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Re: (TFT) the challenge of computers, and idea
Role-playing was the first thing I had ever seen where people would get
up, turn off the TV, turn off the radio, sit around a table, and actually
listen to each other tell stories. Seating order became very important. It
felt like being a participant in the evolution of culture. It had a real
sense of membership.
It's strange, but now in days to make money off of RPGs they almost
have to be computer games. It's like everyone has found a way to plug
Themselves back into the wall. It is fascinating to watch people tell
stories, describe events, and relive moments. They participate in the group
consciousness. Computers add no value to this experience.
At least I used to think this way. I have found one form of computer
gaming that has some merit. Multi-player games. Like Diablo or the first
person shooters. Some of the real time simulations with multi-player are
Warcraft, Starcraft, Dark-Reign, Command & Conquer. Unfortunately the sim
style games like Civilization, Masters of Orion, and Alpha Centauri are not
viable for internet play. If a game takes more than a half hour not many
people are going to log on. The first person shooters give instant action
and rapid deaths. They tend to draw the bigger crowds.
Most of the older gamers I know like the turn based civilization type
games. The younger ones like the real time games. One guy described it as
tactics for the young and strategy for the older. It?s a shame the sim type
games don?t play quicker. They are the closest ones to what being a GM is
like. They take far too long for anything but a solo adventure. Another
problem with the sim games is they rely heavily on computer assistance, or
AI for the unit behaviors. Computer generated AI eventually becomes
predictable. Not like human players.
Playing against computer AI is ok for learning the game. Playing
against other human players is the real challenge. I would like to see a
client server game that could handle 2 to 5,000 users at once. It would be
a huge environment. See what kind of herds, mobs, and gangs form. Maybe
even tribes. But that is just a huge arena free for all. Its hard to be
remembered as an individual in such a feeding frenzy. The best status
anyone could achieve would be the highest kills per hour.
The thing computer games make me miss the most were the arts and crafts
that went with early campaign design. Getting a nice set of colored pencils
or markers and making neat looking maps. Learning about maps and
cartography. The little map symbols and scales. Drawing floor plans.
Sketching out 3-d patterns on paper as if the object were unfolded and
laying flat. Drafting the plans for a megahex pillar (to miniature scale)
cutting it out, folding it up, and gluing it together. In ITL I think there
was a sentence that said to cut megahexes out and piece them together.
Designing, typing up, and photocopying the character sheet for one's
own campaign. Maybe introducing a new attribute, trying it out. A lot can
be said about a campaign by analyzing its character sheet. Its also an easy
way to show new players how one?s campaign is different, or at least what
will be focused on. Seeing the superstitions players develop about their
dice, and their dice rolling. Which customs to allow and which to
discourage. All of the fore mentioned are experiences that the players of
computer game don't get. Players don't even have to make their own maps to
avoid getting lost. Games now provide one automatically filled in as one
explores the world.
Of course the benefits of computer gaming are unmatchable. To kill as
many monsters with paper, dice, and pencils as can be killed in one hour
would probably take a week of real time. The game never breaks down as one
player gets in an argument with the GM. It is very hard to loose ones'
character sheet. Finding a free Saturday when everyone can get together,
isn't even an issue. Usually thousands of people are already on-line,
playing 24-7. The problem is one never really gets to meet those people.
They tend to look like every other fighter in the game, and use the same
animated attacks as every other fighter. Most offer a variance of about
eight pre-made characters.
What would be cool is if players could make their own equipment, armor,
spells, or monsters, and bring them on-line to try them out. It would be
much easier to tell the online players apart, and to remember them. This
would require some kind of game that is a balanced set of formulas.
Formulas that could be used to design equipment, armor, spells, or monsters
so they would be balanced with the rest of the game. Something like, if it
did more damage then it hits less often. Or if it stopped more damage it
moved slower. Or if it burns more area it takes more energy. A game that
could do all of that.
I have been working on this for some time and have encountered two
major problems. Firstly to make a game that is balanced for this day, and
the next, there can?t be any experienced gained. The typical experience for
a first time MUD player back in the eighties was to spend an hour logging on
and making a character only to be killed by some 57th level ranger lord
hanging around in town. He is full of the advantages of experience points.
Once a piece is designed it has to be finite and static like a chess piece,
so it will fit into the power relationships and not unbalance things.
Players hate this. Most will not even tolerate discussion of a ?no
experience? game. Look at Diablo. Gaining levels is one of the major
drawing forces of player satisfaction.
Secondly adventure settings suffer from what I call ?junk yard
syndrome?. Take ?Car Wars? for example. One could spend hours designing a
car. Then in three to twenty seconds the car is riddled with bullets,
burnt, blown up, and smashed. It is a wreck that is only good for scrap.
Even if one wins, it is still only fit for the junk yard. To play again one
has to make a new car. In multi-player Diablo one has to frequently start a
new game as the monsters have all be depopulated. Even the first person
shooters have to keep spawning weapons and ammo. On-line environments don?t
last very long, and frequently have to be reset to the beginning. ?Junk
yard syndrome? also affects the sequels to computer games. Almost never,
can one bring a character from a previous version into the latest one. 400
hours of character development lost. The old character has to be discarded
like so much junk, and a new one started. If I acted like a diablo game and
made my players start back at the beginning after they had taken a dungeon,
and if I made them make new characters for each adventure, they wouldn?t
A computer game that substitutes creativity and personality for
experience and levels isn?t within reach yet. But computer games are
circling in on it. I would say that your first thought about the 128K Apple
II, and the fact that
?D&D was just way too complex to play on a computer?
May still be true. To make an analogy, Diablo doesn?t really go beyond
IQ 7 talents. There is no swimming, no horsemanship, they don?t let you run
your own armory, ship building is a no go, and monster followers is not even
an option. The only reason I play is to see how people are behaving on the
net. But that is another rant.
?Now the adventurers are faced with the task of persuading the hobbits
that digging the hill up is a good idea?
A quote from the original Mummy comes to mind. I cant remember it
exactly, but the Mummy had been awake and reintegrated with Egyptian society
for fifteen years. He was trying to get some archaeologist to open some
tomb that only he knew the location of. Growing suspicious the
Archaeologist asked why he hadn?t excavated the tomb himself. He said
something like ?For us Egyptians to dig up our own dead is grave robbing,
but for you english, archaeology.?
Let talk about us Mnoren. May I talk about cidri, maybe even venturing
on how it could have been made? How big can a gate be. Is there a limit.
For the sake of argument let us say there is no limit on the size of a
Mnoren gate. Six gates can enclose a hex. The rule could be set so that in
the middle of a labrynth a single hex of lush green sunlite pasture could be
found, and in the middle of a pasture a single dark hex of labrynth floor.
Now expand this to Mnoren gates that are one hundred miles long. One could
start linking worlds together. Cidri could have been made in much the same
?Certainly no ordinary planet. Cidri is BIG. No complete map of its
surface is known. The standard work, compiled two hundred years ago by the
Imperial College of Cartographers at Predimuskity, shows 48 continents
(defined as land masses of over 5,000,000 square km, ); five of thes are in
excess of 60,000,000 square km. Almost half the known surface of Cidri is
covered with water; most of its seas are dotted with islands.?
- ITL page 4
It is with the islands that I would make a net game. Each player is a
GM who makes their own island. When they log on their island rises up out
of the ocean. Their secret base as it were. They can drive the island
around like a ship and dock it with another players island. If they send a
hero onto someone else?s island then the campaign the character came from
sinks back under the water as the GM is out and not available. In this way
one could host or adventure. They could only adventure as one of the
creatures from their campaign. As our old GMing rule went ?One can play in
anyone?s game they wish, except their own. If someone is GMing then they
have to rely on the AI for the details, they are playing a strategy game.
If someone wants first person perspective they have to leave their home land
and play in someone else?s campaign. I believe that something like this
would really allow players to start showing off their stuff.
I would be happy to log on with just a couple of floating towers.
Instead of spending all those resource points on land, animals, humanoids,
and monsters, just buy a Mac daddy wizards lab, a lot of wizards, and a lot
of apprentices. I always loved making big magic items for TFT. I wonder if
I could make a lightning rod big enough to blow a character off of another
island. And from how far.
David Michael Grouchy II
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