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Old 05-10-2016
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Levels
Not really (despite me referring to higher level a few times in this document). Characters can choose a new perk every X number of skill point raises. While it might seem attractive to grab loads of low-hanging skill points to quickly load up on perks this tactic will mean that the chance to specialise becomes a lot harder. Specialisation in a skill or series of skills is where a character's power lies.

Combat
There needs to be stuff to do. Skill/round based combat can get pretty boring pretty quickly if all you’ve got to do is click on an enemy and wait for your numbers to beat their numbers. Lots of per-combat abilities combined with intelligent weapon choices, battlefield positioning and the usefulness of having friends (NPC or real) should be used to keep things from getting boring.

Weapon Specialities need to be more than numbers - You need to be able to do special stuff with your specialities!
Grapple opponents, head butt, shield slam, bite, groin kick (Krav Maga!), throat punch, eye gouge, knee kick, arm lock, surprise punch, pistol whip, face/rib stamp (if opponent knocked down). Make combat less showboat, more desperate-for-survival.
Weapons relate to armour. Someone unarmoured with a kitchen knife vs someone in full plate with a sword is only really going to end one way. Unless, the knife wielder is some crazy experienced and very lucky person who can successfully not get stabbed, grapple their opponent to the floor and stab them in the eye slot.

AI and dynamic worlds.
Man, I love them behaviour trees. Until a fairly recently I never really got interested in that side of things, but these days I loves it.

Having a living, breathing, storyable world would be my top priority - That extends to the behaviours and attributes of the various NPCs and creatures that inhabit the world. I’d love to see hostile actions being only one of a range of tools at your disposal.

First step; spawns need to have behaviours and needs. Combat isn’t the default option for most creatures, it shouldn’t need to be ingame either.

So, animals should have appropriate behaviours - Yes, if they’re hungry and you’re looking worn down then there’s a chance they may attack. But if they have no particular need (not showing off, not hungry, you’re not a threat, no young nearby, they’re not defending territory, etc) then they’ll likely ignore you or move away unless you provoke them. Even if they consider you hostile they may not actually attack, they might posture and threaten to get you to go away, or they could rip your face off and eat it. A character with the right skills/perks could also get visual cues regarding the animal's mood or likely behaviours.

Interaction with intelligent groups would be more complex as there’d need to be more values than just the creatures immediate needs to take into account but the essence is the same - they’ll just be able to use different tactics to fulfil their needs and have different spawn groups with their own methods of achieving their goals (War Party, Hunter/Gatherer, Trader, Patrol, etc)

For instance let’s say you encounter a pack of intelligent humanoids. It’s your first time meeting them and they’re largely neutral, the spawned group is hunting for a certain object type - They’ll keep a distance to start then taking into account you and your party's threat rating (based on your health, equipment, group size. Can be raised or lowered briefly using non verbal communications, because that shit’s underused). So they might investigate, threaten, ignore or flee. What you do in response will influence the final outcome. Ultimately you could develop a friendly relationship with them, (much more likely if you’re visibly carrying what they’re after), or even influence their spawning styles through your actions (sell them lots of higher tier gear and they’ll start spawning with it, groups under constant attack will be more likely to spawn War Parties, etc).

Sometimes you might get a quest that means you need to do something you can’t actually do due to mechanical or character-moral reasons (like have a conversation with a faction you’re KOS with, or go slaughter the tribes folk of that you’re BFFs with), and that’s great! There should be ways around it or at the very least the option to go back and say ‘I can’t/won’t’

The goal is simple, create a database driven ecosystem for intelligent NPCs and a less dynamic one for less intelligent NPCs that will make the setting feel more alive than the traditional Red v Blue approach.

Death
A toughy. I like the death=death approach where making a fatal mistake or chain of mistakes means some real setbacks - XCOM without saves (except on exit), FTL, Convoy, Teleglitch - All great games and great fun largely because of the difficulty. But, and it’s a big but, the time investment for these games is fairly low, you can rattle through them in a few hours / half a day. Death is a threat, but it’s not a huge loss if it happens. They’re all also Single Player games.

It’s unlikely the same approach would work that well in an multiplayer RP environment where you’d expect players to be investing a much larger amount of their time and to build much more of a relationship with their own characters and the others around them. While GoT style sudden death and drama works well for books and TV the general consensus amongst players here in the past has been either “It’s fine so long as it only happens to other people” or “It’s not a good idea at all”.

So, death needs to be a threat, but not a terribly terrible threat. No-one really wants to lose all their hard work and effort to a bunch of random crits or being noob-stomped by a bored high level player.

Things that might work:
  • Death is a Group Thing. If you’re out in a party you’re not dead until everyone in your party is dead or has fled beyond a certain radius. If you have no friends, hire some NPC goons. Following your fight anyone who ‘died’ will recover with ⅓ health and possible minor injuries (pulled quad, sprained wrist, sore back, sword elbow, etc) that have a short term impact.
  • Die alone, or your whole party gets wiped you’ll respawn in the local charnel pit / corpse dump with ¼ health (and possibly some vermin to contend with), some of your equipment and most of your cash missing and a chance of severe injury.
  • ‘Precious item’ tags (two or three per character, non transferable) which prevent that particular item from being removed on death or looted from your body by NPCs.
  • You can insure non unique items (if you’ve the cash) so that if lost on death you can recover them at the insurer.
  • Cash and items are bankable, so don’t go lugging around what you don’t need.
  • No XP/Skill loss, but risk of severe injury following death which can have some long term effects on your character (blind in one eye, concussion, broken fingers, arrow to the knee, slipped disk, horribly scarred, etc, etc)

Stealth
True LOS based stealth combined with skills and perks.

LOS bases on rays attached to head bone of characters, larger tunnel in front, small radius all around.

Rays need to detect x number of points on a rig to recognise it (just a foot won't do, for example) as a creature.

Stealth skills/feats increase ‘linger’ time, or the time needed for rig points to be visible (this is opposed by spotting skills and feats that decrease linger time). Higher skill values can take longer to travel between coverage.

Someone with no skill can hide by just being physically hidden, someone skilled at stealth could move around.
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