xkcd The Truely Open Game - is this awesome y/n?

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Re: Fallout 3!

Postby Xaddak » Thu Dec 04, 2008 9:59 pm UTC

Frodo DID return to the Shire, though. He left of his own volition some years later because he felt like he didn't fit in anymore. So he returned, but he didn't return, if you get what I'm saying. This would be more like a guard at the bridge saying "Thanks for saving us, but you're not allowed back in, you've had too many adventures. To the Gray Havens with ye!" The game should give you a choice to go back in if you want, even if only if you do the open-vault thing - hell, make it the third house, even. It just bothers me that even if you do the open-vault deal, the vault closes when you leave and never re-opens. It's like they forgot the "open" part.

For a supposedly freeform game, it likes to strip you of choice and even of the illusion of choice a lot.

No choice or illusion of choice about:
Spoiler:
  • Dad dying (magic glass)
  • Staying in the vault after "Trouble on the Homefront" (vault seals shut no matter what unless you break it)
  • Braun - it lets you THINK you can talk to him outside the simulation, but no you cannot, and his chamber is made of magic glass too
  • Probably some other stuff that isn't coming to mind right now
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Re: Fallout 3!

Postby Izawwlgood » Thu Dec 04, 2008 11:16 pm UTC

I agree that the actual choice involved in a lot of the games actual story path is non-existent. Despite being an open universe, there's only one direction to progress. (What if I were to say fuckit, dad, you left me and the vault, I'm not helping you in your stupid dream of water purification, I'm going to live the high life in here tenpenny towers. *bang*)

Frodo also complained of not being able to connect with his life back in the Shire. I'm of the persuasion he'd have been better off not returning at all. Part of living in the Shire/Vault is maintaining a phobia of change, of the outside, and part of being Frodo/protagonist of the Fallout series is that they understood that change needed to happen, that answers were found in the outside.

The theme is sort of omnipresent in a lot of classic videogames where the protagonist is a young boy/girl whose village comes under attack and they have to save the planet. Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, most FF's, SoE, Earthbound... The story always ends with the hero unable to return to the life they once lived.
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Re: Fallout 3!

Postby Xaddak » Thu Dec 04, 2008 11:56 pm UTC

The Hero's Journey. All stories are the same story when you take the mask off.

Well, according to some of my teachers. I think it is doing the concept of story a disservice to boil it down to a step-by-step guide, more or less.

Anyway, yes, I really wish they would give you a lot more freedom. I would love for the immortal NPC thing to go away, and if you kill somebody important to ANY quest, then you can't finish the quest, sucks to be you. Give. Me. A. Choice. If I kill Dad, then Dad is dead and I'll never beat the main quest on that save file. It's like playing D&D and attacking a guy and the DM says "Woah! Well, he's at 0 HP but he's important, so, he stands back up at full health." Really? Like... really? Why don't you just play the game for me?
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xkcd The Truely Open Game - is this awesome y/n?

Postby SecondTalon » Fri Dec 05, 2008 12:01 am UTC

Eh, that's also not a complete understanding of the Monomyth, as it's not that they're all the same story, it's that they have similar elements. It's like saying beef stew and a meal of steak, fries, and a raw carrot are the same thing because they contain the same elements.

And for some reason, people bitched when they did that in Morrowind - when you could kill someone, get a popup that essentially said "By the way.. you, uh.. can't beat the game now", people bitched that they shouldn't have been able to kill that NPC because, something to the effect of "I just ran around town like an idiot slaughtering everyone, paid a fine and then did some quest stuff, but now since apparently I killed some dude I can't beat the game and that was, like, fifteen levels and eighty saves ago? What the fuck!"

SO.. yeah, blame those people.
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Re: Fallout 3!

Postby Jack Saladin » Fri Dec 05, 2008 12:09 am UTC

Give. Me. A. Choice. If I kill Dad, then Dad is dead and I'll never beat the main quest on that save file.

... Fuck that, that would be even worse. If you kill Dad, the main quest should just play out differently.

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Re: Fallout 3!

Postby Xaddak » Fri Dec 05, 2008 12:12 am UTC

Well, no, it isn't a complete summary, but... it's enough for fora posts. And I still dislike the entire concept.

Anyway. Do the people who work at Bethesda only live in really hot or really cold areas? Do they only drives Hummers and Smart Cars? Do they only see in black and white? Do you see what I'm getting at? Middle. Fucking. Ground!

Here's how you do it:

  • Include an option in the menu or at the start of each character to toggle the immortal NPC thing
  • Set the game up to be compatible with both methods of play
  • Profit!
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Re: Fallout 3!

Postby SecondTalon » Fri Dec 05, 2008 12:21 am UTC

Meanwhile, all I can think is.. if you're playing a computer game for an open "Do almost anything" story... you're kinda doing it wrong.

There better options.

They're trying to tell a story. It happens to (apparently) be about you and your father.
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Re: Fallout 3!

Postby Xaddak » Fri Dec 05, 2008 1:12 am UTC

Well, yes, no game is really as open-ended as D&D. But the point is that Fallout 3 - and Oblivion for that matter - were supposed to be more open-ended than the norm. And to be fair, they are. In Half-Life 2, for example, if you wander off and explore the countryside you'll go about five feet before hitting some impossible rock wall or something. It's just that when you do the quests in those games, you're right back on the railroad more often than not, ESPECIALLY in the main quests, and it doesn't seem right considering the "open-ended" focus of the game.

Also? I'll be damned if I can find a pen-and-paper group around my college campus. Although my friend has one, but it is mostly a joke campaign and I'm not interested in the Land of Puns or whatever he called it, where every encounter is based on some kind of bad pun...

For instance, when he showed me an example from his campaign: "The adventurers can smell the faint smell of meat being roasted. At the far end of the clearing, the adventurers can see a roc, which is using one of its clawed feet to turn a spit over a bonfire that has a polar bear tied to it. The adventurers can, in fact, smell what the roc is cooking."
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Re: Fallout 3!

Postby Rippy » Fri Dec 05, 2008 4:14 am UTC

Xaddak wrote:Frodo DID return to the Shire, though. He left of his own volition some years later because he felt like he didn't fit in anymore. So he returned, but he didn't return, if you get what I'm saying. This would be more like a guard at the bridge saying "Thanks for saving us, but you're not allowed back in, you've had too many adventures. To the Gray Havens with ye!" The game should give you a choice to go back in if you want, even if only if you do the open-vault thing - hell, make it the third house, even. It just bothers me that even if you do the open-vault deal, the vault closes when you leave and never re-opens. It's like they forgot the "open" part.

This. What I meant was, not something where you go back in the Vault and return to your happy life, but where they have an epilogue that describes what happens from there, just like the real ending. You know, the standard parts determined by your good/evil status, and then it could go on to dramatically say that the hero never felt the same in the Vault, and left a few years later. That's a relatively plausible and satisfying ending (compared to the normal ending at least) off the top of my head.

Jack Saladin wrote:
Give. Me. A. Choice. If I kill Dad, then Dad is dead and I'll never beat the main quest on that save file.

... Fuck that, that would be even worse. If you kill Dad, the main quest should just play out differently.

Also this. I've always liked the idea of a game that, instead of one long storyline, has a relatively short storyline that branches off in a dozen different ways. It'd be fun just playing through each one. (Hell, the developers could put in easter egg endings/missions that are triggered by doing unlikely sequences of events.)

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Re: Fallout 3!

Postby Xaddak » Fri Dec 05, 2008 4:19 am UTC

I've had that idea before and everyone I mention it to has shot it down as being too complex.
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Re: Fallout 3!

Postby Jack Saladin » Fri Dec 05, 2008 4:31 am UTC

Rippy wrote:
Jack Saladin wrote:
Give. Me. A. Choice. If I kill Dad, then Dad is dead and I'll never beat the main quest on that save file.

... Fuck that, that would be even worse. If you kill Dad, the main quest should just play out differently.

Also this. I've always liked the idea of a game that, instead of one long storyline, has a relatively short storyline that branches off in a dozen different ways. It'd be fun just playing through each one. (Hell, the developers could put in easter egg endings/missions that are triggered by doing unlikely sequences of events.)

I've been thinking exactly that recently. Even if it was just the length of a film each play through - a couple of hours, but had a ridiculous amount of choice. That would be great.

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Re: Fallout 3!

Postby Rippy » Fri Dec 05, 2008 5:19 am UTC

Clearly we need to develop a game.

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Re: Fallout 3!

Postby Xaddak » Fri Dec 05, 2008 5:25 am UTC

Indeed. Somebody drop me a PM if something actually happens with this.
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Re: Fallout 3!

Postby EdgarJPublius » Fri Dec 05, 2008 5:30 am UTC

Rippy wrote:
Xaddak wrote:Frodo DID return to the Shire, though. He left of his own volition some years later because he felt like he didn't fit in anymore. So he returned, but he didn't return, if you get what I'm saying. This would be more like a guard at the bridge saying "Thanks for saving us, but you're not allowed back in, you've had too many adventures. To the Gray Havens with ye!" The game should give you a choice to go back in if you want, even if only if you do the open-vault thing - hell, make it the third house, even. It just bothers me that even if you do the open-vault deal, the vault closes when you leave and never re-opens. It's like they forgot the "open" part.

This. What I meant was, not something where you go back in the Vault and return to your happy life, but where they have an epilogue that describes what happens from there, just like the real ending. You know, the standard parts determined by your good/evil status, and then it could go on to dramatically say that the hero never felt the same in the Vault, and left a few years later. That's a relatively plausible and satisfying ending (compared to the normal ending at least) off the top of my head.

Jack Saladin wrote:
Give. Me. A. Choice. If I kill Dad, then Dad is dead and I'll never beat the main quest on that save file.

... Fuck that, that would be even worse. If you kill Dad, the main quest should just play out differently.

Also this. I've always liked the idea of a game that, instead of one long storyline, has a relatively short storyline that branches off in a dozen different ways. It'd be fun just playing through each one. (Hell, the developers could put in easter egg endings/missions that are triggered by doing unlikely sequences of events.)


I think that game is called Deus Ex.
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Re: Fallout 3!

Postby Amnesiasoft » Fri Dec 05, 2008 7:20 am UTC

Except the short part.

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Re: Fallout 3!

Postby Xaddak » Fri Dec 05, 2008 7:32 am UTC

And the multiple separate branches part. You can go through Deus Ex as many times as you like, and it is more or less the same thing right up until the ending where you choose which way to go. This would be a game where it really SPLITS, not just "oh I snuck past the guard instead of killing him this is new and different", no, it would be "I'm in the middle of a battlefield on the other side of the country - what guard?"
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Re: Fallout 3!

Postby Jack Saladin » Fri Dec 05, 2008 7:33 am UTC

And the choose everything part. But apart from those, yeah, I guess. It's definitely a videogame.

Edit: Fucking ninja.

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Re: Fallout 3!

Postby SecondTalon » Fri Dec 05, 2008 2:33 pm UTC

Wait.. you mean.. a game that has a couple of hours of gameplay if I go right at the very beginning.. and a completely different (and possibly completely unrelated) couple of hours of gameplay if I go left?

Who do I have to fuck to get this to happen?
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Re: Fallout 3!

Postby Jebobek » Fri Dec 05, 2008 3:08 pm UTC

I was thinking along the lines of this. Imagine the start of your game with your character waking up on a hill where you can see lands stretching all around you in a 360 degree view. From here you start your journey to whichever direction you please.

Time passes when events occur when you get to places, and other events trigger as you move in different directions and make choices (I will move north to help XX) (I will not help and move south). Backtracking is possible, but difficult, because the game is designed to last only a few hours.

Lets say you do three games by going in three different directions. Thats fine, but the player might ask "what am I missing out on? I like to do XX alot cause it makes me feel good. How do I know if im going the right places to unlock new stuff?"

At the beginning of the fourth play, your character starts over once again, but wakes up with a strange map in his/her (we'll go with guy) hand.
Branchout game.JPG
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As he does things he sees that some of the empty circles gets filled in! Has he been doing this before? What happens if he fills in all the circles?

The green dot is the starting point, purple dots are major events that went off. Red dots are endings. Circles are events the player has not seen in thier savefile.

The line going at 3 o'clock is attempts to backtrack (see how you pulled off two events at one timeframe).

The line going at 10 o'clock is a pretty straightforward path.

The line going at 6 o'clock is someone makeing some pretty crazy changes in decisions, but is not trying to backtrack. The ending is pretty similar just by luck.

But yea, sexual favors to someone that can make something like this happen.
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Re: xkcd The Truely Open Game - is this awesome y/n?

Postby zombie_monkey » Fri Dec 05, 2008 3:17 pm UTC

I originally posted this in the Fallout 3 thread but then I was like "huh, where did the post I replied to go?". Then I noticed a notice that it was moved to a new thread, so I'm moving it here.

Em... yes. That's a big part of why I hate Fallout 3, because it's not like that. Now you kids get off my lawn and go buy the original Fallout or Fallout 2.
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Re: xkcd The Truely Open Game - is this awesome y/n?

Postby SecondTalon » Fri Dec 05, 2008 3:21 pm UTC

..which has relevance here because.. why? The reason it was split is because the discussion is no longer even remotely about Fallout 3. If anything, I should merge it in to Game Design - The Collective Approach because we're now discussing a short, 1-3 hour game that barely has any limitations at all, with radically different plots depending on what you do at the beginning - whether or not you choose to follow the guy who wants your help or if you just go in to the bar and try to pick up chicks. Or guys. Whichever. A game where one playthrough has you buying a farm, getting married, and starting a family while a second playthrough has you becoming a crime boss and assassinating the Space Pope.

No matter how open Fallout 1 & 2 are, they both will always start the same way and will always end the same way.

..also, I need to break myself of the "post a line or two, realize I didn't explain enough, edit in a paragraph" habit...
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Re: xkcd The Truely Open Game - is this awesome y/n?

Postby zombie_monkey » Fri Dec 05, 2008 3:22 pm UTC

? I'm replying to the post above mine? The orginal games work the way he describes?

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Re: xkcd The Truely Open Game - is this awesome y/n?

Postby Jebobek » Fri Dec 05, 2008 3:27 pm UTC

Oh ok, so fallout 1+2 would work kinda like that. Thats good.

Oh and thanks for making this a new thread. And to answer the question..
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We need to kidnap some developers and programmers. Or get sassy and make our own text-based adventure. Something better than the damn "choose your own adventure" books.
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Re: xkcd The Truely Open Game - is this awesome y/n?

Postby Yuri2356 » Fri Dec 05, 2008 3:31 pm UTC

There was an Idea getting discussed around here some time ago for a sort of "Groundhog Day" style adventure game, that consists of you reliving the same slice of time, each time trying different things in order to gather information and solve puzzles and the like.

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Re: xkcd The Truely Open Game - is this awesome y/n?

Postby SecondTalon » Fri Dec 05, 2008 3:33 pm UTC

Well.. assuming I'm understanding everyone else right, this would be more like a Choose Your Own Adventure book than anything else, in that.. some of them would produce radically different results depending on your choices - from characters who are Good on one runthrough being Bad on another, or magical elves appearing when there'd been no other mention of them in the rest of the book.

..not saying those were handled well, just saying that's kinda what would happen.

So, RPG seems to be the best genre for this.. With the amount of choices, graphical simplicity would be desirable as the rest of the game should be taken up with "What Next" approaches.

I guess the hard part in programming it would be making sure the different things didn't overlap - that is, things like people bitching about you shooting your dad and quests that only exist because you're an evil father killing sonofabitch not triggering when you don't kill your dad.
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Re: xkcd The Truely Open Game - is this awesome y/n?

Postby Jebobek » Fri Dec 05, 2008 3:49 pm UTC

Yea, and faction issues: To the north is the red team base. To the south is the blue team base. They are at war. You run up north and kill everyone on the red team. Red nation hates you.

You get bored, backtrack a bit, and run over to green nation, and you kill the monster for them. You get near an ending, and they want you to run into red team to buy a plot device to end the game. They are best buddies with red nation, but red nation still wants you to die in a fire, and will not sell you the plot device. Well, crap. You're at the endpoint of your game, and you can't move anywhere else because the gametime commands you to be there. Maybe you can use the portal and just go kill Lavos instead.

If it gets turned into a RPG with boss battles, I was also thinking about win/lose outcomes to liven things up as well. Its a rough call: you certainly do not want to make the player force themselves to LOSE just because they want to fill in a dot. Maybe you can optionally fill in that plot dot by choosing something after you win.

Another thing. When your character "wakes up" again, should they start at level 1 or level 10 from last game? I was thinking level 1, but they keep some items or something. If there is a win/lose outcome with a super-hard boss you will be strong enough to take it out on the 10th playthrough. It can't be like Majora's Mask, where the dungeons ramp up in difficulty. The gameplay in MM is linear even though the same 3 days are repeated. In a Truely Open (repeating) game, the play should be just as challenging at playthrough 20 as it was on play 1.
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Re: xkcd The Truely Open Game - is this awesome y/n?

Postby Amnesiasoft » Fri Dec 05, 2008 5:03 pm UTC

Actually, perhaps we might be able to take advantage of The G.E.C.K. when that arrives. It's rather simple to use. And there will undoubtedly be some rather impressive additions to Fallout 3's engine by the community like the Script Extenders from Morrowind and Oblivion.

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Re: xkcd The Truely Open Game - is this awesome y/n?

Postby Awia » Fri Dec 05, 2008 5:42 pm UTC

Is it a weird coincidence that SleepyGamer and I were talking about a game exactly like this about a week ago?
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Re: xkcd The Truely Open Game - is this awesome y/n?

Postby Jebobek » Fri Dec 05, 2008 6:00 pm UTC

Amnesiasoft wrote:Actually, perhaps we might be able to take advantage of The G.E.C.K. when that arrives. It's rather simple to use. And there will undoubtedly be some rather impressive additions to Fallout 3's engine by the community like the Script Extenders from Morrowind and Oblivion.
This is possible because the game is already enticing many players to start over again and again (as we see on our own Fallout 3 thread. The leveling curve is fast and the attributes+perks keeps things interesting.

I'll be impressed if they put in fantastic, full-blown endings, something you would expect credits to roll afterwards. A voice-over mod would be great to make the new endings seamless, but I worry about horrible-quality voiceovers eversomuch. The thing about Fallout 3 is that there are plenty of side quests, but the side quests never turn into an epic main quest. The trick would be to turn these side quets into something more expansive and ultimate.

Awia wrote:Is it a weird coincidence that SleepyGamer and I were talking about a game exactly like this about a week ago?
I think a LOT of people starting thinking this after getting handed to them enough super-expansive games that uncomfortably funnel back to linear (Oblivion, Ultima.) I think a "truely open" game is long overdue.

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I thought I was going crazy because I did not see that link before. That link leads to nowhere, by the way (unless you're considering making that the new thread title.) Shh. Yes it does. It has nothing to do with me merging threads and forgetting that I'd linked to one that I merged. We have always been at war with Eastasia - ST
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Re: xkcd The Truely Open Game - is this awesome y/n?

Postby Mo0man » Fri Dec 05, 2008 6:38 pm UTC

You could always try playing masq
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Re: xkcd The Truely Open Game - is this awesome y/n?

Postby ArchangelShrike » Fri Dec 05, 2008 7:50 pm UTC

Reminds me of Phantasy Star III or Japanese novel games, except compressed into one generation. I think it'd be more of a story problem than a event driven programming language problem in designing it, because we'd have to be sure that we didn't set up the story such that we'd fall into a hole, say always being forced to fight one side because the other side is too powerful. Although if people preferred to grind and grind until they could defeat the more powerful side, who knows, maybe they decide to take everyone else on.

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Re: xkcd The Truely Open Game - is this awesome y/n?

Postby Kaneda » Fri Dec 05, 2008 9:00 pm UTC

I'd say the problem is the meeting of "truely open" and "story". you can't possibly expect to write enough story to cater for a truly open environment (Unless you believe in Intelligent Design, in which case your expectations are insane)

For a truly open game which generates the story for you based on your actions, as opposed to just making a freeform sandbox MMO where the story is whatever the players decide (a seperate but also interesting project), there would have to be some kind of story generating AI which has no pre-defined agenda. The AI would simply generate possible story continuation avenues which the player can choose to follow or not as they please.

Say for example the AI generated some kind of overlord, overthrowing him would clearly equal a success ending. but for openness, there have to be other endings. joining him and ruling the galaxy as father and son? Meeting a girl in a bar and settling down with her in a universe run by said overlord? Starting a successful overlord fanzine (ingame)?

I'm not making any point here, just bored and typing my thoughts...

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Re: xkcd The Truely Open Game - is this awesome y/n?

Postby Jebobek » Fri Dec 05, 2008 9:17 pm UTC

Thats actually a very good point that I didn't consider: different ways of delivering the story.

1. The Classic method of story telling in games is the preset method. Like Fallout 3, you have a couple story arcs that you will "activate" or "avoid." As in, someone sat down and wrote the whole story out with all the possibilities. Another example is the "choose your own adventure" books; you cannot add any more pages to the book.

2. You bring up a freeform player generated, such as players jumping in and modding Fallout 3 in the future, and you can decide what story packages you would like added, or you can add them yourself.

3. AI Generated stories, seldom seen but really interesting. You can get some interesting notes off of the things you must make in Dwarf Fortress, and there is the chance for invaders and such.

Today, the most realistic approach to making a game is 1, but when it comes to a "Truely open game" I suppose its not the most "pure" in openess.
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Re: xkcd The Truely Open Game - is this awesome y/n?

Postby ArchangelShrike » Fri Dec 05, 2008 9:25 pm UTC

Then we're getting to the definition of end game. There's nothing to stop you from settling down in a girl you met in a bar and owning a farm, but there's quite a bit more to do. Maybe after a certain point in time you die, and the game is over. There's still the overlord you can overthrow, but you don't need to do it - you can play your poorly run Harvest Moon simulator. You could mine or trade or do whatever you want, explore the world, but there will still be that big bad boss if you want to go to that conclusion.

I'd shoot for having all methods of story generation available, having some preprogrammed plot hooks - a big bad guy or two to give the game a frame to work in, leave some areas open for players to roll their own and some places for the AI to randomly generate zombies/NPCs to kill, quests and whatnot. Kinda like TES, I guess.

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Re: xkcd The Truely Open Game - is this awesome y/n?

Postby SecondTalon » Fri Dec 05, 2008 9:39 pm UTC

I suppose the problem with #3 is the overreliance on the Fetch Quest.

5 Fetch_Quest - "Can you go to %LOCATION1% and get %ITEM1% from %CREATURE1%* for me? I need it because my %ASSOCIATE|RELATIVE/FRIEND/LIEGE/UNDERLING1% needs it to %CURE DISEASE|IMPRESS LOVED ONE|OBJECTIVE TO BE FILLED IN LATER1%?

*If %CREATURE% is sentient=true and %LOCATION% is city=true, activate Recursion_Quest.
10 Recursion_Quest - "I'll be glad to give you %ITEM1%, but first I need you to go to %LOCATION2% and get %ITEM2% from %CREATURE2% for my %ASSOCIATE|RELATIVE/FRIEND/LIEGE/UNDERLING2%."

goto 10

..you get the idea.

I think it'd be better to design the game on a branching tree... that is, your initial choice is between two-six options, which branch at a later time between their own two-six options, which branch again, maybe only five branches deep.

Even with only two options, it quickly gets large, what with a tree five levels deep branching twice at each junction having 32 endings (assuming I did my math right) assuming that each choice is only reachable by selecting the correct sequence to get there (That is, if you pick Left, Left, Left, Right, you'll be presented with a choice that's impossible to get to by choosing any other sequence)

Or, drawn out in a map I made by editing a standard sports bracket and throwing in a couple of possible endings...
Spoiler:
Map.JPG


That way, each ending is well-thought out, well written, scripted, etc.. and because of that the *choices* you make can be cleverly hidden along the way (Or not so cleverly, in the case of choosing to take that Caravan Guard job or not) and it still allows you for universal side quests...

Though in this case, the Evil Overlord that Needs Overthrowing For The Good of The Kingdom becomes, technically speaking.. a universal side quest.
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Re: xkcd The Truely Open Game - is this awesome y/n?

Postby Amnesiasoft » Fri Dec 05, 2008 10:14 pm UTC

Jebobek wrote:
Amnesiasoft wrote:Actually, perhaps we might be able to take advantage of The G.E.C.K. when that arrives. It's rather simple to use. And there will undoubtedly be some rather impressive additions to Fallout 3's engine by the community like the Script Extenders from Morrowind and Oblivion.
This is possible because the game is already enticing many players to start over again and again (as we see on our own Fallout 3 thread. The leveling curve is fast and the attributes+perks keeps things interesting.

I was thinking more along the lines of total conversion rather than "small*" tweaks.

I'd also say I'm more with Talon on how this should be done. We just have a tree that branches 2-6 ways at each branch, and have maybe 5 levels of branching in our tree. That should make it much easier to avoid conflicts like we mentioned earlier.

This is all starting to remind me of a much more expanded version of Way of the Samurai...sort of...

* Yes, in this case modding in a few extra endings is small compared to a total conversion :P

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Re: xkcd The Truely Open Game - is this awesome y/n?

Postby Jack Saladin » Fri Dec 05, 2008 10:47 pm UTC

Yeah, I much more agree with Talon's post than anything else suggested.

I don't even think it needs to be a free-roaming game for this to work. In fact, if it was free-roaming, it won't be created for 50 years until we have AI assisted game development or some shit. Even with just 2 hours of gameplay, that's a stupidly inhuman amount of work - you're going to have to sacrifice the choices for the free-roaming, just like Bethesda had to with Fallout. And if Bethesda can't do something, a bunch of nerds on the xkcd fora aren't going to either (if people really are interested in looking into putting something together).

No, I think the best approach would be to make something cinematic. Something that if you watched a video of someone playing it, it would look like your usual linear, plot-based game. You'd simply be making decisions at each point - moral decisions, decisions in your methods or approach (speech, fighting your way in, picking a lock, etc), faction decisions, and so on. Instead of standing on a hill and thinking "OK, I can run over to that farm or that city", you'd simply make a choice in a dingy warehouse somewhere when you decide which side of a Mexican standoff you're going to fuck over that will determine whether or not you end up at that farm or that city. It would simply be too difficult to combine the plot driven decisions with the free-form decisions of wandering around willy-nilly. Way too hard, as in, I doubt it will ever be done.

So I think the key to approaching this project would be to envision each playthrough playing out like a movie - fast paced, plot driven. Your decisions would hugely influence how the plot plays out, but there would only be one "starting plot" - you're stopping, or aiding, or ignoring, or manipulating, or sleeping with one bad bunch of terrorists who have stolen a nuke. Not wandering around the countryside trying to combine a whole bunch of storylines or some such.

Another hugely important thing to remember is making sure that each decision actually impacts later decisions, and later plot points. Way too many games that involve stuff like this really don't have the decisions make any long term impacts - you make a choice, something happens, that's it. You'd have to ensure that every single thing the player does affects the game as you'd expect it would, the whole way through. That would be immensely hard, and the reason the game would be so short.

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Re: xkcd The Truely Open Game - is this awesome y/n?

Postby Amnesiasoft » Fri Dec 05, 2008 11:14 pm UTC

Hmm...I was just thinking, perhaps, since our main goal is a short, massively branching storyline, rather than the "open world" aspect. Perhaps a...simpler...engine may be what we want. It seems this may fit something like SCUMM better? And I mean, with ScummVM, the engine is plenty well tried and tested, as well as having nearly all the parts of it well known. And ScummVM probably runs on more things than Linux does.

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Re: xkcd The Truely Open Game - is this awesome y/n?

Postby Jack Saladin » Fri Dec 05, 2008 11:16 pm UTC

Never heard of it before, but a quick Googling and Wikipediaing reveals that it looks pretty appropriate, yeah.

I'm much more interested in just the implications on having a huge impact on the plot than actual gameplay. I don't think "levelling up" or any stat system really makes sense for something like this. Likewise, battles should be restricted to "hit bad guy on head with pipe", not any full blown RPG style fights.

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Re: xkcd The Truely Open Game - is this awesome y/n?

Postby Vaniver » Fri Dec 05, 2008 11:50 pm UTC

SecondTalon wrote:Even with only two options, it quickly gets large, what with a tree five levels deep branching twice at each junction having 21 endings (assuming I did my math right)
The first branch gives you 2^1 endings; the fifth branch gives you 2^5=32 endings.

The game that I would call closest to being truly open is Dwarf Fortress.

In the time that it took me to write this post, people have already moved away from the totally open-ended game to the choose-your-own-adventure model, so the rest of the post may or may not be applicable. I'm leaving it because it took me forever to write, though.

Consider Dragon Age:Origins, the next game by the people that made Baldur's Gate. Each character has a different origin story, so your first branch is at the character creation screen, rather than the first scene. If, for example, you go with a three-way Mexican standoff in the first scene, you can have your player first pick who they are in the standoff. Functionally, it's no different from making character creation the first scene, but it gives you a more plausible way to start off with a large number of choices at the first screen.

------------------------------------------------------------------

There are two ways to make games.

One is to write everything, the other is to make a reality simulator.

Almost all RPGs take the first path. It's considerably simpler, and with moderate effort you can include the majority of the options people would want. Imagine coming across a group of Slavers in Fallout; there are a limited number of commonly selected options. You can ignore them, you can kill them and free the slaves, you can kill them and take the slaves, or you can join them. You run into problems here when the designers' and players' imaginations differ; the evil character will wonder why they can't take the slaves if the designers didn't leave in that option (think Morrowind, where you would often come across slaves in smuggler caves- but even if you're a Telvanni racist, all you can do is free them, kill them, or walk away). So, how 'open-ended' a game of this type is depends on how well the choices a player is offered match up with the choices the player wants.

The second path is considerably more difficult, but is common in various internet games. The old example is Conway's Game of Life; consider Auditorium as a more modern (and more fun) example. It's a very simple reality with simple mechanics, but you can get rather complex behavior out of it. Here, the qualifications for open-endedness are the same- how well the choices a player is offered match up with the choices the player wants. But while it's very easy to give you only slightly limited choice in a two-dimensional puzzle game, it's much, much more difficult to do so in a three dimensional game with intelligent actors. The reality and mechanics are no longer simple, and the behavior is orders of magnitude more complex.

For example, consider replacing the economy in Fallout 3 with a real economy. I'm going to be using Fallout as an example to give things names; in reality (as in, something we could make as a proof-of-concept) we're talking about a simulator with agents and some world that they live in, which would probably be outputted as some form of Roguelike. It would be easy to add to the Fallout world once we get the GECK, but we may run into difficulties with implementation.

First, what is an economy? It's a system that directs the use of limited resources to satisfy unlimited wants. To have an economy we need: 1) Agents with wants 2) resources which fulfill those wants 3) a way for agents to obtain, trade, and consume those resources.

So, what sort of wants do agents have? They want to eat, they want to sleep, they want to be healthy, they want luxuries. They also might have relationships- they want their family or the other members of their gang to be happy. They might have goals- Dad wants to complete Project Purity, Lucas Simms wants Megaton to be safe, Zimmer wants to find A3-21.

How do agents fulfill these wants? Here we run into where the two ways of designing games look similar- in order to simulate reality, you have to write your simulator. An agent that wants food should consider growing it, finding it, buying it, stealing it, and begging for it (and I might even have forgotten an option). Agents might have moral compunctions that influence their choices- Lucas Simms really doesn't like stealing food, but if you put him in a desperate enough situation, he will (but you can't make him desperate enough to eat his son, for example, while you might be able to get Billie Creel desperate enough to eat Maggie).

Just writing a program that can compare those options is non-trivial. A common approach in agent-based computation is to have each agent simulate the world; consider the Game of Life again. Each cell only knows what exists in its neighbors, and chooses to be alive or dead based on how many of its neighbors are alive or dead. Similarly, a Megaton Settler may only be familiar with Megaton and the area directly around it, so when she decides where to eat she looks at a small list of food sources- food she owns, the Brass Lantern, scavenging at Springvale, hunting Mole Rats, and stealing from people in town. She assigns a number to each option based on its chance of success times its degree of success, minus something for its risk (comparing someplace that gives food 50% of the time but is safe to a place that gives food 80% of the time but kills you the other 20% should depend on the agent's risk tolerance function), finds the one with the highest number, and then tries it. It would also be reasonable add a "brand loyalty" functionality- if buying food at the Brass Lantern works two or three times in a row, then the settler may default to that option until it stops working rather than make a decision every time they want to get food. That's only worthwhile if decision-making is costly and the world is relatively static- which is true in the real world for some things, and may be true in the Fallout world for some things.

Now, that just deals with making one decision at once. What about making a big decision? Let's say the Vault Dweller walks up to a Megaton Settler and says "hey, I want to open a shop in Rivet City. How'd you like to run it?" How will the NPC consider the offer?

Now, something that you can do to simplify things is come up with 'professions.' Let's say someone with a certain risk tolerance and skill set decides that they'll become a city-dwelling mechanic (someone with a higher risk function might become a tinker on a caravan). If they're aware of multiple cities, how will they pick which one to live in? If you've given them a profession and given cities demand for professions, then it becomes simple- they compare the supply-demand (at least, what they know of it) in the cities they know of, as well as the safety of those cities, and the ability of those cities to provide for their wants. But now you have to deal with agents choosing between professions- should I be a competent but only modestly needed mechanic, or should I be a modestly competent but needed merchant?

Now, at this point you may be saying "Vaniver, we know you like economics, but this is a giant wall of text. When is this going to get back to game design?" That's the problem with reality simulators- it order to take advantage of the opportunities that manipulating real systems provides, you have to have the real systems. For example, a common tactic in my D&D games is to find a monster-infested region, buy it from the owner, and then clear it out. That previously worthless mine is now a gold mine (literally) because the Balrog's dead- but you can't use that tactic unless the designer specifically codes it for you or you have a system of property rights and agents willing to sell property. But if you want to make a real economy so you can use real economics in making in-game decisions, you have to make a real economy that works. If you put in realistic food consumption, you need to put in realistic food production- or pretty soon you're going to be walking through ghost towns because the person that made NPCs need food didn't give those NPCs a way to get food for more than a few weeks. Instead of hiding the backend behind a curtain, you need to reveal it- this is where the Tenpenny residents get their money from, which is why they can buy food from Margaret, and this is where Margaret gets her food from. If there are kinks in the system, the agents need an intelligent way of fixing it- maybe one of the caravanners decides to start running brahmin meat between Arefu and Tenpenny, or Margaret buys food from the player at a higher price than other merchants.


Think about Dwarf Fortress again, because that's what this game is going to be like, especially when it comes to iterative improvements. Every piece of reality needs to be added one step at a time- maybe first is the food-based economy. Then you make equipment actually composed of parts- so you can cannibalize the barrel from one rifle to fix the barrel that broke on another rifle, but you can't just walk up to an NPC and have them magically produce a barrel. You can get a new barrel made, which requires a forge of some sort- but there should be at least one in the wastes somewhere, and you could even do it yourself once you get one, or rent access to one. You can make items from their components, be it assembling an AK47 from the parts of five shattered ones or a tailor making a new brahmin-skin outfit out of brahmin skin and thread.


You can accomplish a lot of this with starting conditions, but the whole point is that the world needs to dynamically react to the player. Your actions should be able to redirect the economy or the politics of the region- you should be able to open a tavern that competes with Moriarty (or kill him and take his), and you should be able to become the new sheriff of Megaton- and if you do that, what should stop you from becoming more powerful? You can quickly accumulate the caps necessary to hire the settlers into constructing new things, be it a wall to protect a brahmin range or underground homes to increase the population of Megaton. You could kill Tenpenny and take his tower (that's how he got it in the first place, isn't it?), and make a New DC Republic, which the other groups in the area should respond to- maybe you end up at war with the Enclave (or, hell, join the Enclave!), or the Brotherhood (or the Outcasts), and gain control of Rivet City though diplomacy or military action.


But getting back to open-endedness- the point is you have to be able to do what you want. You should be able to establish a city on a flat plain next to a radioactive waste dump site- and the only people you can get to move there are the slaves you buy (that then try to run away). But while something like that is easy to do with a rogue-like Dwarf Fortress, they're difficult or impossible to do with a graphically sophisticated game like Fallout 3.

Consider the themes for your house. Those are all preset collections of objects place by the developers, which are enabled when you buy that theme and disabled when you buy a new theme. An alternative way to do it is sell the furniture piece by piece and make nodes that you can place furniture in- I remember fondly homes in Asheron's Call, where an apartment had a chest, a bed, a floor spot or two, and two wall spots, where you could hang paintings or trophies or weapons. It wouldn't be that difficult to make something similar in Fallout (and, actually, that's probably the first mod I'll try once I get the GECK). But the Fallout system is totally unprepared for placing down a house wherever you want it. The strongholds in Morrowind were similar to the themes- there were various versions that got enabled or disabled based on your status in the quest. Even Raven Rock, where you decided which buildings were placed, was the same- there were just two versions and you picked one.

And, think about it. The data structure in Fallout isn't conducive to being open-ended at all; if I launch a mini-nuke at someone's house made out of tin sheets, their house should be destroyed and they should die. That's easy to do when the tin sheets are objects existing in the same world as the person and the nuke; difficult when the house is an indestructible extradimensional space.
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