Posted by fini_fly (767 posts) -

Elements that need some refocusing

This maybe only related to action-RPG style games, but it seems to me that there are certain elements of current action-RPG games that not only break immersion, but ultimately lead to a diminished gaming experience during the later hours of the game. There are three distinct areas in which a major overhaul could perhaps not only make these style games more challenging, but allow the gamer to further immerse themselves in the game and its universe. These areas are Leveling-Up, Perks, and Equipment.

Leveling-Up

The general idea is that as you level up, you character becomes stronger, more agile and gains additional skill sets aimed at dispatching foes with greater ease. To keep an even keel in regards to game play, enemies gain more health, increase their combat and evasion A.I. or possibly increase in number. Whether the scaling is done in intervals or at a constant rate, most games don't necessarily get harder as the game goes along, rather the fights just become longer. The concept of leveling-up is a tried and true element in RPG games and I think what Skyrim attempted to accomplish with its leveling system is a step in the right direction. Naturally, as one uses something, or engages in an activity, it makes sense that one would get better. If you were to hand me a sword, I would be pretty awful with it. But as I practice, I would be in a better position to deal damage to an enemy. Where it fails though is first, in combining all weapons into single or two-handed weapons, and then how the leveling occurs.

Combining skills: If you were to hand me a epee, I would only gain skills with that type of sword. If I became proficient with it and I was then giving a scimitar, my skill set learned with the epee is rendered almost useless due to the different fighting style required to wield the weapon. Also, the epee is really only useful as a single handed weapon, whereas the scimitar can be used with either one or two-hand wielding. So it is up to the gamer to decide what weapon they want to wield and in what manner to use it, and only that combination which levels. As soon as the weapon is switched, then the character must develop those skills accordingly.

Leveling: Returning to the epee example, using that sword for an extended period of time would make me proficient with it. Not only would I be able to deliver more damage, but also learn to parry, deflect incoming blows, and find gaps in defence. I would most likely learn quickly to get the basics of these abilities, and slowly become competent in each. At this point, it would take years of careful practice to master these abilities. But while I'm learning these skills with the epee, the skills I might have gained using a scimitar will slowly start to diminish as I have neglected this weapon. So while I am adventuring as an avid dueler with an epee, I come across a well crafted scimitar that I want to use. But it's been a long time since I used a scimitar and I've forgotten a lot of the nuances of wielding such a weapon. This type of system would prevent a single character being overpowered in every single stat. Skyrim again attempts this with their system, but I think all skills should continually diminish if they are not used.

Perks

Perks in my opinion are game breaking and are tied closely to Leveling-Up. You gain appreciable knowledge of your abilities as you use them, but then on top of this, you are given perks that very rarely do your enemies acquire. This tends to make your character so over-powered that consistently challenging game-play is impossible. It is true that enemies can be scaled either at finite intervals or consistently, but simply giving them more health, improved A.I. or stronger damage tends to still be underwhelming as related to your perks. For instance, I am a magic user and I can cast a fireball spell, which over time become more powerful due to me practicing this spell. But with perks that improve my fireball spells on top of my normal leveling quickly turns my once humble fireball into a blazing inferno that could incinerate enemies on contact. Personally, I think perks like these should be stripped or at least modified in someway to prevent something like a lightning spell from becoming Zeus hurling a lighting bolt from the heavens that chars everything instantly.

Equipment

The equipment system used in most action-RPG, or most RPG games in general, is broken. Since when can a person be able to carry 15 plates of armor while being able to scale mountains while simultaneously swinging a sword? What horse has legs strong enough for a 250 lbs plus warrior, wearing 80 lbs of equipment, carrying 10 different war hammers and 58 potions, to mount? The ability to collect everything in these games has not only turn gaming into an endless adventure suitable for kleptomaniacs, but has given developers reason to allow characters to carry enough equipment to fill the wing of a museum.

Encumbrance is currently not implemented correctly, rather pouches, satchels (insert The Hangover/Indiana Jones reference here), bags and pockets should be sensibly implemented. Resident Evil almost has this right with the briefcase system, however how many secret agents are able to wield a gun while carrying around a beautiful Samsonite briefcase? Not too many I take it. If your character wants to invest in a satchel, then they have a finite volume of space, with particular dimensions. I cannot fit a sword in a satchel, so I better only carry one or two in their sheaths attached to my belt. I could however fit some potions in there. I could also fit some lighter ingredients, like rings, maybe some herbs. Or I could fit a solid piece of iron ore in there, possibly to forge some new armor later on.

Whatever I put in my satchel would then have a direct impact the way my character moves. I could fill it with 200 grams of herbs and I might not even notice it there. On the other hand, I could fill it with 25 lbs of iron ore, which will definitely affect my ability to swing my weapon, run long distances, dodge attacks, and mount a steed. I would also alleviate my desire to pick up hundreds of items to sell for cash later, as I wont have the room to do that, and maybe vendors wont want to buy 15 pairs of boots off of me because they just wont be able to sell them. That and, since coins tend to be the de-facto standard currency, 1,000,000 coins would probably weigh quite a bit, thus completing the circle.

Yes loot is important to RPG games, but an intelligent equipment system allows players to explore for loot and make consequential decisions on what is worth carrying around because it will have a direct impact on my character's abilities.

Summary for the tl;dr crowd

Some other suggestions

With a little retooling, action-RPG games can be made so that you are not a walking-god among mortals, but rather a skilled mortal among other mortals with a variety of skills. Here are some other ideas:

  1. Finite Health: When in our evolution do we ever gain more health? Your armor might protect you, but the last time I went jogging I didn't feel that I could take 2 bullets instead of 1 before I go down. Heath should be a fixed number that must be preserved at all costs.
  2. Ability trade-offs: Kind of ties in with equipment, but if I want to carry more, I would expect some diminished agility based attributes. Yes I can work at them to be able to carry more and be agile, but I should be able to carry a caravan-worth of items while running around the country fighting dragons.
  3. Sensible economy: Coins have weight, and vendors understand supply and demand. Crafting 100 daggers and selling them is fiscally responsible to the vendor who buys them.

I could go on, but I would be lucky enough if you have read through until here. It's been something I've been thinking about recently and I want to know how you all feel. Maybe we can write a letter or bitch about things on the internet... oh wait.

#1 Posted by fini_fly (767 posts) -

Elements that need some refocusing

This maybe only related to action-RPG style games, but it seems to me that there are certain elements of current action-RPG games that not only break immersion, but ultimately lead to a diminished gaming experience during the later hours of the game. There are three distinct areas in which a major overhaul could perhaps not only make these style games more challenging, but allow the gamer to further immerse themselves in the game and its universe. These areas are Leveling-Up, Perks, and Equipment.

Leveling-Up

The general idea is that as you level up, you character becomes stronger, more agile and gains additional skill sets aimed at dispatching foes with greater ease. To keep an even keel in regards to game play, enemies gain more health, increase their combat and evasion A.I. or possibly increase in number. Whether the scaling is done in intervals or at a constant rate, most games don't necessarily get harder as the game goes along, rather the fights just become longer. The concept of leveling-up is a tried and true element in RPG games and I think what Skyrim attempted to accomplish with its leveling system is a step in the right direction. Naturally, as one uses something, or engages in an activity, it makes sense that one would get better. If you were to hand me a sword, I would be pretty awful with it. But as I practice, I would be in a better position to deal damage to an enemy. Where it fails though is first, in combining all weapons into single or two-handed weapons, and then how the leveling occurs.

Combining skills: If you were to hand me a epee, I would only gain skills with that type of sword. If I became proficient with it and I was then giving a scimitar, my skill set learned with the epee is rendered almost useless due to the different fighting style required to wield the weapon. Also, the epee is really only useful as a single handed weapon, whereas the scimitar can be used with either one or two-hand wielding. So it is up to the gamer to decide what weapon they want to wield and in what manner to use it, and only that combination which levels. As soon as the weapon is switched, then the character must develop those skills accordingly.

Leveling: Returning to the epee example, using that sword for an extended period of time would make me proficient with it. Not only would I be able to deliver more damage, but also learn to parry, deflect incoming blows, and find gaps in defence. I would most likely learn quickly to get the basics of these abilities, and slowly become competent in each. At this point, it would take years of careful practice to master these abilities. But while I'm learning these skills with the epee, the skills I might have gained using a scimitar will slowly start to diminish as I have neglected this weapon. So while I am adventuring as an avid dueler with an epee, I come across a well crafted scimitar that I want to use. But it's been a long time since I used a scimitar and I've forgotten a lot of the nuances of wielding such a weapon. This type of system would prevent a single character being overpowered in every single stat. Skyrim again attempts this with their system, but I think all skills should continually diminish if they are not used.

Perks

Perks in my opinion are game breaking and are tied closely to Leveling-Up. You gain appreciable knowledge of your abilities as you use them, but then on top of this, you are given perks that very rarely do your enemies acquire. This tends to make your character so over-powered that consistently challenging game-play is impossible. It is true that enemies can be scaled either at finite intervals or consistently, but simply giving them more health, improved A.I. or stronger damage tends to still be underwhelming as related to your perks. For instance, I am a magic user and I can cast a fireball spell, which over time become more powerful due to me practicing this spell. But with perks that improve my fireball spells on top of my normal leveling quickly turns my once humble fireball into a blazing inferno that could incinerate enemies on contact. Personally, I think perks like these should be stripped or at least modified in someway to prevent something like a lightning spell from becoming Zeus hurling a lighting bolt from the heavens that chars everything instantly.

Equipment

The equipment system used in most action-RPG, or most RPG games in general, is broken. Since when can a person be able to carry 15 plates of armor while being able to scale mountains while simultaneously swinging a sword? What horse has legs strong enough for a 250 lbs plus warrior, wearing 80 lbs of equipment, carrying 10 different war hammers and 58 potions, to mount? The ability to collect everything in these games has not only turn gaming into an endless adventure suitable for kleptomaniacs, but has given developers reason to allow characters to carry enough equipment to fill the wing of a museum.

Encumbrance is currently not implemented correctly, rather pouches, satchels (insert The Hangover/Indiana Jones reference here), bags and pockets should be sensibly implemented. Resident Evil almost has this right with the briefcase system, however how many secret agents are able to wield a gun while carrying around a beautiful Samsonite briefcase? Not too many I take it. If your character wants to invest in a satchel, then they have a finite volume of space, with particular dimensions. I cannot fit a sword in a satchel, so I better only carry one or two in their sheaths attached to my belt. I could however fit some potions in there. I could also fit some lighter ingredients, like rings, maybe some herbs. Or I could fit a solid piece of iron ore in there, possibly to forge some new armor later on.

Whatever I put in my satchel would then have a direct impact the way my character moves. I could fill it with 200 grams of herbs and I might not even notice it there. On the other hand, I could fill it with 25 lbs of iron ore, which will definitely affect my ability to swing my weapon, run long distances, dodge attacks, and mount a steed. I would also alleviate my desire to pick up hundreds of items to sell for cash later, as I wont have the room to do that, and maybe vendors wont want to buy 15 pairs of boots off of me because they just wont be able to sell them. That and, since coins tend to be the de-facto standard currency, 1,000,000 coins would probably weigh quite a bit, thus completing the circle.

Yes loot is important to RPG games, but an intelligent equipment system allows players to explore for loot and make consequential decisions on what is worth carrying around because it will have a direct impact on my character's abilities.

Summary for the tl;dr crowd

Some other suggestions

With a little retooling, action-RPG games can be made so that you are not a walking-god among mortals, but rather a skilled mortal among other mortals with a variety of skills. Here are some other ideas:

  1. Finite Health: When in our evolution do we ever gain more health? Your armor might protect you, but the last time I went jogging I didn't feel that I could take 2 bullets instead of 1 before I go down. Heath should be a fixed number that must be preserved at all costs.
  2. Ability trade-offs: Kind of ties in with equipment, but if I want to carry more, I would expect some diminished agility based attributes. Yes I can work at them to be able to carry more and be agile, but I should be able to carry a caravan-worth of items while running around the country fighting dragons.
  3. Sensible economy: Coins have weight, and vendors understand supply and demand. Crafting 100 daggers and selling them is fiscally responsible to the vendor who buys them.

I could go on, but I would be lucky enough if you have read through until here. It's been something I've been thinking about recently and I want to know how you all feel. Maybe we can write a letter or bitch about things on the internet... oh wait.

#2 Posted by jetsetwillie (857 posts) -

i think we should just leave game design to game designers. if you don't like it then go become a game designer and do something about it. a massive, long winded, boring rant about how games arn't exactly how you want them to be is pointless and not constructive at all.

#3 Posted by Veektarius (4653 posts) -

So essentially you want America's Army for a fantasy world? I'm not going to tell you it's not an interesting idea, but the reason all these hardcore systems have not been implemented is because each would individually turn off players. Going point for point -

Leveling up - In fact, the Elder Scrolls games used to have more separate skills for weapons, rather than just two hand versus one hand. The reason they got rid of the distinction was because it offered less flexibility for players in their game experience. Say I did choose to specialize in a rapier (I'm not sure epees were actually ever used in combat) and at "level 20" I found a longsword that looks really cool. You're telling me I should have to suffer with ineptitude with this weapon for a requisite amount of time before I can use it. Oh hey, there's the exit button.

Perks - Perks were added not because they make the player different from their enemies but because they make one character different from another, allowing for greater replayability. It also further incentivizes the level-up system, making players want to sink more time into their character so they can get that next cool ability. Maybe the computer could have some of these perks, but in general they only make sense because the numerical odds against the player are such that he is expected to kill quickly. Giving the same ability to the computer would be very frustrating.

Equipment - I agree with this point the most of what you have. However, Diablo proved that many players find it satisfying to defeat powerful enemies and see a whole bunch of loot pop out of them. This is another of those incentive systems that make people addicted and keep playing. And this system would not work if you couldn't afford to be carrying a good percentage of that loot.

Health - Health is definitely a stupid system. Mathematically, however, the proposition that all gains in self-defense be attributed to better armor is essentially the same. Sure, the bar never gets longer, but the chunks that enemies take off get smaller. This would not fundamentally change the way that games are played- it would simply be up to the developer to determine the marginal utility of armor upgrades to determine how punishing the game is.

So these are the reasons I think that major publishers are unlikely to embrace the changes you suggest wholesale. How do you feel about Mount & Blade? Aside from being decidedly budget, its 'medieval combat simulator' design seems to fit most of your desired criteria.

#4 Posted by fini_fly (767 posts) -

@Veektarius: I'm not sure what you are referring to when you say America's Army, but I will address the other things you mention.

Leveling up: I've played Morrowind and Oblivion, and I was fine with differentiating skills between weapon type. I wasn't really a fan of the way it was streamlined in Skyrim. As for my diminishing results system, I just think it would add an additional level of difficulty, if not tactics. I'm not saying the skills should deteriorate all the way down to ineptitude (perhaps I didn't make that as clear as I should have), but a slight diminishing of abilities would add some realism.

Perks: I do understand the replayability of perks, but when they are implemented in such a way that overpowers your character, it can be game breaking. The computer world or enemies with some perks would add to some of the combat tactics you would need to deploy in order to take them out.

Equipment: As long as there is appreciable gains in the loot you carry then it's fine. But just carrying so much is ridiculous.

Health: I agree with the mathematics of it. Increasing health or increasing armor accomplishes the same thing. Doing them in unison does not make sense, IMHO.

I will take a look at Mount & Blade, but admittedly I'm not much of a PC gamer (partially due to me using Linux). Thanks for the response by the way.

#5 Posted by YI_Orange (1135 posts) -

Aside from what Veektarius said, I think your ideas would break games in a far worse way. RPGs gameplay is not great. I love JRPGs, especially Atlus ones, but if they harder but dumb systems, I probably wouldn't play them. With so many battles I just want to get through them, though I realize you're talking more about western RPGs.

Again, they aren't fun to play. I put a good chunk of time into morrowind, oblivion, skyrim, fallout 3, beat both KoTORs, beat both MEs, beat DA:O. The gameplay in these games is not their strong point. In fact, for bethesda games I would say the combat is easily their weak point. I enjoy the brokenness of them more than I enjoy fighting. The shooting in fallout 3 was so bad I would just run in circles until VATs came back up if I didn't kill my opponent.

I don't want the encounters to be more challenging because they're not very fun. I don't want to die and have to repeat a section of gameplay that is more annoying than it is anything else. Getting superpowered is great. It allows you to do what you want and easily get through the stuff you don't want to spend time on. If you suddenly make squads of super mutants a challenge, I'm not going to go into every vault because I don't want to deal with that gameplay.

Now, if the gameplay was improved it might be a different story, but I still take issue with your ideas. Diminishing skills for not using them is dumb. I want to use the thing that looks cool or is statstically the best now. I don't want to go hit rats with my new broadsword that I just got for killing a demi-god until I'm good enough to go fight nameless bandits that are all apparently just as good at everything as I am.

I agree with you that encumberance is implemented wrong, in that it's implemented at all. I hate limited inventory. If I wanted to play inventory management I would try to fit stuff in my pockets in real life.

Bleh, I had more but lost track of time. I might respond more later.

#6 Posted by Gamer_152 (14058 posts) -

@jetsetwillie said:

i think we should just leave game design to game designers. if you don't like it then go become a game designer and do something about it. a massive, long winded, boring rant about how games arn't exactly how you want them to be is pointless and not constructive at all.

I disagree entirely. By that logic no one can criticise anything without being a maker of that thing, under this mentality Giant Bomb might as well close up shop tomorrow because none of the people working here actually make games. While you may find it boring, other people may find it very interesting and I think criticism of entertainment, especially when that criticism provides solutions for the problems it discusses is very constructive and has much more of a point than most discussion about entertainment, but even if it wasn't, why does everything we write have to be constructive?

Moderator
#7 Posted by believer258 (11685 posts) -

I don't like your ideas. No sir, I don't like them at all.

I like to start my RPG's out as a turd that can be pasted by all but the lowliest rat, and then slowly train him to be what is essentially a lesser god, which naught but the most powerful of mortals can truly stand against.

Not necessarily to those extremes, but after fifty hours I like my characters to have something to show. Like fiery apocalypse spells and the ability to kill entire cities with an accidental flick of his wrist.

#8 Posted by Example1013 (4834 posts) -

Lol wat. Play Skyrim on hard, then come back to me. Also, I don't think you really know what an ARPG is. There hasn't been a good ARPG made in like 5 years, unless you count KoA.

#9 Posted by upwarDBound (654 posts) -

What you're asking for sounds like a fantasy life simulator. While that sounds interesting in theory, it could make for incredibly dull gameplay. Games aren't real life, you should be able to do unrealistic things. For example leveling up. I think one of the main draws in RPGs in general is the feeling of ultimately becoming a force to be reckoned with. Players are usually willing to suspend their disbelief to be able to enjoy this.

Many of these things you clamor for have been in RPGs in the past but have been weeded out over time. These were for added difficulty and realism but only really amounted to busywork. Some games such as roguelikes still feature these systems.

If you're worried about encumbrance issues check out The Witcher. Geralt can only carry as many weapons as you can see him carrying. All his herbs and items fit in his satchels.

Lastly if you just want more difficult games, get a better computer or Windows, and get yourself some mods. Or failing that, there is a long history of CRPGs where difficulty is the name of the game. Just be prepared for dated graphics and interface options.

#10 Posted by fini_fly (767 posts) -

@upwarDBound: I do realize that in almost all gaming one must suspend their disbelief in order to advance some game play element, to me, it's just interesting at where the line is drawn and what people accept. For instance, weapon wear is something that is still seen in games, and that adds to the RPG element. Some people like it, others do not. Personally, I think any RPG realism element can be made to enhance game play or make it dull, depending on it's implementation.

As for the encumbrance, I was thinking of picking up The Witcher based on some of the game play mechanics I've read about.

As for getting a Windows PC... no.

Perhaps I would just like to see a little bit more balance in some of the mechanics, that's all.

#11 Posted by Little_Socrates (5675 posts) -

I don't think single-player action RPGs ever benefit from difficulty. They are fantasy-granting devices in the vein of Tim Schafer's game design, and I think they should remain that way. Feel free to disagree, but that's how I feel about the subject. There are things to be refocused, but I believe the refocusing needs to happen in the action elements rather than the RPG elements. The RPG elements, in terms of character interaction and options, do need to be improved, though, which is one of many reasons I desperately need to play the Deus Ex games.