Some RPG thoughts – a rambling.

I got a chance to play Ego Draconis (Divine Divinity II) the other day. Though this is some spinoff thoughts, it’s going to include the end-game spoiler. Thus the warning and the space-fillers that follow.

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OK, then, let’s get on with the spoiler. Everything you’ve done turns out to be for a lie. You prevent the death of this person thinking it’ll end the threat of the big evil, only to have it turn out that her life is what the big evil wanted – she’s Big Evil part II. Worse, she’s been manipulating you. It’s been her that’s been advising and guiding to get you to the end. And then to cap it off, the closing scene puts you in a crystal prison where this is all explained and you’re told you’ll be there forever more.

There are two things that make this very, very disappointing. First, there’s no pipe. There are no hints, no foreshadowing, nothing. Oh, wait, there’s a subtle set of clues in how your ‘advisor’ ridicules and praises in turn. Not. Enough.

Second, and worse, there’s no escape from this doom. There’s been a type of ending for some time now of ‘noble sacrifice’ – where you the character are doomed, but at least it’s a heroic doom that saves everyone else. Here, however, you’re doomed and you release The Great Evil on the world. In some ways it’s Diablo, except until you got to the sequel you at least THOUGHT you had Diablo trapped (however miserable it made your character).

Even if the next version allows Our Protagonist to escape and redeem – or even be discovered to have done the Right Thing that sets up our new protagonist’s success – I won’t replay this game. Actually I despised a number of technical things, but I can ignore that if the story grabs me. Despite several bits of fun in the game that almost overcame the technical things, the story drove me away. (In fairness, I only played Diablo twice. Even that ending had me unwilling to chase my doom One More Time. And again, that was at least reasonably hopeful.)

But all the thought I did on this brought me to some interesting (to me) spinoff thoughts. In fact, it drove me to consider computer RPGs more thoroughly, and even develop some plot, twist, and development/stage lines. And here we take a big Left Turn – watch out for Albuquerque.

I’ve been an RPG player off and on for a LONG time. No, not computer RPGs, pen and paper. One of the things that’s sorta frustrated me about computer RPGs is that they’re almost all – actually, ALL as near as I can tell – just glorified action/adventure stories. There’s a core linearity, with a bunch of side quests that build up your character without advancing the story, and MAYBE some of the choices in the linearity will make minor modifications to the whole. However, there have been attempts to break this, at least in part. There’ve been various options to allow you to choose who (if anyone) makes the Ultimate Sacrifice, and maybe even who is with you at the very end. That’s getting closer.

There’s also the classic “build your skills” process. You start with a few skills and gradually increase them – not just improving them but adding more skills and abilities as you progress. Thus you get levels and such that… they work, but I’m not sure they’re necessary. There’s a decent sidestep (demonstrated in Oblivion (Elder Scrolls IV) as one example) where you don’t have levels, you instead increase your capacity and stats — and learn whatever you can find and for which you’ve satisfied prerequisites.

I have an idea for an RPG. Like KotOR and a few others, I would let the player choose a side. However, I think – THINK – that it can be done in such fashion as to choose the Final Boss. Run it this way as an example:

Each side has a default champion who defends a Final Boss. You will replace the champion for your side, and then will fight the final boss of the other side.

Why did I do the champion/boss split? Two reasons. First, you need a boss to create a Situation – but you as player aren’t creating it, you’re resolving it. You can do without a boss on your side and so be The Boss yourself, but that means you can’t play as the Other Side. The second allows some interesting plot development during the game.

That plot development is that it can make the intermediate quests determinate for the end. You create the other side’s champions through not only the side you’ve chosen but how you resolve certain quests – and possibly how you’ve treated potential companions. Consider Dragon Age for a moment, and how you can drive off certain companions through your choices. What if, having forced Wynn to leave, you face her later with her providing healing for the ArchDemon? Yeah, that doesn’t REALLY work, but it certainly gives the concept.

Two climatic battle choices: Boss A or Boss B, depending on side you chose. It is possible to make that four options by making you choose where to fight – on the home ground of A or B.

Replay? I’ve just created four endings even before we get to ‘choose a champion’.

I’ve already drafted out the first flow-chart. The same principle happens in subsets as well; every choice (even whether or not to do a sidequest) should have an effect somewhere. heh – I’ve even thought of a twist, and it’s worth mentioning.

MAYBE you have a traitor in your small group of companions. You will have determined which companion – again IF you have one – through your choices. And yes, that in turn has an effect on the line.

For development cost reasons, I suspect playthrough time will be less than some of the current epics. Going back to pick up the other story, on the other hand, is where the play-off should happen. Oh – and the frustration for the walkthrough specialists is worth it as well. “Sure, you can get to THIS end THIS way, but…”

I find I want to make this even more than I did the MMORTS. Not least, I think it’s easier to build, and CERTAINLY easier to make interesting.

Oh – and I’m still playing with world. SF? Fantasy? Some sort of meld? heh


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