Tacticular Cancer: We'll have your balls

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Update #3: Quest Example

Discussion in 'Titan Outpost' started by MF, Sep 28, 2017.

  1. MFgender: ⚧ Arcane

    MF
    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2002
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    492
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    Amsterdam
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    Hello everyone. Here is the third update, time to talk quests.

    Here is a quest example with some of the solutions. Not every quest will be solvable by every character, but this one will. It’s the first quest to get you started. It’s not a tutorial and you could theoretically ignore it for a while, but you can’t do much until this is done. Spoilers from here on out.

    The premise:

    The data link with Kronos station is offline. You can communicate with mission command, but they’re not receiving any data and you don’t have access to the polar radar satellites. You have to fix this.

    What happened:

    Water particles thrown up from your landing have landed on the main dish on the radio tower outside and frozen its alignment system. The servomotor is not getting enough power so it can’t break loose.

    The solutions:

    -You can go outside, climb the radio tower and yank the main dish loose. If your physical attribute is high enough, it works. This is an attribute check and done through dialogue with the narrator.

    -You can go outside, climb the tower and fix the servo motor. If you put all your points in construction at character creation, you can just fix the faulty wiring, the motor breaks free and you’re done. If your construction skill is one or two, you can replace the system with some spare parts from your inventory, depending on the skill level. Without any points on construction, this option is unavailable. There is a deeper layer of choice involved here, since you have a limited number of spare parts available and acquiring or making more is expensive. The construction skill will also determine the workmanship level of the fix. If the workmanship level is lower, the chance of this system breaking down later on is higher.

    [​IMG]

    -You can go outside and use the tower itself as a dipole cage antenna if your science skill is high enough. This will fix the data link with Kronos, mission accomplished. It will also limit comms range for your rover, because you’re opening the system up to interference. So if your character has construction and science skill, science is not the optimal auto-win skill, you might still be better off spending some spare parts depending on what you want to do with them later.

    -You can remain inside the base and hack the generator control system to enable the power surge option. With the generator control system, you can assign the limited power supply to the various outpost systems as you see fit. This is roughly based on the power system in Faster Than Light. Characters with hacking skill can use another feature, which is to give one system a short burst of power to increase its output. This automatically renders all other non-life support systems unpowered. This is part of the game mechanics and you can use this feature for many things once you hack the generator and circumvent its safety limits, but for this quest, a short power burst to the communications system will enable the dish servo to break itself free.


    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    -You can convince mission command to realign one of their long range dishes. They use that array to communicate with Earth, so this has other problems down the line and eventually something has to be done about the tower, but you can get started this way. With 9 or higher charisma, they will do so without much of a fuss, otherwise their disposition towards you will take a hit. If your negotiation skill is high enough, you can use the skill to mitigate this disposition loss. It will initiate a negotiation phase where you can wager negotiation skill against disposition and risk. This is the catch-all solution that any character can pass, as long as you’re willing to bruise your relationship with IASA. Ad hoc problem solving is the reason you’re on Titan, after all, and being unable to solve problems won’t sit well with them.

    [​IMG]
    -That leaves exploration and logistics as skills that are not directly utilized in this quest. Characters with skill points invested in these will be able to counter the lowered disposition with IASA later on by acquiring more wealth (money talks) and by finding interesting and valuable things respectively.

    As you can see in the screenshots, the skills appear on the left side of the screen in what I call the ‘skill strip’ when they can be used. Clicking on them will use that skill in the context-appropriate way.

    I used to have the skills in the toolbar below and you could use them everywhere. The context-appropriate way would be handled if it was necessary and otherwise it wouldn’t do anything, but I found that to be confusing. Reading prose variations of “That skill does nothing here.” might get tiresome. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lots and lots of places where you can use one or more of your skills, but having the option always there felt like misinforming the player. Skill use is almost entirely deterministic. You can often choose to augment or alter the results with items or set things up in ways that alter the outcome. I’m trying to prevent boring binary outcomes whenever I can, providing it makes sense of course.

    [​IMG]

    This leads me to a question:

    Would you prefer skill buttons to only be available when your skill actually does something, or do you want to be able to try any skill anywhere? In other words: Do you enjoy the mystery of not knowing where exactly you can use which skill? I know where I stand and I can infer from the debate on labelled dialogue choices that there is no consensus on this, but in this game, it’s not just in dialogue, it’s everywhere, and I'd like to know what you think.

    PS As you may have noticed, the updates are now monthly until further notice.
     
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  2. Lithium Flowergender: ⚧ Learned

    Lithium Flower
    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2016
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    Just dropping in to say that this, along with the New World, are the only things I am looking forward to. I greatly appreciate every update you have written so far - fascinating stuff!

    Question: you've mentioned that there is a chance of something going wrong. How much RNG would there be in this game? For example, are the skilllchecks static like in Age of Decadence or chance based like in D&D? If there is going to be randomization, how will you consolidate it with the otherwise focused and fluff-free game?

    To answer your own question, I think I prefer clearly labeled skill buttons. I think having obscured skill usage might result in point-and-click style time wasting where the player feels compelled to try every single skill on every single interactive object. Plus there is always a disconnect between the way the dev and player see things and as such things that might seem plausible or even obvious to the former might not occur to the later, and having to look up a guide because it didn't occur to you to use the Rhetoric skill on the generator is kind of a drag.
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2017
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  3. MFgender: ⚧ Arcane

    MF
    Joined:
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    Thanks! Glad to hear that.

    RNG in skill checks is pretty much nonexistent. It's a deterministic system. There are plenty of parameters to make things exciting, but no dice rolls here.

    Where RNG is a factor is in things breaking down and random encounters. Technically, you could savescum when a drone breaks down or another mostly negative event happens, but that will just make it more likely to happen later on due to how the workmanship levels are handled and how specific events are scripted to occur within certain timeframes. Besides, some of those situations can be beneficial depending on how you handle them. I'm trying to make it clear to the player that reloading won't help matters, but I'm not sure how to telegraph that idea yet. Savescumming impulses are hard to beat, even when it won't make a difference.

    We're on the same page about the skill buttons then. The alternative makes the world feel a bit more analogue, maybe, but I think the drawbacks are too severe.
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2017
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  4. Lithium Flowergender: ⚧ Learned

    Lithium Flower
    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2016
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    At the same time, some obfuscation could make the gameplay more interesting. Like in your quest example, where the player needs to actually climb the tower to discover that the strength solution. Putting some options out of the player's path could reward exploration as well as the player's creativity.

    I think one of the main challenges with this sort of game would be arguably the biggest problem with Age of Decadence: savescumming to figure out the best skillpoint allocation is the optimal but excessively "gamey" way to play, and the talker playstyle is essentially a CYOA with very little depth compared to meatier parts of the game.

    Have you considered the former issue and how you might address it? TNW is going for increase-with-use to combat it so I was curious if you have your own solution.

    As for the latter, I think it is an area that could actually benefit from some obfuscation. I am not the biggest fan of skill tags in dialogues because in most cases the tagged option is the only viable one provided the player has a high enough skill, eliminating the need for the player to actually think about the best way to interact with a particular character. AoD sort of got away with it as there were multiple social skills as well as ways to manipulate characters, sometimes in mutually-exclusive ways, so some care had to be put into selecting the correct response. A better cure than removing skill tags from dialogues, in my opinion, is to have several different variants of each persuasion attempt which have different target numbers, so that the player is forced to consider the best approach when dealing with a character they are trying to persuade. For example: the main character contacts Mr. Zheng, a director of operations in some corporation, for help. Mr. Z is narcissistic and does not tolerate being pushed around - but depending on MC's level of intel, they may or may not know this in advance of the conversation. There are three ways to rephrase a request help, the first being sycophantic groveling which requires Neglvl3 (this is assuming target numbers are obscured, like in AoD), the second a greater good argument that requires Neglvl4 as Mr. Z doesn't care much for it, and the last an intimidation attempt that angers Mr. Z and therefore requires a much higher Neglvl6. AoD had something similar on occasion - the target number for convincing Lady Lorenza in Maadoran during the Commercium questline is significantly lower if the main character impresses her by picking the right responses throughout the conversation - but this approach is still underutilized. I would imagine that it is also incredibly demanding of the writer.
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2017
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  5. MFgender: ⚧ Arcane

    MF
    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2002
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    Location:
    Amsterdam
    That's true. I'm not laying it all out for the player and there is no quest compass or anything.
    Yes, I have considered that. Right now I'm forcing the player to invest skillpoints immediately at levelup. I love how AoD doesn't have levels, but I never liked the idea of hoarding points. There is no XP inflation so it shouldn't be a problem. Another solution I have is that time is a factor. In AoD, you can linger for as long as you want and just do something else until you have enough points to pass a certain check, but here, you have power distribution, heat, oxygen, food, quota etc. to worry about.

    That's a very good point, and I like your example. In fact, there is a situation in the game quite like that, except intimidation isn't a factor there. Lady Lorenza was a high point for me as well. But my system is different.

    In the example I posted, if you click the negotiation button, it opens a negotiation phase where you always get multiple dialogue options and the character's disposition towards you also determines success. It's almost like a card game where you bet your disposition, your negotiation skill is your hand and charisma is your trump card. Writing it is demanding, no doubt about it, I didn't want to chicken out and use abstract responses.
     
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