A New Commandment for Developing Games With RPG Elements

A New Commandment for Developing Games With RPG Elements

Many games that have RPG elements to them seem to ignore those elements during game play. Why? Yahtzee lays out a new commandment for developers to follow.

Read Full Article

I would have to say that you're being a /tad/ unfair to Mario & Luigi in terms of the final giant fight of Giant Dreamy Luigi vs Giant Dreamy Bowser. It's no where near the final fight - after all, there's still the final battle against Antasma and the final battle against Bowser.

That being said, the giant battles were absolutely shoe-horned in "because they were cool in the last game" and were not really that great.

In my opinion, a more important topic to take into consideration isn't the problem of your level ups being ignored, or underutilized, but the RPG elements being poorly implemented into the game:

One such example is, again as you said, games giving either pointless upgrades that don't do anything, or games that give you upgrades, just to strip them away at the climatic moment or for no reason for half of the game. At those points, the upgrades and levels mean nothing, do nothing, are nothing. But this is a small part of a bigger problem.

Going back to Mario and Luigi: Dream Team (And this is, in fact, an issue with all of the Mario and Luigi games) is the issue of a poorly balanced level up system. The difference between yourself at level 15 vs a level 15 boss, and yourself at level 18 vs a level 15 boss is ASTRONOMICAL. A fair fight turns into a one-sided curb-stomp battle that you can end within 2 or 3 turns. At this point, the RPG elements are meaningles, arbitrary, and absolutely useless. Your attack stats don't matter. Your defense doesn't matter. +5 attack at level 15? Cool. +10 attack at level 18 apparently results in dealing three times the damage...for some reason.

On the inverse side of the issue, we have games like Sonic Boom. You can level up Sonic and the gang all day, give them the runes that grant them shields, bigger splash attacks, more powerful throws...and yet nothing really changes about your characters. You're just as weak as you were at the start of the game, but the enemies slowly gain more and more health as the game progresses, resulting in massive grindiness in late-game combat (as if the combat wasn't already pure padding to begin with).

So I would have to say dropping the RPG elements is only a small part of a much, MUCH larger issue of simply mishandled RPG mechanics. It's a burning shrub in the middle of a forest fire.

...I have a feeling Yahtzee won't like Dragon Age: Inquisition, since it kind of does the same thing(enemies deal more damage at higher levels, yes, but they all have an annoying amount of health that makes fighting them more of a chore rather than a challenge).

That, and the total amount of Power you can get from all missions and areas is way more than you will ever need.

So we should follow Saints Row 2's example for sandbox pseudo-RPG element business, and the first (two I guess) BioShock(s) for linear game-RPG element business.

Personally I find RPG elements even worse when they barely add anything to make your life easier in the game, not necessarily their purpose being forgotten by the end. The Last of Us can tell me that making this improvement to the shiv or whatever means anything, but it doesn't. You can play through that game without any of the upgrades the game doesn't force you to do.

Sigmund Av Volsung:

That, and the total amount of Power you can get from all missions and areas is way more than you will ever need.

Actually I do like that. There are really a lot of quests anyway, my quest log is like a novel at this point. I like that I can create my own path towards the next big story mission. The game is so huge it's designed to play more than once and to me that's a very good thing.

Nimcha:

Sigmund Av Volsung:

That, and the total amount of Power you can get from all missions and areas is way more than you will ever need.

Actually I do like that. There are really a lot of quests anyway, my quest log is like a novel at this point. I like that I can create my own path towards the next big story mission. The game is so huge it's designed to play more than once and to me that's a very good thing.

To me, it definitely isn't.

I went out of my way to complete the entire game, 100%-ing everything.

At that point, the seams begin to show.

Requisitions are useless, since you always get more power(and it's more profitable) by just doing quests. If you complete a bunch of them, nothing happens: you don't get to see the Inquisition visibly grow(and that's another problem with the game, the Inquisition feels static), so it's just there 'in case' you fall back with your power requirement.

When I say that the total amount of power is way more, I mean it. I finished the game with 200 power, never once needing to go do a zone because I was lacking the resource.

And the game definitely isn't designed to be played multiple times. The choices? Sure, I'd like to see the different outcomes if I go for an alternate run, but the major story beats are largely the same, regardless of what data you imported from the previous games. Aside from certain changes in dialogue, the choices have very little impact, compounded by the crappy epilogue sequence(it doesn't even say what happened to your companions, and Awakening, an expansion pack with a more inconsequential story did that).

I honestly don't understand why you'd want to do an area all over again. There's no benefit aside from the occasional choice, and I imagine that after traversing woodland, mountainside and desert for 50-odd hours, you'll get tired of the environments pretty quick.

I'd say Saints Row IV's taking away your powers was actually in service to a higher payoff:

A notable exception are puzzles, which rarely involve the RPG elements and are almost never made easier through character progression.

I think the mission disparity is due to the whole big studio design problem. Subteam A is working on mission 17 for milestone 8, subteam B is working on mission 47 for milestone 9. They don't really talk to each other. Subteam A integrates its mission into the sandbox, subteam B wanted theirs to be a little self contained story. Inter-team communication problems? Not enough direction from the producers? Who knows.

It's also a symptom of developers who add RPG elements as a checkbox to "Increased sales" as opposed to "This will make our game better."

I understand why developers do this. It can be kind of frustrating, but it makes sense. It is quite difficult to balance a game with open-world gameplay and RPG elements if it is truly open-world (you can go anywhere at anytime).

Think about it. Where do these balancing gimmicks pop up? There's the "Let's take away the benefit of your levels" type in things like Saints Row and Far-Cry. But there's also the "monster spawns scale with your level" type in games like Oblivion.

My ultimate problem with this is that it feels unsatisfying. The reward mechanism, the ultimate high, in any RPG-like game is earning a "level up" or "upgrade." So to decrease the significance of that boost is to decrease the enjoyment of the RPG elements.

Skyrim: Sure, you can dual-cast streams of fire from your hands while killing people with your shouts. But now common bandits are wearing mythological rarity armors and shooting you with rocket launchers. It all just makes RPGs seem a bit silly.

I firmly believe that open-worlds gated by the difficulty of encounters that don't scale to a major degree is preferable. However, that results in a totally different design obstacle of "How can we guide players to tackle the 'quests' in the approximate order we planned to maintain a consistent level of challenge?"

Evonisia:
You can play through that game without any of the upgrades the game doesn't force you to do.

To be fair, you can do that in most games if you're skilled enough. Hell, the "Mostly Flesh and Steel" achievement in Dishonored is for doing exactly that.

I wonder how hard it would be to make missions a bit more dynamic in sandbox games. If we look at Farcry 4;
If you did the bombing run from gyro-copter a few times some enemies will start carrying rocket launchers and later on guided missiles to make that strategy harder.
Specialized in small arms? More body armor.
Sniper? Sticking more to cover when not provoked, or longer when the first man drops. Maybe start carrying some rifles and binoculars.
Luring animals every time you want to attack? The enemies join PETA.

If you let the game respond to the path the player is taking you can keep the curve pretty nice and curvy, if the player is just rushing story the enemies will be at "default difficulty". Not specialized against the player because the player didn't specialize him/herself.

Just don't go and A: do the whole " everybody just levels with you", maybe give random npcs a specific skill cap so you can still become Death, destroyer of every bodies good day. and B: Adapt too hard so the preferred style of the player becomes impossible/enjoyably hard.

f1r2a3n4k5:
I understand why developers do this. It can be kind of frustrating, but it makes sense. It is quite difficult to balance a game with open-world gameplay and RPG elements if it is truly open-world (you can go anywhere at anytime).
[...]
I firmly believe that open-worlds gated by the difficulty of encounters that don't scale to a major degree is preferable. However, that results in a totally different design obstacle of "How can we guide players to tackle the 'quests' in the approximate order we planned to maintain a consistent level of challenge?"

Generally, you ditch the "truly open-world" aspect and break your world up into chunks, gated by increasingly difficult encounters. If it's done right, you might not even notice that the key path is actually linear. Dark Souls, for instance, puts a couple high-level enemies and NPCs at the entrance to every area outside the critical path for the first 2/3 of the game, without actually closing most of the doors, so it feels like there are so many new areas you have yet to uncover even though you're going through most of the content.

Sigmund Av Volsung:

Nimcha:

Sigmund Av Volsung:

That, and the total amount of Power you can get from all missions and areas is way more than you will ever need.

Actually I do like that. There are really a lot of quests anyway, my quest log is like a novel at this point. I like that I can create my own path towards the next big story mission. The game is so huge it's designed to play more than once and to me that's a very good thing.

To me, it definitely isn't.

I went out of my way to complete the entire game, 100%-ing everything.

I think that's your problem.

To that I say, don't hate the game but hate the player.

Nimcha:

Sigmund Av Volsung:

Nimcha:

Actually I do like that. There are really a lot of quests anyway, my quest log is like a novel at this point. I like that I can create my own path towards the next big story mission. The game is so huge it's designed to play more than once and to me that's a very good thing.

To me, it definitely isn't.

I went out of my way to complete the entire game, 100%-ing everything.

I think that's your problem.

To that I say, don't hate the game but hate the player.

What even.

The game is built like a sandbox, to be explored. If I did what the game was (supposed to be) designed for, then the game is badly designed. They built the game like this and even bragged about its size in marketing(comparing it to Skyrim and whatnot, almost all gameplay demos showing off crafting and the like).

If it fails, then it fails. The extent to which I enjoyed it, sure, but there are numeruous problems with the sandbox aspect.

Like why the hell are there more quarries and logging stands than there are necessary? For what purpose? There isn't even an achievement if you get all of them, so they were just left there, lazily, like an afterthought. This mentality is present throughout the game. It's inherent in it's design and has nothing to do with my subjective interpretation of it.

I would so read a Bible as written by Yahtzee, for he is the prophet we need and deserve now. Especially with more use of the word "ninny", and it will have way more cursing and violence than the current version (which is already packed with that stuff as well as sex and dirty jokes, so it won't be that big a difference).

Some games I played implement RPG elements well, and some don't. In every Assassin's Creed game since II, I always take the extra missions to get more money so I can buy more pouches to hold more ammo/medicine and more powerful weapons and armor to last longer in fights and kick more ass. I presume it isn't punishingly difficult for people who don't upgrade like it's going out of style, but like I said, it's meant to be easier. Deus Ex: Human Revolution has upgrading your character's body and weapons to carry more, shoot better, last longer in fights (or avoid them entirely), hack easier, and kick more ass. Depends on how you want to play, and each ability opens up more areas to explore.

The Batman Arkham games seem more geared towards making sure you get every upgrade by the end of the game, but I didn't like how Origins had that Dark Knight system: completing certain challenges IN ZE EXAKT ORDER GIVEN to receive certain new abilities and weapons. Kept me from getting the Sonic Shock Batarang when I could have so easily spent XP for it in the first two games. XP I earned by completing story missions, side missions, Solving The Riddler's challenges (in any order I see fit, too!), and just plain kicking ass.

f1r2a3n4k5:
I firmly believe that open-worlds gated by the difficulty of encounters that don't scale to a major degree is preferable. However, that results in a totally different design obstacle of "How can we guide players to tackle the 'quests' in the approximate order we planned to maintain a consistent level of challenge?"

For all of it's faults, I found Assassin's Creed: Unity to do this quite well. Almost all of the side missions are unlocked on the map from the start, but they all have difficulty star ratings which actually reflect the difficulty fairly accurately. I tried tackling a 4-star difficulty mission right from the outset and I got curb-stomped (which is another thing I appreciate about Unity as compared to previous AC games, you're not immediately an expert in mass murder).

I have to wonder how much of this conviction was inspired by DarkSouls, Fallout, & Colossus ...

I don't think there's a "proper" universal base difficulty for side-quests even though I really enjoy the most difficult ones (especially jump-puzzles which we know Yahtzee detests). I think instead; the longer you're seen avoiding a side quest, the more it should progressively scale up and become a bigger problem. The only issue with that is we're still programming almost everything through C++ scripting. And finely micromanaging a bunch of variables in that script is too much of a pain in the ass. We need a much more visual tool-set built to fine tune Boolean Curves and Map-Volumes like a huge Airbrush /slash/ Watercolor-brush would allowing for lots of "happy little accidents" in places instead of the currently uniform linear Formulas we have right now.

Sigmund Av Volsung:

Nimcha:

Sigmund Av Volsung:

To me, it definitely isn't.

I went out of my way to complete the entire game, 100%-ing everything.

I think that's your problem.

To that I say, don't hate the game but hate the player.

What even.

The game is built like a sandbox, to be explored.

Exploring doesn't mean doing everything. In fact, to me it means the exact opposite. You can do whatever you want, whatever you happen to come by while exploring. This is exactly opposite to linear games where you do have to do everything to advance, because there's only one path.

The game is designed to be played multiple times. This facilitates that.

Sigmund Av Volsung:
...I have a feeling Yahtzee won't like Dragon Age: Inquisition, since it kind of does the same thing(enemies deal more damage at higher levels, yes, but they all have an annoying amount of health that makes fighting them more of a chore rather than a challenge).

That, and the total amount of Power you can get from all missions and areas is way more than you will ever need.

That is a game that absolutely would have benefited from a more active antagonist. The idea of zones being overtaken and keeps and areas being under siege. Every time you zone, you progress time in areas you aren't. This means you have to spend power in areas you aren't to keep them under control while doing missions elsewhere. You can't be everywhere at once, after all.

That is what I was hoping for. Instead I had 200 power at the end of the game and could have had even more if I wanted.

Nimcha:

Sigmund Av Volsung:

Nimcha:

I think that's your problem.

To that I say, don't hate the game but hate the player.

What even.

The game is built like a sandbox, to be explored.

Exploring doesn't mean doing everything. In fact, to me it means the exact opposite. You can do whatever you want, whatever you happen to come by while exploring. This is exactly opposite to linear games where you do have to do everything to advance, because there's only one path.

The game is designed to be played multiple times. This facilitates that.

Dragon Age Inquisition is pretty damn linear though. Regardless of what choices you pick, the outcome is still the same at the end of the game, save for a few differences in the world(that will no doubt get retconned into one specific outcome for the next Dragon Age game).

And again, just saying that 'you can do anything' doesn't mean that the game is built to be played multiple times. If anything, that usually means that there's a finite amount of content, since Inquisition doesn't have the balls to gate off content based on decisions like The Witcher 2 does(to give an example, a decision at the end of act 1 splits the game in such a way, that your decision essentially gives you a different game to play; different areas, completely different resolutions, etc. the world splits and the story never re-converges again).

Also...when did I say that I played through the game as quickly as possible? If anything, just blazing through the main story is exactly that, but the post-game fuck-about mode still lets you see all the content you didn't participate in, and lets you complete the additional areas.

The only replay value Inquisition carries is the promise of different Inquisitor decisions yielding different consequences, and the occasional bit of dialogue(depending on race, class and said decisions).

Clive Howlitzer:

Sigmund Av Volsung:
...I have a feeling Yahtzee won't like Dragon Age: Inquisition, since it kind of does the same thing(enemies deal more damage at higher levels, yes, but they all have an annoying amount of health that makes fighting them more of a chore rather than a challenge).

That, and the total amount of Power you can get from all missions and areas is way more than you will ever need.

That is a game that absolutely would have benefited from a more active antagonist. The idea of zones being overtaken and keeps and areas being under siege. Every time you zone, you progress time in areas you aren't. This means you have to spend power in areas you aren't to keep them under control while doing missions elsewhere. You can't be everywhere at once, after all.

That is what I was hoping for. Instead I had 200 power at the end of the game and could have had even more if I wanted.

I know right?

I mean, it's not like they even to make things up: sure, you kind of 'deal' with the templar v mage war in the Hinterlands, but there are other areas where the war continues.

It's supposed to be this world-spanning conflict of different ideologies...which gets swiftly swept under the rug for a more generic story.

The game could've had your Inquisitor visiting different factions of mages and templars...where you use that extra Power to support them or destroy them.

Maybe it's reserved for DLC or the expansion pack...and thus we once again feel EA's disturbing influence over the whole game again >.<

And here I thought he was going to complain about RPG stuff in general not over site issues like this. Well done!

Sigmund Av Volsung:

Clive Howlitzer:

Sigmund Av Volsung:
...I have a feeling Yahtzee won't like Dragon Age: Inquisition, since it kind of does the same thing(enemies deal more damage at higher levels, yes, but they all have an annoying amount of health that makes fighting them more of a chore rather than a challenge).

That, and the total amount of Power you can get from all missions and areas is way more than you will ever need.

That is a game that absolutely would have benefited from a more active antagonist. The idea of zones being overtaken and keeps and areas being under siege. Every time you zone, you progress time in areas you aren't. This means you have to spend power in areas you aren't to keep them under control while doing missions elsewhere. You can't be everywhere at once, after all.

That is what I was hoping for. Instead I had 200 power at the end of the game and could have had even more if I wanted.

I know right?

I mean, it's not like they even to make things up: sure, you kind of 'deal' with the templar v mage war in the Hinterlands, but there are other areas where the war continues.

It's supposed to be this world-spanning conflict of different ideologies...which gets swiftly swept under the rug for a more generic story.

The game could've had your Inquisitor visiting different factions of mages and templars...where you use that extra Power to support them or destroy them.

Maybe it's reserved for DLC or the expansion pack...and thus we once again feel EA's disturbing influence over the whole game again >.<

It is likely, and a shame. Once you finish the game, it really does feel like a big intro to something larger. The entire game was a tutorial for something they want to build on and I am not ENTIRELY bothered by that since I did still enjoy the game. However, it had a lot of potential to be so much better than it was, especially with the antagonist they chose.

Ah well, I guess I can't really complain about any game that gives me over 100 hours of play time. Also, this is all pretty off topic for this thread now I guess, whoops.

The original Risen and Two Worlds II are examples, if memory serves me right, of RPGs that have static difficulty for enemies. The story and side missions guide you to particular areas where you can succeed while trying to maintain challenging gameplay. Sometimes that involves chugging potions to stay alive, but still. If you enter areas before you have levelled or geared up appropriately you will get smashed. I like the tempo of progression in these games as they encourage exploration and daring but make it clear that it's at your peril. Don't have a warhammer to deal with skeletons who are guarding a treasure but are immune to bladed weapons? Tough shit, come back later when you do! The side quests almost always give you meaningful information, loot and/or XP. The overall quality of these games is questionable but I really enjoyed them.

Two huge offenders here were Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Chronicles of Van Hellsing (Ep 1).

These pretended you could build the character you wanted, but punished you brutally if you didn't have the 'right' build for boss fights.

I know DX:HR got a patch, not sure about Van Hellsing. I generally liked the game (it filled the Diablo gap while Diablo III was crap), but that really annoyed me to the point where I just started cheating through some boss fights so I wouldn't have to go through the tedium of respeccing twice for them.

They should stop considering people so dumb and useless. Make a game that forces people to step up. People can surprise themselves by stepping up to a challenge. Sick of this pussy shit. Hate catering to the lowest common denominator. Add an easy mode at maximum for those who can't hack it.

 

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here