Tag Archives: Oblivion

First tally of thoughts

After yesterday’s article, I started to make a tally of what the game ‘has’. In the first there was the article ‘Recap to the intro’ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2021/09/25/recap-to-the-intro/) which had a run down of a lot. But that rundown was not enough. There was the search ‘Lawlordtobe + RPG’ which gave me a lot more of what I wrote (and weirdly enough at least one story I forgot about). The basics are covered. In the basics there is the map, the character and the story. In the deeper run, the map is also covering the environment, the economy and the map itself (which is an environment, challenges and spiking of the map).

Spiking
Spiking is an early term I had. Like in places like Skyrim and Oblivion, there is a lack of caves, ruins and other places. So we spike the map to have these places. Yet the maps to some degree have an approach to caves (and some look really good) but as I personally see them unnatural. There are two problems with my train of thought. Caves are set in stone (literally so), as such they are part of the permanent map. Some places have way too many ruins and these ruins are a weird  form of small. But the idea of some ruins are a good thing, yet how to employ them? 

Brush and thickets, Fallen trees, Hollow trees, Evergreen trees, Rock formations, Rock overhangs, Caves, Low landforms and high landforms. Some are for single opponents, some are for groups. Ruins are a side here. They tend to be a good place for groups. But the setting needs to be natural (or as close as natural as possible). If there is a ruin, there was a reason that the building was there before it was a ruin. And not always is it a castle or a keep. But spiking is a dangerous setting. There is a danger of making it a place of convenience, and that is dangerous for the game. 

As we look into the economy I saw the dangers of ‘loot’ in the game. In some game we enter an old (really old) place, but it has the most modern of ‘loot’. So we redefine what loot is. broken swords, daggers, broken shields, old coins, chains. Elements that can be reforged into metals, old coins (copper, silver, gold) that can be set into metals. Yes there will be chests with actual new(er) stuff. Like groups of brigands, they have bounty, they have conquered stuff (that needs liberating). It will not be about wealth. In one RPG I had 300K, so in what living form of delusional would an adventurer have this much money? Too many RPG seem to value credits as an indication of achievement. That too needs to change. 

I took examples from classical masters, from stories (the non-Robin Hood kind) and from historical events, but they need to evolve in RPG gaming. In the economy that side is merely a cog, but a cog that could evolve. Yet the station of evolution is a larger problem that I have not solved yet. I did like the nemesis system that we see in the Shadow of Mordor, but that was THEIR system, I need a similar but different system. This is to stop grinding, the stage where there will be spawning (one man’s ruin) is the next persons envy. But if the previous group was defeated, the next group will have better defences, and optionally one or two more brigands. There are shelters for singular people and those people are sly a lot more like cutthroats, so no warning. All sides we see very little of in current RPG’s. All sides that are new in the RPG.

Stories
I gave more than one story start and that is central in any RPG, yet there is also the additional stage. You see there is no stage where we can do it all, play it all, live it all (the latter is a matter of debate). But the stories cannot be around you, around the player. The main quests yes, but the side quests need a larger setting than we are used to. There is a side that takes me back to Robert Ludlum’s Scarlatti Inheritance (I think), a local village event and a burial that is part of the story. So to set a side quest needs the seeding of a story all by itself that has several connections. There needs to be an intelligent part in this, so that stories can be written en mass and spread in the game, so that some side quests are not part of every game (another way to prevent grinding) and there we see that we need 50-150 side quests. That can intervene to a larger degree to the character that you play at that time. So far we see the foundation of an RPG that can be played on console or streamer. 

Then we get to the cogs of the economy, I spoke about them but I considered one additional set of cogs for each part. About that in the next story which will happen during my weekend.

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Changing the setting

To get to here, some need to read up. In the first there is ‘Recap to the intro’ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2021/09/25/recap-to-the-intro/) which was written on September 25th. There was another story, but you will stumble upon it. You see my mind was remembering both Oblivion and Skyrim. So what happens when the unique items are not in the same place? What happens when we add a new layer of non-predictability? What happens when some treasures are part of the story of a book? So when we add a level of books named ‘First editions’ what else can we find? More importantly, these books are not in the same place. They are either in ‘important’ (read: expensive) houses, treasured items of a book store and in some book cases. More important what happens when these 20 or so books are scattered over the locations with EVERY new game? More important, what happens when two gamers get a different first game. Consider all the news that will stage the media, will stage the personal social media. Titles like ‘The bookshop at X had book titled Y’ will stage the larger stage. Because an RPG is about adventure and learning new things. And that is staged on what we experience, but help pages do not teach, it makes sheep out of gamers. So changing on how a unique weapon is gained becomes a test again. More importantly when every generation in the RPG has minimum achievements, the game changes by a fair bit. And that is what we need, new game changers, new games and more RPG, preferably RPG we had not seen before. In all this the storyteller becomes more important and the game becomes more engaging. 

But that is only one side of the story. You see, the larger station of to prevent predictability. It is hard, especially for me as I tend to take a shine to symmetry. So how do we change that?

We can alter the bad guys we face, not merely one ‘boss’ at the end, but a mix of simple and veterans throughout the location with a boss at the end, but what is the end? In a cave it might be the end, in a tower it might be on the highest point and in some cases, it could be in the beginning. Then there is the faded response we saw in other games to stealth players. I can guarantee you that when a body is found, or when too many people are missing, the rest will not relax and that was missing in too many stealth games. And you can hide the corpses, but in the end if you are in a house with 9 others and when you only see 2, you will get nervous. This is seen in two ways. In the first many NPC’s have a limit to where they can go, or how far they can go. In the second NPC’s are often limited to a level, but what happens to tactics when that changes? What happens when the NPC’s are there to make you fail? What happens when the guards are there to murder you? Tactics need to change. There comes a time when stealth does not always holds the candle, and neither does brazen bashing. Most games do not adjust for that, why not? OK, perhaps in the age of PS3 and Xbox360 there was a need to adjust to limitations, we all get that, but now, in the age of PS5 the stage has changed, the RPG games however do not seem to have this trait, and change is valuable, especially in RPG games. But how to go about it?

Well, in my universe, the first thing is to remove all limitations, to remove breaks and barriers. There will always a need to have some in play, but the larger reason for having them is removed by the coming of streaming systems and the PS5. This also sets the need of a safety zone. Most towns were safety zones, but in the wilderness it becomes important to have a safe place too. In the old days, the riffraff and animals were kept at bay with a fire, but not always and there we get a new setting. The ambush play. When have you faced an ambush in either Oblivion, Skyrim, Fallout 3, or Fallout 4? That is merely one of the changes that the new RPG games need to introduce. In the old days (1050-1850) there would be bands of brigands on the roads, travelling to ambush and these games did not really have these groups did they? A larger station of gaming that was missing and should not remain missing. With new hardware we need to change the setting of gaming. In my case RPG gaming because that is my passion and it would be the passion of any storyteller, but it is not the only stage where things need to change. I created the premise of half a dozen games, and the game makers went on the same track again and again. So let the smaller people hide behind ‘Microsoft Seemingly Confirms Ubisoft+ Will Soon Be Part of Xbox Game Pass’, to replay what was and doing that again and again is a waste of good gaming time, to set a new boundary is what keeps the players engaged. So whilst we see settings like ‘Skull & Bones Leaks In A Big Way’, the larger consideration is that this game was rebooted and delayed again and again, all whilst it took me a week to set the foundations of half a dozen games, all new, all having edges never seen before. And as you saw in the blogs, one totally new RPG set to a station no game has ever done. Do tell me how far behind Ubisoft and Microsoft are. Streaming old titles seems nice, but without a strong presentation of actual new games, the Microsoft streamer is nothing more than a history lesson and at $18 a month, Disney+ is a lot cheaper and more entertaining. You did figure that out, did you not?

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Pushing cogs

Yes, for me that was the setting. In the previous articles (several) I set the boundaries for a new RPG game, freeware for all Amazon Luna and Sony developers (just to piss off Microsoft). And if we are going to take a chunk of the marketshare of Bethesda, we need to offer more and we need to offer different. In this I set the player as merely one of many people. Making sure that the world does not revolve around him (or her). So the towns need an economy, It needs a stage to grow and it needs to be in a trend that causes the need for replayability. I always believed in replayability. It is lovely that we all have a house in EVERY town, but reality is not like that. So even if we are going into that stage, I needed to set a larger premise towards WHAT the stage was. The tavern sets productivity in villages and towns. So does the Blacksmith and so does the general store, bookshop, butcher and grocer. Yet in this we see internal economy, the parts that feed the town (Butcher, baker, grocer, tavern) there are the shops that feed an external economy (Blacksmith) and there are the shops that feed both (herbalist, general store) and there is the luxury shop (bookshop). So as these shops are doing better, they could upgrade, they could grow the town. The external shops call in adventurers and more money into a town. And if a town grows to lets state 3 stars, the infrastructure upgrades (lights, guards) This cannot be merely tables that ‘satisfy’ the needs of the game. Each town gets his stage of cogs, one gear feeding another and that need is there. You cannot get a dynamic town in place merely letting the adventurer set the speed of growth. There also needs a risk setting. For example if you fed the tavern too much, and it gets to 5 stars, whilst the town is a 3 star place, the tavern gets sold, and you get to start anew there. Luxury shops (bookshop, tailor) are there when the town reaches its 4th star. This upgrade the overall look of the town, wealthier people come into town and that calls more adventurers and more charlatan’s. To set this all in cogs is nearly impossible, but such an attempt is required to create a dynamic playing world. Consider Bethesda’s Oblivion (2006), we see Chorrel, Cheydenhal, Bravil and Skingrad. They all stay the same, but what happens when you set the game where we see Chorrel doing better and Cheydenhal recedes towards another Bravil? To set such a gaming stage was not possible in 2006, but now with streaming servers and the PS5, that setting becomes achievable. And when you return to a town after weeks, it might look very different. And that is what we are trying to aim for, because the $200,000,000,000 gaming revenue (expected 2023 numbers) does not go to those doing the same again and again. It goes to the people who offers what others do not, or cannot. I do hope that Horizons: Forbidden West showed you that much (as did Elden ring). To give the world a new a really new creation will be rewarding beyond expectations. So here you go and you are welcome. Oh and none of this links to my optional additional stage of selling 50,000,000 Amazon Luna consoles, so there is that too (it sucks to be Microsoft in 2022).

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Salad with that?

It has been a while since I wrote about gaming IP, and I am not sure if it is really IP, but it is something the Sony and Luna developers might like. Even as I haven’t written about making games since January 25th when I wrote ‘daemonis more’ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2022/01/25/daemonis-more/), an idea came to mind. I was watching ‘First we feast’ in this case the episode with Tom Holland and an idea came to me. You see, food has been in gaming for the longest of time, but we never set the bar of necessity there. Yes, most of us made at least one setting of Elsweyr Fondue (I always play a Khajiit), but it was not until Monster Hunter when I saw that there was a massive upside to having a meal before fighting. We forgot the sustenance setting and even as that is a mere copy, I thought it would be an idea if we add to that. 

So as an adventurer, you get the option to buy recipes, you can find and buy books with forgotten recipes and more important you can offer them to the local tavern where you live. So we can set a new set of elements to flourish a town. There are all kinds of side quests you can gain there. More important, we can set like the impact of a bard (which I discussed earlier) the impact of food. In the beginning there is one main meal, but as the tavern progresses which it does as the town progresses, it can do more and in each stage the recipe is either replaced or added as more recipes are only for a larger tavern, a larger tavern with a cook and as that escalates the town flourishes in other ways too. You see, you can be the centre of the universe, but that is not how the universe works (it only works for me this way, LOL), it is directed by all kinds of cogs and as we are able to grow cogs, replace cogs we see a much more interesting place, a place that grows different almost every time we play it, which adds to RPG games in no small way. So if writings become increasingly more important we will see that only the larger towns will have a bookshop and that also iterates a new set of options.

This is now possible because streaming and the PS5 are now of such size that we can add to the complexity of an RPG (and even more, but that is at present for Amazon eyes only). 

We can add to all businesses in all kinds of ways, but the clever part is not doing it, but setting the stage where it can grow and it can maze YOU the gamer into a setting where the game becomes at times a surprise. Think back to Elder Scrolls Oblivion, consider Chorrel, it was always the same (as were other places), but what happens when the change is not something you control, what if tomorrow you go into your RPG town and suddenly a store is upgraded and another store is added? In a game you are the antagonist, but what is the wonder of the game when at times you are merely the spectator? Not a cut scene, but the evolving nature of the town through the game and the game play you in part brought? It makes for a new (and very old) version of RPG gaming and that is where you will find the gamers. In a place where they never expected to be, where they are a force to be reckoned with, but not the stage master. We see some of the elements in the latest RPG games like Horizon2: Forbidden West, but it can go further and over the next 5 years it will, it will be a new standard of gaming because the PS5 allows for it and streaming consoles like the Google Stadia and the Amazon Luna allows for it. That is where optionally gaming will go and the first one with a real original and captivating game will get a nice slice of a cake that is expected to grow to $25 billion by then, should you doubt me, that is fair, but consider the people going nuts and tweeting all over the place on HFW on nearly all social media channels, originality accounts for that and Guerrilla delivered. Yet in this world there is space for more than one player and as Bethesda sold itself to Microsoft the market for close to 120 million PS4 players and 15 million ps5 players is now wide open. They said that the next elder scrolls is not coming to Sony, fair enough, but will happily become competitors, for several software houses the idea of servicing up to 135,000,000 gamers is appealing. I do not know what the streamers do in numbers, but Amazon (if they accept my terms) will grow by well over 50,000,000 consoles. So there is a market and whoever becomes the most innovative game designer will laugh all the way to the bank, every day for the rest of their live they go to the bank. And Microsoft? Who cares, they made their bed, now see how it pans out for them.

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To serve the gamer

Yup, that is a topic that is open for debate, but in my case it comes from a different angle. I need to explain how I got here. You have read my ‘displeasure’ with Ubisoft, they bungled (again and again), yet I also clearly stated that AC Origins is one game they got right. I actually disagree with the high 80’s scores the game had been receiving, I believe it to be low 90’s, but that is my view. The topic rose as I (due to lockdown time) decided to play it again and get some of the achievements I missed out on, I got half a dozen so far and I finally got to the Curse of the Pharaohs. I had the DLC, but my PS4 crashed to death somewhere in 2019 and as I had a little manoeuvring (covid retirement savings) I ended up with a PS4pro in 2020. And until a month ago I had no time for it, but in the last three weeks with being locked down I decided the play it again. So whilst gunning for ‘Old Habits’, I stumbled on ‘Where’s my Black Flag’ and a few others. But it was the Curse of the Pharaoh that made the difference. The first time I entered Aaru my jaw dropped. It was amazing, the field of reeds, the places, it was amazing and the boats made it all slightly surreal. The makers outdid themselves here. But this is also the place that gave me an idea. It was the side mission ‘Love or Duty’, the mission does not matter, the interaction does not either, but the mission clicked something in place. I had some similar ideas for Elder Scrolls VII: Restoration, but as it was not considered, it could be set to other RPG’s and even the one I designed. 

Your home is your castle
In nearly all RPG games, we are confronted with a house, unless you had Oblivion and you completed the Battlehorn Castle mission, in that case you have a castle. And there is the crux. In the light of Magic Carpet I want a castle with archers protecting what is mine. I had a few idea’s like the Magical armoury (a very different mission). And now the idea comes to add servants and more important make them a lot more useful. Consider that a person (a he or a she) is driven by needs, so if you can make one person happy (really happy), the others will pick up on it, and increase the power of your place.

Happy Happy, Joy Joy
To get to this stage consider that you have servants, some through concern and protection, some bought (yes in fantasy games slaves are real) and the proper treatment of them makes them more useful, yet if we can give one of them real happiness, an elated feeling of achievement or recognition they will become a sort of Uber-servant, a person that infects the people around them to be better and more productive. When we take the Battlehorn location, we see the Forge, the kitchens, the walls, the stables, we see a person in charge, but if we can fulfil the personal needs of one servant in that area, we get an area that is twice as productive. The house is cleaner, thee is more food, the weapons are better and the list goes on, it changes a 100% castle in a castle with 150% resources and optionally 150% defence (250% defence after the magical armoury mission). 

In RPG games it is all about us doing the missions, but a setting where we influence another to be the better person and set a non directive, a automated directive is almost never seen and that is a pity, because a game can become a lot more rewarding that way. Consider the old classic Dungeon Keeper, the monster we had fought for themselves, we could train them, we offer options, but we cannot set the marker on them, merely on the area. That element is often missing in RPG, it is not a fault, it is not a flaw, it is a choice and it is not used often enough, too many are about giving ALL the power to the player, but the world never goes that way, we forgot about the fact that we are not the deciding power, we tend to be merely influential. There is the thought that the reward is not 100% plus, but it is a random number between 150% and 200%, making it optionally a stage where we please a second person in that area, but the game also denies a red line approach, so the missions are not given directly, they need to be found and they depend on the persons we have, implying that we might never get more than one option, or even one setting. It is the second flaw on RPG. The ‘we always have an option’ clause. At times we should not have one, it is the hand dealt to us, and optionally it is a hand that sucks. That is the RPG we need to see but were never given. In an age where consoles will in be surpassed by streaming systems, the need to evolve gaming in general and RPG games specifically will become more and more pressing. To be another version of a game we have known for 20 years will soon come to an end and then? That will be the cruncher and streamers with one central game hub will have a lot more manoeuvrability than any of the consoles, the consoles will not phase out, not for the next decade, but when we do get to 2031, the field is highly debatable who will be in there. Because of stupid decisions in the 5G field, there will always be a need for consoles, as such there will be a Nintendo and there will be a Sony PS6/PS7, but streamers at that point will be a much larger field and optionally there will be a streamer next to a console in well over 50% of the cases. 

And in that light the need to evolve RPG’s (and a few other game forms) will become essential, it will show for the streamers, yet those who evolve gaming will survive (Nintendo and Sony for sure), the rest will be close to forgotten when we get to 2031.

Doubt me? Fair enough, just remember I said it first, I was the one stating it a decade earlier.

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Then the bite

In support of the previous article, I add a little more. We were talking about the creation (on Sony) of new RPG games, I gave part of that setting in that article but the largest station is not merely the game, it will be the story. A stage where we game away generations, we need the setting of a larger stage, a larger story. The story needs to be bigger than us, or bigger than any person could fit. Not exactly Disney’s ‘Once upon a time’ but you get the idea. It is there that we need to set the storyline.

  1. The drive. Bethesda was pretty good in starting with the prisoner part (Oblivion, Skyrim) and even as that seems appealing, I needed a larger stage (and avoid copying Bethesda). I wanted more than a steeplechase of serving (or servicing) others. In this upcoming poverty tends to be a decent stage, we all avoid that and we tend to van more or less ethical constraints. In addition there is the need to be more than one’s expected self, I tried it, it is mesmerising. In the age when too many people stated that I would never amount to anything, I ended up with a Master degree, the first in my entire family tree, so trust me, it is mesmerising, and that is also the push. If you can relate to a push, the story becomes a lot easier to write.
  2. The Narration. On some early Monday in my youth I actually worked (freelance) for Playboy for a short time and the editor gave me the biggest wisdom in writing that any person had given me in decades. ‘Write like you are talking to a friend’, I have taken that to heart for training manuals, for articles and for other writings and I believe I became a better writer because of it. The narration is more important then the dialogue, the narration sets the foundation, the atmosphere and the chase.
  3. Bullet Points. Yes, I do hate them when they are in some memo, but to get the story train rolling setting up 1-2 dozen bullet points of what you need to cover in a chapter tends to be a decent golden rule, it keeps you on track, it keeps you focussed. For me, whilst pondering the concept TV series ‘keno diastima’, it helped me focus on what was important (at that moment and that part of the story), and if it works there, it will work in a RPG game as well.
  4. Realistic. Yes it is an odd word to find in an RPG, but the realistic approach still matters, sometimes when the bridge is out, it ends, swimming across the stream seems nice, but the rules of thermodynamic are no joke and that is before you get introduced to Mr. Salty, he tends to be where you do not expect him and you never expect him in the first place. In other news, realism also applies when you try to kill an enemy the size of a main battle tank with a dagger, Daniel Boone is the only one who actually pulled it off, if the stories are true. That is one in thousands over the last 200 years, the odds are not good my friends, they are not good indeed.

In previous stories I gave something towards that storyline, but in the end, you are the best storyteller, you need to be, because you are making an RPG, and that is one play-style that cannot survive without narration. In this there are two ways, keep the stories separate (always good) and try not make them intertwining too soon, when you have enough of a narration, you can start to see if they can be combined or intertwined. It is a lot easier to have 12 small stories (300-400 words each) and after that see if and how they can connect, than trying to be clever and make one story of 5000 words that goes nowhere (i tried this earlier in life and failed dismally). 

And there you have a decent winning combination into the storyline for an RPG. Have fun Playstation programmers!

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The set stage

It started a week ago, not directly, but the thought was born at that point, it was the realisation that the stage is set to the player, the stage is empty, especially we set the stage as we are playing an RPG game, it is perhaps the largest issue that a game can have. The danger of repetition. To get there we need to return to 1985. I was a happy chappy. I had my CBM-64 and the whole world was in front of me. That year two games came to my attention, well, not completely, the first game I had already seen as a friend had a BBC Micro B. Yet getting the games was an issue, but there it was on a Friday I was made aware that a shop in Breda (90 minutes by train) had both games. It was odd as I was living in Rotterdam, but there it was a dealer in Breda had both Ultima-3 and Elite, both for the CBM-64 and I was off to the races (the train) and a little less than 2 hours later I was in Breda having bought 1 copy of each game. My love for these two games continues to this day. Of course Elite is now Elite Dangerous (and a few thousand times bigger) and Ultima no longer exists, but the stage is there. Yet as I remember my days in Elder Scrolls Oblivion, we tend to set course for the most beneficial route, but what happens when that is not an option? In case of Ultima, what happens when 3,4,5, and 6 are played, but in this, what happens when we influence the development of the game for others? Ultima is an excellent example as the map remained close to the same in 4,5,6, and 7. But those who have played Oblivion, perhaps you remember the Rockmilk Cave north of Leyawin. Because there are two fighting parties, you get to have the drop n those who survive and get a lot more loot, early in the game that matters, and it is close to a city, so it is a ka-ching moment. But what happens, when everyone does that? We get away with it the first time, but what happens when the people in that cave become a lot more adapt? What happens when the second time around the people are suddenly 1 or 2 levels higher and that happens in EVERY subsequent visit? This takes me back to Ultima 5, near Empath Abbey there is a good source of Spider Silk, so what happens when everyone does that? What happens when we suddenly have to ACTUALLY explore to find what we need? I have been thinking of a first person approach (an Oblivion approach) to the Ultima games. You see, that game had everything from the get go and it would take plenty of designers 10 years to get close there, so what happens when we get the stage like Oblivion, but with the entire land of Britannia mapped? The 4th game would b a great start, but even as we start, we set our mark on the land. As such roads will develop different. We will end up having much better roads between Britain and Paws. There was some form of an economy in Ultima 7, but that can evolve from the 4th game onward. This sets for a very different game, as such when we start Ultima 5, we are set in a land that evolved from OUR actions in Ultima 4, not just that, as markers of thousands of players are aggregated, the map might evolve differently, We could see that New Magincia and Buccaneers Den would be much larger cities the the places we had (and reset) from 4 up to 7. It is a set shape of RPG that we have not seen before, and that makes it exciting. Even as I was (initially) designing Elder Scrolls VII: Restoration, I had something similar in mind. Not merely a stage for a quest, but a stage where we set in motion the action, but beyond managing resources, we get to have no say in the matter. 

It is  stage that is enabled and disabled by us. We tend to forget about the latter part, but it is an equally important stage, because it sets for a different stage of replaying a game. Consider Oblivion and Skyrim, what happens when we set the new Dark Brotherhood? What if we choose not to place the new sanctuary not in Dawnstar? What if there had been an option to place it near Whiterun? The choice is then set for re-playability, which was a focal point for me in TES7: Restoration. 

In addition, I had set more than one red line in the design, a red line the follows markers as you play the game, but markers that cannot be influenced after voices are made. Basically, you get to sleep in the bed you make, you do not get to design the bed. Makers of RPG’s have been so involved in getting everything there that we drown in options, but at times, the gamer can merely inhabit the stage, he/she does not design the stage, it is the cornerstone of something we want to replay and when you consider that Skyrim is still going strong since 11.11.11, what do you think happens when we take away some f the training wheels and give the player the fun of playing and the consequence of choice? It is something that had been lacking in RPG’s for the longest time. I set that in motion in my design, but in the end, it is what the owners of the IP decide to do. 

It was the only issue I had with Skyrim, the grinding to get to the legendary dragon, and I know there are part I missed (not many), yet it gets me back to the avoidance of grinding. What if levels are not the only way of measuring? Why if the player class needs to have at least 1,2 or 3 skills at 100? The thief might have bow, lockpick and sneak at 100, but what would the Mage have? What  would the fighter or assassin have? We forgot to set the stage to a larger field, I cannot tell whether that was intentional or not, I reckon that the PS4 already had the power to take care of these matters, but that is me. What if every skill will give the player an ability at 100? Not skill point driven, but automatically, it could be something trivial. For Sneak it might be pussyfoot for 60 seconds, for the Bow it might be the arrow dagger, for Restoration it might be paralyse soul, for illusion it might be daylight, and so on. We seemingly have forgotten that there are any rods to a solution, but some of the makers (due to no fault of their own) have made most missions a linear stage and we have to evolve from that. Limitations is one way to do that. When you were playing Oblivion (or Skyrim), how many benefits did you get by going to White River Watch on the second play (Skyrim) as soon as possible or Crumbling Mine (Oblivion)? We can up the NPC level on subsequent plays, but what can we gain by limiting what. Person COULD find at the first few levels? What happens when we set a randomiser to some loot not on whether it is there, but where it is? In Skyrim some books are always in the same place, what if that changes? Consider that we have 4 levels of loot, what if those levels (when it is not a quest item) are 4 mixed piles? As such, we could run to the Milkrun Cave, but what we get there would not be a guarantee, in addition, some loot can only be found ONCE! As such certain loot will not be there to spike our personal coffers, just a thought. 

In this day and age, we are not merely on one system, as such we should see what benefits the games could get, it is my personal belief that this is not done enough. I get it, makers like Ubisoft (merely an example) like to be on ALL systems, but what if we set another premise? What if we use the power of Sony and for example Google Stadia to the max what that system can give? Will the gamer not end up with a much better experience? If you doubt that, consider Metroid Prime 1 and 2 on GameCube, a game that is still mostly unsurpassed on Xbox One and PS4 11 years later, an entire generation later, the is the premise we need to return to a field that is maximised, not equalised by the lowest system around. 

Just my point of view, have a great weekend.

 

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Multiple rulers

We have a ruler at times. A ruler so we can see whether the size measures up to the setting we held ourselves to, and a size to what we hold others. We are all like that, and sometimes we use more than one, it is almost like we set a standard metrical and then another one to get the inch setting. There is one stage we avoid; not on purpose, but the stage we set because we did not think of it. That is the stage that I found myself in this weekend. Anyone who has a Playstation 4 (or better) has either been playing the Last of us part 2, or has been contemplating playing it. There might be the smallest group that did not (and that is fair) but that group is really really small. It started in 2013, a (small) player named naughty dog, famous for Crash Bandicoot and a few other titles, had an idea and made that game, that game was titled The last of us, we might not have realised it at the time but gaming history was written that very moment. They made the game that heralded the end of the Playstation 3 on a high. The game was graphically, musically and technically at the very top of gaming, do not take my word for it, the game got over 200 game of the year awards, which is a record by itself, so when it was remastered for the Playstation 4, I did not hesitate to get it, now there is the second part and what I have seen so far is blowing my mind (again). It als gave me the idea to come up with the two ruler rule. So far the only three passing that standard are Naughty Dog, CD Project Red and Bethesda. This does not mean that others are not good, some are great. Yet to fit this measurement you need to be better than the best. I believe that those makers could have turned their game into a movie and it would be as groundbreaking and as appreciated as the game. As I see it CD Project Red did that by getting the Netflix the Witcher made. OK, they cheated by getting Superman to play the lead, but still they got it done and it is every bit as amazing as the game was. Excellence is transcendental (or so I believe) and I feel certain that the Last of US (both 1 and 2) would make amazing movies/mini series. I played part 2 to some extent and then I remembered (I thought back to the first one) and I decided to play it again. Even now, 7 years later, the first game is as overwhelming as any new game is, yes, the second one surpasseds the first one by a fair bit, but both of them leave most others in their wake, the games are that good. This is not bad for the others, there will always be rocksteady, there will always be rockstar and they will endear the gamers in their own way, there is no doubt about it, yet when we see the bullet point memo people at EA and Ubisoft, they are done for. The few franchises they hide behind will not help them, even now, their games at 70%-80% reduced rate are a debatable buy and that is not a good place to be in. When a two billion company like Ubisoft gets passed over by what some regards as small studios, we need to realise that gaming has been on the fringe of technology since the 80’s. Some people decided to give the thought that gaming too is iteration (like every year an Assassins Creed game), some exploited other means, some good and some bad, and before some think that Ubisoft is all bad, they did bring us Assassins Creed 2 (and brotherhood), Far Cry 3, AC Origins, Watchdog 2, The Division and a few others, when we look past the iteration, we see that they make good games, if only they were properly tested and vetted before release, it is the largest flaw that Ubisoft brings us today. And it is getting noticed more and more as we take notice of games like The Witcher and The Last of Us. Wecan add games like Elite Dangerous and Subnautica and the remastered edition of System Shock (hopefully 2020), we see that the original ideas are still there and they are wiping the floor with the iterative wannabe’s. You see the stage is changing and gamers are not completely aware.

We see the created hypes and we see how Microsoft is hiding behind the marketing cry ‘the most powerful system in the world’, yet they got defeated by the weakest system of them all (Nintendo Switch) and as Microsoft hides behind the hype screen we are all missing the larger point. As 4K gaming hits the front yard of many gamers this holiday season, they tend to forget that the games will be twice the size and so will the patches. In this situation consider that in places like Greece and Turkey a Ubisoft patch will take up to a day (estimated), a day per game downloading a patch. The UK, Ireland, Germany, Belgium, Italy and a few others have better connections, yet in these places in Rural areas their internet is not great, so the long term view of the approach that they are currently holding is that they will not be in a great place. Yes, France, Spain and Scandinavia the connection is well above decent, yet is that the same in rural areas? In France it is not and I just set the pulse point on millions of gamers who will be in an extremely agitated state soon enough, yet not if Ubisoft continues as it currently is. And we need to review that too. A game might seem amazing, yet in the 4K life, patches will be increasingly larger and larger. So what do you think will happen when a patch is not 38 GB, but 70 GB? How long until gamers lose their shit over this, because the second time it happens might already be enough for the gamer to demand a refund, and with some places having the 7 day purchase option in place, that cooldown will be enough to end the lifespan of places like Ubisoft, Electronic Arts and Activision. Yes, I get it, others will be in a similar place, but consider keeping a list of all your games and all the patches that come through, who will win the patch race agitation list? 

Yes, we get it Bethesda will also be in a bad place, yet RPG games like Skyrim are too great and will always have patches coming their way, yet overall when I look back at the games like Oblivion, Skyrim, Fallout 3, Fallout 4 the amount of patches have not been overwhelming. As I see it one breakpoint patch has had more to download then the sum of nearly all Bethesda games, that is the station we see, yet we forget that the station we face is nothing more than a small way station, the stations we are about to hit are proper terminals with larger needs. We need to measure what was and what will be to a much larger extent and use two rulers, the size of the game and the size of the patches, whilst we tally the number of patches. Breakpoint was regarded by gamers as the most disappointing game of 2019, 38GB of patches later and it is still up for debate, as I see it, they no longer have any freedom of movement, gaming will change but not in their direction, the games will need to be better and their infrastructure is not ready, the patch notes give a clear indication of that. So yes, we will see a console war, but we will see a lot more than that. Santa Monica Studios, Naughty Dog and a few others are ready and they make Playstation games. The people at Microsoft are not ready for the issues that sme games bring and their Azure cloud is useless at this stage, it is about innovative gaming, the iterative clowns have no place being here. We are about to see a console war and Microsoft could soon end up in 4th position, so when we consider the big three, who else will surpass them? Their marketing hype of the most powerful console for sale, and they forgot that they still needed good games to stay in that place, with less than half a dozen exclusive games, the pickings are slim for Microsoft, to see that you needed an additional ruler, a different stage of measuring. Just like the measurement of power, there are two ways of measuring it, all whilst the elements for both formulas were readily available, too many players were looking at one formula and forgot about the other one, and that is what the limelight will show at the end of the year and when that limelight shows bright, we will see that some players are done for, one ruler would not have shown it, they all focussed on the revenue and they forgot that revenue is hindered by the resistance that patches bring, these players forgot or basically ignored the danger of large patches and now that they are 26 weeks away from a new standard these players will panic, they will panic more and more and let marketing do the fight of the public arena all whilst it will merely stop activities for a few days and some patches required months. Now, we accept that both Sony and Microsoft have that house of Pox looming, but as I see it, Sony has more alternatives and in this fight, the one with alternatives is the most likely to win. In all this there is strength to any marketing endeavour, but its flaws are there too and once your board of directors start to earnestly believe the stories they tell, they have already painted themselves into a corner. 

 

 

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Parallels

I started playing a new video game. Well, it is not new, I have played it 7 times (I think), I played it on the Xbox 360, the PS3,the Xbox One and the PS4. The game was released on 11/11/11 and it is called Skyrim. I have loved this game since its release and it all started with the predecessor Oblivion. So how does a game become this amazing? There is a parallel with the series I Claudius made in the 70’s. You see there are two distinct differences, this game is great, not great through marketing (Microsoft never learned that lesson). In I Claudius its greatness came from 4 elements. 

  1. The Script
  2. The Cast
  3. The Director
  4. The Environment

I believe that games have a similar side to it, and we can see the difference between a good game and a great game. Even as there is no real cast in Skyrim, the makers have to define the characters, on TV they are played but the impact is similar. It is the environment that has the greater pull, whilst it was Roman times for Claudius, the medieval era that the Elder Scrolls exhibit have a similar pull on people.

It drove me to make the first design for TES: Restoration, yet in all this, I do recognise that another Skyrim was not going to make it, gamers are innovative driven not iterative and we have seen this going back to Tomb Raider 2 (1997) and even before that. 

The first question becomes ‘How can we continue a franchise and remain innovative?’, the second one is ‘How can gaming be pushed towards future greatness?’ In the first case we need to investigate, the second one is for the visionaries. The first question is important because what was released between Assassin Creed 2 and Assassins Creed Origin was less and less and almost destroyed the franchise, it is nice that Ubisoft remains in denial and after that makes a ‘Looking towards the future comment’, yet the issue is much more important than you think. 

Great gaming does not happen overnight and places like CD Project Red are really rare. A lot of game designers tend to be one trick ponies when it comes to great games and so far they pulled it off more than once, as did Bethesda as did a few others. Yet the ones that do are a minority and in the light of console wars investigating what is possible matters, good gaming is good for all, the era where Microsoft and Sony keeping each other one their toes driving gaming is almost a thing of the past and we need to see better games to resolve that issue. It does not matter how it goes, but at present only Sony and Nintendo remain great, Microsoft a lot less so and as such it will impact great gaming for Sony players down the line. 

As to how to fix this, I have no idea. Yet the thought does propel me forward and I Claudius is still a prime example of what makes a product great. The fact that it can stand against any drama produced almost 50 years later is proof of that, yet in that regard looking at the elements help us. The two elements that are the strong drivers here are the Script (the game story) and the environment. In that regard Bethesda is sitting pretty for now. Evenas there is no finality towards Hammerfell (2021), the signs are good and as I personally see it, it would also benefit my idea of TES: Restoration. It doesn’t change the premise, it merely makes it larger and the new consoles are ready for that, the fact that PC’s need to reserve 150GB for the new flight simulator confirms that and gamers do not care about that space, they will do a lot more to their budget to get the best out of games. Thousands of Elite Dangerous fans are evidence of that, they beat flight simulators fans almost two to one on hardware. Andforthese fans storage is an important element (another thing Microsoft never learned in 8 years). And the setting is not PS5 against Microsoft, it is old, stale and Microsoft lost. It is getting The Apple and Google Solution to par off beyond Nintendo. It is not an easy trip but it can be done and a few good games is all that is needed. Not games already released (Diablo 3 and Skyrim), but actual new IP that the others do not have, that makes any new great game 5 times the challenge for the existing consoles. And it can be done, in all this I refuse to discard Apple, when it comes to TV Shows, they are showing to give Netflix a run for their money, and if they can do it on TV, they can do it on gaming too. 

It is a wild west of digital format and both Google and Apple are on equal footing for now, yet the stage in 2022 is not known and cannot be set until the IP comes out for comparison. So all the junkies that are hardware driven will learn a very interesting lesson, the lesson that it was never about the hardware. The CBM64 people saw it, the PS1 and N64 people lived it and no one seems to catch on. It has always been about great games and as we see copies of great amiga games arrive on Android the decision makers are starting to wake up, yet they lost dozens of opportune IP that is now in the hands of those making a few dollars from microtransactions. It is the loss that we have seen over a year and the larger players are apparently not catching on, so where do the gamers stand?

Well, that remains to be seen. I Claudius was almost never a reality and so far has never been remade. The chance of equalling I Claudius is rare to say the least and surpassing it will be almost impossible. It is the impact of a near perfect TV series and games have had that same impact. On TV we saw other series making it good, even great and games can do that too. Will we see it? I have no idea, but if I can come up with 4 golden idea’s in a year there is no way that there is no one else doing that same thing. My biggest issue is that it is unlikely to be Ubisoft, it is more and more likely that several indie developers are sitting on that great idea and finding them by the right people is what counts towards the next console battle. As I personally (and speculatively) see it, someone (high up) at Microsoft will open their mouth making a needed jump to their precious Azure solution, making the game a no go, as such I am more and more curious on what Apple and Google pull off. They might have what it takes to become a member of the big 4, the question at this point will be, does Microsoft have what it takes to remain one of the big four in 2023. The game is open for a lot of players, yet will they have the software to make it count?

 

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The thought counts

I am still in some level of debate on this, Alex Hearn published an article last August (at https://www.theguardian.com/games/2019/aug/20/from-cyberpunk-2077-to-the-outer-worlds-are-role-playing-games-getting-too-predictable) and I happened to re-read the story this morning. The main hitter was ‘are role-playing games getting too predictable?‘ I believe it is a valid train of thought to have, yet in this situation is it the game, or the gamer that bears the guilt? As we see the first paragraph we are confronted with: “Not only is it directed by Fallout creators Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky, it shares a lot of DNA with Obsidian’s Fallout: New Vegas – a spin-off with a reputation as the best in the series“, you see there are two trains of thought, the first (not the most embraced one) is that the game was designed by a ‘one pump chump‘, you see a one trick pony is too harsh here. The second is the one I embrace, it is set on two principles.

  1. Relation
  2. Online cheat guides

The relation factor is how you relate to it all, It is easy in the Elder Scrolls, or Fallout, these are plain drives concepts and for the longest time, we go along with it. Even as we are offered options, Fallout 3 and Fallout 4 still try to guide you, yet the reality is that you can go wherever you want ignoring the first stage altogether. The Elder Scrolls 4 (Oblivion) gave you a clear option after you get out of the sewers, The Elder scrolls 5 (Skyrim) did so a lot less, but left the door open to explore. In that beginning we get the option to grow and either you start staging the story, or the game leaves you a little in the dark. In a lot of cases you are a little in the dark, this is seen in Witcher 3, you can go in any direction, yet if you avoid all the missions in the first stage, your character tends to be too feeble to get around, and you die a lot. Until you grow skills you tend to be on your own, now we can see that the first village is an introduction (like the sewers of Oblivion), and yes after that you can explore and decide the way you want and that makes Witcher 3 an amazing game. In that same setting we see Horizon Zero Dawn, it is storydriven, but you can explore your heart out, merely consider that too far away, without proper upgrades your life does not tend to make it for a long time. Still, the origin story that Guerilla Games released is as awesome as any RPG that was EVER released.

It is in that stage we need to see a game like the Outer Worlds, there is a larger stage of introduction and it tends to make the gamer fumble a bit, that is the foundation of RPG, you have to feel your way into any RPG game. Yes, New Vegas was amazing and the stage is still among the very best, but there we get it, when we start exploring, we need to realise that the enemies a little further ahead can make short work of you really fast if the beginning is absent of exploring. Still, New Vegas did one thing better than all others, you have a good and a bad you and some cases can only begotten when you decide on the bad you. It gets to be even better as the third option (Caesar’s Legion) comes into play. It was an RPG founded on replayability, making it one of the very best.

The second stage is another matter, those who rely on online hint/cheat guides. They all go the same direction and it is clear that there are thousands of them (all claiming to have done the path without help), as such the foundation of ‘are role-playing games getting too predictable?‘ becomes slightly less reliable. And for the most, the story is partially that simple and partially not so simple. That part is revealed in Horizon Zero Dawn, the story is so overwhelming that it pushes you from stage to stage, it really was one hell of a trip. The cut movies over the entire game add up to almost 6 hours, almost 6 hours of story and information and some parts are not that small, the story truly is everything and it pushes the player in a direction and not on a path, Guerilla games really outdid most designers. In opposition we see Fallout 3, which had moment, not a story that pushes you and it pushes you more towards places. The article then gives you the Cyberpunk 2077 line with “But the fundamental skeleton the games are built on is so constricting that, given an hour to show off everything they could be, both developers independently converged on a near-identical script“, I personally am not convinced that this is so, in the first there was a quote “open world feature to their upcoming RPG. Players are given the freedom to explore the fictional Night City, take on the side quests that they want to, and be a part of the world that CD Projekt Red has developed“, in the second there is the option to be a Netrunner (hacker), techie (a badgetteer) or Solo (Assassin and direct action). The class you select will influence to some degree the way you play, or the way you play will push you into a class. It changes the way you overcome missions and locations and this changes the game (not the main story). As such did the game become too predictable? 

Well that is still out in the open, yet predictability is often depending on lack of choice, CD Projekt Red (Witcher series, Cyberpunk 2077) has never had that, and overall neither did Bethesda (Oblivion, Skyrim, Fallout). Yet it is the way WE play that gives the impression of lack of choice. In the Verge we are given “Obsidian Entertainment’s new role-playing shooter The Outer Worlds, I met a man miserably playing a corporate mascot, his head semi-permanently enclosed in a large, ghoulish moon mask. I spoke to him for several turns, hoping there was something I could do to help. But if there was a way to improve his life, he never suggested it, and I never found it“, as such I never met the man (or played the game) but if we consider that we can help, ignore or optionally kill him, is that a lack of the game, or a lack of the player? You see that is the foundation of RPG, the gamer decides and that is where I oppose Alex Hearn’s statement (not his point of view) ‘are role-playing games getting too predictable?

I believe that the statement is a little out in the open. The makers of New Vegas had an amazing setting (especially after Fallout 3), from one mission you decide whether you go to ‘The House Always Wins 1‘, ‘Render Unto Caesar‘, or ‘Wild Card: Change in Management‘, Obsidian created a phase where we are confronted with a level of brilliance and definitely an opposition of predictability. But Alex is not entirely incorrect, we might agree that there is a good and a bad choice (each with their options) but not much more. the Fable series tend to have them too, as did Mass Effect, but the last one is less RPG set. Yet how many genuinely found the 4th option in Mass Effect 3? I see all the people nod ‘yes’ but in the end, they learned of that options like me, in a YouTube video. Only a few actually found them by their own choices, it tends  to oppose ‘too predictable’. And then we get to a beautiful line in The Verge: “by the end of the game, you’re still one of the most important people in the world“, it shows the largest flaw in RPG, the truth of the matter is that you never mattered, that truth is often pushed out of the RPG, you are merely flock people, you either suck up to the needy as a newcomer, or you decide on what someone larger and more powerful needed and you are the fixer, you are almost never yourself, the person you want to become, the RPG left that out of the equation as it is close to impossible to program too and it does not make an RPG ‘Too Predictable’, it merely makes an RPG ‘less unpredictable’ those two are not the same, not by a long shot.

However, the words of Alex Hearn are still in me and we see that view emphasized in Forbes (at https://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2019/10/23/the-outer-worlds-review-roundup-heres-what-critics-are-saying-about-obsidians-new-space-rpg/#2350c4927d34) where we see: “The Outer Worlds, we were promised the kind of RPG we know and love. And that’s exactly what we’re getting, a familiar experience in a new setting” it is the stage of ‘the kind of RPG we know and love‘, and ‘a familiar experience‘, which basically gives Alex the power of his words, an RPG might be many things, but when it is a new title, those two are the foundation of predictability, the question becomes, if that is what the gamer wants and searches, is it the game maker adjusting its view on commerce that is wrong? Is predictability a dangerous part? I believe it is, but is it any less an RPG? That part was not in debate, yet from my side, when I play a different RPG, I need a different stance. Put Elder Scrolls against Witcher and you get that, in either direction, put Elder Scrolls next to fallout and we see it less. Even as the story and the graphics change, we are not the in the stage of countering predictability, we are in a stage of gaming in a different hall, yet doing the same dance and that is where RPG’s tend to fall short (a little) and that is why I loved Horizon Zero Dawn. Even in my own design, as I drew up Elder Scrolls: Restoration and Watchdogs: Refuge, I continued on the franchise as they already had it, new elements, yes, but the setting remained in part the same, so as such am I enabling repetition and as such predictability? I believe that if we move away from “by the end of the game, you’re still one of the most important people in the world“, we can start that the premise, and predictability (to a certain extent) goes out the window. 

He also gives us “every now and again, a game comes along which shows that innovation can happen without putting people off and revives a genre in the process“, yes that is the part I can agree and align with, there were parts in Skyrim that went beyond Oblivion and id just that. Yet what is also a consideration is that both opened the field by allowing everything to be done and it took the replayability away to some extent, as such in Elder Scrolls: Restoration I went back (allegedly) to Morrowind (which I never played) and left a barricade in place, as such not all classes could be done at the same time, a student of one could not join another path. In addition, the end of the mission often would result in the loss of location and a transfer to other places. One cannot be in University all the time, you are replaced as you are merely a student in one. that path lowers predictability to certain levels, even more so as I set the stage where choices were abundant, but limits choices later on. Without going towards a Red wings match in a Blackhawks Jersey (which tends to get you killed). Yet these settings give a much larger joy towards replayability.

RPGs forgot about the stage of limitation. As we are set in a game, we want to do it all, we ourselves become predictable, not the game (although the game did allow for it).

In Watch Dogs: Refuge I decided to set gender and language as barriers, the stage of pushing for time to drink and eat (in Watch Dogs one and two) I merely did weeks of actions on one fruit drink, so how is it I survived? An RPG should take that into account and make food and sleep an essential. You could try to get through a week on red bull without sleep, but you end to look like the zombies in university (in the 3 weeks before final exam). We took options away as debilitating factors, yet when you consider that Okinawa is a cuisine haven (as is most of Japan) making that a factor as overlooked. I reintroduced the option with an optional achievement or two, considering that one should never go for the stressful places loaded on Cheesecake, you get the idea that a lack of food and sleep can be a debilitating factor, we merely programmed that part away, but is an RPG not about the stage of a whole day, not merely the part you crave for (battle and mayhem)?

So why Japan? Well most gamers of Watch Dogs are non-Japanese, so pushing you into a place where you cannot read or comprehend anything sets you in a much larger stage, when we  get everything in english, we see what we need to, yet what happens when language becomes an actual hurdle? We forget that, did we not? for those who are still in the dark, try watching Passion of the Christ without subtitles. When Aramaic and Latin are your only companions, you either get smart (real fast) or you tend to forfeit your life. Italians (Romans) were really not to be too discriminating to people who did not speak their language (they were all considered slaves).

To set the stage where we counter the RPG in ways we forgot, I still wonder if that is because of the hand holding that the RPG maker is willing to make, or the side where we are just too shabby a player of RPG. I am not certain where it goes, but there are plenty of indicators that both are factors, as such we might consider that RPG games are too predictable, yet I remain in a stage where the makers became too enabling. 

It is merely a point of view and whether it is gaming limitation or predictability, it is a setting that are two faces of the same coin. I am still unwilling to say that Alex Hearn right, but he makes a fair point, even though he seemingly forgets that part of the predictability is the gamer him or her self. 

 

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