Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
Remember that you do not have a classical protagonist, and if you insist on treating
the player as one, then you will very quickly run into the trap of having the player
say or do something that he would not have chosen to do.
Anticipate Smart Players
It is always a mistake to talk down to your audience, doubly so when writing an RPG.
Due to the very nature of the complexity of an RPG, the audience tends to be savvy
when it comes to storylines, twists, and plot holes. Much as you wouldn't expect a
simple flanking maneuver to surprise a modern strategy game enthusiast, don't for a
moment think the large plot hole you've exposed to your players will not be seen and
either exploited or mocked. Don't force players into obvious ambushes, make them
the agents of their own destruction, or ask them to believe their in-game avatar is at
any point less able than the players themselves.
2.5 Reinforcing a Player's Personal Fiction
Making sure that the world the player moves through stays consistent and provides a
space for the player to make decisions is only the first part of the puzzle. To complete
the experience, we must make sure to continually reinforce the decisions and self-
expression that come naturally to players who have been asked to create a protagonist
from scratch. There are a few simple techniques that can help achieve this goal, all
fairly easy to use if planned for ahead of time.
Don't Imply Character History for the Player
While it is fine at the beginning of a game to fill in a bit of character background for
the player—as long as it still allows for some interpretation and self-expression—it
is absolutely not okay to spring new details or character background on the player
while in mid-story. An NPC commenting out of the blue about the PC's sister when
the player assumed no family connections or an NPC making a declaration of some
wondrous or heinous deed the player's character is supposed to have done can shatter
the player's entire image for the character. The single exception to this would be
if the plot were actually about the fact that the player's character didn't know this
information, but in general, this is something to be stringently avoided.
Feedback on the Self-Expression Choices a Player Makes
When a player makes a decision about what class or race to play, what gender to be,
even what color hair to have, that player has given you a great opportunity to bring
his unique world to life. Having NPCs comment on these decisions, especially on
the unusual ones, will validate the player's choices and make the entire experience
more immersive. If the player has chosen a strangely fat elf, say something. If the
player is a dwarf without facial hair and that isn't the norm, say something. If the
player is a stereotype, comment on that as well. It's easy to do with a few variables
and pays huge dividends.
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