Roguelike developer diary

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Andrew Doull

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Jan 11, 2007, 4:11:08 PM1/11/07
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Hi,

I mentioned some time ago that I was going to post to this group about my
experiences developing a roguelike (Actually an Angband variant, just so you
are warned in advance).

I got a lot of feedback that I should set up a blog, and have finally done so.
My first article is up about skills vs classses.

Please visit http://roguelikedeveloper.blogspot.com/ and give me some feedback
in return.

Regards,

Andrew

--
The Roflwtfzomgbbq Quylthulg summons L33t Paladins -more-
http://unangband.berlios.de

Antoine

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Jan 11, 2007, 5:06:23 PM1/11/07
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Andrew Doull wrote:
> Hi,
>
> I mentioned some time ago that I was going to post to this group about my
> experiences developing a roguelike (Actually an Angband variant, just so you
> are warned in advance).
>
> I got a lot of feedback that I should set up a blog, and have finally done so.
> My first article is up about skills vs classses.
>
> Please visit http://roguelikedeveloper.blogspot.com/ and give me some feedback
> in return.
>

It's an interesting perspective. I might not like the classless
skillless system in practice though. I've been brought up to believe
that fighters fight and spellcasters cast spells and thieves sneak. It
might disturb me to have a character that does all three and a bunch of
other stuff as well. (Or it might not. I'd have to try it.)

Also, they say that classes and skills are good for replayability cos
they encourage you to tackle the game again with a different approach.

A.

Andrew Doull

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Jan 11, 2007, 6:05:28 PM1/11/07
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On 2007-01-11 23:06:23, "Antoine" <ma...@guildgame.com> wrote:

> Andrew Doull wrote:
> > Hi,
> >
> > I mentioned some time ago that I was going to post to this group about my
> > experiences developing a roguelike (Actually an Angband variant, just so you
> > are warned in advance).
> >
> > I got a lot of feedback that I should set up a blog, and have finally done so.
> > My first article is up about skills vs classses.
> >
> > Please visit http://roguelikedeveloper.blogspot.com/ and give me some feedback
> > in return.
> >
>
> It's an interesting perspective. I might not like the classless
> skillless system in practice though. I've been brought up to believe
> that fighters fight and spellcasters cast spells and thieves sneak.

I'm glad to see you've got proper parentage.

> It
> might disturb me to have a character that does all three and a bunch of
> other stuff as well. (Or it might not. I'd have to try it.)
>
> Also, they say that classes and skills are good for replayability cos
> they encourage you to tackle the game again with a different approach.

I'm figuring races are good for replayability as well. Of course, races are just
classes in disguise...

I was trying to think of a good example of a successful classless/skill-less pen
& paper game. Magic the Gathering is probably the best example, and equally
dependent on your selection of 'inventory'. The majority of computer games
exclude concepts of skill and class, and even many class-based games, the
classes are a short term tactical role (I'm thinking here of the likes of
Return to Castle Wolfenstein) or part of a multiple character team (Which
effectively make the player a 'class-less' commander type).

Antoine

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Jan 11, 2007, 9:08:16 PM1/11/07
to

Andrew Doull wrote:
> On 2007-01-11 23:06:23, "Antoine" <ma...@guildgame.com> wrote:
>
> > Andrew Doull wrote:
> > > Hi,
> > >
> > > I mentioned some time ago that I was going to post to this group about my
> > > experiences developing a roguelike (Actually an Angband variant, just so you
> > > are warned in advance).
> > >
> > > I got a lot of feedback that I should set up a blog, and have finally done so.
> > > My first article is up about skills vs classses.
> > >
> > > Please visit http://roguelikedeveloper.blogspot.com/ and give me some feedback
> > > in return.
> > >
> >
> > It's an interesting perspective. I might not like the classless
> > skillless system in practice though. I've been brought up to believe
> > that fighters fight and spellcasters cast spells and thieves sneak.
>
> I'm glad to see you've got proper parentage.
>
> > It
> > might disturb me to have a character that does all three and a bunch of
> > other stuff as well. (Or it might not. I'd have to try it.)
> >
> > Also, they say that classes and skills are good for replayability cos
> > they encourage you to tackle the game again with a different approach.
>
> I'm figuring races are good for replayability as well. Of course, races are just
> classes in disguise...

Races and classes are good for immediate identification with the
character, too.

'I'm an elven wizard' gives you a quicker point of identification than
'I'm a ... guy, what can I do next?'.

> I was trying to think of a good example of a successful classless/skill-less pen
> & paper game. Magic the Gathering is probably the best example, and equally
> dependent on your selection of 'inventory'.

Er... the metaphor between inventory and deck is very dicey. A deck is
what you start with, an inventory is what you pick up along the way.

Paranoia might be a better example, from memory?

A.

Billy Bissette

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Jan 11, 2007, 10:40:43 PM1/11/07
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"Antoine" <ma...@guildgame.com> wrote in
news:1168567696.1...@51g2000cwl.googlegroups.com:

One could argue the colors in Magic are themselves similar to classes.
And while a player can combine all the colors into a single deck, the
game mechanics encourage a more restrained approach of a single or
dual-color deck.

copx

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Jan 12, 2007, 12:49:45 AM1/12/07
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"Andrew Doull" <andre...@hotmail.com> schrieb im Newsbeitrag
news:eo695c$2gr8$1...@news.vol.cz...

> Hi,
>
> I mentioned some time ago that I was going to post to this group about my
> experiences developing a roguelike (Actually an Angband variant, just so
> you
> are warned in advance).
>
> I got a lot of feedback that I should set up a blog, and have finally done
> so.
> My first article is up about skills vs classses.
>
> Please visit http://roguelikedeveloper.blogspot.com/ and give me some
> feedback
> in return.

Skills and classes are specific features of RPGs so your statement "most
games do not have them" makes no sense. That is like saying: "Most games do
not have a road building function, so why does my city builder game need
it?"
You mention the game design decisions of Valve and praise them. Valve makes
first person shooters.. completley different thing .. or not? It seems that
you want to remove the little bits of RPGness present in Angband to make it
a straight "action" game. Why not go real-time and 3D, too? Well, ok I guess
because there are better games like that already. So Unangband is supposed
to be an ASCII- und turnbased variant of a first person shooter? I have seen
a trailer about a new FPS game called "Bioshock" which seems to be exactly
like that i.e. which special actions you can do depends on the items you
have.
Well, nothing right or wrong with that. Matter of taste. However, it will
move Uangband further away from Angband which might be a good thing, because
that would make it more interesting for people who try it after having
played Angband for years.

As an RPG developer I think mechanics should not be seen as something
seperate, but as a part of the whole (game). I mean, I think that D&D is
class-based is good, not because class-based mechanics are generally
superiour to skill-based ones, but because the mechanics fit the theme here.
D&D is a high-fantasy, pseudo-medieval game. In the Middle Ages your life
was determined at birth - by your class. In high-fanatasy the mighty wizard
is not just some random dude with a spell book and a pointy hat - he IS a
wizard, it is not a profession - it's his fate and character - his "class".
In contrast a modern themed game should be skill-based, because there is
nothing that prevents you from training combat and computer hacking at the
same time in a modern setting. Class-based restrictions would be out of
theme.
The mechanics in my game are somewhere in the middle. Character development
is based on stats and perks, but how far you can increase your stats and
which perks you can get depends on your current "career". However, you can
go through as many careers as you like so in theory you can freely choose
your skill set.
This "semi-freedom" fits the theme perfectly. Because the game world is
neither as free as our modern one, nor as restrictive as the Middle Ages.

Billy Bissette

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Jan 12, 2007, 1:41:28 AM1/12/07
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"copx" <co...@gazeta.pl> wrote in news:eo77hu$56g$1...@inews.gazeta.pl:

> Skills and classes are specific features of RPGs so your statement
> "most games do not have them" makes no sense. That is like saying:
> "Most games do not have a road building function, so why does my city
> builder game need it?"
> You mention the game design decisions of Valve and praise them. Valve
> makes first person shooters.. completley different thing .. or not?

An interesting thing to consider is that some FPS have included the
equivalent of classes as a way of adding both depth (to multiplayer
interaction) and direction. Is it Battlefield that includes classes like
engineer and medic (with their own special abilities and equipment.)

Sherm Pendley

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Jan 12, 2007, 1:53:58 AM1/12/07
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"copx" <co...@gazeta.pl> writes:

> You mention the game design decisions of Valve and praise them. Valve makes
> first person shooters.. completley different thing .. or not?

I read that more as an example of a development philosophy, not as praise for
the specific design decisions. That is, Valve found a feature by accident
during playtesting, and they thought it was interesting enough that they took
the time and effort needed to develop the feature well enough so that it was
no longer so obscure.

The same idea can be applied to other design decisions also. For instance,
sneaking up on an opponent and taking advantage of surprise isn't something
that would only appeal to thieves - warriors would certainly be interested
in learning such a skill. Even wizards may want to get close enough to catch
the victim of a sleep spell before he makes a lot of noise falling to the
ground.

> The mechanics in my game are somewhere in the middle. Character development
> is based on stats and perks, but how far you can increase your stats and
> which perks you can get depends on your current "career". However, you can
> go through as many careers as you like so in theory you can freely choose
> your skill set.

I've liked that approach for a long time, even for tabletop PnP RPGs. I prefer
Rolemaster over DND because it uses a similar approach. In RM, a class does
not dictate a rigid set of limitations that cannot be overcome. Instead, it
simply describes the character's natural inclinations. Those inclinations can
be overcome, with effort. A mage can learn to fight with a sword, or a warrior
learn to cast spells, but each will find it more difficult to learn those
skills than those for which he is more naturally talented.

sherm--

--
Web Hosting by West Virginians, for West Virginians: http://wv-www.net
Cocoa programming in Perl: http://camelbones.sourceforge.net

Andrew Doull

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Jan 12, 2007, 3:20:55 AM1/12/07
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On 2007-01-12 04:40:43, Billy Bissette <bai...@coastalnet.com> wrote:

> "Antoine" wrote in

> >> On 2007-01-11 23:06:23, "Antoine" wrote:
>
> >> I was trying to think of a good example of a successful
> >> classless/skill-less pen & paper game. Magic the Gathering is
> >> probably the best example, and equally dependent on your selection of
> >> 'inventory'.
> >
> > Er... the metaphor between inventory and deck is very dicey. A deck is
> > what you start with, an inventory is what you pick up along the way.

That's funny. I don't remember any roguelikes starting with no inventory slots,
and having to collect things like arms and legs in order to be able to put
equipment on them. ;)

I think the metaphor between inventory and deck is fine. Its a lot better than
the metaphor between colors and classes.

> One could argue the colors in Magic are themselves similar to classes.

I can't see any similarity here, other than perhaps a class and a deck being
something you both pick at the start of a game. But I don't suddenly lose class
abilities by using them, unlike an inventory, where I do. And I can't, in the
normal run of things, steal class abilities from another player and use them,
whereas cards can be used from other players decks, just like equipment.

> And while a player can combine all the colors into a single deck, the
> game mechanics encourage a more restrained approach of a single or
> dual-color deck.

If I have a powerful bow, surely I'm encouraged to carry arrows as opposed to
other equipment (like rocks, or swords). That's why I think a magic the
gathering deck is closer to an inventory either a class or a set of skills.

This is all an aside of course.

Andrew Doull

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Jan 12, 2007, 3:31:31 AM1/12/07
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On 2007-01-12 03:08:16, "Antoine" <ma...@guildgame.com> wrote:

> Races and classes are good for immediate identification with the
> character, too.
>
> 'I'm an elven wizard' gives you a quicker point of identification than
> 'I'm a ... guy, what can I do next?'.

You can always have a big selection list at the start of the game, and not have
any in game difference. Except maybe your starting equipment/inventory
selection.

However, I think for new players (and I mean real newbies), it'd just be
off-putting. I'd hate to make an upfront decision like which class to play
without knowing what that meant down the line.

Andrew Doull

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Jan 12, 2007, 3:28:41 AM1/12/07
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On 2007-01-12 06:49:45, "copx" <co...@gazeta.pl> wrote:

> "Andrew Doull" schrieb im Newsbeitrag


> news:eo695c$2gr8$1...@news.vol.cz...
> > Hi,
> >
> > I mentioned some time ago that I was going to post to this group about my
> > experiences developing a roguelike (Actually an Angband variant, just so
> > you
> > are warned in advance).
> >
> > I got a lot of feedback that I should set up a blog, and have finally done
> > so.
> > My first article is up about skills vs classses.
> >
> > Please visit http://roguelikedeveloper.blogspot.com/ and give me some
> > feedback
> > in return.
>
> Skills and classes are specific features of RPGs so your statement "most
> games do not have them" makes no sense.

Um, no they're not. They may have started within RPGs, but they've definitely
been used elsewhere. Return to Castle Wolfenstein is one example. Plenty of
non-RPG games have skill progression systems. Unlockable moves are a good
example.

> You mention the game design decisions of Valve and praise them.

Yes I did.

> Valve makes
> first person shooters.. completley different thing .. or not? It seems that
> you want to remove the little bits of RPGness present in Angband to make it
> a straight "action" game.

No I didn't say this at all.

> Why not go real-time and 3D, too? Well, ok I guess
> because there are better games like that already. So Unangband is supposed
> to be an ASCII- und turnbased variant of a first person shooter? I have seen
> a trailer about a new FPS game called "Bioshock" which seems to be exactly
> like that i.e. which special actions you can do depends on the items you
> have.
> Well, nothing right or wrong with that. Matter of taste. However, it will
> move Uangband further away from Angband which might be a good thing, because
> that would make it more interesting for people who try it after having
> played Angband for years.

All I can really say to this is you need to re-read what I said, because you
appear to be going off on a complete tangent here. You might also want to read
Sherm's reply to your post.

My argument is that classes and skills mean you spend a lot of developer time
wasted coming up with ideas that only some of the players will be able to use,
because you restrict their actions by forcing them to choose a class or set of
skills. Furthermore, you end up wasting time having to 'balance' these ideas
against each other (particularly in the MMORPG example, but equally roguelikes,
where permadeath means you force people to restart the game if they make a bad
call about class or skill and end up getting killed because of it). [1]

Andrew

[1] If you want to make some classes easier and some classes harder, why are you
not just implementing a difficulty system?

GreenNight

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Jan 12, 2007, 4:30:37 AM1/12/07
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Antoine ha escrit:

> Andrew Doull wrote:
> > On 2007-01-11 23:06:23, "Antoine" <ma...@guildgame.com> wrote:
> > > Andrew Doull wrote:

[snip]

> > I was trying to think of a good example of a successful classless/skill-less pen
> > & paper game. Magic the Gathering is probably the best example, and equally
> > dependent on your selection of 'inventory'.
>
> Er... the metaphor between inventory and deck is very dicey. A deck is
> what you start with, an inventory is what you pick up along the way.
>
> Paranoia might be a better example, from memory?
>
> A.

Paranoia, GURPS, Fudge, HeroQuest (or was it named Runequest? I think
the name depended on the side of the Atlantic you were), Call of
Cthulu, Vampire (if you consider clan = race), Stormbringer (IIRC), and
probably several others.

And if you talk about CRPGs you have Fallout (1&2), Arkanum and I think
Morrowind too. In MMORPGS you have EvE-online (they define themselves
as MMOG).

About the backstab technique you comented in your blog I think you'd
like the GURPS version. There's no backstab but attacking someone
unaware gives you a +4 to hit, you can declare all out attack for a +2
to damage, and so you have good chances to hit him and deal him enough
damage to knock him out. Check the lite version for more info of the
system (http://www.sjgames.com/gurps/lite/).

Also in this system there's an idea that you could use. There are
packages you can get when creating a character, with a selection of
skills already selected, and just minor selections to make. That way
you can have "classes" at the beggining but not restrain anyone to
increase whatever they want. an invented example could be:

fighter: strenght +2, dextery +1, constitution +2, any weapon +3, any
weapon +2
rogue: dextery +2, hide +2, move silently +2, traps +2, locks +2, steal
+2
mage: inteligence +3, lore +2, any spell +2, any spell +1

None of the PnP systems have levels, but everything can be adapted.
Fallout's system was to be GURPS, until there was disagreement, and a
similar system was created (SPECIAL). There are levels there.

Yeah, I'm a fan of classless, levelless systems, how do you know?

Nolithius

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Jan 12, 2007, 4:31:13 AM1/12/07
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"Andrew Doull" <andre...@hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:eo695c$2gr8$1...@news.vol.cz...
<snip>


This is a huge can of worms, by the way.

I know I could probably comment on your article in your site but I'd rather
do it here >;]


"I've been reading the debate on skills vs classes being revived again.
Firstly, have a look at those blogs. They're an interesting read, and as a
game developer myself, I've got a whole lot of sites to bookmark and go
through."

For what it's worth, the Skills vs. Classes debate never died, it's perhaps
among the top 5 game-design issues every single RPG designer thinks about
every single day of his life :)


<snip>

"I think the discussion around skills vs classes has been missing one very
important point: if you implement a cool special ability, why should you be
cutting out even 1 person in your player base from using it. Its an
important point, particularly for developers who don't have large
development budgets, which is what I presume the majority of people reading
these articles represent."

<SCREECH! Breaks!>

Holy hand-waving blanket-generalizations, Batman!

This is a common concern for game developers: "I don't want to spend time on
this area of the game and not have every single player get to experience
it"-- however, the answer *is not always* to force the player to experience
that facet of your game. If you apply your approach to every facet of design
then you end up with a game that plays in exactly the same way for everyone,
with the same set of character development options (or lack thereof), and
the same gameplay flow.

This is essentially the issue of linear vs. nonlinear design; both of which
have their benefits. With a linear design you ensure the player sees
everything you created, you take less time to create a polished game, but
you take a big hit on replayability and player freedom. A non-linear design,
while taking longer to execute, provides different players with (depending
on how radical you're talking here) vastly different gameplay experiences,
and usually boosts replayability.

I am using the terms linear vs. non-linear as general ideas that can be
applied to not only plot, but to character development (strict classes vs.
skills), world generation (entirely pre-made world vs. procedurally
generated random world), etc. You can make some of these linear and some
non-linear to achieve various levels of the properties thereof.


"Valve, who are arguably have designed some of the best games ever, will put
a huge amount of developer time to script in cool events that have happened
accidentally during a playtest run through. If they put in that much
attention to ensuring that everyone has the same cool experiences, surely I
(and you) should be doing the same."

Arguably indeed! Remind me, which games have Valve designed that are
relevant to this topic?


"I'll use the concrete example of the backstab ability. This is an almost
trite fantasy cliche: a thief character sneaks through the shadows up to an
unsuspecting monster, pulls out a short blade and thrusts it between the
enemies shoulder blades. With a gurgling shudder, the monster drops to the
ground, its compatriots unaware of what has just happened."

I hate to be pedantic but "trite" and "cliché" are basically the same thing
;)

By the way I wholeheartedly disagree that this is a cliché-- it's almost
like saying that spells and swords are a cliché-- perhaps what you mean is
something more like "a staple of the fantasy RPG genre".


"Now most games will have some kind of routine for backstab that goes if
class = thief and/or skill-check(backstab) is true and monster is asleep,
apply massive damage multiplier (With no apologies to Sony). But in reality,
this requires a whole lot more development work to support. In a recent
discussion on rec.game.roguelike.developers, for instance, I discovered that
one of the competition to my roguelike implemented a line of sight dependent
wake up routine, and a dungeon generation algorithm that designs the dungeon
to have multiple routes to a monster, so its possible for the player to see
a sleeping monster and find a path to the monster that has a minimal line of
sight in order to maximise the chances of getting in the precious backstab
that they have specialised in."

Erm, rec.games.roguelike.development


"Now, to keep up with the Jonses, I potentially have to implement a
CPU-intensive modification to my LOS algorithms, and completely rehash my
dungeon design algorithms which I have just changed to ensure that I only
have at most 1 connecting tunnel to each room. No way am I going to put in
all that effort, just so one class specialist of the hundred or so class
combinations I have in my game gets an infrequent damage multiplier."

See-- this is a fundamental mistake you're making here. Firstly, you're
rethinking and reworking your design based on what "the competition" is
doing, in order to keep up. I mean, seriously, this isn't a
multi-million-dollar market, it's roguelike development, just do what makes
you happy. Additionally, this sounds like the classic case of Feature Crawl.
Symptoms of this disease include reworking and redesigning and rethinking
your game year after year ad nauseam. Disease potentially fatal. Pathology
inconclusive.


"So howabout I go through the following thought process instead. Screw
classes and skills!

I want everyone who goes through the process of sneaking up on an
unsuspecting monster and hits them in the back with a bladed weapon to get a
massive damage multiplier. They've made the effort, they deserve the
multiplier. Same with magic spells. If they've got some oil and a big red
book of fire magic, and know that the monster they're fighting is vulnerable
to fire, then they deserve an easy kill for covering the monster with oil
and hitting it with a fire spell."

Pause.

It is absolutely necessary that I point out that once you make the decision
to make game actions entirely dependant on player skill you are no longer
making an RPG. Make sure this is a conscious decision you're making, and
think long and hard about it. I'm not saying it is a bad choice, but it is
an important one.


"Instead, I should concentrate on things like how much of a bonus should
back-stabbing give? What incentives should I be giving the player to switch
to a small bladed weapon, when they have a perfectively good big brutal axe?
How should I ensure that an critically injured monster can't call out to his
friends, but a less critically injured one can alert them? How do I model
the line of sight, AI and dungeon design/generation systems to allow a
player to get to an unaware monster? What should the consequences be of the
character getting caught red-handed? How far can a player throw oil and
what's the splash range? If a monster catches fire, what does it do? If the
player casts a fire spell, and has managed to get oil on himself, what are
the consequences?"

Let's pause once again and consider the ramifications of your thoughts:

1) Firstly, these priorities should be layed down at the beginning of the
game design and not in the middle of it.

2) Consider the following: the universe is a big place. Very big. If you
tried to understand it all you'd go insane. That is why the trick is to
reduce the universe to a small size you can manage on a day-to-day basis.
Certain games, particularly RPGs and RLs (overlap to taste) are also very
big-- not necessarily in terms of the gameworld size, but in term of all the
choices you can make. Give the player too little choice and he will be bored
of your game, give the player too many choices and he will go insane.

3) It follows that a way RPGs allow you to reduce the world to a manageable
size is by providing classes or sets of skills. When a player selects a
class or sets of skills, he is making a conscious decision along the vein of
"This is what I want my character to be good at, this is how I see my
character in relation to the gameworld, this is who my character is, he will
behave based on his attributes/stats towards the gameworld", and possibly
discarding or de-prioritizing other approaches. This is called roleplaying.

4) Since you're allowing the player to experience the world through an
unfiltered/undefined character, be aware of the following:

a) Players will be carrying every single usable piece of equipment that they
know they can use for every conceivable situation. You might ask yourself
"What, why? Why would players want to create such tedium for themselves?",
and the answer is, because the game allows it. There is something in player
psychology that if they *can* do something they probably will, even if it
ruins their gameplay experience. Now, there is no need to go through great
lengths to prevent players from doing this, but at least you should not
encourage it.

b) In doing this you're absolutely detatching the player from the character.
Even if you allow some sort of levelup, customizing your character is one of
the great joys of RPGs, psychologically akin to nurturing a child and seeing
him/her thrive in what he/she is good at.

c) You will notice that many RPG systems (games, not PnP) use all manner of
heuristics to provide interesting dialogue and interesting dialogue options,
common ones are stats, sex, alignment, skills, quests, faction, etc. In
removing character customization you are seriously crippling the NPC
interaction in the game, to either overly simple or with far too many
choices. This might not necessarily be a negative choice depending on how
well the other facets of your game are executed, but it is something to keep
in mind.


"You'll probably have noticed something about the back-stabbing and fire
spell examples. Each of the abilities requires a different equipment load
out. Its a developer bias. Angband and their ilk are all about inventory
management. But every MMORPG is also all about the loot you get from monster
drops. And the good thing about a classless, skill-less system is that every
drop is potentially useful to you. Not just the next-bright-shiny item for
your class, which you have to spend forever looking for."

Why "bias"? Why not "choice"? It's your game, make it however you want :P
You don't have to excuse yourself to anyone (specially if you're confident
other people like your ideas ;)

Some things to keep in mind about equipment loadout:

On one hand, you want to provide a challenge for players to use their
resources in clever ways (this is a huge part of the success of Nethack, for
example, and though I am not a particular fan of the game, this feature is
one of its best). This means that you have to somehow limit how resources
are dealt out to a player. You have two ways to do this: random, and static.
Randomly, you'd slowly spit out useful items to the player however items are
spit out, this keeps with the random "new-experience-every-time" spirit of
RLs. Statically you have some preset way in which to deal specific items (or
types of items) to the player, this could potentially reduce your
replayability. Regardless of how it's done, you run accross a huge issue:
players may simply not want to play the style of game which is called-for by
the items generated. Let's say I always play a straightforward fighter and
all the beginning items use stealth and magic; while you might think it's
cool for the player to explore the use of these items within their fighter
frame of mind, players will more-than-likely become quickly frustrated with
a game that does not cater to their style. Again, this might be a choice you
mean to make, I for one am not necessarily opposed to this, it might turn
out well.

On the other hand, you don't want players to miss out on something you make,
so you'd quickly generate items for the player to use. This has the
unfortunate effect of reducing the novelty of newly-generated items that can
be used in interesting ways. If you choose to go this route, however, you
should at least create some sort of way for players to have a limited
inventory, so that they face a challenge in using what they have creatively.
Hrmm, a dilemma! If you control your player's inventory, then certain
players will not be able to use an ability you painstakingly implemented
(this is the original spirit of your design :)! Oh noes! I guess the only
option then, would be to have the character carry around an infinite
inventory, which reduces the game to a painful item-juggle for every single
situation.

Note that while I am playing the Devil's Advocate here throughout, there is
a sensible solution to the problem I posed before: Have a limited inventory,
but make items be used-up or damaged through use, in order to challenge the
player to use new items. This way you can keep the challenge with minimal
inventory juggling and have most players see most of the features you've
implemented ;)


"Note that I am not saying that every attack shouldn't require skill. But
the skill and preferred attacks should be down to the human at the edge of
the keyboard. And I'm not suggesting no levelling. Characters may still be
able to level up - just a level 10 player should not be any better at
backstabbing or casting spells or swinging a sword than any other level 10
player. Levelling up should be about better luck, or improved health, or
something else accruable that gives the players a fighting chance against
tougher monsters. Or if you have skill-checks, make them a simple comparison
against the players level, rather than level * class progression or skill
level."

There are some large holes in this approach, which you will have time to
think about, no doubt, so I'll spare you the rant. In short, luck has little
place in action-games, it should be used sparingly and with finesse. I will
point out that when you brought luck up, you immediately brought back up
skills. This is really reinventing the wheel, in the sense that hundreds of
other developers have gone through this same train of thought: "Well, I want
certain gameplay elements to depend on luck... but how do I modify this
unwieldy *luck* as the player becomes more experienced? Surely he must be
luckier?... I've got it! SKILLS!".

What I would reccomend for your game would be to give the player more HP,
and allow the player to do more damage, accross the board, or similarly
increase any random rolls for all possible actions the player might take,
such as dodging or hitting. Remember that players of action games don't take
it too kindly when you tell them "MISS!" when they clearly saw their
character hit their opponent-- these are dangerous waters, tread carefully.


"Its something I've been moving towards in my variant but won't have the
guts to do for some time, if ever. But I suspect it'll be incredibly
liberating, and let me concentrate on the important stuff, which is
implementing more cool features for the player, as opposed to any kind of
min-maxing of different classes and races and nerfing of skill and class
combinations."

It's unfortunate that you don't sound like you will bring this to fruition,
because I would like to see how this works out. If anything, as an exercise
in a different approach to RLs.

You should ALWAYS be consentrating on what you consider "the important
stuff". If you don't like something, DON'T DO IT, as I said earlier, it's
your game :P

In addition, before you send in the jury on this approach resulting in "more
cool features for the player" you should take time to think about what
exactly does that mean for the player: more fun? more tedious management?
Less choice? A bigger challenge? More interesting gameplay? Less
customization?


"So this is a clarion call against classes and races, from a developer
guilty of a little bit of both."

Well if anything it's an interesting approach to game design, although I
doubt you made any dent in the established standards :P

Best of luck, and don't take my comments too harshly, I'm just some guy on
the Internet ;)

--Nolithius


Andrew Doull

unread,
Jan 12, 2007, 4:45:24 AM1/12/07
to
On 2007-01-12 10:30:37, "GreenNight" <Green...@gmail.com> wrote:

> Antoine ha escrit:
> > Andrew Doull wrote:

> > > On 2007-01-11 23:06:23, "Antoine" wrote:
> > > > Andrew Doull wrote:
>
> [snip]
>
> > > I was trying to think of a good example of a successful classless/skill-less pen
> > > & paper game. Magic the Gathering is probably the best example, and equally
> > > dependent on your selection of 'inventory'.
> >
> > Er... the metaphor between inventory and deck is very dicey. A deck is
> > what you start with, an inventory is what you pick up along the way.
> >
> > Paranoia might be a better example, from memory?
> >
> > A.
>
> Paranoia, GURPS, Fudge, HeroQuest (or was it named Runequest? I think
> the name depended on the side of the Atlantic you were), Call of
> Cthulu, Vampire (if you consider clan = race), Stormbringer (IIRC), and
> probably several others.
>
> And if you talk about CRPGs you have Fallout (1&2), Arkanum and I think
> Morrowind too. In MMORPGS you have EvE-online (they define themselves
> as MMOG).

Classless and skill-less. All of the examples you have given have skills.

> About the backstab technique you comented in your blog I think you'd
> like the GURPS version. There's no backstab but attacking someone
> unaware gives you a +4 to hit, you can declare all out attack for a +2
> to damage, and so you have good chances to hit him and deal him enough
> damage to knock him out. Check the lite version for more info of the
> system (http://www.sjgames.com/gurps/lite/).

I think you've missed the point of my example.

> Yeah, I'm a fan of classless, levelless systems, how do you know?

Because you've missed my argument. I'm arguing against skills as well.

Andrew Doull

unread,
Jan 12, 2007, 5:29:30 AM1/12/07
to
On 2007-01-12 10:31:13, "Nolithius" <Noli...@earthlink.net> wrote:

> "Andrew Doull" wrote in message
> news:eo695c$2gr8$1...@news.vol.cz...
>

> This is a huge can of worms, by the way.

Yes. ;)

> I know I could probably comment on your article in your site but I'd rather
> do it here >;]

Everyone else seems to be doing the same. Which is why I've linked to the
angband.oook.cz looking glass of this thread and responded here as well.

> "I've been reading the debate on skills vs classes being revived again.
> Firstly, have a look at those blogs. They're an interesting read, and as a
> game developer myself, I've got a whole lot of sites to bookmark and go
> through."
>
> For what it's worth, the Skills vs. Classes debate never died, it's perhaps
> among the top 5 game-design issues every single RPG designer thinks about
> every single day of his life :)

Not every RPG designer. I've got some good examples of free form systems which
are neither class or skill based... back here... somewhere...

> "I think the discussion around skills vs classes has been missing one very
> important point: if you implement a cool special ability, why should you be
> cutting out even 1 person in your player base from using it. Its an
> important point, particularly for developers who don't have large
> development budgets, which is what I presume the majority of people reading
> these articles represent."
>
>
>

> Holy hand-waving blanket-generalizations, Batman!
>
> This is a common concern for game developers: "I don't want to spend time on
> this area of the game and not have every single player get to experience
> it"-- however, the answer *is not always* to force the player to experience
> that facet of your game. If you apply your approach to every facet of design
> then you end up with a game that plays in exactly the same way for everyone,
> with the same set of character development options (or lack thereof), and
> the same gameplay flow.

Agreed. However, I don't want to force the player not to experience it either.
Which is what a class / skill system does. My example is deliberately picked to
illustrate this. If a character makes the effort to sneak up to a monster which
remains unaware of them, I don't want to penalize everyone who did not bother
to pick the right class / learn the right set of skills to the right level and
miss out on my cool "backstab bonus from a short blade, fountain blood
everywhere and force the player to drag the body into the shadows and mop the
floor routine" that I have written specifically for this situation.

> This is essentially the issue of linear vs. nonlinear design; both of which
> have their benefits. With a linear design you ensure the player sees
> everything you created, you take less time to create a polished game, but
> you take a big hit on replayability and player freedom. A non-linear design,
> while taking longer to execute, provides different players with (depending
> on how radical you're talking here) vastly different gameplay experiences,
> and usually boosts replayability.

I agree. Which is why I'm writing roguelikes and not novels at the moment. I am
including completely random dungeon generation, identification of unknown items
and all the other goodness that a roguelike has.

> I am using the terms linear vs. non-linear as general ideas that can be
> applied to not only plot, but to character development (strict classes vs.
> skills), world generation (entirely pre-made world vs. procedurally
> generated random world), etc. You can make some of these linear and some
> non-linear to achieve various levels of the properties thereof.

Agreed. And again, I'm not forcing players to take down monsters by backstabbing
them. I'm just giving everyone the opportunity to do so. Not just players who
decide to specialise in backstabbing but miss out on another cool feature like
spell-casting.

> "Valve, who are arguably have designed some of the best games ever, will put
> a huge amount of developer time to script in cool events that have happened
> accidentally during a playtest run through. If they put in that much
> attention to ensuring that everyone has the same cool experiences, surely I
> (and you) should be doing the same."
>
> Arguably indeed! Remind me, which games have Valve designed that are
> relevant to this topic?

Anything that they've failed to deliver on time, becausee they've spent extra
time scripting cool events... I think that pretty much covers all of them. I
was talking about development philosophy here, not specific game
implementations.

> "I'll use the concrete example of the backstab ability. This is an almost
> trite fantasy cliche: a thief character sneaks through the shadows up to an
> unsuspecting monster, pulls out a short blade and thrusts it between the
> enemies shoulder blades. With a gurgling shudder, the monster drops to the
> ground, its compatriots unaware of what has just happened."
>
> I hate to be pedantic but "trite" and "cliché" are basically the same thing
> ;)
>
> By the way I wholeheartedly disagree that this is a cliché-- it's almost
> like saying that spells and swords are a cliché-- perhaps what you mean is
> something more like "a staple of the fantasy RPG genre".

I hate to be pedantic but I used the word almost.

> "rec.game.roguelike.developers"

> Erm, rec.games.roguelike.development

Will fix. There were a couple of other usage errors where I confused character
and player that I'll tidy up.

> "Now, to keep up with the Jonses, I potentially have to implement a
> CPU-intensive modification to my LOS algorithms, and completely rehash my
> dungeon design algorithms which I have just changed to ensure that I only
> have at most 1 connecting tunnel to each room. No way am I going to put in
> all that effort, just so one class specialist of the hundred or so class
> combinations I have in my game gets an infrequent damage multiplier."
>
> See-- this is a fundamental mistake you're making here. Firstly, you're
> rethinking and reworking your design based on what "the competition" is
> doing, in order to keep up. I mean, seriously, this isn't a
> multi-million-dollar market, it's roguelike development, just do what makes
> you happy. Additionally, this sounds like the classic case of Feature Crawl.
> Symptoms of this disease include reworking and redesigning and rethinking
> your game year after year ad nauseam. Disease potentially fatal. Pathology
> inconclusive.

I've been working on Unangband since 1992, reworking and redesigning and
rethinking the game...

> "So howabout I go through the following thought process instead. Screw
> classes and skills!
>
> I want everyone who goes through the process of sneaking up on an
> unsuspecting monster and hits them in the back with a bladed weapon to get a
> massive damage multiplier. They've made the effort, they deserve the
> multiplier. Same with magic spells. If they've got some oil and a big red
> book of fire magic, and know that the monster they're fighting is vulnerable
> to fire, then they deserve an easy kill for covering the monster with oil
> and hitting it with a fire spell."
>
> Pause.
>
> It is absolutely necessary that I point out that once you make the decision
> to make game actions entirely dependant on player skill you are no longer
> making an RPG. Make sure this is a conscious decision you're making, and
> think long and hard about it. I'm not saying it is a bad choice, but it is
> an important one.

Are you sure about that? Maybe it'd help if I made the following replacement:
s/skill/decisions. You're probably thinking about skill in the sense of
reflexes or hand-eye coordination. I was thinking more in terms of using fire
magic against monsters vulnerable to fire, using a short blade in a backstab
attempt and so on.

> "Instead, I should concentrate on things like how much of a bonus should
> back-stabbing give? What incentives should I be giving the player to switch
> to a small bladed weapon, when they have a perfectively good big brutal axe?
> How should I ensure that an critically injured monster can't call out to his
> friends, but a less critically injured one can alert them? How do I model
> the line of sight, AI and dungeon design/generation systems to allow a
> player to get to an unaware monster? What should the consequences be of the
> character getting caught red-handed? How far can a player throw oil and
> what's the splash range? If a monster catches fire, what does it do? If the
> player casts a fire spell, and has managed to get oil on himself, what are
> the consequences?"
>
> Let's pause once again and consider the ramifications of your thoughts:
>
> 1) Firstly, these priorities should be layed down at the beginning of the
> game design and not in the middle of it.

Why? I'm doing it in the middle of my game. And I can certainly go back and
refactor the relevent parts of the code that are affected. There is nothing
stopping me...

You're probably coming from the must design game before coding point of view.
I'm coming from a coding the game is designing the game point of view.

> 2) Consider the following: the universe is a big place. Very big. If you
> tried to understand it all you'd go insane. That is why the trick is to
> reduce the universe to a small size you can manage on a day-to-day basis.
> Certain games, particularly RPGs and RLs (overlap to taste) are also very
> big-- not necessarily in terms of the gameworld size, but in term of all the
> choices you can make. Give the player too little choice and he will be bored
> of your game, give the player too many choices and he will go insane.

Agreed. I'm not trying to model everything. Just what I think is going to be
cool in my game.

> 3) It follows that a way RPGs allow you to reduce the world to a manageable
> size is by providing classes or sets of skills. When a player selects a
> class or sets of skills, he is making a conscious decision along the vein of
> "This is what I want my character to be good at, this is how I see my
> character in relation to the gameworld, this is who my character is, he will
> behave based on his attributes/stats towards the gameworld", and possibly
> discarding or de-prioritizing other approaches. This is called roleplaying.

But I'm not stopping the player from making any of these decisions. Consider
the choice of sword vs axe vs mace. In order to maintain suspension of
disbelief, we can both agree that wielding all 3 weapons at once isn't logical.
Wielding two at once, you'd argue would require a Two-Weapon skill and
(probably) skill with the relevent weapons. I'd require 'how much of an impact
to the balance of the game is wielding two weapons, and how should I model it.'
But you'd also have to consider that. So by not having skills, I'm cutting down
on any consideration about how to implement skills. I'm also not forcing anyone
to sacrifice the ability to dual wield a mace and an axe vs. dual wielding a
mace vs a sword. So in the situation where a player finds a better mace than
their sword, all the skill points that they've spent on sword skill are not
wasted. Or worse yet, if they've chosen a class penalized from using maces
(because they have to let the blood of their enemies flow freely when fighting
them), they will have to just throw the mace over their shoulder and move on.

In fact, I'm supporting the player making decisions about stuff I may not like.
Such as "I want to play someone who's good at everything."

And I'd disagree that this is called role-playing. Its called min-maxing.
Role-playing is way beyond anything I'm attempting... but that's another
discussion.

> 4) Since you're allowing the player to experience the world through an
> unfiltered/undefined character, be aware of the following:
>
> a) Players will be carrying every single usable piece of equipment that they
> know they can use for every conceivable situation. You might ask yourself
> "What, why? Why would players want to create such tedium for themselves?",
> and the answer is, because the game allows it. There is something in player
> psychology that if they *can* do something they probably will, even if it
> ruins their gameplay experience. Now, there is no need to go through great
> lengths to prevent players from doing this, but at least you should not
> encourage it.

Nope. The game won't allow it. I'm restricting inventory slots and penalizing
the player for carrying too much weight. But presumably most skill or class
based games will do the same, in order to maintain suspension of disbelief.

> b) In doing this you're absolutely detatching the player from the character.
> Even if you allow some sort of levelup, customizing your character is one of
> the great joys of RPGs, psychologically akin to nurturing a child and seeing
> him/her thrive in what he/she is good at.

So you're saying players never get attached to characters like Snake, or Zelda,
or Mario, because these characters don't have classes or skills.

> c) You will notice that many RPG systems (games, not PnP) use all manner of
> heuristics to provide interesting dialogue and interesting dialogue options,
> common ones are stats, sex, alignment, skills, quests, faction, etc. In
> removing character customization you are seriously crippling the NPC
> interaction in the game, to either overly simple or with far too many
> choices. This might not necessarily be a negative choice depending on how
> well the other facets of your game are executed, but it is something to keep
> in mind.

Again, you're crippling the player's ability to roleplay by preventing them from
certain NPC actions by restricting which choices they can make through class or
skill systems.

> Some things to keep in mind about equipment loadout:
>
> On one hand, you want to provide a challenge for players to use their
> resources in clever ways (this is a huge part of the success of Nethack, for
> example, and though I am not a particular fan of the game, this feature is
> one of its best). This means that you have to somehow limit how resources
> are dealt out to a player. You have two ways to do this: random, and static.
> Randomly, you'd slowly spit out useful items to the player however items are
> spit out, this keeps with the random "new-experience-every-time" spirit of
> RLs. Statically you have some preset way in which to deal specific items (or
> types of items) to the player, this could potentially reduce your
> replayability. Regardless of how it's done, you run accross a huge issue:
> players may simply not want to play the style of game which is called-for by
> the items generated.

You have more of a problem with a class and skill based system, which is the
game system may not generate items that the class or skill system requires.

And if it always does, it creates a suspension of disbelief. "Wait a sec. Every
ooze I fight is dropping swords for me."



> On the other hand, you don't want players to miss out on something you make,
> so you'd quickly generate items for the player to use.

Agreed. But in a class/skill system, its a limited set of items. I can
potentially generate every item and have it useful for the player. Its their
decision whether they use it or not.

> This has the
> unfortunate effect of reducing the novelty of newly-generated items that can
> be used in interesting ways.

How? I believe the opposite. For instance, Unangband has potion drops. Now, I'm
smart enough to realise not everyone will want to drink potions. So they can
also be applied to swords, or axes, or arrows, or thrown at monsters, or set in
traps. Now, depending on the type of player, they will pick a specific use for
this item. And it'll be different for each player. But it will also be
different for each particular circumstance, not just based on their class or
skill set. If the player is running away from a dangerous monster, it may be
better to set a potion in a trap. If they are far away from the monster, it may
be better to coat their arrows and shoot the monster. If they are near, coat
their sword and use it. All these circumstances, I need to balance the use of
the potion against the circumstance. But so does anyone implementing a
class/skill system.

> If you choose to go this route, however, you
> should at least create some sort of way for players to have a limited
> inventory, so that they face a challenge in using what they have creatively.
> Hrmm, a dilemma! If you control your player's inventory, then certain
> players will not be able to use an ability you painstakingly implemented
> (this is the original spirit of your design :)! Oh noes! I guess the only
> option then, would be to have the character carry around an infinite
> inventory, which reduces the game to a painful item-juggle for every single
> situation.

Nope. You've set up a straw man argument. I'm controlling the inventory as a
game balance mechanism, and for suspension of disbelief. But so does anyone who
uses a class or skill based system. So my dilemma is the same as your dilemma,
but easier. And note that in my system the player *may* not be able to use the
ability, depending on what equipment that they have on them at the time. In
your system they *will* not be able to use it.

> Note that while I am playing the Devil's Advocate here throughout, there is
> a sensible solution to the problem I posed before: Have a limited inventory,
> but make items be used-up or damaged through use, in order to challenge the
> player to use new items. This way you can keep the challenge with minimal
> inventory juggling and have most players see most of the features you've
> implemented ;)

Agreed.

>
> "Note that I am not saying that every attack shouldn't require skill. But
> the skill and preferred attacks should be down to the human at the edge of
> the keyboard. And I'm not suggesting no levelling. Characters may still be
> able to level up - just a level 10 player should not be any better at
> backstabbing or casting spells or swinging a sword than any other level 10
> player. Levelling up should be about better luck, or improved health, or
> something else accruable that gives the players a fighting chance against
> tougher monsters. Or if you have skill-checks, make them a simple comparison
> against the players level, rather than level * class progression or skill
> level."
>
> There are some large holes in this approach, which you will have time to
> think about, no doubt, so I'll spare you the rant. In short, luck has little
> place in action-games, it should be used sparingly and with finesse.

Again, you're under the impression I want to create an action game. I don't.
Maybe I should have written that clearer.

> I will
> point out that when you brought luck up, you immediately brought back up
> skills.

Nope. I'm saying that luck is level dependent, not skill dependent.

> What I would reccomend for your game would be to give the player more HP,
> and allow the player to do more damage, accross the board, or similarly
> increase any random rolls for all possible actions the player might take,
> such as dodging or hitting. Remember that players of action games don't take
> it too kindly when you tell them "MISS!" when they clearly saw their
> character hit their opponent-- these are dangerous waters, tread carefully.

Again, we're talking about RPGs here. Plenty of games have players miss, when
they clearly clicked on the monster to attack it.

> "Its something I've been moving towards in my variant but won't have the
> guts to do for some time, if ever. But I suspect it'll be incredibly
> liberating, and let me concentrate on the important stuff, which is
> implementing more cool features for the player, as opposed to any kind of
> min-maxing of different classes and races and nerfing of skill and class
> combinations."
>
> It's unfortunate that you don't sound like you will bring this to fruition,
> because I would like to see how this works out. If anything, as an exercise
> in a different approach to RLs.

That's why I'm writing an argument for it, not doing it. I want someone else to
go through the blood, sweat and tears...

> You should ALWAYS be consentrating on what you consider "the important
> stuff". If you don't like something, DON'T DO IT, as I said earlier, it's
> your game :P
>
> In addition, before you send in the jury on this approach resulting in "more
> cool features for the player" you should take time to think about what
> exactly does that mean for the player: more fun? more tedious management?
> Less choice? A bigger challenge? More interesting gameplay? Less
> customization?

Cool = fun, of course.

> "So this is a clarion call against classes and races, from a developer
> guilty of a little bit of both."
>
> Well if anything it's an interesting approach to game design, although I
> doubt you made any dent in the established standards :P
>
> Best of luck, and don't take my comments too harshly, I'm just some guy on
> the Internet ;)

So am I.

Gerry Quinn

unread,
Jan 12, 2007, 6:07:00 AM1/12/07
to
In article <eo6fro$2mm2$1...@news.vol.cz>, andre...@hotmail.com says...

> I was trying to think of a good example of a successful classless/skill-less pen
> & paper game. Magic the Gathering is probably the best example, and equally
> dependent on your selection of 'inventory'. The majority of computer games
> exclude concepts of skill and class, and even many class-based games, the
> classes are a short term tactical role (I'm thinking here of the likes of
> Return to Castle Wolfenstein) or part of a multiple character team (Which
> effectively make the player a 'class-less' commander type).

But games in the genre we're talking about - roguelikes, CRPGs etc. use
the concepts of skills and/or classes intensively.

- Gerry Quinn

Gerry Quinn

unread,
Jan 12, 2007, 6:12:21 AM1/12/07
to
In article <Xns98B5E6B347D8...@207.217.125.201>,
bai...@coastalnet.com says...

For an even stronger example, consider Guild Wars. You pick a main
class (warrior, mage etc.) and a secondary class from the same list
(which can be switched). Before each mission you selet eight 'skills'
to take with you, and adjust class attributes such as your strength or
axe mastery based on a pool of attribute points.

Next mission (or when retrying this one) you can change them all
around. If you are a warrior/monk, you could drop strength to minimum
and put attribute points in healing prayers instead. Again you'd
choose appropriate skills. And appropriate inventory - you don't take
axe mastery unless you're swinging an axe and have some useful axe
skills with you.

- Gerry Quinn


Brendan Guild

unread,
Jan 12, 2007, 6:16:40 AM1/12/07
to
Andrew Doull wrote:
> On 2007-01-12 03:08:16, "Antoine" <ma...@guildgame.com> wrote:
>> 'I'm an elven wizard' gives you a quicker point of identification
>> than 'I'm a ... guy, what can I do next?'.
>
> You can always have a big selection list at the start of the game,
> and not have any in game difference. Except maybe your starting
> equipment/inventory selection.
>
> However, I think for new players (and I mean real newbies), it'd
> just be off-putting. I'd hate to make an upfront decision like
> which class to play without knowing what that meant down the line.

I have always liked the idea of getting a class as a reward during
the game. Instead of just going up a number and getting some better
numbers, and getting to kill gridbugs with one fewer hit than before,
or even half as many hits, I think it is more fun to get a title by
my name.

Start the game as a guy, but once you've gained enough experience,
you can become an elven wizard. The class you get depends on how you
get the experience, and nothing stops you from getting more
experience in another way to get an additional class, just as easily
as you got your first class.

To encourage a character to have a sane number of classes, very few
activities should assist towards more than a single class, and once
you have a class, gaining more power by increasing levels in that
class should be easier than gaining more power by getting an
additional class. Plus, using the special class abilities that you
get when you gain a class would help towards increasing levels of
that class and no other.

There is no up-front decision, you are not locked into anything, and
yet you have all the replay value of multiple classes. You might have
even more replay value, because there is the possibility of
discovering new classes that you did not know about.

Gerry Quinn

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Jan 12, 2007, 6:21:01 AM1/12/07
to
In article <eo77hu$56g$1...@inews.gazeta.pl>, co...@gazeta.pl says...

> Skills and classes are specific features of RPGs so your statement "most
> games do not have them" makes no sense. That is like saying: "Most games do
> not have a road building function, so why does my city builder game need
> it?"

To be fair, that's a very important question to ask.



> As an RPG developer I think mechanics should not be seen as something
> seperate, but as a part of the whole (game). I mean, I think that D&D is
> class-based is good, not because class-based mechanics are generally
> superiour to skill-based ones, but because the mechanics fit the theme here.
> D&D is a high-fantasy, pseudo-medieval game. In the Middle Ages your life
> was determined at birth - by your class. In high-fanatasy the mighty wizard
> is not just some random dude with a spell book and a pointy hat - he IS a
> wizard, it is not a profession - it's his fate and character - his "class".
> In contrast a modern themed game should be skill-based, because there is
> nothing that prevents you from training combat and computer hacking at the
> same time in a modern setting. Class-based restrictions would be out of
> theme.

It makes sense, but there's no hard dividing line. My favourite
concept is something of a hybrid between class and skill. You could
think of it as freely selected multi-class, chosen at the start but
subsequently immutable.

- Gerry Quinn

Andrew Doull

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Jan 12, 2007, 6:14:01 AM1/12/07
to
On 2007-01-12 12:07:00, Gerry Quinn <ger...@DELETETHISindigo.ie> wrote:

> In article , andre...@hotmail.com says...

And I was asking the question: why?

Regards,

Gerry Quinn

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Jan 12, 2007, 6:22:41 AM1/12/07
to
In article <Xns98B61134935B...@207.217.125.201>,
bai...@coastalnet.com says...

You Only Live Twice was a FPS/Sneaker with CRPG-like skill development.

And Civ4 now has character development for military units.

- Gerry Quinn

Elethiomel

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Jan 12, 2007, 6:30:07 AM1/12/07
to
Andrew Doull wrote:
> On 2007-01-12 04:40:43, Billy Bissette <bai...@coastalnet.com> wrote:
>
>
>>"Antoine" wrote in
>>news:1168567696.1...@51g2000cwl.googlegroups.com:
>>
>>>Andrew Doull wrote:
>>>
>>>>On 2007-01-11 23:06:23, "Antoine" wrote:
>>
>>>>I was trying to think of a good example of a successful
>>>>classless/skill-less pen & paper game. Magic the Gathering is
>>>>probably the best example, and equally dependent on your selection of
>>>>'inventory'.
>>>
>>>Er... the metaphor between inventory and deck is very dicey. A deck is
>>>what you start with, an inventory is what you pick up along the way.
>
>
> That's funny. I don't remember any roguelikes starting with no inventory slots,
> and having to collect things like arms and legs in order to be able to put
> equipment on them. ;)

But your inventory isn't arms and legs. Your equipment is your
inventory. And you pick up equipment along the way.

> I think the metaphor between inventory and deck is fine. Its a lot better than
> the metaphor between colors and classes.
>
>>One could argue the colors in Magic are themselves similar to classes.
>
> I can't see any similarity here, other than perhaps a class and a deck being
> something you both pick at the start of a game. But I don't suddenly lose class
> abilities by using them, unlike an inventory, where I do. And I can't, in the
> normal run of things, steal class abilities from another player and use them,
> whereas cards can be used from other players decks, just like equipment.

But if you look at the deck as a collection of abilities, it makes a lot
more sense. Green tends to summon and boost monsters. Those abilities
from all your green cards, *taken together*, can be seen as a class
ability. A green deck is good at summoning and boosting monsters. A blue
deck is good at denying the enemy the use of their abilities. A white
deck is good at healing. And so on. We're talking about the *deck*, not
the process of playing the deck. Building the deck is like building a
character in a class-based game with multiclassing.

>>And while a player can combine all the colors into a single deck, the
>>game mechanics encourage a more restrained approach of a single or
>>dual-color deck.
>
> If I have a powerful bow, surely I'm encouraged to carry arrows as opposed to
> other equipment (like rocks, or swords). That's why I think a magic the
> gathering deck is closer to an inventory either a class or a set of skills.

Well, a good magic the gathering deck isn't made solely out of arrows, I
can assure you of that.
--
A good signature is a concise and original summary of personality.
This is not a good signature.
Contact: @gmail.com account: terjesel

Andrew Doull

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Jan 12, 2007, 6:27:22 AM1/12/07
to
On 2007-01-12 12:16:40, Brendan Guild <do...@spam.me> wrote:

> Andrew Doull wrote:


> > On 2007-01-12 03:08:16, "Antoine" wrote:
> >> 'I'm an elven wizard' gives you a quicker point of identification
> >> than 'I'm a ... guy, what can I do next?'.
> >
> > You can always have a big selection list at the start of the game,
> > and not have any in game difference. Except maybe your starting
> > equipment/inventory selection.
> >
> > However, I think for new players (and I mean real newbies), it'd
> > just be off-putting. I'd hate to make an upfront decision like
> > which class to play without knowing what that meant down the line.
>
> I have always liked the idea of getting a class as a reward during
> the game. Instead of just going up a number and getting some better
> numbers, and getting to kill gridbugs with one fewer hit than before,
> or even half as many hits, I think it is more fun to get a title by
> my name.
>
> Start the game as a guy, but once you've gained enough experience,
> you can become an elven wizard. The class you get depends on how you
> get the experience, and nothing stops you from getting more
> experience in another way to get an additional class, just as easily
> as you got your first class.

Funnily enough, I have much less of an objection to this than classes (in the
classic sense) or skills (not that I have a strong objection to either).
FAngband takes an idea from Oangband and gives you a special ability at the
start of the game, then an additional special ability every time you defeat a
major dungeon guardian.

I think its because these rewards more 'in-game' - you're not suddenly taken
'out of game' to make a min-maxing decision decision. [1]

Andrew

[1] The example of FAngband forces you to do this, but I could equally see a
game where each dungeon guardian gives you a different fixed special ability.
Sorta like Zelda.

Andrew Doull

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Jan 12, 2007, 6:35:38 AM1/12/07
to
On 2007-01-12 12:21:01, Gerry Quinn <ger...@DELETETHISindigo.ie> wrote:

> In article , co...@gazeta.pl says...


>
> > Skills and classes are specific features of RPGs so your statement "most
> > games do not have them" makes no sense. That is like saying: "Most games do
> > not have a road building function, so why does my city builder game need
> > it?"
>
> To be fair, that's a very important question to ask.

But its not what I'm saying at all. I'm saying here is a specific problem with
classes and skills, so have a think about why you are using them. [1]

Its like saying "A* path finding does not reflect the way roads are built in
real life, so why should I implement roads using the A* algorithm in my city
building game".

Andrew

[1] And I would argue that classes and skills are conventions, not features.

Andrew Doull

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Jan 12, 2007, 6:44:12 AM1/12/07
to
On 2007-01-12 12:30:07, Elethiomel <kk...@lllllll.mmmm> wrote:

> Andrew Doull wrote:


> > On 2007-01-12 04:40:43, Billy Bissette wrote:
> >
> >
> >>"Antoine" wrote in
> >>news:1168567696.1...@51g2000cwl.googlegroups.com:

> >>One could argue the colors in Magic are themselves similar to classes.
> >
> > I can't see any similarity here, other than perhaps a class and a deck being
> > something you both pick at the start of a game. But I don't suddenly lose class
> > abilities by using them, unlike an inventory, where I do. And I can't, in the
> > normal run of things, steal class abilities from another player and use them,
> > whereas cards can be used from other players decks, just like equipment.
>
> But if you look at the deck as a collection of abilities, it makes a lot
> more sense. Green tends to summon and boost monsters. Those abilities
> from all your green cards, *taken together*, can be seen as a class
> ability.

No, these are themes. A class could be defined as a set of abilities that you
get as a package, that are (usually) mutually exclusive with any other
package.

I've played 1/1 creature decks, 6/6 creature decks, healing decks, wall decks,
mana decks and land decks that all play completely differently, but all happen
to be green. Not that many, because I had a multi-coloured instant deck that
was much better. Its been a long time since I've played Magic though...

> A green deck is good at summoning and boosting monsters. A blue
> deck is good at denying the enemy the use of their abilities. A white
> deck is good at healing. And so on. We're talking about the *deck*, not
> the process of playing the deck. Building the deck is like building a
> character in a class-based game with multiclassing.

If you look at the inventory as a collection of abilities it makes a lot more
sense that trying to compare a deck to a class. And you go through inventory
builds all the time, whenever you pick up new equipment that is more powerful /
useful than your current set.

Comparing building a deck to selecting a class is really stretching the analogy
a lot. It may be comparable to building a GURPS / Champions character, but a
GURPS system is clearly not a class-based system.



> >>And while a player can combine all the colors into a single deck, the
> >>game mechanics encourage a more restrained approach of a single or
> >>dual-color deck.
> >
> > If I have a powerful bow, surely I'm encouraged to carry arrows as opposed to
> > other equipment (like rocks, or swords). That's why I think a magic the
> > gathering deck is closer to an inventory either a class or a set of skills.
>
> Well, a good magic the gathering deck isn't made solely out of arrows, I
> can assure you of that.

Neither is an inventory.

Nolithius

unread,
Jan 12, 2007, 11:39:28 AM1/12/07
to
"Andrew Doull" <andre...@hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:eo7grp$gnu$1...@news.vol.cz...

Someone needs to review his first order logic ;)

If p implies q, not q implies not p. However, not p does not necessarily
imply not q, and q does not necessarily imply p.

Specifically, if RPG implies skills, no skills implies not RPG. However, not
RPG does not necessarily imply not skills (you made this point correctly),
and skills do not necessarily imply RPG (you made this assumption
incorrectly ;).

By the way, RPG *definitely* implies skills; and more specifically, skill
customization (somehow)-- this is not really a matter of opinion, it is what
defines the genre. You're lucky, however, that this is one of the fields in
which RLs and RPGs do not necessarily overlap, such that a fun
fully-featured addictive RL need not necessarily include skills.

<snip>

--Nolithius


Andrew Doull

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Jan 12, 2007, 1:04:58 PM1/12/07
to
On 2007-01-12 17:39:28, "Nolithius" <Noli...@earthlink.net> wrote:

> By the way, RPG *definitely* implies skills;

I disagree; and I think most of the writers of the articles I linked to at the
start would also disagree. RPG implies skills or class would be a better
approximately.

> and more specifically, skill
> customization (somehow)-- this is not really a matter of opinion, it is what
> defines the genre.

Genre is defined by a matter of (collective) opinion. There's nothing in the
real world that defines genre.

Andrew

Billy Bissette

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Jan 12, 2007, 3:19:10 PM1/12/07
to
Sherm Pendley <spam...@dot-app.org> wrote in
news:m264bcd...@Sherm-Pendleys-Computer.local:

> I've liked that approach for a long time, even for tabletop PnP RPGs.
> I prefer Rolemaster over DND because it uses a similar approach. In
> RM, a class does not dictate a rigid set of limitations that cannot be
> overcome. Instead, it simply describes the character's natural
> inclinations. Those inclinations can be overcome, with effort.

The funny thing for me is that while I'm effectively arguing in favor
of classes in Roguelikes, I preferred PnP RPGs that were skill-based
without classes. Or with very minimal class interference.

But PnP RPGs are different from Roguelikes. A good GM can keep things
interesting and fresh. A Roguelike is fairly static.

Ray Dillinger

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Jan 12, 2007, 3:51:14 PM1/12/07
to
Andrew Doull wrote:
> On 2007-01-12 12:07:00, Gerry Quinn <ger...@DELETETHISindigo.ie> wrote:

>>But games in the genre we're talking about - roguelikes, CRPGs etc. use
>>the concepts of skills and/or classes intensively.

> And I was asking the question: why?

'Cause lots of us like the Character-building subgame.
If you don't want there to be any kind of character
advancement other than getting cooler equipment, go
for it. But it's a very fundamental decision. The
resulting game could very well play like super mario
or equivalent.

Bear


Ray Dillinger

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Jan 12, 2007, 4:03:25 PM1/12/07
to
Andrew Doull wrote:

> My argument is that classes and skills mean you spend a lot of developer time
> wasted coming up with ideas that only some of the players will be able to use,
> because you restrict their actions by forcing them to choose a class or set of
> skills. Furthermore, you end up wasting time having to 'balance' these ideas
> against each other (particularly in the MMORPG example, but equally roguelikes,
> where permadeath means you force people to restart the game if they make a bad
> call about class or skill and end up getting killed because of it). [1]

You misunderstand, I think. You spend a lot of developer
time coming up with ideas that each of the players will be
able to use - just not all in the same game. Permadeath
is simply a way to encourage the playing of more than one
game so they can try everything.

Bear

Ray Dillinger

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Jan 12, 2007, 4:25:02 PM1/12/07
to
Andrew Doull wrote:
>
> Nope. You've set up a straw man argument. I'm controlling the inventory as a
> game balance mechanism, and for suspension of disbelief. But so does anyone who
> uses a class or skill based system. So my dilemma is the same as your dilemma,
> but easier. And note that in my system the player *may* not be able to use the
> ability, depending on what equipment that they have on them at the time. In
> your system they *will* not be able to use it.

... and note that in my system the player *may* not be able
to use the ability, depending on what class and skills the
character they're playing has at the time.

Just pointing out - all you're doing by eliminating class/skill
is stuffing all options/opportunities into a single run of the
game.

What will you have left for replay? Why would the player start
a new character? Ever?

Bear

R. Dan Henry

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Jan 12, 2007, 6:03:48 PM1/12/07
to
On 11 Jan 2007 18:08:16 -0800, "Antoine" <ma...@guildgame.com> wrote:

>Andrew Doull wrote:

>> I was trying to think of a good example of a successful classless/skill-less pen
>> & paper game. Magic the Gathering is probably the best example, and equally
>> dependent on your selection of 'inventory'.
>
>Er... the metaphor between inventory and deck is very dicey. A deck is
>what you start with, an inventory is what you pick up along the way.
>

>Paranoia might be a better example, from memory?

Paranoia characters have skills. And one could argue multiple class-like
features if one wanted to, but skills are quite simply there.

--
R. Dan Henry = danh...@inreach.com
If you wish to put anything I post on your website,
please be polite enough to ask first.

Arthur J. O'Dwyer

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Jan 12, 2007, 7:03:40 PM1/12/07
to

On Fri, 12 Jan 2007, Andrew Doull wrote:
> On 2007-01-12 10:31:13, "Nolithius" <Noli...@earthlink.net> wrote:
>>
>> This is a huge can of worms, by the way.

>> This is a common concern for game developers: "I don't want to spend time on


>> this area of the game and not have every single player get to experience
>> it"-- however, the answer *is not always* to force the player to experience
>> that facet of your game.

[...]


> Agreed. However, I don't want to force the player not to experience it
> either. Which is what a class / skill system does. My example is
> deliberately picked to illustrate this. If a character makes the
> effort to sneak up to a monster which remains unaware of them, I don't
> want to penalize everyone who did not bother to pick the right class /
> learn the right set of skills to the right level and miss out on my
> cool "backstab bonus from a short blade, fountain blood everywhere
> and force the player to drag the body into the shadows and mop the
> floor routine" that I have written specifically for this situation.

Yeah, I know the feeling. But I consider your attitude a "tragic
flaw" in the Greek-drama sense --- if the designer is so proud of his
achievements that he forces them into every game, then replayability
suffers.

Here's an example from my experience. I'm still toying with the idea
of a "Lovecraftian horror" roguelike. But how do you get across the
feeling to the player that there are /things/ lurking in the shadows
at the edges of the screen? You can't actually /put/ monsters in the
shadows every single time, or the player will stop thinking "Uh-oh,
lurking horror!" and start thinking "Oh. Monster." Nor can you /not/
put monsters there all the time, or the player will learn to ignore
the "lurking horror" glyphs and plow ahead.
The key, I think, is random reinforcement. Randomness can be used
to create uncertainty and therefore suspense; or it can be used to
create surprise, the first time the player sees it (but not typically
a second time).

To get back to your example: The player might be fine with being
able to backstab monsters all the time. But he might be even happier
if he played fifty games without discovering the "backstab" ability,
and then, the fifty-first time, tried it and saw your cool
situation-specific code run for the first time, like a "reward" for
exploring the game so much. (Nethack is like that.)
One easy way to ensure the "happier" scenario is to have a fighter
class that can't backstab, and a rogue class that can. Then, the
player only sees the "backstab" code in about half of his games; or
fewer, if he keeps playing the same kind of characters over and over.
Restricting abilities and implementing decision points are ways to
cut down the amount of clever material needed per game, and thus
increase the number of games the player has to play before he's seen
the entire game world. Hence: Replayability!

> Agreed. And again, I'm not forcing players to take down monsters by
> backstabbing them. I'm just giving everyone the opportunity to do so.
> Not just players who decide to specialise in backstabbing but miss out
> on another cool feature like spell-casting.

[...]


>> "I want everyone who goes through the process of sneaking up on an
>> unsuspecting monster and hits them in the back with a bladed weapon to
>> get a massive damage multiplier. They've made the effort, they deserve
>> the multiplier. Same with magic spells. If they've got some oil and a
>> big red book of fire magic, and know that the monster they're fighting
>> is vulnerable to fire, then they deserve an easy kill for covering
>> the monster with oil and hitting it with a fire spell."
>>
>> Pause.
>>
>> It is absolutely necessary that I point out that once you make the decision
>> to make game actions entirely dependant on player skill you are no longer
>> making an RPG. Make sure this is a conscious decision you're making, and
>> think long and hard about it. I'm not saying it is a bad choice, but it is
>> an important one.
>
> Are you sure about that? Maybe it'd help if I made the following replacement:
> s/skill/decisions. You're probably thinking about skill in the sense of
> reflexes or hand-eye coordination.

Nope. I agree with Nolithius. If you make every option available to
every player, then you might be encouraging munchkinism. "Hmm... a big
bad orc. I could run up and hit it with a mace; or I could backstab it
with my dagger; or I could cast Magic Missile at it; or I could try to
charm it with my magic harp. Let's see, which of those is most likely
to keep me alive?"

[And then Andrew takes the words right out of my mouth:]


> And I'd disagree that this is called role-playing. Its called min-maxing.

Yes. If you reduce everything to "what's best for me now?", instead
of "what would my character do?", you're no longer role-playing. Classical
RPGs attempt to keep role-playing alive with classes and skills ---
thus approximating "what would my character do?" with "what /can/ my
character do?"

Without some kind of role-playing element, I agree with Nolithius
that you'll end up basing everything on some trivial kind of player skill,
just like chess or Doom. I'm not sure I could draw a line between
"trivial skill games" and "complicated RPG-like games", but I know
it when I see it. ;)

>> 3) It follows that a way RPGs allow you to reduce the world to a manageable
>> size is by providing classes or sets of skills. When a player selects a
>> class or sets of skills, he is making a conscious decision along the vein of
>> "This is what I want my character to be good at, this is how I see my
>> character in relation to the gameworld, this is who my character is, he will
>> behave based on his attributes/stats towards the gameworld", and possibly
>> discarding or de-prioritizing other approaches. This is called roleplaying.

Yeah.

> But I'm not stopping the player from making any of these decisions.

> [...] So in the situation where a player finds a better mace than


> their sword, all the skill points that they've spent on sword skill are
> not wasted. Or worse yet, if they've chosen a class penalized from using
> maces (because they have to let the blood of their enemies flow freely
> when fighting them), they will have to just throw the mace over their
> shoulder and move on.

Exactly. RPGs are kinda like real life that way; if you make a poor
decision early on, you might pay for it later (and learn from the
experience, and not make the same mistake in later games). Also, it's
possible to just plain have a streak of bad (or good!) luck. The trick
is balancing the game so that no decision is /obviously/ poor, and no
streak of luck can /totally/ ruin an experienced player.


> In fact, I'm supporting the player making decisions about stuff I may
> not like. Such as "I want to play someone who's good at everything."

That's called a "munchkin". :)


[...]


>> There are some large holes in this approach, which you will have time to
>> think about, no doubt, so I'll spare you the rant. In short, luck has little
>> place in action-games, it should be used sparingly and with finesse.
>
> Again, you're under the impression I want to create an action game. I don't.
> Maybe I should have written that clearer.
>
>> I will
>> point out that when you brought luck up, you immediately brought back up
>> skills.
>
> Nope. I'm saying that luck is level dependent, not skill dependent.

I don't think anyone in this thread shares the same definition of
"luck". "Luck" in Nethack, for example, is a defined in-game attribute
that affects lots of random events, and is affected by a character's
piety. But then there's also the real-world "luck" of finding a Sword
of Everything Killing on DLvl 1.
If you make a Nethack-style "luck" stat, but affected only by character
level, then you don't really have a "luck" stat --- it would be better
to say that the character's to-hit, to-dodge, saving throws, etc., are
affected by his level.
So, might I respectfully request that nobody ever use the word "luck"
in this newsgroup again without explicitly defining what they mean by
it? ;)


>> It's unfortunate that you don't sound like you will bring this to
>> fruition, because I would like to see how this works out. If anything,
>> as an exercise in a different approach to RLs.

Ditto.


>> In addition, before you send in the jury on this approach resulting in "more
>> cool features for the player" you should take time to think about what
>> exactly does that mean for the player: more fun? more tedious management?
>> Less choice? A bigger challenge? More interesting gameplay? Less
>> customization?
>
> Cool = fun, of course.

Yes, but what /is/ fun for you? Your ideas don't sound very much fun
to /me/, so I conclude that we have different ideas of "fun". (Not that
there's anything wrong with that.) Some people find managing a limited
inventory "fun"; others find it tedious; others find it frustrating,
because they hate to throw anything away. Some people want to have a
totally different world to explore in each game; others like to see
a few of the same familiar sights each time they play. Some people are
fascinated if each NPC in the game has a uniquely generated name; some
people enjoy games with lots of close combat tactics, and couldn't
care less about the names of what they kill. There are lots of ways
to have "fun"; what's yours?

Either that, or you're missing a smiley emoticon there. ;)

-Arthur

R. Dan Henry

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Jan 12, 2007, 8:37:52 PM1/12/07
to
On Fri, 12 Jan 2007 16:39:28 GMT, "Nolithius" <Noli...@earthlink.net>
wrote:

>By the way, RPG *definitely* implies skills; and more specifically, skill
>customization (somehow)-- this is not really a matter of opinion, it is what
>defines the genre.

No, it doesn't. On could, for example, play an extremely freeform game
with a coin as randomizer, allowing any action an equal chance of
success or failure. This isn't going to be very simulationist and
probably wouldn't work well except for a somewhat (to very) silly game,
but that wouldn't preventing from being a role-playing game (if you
meant that you need skill to use a rocket-propelled grenade, I will
concede your point, but would not see any relevance).

Billy Bissette

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Jan 12, 2007, 9:15:31 PM1/12/07
to
Andrew Doull <andre...@hotmail.com> wrote in
news:eo7nua$mg2$1...@news.vol.cz:

> Agreed. However, I don't want to force the player not to experience it
> either. Which is what a class / skill system does. My example is
> deliberately picked to illustrate this. If a character makes the
> effort to sneak up to a monster which remains unaware of them, I don't
> want to penalize everyone who did not bother to pick the right class /
> learn the right set of skills to the right level and miss out on my
> cool "backstab bonus from a short blade, fountain blood everywhere and
> force the player to drag the body into the shadows and mop the floor
> routine" that I have written specifically for this situation.

Then don't. A class/skill system doesn't even force that situation.
There are class/skill systems that allow everyone a bonus on unaware
opponents, or back shots, or whatever combination you prefer.

Some systems still give an extra boost to certain classes or skills.
Maybe a thief gets an even higher damage bonus.

Or maybe everyone gets the same bonus, but a stealth-based character
just has a better chance of approaching an enemy unaware. A warrior
isn't penalized for trying to backstab with a honking big sword, he is
penalized for not having training in walking silently, or sounding like
a defective shopping cart due to skulking around in full plate armor.

Just because certain abilities tend to get lumped into
class-restricted abilities doesn't mean making them free kills classes.

And making everything available to everyone doesn't mean there might
still be advantages in classes. Classes could mark abilities that a
character is just better than average at, but which everyone can use.
Maybe everyone can cast magic from books, but a magic-user class is
just better at it (with lower costs, or increased effect, or faster
cast speed.) Anyone could try to turn undead, but priests are better
at it. Same for praying for intervention.

Hrm, which raises a question... How do you stand upon multiple
religions with the ability to switch, perhaps with a penalty? Games
with choices of gods generally have unique pros and cons for each one,
and choosing one god means you don't get the abilities of the others.
But what if you can switch, with penalty? (Without penalty, there is
only a little difference between being able to switch and just having
every pro available on demand.) Religion becomes closer to an
equipment choice.

> You have more of a problem with a class and skill based system, which
> is the game system may not generate items that the class or skill
> system requires.
>
> And if it always does, it creates a suspension of disbelief. "Wait a
> sec. Every ooze I fight is dropping swords for me."

(Quick note: You probably mean stretches, tests, or breaks the
suspension of disbelief, not creates. Particularly if you mean an
Angband-style item drop. Though one could argue that use if he really
wanted to.)

Depends.

If you play a strict class/ability game, why generate spellbooks at
all for a warrior? (Or perhaps replace them with a generic "magic
book" which can still be sold to shops.)

A priest that isn't allowed to use swords at all (instead of perhaps
taking a penalty for using them) and has no other use for them
(sacrifice, worthwhile resale, etc) may just be considered to ignore
them on sight.

Besides, oozes dropping weapons already relies on a suspension of
disbelief. :)

Angband in particularly already has a relatively unbelieveable
system for monster drops. Dragons carry their entire hordes with them?
Monsters drop weapons that they realistically would have been using?
They drop items that they have no use for? They don't carry things
that they logically should have had (like light sources or weapons or
armor)? Some things aren't as common as they arguably should be, and
others are way too common?

Andrew Doull

unread,
Jan 13, 2007, 3:51:20 AM1/13/07
to
On 2007-01-13 01:03:40, "Arthur J. O'Dwyer" <ajon...@andrew.cmu.edu> wrote:

> On Fri, 12 Jan 2007, Andrew Doull wrote:

> > On 2007-01-12 10:31:13, "Nolithius" wrote:
> >>
> >> This is a huge can of worms, by the way.
>
> >> This is a common concern for game developers: "I don't want to spend time on
> >> this area of the game and not have every single player get to experience
> >> it"-- however, the answer *is not always* to force the player to experience
> >> that facet of your game.
> [...]
> > Agreed. However, I don't want to force the player not to experience it
> > either. Which is what a class / skill system does. My example is
> > deliberately picked to illustrate this. If a character makes the
> > effort to sneak up to a monster which remains unaware of them, I don't
> > want to penalize everyone who did not bother to pick the right class /
> > learn the right set of skills to the right level and miss out on my
> > cool "backstab bonus from a short blade, fountain blood everywhere
> > and force the player to drag the body into the shadows and mop the
> > floor routine" that I have written specifically for this situation.
>
> Yeah, I know the feeling. But I consider your attitude a "tragic
> flaw" in the Greek-drama sense --- if the designer is so proud of his
> achievements that he forces them into every game, then replayability
> suffers.

Its not a tragic flaw at the moment: as I mentioned in the article, I'm not
doing this in Unangband, yet, or perhaps ever. I was exploring the idea at this
stage... see below, of course, for a different view.

[...]


> The key, I think, is random reinforcement. Randomness can be used
> to create uncertainty and therefore suspense; or it can be used to
> create surprise, the first time the player sees it (but not typically
> a second time).

Ah, the game = virtual skinner box theory. Probably the most powerful way of
reinforcing this of course. Of course, this doesn't relate directly to classes
and skills, but interesting nonetheless.

> To get back to your example: The player might be fine with being
> able to backstab monsters all the time. But he might be even happier
> if he played fifty games without discovering the "backstab" ability,
> and then, the fifty-first time, tried it and saw your cool
> situation-specific code run for the first time, like a "reward" for
> exploring the game so much. (Nethack is like that.)

Possibly. However, given the length of play time of a typical Angband game, and
Unangband is probably no different, I'd prefer if they discovered it on the
first run through. This is hypothesising though...

> One easy way to ensure the "happier" scenario is to have a fighter
> class that can't backstab, and a rogue class that can.

But its not a necessary way, and that's how a lot of people on this group have
reacted. A typical response is that "RPGs have to have skills/classes." I'm
trying to say that, no they don't, and it may make them worse for it. That's
one of the points I'm trying to get across.

> Then, the
> player only sees the "backstab" code in about half of his games; or
> fewer, if he keeps playing the same kind of characters over and over.
> Restricting abilities and implementing decision points are ways to
> cut down the amount of clever material needed per game, and thus
> increase the number of games the player has to play before he's seen
> the entire game world. Hence: Replayability!

But given that a large part of the gameworld is randomly generated every time,
doesn't this give the character replayability in another way. For instance,
Unangband has about 1200 different monsters. Some of these are so rare, that
you will never encounter them on a play through of the game. However, I haven't
had to spend forever rebalancing the monsters against each other - I just wrote
a algorithm to determine relative power levels, and let the game figure out
the balance.

I suspect trying to do the same thing for each player ability would be
relatively futile. I could be wrong though.

[...]


> >> It is absolutely necessary that I point out that once you make the decision
> >> to make game actions entirely dependant on player skill you are no longer
> >> making an RPG. Make sure this is a conscious decision you're making, and
> >> think long and hard about it. I'm not saying it is a bad choice, but it is
> >> an important one.
> >
> > Are you sure about that? Maybe it'd help if I made the following replacement:
> > s/skill/decisions. You're probably thinking about skill in the sense of
> > reflexes or hand-eye coordination.
>
> Nope. I agree with Nolithius. If you make every option available to
> every player, then you might be encouraging munchkinism. "Hmm... a big
> bad orc. I could run up and hit it with a mace; or I could backstab it
> with my dagger; or I could cast Magic Missile at it; or I could try to
> charm it with my magic harp. Let's see, which of those is most likely
> to keep me alive?"

But isn't that the choice that everyone has to make anyway. Except you give them
less options e.g. fight or run away. That's basically the point of the argument
I'm making. I'm not taking anything away from the game by removing classes and
skills. I'm actually adding choices. You just don't see it that way.

BTW Munchkinism in Angband and its variants are really easy. All the game data
files are human readable and editable. You can easily change all monsters so
that they have 1 hit point, and allow you to win the game by killing them. Does
making the game files editable encourage munchkinism? Maybe for the first 5
minutes you discover this fact. Then you end up being an Angband variant
designer.

> [And then Andrew takes the words right out of my mouth:]
> > And I'd disagree that this is called role-playing. Its called min-maxing.
>
> Yes. If you reduce everything to "what's best for me now?", instead
> of "what would my character do?", you're no longer role-playing. Classical
> RPGs attempt to keep role-playing alive with classes and skills ---
> thus approximating "what would my character do?" with "what /can/ my
> character do?"

I don't believe you can role-play in a single player game. Does that answer your
question? e.g. Role-playing requires interaction with other people. Any
"role-playing" you do against the computer, is in fact just making up a story
in your head.

> Without some kind of role-playing element, I agree with Nolithius
> that you'll end up basing everything on some trivial kind of player skill,
> just like chess or Doom. I'm not sure I could draw a line between
> "trivial skill games" and "complicated RPG-like games", but I know
> it when I see it. ;)

How does 'role-playing' change the game mechanics??? There is absolutely no
difference between a game being played by someone who is trying to role-play vs
someone trying to min-max, as far as the game-mechanics are concerned, except
the role-player makes occasionally worse decisions.

Note that I'm not talking about the enjoyment of the game, I'm talking about the
complexity of the game mechanics here. And I'm 100% sure that it is possible to
play RPG computer games without any role-playing on behalf of the player.
That's where my use of min-maxer comes from: a taxonomy of RPG playing styles.
Another one of which is a role-player.

And roguelikes have pretty complex game mechanics.

> >> 3) It follows that a way RPGs allow you to reduce the world to a manageable
> >> size is by providing classes or sets of skills. When a player selects a
> >> class or sets of skills, he is making a conscious decision along the vein of
> >> "This is what I want my character to be good at, this is how I see my
> >> character in relation to the gameworld, this is who my character is, he will
> >> behave based on his attributes/stats towards the gameworld", and possibly
> >> discarding or de-prioritizing other approaches. This is called roleplaying.
>
> Yeah.
>
> > But I'm not stopping the player from making any of these decisions.
> > [...] So in the situation where a player finds a better mace than
> > their sword, all the skill points that they've spent on sword skill are
> > not wasted. Or worse yet, if they've chosen a class penalized from using
> > maces (because they have to let the blood of their enemies flow freely
> > when fighting them), they will have to just throw the mace over their
> > shoulder and move on.
>
> Exactly. RPGs are kinda like real life that way; if you make a poor
> decision early on, you might pay for it later (and learn from the
> experience, and not make the same mistake in later games). Also, it's
> possible to just plain have a streak of bad (or good!) luck. The trick
> is balancing the game so that no decision is /obviously/ poor, and no
> streak of luck can /totally/ ruin an experienced player.

I'm not taking away any of this by removing classes and skills. You can still
make poor decisions in the game without requiring that you be a particular
class or investment of skills. Of course, by having classes and skills, its
possible to force the player to make a lot more poor decisions, without
realising the consequences. I'd much rather the player was made aware of the
consequences.
[...]


> If you make a Nethack-style "luck" stat, but affected only by character
> level, then you don't really have a "luck" stat --- it would be better
> to say that the character's to-hit, to-dodge, saving throws, etc., are
> affected by his level.

To be clear, that is what I meant.

> >> It's unfortunate that you don't sound like you will bring this to
> >> fruition, because I would like to see how this works out. If anything,
> >> as an exercise in a different approach to RLs.
>
> Ditto.

I've realised its feasible to emulate this in Unangband relatively easily, by
creating e.g. a Beginner class, giving them every class ability and changing
the UI to hide classes until you uncheck an option. This would mean everyone
starting the game did so without selecting a class or skills. Similar to the
Adventurer class in Nethack for instance.

Would anyone be interested in this?

> >> In addition, before you send in the jury on this approach resulting in "more
> >> cool features for the player" you should take time to think about what
> >> exactly does that mean for the player: more fun? more tedious management?
> >> Less choice? A bigger challenge? More interesting gameplay? Less
> >> customization?
> >
> > Cool = fun, of course.
>
> Yes, but what /is/ fun for you? Your ideas don't sound very much fun
> to /me/, so I conclude that we have different ideas of "fun". (Not that
> there's anything wrong with that.) Some people find managing a limited
> inventory "fun"; others find it tedious; others find it frustrating,
> because they hate to throw anything away. Some people want to have a
> totally different world to explore in each game; others like to see
> a few of the same familiar sights each time they play. Some people are
> fascinated if each NPC in the game has a uniquely generated name; some
> people enjoy games with lots of close combat tactics, and couldn't
> care less about the names of what they kill. There are lots of ways
> to have "fun"; what's yours?

My way to have fun is coding a roguelike ;) But I don't see anyone releasing a
game that allows me to play that so I have to do it in real life instead.

Andrew Doull

unread,
Jan 13, 2007, 4:10:43 AM1/13/07
to
On 2007-01-13 03:15:31, Billy Bissette <bai...@coastalnet.com> wrote:

> Andrew Doull wrote in


> news:eo7nua$mg2$1...@news.vol.cz:
>
> > Agreed. However, I don't want to force the player not to experience it
> > either. Which is what a class / skill system does. My example is
> > deliberately picked to illustrate this. If a character makes the
> > effort to sneak up to a monster which remains unaware of them, I don't
> > want to penalize everyone who did not bother to pick the right class /
> > learn the right set of skills to the right level and miss out on my
> > cool "backstab bonus from a short blade, fountain blood everywhere and
> > force the player to drag the body into the shadows and mop the floor
> > routine" that I have written specifically for this situation.
>
> Then don't. A class/skill system doesn't even force that situation.
> There are class/skill systems that allow everyone a bonus on unaware
> opponents, or back shots, or whatever combination you prefer.

What about a class/skill system that lets me cast any spell I want, and set
traps, and fight with any weapon I want, and shoot with bows, and ...

And I'm not talking about a munchkin character here. What if I want to
'role-play' a grizzled swordsman who happens to be an excellent tracker and
archer and can cast spells to cure any wound and cure any disease, but no other
spells. Or a 'normal human being' who is physically weak and has no particular
skills except the ability to cast any spell. Or... I realise that a skill
system can accommodate these a lot more readily than a class system, BTW. But I
bet in the first example, it'd be a hugely inefficient use of skill points.

So what does classes and skills give me in the instance where everyone can do
everything? A way of expressing player preference. But surely what the player
does in the game is a way of expressing player preference. And I can't
necessarily predict every player preference. So why should I try to tie it down
with classes and skills.

Please, someone give me a convincing argument of what classes and skills above a
system where a player is capable of every action. So far I've seen the following
arguments:

1. Classes and/or skills restrict what the player can do.
2. Classes and/or skills give the character bonuses to do certain things.
3. Classes and/or skills allow me to role-play.
4. Classes and/or skills give me pleasure because I can tweak my character to
reflect what I want.

Now none of them convince me. 1 feels wrong. 2 is probably the best argument
I've seen. 3 and 4 are tenuous at best, and I don't believe rely on an
implementation of classes and skills. e.g its possible to role-play and tweak
the character without implementing either of these.

I could easily just put in a command to allow the player to title their
character (e.g. Andrew the Alchemist), without guessing what possible classes /
titles to use. Or I could provide in game rewards to 'earn' certain titles,
without tying any of these to the game mechanics.

> Hrm, which raises a question... How do you stand upon multiple
> religions with the ability to switch, perhaps with a penalty? Games
> with choices of gods generally have unique pros and cons for each one,
> and choosing one god means you don't get the abilities of the others.
> But what if you can switch, with penalty? (Without penalty, there is
> only a little difference between being able to switch and just having
> every pro available on demand.) Religion becomes closer to an
> equipment choice.

Agreed.

>
> > You have more of a problem with a class and skill based system, which
> > is the game system may not generate items that the class or skill
> > system requires.
> >
> > And if it always does, it creates a suspension of disbelief. "Wait a
> > sec. Every ooze I fight is dropping swords for me."
>
> (Quick note: You probably mean stretches, tests, or breaks the
> suspension of disbelief, not creates. Particularly if you mean an
> Angband-style item drop. Though one could argue that use if he really
> wanted to.)

This was a typo. I meant 'creates a suspension of disbelief problem'.

> Depends.
>
> If you play a strict class/ability game, why generate spellbooks at
> all for a warrior? (Or perhaps replace them with a generic "magic
> book" which can still be sold to shops.)

This is a real problem, and one I've spent a lot of time and thought working on.
For instance, to use the Magic Book example, I've made it possible even if you
are a warrior, to sell the magic book to a store to allow a shopkeeper to learn
spells from it instead. The shopkeeper then can provide additional services to
you. e.g. sell a book of fire magic to the armoury, and the shopkeeper can then
enchant armour to make it resist fire damage.

> A priest that isn't allowed to use swords at all (instead of perhaps
> taking a penalty for using them) and has no other use for them
> (sacrifice, worthwhile resale, etc) may just be considered to ignore
> them on sight.

I don't like this idea.

> Besides, oozes dropping weapons already relies on a suspension of
> disbelief. :)
>
> Angband in particularly already has a relatively unbelieveable
> system for monster drops. Dragons carry their entire hordes with them?
> Monsters drop weapons that they realistically would have been using?
> They drop items that they have no use for? They don't carry things
> that they logically should have had (like light sources or weapons or
> armor)? Some things aren't as common as they arguably should be, and
> others are way too common?

That's why I've changed this so that in Unangband, drops are tied to the type of
monster...

Christophe Cavalaria

unread,
Jan 13, 2007, 4:33:06 AM1/13/07
to
R. Dan Henry wrote:

> On Fri, 12 Jan 2007 16:39:28 GMT, "Nolithius" <Noli...@earthlink.net>
> wrote:
>
>>By the way, RPG *definitely* implies skills; and more specifically, skill
>>customization (somehow)-- this is not really a matter of opinion, it is
>>what defines the genre.
>
> No, it doesn't. On could, for example, play an extremely freeform game
> with a coin as randomizer, allowing any action an equal chance of
> success or failure. This isn't going to be very simulationist and
> probably wouldn't work well except for a somewhat (to very) silly game,
> but that wouldn't preventing from being a role-playing game (if you
> meant that you need skill to use a rocket-propelled grenade, I will
> concede your point, but would not see any relevance).

You can go farther. I know of one PnP RPG which consist of one single
adventure and uses no Pen and no Dice at all. The DM simply decides by
imself of the results of any action.

Martin Read

unread,
Jan 13, 2007, 7:05:47 AM1/13/07
to
Andrew Doull <andre...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>I've realised its feasible to emulate this in Unangband relatively easily, by
>creating e.g. a Beginner class, giving them every class ability and changing
>the UI to hide classes until you uncheck an option. This would mean everyone
>starting the game did so without selecting a class or skills. Similar to the
>Adventurer class in Nethack for instance.

There is no "Adventurer" class in Nethack, and to the best of my
knowledge there never has been.

The *Tourist* can learn every weapon and physical combat skill (and is
the /only/ class who can learn them all), but has limits of Expert in
Dagger, Short Sword, and Dart, Skilled in Knife, Scimitar, Saber,
Unicorn Horn, Bare-Handed Combat, and Two-Weapon Combat, and Basic in
the others.

He can't learn every spellcasting skill; he can only learn the divination,
enchantment, and escape skills, and can only raise them to Basic, Basic,
or Skilled respectively. (He can learn spells outside those domains,
just like anyone else can, but won't be very good at them.)

He's also quite hard to get *started*, especially if you're used to
playing combat-wombats. He has mediocre Strength and Dexterity and a
relatively weak starting weapon (but, he has a panic-button device in
the form of the expensive camera), and getting hold of a better weapon
will require putting up with the non-proficiency penalty for a while.

Finally, the Tourist has a distinctive class ability: he can use the
Platinum Yendorian Express Card more effectively than other classes.
--
Martin Read - my opinions are my own. share them if you wish.
\_\/_/ http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~mpread/dungeonbash/
\ / "the lights shine clear through the sodium haze the night draws near
\/ and the daylight fades" -- Sisters of Mercy, "Lights"

Martin Read

unread,
Jan 13, 2007, 7:16:38 AM1/13/07
to
Andrew Doull <andre...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>What about a class/skill system that lets me cast any spell I want, and set
>traps, and fight with any weapon I want, and shoot with bows, and ...

It's called 3rd edition D&D. You can't build a character who is
*brilliant* at everything, but you can make yourself pretty versatile
nevertheless. (Being a specialist may be more effective, of course,
particularly where spellcasting classes are concerned.)

Crawl's skill system does a reasonable job, too, though some skills have
bootstrapping problems (Armour and Spellcasting spring immediately to
mind) and some skills are poor choices for some races.

>And I'm not talking about a munchkin character here. What if I want to
>'role-play' a grizzled swordsman who happens to be an excellent tracker and
>archer and can cast spells to cure any wound and cure any disease, but no other
>spells.

I think a mid-to-high-level 3rd Edition D&D Ranger following the "archery"
combat style is pretty close to this, though he's a rather more capable
spellcaster than that.

Gerry Quinn

unread,
Jan 13, 2007, 12:36:16 PM1/13/07
to
In article <4ROph.9129$pQ3....@newsread4.news.pas.earthlink.net>,
Noli...@earthlink.net says...

> By the way, RPG *definitely* implies skills; and more specifically, skill
> customization (somehow)-- this is not really a matter of opinion, it is what
> defines the genre.

Couldn't you have an RPG that depends only on character?

If you are playing a good character you help out NPCs, if you are
playing an greedy one you steal from them - there's no need in
principle for your skills to be different in both cases.

- Gerry Quinn

Gerry Quinn

unread,
Jan 13, 2007, 12:47:16 PM1/13/07
to
In article <eoa7mj$2qbe$1...@news.vol.cz>, andre...@hotmail.com says...

> What about a class/skill system that lets me cast any spell I want, and set
> traps, and fight with any weapon I want, and shoot with bows, and ...
>
> And I'm not talking about a munchkin character here. What if I want to
> 'role-play' a grizzled swordsman who happens to be an excellent tracker and
> archer and can cast spells to cure any wound and cure any disease, but no other
> spells. Or a 'normal human being' who is physically weak and has no particular
> skills except the ability to cast any spell. Or... I realise that a skill
> system can accommodate these a lot more readily than a class system, BTW. But I
> bet in the first example, it'd be a hugely inefficient use of skill points.

Wait a minute - you are betting that if you write a game that caters
for this, you will design the skill system to make it inefficient?
Why?

It's up to you how you make the skill system. For example, you could
let the character choose from a large number of specific skills with no
particular synergy. Choosing "healing spells" would not give extra
mana making it inefficient to combine this with "swordsmanship" rather
than "fire spells".

- Gerry Quinn


R. Dan Henry

unread,
Jan 14, 2007, 1:26:31 PM1/14/07
to
On 13 Jan 2007 12:16:38 +0000 (GMT), Martin Read
<mpr...@chiark.greenend.org.uk> wrote:

>Andrew Doull <andre...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>>What about a class/skill system that lets me cast any spell I want, and set
>>traps, and fight with any weapon I want, and shoot with bows, and ...
>
>It's called 3rd edition D&D.

Or Rolemaster, any edition.

>Crawl's skill system does a reasonable job, too,

Except that it isn't a class/skill system, but simply a skill system
(although races function rather like Rolemaster classes in biasing
towards easier learning of certain skills). If one includes pure skill
systems, then this is their common feature and the list of such games is
long.

David Damerell

unread,
Jan 16, 2007, 11:48:39 AM1/16/07
to
Quoting R. Dan Henry <danh...@inreach.com>:
>On Fri, 12 Jan 2007 16:39:28 GMT, "Nolithius" <Noli...@earthlink.net>
>>By the way, RPG *definitely* implies skills; and more specifically, skill
>>customization (somehow)-- this is not really a matter of opinion, it is what
>>defines the genre.
>No, it doesn't. On could, for example, play an extremely freeform game
>with a coin as randomizer, allowing any action an equal chance of
>success or failure.

Although I'm occasionally guilty of it myself, I should point out you're
responding to a post using "RPG" to mean "computer game with vaguely D&D
mechanics" but yourself using "RPG" correctly to mean "roleplaying game".
--
David Damerell <dame...@chiark.greenend.org.uk> Kill the tomato!
Today is Second Olethros, January - a weekend.

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