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Archive for the ‘Developer Rants’ Category

Some Thoughts On Gamification

I’ve found myself wondering about “gamification” with increasing frequency these last few months as various articles appear online to denounce it. What is it, exactly? And is it really as bad as they all say? What follows is a brief exploration of the concept and a look at its applications. …

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In Defense of “Gamification” in RPGs

Last week we had a double-barreled shotgun blast of opinion pieces advocating for RPGs to hide or drop some of their core conventions and abstractions. Tom Bissell, writing about Dead Island, complained about pop-up damage numbers in a real-world zombie RPG and landed a glancing blow against leveling and statistics-based…

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Imagined conversation and character-building

Looking back on my last developer rant, I’ve decided that I was a little bit too scattershot in my approach. I wanted to cover a multiplicity of areas where detail tends to get overlooked in RPGs, but in doing so I skimped on solutions. In particular, I want to revisit…

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Using Details to Craft a Coherent Game World

The RPG is an inherently inelegant creature. It is something of a Frankenstein monster, a suite of different gameplay systems stitched together into a shambling chimera. Character creation, simulated markets, item management, navigation, combat, stealth, dialog, puzzles, class and skill trees–as a developer, it is difficult enough simply to make…

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12 ways to improve turn-based RPG combat systems

In my last opinion piece, I provoked a certain subsection of the world of RPG enthusiasts by slaughtering a particularly sacred cow: the D&D-style combat system. A surprising number of people wrote in agreeing with me. Predictably, however, others responded in one of two ways: (1) “So you think a…

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The battle system I wish RPGs would stop using

Dungeons and Dragons, son of Chainmail, is the great granddaddy of the modern role-playing game. Its importance cannot be overstated: not only was it revolutionary for its time, it has also directly inspired many of the early computer RPGs on which the genre is now based. Because of D&D’s power…

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The advantages of shattering your game

Sometimes, in order to save something, you have to shatter it. Making Telepath RPG: Servants of God has taught me some hard lessons about the importance of modularity in designing a larger game. I’ve finally reached a point where, in order to finish creating the game, I must break it…

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So you created an action RPG. Stop congratulating yourself.

A recent Gamasutra interview with Matt Findley has caused a firestorm of debate to erupt across the internet concerning the continued vitality of turn-based RPGs. Findley is an alum of the now-defunct development studio Black Isle, which produced legitimately brilliant turn-based RPGs like Fallout. So you can understand why an…

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What makes an RPG an RPG: a universal definition

The human brain is a categorization machine. Cognition as we know it is made possible only because of this fact. By putting things into categories, we understand that those things share certain exclusive qualities. This is as true with games as it is with anything else. Game genres are categories…

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