The Hero Crutch (Blerg)

Zero Charisma!

I've always been a fan of non-linear gameplay. This probably stems the most from my early introduction to AD&D (Advanced Dungeons and Dragons) 2nd Edition at a very young age by my cousin (doomed from the start, right?). I savor the notion of carving my own story and path through any given setting, which summarizes the PnP (pen and paper) gaming format pretty succinctly, given the inherent, blissful chaos of absolute freedom. You can also imagine the amount of weight I had to pull as a player, being in the 1st grade, sitting at a table surrounded by a bunch of old school nerds in their twenties, drinking Jolt and listening to Led Zeppelin. Obviously, they weren't complete asses to me, and gave me a hand in understanding some of the more convoluted aspects of the rule set, but it was made clear that if I wanted to game with them, I had to be useful. And I was, being the clever and elusive halfling that I was. And thus began the obsession with RPG's.

Last time I let a dart decide my vacation...

The notion that a character's story can be completely woven together by our actions from their inception, and continue to evolve in a non-linear way, is still something we're chasing in the modern CRPG. Obviously there are tangible restraints to this, as technology will probably never rival the human mind when it comes to chaotic algorithms and creativity. It's part of what makes us human, and a development team can only write so much code into a $60 package within so much time to accommodate that style of game play. That's not to say that there aren't admirable efforts, or that there's no place for a predefined story arc. There naturally need to be conflicts to be resolved, or antagonists to be fought that can move the player down a path. All my hours of playing TES:Daggerfall (of which there are many), I never once finished the main quest. Not once. Matter of fact, I didn't care about it at all while I was playing, and basically ran wild throughout the game world. And it worked, since the main story arc was such that the world would keep turning even if my character was never sent on the quest to begin with.

Unfortunately, though, I feel as if we're getting far too comfortable with a messianic or savior hero archetype being the focus of many games that are released. The stories of many of these characters play out in disappointingly similar ways. Big bad thing appears and threatens all of existence, our "Chosen One" hero or heroine shows up and saves the day after realizing their true potential or sole and special place among the galaxy's conflict. Hooray!

...I guess. I've already seen how this ends.

Shelf that idea for a moment, and follow me through this madness. Think of those times where you may have followed, stolen from, saved or killed a random, or otherwise "unimportant" NPC. Why can't we have branching arcs that spread out from there, instead of a simple, single, pointless reward or penalty? As long as you add at least three variables to each subsequent step of a dynamic system, the possibilities grow exponentially. If set in a GTA-esque setting, would it be inconceivable that you could simply start as "you" and grow into a crime lord or famous vigilante from there over a long enough time-line, instead of being confined to a path that is either linear or constantly nagging at you to complete because you're not following the core story?

What if I don't want to be a Specter, or Grey Warden, or Dovahkiin, or Master Chief, or Ultima Stranger? Why can't we write our own, unique stories where our characters can grown into being every bit as influential and revered (or despised) as the fatalist roles we've gotten used to playing in other games, but are your characters? A fraction of gaming is self-expression; how we choose to interact with the virtual worlds that we have also chosen to put ourselves in.

I guess until then, there's always d20's, Jolt and Led Zeppelin.

25 Comments
26 Comments
Posted by Grimhild
Zero Charisma!

I've always been a fan of non-linear gameplay. This probably stems the most from my early introduction to AD&D (Advanced Dungeons and Dragons) 2nd Edition at a very young age by my cousin (doomed from the start, right?). I savor the notion of carving my own story and path through any given setting, which summarizes the PnP (pen and paper) gaming format pretty succinctly, given the inherent, blissful chaos of absolute freedom. You can also imagine the amount of weight I had to pull as a player, being in the 1st grade, sitting at a table surrounded by a bunch of old school nerds in their twenties, drinking Jolt and listening to Led Zeppelin. Obviously, they weren't complete asses to me, and gave me a hand in understanding some of the more convoluted aspects of the rule set, but it was made clear that if I wanted to game with them, I had to be useful. And I was, being the clever and elusive halfling that I was. And thus began the obsession with RPG's.

Last time I let a dart decide my vacation...

The notion that a character's story can be completely woven together by our actions from their inception, and continue to evolve in a non-linear way, is still something we're chasing in the modern CRPG. Obviously there are tangible restraints to this, as technology will probably never rival the human mind when it comes to chaotic algorithms and creativity. It's part of what makes us human, and a development team can only write so much code into a $60 package within so much time to accommodate that style of game play. That's not to say that there aren't admirable efforts, or that there's no place for a predefined story arc. There naturally need to be conflicts to be resolved, or antagonists to be fought that can move the player down a path. All my hours of playing TES:Daggerfall (of which there are many), I never once finished the main quest. Not once. Matter of fact, I didn't care about it at all while I was playing, and basically ran wild throughout the game world. And it worked, since the main story arc was such that the world would keep turning even if my character was never sent on the quest to begin with.

Unfortunately, though, I feel as if we're getting far too comfortable with a messianic or savior hero archetype being the focus of many games that are released. The stories of many of these characters play out in disappointingly similar ways. Big bad thing appears and threatens all of existence, our "Chosen One" hero or heroine shows up and saves the day after realizing their true potential or sole and special place among the galaxy's conflict. Hooray!

...I guess. I've already seen how this ends.

Shelf that idea for a moment, and follow me through this madness. Think of those times where you may have followed, stolen from, saved or killed a random, or otherwise "unimportant" NPC. Why can't we have branching arcs that spread out from there, instead of a simple, single, pointless reward or penalty? As long as you add at least three variables to each subsequent step of a dynamic system, the possibilities grow exponentially. If set in a GTA-esque setting, would it be inconceivable that you could simply start as "you" and grow into a crime lord or famous vigilante from there over a long enough time-line, instead of being confined to a path that is either linear or constantly nagging at you to complete because you're not following the core story?

What if I don't want to be a Specter, or Grey Warden, or Dovahkiin, or Master Chief, or Ultima Stranger? Why can't we write our own, unique stories where our characters can grown into being every bit as influential and revered (or despised) as the fatalist roles we've gotten used to playing in other games, but are your characters? A fraction of gaming is self-expression; how we choose to interact with the virtual worlds that we have also chosen to put ourselves in.

I guess until then, there's always d20's, Jolt and Led Zeppelin.

Posted by JCTango

Interesting point you brought up! There are actually a few games that make you feel like a regular joe or just another cog in the wheel - but they don't do it throughout the game, just various moments - and these are the moments that I like sometimes; it makes you feel like you're a part of something bigger.

I agree - the whole messianic type of character development is overused nowadays... but it's hard not to go that route in this entertainment medium and society (ego-driven).

Posted by Bell_End

im sure many dev's would love to give you the near infinite options you/we crave. but things like budget, deadlines and techincal limitations mean that its just not possible right now.

Posted by Toxeia

@Grimhild said:

...being a girl in the 1st grade, sitting at a table surrounded by a bunch of old school nerds in their twenties, drinking Jolt and listening to Led Zeppelin.

Did you sell the rights to your origin story yet?

While your dreams about the perfect non-hero game are pretty ambitious, I'd be happy with something more easily attained. I just want something where you have the abilities of an average person. Not every playable character in a game has to be able to conjure a rain of brimstone and fury or single handedly infiltrate and murder some organization. I've never played it (Lack of a PS3, but it's a sin I haven't found a way to get to it yet), but Heavy Rain is probably the closest I could get to that.

But for all the developers reading: If I want to make my character eat every cheese wheel in that cottage, that's my choice and my gut should show it. What's wrong with an obese dovahkiin?

Posted by Brodehouse

Because eventually the DM has to stop writing. I'm a DM, and I write stories with options and branching paths, characters who may or may not be allies, but they all assume that you're interested in the story I'm telling and want to see it to the end. Otherwise you wouldn't be playing with me, right? The "make our own story" entails that you also draw the art, write the dialogue and design everything dramatic within it.

I've tried the "players as plot motivators" in a Mage: The Awakened game. They would tell me what they wanted to do in our two-year old setting (Philadelphia), and I would improvise. What ended up happening was they sat in the safehouse doing nothing for two weeks, and then we stopped playing. It took going back to the usual style (DM creates conflict and goals, offers different paths and options, players make choices and improvise solutions to conflict) in order to get the game moving again. Maybe it's just my players aren't creative enough for a sandbox, but it left me with a bad taste in my mouth to sandbox RPGing.

Games are even worse, because they can't improvise, they can only develop paths and attempt to foresee your actions. The world can't really react to you, it can only have scripted reactions to preordained triggers.

Posted by Moreau_MD

@Grimhild: Great blerg post. I too often get frustrated by the fact that most side quests basically devolve into the whole arbitrary minor punishment/ reward mechanic and just end there. I think I first felt what you felt when I was playing through the daedric quests in Morrowind and Oblivion- the daedra are my favourite aspect of the elder scrolls universe and it always frustrated me that I could only ever do one quest for a daedric prince and that was that. What if I wanted to actually be a devotee of Merunes Dagon or Boethia? Why couldn't I actually be a cultist and rise up through the ranks, and have that be the focus of my story. Still, another thing I love about the elder scrolls is the sheer scope of its modding community so there's always that to fall back on.

Having said that, I strongly disagree with the idea that your main character should start out as an average Joe. There has to be something messianic about you (whether it be dragon born, neravine or neraphim) in order for your tale to be remotely believable. Being an average Joe works in D&D because you're using your imagination to craft the world and the instances in that world as opposed to a video game where you'll ultimately end up having a set number of x to kill. That's one of the things I have always hated about games like Max Payne, GTA and COD- the way you end up cutting through thousands of others just as human as you makes the whole thing a tad ridiculous in my eyes. Being a messiah or 'chosen one' at least adds an air of credence to this process- there's a reason you can do what others can't. (though to this day I can't work out what's so damn special about Shepard- she/he doesn't even come across as being that intelligent).

From what you've said I think you would love EVE online; it's a game that has limitless possibilities because it runs solely on the imagination of its player-base.

Posted by believer258

Good blog post! And interesting! However...

Why can't we have branching arcs that spread out from there, instead of a simple, single, pointless reward or penalty? As long as you add at least three variables to each subsequent step of a dynamic system, the possibilities grow exponentially.

At some point a developer does have to put out a product. If you start a story and then have three branches from that story, and then each of those has three branches, and then each of those branches have branches of their own and so on and so forth, you'd have one hell of time writing a game like Skyrim. You would have to have hundreds of writers getting all those stories down, and then you'd have to have just as many people to check them and make sure they line up with the lore, that they make sense together, that they can work in the game, etc. I'm not going to sit here and say that this is entirely a pipe dream, but I don't really think it's feasible right now and I don't really think it will be feasible at any point in the near future.

Unfortunately, though, I feel as if we're getting far too comfortable with a messianic or savior hero archetype being the focus of many games that are released.

On this point, we've been having messianic/savior/chosen one heroes in stories since the beginning of time. They're easy to write, they're compelling, they're interesting. But more importantly than those, part of a fantasy is putting oneself into the shoes of the hero and everyone wants to be someone special and recognized, so the messianic hero who saves the day and gets the girl is incredibly appealing to the human mind. I'm not saying you're wrong - a protagonist that begins as an average joe instead of gets a boost thanks to something special would be cool - but it's not always easy to do that, especially in an RPG. Remember that Oblivion's protagonist didn't start as someone special, just a lucky guy in a jail cell, and he didn't even end the major conflict, yet many people didn't care at all or downright hated the main quest of that game.

Posted by Grimhild

@Bell_End:@believer258:

I know that there are budgets and time frames to be met, as pointed out in the post, and I'm not asking for infinite choices as:

technology will probably never rival the human mind when it comes to chaotic algorithms and creativity. It's part of what makes us human, and a development team can only write so much code into a $60 package within so much time to accommodate that style of game play.

@Toxeia:

I know. I was blessed. I didn't realize how fitting the Zeppelin was until years later when I learned the lyrics alluding to LotR in "Ramble On," etc :P

@Moreau_MD:

If it sounded like the "average Joe" thing was mutually exclusive to what I was talking about, it wasn't really intended. I was just using it as an example for something like a modern day crime/vigilante setting. I'm perfectly fine with having unique or inherent aspects to the character, it just bugs me when that one "thing" is the sole driving force of what my character is supposed to be, and is usually penalized for trying to go outside those boundaries. Using Skyrim as an example (which I enjoy, don't get me wrong), it always just feels wrong when my Imperial Assassin has to drop Dark Brotherhood missions or some such to go and fight dragons that are just kind of there as a reminder to say "Hey, you're a Dovahkiin, remember? Go do this thing." It goes against the grain of my pnp pedigree lol

And Eve has always intrigued me, I love what CCP is doing with it (which is why I'm so hyped up for WoD). I just don't have the time to dedicate to the learning curve of it or to have enough of a presence in the player driven world that it is to have any sort of benefit.

@Brodehouse:

I understand, believe me. Being the DM/GM/ST of any PnP game can be exhausting, but I also kind of love it. It really tends to be a reciprocal relationship between the players though, as you point out. Though I have to say from personal experience, the best games I've had as a GM or a player was when things went completely off the rails into a totally new direction that nobody foresaw.

It's also not really a series of quests that I have issue with, like I said, since they are there to naturally drive the players forward to the finale, after which they begin again in another module. It's only when the players are basically "type-cast" into a specific role that forces them to behave in certain ways. It's not unlike the dialog choices in most CRPG's. There's usually naive goody-two-shoes, apathetic, or total douchebag, to put it in general terms. And more often than not, the story is written with the expectation that the player will mostly adhere to one mentality or the other. Or in some cases, it makes no difference at all except for the text written or the words spoke. The results are still the same.

But I guess it's kind of like comparing apples to oranges. Still, I think there is a lot of potential for improvement with possibility of making something truly ground-breaking.

Posted by Sin4profit

Sounds to me like you've solved your own problem.

All my hours of playing TES:Daggerfall (of which there are many), I never once finished the main quest.

The game you're asking for could easily be done as a text-based role playing game that you play with other human beings. Problem is everyone wants the contextual trimmings to go along with it (art, lore, mechanics with which to fallow) I just think it's kind of unfair (and a bit of an oxymoron) to ask development to write in this diversity when there's nothing stopping the player from just play-acting their own scenarios with whats provided. Technically you can even structurally develop your own scenarios using the modding tools that a lot of games provide.

Despite the fact that you're defining my dream game, i believe you're absolutely describing the dream game of every RPG developer who has ever lived, which is why they took their idea and made a game of it.

I'm just saying it's a lot to ask from someone else for something that can only truly be done by yourself...so it's up to you to make that game happen.

I'll play it.

Posted by Grimhild

@Sin4profit:

It's the reason I brought up the PnP stuff, mostly. I still occasionally get a tabletop game going, or play if someone is hosting, it's just really hard to do on a regular basis since we're all adults with different job schedules and such. And I'd love to see what could be done with a fraction of that in the video game medium.

But I suppose that what I'm talking about is a sort of controlled chaos, as opposed to having a linear story that is the same for everyone out of the box. Something like, if a player is leaning toward a certain type of behavior within the game, the game organically shifts the ultimate goal for the player, in general terms. In addition to that, when the player is the one driving the experience, it could almost be viewed as a more fleshed out strategy game from the ground, with a single unit. When playing TBS or RTS games, each player is dynamically setting their own goals within their game, if that makes sense.

Again, I realize that this is a distant dream of game design, but I still think it's one worth having. If nothing else, I feel simply having people talk about it may help keep the drive towards that goal going, instead of settling for stories in the medium that are usually somewhat restrictive to the player. That's not to say I don't fucking love video games as they currently are, obviously hehe Just putting it out there.

Posted by MikeGosot
@Grimhild: Hm, i could see a game shifting between paths, and having some sub-paths based on your behavior. Like, being in the "Criminal Overlord" path because you were an asshole in the game, but also in the sub-path "Famous Wrestler" because you trained your character into Wrestling. That would be fun. It would be a game design nightmare to make it work, but hey, we can dream.
Posted by Grimhild

@MikeGosot said:

@Grimhild: Hm, i could see a game shifting between paths, and having some sub-paths based on your behavior. Like, being in the "Criminal Overlord" path because you were an asshole in the game, but also in the sub-path "Famous Wrestler" because you trained your character into Wrestling. That would be fun. It would be a game design nightmare to make it work, but hey, we can dream.

So you'd be Killbane from Saint's Row the Third? lol jk

That would actually be pretty fun, now that I think about it...

/foldingchair

Posted by Tim_the_Corsair
@Grimhild Did you ever fool around with Neverwinter Nights?

While still constrained by maps, character creation, etc, there were some multiplayer servers that had some truly freeform, player-run content that happened within a set world where the players were not anymore special than anyone else.

I had a great experience on one server where a friend and I both joined a thieves guild separately and worked our way up the ranks working doing jobs set by another player, until we worked our way into a position of trust and wealth. We then enacted our plan to murder the NPC head of the guild (death was permanent, unless someone resurrected you) who sat on his throne all day as a figurehead.

We attacked alongside a few others we had roped into our mutiny, only to find that the guild leader we thought was an NPC was actualy a player character. He killed several of us alongside his bodyguard and then teleported away, leading to a several weak long chase as the the thieves guild fell apart, the weaker members siding with us with our promises of gold and power, versus the fewer, more powerful members siding with him.

Eventually, as we fought a series of duels to finally resolve the conflict, we were slaughtered by a group of assassins he had hired to take us out during the battle. The assassins then turned on him and his men, and took control of the guild hall themselves.

All of that was made possible through judicious active DMing and the people that ran the server being really open to ideas put forth by players, while also keeping secrets (we seriously had no idea that dude was another player, or we probably wouldn't have gone at him).

The only thing I ever hear of these days like this is PnP or EVE. I miss it, it was a very unique experience.
Posted by crazyleaves
@Grimhild I somewhat agree. I just feel like PnP will always be better at that sort of thing.

We would always rock the Conan soundtrack, you can't go back afterwards.
Posted by BraveToaster

It would be nice to play a game with the kind of freedom that you mentioned. I think the only thing that is keeping developers from releasing a game like this is because it would have to be massive and incredibly elaborate to pull off. You would have to create unique (and entertaining) arcs for each kill-able(?) NPC in the game and present this action with a group of consequences that may come it. This coupled with creating a main quest for the people who care about it would take a really long time. I can imagine something with that sort of scope would have a significantly high chance of ending up being a buggy mess. Devs don't want to take chances like that because they would lose a lot of money. Once developers get into the habit of creating games that aren't broken (to the point of being unplayable) upon release, they could probably try this out. I think we've got a long road ahead of us before games get to that point, though.

Posted by Grimhild

@Tim_the_Corsair:

Absolutely. I played NWN to death.

I think you bring up a key point, too, in that much of the guess work and programming time could be alleviated by creating a frame-work around the expectation of a dynamic drop in/out multiplayer feature, that would anonymously put other players in control of NPC's. Maybe not base the entire game around it (yet), but make it easier for players to have experiences like that.

V: TM - Redemption did a great job with that too, in that the host was the ST and could "possess" any NPC they had placed at anytime.

@crazyleaves said:

@Grimhild I somewhat agree. I just feel like PnP will always be better at that sort of thing. We would always rock the Conan soundtrack, you can't go back afterwards.

Basil Poledouris can make a hell of a soundtrack lol Yeah, I always have it and much of it's ilk going to keep myself motivated if I'm writing a module or using a SDK/CK for that type of setting. Lately we've been playing an d20-based apocalypse ruleset that we all collaborated on, so there's lots of Johnny Cash, Fear Factory and Akira Yamaoka/Silent Hill soundtracks going.

Posted by MikeGosot
@Grimhild said:

@MikeGosot said:

@Grimhild: Hm, i could see a game shifting between paths, and having some sub-paths based on your behavior. Like, being in the "Criminal Overlord" path because you were an asshole in the game, but also in the sub-path "Famous Wrestler" because you trained your character into Wrestling. That would be fun. It would be a game design nightmare to make it work, but hey, we can dream.

So you'd be Killbane from Saint's Row the Third? lol jk

That would actually be pretty fun, now that I think about it...

/foldingchair

OOH YEAH, BROTHA. AND IT NEEDS A MINI-GAME WHERE YOU SCREAM AND TAUNT YOUR OPPONENT, BROTHA, 'CUS THEY'RE NO MATCH FOR ME, 'CUS THEY'RE ONE TINY GRAIN OF SAND AND I AM THE WHOLE DESERT.
 
Sorry.
Posted by Grimhild

@MikeGosot:

Just as long as I get to inexplicably pull up a folding chair from off camera out of nowhere to menace people with, I'd totally play your game lol

Posted by TaliciaDragonsong

Right there with you.
Most of the time its a mix up between feeling immersed and basically following a story because the rest (sidequests, location, characters) are kinda dumb.
 
Mass Effect 1 did a fucking great job of making you feel as if you ran the show, but looking back (without the initial haze) its also pretty linear.
 
I would love for a type of game like that to happen, it sounds endless.
 
In the meantime, while waiting for such a game, I will keep on writing my own stories for the exact reasons I'd want such a game.

Edited by pyromagnestir

@Tim_the_Corsair: Aw man. That sounds crazy! The guild master had to sleep at some point, so how did he keep the ruse going through that?

Don't know that I really have anything else to add to any of this discussion other than to say these ideas sounds pretty fucking sweet to me... Also this pen and paper stuff sounds like something I could've really gotten into in different circumstances. Those being circumstances in which I ever knew anyone who was doing that kind of stuff.

Posted by Sin4profit

@Grimhild:

What you're talking about sounds a lot more realistic as a service then as a programmed game. Take for example Majestic, my little understanding of the game suggests that it was some form of a service with human input to shape your story.

Another case study for this kind of dynamic gaming service would be the Yogscast guys. originally their video series starts out as the typical "surviving the first night" in Minecraft, but if you continue through the series you start to see that it evolves into a long story (like, real long, i burnt out a long time ago) that, to my knowledge, is built by people behind the scenes and these two British dudes are thrown into the environment; chaos ensues and whoever's contriving the story in the background adapts it to their actions.

So basically using human services to tailor an evolving story for the player.

...

.......ah, shit, you've done it, you've started me dreaming again; Alright, check this out, an asynchronous RPG game that is played is short chapters - when you complete a chapter your actions are recorded and sent to a friend (or variety there of) and, assuming the customization tools are easy, and robust, enough to use, your friend then shifts the story based on your actions. probably even writing in/designing new characters and dialog for you along the way. When someone finishes a continuation they send it out, you get an alert, and this continues from chapter to chapter. It's kinda like the "add the next line to the story" forum thread game but in video game form.

Seems like it would be fun on both ends, both playing through your dynamic story and creatively getting to choose the fate of your friends' story.

Worth a shot, someone smarter then me get on it, i'm to busy watching Youtube.

Posted by Tim_the_Corsair
@pyromagnestir He had an agreement with the people running the module that led to him forging a magical item that allowed him to leave a "mirror image" (actually an identical NPC) sitting in his throne while he wasn't playing or in those times when he wanted to disguise and get out and about himself (I never actually spoke to the dude, but that was how it was explained to me).

We had done a similar thing when we hatched our takeover plot by going to a GM to make sure it was cool to make it happen, he must have been laughing at us and our plan to "replace the NPC with ourselves to run the guild"
Posted by Grimhild

@pyromagnestir said:

Also this pen and paper stuff sounds like something I could've really gotten into in different circumstances. Those being circumstances in which I ever knew anyone who was doing that kind of stuff.

Never too late to start. I actually didn't get to do any tabletop between Jr. High and after I got out of highschool since I was in an all-girls school, and all of my friends outside of school were pretty much just into drugs and music. But I kept buying the modules and such, keeping them hidden away like a dirty secret. Girls are mean! lol

@Sin4profit:

/tentsfinger

Yeeeeeessss... it's all unfolding according to my desires. Muahaha...

But seriously, yes. I think the gaming community in general is far more creative than the Publishers/Distributors that are pulling the strings on development give credit for, and fully capable of crafting experiences like what you're describing on a regular basis. If that wasn't the case, we would be spending more of our time with less interactive media where it's simply a one-way experience, generally speaking. If they actually put mechanics in place to where the players could help run the show, I think they'd be surprised at how unexpectedly popular and amazing the game could be. Like you say, in it's most abstract form, Minecraft. Just think if you take that philosophy of player control and add surroundings that are much more reactive to the player.

Posted by TheSouthernDandy

I think I'm sorta feeling the same way right now, I've been finding myself playing more abstract stuff lately. I've found myself totally obsessed with Dwarf Fortress because it feels, to me, a lot closer to what you're talking about. There's all these complex systems interacting and everything's being simulated and it feels like a world that you both have control over every mundane little aspect, and at the same time it's random and living and you can find yourself screwed unexpectedly. Getting past the graphics and interface and the insane learning curve is the hardest part. Once you do though it's incredibly immersive. I think it would be cool to have that same type of world but you're playing one of the dudes in that fortress instead of the guy pulling all the strings. I think the hardest part is that to realistically market a game it needs to be pretty and sound pretty and that eats up a lot of the processing power used to simulate everything so it limits what you can do.

Posted by casper_

this is a great post about something i struggled with/ thought about a lot while playing DA:O recently. i felt like there was a strange conflict when my character (who was an absolute scoundrel) was cast in the role as the savior of that world.

i'd like to maybe see more games where the players could possibly create their own little stories instead of being funneled into one huge one. the freedom of games likedwarf fortress or crusader kings comes to mind.

Posted by Vodun

@Grimhild: I agree with your thoughts and would love something like that, but unfortunately it's impossible to create something like that. You can't predict every choice a player makes and cater to their feelings in a moment. Just can't be done. You can offer multiple choices, but as we have seen even that is severely limited today by budget and time constraints. You would most likely end up with cut and paste dialogue similar to the voice commands in ARMA if you've heard it: -"NORTH...WEST...MAN...100....METERS".

I think the best bet would be to have a game incorporate a player as a dungeon master, allowing theme to weave the story as you go along. They have tried that a couple of times (Neverwinter and Vampier as was mentioned), but from my experience it didn't work that well due to the rarity of a good DM. It usually just ends up a sloppy mess anyway.

Another possibility is something like EVE where every player is equal, there is no one in control. You just have a world and some rules, it's up to the players to live in there. I have tried a couple of times to get into it, but the gameplay just isn't for me. A friend at work has told me amazing stories though. For example how he infiltrated a corporation and managed to heist their entire wealth using paranoia, bribes and charisma as his only weapons.