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Article - 'Realistic Games' by Shinan

An item about Game Design posted on Feb 21, 2004

Blurb

An article that questions that aspects of realistic-ness in games.

Body

(Yes, the idea came from the "comedy article" by Angroth. Unfortunately this ain't comedy though. But it is my first article on GW, if it gets approved that is.)


The thing that bugs me off a lot in games is how illogical and stupidly unrealistic RPGs are most of the time. The examples are many and people have taken them up a lot. We have the random encounters, we have strange summons that destroy the world only to deal minimal damage, we have towns in mountains that are so backwards in technology and knowledge that it's unbelievable how they still sell the best weapons in the game. All of these are things people complain about all the time (sometimes half-jokingly) but still they hail the RPGs that include these elements.
However some of these things are, if not necessary, then at least useful. Since games usually rely on HP and levels and progressive advancement the most powerful weapons in the game HAS to be in that small backwater village you reach just before the end of the game.

But what if one tried to be a little more realistic and apply logic to the games? After all there are many comics out on the web addressing how stunningly strange RPGs are while PnPs (well, some of them) strive to be as realistic as possible. Where PnPs have become more and more realistic all the time, mostly to give more time for role-playing and diplomacy than fighting, eastern cRPGs have gone the exact opposite to less role-playing and more unrealistic characters where the stats are just numbers and where battling is the only thing these stats do. (How long was it since a good intelligence scored helped you solve anything in a Japanese console RPG?)

There are many ways to make a game more realistic and also make it enjoyable in many ways. First we have an approach on building your world. Don't just place out villages and mountains at random, make a system, where would the towns be placed? Think out trade routes, mining villages and so on. The same applies to the village but in smaller scale, why is the village there? Where was the first houses? Think about things like main streets and so on, if you feel really ambitious then make the town the size it logically should be.
All of these approaches has been done and done again in articles about how to design your world and how to design your town. Almost all of the articles have focused on how to make your town or world believable. In other words, more realistic.

Another important part when making a world feel realistic is to make the world alive. This is very hard and I have never pulled it off (though I have never completed a game either so). If the heroes don't accept an offer they are given, let someone else do it! If the heroes have one week until a poison kills them, then kill them if they don't get the antidote! Don't have the heroes running around doing other stuff and sleeping in inns as they please (I remember playing Baldur's Gate and someone poisoned me there to have me do something, the poison was supposed to kill me within a week but I went to an inn and slept for a week just to try it out and nothing happened, so much for the motivation. Another example is FFVII where the comet was going to hit the earth in a matter of days; yeah sure, during those days I spent a couple of in-game months breeding chocobos and whatnot.)
In making a world feel realistic, not everything should always depend on the heroes, what if in the case of a comet hitting the earth in a week the heroes decided to do something else for a while and when they get back the realize that someone else did the job for them and are now the heroes. Alright that is an extreme example but it is always important to keep the world going even without the heroes. (A good way is by using some kind of time system, let the game take place during a month with pre-set things that can happen and then on these and these days, this and this happens even if the heroes aren't around)

Making your battle system realistic is another thing that I'd love to see. What if those automatic rifle-equipped soldiers were as dangerous in the beginning as in the end? After all a shot in the head will kill you even if you happen to have traveled the world and killed a couple of dragons or whatnot. Of course realistic and deadly systems might be hard on the player but it could give an emphasis on diplomacy and talking your way out rather than blasting your way through it all. With more realism comes more options as well. Instead of getting that key why not blast the door to bits or even climb up the roof and enter through the chimney in real Santa Claus style. In battle you can hide behind barrels, use bodies as protection and all that other stuff.
The only real problem with realism or at least some realism is that it is damn hard to do. It is much easier to put a linear story with no options what so ever and a battle system with random battles that make you puke than to keep the nonlinear free story exciting through all the ten different roads you can take and program it so that you're able to climb that wall to escape the guards hunting you. It is always tempting to take the easy way out and to be honest I don't expect amateur makers to make all that. I would like some more of it in commercial games though.
Or is it true?
Realism doesn't sell?