Tuesday, April 3, 2018

GMed games have options, CRPGs must anticipate them

Over on his blog, CRPG Addict pretty much sums up what I like about playing face-to-face, tabletop, "theater of the mind" games by highlighting a positive aspect of Ultima Underworld:

"Add to all of these things an overall approach that isn't offered here for the first time, but perhaps for the first fully-realized time: the ability to explore and solve puzzles from multiple perspectives. Take something as simple as opening a door. I'm hard-pressed to think of a game from even the last 10 years that takes as realistic (and yet still challenging) an approach as Ultima Underworld, where you can pick it, smash it (including with spells), cast an "Open" spell on it, or find the key. Just as in the real world, some doors are sturdier than others or harder to pick than others. Once opened, you can even close and lock them behind you. Meanwhile, in Fallout 4, 23 years later, just to preserve the integrity of their little lockpicking mini-game, I can't even nuke a door open."

That's a great thing for a computer game to do - give you a lot of options for dealing with a situation as mundane as a door. All are realistic within the confines of the game, and all have costs and consequences. You can't lock a door shut once you've shattered it, magic costs energy, and finding keys takes effort.

A poor GM will wall off options because he or she didn't think of them. A good game system will give you a basic structure to judge how well or poorly PCs can pull off actions* but doesn't attempt to cover everything. The challenge for game writers for computer games is you pretty much do need to think of everything, because you're not there to rule on it when it comes up.

That GM-can-rule bit is one of the things I really love about my hobby.

* Not to say systems that lack such are bad, just that they lack them. For people who don't have a good way to judge success or failure, having a basic underlying system is really critical. My opinions are colored by playing by-the-book as a kid. You don't hack down doors because there aren't rules for hacking down doors. You can pick them, force them, or just stop playing. Heh.

1 comment:

  1. Isn't that just the biggest indicment of modern CRPGs!

    I have read elsewhere a comparison of the original Fallout games to the current lot pointing out that you could just do more.


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