Monday, January 09, 2012

A game designed for web based play?

When RPGs were created there were some assumptions that were made. They'd be played around a table. Players would have paper and writing implements. You'd be playing with people you know.These weren't outlandish assumptions. They probably weren't even conscious.

These assumptions led to some very basic game design decisions. Players could roll dice as a randomizer - everyone around the table could see the results. If you needed to, you could record die rolls (or other things) on paper. You could include rules that depend on things like having a clockwise order around the table or knowing who the youngest player is.

Today, some of us play RPGs remotely over the internet, whether that is via Skype, G+ Hangout, or some other system. We've adapted around assumptions like the ones mentioned above. For our dice rolls, we might depend on trust and self-reporting - or we might use an online program that shows everyone's results. Instead of setting up miniatures on a table, we might use a shared online document or a virtual game table. Instead of proceeding in a clockwise order, we might establish an arbitrary order when needed.

We're playing games designed for a tabletop in another medium. We're adapting.

...but what if there were RPGs designed specifically for such a medium? RPGs designed to be played by people online who aren't all in the same location? I'm not talking about MMORPGs. I'm talking about something analogous to a tabletop RPG. Something flexible. What would such an RPG look like?

I think we could fairly safely assume that it wouldn't have dice. If it has a randomizer at all, there'd be no reason to limit it to the number of choices governed by the size of physical dice.

That's a fairly trivial difference, though, all things considered. I think an online-play rpg could be a very different sort of game.

What do you think such a game would look like?

7 comments:

Timeshadows said...

Less rolling, more narrative (both player and GM), easier start-up &/or replacement characters, more episodic play...essentially what we have seen the OS folks do both before and after Google+

Crose87420 said...

Interesting, an RPG geared towards online play.

I have to say our online games, as of now using the virtual tabletope of MyRPG, almost replicates the feel of a game in person. We can all see the rolls, we know who might be afk goofing off or web-surfing when their turn comes, and there's still all the joking and banter I'm accustomed to in an actual in-person game using the game chat.

Ours is a more combat-oriented game, given our 2-3 hour play time, with most story elements being posted on a game message board to fill in details.

Considering the question, "A game designed for web based play," might be better phrased as; "Which games are best for web-based play?"

We use D&D 3.5 with Microlite20 currently for fantasy and post-apocalytic games and they roll right along just fine with our choice of virtual table-top (VTT).

That said, I would really like to run a more narrative game, such as In a Wicked Age or Dungeon World, but I don't feel that this type of game would work well web-based. Sure there are plenty of VOIP's that can be used, Skype, Ventrilo, etc. but it just seems to me that there's too much talk involved with a narrative based game.

So, imho, a run-of-the-mill RPG can be played web-based easy enough using one of the myriad of VTT's available but a narrative type of game made for web-based play would be something special.

Noumenon said...

The web is good at matchmaking between people who don't know each other, and being a referee for competitive games (like Magic Online). So: D&D where the monsters are run tactically by teams of real people.

Stuart said...

Crose87420 - I asked it the way I did for a reason. I'm not looking for what current games work in that context. I'm wondering what nonexistent games that were developed specifically for that context would look like.

Imagine if RPGs didn't exist, and they were created today with the assumption that they'd be played online. What would they look like?

Stuart said...

Noumenon - interesting. I think I'd hate that, but I find it intriguing.

Stuart said...

Timeshadows - some interesting design constraints. I'm not disagreeing with you, but why more narrative?

trollsmyth said...

They'd probably be designed around the limitations of the medium.

Time is always the worst of the bunch in online play. Waiting for people to type up responses eats minutes. So there would be a strong focus on saving time in the mechanics. This probably means tightly focused games that abstract lots of time-intensive activities. However, since you're at a computer, you've also got a lot of processing power.

So the "core mechanic" of such games would probably be hideous complex algorithms based on sigmoid function (to naturally limit how much you could game the algorithm) based on both natural attributes and gear. The software would read the character sheets as data sets, with the GM plugging in situational variables.

In most games, it would take three or more results from the algorithm to end a contest, giving the players both feedback on how they're doing and decision points that would allow them to adjust their tactics. But basically, an entire round of combat would be everyone declaring their actions, the GM plugging in that data, and a micro-second of processing for the results. Quick, but complex. If the game slowed down at all at this point, it would be from the players hashing out their strategy.