Real Role-Playing - Chatting It Up
TAHR and Lori followed up on the discussion of adventure vs. role-playing games we started in Update #8, and we thought many of you would be interesting in the conversation.
In case you haven't played our Quest for Glory games, and would like to know more about the types of games Lori and I make, PC Gamer posted an article today about Quest for Glory IV that may give you more context: http://www.pcgamer.com/2012/11/04/reinstall-quest-for-glory-iv/
Role-Playing - Adventure, RPG, and Tabletop Style
To me, Role Playing Games are about problems, and Adventure Games are about puzzles (in the very specific way those two terms are defined in the PC Gamer article).
Why? Because in fact, Role Playing Games are NOT about Role Playing, and Adventure Games are ALL about Role Playing.
In a tabletop Dungeons & Dragons game, I am an elf - an elf fancied from my imagination - not a human playing the part of Legolas and trying to guess what Legolas would do in a situation. I’m not, as on a movie set, an actor learning a script and pretending to be an elf while he delivers his pre-written lines.
In Sins of the Fathers, this IS where I actually play a role, the role of Gabriel Knight. The ONLY difference with a movie is that the director doesn’t give me the script, I must guess it (what will you as Gabriel do?), otherwise this would be a fiction, not an Interactive Fiction (and therefore not a game).
So Adventure Games are Interactive Fictions, where you have to guess the script. The more well written the script is, the more entertaining the game is. You’ve said that Day of The Tentacle was one of your favorite adventure games; well, imagine how great it would be as an animated comedy movie, or Grim Fandango as an animated film noir.
Role Playing Games are Simulated Worlds, where you can live a second life. But even the greatest RPG sessions would not necessarily make great movies, mostly because they would not be structured enough or strong enough in terms of storytelling (just like true stories have to be romanticized before making to the big screen).
What makes great movies/Adventure Games are not only the problems the characters have to face, but morevover the great solutions the script writers/game designers have invented : how will Marty McFLy/Bernard Bernoulli go back to their own time ? The question is a good start, but without a great answer, it would be totally uninteresting to watch.
And there is a big issue with the “Simulated World” concept. While a good Pen & Paper RPG Game Master will have no problem to satisfy all your desires and turn them into an adventure with some twists and climaxes without you knowing it, a computer just CAN’T. Elder Scrolls games can be great fun, but only if you accept the fact that almost EVERY problems are solved through combat tactics. The world is simulated through the perspective of a fighter.
This explains why I’m interested in the Hero-U project - because while simulating a world like a Pen & Paper RPG Game Master does is impossible with a computer program (even with the multi-millions dollar budgets Bethesda Softworks grant for their games), mixing mechanics from Adventure Games and Computer RPGs would still be a GREAT experience, especially if you try to do more than “just” including stats and combats to a classic Adventure Game (which is a good start but sill a Adventure Game, not an RPG).
To me, the best Computer RPG someone could possibly program would be one that replaces the problems (really fun to solve in P&P RPGs but impossible to be told properly by an artificial intelligence, other than finding the best solution to slay everything that stands in your way) with the puzzles of an Adventure Game, assuming that those puzzles would have 3 or 4 different solutions, and that ALL those different solutions would reach the quality of a good movie in terms of storytelling.
To paraphrase you, succeeding in this task will be a new definition of “hard”. I’m aware that Hero-U won’t necessarily match with my very specific definition of “the Best Computer RPG”, however, your project have all my support
Lori Responds on the Role-Playing Side
Nice post, TAHR. I’d like to elevate this out of the comments ghetto. I think its well-worth getting others to read and comment upon. We’re going to use this as the starting point for our next Update.
I’ve always been a role-player. As you say when you are playing tabletop games, you are the Elf. Whenever I write a character for a game, I AM that character. Likewise, I tend to project personality into every game I play.
I would argue that some RPGs are all about role-playing. Star Wars: the Old Republic really goes out of its way to give your character depth, motivation, and relationships in the game. There is a storyline that is centered on your character’s life rather than just upon the “Save the Galaxy” or “Conquer the Galaxy” (depending upon which side you are playing).
Actually, I would love to see “Grim Fandango” as an animated movie. I really enjoyed the “Beetlejuice” cartoon of by-gone days. But I didn’t enjoy the “Grim Fandango” game – The puzzles were too convoluted or obscure for me to solve without a hint book.
I agree totally with you about your comments about Games and Movies. Great Games do not necessarily make Great Movies. Monkey Island would be a fun movie. Wizardry would not. It makes about as much sense to make a movie from an RPG as it does from a boardgame like Battleship. Oh wait, they're doing that. :-)
I did not begin the design for Hero-U by asking what interesting monsters are hidden under the castle or what nifty magic item can we give Shawn. I wanted to know who Shawn was, why did he come to the school, and what was going to happen to him. Every person he meets in this game will be part of the story in some way. They all have their own back-stories and goals. Shawn can aid them or ignore them. It won’t ruin the game if Shawn is an absolute rotter who selfishly pursues his own agenda. It will just be a richer game if Shawn interacts with everyone and tries to make good grades, friends, and find a lover.
It’s not my job to tell the player how he should play Shawn. This is a Role-playing game in the true sense.
Corey Weighs In On Conversation
Believable conversation is one of the hardest things to put in a game. One measure of successful artificial intelligence is the "Turing Test" – If the player talks to two individuals remotely, and one is a real person and the other an AI program, can the player reliably tell them apart? This is a hard problem, and not one we're going to suddenly solve in Hero-U.
Film conversations work because they are entirely scripted. The writer knows exactly what she wants to accomplish in each exchange, and carefully crafts what each person says. We've all seen computer games that use this approach – Sometimes they have good stories, but they aren't good games. Players crave choice.
Classic Sierra and LucasArts adventures mostly used dialogue menus. The game presented you with a choice of dialogue options, then gave you the other characters' responses. Sometimes there were puzzles or important clues hidden within the dialogue tree. In order to be less frustrating, most games allowed you to try every possible line of dialogue until you got the important one.
That was better than previous games, in which your only option was to "talk to" a character, and they always gave the same response. But it's nothing like a real conversation. Real people don't patiently play along while you ask them, "What is your name? What is your quest? What is your favorite color?" Unless maybe you're on a first date and you're buying.
In Quest for Glory, we multiplied our work (and hopefully added to the players' fun) by adding "cases" to dialogue based on the game state. If you met a person for the first time, they had one set of responses. If you came back later, they would have another. If you rescued them from a burning house, later conversations would focus on that connection between the two of you.
We are using an even more subtle conversation system in Hero-U. You will have several choices of things to say, each of which leads to a conversation. The difference is that it doesn't go back to the starting point. Your choice determines where the conversation leads, and you can't act as though the words were never said.
In addition, the state of your relationship with the other character will sometimes affect the choices you have available. It will definitely affect the other character's reaction.
We are, of course, insane – This approach will multiply the already-huge amount of dialogue Lori wrote for the last few Quest for Glory games. But she's willing to try, and I expect I'll help out between my other design tasks. Our goal is to create believable conversations, while still keeping the player in control. Your dialogue choices will matter much more than in a classic adventure game, because everything you say can and will be used against you.
Conversation and character relationships matter very much to Lori and me. You could say that, for her, they are the most important part of any of our games. We promise that you will have some fun and meaningful discussions when you play the game.
And puns. Good conversations are their own reward, but there's always room for some punishment.
seconds to go
Pledge $5 or moreYou selected
Friend: Thank you for your support! Your name will be added to the Hero list on www.hero-u.net/leadersroll.php, a small first step towards immortality.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $20 or moreYou selected
Freshman: You will receive a DRM-free digital game download, access to discussion forums to help us improve the game, and your name will appear on the Hero list.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $35 or moreYou selected
Sophomore: Digital Reward 2: Receive everything from the Freshman level, the downloadable Hero-U Soundtrack, and the gorgeous Hero-U Art Book in PDF form. The art book contains production sketches, final art, and insider commentary on the making of Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $50 or moreYou selected
Junior: Get a head start on your education by playing one of the development team's previous award-winning games. You will receive all of the Sophomore class benefits plus a digital key to your choice of MacGuffin's Curse, Jolly Rover, or the complete Quest for Glory collection.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $65 or moreYou selected
Beta Tau Initiate: All-Digital reward. Everything in the Junior package, including your choice of one game key. PLUS you get early access to the Hero-U Beta and Combat-Balancing tests. Help us shape and tune the game the way YOU want it!Estimated delivery:
Pledge $75 or moreYou selected
Senior: Get physical with a high-quality boxed copy of Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption containing the game on DVD and a printed game manual. You will also receive all of the Sophomore benefits (including an additional digital copy of the game). While you wait for your box, enjoy a preview with early access to our Beta and Combat Balancing Tests. All Seniors may add any of the Junior-level previous games at $15 each.Estimated delivery:Add $15 USD to ship outside the US
Pledge $100 or moreYou selected
Big Man On Campus: (Super Digital Rewards) You're special, and everyone should know it. Your name (or your favorite character's name) will appear in the in-game DIGITAL YEARBOOK along with a brief statement of your/their accomplishments. We will also email you the Secret Thieves' Guild Password. (Other players will need to discover this in the game.) You will also receive everything from the Sophomore level as well as early access to our Beta and Combat Balance tests. (NOTE: This tier does not include any physical rewards. It's highly International-Supporter-friendly.)Estimated delivery:
Pledge $125 or moreYou selected
Frat Rat: Halloween Special – You love Meeps, and that's why you will get your very own Toy Meep along with your boxed copy of Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption. That's on top of all of the Senior-level physical and digital rewards and eligibility for add-ons. You will also receive your own entry in the in-game DIGITAL YEARBOOK. International Customers please add $15 for shipping costs.Estimated delivery:Add $15 USD to ship outside the US
Pledge $150 or moreYou selected
Graduate Edition: Unique Kickstarter-Graduate-only Collector’s Edition Box containing the game DVD, manual, a Music Soundtrack CD, your own Varsity Letter, Hero-U button, and everything in the Big Man On Campus digital reward tier including your very own entry in the in-game DIGITAL YEARBOOK.Estimated delivery:Add $15 USD to ship outside the US
Pledge $175 or moreYou selected
Exchange Student: The *ultimate* all-digital package, perfect for international backers. You will start with everything in the Big Man on Campus edition. Then you will have the chance to follow the development of Hero-U with insider access to developer discussions and Alpha tests. To give you more insight into our games, you will receive digital keys to ALL EIGHT of our currently available previous games (Quest for Glory 1: So You Want to Be a Hero EGA and VGA versions, Quest for Glory 2: Trial by Fire, Quest for Glory 3: Wages of War, Quest for Glory 4: Shadows of Darkness, Quest for Glory 5: Dragon Fire, MacGuffin's Curse, AND Jolly Rover). NOTE: The previous game keys are part of this tier only; we are not adding them to the higher physical tiers.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $200 or moreYou selected
Research Assistant: You're practically a team member, so you will receive a very-limited-edition Team Meep Hat plus insider access to developer discussions and Alpha tests. You will also receive everything in the Graduate Edition, and your chosen picture (subject to team approval) will appear in the in-game digital yearbook.Estimated delivery:Add $15 USD to ship outside the US
Pledge $250 or moreYou selected
126 backers Limited (674 left of 800)
Alumnus: As a proud Hero-U Alumnus, your chosen name, preferred photo (or other image of your choice, subject to team approval) will appear in the Very Limited Edition physical Hero-U Yearbook. Of course, alumni like to collect signatures from their University friends, so Lori and Corey Cole will autograph your yearbook and Graduate Edition premium game box. You will also receive Research Assistant privileges and a Team Meep hat.Estimated delivery:Add $15 USD to ship outside the US
Pledge $500 or moreYou selected
33 backers Limited (167 left of 200)
Master Rogue: The rewards of your advanced education include a limited-edition art print of the school on Canvas, everything in the Alumnus package including the autographed premium game box and autographed yearbook. You will also receive a Limited Edition Kickstarter Superfan T-Shirt, and digital keys to ALL THREE previous games – the Quest for Glory Collection, MacGuffin's Curse, and Jolly Rover.Estimated delivery:Add $25 USD to ship outside the US
Pledge $1,000 or moreYou selected
6 backers All gone!
PhD: You will be immortalized. Not only will you receive all of the benefits of a Master Rogue, your chosen name, hero biography, and picture will appear prominently in-game as well as in the yearbook. Your canvas art print will be supersized, and you will be one of the proud few to complete a graduate school education at Hero-U. We'll also provide you with the secret location and key to the Faculty Lounge. (Other players will be able to break in later in the game.)Estimated delivery:Add $40 USD to ship outside the US
Pledge $1,050 or moreYou selected
19 backers Limited (6 left of 25)
DFA (Doctor of Fine Arts): You will be featured on an in-game painting. When players click on it, they will see your chosen name, image (this could be you, a favorite character, pet, or other approved image, converted by our artists to look like other in-game portraits), and humorous description. You also receive all of the benefits of a Master Rogue, You will have a listing including your chosen image in the yearbook, and of course will receive an autographed copy of the physical edition. We will send you a canvas art print of your in-game "portrait" in addition to the school art print, and you will be one of the proud few to complete a graduate school education at Hero-U. We'll also provide you with the secret location and key to the Faculty Lounge. (Other players will be able to break in later in the game.)Estimated delivery:Add $40 USD to ship outside the US
Pledge $2,000 or moreYou selected
5 backers All gone!
Art Collector: In this extremely-limited reward tier, we will send you an original, one-of-a-kind production painting that was used to create a Quest for Glory game. We only have a few of these paintings available. You will also receive all DFA (Doctor of Fine Arts) benefits, including having your picture and biography immortalized in-game. The Quest for Glory artwork will be shipped separately in January or February.Estimated delivery:Add $80 USD to ship outside the US
Pledge $2,500 or moreYou selected
3 backers All gone!
Benefactor: As one of the top alumni contributors to Hero-U, we will name one wing of the University after you or a loved one. The name you choose (with team approval) will be prominently displayed when any student enters your wing. We will send you a customized architectural drawing of your wing. If you send us a suitable video clip, it will appear in the launch video for your wing. You will also receive all benefits of the PhD reward tier. Free shipping worldwide!Estimated delivery:
Pledge $2,500 or moreYou selected
3 backers Limited (7 left of 10)
Monster Lair: You are so diabolical, you are the master of a dungeon den. We will collaborate with you on designing your own custom monster lair, likely including a sculpted image of yourself or a friend. Your lair, complete with the monsters and traps you select, will be placed somewhere in the catacombs. You will also receive all benefits of the PhD reward tier. Free shipping worldwide!Estimated delivery:
Pledge $5,000 or moreYou selected
0 backers Limited (2 left of 2)
High-Roller: You're a serious role-player, or just really want to support our game at a high level. In addition to all of the PhD-level rewards, Corey and/or Lori will run a D&D game for you and friends at a convention anywhere in North America. Or add $1,000 for our additional travel expenses, and we'll join you anywhere in the world. Does not include the Benefactor reward – The school doesn’t have enough wings. Instead, you’ll have a large statue in the main wing celebrating your or your hero's accomplishments.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $7,500 or moreYou selected
2 backers Limited (3 left of 5)
Philanthropist: You really care! And we care about you too! Spend a day visiting Yosemite Park and touring Sierra landmarks in Oakhurst with Lori and Corey Cole. We'll share a nice meal or two and discuss game design or anything else you want. You'll also receive all the rewards of the PhD level and we'll find a prominent place in-game to thank you for your awesome support. We will cover a one-night hotel stay, but you are responsible for transportation to and from Oakhurst, California.Estimated delivery:
- (32 days)