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Article - 'Encouraging Role Playing' by Bondo

An item about Game Design posted on Aug 9, 2003


A self proclaimed piece of LITERARY GOLD, involving engrossing the player in the world you have created!


Encouraging Role Playing

Muaha! Here's yet another piece of literary gold for all who would enjoy it. This one involves the level of seriousness in a game, and how to encourage the player to become absorbed into the little world you have created. Enjoy!

Games people create can be categorized into three sections:

Simple Twitch Games - These include titles with an arcade feel, such as Space Invaders, or Pac Man. They are relatively simple to create and the level of seriousness is very low. It's not expected of anyone to get deeply involved in this type of game, and they're usually good for a cheap thrill or two.

Silly quasi-serious games - These include most of the RPG Maker stuff you see. Although there are exceptions, most games that have been made with RPG Maker are just plain silly. They have all the ingredients for a deep, involving title, but a spin is put on them by adding inside jokes, bad puns, and scenes that make you smile, raise an eyebrow, and shake your head. This kind of project may have even started out as a serious title, but a number of reasons could have caused the author to lose interest.

Deep, Involving, Serious Games - This is the holy grail for indie game designers. It's the most difficult kind of game to make, and requires a significant amount of effort from the author.

If you're the kind of game designer who is only interested in making hundreds of Pac Man clones. You probably don't need to read any further. You know all you need to know. The games you make will be worth three minutes of fun, but that's OK because you can make em' faster than anyone can play em'. Your games will have small download sizes, and this will make you highly popular with the poor low bandwidth people.

If you're the kind of designer who wants to make an RPG, but you have no experience, it's probably best to make a few silly, quasi-serious titles first. This will give you an idea of the kind of effort it will take to make the kind of game you want to make.

If you have already made a bunch of RPGs using the EZcreator of your choice, and you think they're all crap, then this article is probably targeted directly towards you. It's time for you to move up a few creative and artistic levels and start making serious games.

You want your games to have spirit. You want it to seem as though the little world you have created could actually exist. The first step towards attaining this ultimate goal is planning. You want to plan every aspect of your game, and I mean it when I say EVERY aspect. This is the way the pros do it. Before any actual game creation begins, a document is created containing maps, character bios, story line, scripts, sketches, basic layout of the user interface, etc. Every word, pixel, and sound is written into the game document. Sometimes, this is the most time consuming part of designing a game, it's also the most important. You can make an impromptu game, but chances are it's going to suck, unless you have godlike skill, which you most likely don't.

When making your game document, you want to take tips from writers who know what they are doing, such as William Shakespear, or Stephen King. You'll notice that any piece of literature worth reading contains a beginning, a middle, a climax, and a conclusion. The beginning should introduce characters and environments. It should generally set the mood that the rest of the story will follow. In the beginning of the story, most of the problems are created. By problems, I mean obstacles that the player will need to overcome. Some examples of this include a princess being captured, a weapon of mass destruction being built, or an evil warlord rising to power. There should be multiple problems for the player to solve at once to keep the game from being too linear and to give the player some choices.

The middle is where the player solves these problems. The player should be able to solve the problems in any order, with some problems being impossible to solve without solving a different one first. For example, the player may have to solve the problem of lowering the bridge before he can storm the castle. The problems should be varying in type as well. A game where every problem can be solved by killing something gets dull quickly. Some problems should be solved by simply killing things, others by solving a puzzle or questioning NPCs for information.

The climax is just what it says it is. The initial problems have been solved, and the story line is blown open. Action intensifies and the skill of the player is put to the final and most difficult test. All this action is somewhat short lived however, and it quickly recedes into the conclusion.

The conclusion is a sudden relief after the climax. The core of the problem has been solved, and now the player can finally relax. This part commonly contains humor, or perhaps nostalgia. It should instill a feeling of accomplishment for the player.

Throughout the creation of the story of your game, try to avoid puns or inside jokes. These totally destroy the atmosphere of a game. Instead, use the occaisional comic relief. You might have one character that has a humorous trait, such as clumsiness. Discreetly cut into the seriousness to lighten the mood with a small, but refreshing scene the player might find funny. You might try putting the characters into a love triangle situation. Have two characters fight over another of the opposite sex. Lots of humorous scenes can be created with this.

Well, there you have it. Follow these guidelines, and your game should be a masterful work of art worth playing. I'll take this opportunity to suggest Game Maker as the game creation engine of choice. It won't be as easy to use as some other engines, but the results will be greater. You can only get out of something what you put into it. This is Bondo, signing out.