David's thoughts on how to improve Role playing games on the computer.
So I was playing OpenMW and playing through the Raven Rock East Empire Company quest line and I was seeing where I think a lot of the ideas for Skyrim came from. But this got me to thinking about how much actual "ROLE" playing is done in games like Final Fantasy or Elder Scrolls.
I also recently watched a great little series on Youtube about Olaf the nord and his daily life to just have a normal job and be a normal person and save up enough money to buy a house in Skyrim. In some ways, The Sims, is more on a "role" playing game and the others might be classified as adventure games.
Then again, who wants to play the role of a guy who just stays at home all day on his day off and has to work hard the rest of the time? Not me. I want a good size helping of adventure in my RPG. I just wish the mechanics for the Role part of the RPG were handled better.
As always the optimist, I have thought up some ideas for how to improve things. Maybe with OpenMW being so close to 1.0 I might even put my hand to using that engine to make my own game.
1: get a job:
Usually in games like Morrowind or Oblivion, getting hired doesn't mean you show up for work, it means you now have a quest line open to you and most of those quest involve killing things, getting some treasure and bringing it back to your "boss". Sure, that sounds like a lot more fun than showing up at a mine, using a pickaxe all day and then getting paid peanuts. Nobody wants to watch their character swing a pickaxe or a woodcutter's axe for hours to pretend to have a job. But there are ways to manage it to making it work within the game world and still be fun.
step one: you get hired by the owner of the business.
step two: between 6 and 7 you "report for work". If your character hasn't slept in a few days your boss will tell you that you are no good to him and that you need to go and get some sleep and then come back. Assuming you have slept, then you can work. The game skips to several hours later and your character gets some gold for their time but they may also be tired from a hard day's work or may have a bit of health gone because of getting injured on the job as often happens with farming or mining. You may also be a bit dumber from doing the same menial task all day.
In a way, having a job just means skipping ahead in the game a few hours for some gold so there also need to be some other benefits. Say there is a farm. Farmers do not like it when people steal their crops but say you work for the farm, then it would be ok to take a certain amount but not too much from the farm in your off hours. The same would go for using someone's forge. Why would a blacksmith let you use their forge? Well, if you worked for them for a day then maybe it would be ok. That makes a lot more sense in the game world than "hey, we're buds right? Can I use your forge?"
Step two: Your character will need to report for work at least once a week or they will lose their job. Sure, in real life it doesn't work that way but your main reason for playing the game is to go on adventures and we want to have plenty of time for that while still offering something more than fetch quests as a "job". This also gives you the chance to work for more than one person but since you need to report for work at least once a week and work takes all day and you need to be rested, it prevents you from taking on too many jobs and still have time for adventuring.
Obviously the local group of mercenaries such as the fighters guilds will still have the usual quest type "work" for the people they hire but I'll get to them.
2: Go to school
A lot of people have noted that in Oblivion and Skyrim you can become head of the group of mages without really knowing very much magic. This was not true of Morrowind because of the favored skills mechanic in the game.
Why does anyone join the mage's guild? to learn spells and get training in magic. When ever I play Morrowind or Oblivion I usually find myself unwilling to pay for training in longblade or sneak but will cough up the gold for some restoration training. I think Skyrim really hit the nail on the head when they turned the mages in to a school rather than a guild.
However, there is still the problem of becoming head of the mages without knowing a lot of magic. The Skyrim mage questline was rather short and you really only become head mage because some mystical guys played favorites, not because you had any real skill.
This can be fixed by injecting the system for becoming horator into the mages college. In Morrowind, you had to go around and convince people that you were right for the job. That kind of seems like what you would need to do to become president of a university, go around and kiss up to a bunch of your colleagues. But that assumes you are a teacher at the school. That is a particular complaint I have of the "college" atmosphere in Winterhold is that you go from student to dean of the college.
So how should it be done? You start as an applicant trying to get into the college. If your magic is really high then they let you in but if not then you must seek out some of the mages working out in the world who graduated from the college, do them a favor that involves learning some magic and get a recommendation. Once in the university you will need to attend "class" once a week or you will be put on probation, then suspended, then expelled. So if you don't go to class in a month, then you're all the way out.
In order to graduate, you will need to learn a certain number of spells and get to a certain magic level depending on the mechanics of the game. If you graduate at the top of your class then you will be invited to stay on as a teacher. If not, then you will have to go out into the world and find a job. <see step one> That job will mean showing up at perhaps an alchemy shop, or working for a count as the court wizard.
When your magic is sufficiently level up and you've done some magic related quests then you will get a letter from college inviting you to take on a teaching job there. Once you take the job you will need to show up once a week or be fired. You will need to teach a certain number of students and there are lots of possibilities for quests if you think about it. You follow the story and eventually become a master teacher in charge of the other teachers but you are one of several master teachers. Then you follow the story and eventually something happens and the old Archmage needs to step down. A conclave style meeting happens where all the master wizards will decide who from among themselves will replace the archmage. They have a vote. If you do the story right and help everyone before this then they will all want to vote for you but if not then they will vote for someone else and you will lose you chance to become archmage (unless you kill the new archmage and there is a new conclave).
Hopefully at the end of the story the player will really feel like they've earned their position at the top instead of it just falling into their lap.
The best example of this is the East Empire company but if you think about it, the fighter's guild is a company too. You do a quest and then you get promoted. For some reason I just don't like how automatic that is. How about something better.
You get hired and they send you on a job. You do the quest but if you don't ask for a promotion then the next time they want to you do a job it will be the same type of job. If you don't want to be promoted to harder jobs you don't have to be. You can stay at whatever level you want. Skyrim has shown that the radiant system can handle this type of thing. When you feel your character has leveled up enough for the harder jobs, then you ask for a promotion with more pay and you get offered harder jobs. No quest giver at a company should ever say they have no more work for you. There is always more work for someone at a company to do.
Level one: errand boy, go deliver stuff to people around town.
Level two: advanced errand boy, go deliver stuff to people in other towns and try not to get killed along the way.
Level three: Got get something from someone who is nice
Level four: Go get something from someone who is not nice and may not let you have it without a bit of a fight.
Level five: go fight some low level monsters with a team
Level six: go fight some low level monsters by yourself
Level seven, Go fight some high level monsters
Level eight: Go get this really expensive and powerful item from this place that is just overrun with the nastiest things you can think of and try not to get killed.
Obviously there can be more levels or other levels depending on what developers what to do but the idea is you can stay at a level and there will always be more work to do. If you are happy bringing ingredients to the local alchemy shop and don't much care for killing monsters just now then you don't have to do it. Do your job, wait a day, then get another assignment. Only ask for a promotion when you're ready.
So, there you have it. David's ideas for improving video games. What do you think?