Article - Rollick

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AuthorTopic: Article - Rollick
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Rollick

The BoA forum recently played host to a debate on the merits or otherwise of linearity in BoA scenarios. As the debate wore on, it became increasingly clear that the main points of disagreement weren't really related to plot-based linearity at all, but had more to do with a scenario's general attitude toward the player. In short, some scenarios have rollick, and others don't.

A scenario with rollick is one that allows the player to go anywhere at any time, and (within reason) to do anything while they're there. The player is in control of the party's actions and has a reasonable capacity to predict their consequences. If something unexpected comes up, the party has the ability and the opportunity to deal with it. Rollicking scenarios also tend to be heavy on sidequests, to give the party something to do while they're not following the main plot.

Quite a few highly-regarded BoE scenarios have rollick. Doom Moon II has rollick, at least until near the end. At the Gallows and Spears are loaded with rollick. The Adventurer's Club trilogy has rollick up to its eyeballs. In BoA, Diplomacy with the Dead is a reasonable example of a rollicking scenario, although it's on the small side; the best rollicking scenarios tend to have an epic feel, and a size and scope to match.

When designing a rollicking scenario, keep in mind that you've made the choice to hand over control to the player. Don't mess too much with the party's abilities, especially in terms of permanently removing skills or spells. Don't force them to fight an opponent (or, in general, to take any particular course of action) unless there's no reasonable prospect that anyone would want to do otherwise. And whatever you do, make sure the ending provides a satisfying resolution -- it doesn't have to be a completely happy ending, but it should be an ending that leaves the player feeling as if they've achieved something. A good rollicking scenario should be a bit of light-hearted fun without too many nasty surprises.

Grit is the polar opposite of rollick. In a gritty scenario, instead of choosing where to go and what to do, the party is forced into a course of action by desperate circumstances. Some obstacles may be too fearsome to overcome despite the player's best efforts. If the player can make significant decisions at all, there won't be one correct choice that solves everyone's problems.

In BoE, Revenge is a good example of a gritty scenario; the party's ability to explore is limited by the fact that they're being hunted down by powerful enemies on an island with a lethal atmosphere, leaving them constantly pressed for time. In BoA, A Small Rebellion is perhaps the best example of a gritty scenario to date: the party's actions have unintended consequences that force them into a corner, and while they can choose how to get themselves out, none of their options has completely satisfying results.

Plenty of players hold high regard for a gritty scenario when it's done well, but to work, grit needs gravitas. Since gritty scenario design relies on forcing the player along a path, the player needs to be kept well-motivated to continue down that path at all times, and the scenario needs to maintain a sense of pace.

Can rollick and grit coexist in the same scenario? Not very well, judging by past examples. Falling Stars is an excellent scenario in most ways, but criticisms of it have focused heavily on the way its rollicking gameplay and its gritty plot conflict. The story attempts to pressure the party to continue along the main plotline as quickly as possible; disasters strike and cities fall with the passage of time. However, players who try to avert disaster by hurrying along the central plotline are punished by missing large parts of the scenario, making it much more difficult and less satisfying.

So what's the final word: should a scenario be rollicking or gritty?

Some players love rollick. Some seem to play almost exclusively for rollick. The BoE scenario design community, which has had a significant influence on the BoA design community, tends to prefer grit, because experience has shown that it's easier to maintain a tight plot in a gritty scenario. Both types of scenario have benefits, drawbacks, fans and opponents; the important thing is to know which kind of scenario you're making and design accordingly.

-- Thuryl

[ Wednesday, March 09, 2005 02:33: Message edited by: Thuryl ]

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Great article.

Well written. Concise. Both sides of the argument.

Meaningful examples.

Sentence fragments.

But really, it is a good article.

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Dear Lord, now people are trying to change the definitions of words. Great. The description above for "Grit" is what linearity is. It's what the word means.

A scenario that is gritty by the normal meaning of that word is something that tries to be edgy realistic instead of fantastic. Gritty would be things like having to have food to eat (insteafd of it just being something to allow you rest in the outdoors to heal and restore energy) or else you die, needing water, having to sleep regularly, getting infected from rusty swords, flame spells causing wooden structures to burn and trap you, shopkeepers that aren't paying you tons of money for whatever junk you bring in with an endless supply of gold, and a conspicuous lack of do-gooders here and there.

Something can be gritty and non-linear. Something can be fantastic and linear.

Linear is where choices are taken away from players, where there is a small selection of things to do and options to take.

I think what Thuryl is trying to get at here is a claim for dynamic scenarios or something where the story moves along and you can't dawdle and must react to what's going on. Of course those can be either linear or nonlinear as well. Inexperienced designers may find that a lot easier with very linear scenarios, but that's not the only way to do it.

And, either way, consistently shutting off most of the options for players is bad, whether it's part of the plot or whether it's part of the battle tactics.

In the meantime though, I suggest Thuryl go read up on creative writing and game design resources on other sites and so fort. It sounds like he's just going from what he thinks up and how he mistakenly believes words to be used instead of reading the the wealth of information on these topics that exists outside of these boards.
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quote:
Originally written by DreamGuy:

Dear Lord, now people are trying to change the definitions of words. Great. The description above for "Grit" is what linearity is. It's what the word means.
He defined what he meant, and there's no point whining about it.
quote:
Linear is where choices are taken away from players, where there is a small selection of things to do and options to take.
quote:
I think what Thuryl is trying to get at here is a claim for dynamic scenarios or something where the story moves along and you can't dawdle and must react to what's going on. Of course those can be either linear or nonlinear as well. Inexperienced designers may find that a lot easier with very linear scenarios, but that's not the only way to do it.
Experienced designers too. If the player has to react to what's going on, it's a hell of a lot of work for practically no gain for the designer to have to allow for options like "completely ignore the problem and beat up some goblins" or any of a million other things that a sane player just wouldn't do in the situation they're in. Also, it's much harder to have a strong story when you have to take into account a huge range of different ways the story might go. When you actually make a scenario, or a nonlinear choose-your-own-adventure book with a string story, I might believe your "inexperienced developers" thing.

quote:
And, either way, consistently shutting off most of the options for players is bad, whether it's part of the plot or whether it's part of the battle tactics.
Wrong. If you allow all the options, it's just bless-haste-whack-heal-rinse-repeat or whatever, all the way. Restricting the battle tactics is a kind of puzzle, and makes the combat more fun. There's nothing wrong with having to use your brain cell instead of mindlessly slaughtering zombies.
As for plot linearity, a scenario as linear as you seem to want would take at least an order of magnitude longer to write. Having a scenario that can be replayed three times in different ways is nice, but having a dozen scenarios just as good made in the same time is better.

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quote:
I think what Thuryl is trying to get at here is a claim for dynamic scenarios or something where the story moves along and you can't dawdle and must react to what's going on. Of course those can be either linear or nonlinear as well. Inexperienced designers may find that a lot easier with very linear scenarios, but that's not the only way to do it.
Please explain to me how the hell it is possible to make a good scenario where the party "can't dawdle" but is still able to go anywhere and do anything at any time without being punished for it by losing.

As for redefining the meanings of words, I was attempting to capture the connotations associated with the two main design paradigms in a snappy way. "Linearity" as you use the term is simply not linearity as the BoA community thinks of it, and so talking about linearity would be confusing.

[ Wednesday, March 09, 2005 11:15: Message edited by: Thuryl ]

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quote:
Originally written by Thuryl:

]Please explain to me how the hell it is possible to make a good scenario where the party "can't dawdle" but is still able to go anywhere and do anything at any time without being punished for it by losing.
You can start by being Jeff Vogel.

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In Za-Khazi you "can't dawdle" but you can go anywhere and do anything without being punished by losing :P

Oh, wait. Good scenario. Never mind this post then.

[ Wednesday, March 09, 2005 12:14: Message edited by: Khoth ]

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Excellent and unbiased article. Congrats.

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Well, in Siege of Sighing Mountain (for BoE), you can go anywhere and do anything, as far as I saw, and you can't dawdle, because, for all practical purposes, doing a lot of the things which you can do causes you to lose.
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That is perhaps the most annoying type of scenario. I hate having too many options which cant be completed without losing. It adds replay value but also is infuriating at the time.

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Actually, it is technichally possible to mix rollick and grit as much as you want, so long as you do it in separate parts of the scenario, ie the first half of the scenario is very rollicky until you get onto a ship or something, and then it becomes very gritty. Or, the scenario begins grittily but opens out into rollickyness. Or any combination of the above.

Also, the Sighing Mountain example is another way to mix rollick and grit, of course.

EDIT: After reading The Creator's post, I'll just say "Point taken" rather than argue, probably because I agree.

[ Wednesday, March 09, 2005 19:57: Message edited by: Baron Von Postman ]

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He didn't say it was impossible to mix grit and rollick. He said that they don't work too well together. Emulations is a scenario that starts out gritty, but becomes rollicking. This is the most criticised aspect of the scenario.

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I think Areni is a successful blend.

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I think it's somewhat possible to move from rollick to grit if it's done well (although Areni's fairly rollicking even toward the end, since there isn't really anything restricting the party from backtracking). It's more often done badly, though; the Morbane sequence in At the Gallows is a gritty sequence in a rollicking scenario, and suffers for it. (The Tunnels sequence in Bahssikava is similar; as is, it works as a tactical challenge, but as a plot element it could be done 10 times better with a premade party.)

Going from grit to rollick is even harder, because it tends to leave the party feeling lost once their sense of direction is taken away.

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ATTN DreamGuy: AFAIK, you have never designed anything for BoE or BoA. This makes you quite literally the least experienced designer in the debate. I suggest you keep that in mind before you chalk up the things you don't like to inexperience.

[ Thursday, March 10, 2005 00:01: Message edited by: Turumby ]

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quote:
Originally written by Imban:

Well, in Siege of Sighing Mountain (for BoE), you can go anywhere and do anything, as far as I saw, and you can't dawdle, because, for all practical purposes, doing a lot of the things which you can do causes you to lose.
I always thought that this was a very interesting scenario. It's a shame that it wasn't done better, because I think it could have been great.

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quote:
Originally written by Thuryl:
(The Tunnels sequence in Bahssikava is similar; as is, it works as a tactical challenge, but as a plot element it could be done 10 times better with a premade party.)
How? Why?

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quote:
Please explain to me how the hell it is possible to make a good scenario where the party "can't dawdle" but is still able to go anywhere and do anything at any time without being punished for it by losing.
Simple, you make the events that happen largely time-based instead of location-based. You've got scripting, use it.

quote:
As for redefining the meanings of words, I was attempting to capture the connotations associated with the two main design paradigms in a snappy way.
By picking words that actually have nothing to do with what you were arguing, great...

quote:
"Linearity" as you use the term is simply not linearity as the BoA community thinks of it
Well, then the people in the BoA community ought to learn what word really means instead of trying to change the meanings of other words.

quote:
AFAIK, you have never designed anything for BoE or BoA. This makes you quite literally the least experienced designer in the debate.
Oh, rightttt... because someone who hasn't yet released a game for BoE or BoE cannot possibly have other game design experience elsewhere. I've got plenty of other experience, and I've read the documentation and have been working with that knowledge so am aware of most of the techinical limitations.

I'm sorry, but the people here talking about linearity and not knowing what the word means, claiming that things are impossible just because they have never done it, pretending that they are better designers than Jeff and so forth and so on are just play-acting at being designers, because they can't be bothered to learn the basic concepts of game design.
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DreamGuy, what's with the abrasive tone? Others are somewhat guilty as well, but you seem to be taking the cake.

[ Thursday, March 10, 2005 09:35: Message edited by: andrew miller ]
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quote:
Originally written by DreamGuy:

[QUOTE] I'm sorry, but the people here talking about linearity and not knowing what the word means, claiming that things are impossible just because they have never done it, pretending that they are better designers than Jeff and so forth and so on are just play-acting at being designers, because they can't be bothered to learn the basic concepts of game design.
You seem to be pretty passionate about curing our ignorance, so why not help the community for real by making a scenario? Thuryl, *i, et. al. have made a lot, and people here generally seem to like those. If those people don't understand even basic concepts, you must know a great deal we don't, and anything you designed would obviously be the pinnacle of anything ever designed for Blades.

In fact, when I think about how obviously superior you are, it strikes me as cruel how you've yet to do anything with that superiority except tell us about it. Maybe you're put off by the hostility here. I know I'm pretty abrasive sometimes, but I'd like to be the first one to humble myself a bit. Please, please, Dreamguy, show us the error of our arrogant, inexperienced ways, and design the masterpiece only you know how to make. If you really care, you'll go right to work without wasting time on a reply.

[ Thursday, March 10, 2005 10:43: Message edited by: Turumby ]

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quote:
Originally written by andrew miller:

DreamGuy, what's with the abrasive tone? Others are somewhat guilty as well, but you seem to be taking the cake.
Perhaps a better question would be why people keep arguing with him. It hasn't been very productive.
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I won't join this futile argument, but...

quote:
Originally written by Turumby:

Thuryl, *i, et. al. have made a lot,
...Thuryl has made one scenario.

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Two if you include Hunted.

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quote:
Originally written by DreamGuy:

quote:
Please explain to me how the hell it is possible to make a good scenario where the party "can't dawdle" but is still able to go anywhere and do anything at any time without being punished for it by losing.
Simple, you make the events that happen largely time-based instead of location-based. You've got scripting, use it.
We do know how to make time-based events. That's not the point. The point is that if stuff is going on because of time, and meanwhile the player is exercising his nonlinear rights and completely ignoring this, then either the player is losing because they missed it, or it's made so that it's impossible to avoid and the player can't dso whatever they want after all.

quote:
quote:
"Linearity" as you use the term is simply not linearity as the BoA community thinks of it
Well, then the people in the BoA community ought to learn what word really means instead of trying to change the meanings of other words.
When people talk about games being linear, they mean that there is a set of things that you have to do in a given order to win. I have never heard anyone except you use it to mean that there is only one way to win each fight.

quote:
rightttt... because someone who hasn't yet released a game for BoE or BoE cannot possibly have other game design experience elsewhere. I've got plenty of other experience
Such as?

quote:
I'm sorry, but the people here talking about linearity and not knowing what the word means, claiming that things are impossible just because they have never done it, pretending that they are better designers than Jeff and so forth and so on are just play-acting at being designers, because they can't be bothered to learn the basic concepts of game design.
<moderator hat>Watch your tone, please</moderator hat>

The large number of excellent BoE scenarios and the smaller (so far) number of pretty good BoA ones suggests that some people do have at least a slight grasp of the concepts of game design.

(Edit: Sorry for the double post)

[ Thursday, March 10, 2005 13:02: Message edited by: Khoth ]

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I think the idea was that the combined number of scenarios that those people have made is large, rather than that each individual's contribution was large.

More to the point, those scenarios are pretty well-liked. Zxquez and lost_king made a reasonably large combined total of scenarios, but apparently only one of them is even worth a second thought.

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