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My notes about RPGs

(03.01.2004) Preface

(03.01.2004) "Levelled creatures" vs "Freedom"

(03.01.2004) The fancy polygon-to-polygon collision detection vs AI brains

(10.02.2004) The good things RPGs can borrow from anime and console fighting games



It's hard a lot to write in both so non-similar languages as Russian and English - in fact, amount of work doubles, due to need to formulate same thought in very different ways - this is because Russian and English rely on absolutely different principles of building sentences from single words, that's why. And while direct word-to-word translating the English sentence to Russian gives a ugly but still understandable sentencion, the same thing for Russian-to-English gives just meaningless mess of words.
So, writing any dual-language page is merely a banal creation of  its content twice, which is still easier than translation. I didn't mentioned before that translation means re-thinking and re-constructing each sentence from the scratch, didn't I?.. Well, there are more similar pairs of languages in this world, but, unfortunately, these two aren't they :(
But I don't want to write only in Russian because then my writing will be unavailable for most of the world, and I don't want to write only in English because I'm a bit patriotic... (Don't mind anything! I'm not a patriot, it's a shame to be a patriot nowadays, you know...)
Thus - my notes will be very short and dry - a lot shorter and dryer than I want them to be ;)


Most of my notes will be revolve around criticizing TES3: Morrowind. At first glance, critizisig other's work while not having anything your own is not too good idea, but Morrowind is so good target for arrows of criticism, and has so many typical flaws in its game mechanics which are in fact flaws in modern game-making approaches... Well, you have the idea.


Just to remember if somebody didn't know. I'm not a proffesional. I'm just a experienced amateur. And many things I see not from the point-of-vief of the industry, but from the point of view of typical user... ;)


"Freedom" and Levelled creatures aren't compatible!

1. Definition.

"Levelled Creeatures" (further, LCs) is the way to adjust difficulity of random encounters according the player's level, to make each battle not too easy to be not interesting and not too hard to be impossible.

2. How it affects gameplay

Very simple: any auto-adjusting of the difficulity level (in fact, babysitting the player) makes the game world "unfair". This is particularly good for casual players and definitely "must have" for games with fixed story pipeline where are no alternatives or bypass routes...
But for games that pretend to give you "freedom" (as Morrowind pretended but failed) it is EVIL. Because it removes such important element of game world exploration as learning of which places are safe and which ones are dangerous. Because for hardcore players or anyone else who wants "Freedom" it is important to choose themselves if they'll go into place where is almost safe or they'll go to place where they'll hardly have chance to survive. Keyword: themselves.
Plus, auto-adjusting  makes world too dull and monotone, making it more like a tour trip than the adventure. For example, which would you prefer:
A). running from town to town along the road, where low-level PC will encounter medium-difficult rats, medium-level PC will encounter medium-difficult kagoutis and high-level PC will encounter medium-difficult dremora lords
B). running from town to town along the the road, where low-level PC will encounter lethally-difficult bandits and will have to travel with caravans to arrive at the destination point alive,  medium-level PC will encounter medium-difficult bandits, and high-level PC will not encounter anyone because bandits will flee in terror at his approach.
I bet, all hardcore players will tromp toward point B) in a solid crowd!
P.S.: AFAIK, Fallout didn't have any LCs!

3. How to keep balance without LCs.

1. How to don't scare away the casual players.
It's simple. Give the player tips on which places are more dangerous than others. Give the player tons of fat tips on which places are more dangerous than others! Give him the low-detail world map with skull marks and like.
At last, build game world such way that it will be absolutely clear which places are more dangerous than others. Make dungeons, where the deeper you crawl, the bigger monsters and fatter treasures you encounter - this'll make low-level PC turn back at the top levels because he can't reach deper and stay alive. This will make him drool for what unimaginable treasures may hid in the unacessible depths, and will make him want to come there again, after couple of level-ups...

2. How to prevent player from gaining too much power by finding super-hyper artefact at 1st level.
It's simple: remember, what happens when in Quake3 player gets the QuadDamage?.. He immediately turns into No.1 prey and all others hunt him with double enthusiasm, despite the danger of his 4x-powered attacks...
In RPGs this hould be such: Difficulity of the rogue encounters should depend on the summal price of things in PC's inventory - this'll teach 1st-level PC to not roam around with some super-sword which is little help against the big and power-hungry gang which it attracts...
And more, you can add to all things of big power (like power armor or plasma rifle) additional requirement of difficult and/or expensive maintenance - then 1st level PCs will be just unable to afford using them.

4. What it gives

It makes the world exploration really interesting - not the dumb and repeating "came, cleared all the area of medium-difficult foes, searched all the chests, got the medium-fat treasure" as in most of modern games, which makes ALL the dungeons to look the same, and  disappoints anyone who wants to be immersed into the game world.


Fancy polygon-to-polygon collision detection versus AI brains


Well... polygon-to-polygon collisions detection is, indeed, a cool thing.
It prevents legs and tails from penetrating through walls, allows to hit certain parts of monster with ranged/trowing weapons, allows to apply such thing as ragdoll physics...
But - and many gamemakers often forget this - there are no free things in this world (except, maybe, cheeze in mousetraps)...

2. The cost

It's simple: it just greatly increases the collision check time, in comparsion with the old good bounding box approach. You may say that modern computers are soo powerful... Indeed they are, but... Many  heuristic AI  algorithms rely on the "what if" approach. What if  we'll move NPC a bit to the left, would then his chances to hit increase?.. What way to the enemy around that boulder is better -  to the left, to the right, or jump over it?.. Etc, etc. And all these require additional collision checks - in fact, lots of them.
So, due all of this, polygon-to-polygon collisions greatly limit the freedom of AI programmer and make NPCs much dumber than they would be.

3. Good for FPS, bad for RPG

So, I'll be short. For the first-person shooter where monsters can be dumb, the polygon-to polygon collision is probably good. For the first-person RPG where NPCS should be smart it's bad.

4 Possible compromisses

Oh, yeah... Just that: make two layers of collision, one with the old good bounding box (note: RESILIENT bounding box!) which determines object position, and second layer of polygonal, model-to-world collision on top of it, which determines the positions of model parts relative to the object's center (to prevent body parts from penetrating through walls, placing foots exactly at the ground and partial simulation of ragdoll physics).


Chego horoshego RPG mozhet pozaimstvovat' u anime i konsol'nyh fajtingov

My apologies for the auto-translation crap. I had no time to translate it properly.

1. As is arranged combat system in the majority of contemporary RPG?.. There is a collection of the different means of destruction, which are characterized by the value of inflicted loss on top of that, at best, by the velocity parameter. To use by its most frequently is possible only one method - it called to the enemy and delivered impact (or shot there). Further game counts probability of hit (from weapons skilla, distance, fidgetiness of enemy and, etc., and rarely from skilla of the countering, when it there is in the role system) and the modifiers of damage, which depend on the armor and other... Then enemy delivers his impact, is repeated the same. So you cost, monotonous metelya of each other, and conquers that, in whom the snout is wider and sword more... Greatest thus far encountered to me variety - in the games on basis ADDE, where to the prokachannym soldiers it is given the "regime of countering" when attack weaker and defense stronger - and this all. Which this provokes?.. Praaal'no, all attempt snout to pump poshire, and sword to procure a little more, light armor and daggers it is complete not in the honor. Tanks taxi- with... 2. let us examine now my dear fayting "Ranma Ѕ Chougi Rambuhen" (analog of early Mortal of battalion commanders)... In each character from four that dozens of different impacts, which are characterized by the following parameters: - snosimye Heath (this usual) - the probability that this impact will be countered (different for the different enemies) - the time of swing, from the pushing of knob to the beginning of the impact - the duration of attack - the it is shorter, the more rapidly it is possible to switch over from it to the blocking counter. - lethal area. - how many impacts is brought for this attack plus this important detail, as acquisition by the enemy of immunity to the repetitive uniform impacts - once dealt a blow enemy by clapper, two dealt a blow, to the third it for this is already ready, and it is successfully all similar attacks, or it is more than that - it begins to use method, that 3fffektivny1 the enemy swung back by clapper. (in the terms RPG, parameter ToHit consecutively decreases plus, this detail as the dependence of the impact on that, you begin at this moment on the enemy, or you step back. You begin - more powerful impact will come out, but itself in this case partially you are revealed. You step back - automatically is included the blocking of enemy impacts. 3. which from this is worth dragging in RPG. 1. in mouse, as is known, button two, so that the types of impacts can be as the minimum two (by the way in many shuterakh of the last years there is this thing, as Alt fire) more of them can be obtained, by regulating the duration of pressure (as in Morrovinde, but there this was useless, since it influenced only snosimye Heath, but not to the probability of countering or its own protection), or due to the motions by mouse as in Daggerfolle. 2. level of aggressiveness, determined from that, you presh' you to the enemy after stopping up "forward", or you go back, after stopping up "back" - so that it would be possible to select the balance between the force of attack and the effectiveness of protection. 3. habituation of enemy to the identical impacts, which depends on his military skillov. 4. parameters of weapon - not only inflicted loss and base speed, but also fitness for countering and penetration of blocks (for example, the enormous cudgel, slow and which carries not many Heath, but the impact by it it is not possible to repulse by sword.) 5. acquired with the circulation weapons skilov kombo and spetsudary.