Monday, January 7, 2013

A Stream of Thought...

Been spending some time with the new Rohan expansion for Lord of the Rings Online (mounted combat is nicely done) and with Star Trek Online (liking their changes, which seem mostly to benefit small groups like mine). In general I enjoyed the time spent, but as always I find how other people react and certain elements of the game designs to be... interesting.

So a stream of thought post, that while spawned by MMORPGs tend to also apply to PnP RPGs as well:

- There is a odd belief among players that playing until you get a random drop indicates more player skill than grinding until you get a fixed price item. Unlike the case of Santa, I've never figured out the basis for this belief or any use for it.

- Game designers like to hit people coming and going. Not only does it cost more to level up something in obvious terms- like more Starbase XP for the higher Fleet Base tiers in STO online, it also costs more at each tier to get the same amount of Starbase XP. It like saying the next level costs $5, but each $1 costs you $3 now. Very odd, it's like designers are trying to hide something- and end up doing it very poorly.

- Game designers like large numbers. In Lord of the Rings Online you earn a certain token in batches of 5, and spend them in batches of 5. Why not earn them as single items and spend them as single items? After all *everything* is in groups of 5. When did inflation become game feature? Silly question, it was that way from the beginning of the hobby. I think they are just trying to look impressive, and (for me) failing.

- Speaking of player skill, generally it isn't. Most players are just spending their time and using the gear and abilities that gains them in simple ways. A small bit of the content is memorizing fixed tactics that haven't changed since that content was introduced. Skill has about as much to do with it as the weather. The same is true of PnP RPGs, for after all the GM in one way or the other will conform his game to his players (and yes that includes the so-called Sandbox GMs). The truth is that the player will naturally play at the level that interests him, and no other- thus he's always doing skilled play, but only by his own definition.

- Speaking of Sandboxes, they aren't. At best, they're just the offloading from the GM the work of determining the adventure to the players determining the adventure- or they're random encounters. Neither one impresses a person playing attention. Most Sandbox fans don't pay attention.

- Much of the hobby (MMORPGs and PnP RPGs) is an illusion, little lies we tell ourselves. But like watching TV or Movies (to name a couple of other things that aren't real), such things are fun. But we should keep it in mine that it's smoke and mirrors and not take it too seriously. And at the same time, we shouldn't do it poorly, but should strive to do it well. A bit of tightrope that.


Anonymous said...

they're just the offloading from the GM the work of determining the adventure to the players determining the adventure

That's all a playground sandbox is—the children structure their own play. So substituting DMs for teachers, we call sandbox campaigns sandboxes.



Gleichman said...

If that was how the term was actually used- there would be no GM involved at all. And rare indeed do I see someone talking about a sandbox mentioning that they've removed the GM.

Instead the proponents of Sandboxes paint them as 'living worlds' that the players interact with, i.e a place that doesn't require *anyone* to come up with an adventure.

That's a lie.

psychohist said...

I believe the "hitting you coming and going" thing is because the game designers haven't fully thought out the experience (or whatever) point progression. There are reasons for thinking the additional points required for each subsequent rank should be exponential, but people initially assume it should be linear, or at most polynomial. Then they patch things by making the points more difficult to gain at higher levels.

I started Laratoa with an exponential progression, and I've never had to adjust experience point values or costs.