(today’s post: 643 words)
(I honestly am not planning to jump into independent role-playing game development, as I admitted yesterday in my post on Passage, but that doesn’t mean I can’t think about what I would do if I were making a game. I think it’s obvious that this series is a fun hobby for me in its own right.)
One of the things that playing Passage made me realize is that if I were going to make an RPG I’d have to incorporate some type of time limit/aging process.
There are a lot of so-called “hardcore rules” that some RPGs use – such as sleeping or eating requirements. And, most of the time, those rules add little to the game. At best, they’re there as a lazy “drain” – that is, instead of balancing the economy just force the player to constantly buy food and housing. At worst, there is no thought at all given to their implementation. They are there, perhaps, only because the designer think he’s making a more immersive or challenging game – or maybe because the designer played a game where it worked well, but hasn’t given thought as to why it worked.
I think aging not only works in the vision of the RPG I have in my head, but I’ve come to realize it’s likely necessary.
- For one, my sandbox-style RPG is based upon the idea of time lines. The world itself progresses. Small groups of monsters band together to form large clans – which destroy similarly-burgeoning cities. It only makes sense that time applies across all ements – the character, too.
- For another, there is the idea of replayability. Consider the amount of potential discovery there is in a world where you can only see so much of it on any given playthrough. If you can see it all on the first go-around, why play again?
- For a third, I think time limits, as suggested in Passage, come with all sorts of inherent motivations. In any given RPG, I’m trying to resolve every plot. Faced with a time limit, I’m going to focus on what I consider important to my character. That could mean a lot of different things, but it certainly impacts my choices.
- I like the idea of assigning a random starting age to your character. At 15, he has a head start on disrupting (or taking over) that band of ogres that may eventually destroy our city. Maybe a more wise, well-rounded hero doesn’t leave the nest until he’s in his 20s – well after the wheels of motion are moving to destroy the town. Characters can become legendary for one significant accomplishment or a long life filled with them.
Of course, these lead to the natural question of “how much time is enough?” If the game ends just as you’re getting lost in enjoying the world, you’re angry. If your character dies of old age before you can rescue the one princess you set out to save and marry, you never play the game again. But equate a life span to a play session, and it feels natural. Sit down for an afternoon, create a character, play it through, and try again tomorrow.
Getting killed by trolls doesn’t sting as badly if that death only represents a small investment of time.
Additionally, setting time limits actually helps me-the-designer acknowledge scope.
If I were making this game on my own or with a small pool of volunteers, I have to make a smaller game. I’d also have to worry about game size if I wanted people to play it more than once (most people aren’t going to play a 45-hour game more than once; most people won’t even finish a game longer than that). And if I’m implementing crazy-complex-scripted-but-alterable time lines, I’m going to have to minimize world size.
When you’re looking at something from this high up, you shouldn’t micromanage the little details. But for a point of reference, not knowing even the basics of this “game”, I think I like the idea of starting with a life span of 4-5 hours (with a potential range of 2-12 hours). You could play it all in one shot or quit and resume that game later (no save & reload, though!).