great but I need to offer more introductory quests to get them into it more.

Player quotes from after game chat online:

Thunder: "I usually do better when I'm given a goal"
Matey: i think you can focus it in more as we go, as you see what it is we want. The dragon is giving out interesting quests now so thats cool. Basically making use of what we show interest in sounds good. [I improvise a lot and develop things as we go- next session i'll know where they'll be and i can detail a lot more stuff)
Matey: i just worry that if its too sand box... then the easiest thing is to find a random dungeon-ish thing and then fight, but it lacks purpose a bit. I want us to have a goal to work towards. I think the sandbox works for that- we just need to get enough group unity to decide on a goal
Matey: i think you should have intro quests to link us into the big picture but a main quest might not work we might end up having a different ambition
NateSpank: alright, any other feedback before I start planning next game?
Matey: naw im good

I figure the structure works but I should add a backbone of "main quests" to get them going a bit. I can explain better tomorrow- it's about how humans are social animals and often need to be given tasks to think they're important and worthwhile, and how the world needs to have interesting, important things going on in it. Alas, sleep!
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Callan S.
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« Reply #25 on: February 14, 2011, 01:43:35 AM »

Nate (just as a side question, is that your actual name?) I'm looking back at your first post
Quote
Some of my favorite computer games are [Day of the Tentacle], [World of Warcraft], [Warcraft 3], [Diablo/Torchlight], [Killing Floor], [Half Life 1 and Minerva for HL2], [Left 4 Dead], [DooM original], and obviously [Deathspank].
I know a few of those and they all, upfront, give some overall objective (well, perhaps not world of warcraft...). Does your campaign share that quality that all those games you like had in common, as in some overall objective that's stated at the start? Or did you already say your campaigns overall objective somewhere?
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Devon Oratz
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Posts: 75


« Reply #26 on: February 14, 2011, 11:57:33 AM »

Actually, Nate, Callan makes a good point.

Let me riff on it. The difference between, for instance, Half Life 2 and, say, the single player campaign of any of the last three Call of Duty games isn't actually one of linearity. Both games are linear. The difference is that HL2 has a SLOWER PACE that allows for MORE EXPLORATION.

Better examples of actually, truly non-linear video games are Fallout, The Elder Scrolls, and Grand Theft Auto.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #27 on: February 14, 2011, 03:31:43 PM »

My point was about the presence or absence of some overall objective - in diablo and torchlight there's a big badguy at the end who needs splatting. In warcraft RTS there's beat the other army. In half life there's an alien invasion to fend off. Doom, a demonic invasion to fend off. Left for dead, gotta survive man (I haven't played it, just guessing), etc. In other words, they are pretty much like the player of Thunder says - they hand you a goal to complete. Perhaps you try for a bunch of sub goals, but your handed the main goal - if you don't like the main goal, don't play the game at all.

Nate, you said you liked these games, but does your sandbox campaign share what they all pretty much have in common - a main goal that is set by the game itself, not the players?
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Natespank
Member

Posts: 97

I usually use the male pronoun to mean either sex.


« Reply #28 on: February 14, 2011, 09:24:06 PM »

Quote
Nate (just as a side question, is that your actual name?) I'm looking back at your first post

My real name is Spank, but my friends call me Nate.

Quote
I know a few of those and they all, upfront, give some overall objective (well, perhaps not world of warcraft...). Does your campaign share that quality that all those games you like had in common, as in some overall objective that's stated at the start?

No.

Before I state a campaign goal I like to introduce the setting and such; I imagine a 5 act structure where the first act is only supposed to put everything in place and introduce everything/everybody. In "Act 2" -about level 3- I'll transition to a campaign goal. I want to play it by ear a little bit to make sure it will fit the player group and the setting, make sure they'll hook or at least run with it.

Honestly, I've thought about it and I think the DM has to provide macro-level goals for the players, and some subquests too; he just has to ensure that the players can depart from his path as much as they want to... I need to think about this a bit more.

My next session I'm going to add a DM assigned goal of sorts (some larger goal for act 1 of the campaign besides "gain enough fame to go treasure hunting with the dwarf") and use it as a campaign skeleton. I want to encourage maximum player-direction, but I think that in some ways the DM's role may be to help set goals and to reward/congratulate them for their victories. I think the DM has to provide some of the significance of the character and setting's actions rather than relying on the players to create and assign significance.

Before I ramble a lot let me think about it a few days so I can write something coherent.

I <3 NES Zelda...
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Natespank
Member

Posts: 97

I usually use the male pronoun to mean either sex.


« Reply #29 on: February 14, 2011, 09:49:38 PM »

I think it's partially a matter of the game requiring

1) Unity
2) Direction
3) Because we're social animals, I think external goals and approval is important. I can't fully explain why in only a few words though- maybe later!

Gnight!
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