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There's No Money Above The Fifth Fret
May 12th 2002, 18:00 CEST by Matthew Gallant

But that's where you're playing when you put books in your RPG. You're wasting the usefulness of the medium. Going on for twenty pages is just wrong.

Hey, if I want to read, I'll read a book. I'm supposed to be playing a game; let's have some game. I don't follow the reasoning that says we need to spend huge amounts of time and money on graphics and scripting engines and camera control and then put a slab of text in the player's face for n minutes out of each hour. It doesn't even resemble a book; it's flat-as-a-board text, and if you're lucky, the font has serifs or there's a paper texture for a background. Way to go.

If you're going to momentarily squash all interactivity, at least put the game in movie mode or somehow use the polygons and texturing units that the kids are all crazy about nowadays. Good storytelling in any medium demands that exposition be done in the least dry and least overt method available. That is "least", Bethesda and Gas Powered Games, not "most".
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#1 by HoseWater
2002-05-12 18:09:17
barneyque@hotmail.com
Happy Mothers day.

© 1968-2002 Robert 'HoseWater" Lloyd
#2 by "Fugazi"
2002-05-12 18:50:22
cawthorn@passport.ca
Thanks for reminding Hosewater!!
#3 by Martin
2002-05-12 18:50:54
http://www.mocol.nu
I disagree. Not with Hosewater, of course, but with Matthew.

"that fatty crocodile! what a glutton!"
- Kayin
#4 by Ashiran
2002-05-12 18:52:38
What's your point? The number of games that contain books like Morrowind can be counted on a single hand. Also they serve a purpose beyond just being there. Some give you a skillbonus, some advance the plot. And the rest sits there as a nice more realistic feel of the world.

And besides, you don't have to read them if you don't want too. So what's your problem?

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil." Psalm 23
#5 by Martin
2002-05-12 18:56:19
http://www.mocol.nu
He's just cranky.

"that fatty crocodile! what a glutton!"
- Kayin
#6 by _Fury_
2002-05-12 19:04:10
ajhill@wi.rr.com
Have you read any of the books? Some of the books in Morrowind are quite good, although it's definately hit-or-miss. Kind of like real books, no?

There was a cave I found with some necromancers where if you read the necromancer's notes, it explained: a) why they were in the cave, b) what they were looking for, c) where to find it, and d) the tools you'd need. But it did it in a narrative fashion.

The books in Morrowind don't bear any relation to their distant cousins in Dungeon Siege. The books in Dungeon Siege were uniformly boring, but more importantly - completely irrelevant to the plot and playing of the game. The books in Morrowind are occasionally just filler, and can be ignored entirely if you'd like, but they occasionally also contain very useful information, hints, etc. They also, like I mentioned earlier, are occasionally great reads in and of themselves.

Have a gator today
#7 by Warren Marshall
2002-05-12 19:08:49
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
As long as the books are optional background material and not integral to the plot, who cares?

WoT?
#8 by mgns
2002-05-12 19:25:41
Myst.

professional philosophical level design monkey.
#9 by Creole Ned
2002-05-12 19:27:49
Instead of spending time writing superfluous filler material for the game, they could be adding more bump maps! That's the way it works, right?

I actually read everything in D2, but they made it easy by keeping things brief and having the text spoken by a narrator of sorts. DS lacks tha narration (probably because of the way the game continuously loads the world in) and worse, the material is just plain boring. Chris Taylor has all but admitted that the story in DS is pretty weak and not a reason for people to pick up the game. But yeah, it's optional stuff, so no harm, no foul.

If the material *is* important to the story, have it delivered by characters in-game or presented in *short* chunks of text. I agree with Mathew's point that people do not play games to read large blocks of text (save for text adventures, of course).

I thought crates are the new space nazis bearmonkeys. - Funkdrunk
#10 by Rambar
2002-05-12 19:47:17
IME you don't have to read any of the Morrowind books.  He's just whining.  Yes some give you plot details, but the characters have always given me the cliff notes version when I asked for it.  The books that give you skill points don't even need to be read, just open it and close it.

--
Rambar
#11 by Foodbunny
2002-05-12 19:52:41
foodbunny@attbi.com http://www.foodbunny.com
I don't even want to talk to most characters in Morrowind anymore.  They practically all give you the exact same text every time.

They're cute, they're cuddly and jam shoots out their heads.  I want 'em all!
#12 by Matthew Gallant
2002-05-12 20:16:36
http://www.truemeaningoflife.com
I'm not downplaying the importance of writing at all. Looking back at a previous topic of mine, you can see that I think that quality of writing is very important in games. It's just being used completely underwhelmingly and against every unwritten rule of exposition 99% of the time. I'll give you an example of the 1% with a tiny Morrowind


SPOILER







The guy who falls out of the sky. His diary is actually a good way to get the laugh.







END SPOILER


Many times the error is compounded by it's presentation. Dungeon Siege is by far the best example, with its simple and ugly text window. If you've made the decision to use straight text, nowadays there is more than enough technology available to make it a more interesting experience. Otherwise you're saying "this text is not important enough to rate anything except our basic GUI interface, please don't read it." And if it really isn't important, then why is it there in the first place? Atmosphere? How atmospheric is a text window, really? Morrowind tries a bit harder, with a paper texture for a background, but come on, everything else looks pretty damn realistic, why do the books look 2-D?

Marketing is a crutch for mediocrity and a handicap to excellence.
#13 by Matthew Gallant
2002-05-12 20:17:57
http://www.truemeaningoflife.com
"GUI interface"? Doops!

Marketing is a crutch for mediocrity and a handicap to excellence.
#14 by LPMiller
2002-05-12 20:18:50
lpmiller@gotapex.com http://www.gotapex.com
I hate any interface that requires me to wash my hands afterwards.

I believe I can fly......urk.
#15 by Bailey
2002-05-12 20:32:01
Hrm. I used the old "open, close" technique for garnering skill points in the game, never read them much after I realized how many were in the game.

You need appropriate porn.
#16 by Bailey
2002-05-12 20:32:20
"how many *there* were". I'm logging off now.

You need appropriate porn.
#17 by Gabe
2002-05-12 20:57:34
http://www.dartpublishing.com
Opening and closing books without reading them. That sounds like a lot of fun! What a tremendous gameplay mechanism. I hope all games in the future adopt it.
#18 by Martin
2002-05-12 21:16:10
http://www.mocol.nu
#16 by Bailey
"how many *there* were". I'm logging off now.

An' don't come back now y'hear!

"that fatty crocodile! what a glutton!"
- Kayin
#19 by Martin
2002-05-12 21:34:09
http://www.mocol.nu
OFF TOPIC! No thread hijacking intended or needed! My apologies to Matthew in advance, I'm posting here since this is the newest thread.

About a year ago, or more, I can't remember, I started fooling around with a mod for UT. I got a couple of friends together to help out and we started coding and modeling. After some time we changed direction with the mod but after a while my life got really hectic and anything besides staying alive took a back seat. Including this mod.

Now, with UT2k3 on the horizon, me and the co-designer / modeler, are thinking of getting the mod off the ground again. To do this we need some help since the old team unfortunately has disbanded. I thought I'd look around here first since I know that you're not only good people but also interested in games and, more importantly, some of you are also very interested in making games.

What we have today:
- A design document that is pretty detailed by now. It's 44 pages but some of that are tables for graphics, appendices for map layouts and descriptions of weapons and powerups.
- A members site with FTP and a forum.
- Quite a bit of code for UT.
- The base for player models and weapon models.
- One animator / texture artist.
- Half a coder. Maybe.
- Sound / music / documentation dude.

So what we basically have is a, IMHO, solid design and the foundation for code and models, none which, probably, can be re-used "as is" in UT2k3.

What we really need are a coder and a level designer, to start with. We like to think that we're taking things one step at a time and if we would have kept at it with UT the mod would have been more or less done by now.

The mod is called Warbots, is MP only and set in the future. Not very original but we're not trying to turn the mod scene on it's head, just create a fun an interesting game that we ourselves would like to play.

If you feel inclined to help out, drop me a line at martinATtheplace.nu and I'll send you the design doc.

Thanks.

We now return you to your regular programming.

"that fatty crocodile! what a glutton!"
- Kayin
#20 by Neale
2002-05-12 22:06:56
neale@pimurho.co.uk www.pimurho.co.uk
Which half of a coder do you need? :p

Eradicators! - www.eradicators.co.uk
#21 by Neale
2002-05-12 22:11:59
neale@pimurho.co.uk www.pimurho.co.uk
Martin:

I just looked at your mod site, and there's a few similarities between your mod and Eradicators. Ish. Unfortunately, all my work on that was for Half-Life, and I'm pretty much fully engaged on another project now.

good luck with it though - I'm intrigued to see how it comes out.

Eradicators! - www.eradicators.co.uk
#22 by Bailey
2002-05-12 22:12:59
I love the mod scene. "We just need a modeller and a skinner and a mapper and a texture artist and a coder and a scripter, but that's it!!!"

You need appropriate porn.
#23 by Neale
2002-05-12 22:15:08
neale@pimurho.co.uk www.pimurho.co.uk
I've seen a lot of that - someone "starts" a mod, but they're just the "idea man", with no actual development skills at all, and usually a crappy concept, i.e. another CS clone/WW2 game.

Eradicators! - www.eradicators.co.uk
#24 by JMCDaveL
2002-05-12 22:16:28
I liked how they did books in Ultima Online, so that they actually looked like a book (albeit a kiddie book with 20 point fonts..).

--jmc
ICQ-121684 AIM-jmcdavel U=FAG0T
#25 by "Anonymous"
2002-05-12 22:35:48
The reason they put a lot of books in the game is because 5% of gamers are as anal as the designers and actually want to sit and read throught the "lore", plus text is cheap and easy storytelling.  Its the other 95% who want to kill stuff and rob people.

If any game company can bring the two together, the fairy pretenders that can never spell magic right and the people who want blood splatted on their monitors, well that game is going to sell ten million copies.

Yoyoyo
#26 by jafd
2002-05-12 22:48:15
against every unwritten rule of exposition

I despise unwritten rules.

"Hey! You there! You're doing it wrong! Everyone knows the right way to do that!" Well, obviously not.

If these "rules" are so friggin' important, why are they "unwritten"?

Having said that... I am also somewhat disturbed with the exposition in Morrowind. But I think this is similar to the "water problem."

I heard several people criticizing the water for looking too unreal... too metallic, too shiney, whatever. However, I look at the water, and I see that it looks absolutely real; go on, get really close to it, with a great monitor at high resolution. It really does look like real water.

However, compared to the cartoony landscape... it looks fake. We're all so used to running around these pixelized worlds, that when you throw something really "real" into it, it looks "fake" by comparison.

I think the way the NPCs and the storytelling interact is being percieved similarly. The one thing I notice about the game the most is that I feel really, really lonely. Not so surprising, actually, it is a single player game. But I have yet to meet an NPC whose depth matches the depth of the world around them.

I think that's a great strength of the game, being mispercieved. Huge game world, thousands of things to do... it's really no surprise that the NPCs don't draw you in, they simply cannot. They're not the show; the world is.

Compared to, say, Ultima IX, the NPCs in Morrowind are exceptionally detailed. Compared to, say, the rest of Morrowind, the NPCs are flat and dull.

Irrespective of how crappy some elements in Morrowind are, it's still a significant leap forward in terms of game storytelling. Maybe more sideways than forward, sure, but how far has this stuff penetrated the mainstream consciousness anyway?

Such thirst doesn't always permit for tact.
#27 by "Anonymous"
2002-05-12 22:48:55
"Chris Taylor has all but admitted that the story in DS is pretty weak and not a reason for people to pick up the game."

I finished DS and I have no idea what the story was. I've never played an RPG like that where I had no idea why I was fighting shit.

The lack of load times in DS was nice, but I'd prefer a nice story to no load times. I tried to read the books they had in the game, but they were boring.
#28 by BobJustBob
2002-05-12 23:58:05
So books in games are bad, but written conversation text is okay?

All the books in MW are one of the great things about the game. If you don't like them, don't read them. They're like the vampires: not necessary, but very enjoyable if you're into that sort of thing. Damn Bethesda for trying to make the game appeal to more people!
#29 by Matthew Gallant
2002-05-13 00:15:53
http://www.truemeaningoflife.com
Fuck it then. Enjoy your books. I'm off to shoot the first movie that is composed of still-frames of the script, one page every minute. You guys will love it, it's really good writing.

Marketing is a crutch for mediocrity and a handicap to excellence.
#30 by "Anonymous"
2002-05-13 00:18:13
"So books in games are bad, but written conversation text is okay?"

The books in DS are bad, as in boring to read. I don't have MW, so I don't know about those books. Can you post the text or part of the text from one? I'm curious.
#31 by Martin
2002-05-13 00:25:37
http://www.mocol.nu
#22 by Bailey
I love the mod scene. "We just need a modeller and a skinner and a mapper and a texture artist and a coder and a scripter, but that's it!!!"

Well, it's hard to do a mod without those people you know.

#23 by Neale
I've seen a lot of that - someone "starts" a mod, but they're just the "idea man", with no actual development skills at all, and usually a crappy concept, i.e. another CS clone/WW2 game.

I'll try not to go off on a rant here...

Not even the greatest team can save a crappy concept, I think we've all agreed on that by now, but there has to be someone who heads up the project. I've seen every developer on the planet dismissing idea men but who the hell desigs the games for these people then if not idea men? Isn't Warren Spector an idea man?

I'm the idea man in this case but I bring more than an idea to the project. I manage documentation, both internal and external (the manual), I keep the design document up to date, I keep the web sites up to date, I handle the news flow to whatever sites that wants to talk to us about the mod, I set up IRC meetings, I set up CVS servers, FTP servers and forums. I keep things off the backs of the coders, modellers or whomever else that has to take care of these things otherwise. And I handle sound and music as well.

We started out as a realistic mod but felt that it had been doen to death and took some of the ideas with us and started working on Warbots instead. As I said, we aren't out to get hired by Valve or get recognition as the greatest mod of all times, we just want to make something that we would like to play. We love what we're doing.

I know that a lot of guys start out with an anything but original and interesting concept, bases a project the size of DNF around this, starts up a Geocities site and wants a team of 10 people. For starters. We're not like that. We need a coder (the original coder has moved on but is willing to get the new guy up to speed, hence "half" a coder) and a level designer but that's it for now. I'd love to do level design as well but I know that I can't do that as well as manage the project.

I know what you're thinking; "Keeping track of a mod like that can't be all that difficult." Well, believe what you want but it is hard enough work, especially if you try and live a normal life on the side with work / school and hopefully some sort of social life. So if I would try and add level design, or coding, on top of this something starts to suffer. And if it's not fun, we're not doing it. So we're trying to keep it fun.

Sorry, I went off on a rant after all. I didn't mean to hijack the thread Matthew.

"that fatty crocodile! what a glutton!"
- Kayin
#32 by Squeaky
2002-05-13 00:30:30
#30 by "Anonymous"
Go to the Morrowind site. They have some example of books found in game.

Here's a link to the site

And here's a link to one of the books
#33 by Hugin
2002-05-13 00:40:35
lmccain@nber.org
Eh.  Complaining about the books in Dungeon Siege seems nit picky to me for three reasons:

One:  They aren't necessary to wade through.  If you don't like them, ignore them at no penalty. (though yes, it would be nice if the game made it clearer early on that they aren't important)

Two: The game tells it's "story" in other ways.  Every major "Chapter" of the game has a voice narrated intro that tells you generally what's going on.  Moreover, every major populated area (towns and trading posts) has at least one character who also fill you in on plot in a (generally pretty well done) voice narration, plus subsidiary characters that give you flavor background in short bits of text.

Three: I liked them. :) No, they aren't the most gripping literature in the history of the world, but I did get some interesting nuggets about the DS world in them.  I'm glad the game has them despite them not being as good as Matthew would like them to be.  Heck, at least they were easy to actually open and read, whoever designed the infernal "read book/scroll" interface in Arcanum needs to be shot.
#34 by Charles
2002-05-13 00:41:41
www.bluh.org
That's one of the shorter ones.  I occasionally read books for kicks in the game, and the last one I read was 25 pages long.  

No more.

Bailey:  Beep beep, motherfucker.
#35 by Martin
2002-05-13 00:44:10
http://www.mocol.nu
FWIW: I understand where Matthew is coming from but I think it'd be hard to implement what he wants in a way that

a) works, i.e. isn't clumsy and messy as hell for the player

b) doesn't require a lot of manhours to do

"that fatty crocodile! what a glutton!"
- Kayin
#36 by "Anonymous"
2002-05-13 00:51:35
I keep the web sites up to date, I handle the news flow to whatever sites that wants to talk to us about the mod, I set up IRC meetings, I set up CVS servers, FTP servers and forums. I keep things off the backs of the coders, modellers or whomever else that has to take care of these things otherwise.


So you're half designer, half director/producer. Which is nice, except you don't have any coders or level designers, and only half a modeller to direct/produce.

The good news is that if you find another person to join you, your productivity increases by 200%! But since you'll be managing a team that's twice the size that you're used to, you might need to get an assistant ;p
#37 by Neale
2002-05-13 00:52:45
neale@pimurho.co.uk www.pimurho.co.uk
Martin: I wasn't dissing idea men. What irks me is the ones that have a very, very vague idea of what they want, and have no clue as to how to get this concept over to other people. The fact that you can document and manage the project shows that you're not just an idea man.

Eradicators! - www.eradicators.co.uk
#38 by "Anonymous"
2002-05-13 00:53:52
"Go to the Morrowind site. They have some example of books found in game."

Not bad. What I read read like a work of fiction. How exactly is that explained by the game? I would assume the books are purported to be non-fiction, yet what I read clearly was written like a story and not an account or a history of something or even a diary.

"Eh.  Complaining about the books in Dungeon Siege seems nit picky to me"

I wouldn't normally complain, except it was on-topic for this thread. I just think the DS books could have been more interesting reads.
#39 by Phayyde
2002-05-13 01:07:01
Morrowind is a noble attempt.  They cheaped on the models/animations and engine.  The whole art direction is just goofy.  Are these elves and dwarves and knights were are working with?  What's up with the goofy goggles and all the pointy hats and bone armor?  

I have nothing against a new spin, a fresh direction.  But this mishmash with the Dark Elves that all sound like either Louis Armstrong or Mrs. Butterworth - it's like they are just reaching with no unified core vision.  The names are all word jumbles and well the whole product looks like it was designed by committee.

They should stick with true Elves and the common stuff, or they should innovate.  It is as if Bethsoft had a few innovative ideas but they were afraid to commit.  They wound up with crazy tall shroom-land with giant flea-bus public transportation and, um Vampires!  It's a grab bag! It didn't get through to me.

I am enthralled with the idea they were going for.  I bought this game and only played it for about 8 hours.  I had enough of floating around the samey world like some mute ghost.  I am not disappointed in the purchase.  I want to reward companies with balls that big.  Go Bethesda! I hope your next prodect is tighter, more cohesive.

Beat to fit, paint to match.
#40 by Sgt Hulka
2002-05-13 01:11:51
Sgt_Hulka farts in THX

Note: I was born that way, Lucas didn't have to tweak my ass.

....Don't be Left with the chimps. Evolve with us...
#41 by Foodbunny
2002-05-13 01:14:49
foodbunny@attbi.com http://www.foodbunny.com
Phayyde, you just summed up a lot of my discontent with the game a lot better than I've been able to.

They're cute, they're cuddly and jam shoots out their heads.  I want 'em all!
#42 by Phayyde
2002-05-13 01:23:31
The best mod 'teams' are programmers that start small with friends who jump in once the ball is rolling.  I think starting with the design doc and an org chart is putting the cart before the horse.

Beat to fit, paint to match.
#43 by mixuk
2002-05-13 16:13:16
At first I didn't really read books in Morrowind, but then I stumbled on a book called Withersins. And, to my surprise, it had a funny and interesting story with a great ending. If you see it anywhere, read it.
#44 by Martin
2002-05-13 16:23:41
http://www.mocol.nu
Anonymous in #36: Read before trying to be funny. I guess you would fail anyhow.

Phayyde: Well, I am of course going to say otherwise. To start a mod without knowing where it's going is stupid. And I'll leave it at that as I don't want to hijack this thread any further.

"that fatty crocodile! what a glutton!"
- Kayin
#45 by "flamethrower"
2002-05-13 17:06:47
The manual, novell, and starguide that came with Elite.

Awesome.


Only Infocom ever came close to Elite's package.
#46 by InsideWhat'sLeft Behind
2002-05-13 17:13:33
Martin: if you're going to do it for UT2(003), you'll need more than 1 level designer, and probably another modeller too. At least if you're going to make detailed levels. You would want to make most static meshes in a real 3D package. Warren would probably agree, as he knows how things are done.

More detailed games = takes more time to make. (Unless you have a super-duper out-of-this-world content pipeline, but you don't.)

"It goes without saying that technical proficiency should be the first acquistion of a student who would be a fine pianist." - Sergei Rachmaninov
#47 by Martin
2002-05-13 17:46:24
http://www.mocol.nu
IWLB: Yeah, I know, but we're still taking things one step at a time. If we get one good LD that's a start. Hopefully we can get another one after that and so on. We're not in a hurry to be first, we'd rather be good. Anyone heard that mantra before? 8)

"that fatty crocodile! what a glutton!"
- Kayin
#48 by Warren Marshall
2002-05-13 17:46:34
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
IWLB
if you're going to do it for UT2(003), you'll need more than 1 level designer, and probably another modeller too. At least if you're going to make detailed levels. You would want to make most static meshes in a real 3D package. Warren would probably agree, as he knows how things are done.

More detailed games = takes more time to make. (Unless you have a super-duper out-of-this-world content pipeline, but you don't.)

If you're making all new content, yeah, it's going to take some serious artist bandwidth.  But the game will ship with TONS of static meshes and textures which you can use ... if you get creative, you'd be amazed at the ways you can reuse existing assets.

WoT?
#49 by Matthew Gallant
2002-05-13 17:54:20
http://www.truemeaningoflife.com
Can I put stuff about books in your mod? It's only fair.

Marketing is a crutch for mediocrity and a handicap to excellence.
#50 by Leslie Nassar
2002-05-13 18:18:40
http://departmentofinternets.com
Make a UT mod where you're walking around a library.  When you pick up a book, it downloads the text from Project Gutenberg and you can read it right there in vivid 3D-O-Vision™!

i like monkeys.  are you a monkey?
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