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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 149 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Zooming - our Philosophy  (Read 966 times)
Daniel B
Member

Posts: 171

Co-inventor of the Normal Engine


« on: December 30, 2008, 06:22:33 PM »

To people who are curious about what spawned this post, check out the thread entitled "Experience Points - what's the point?"


Quote
This can be done mid-game: a combat between a 20th-level fighter and two 1st-level goblins can be done in a single roll, while the epic battle between the PC group and the Hyper-Intelligent DragonGod can be done in very gritty detail.

Curiosity compels me to ask: how do the chances of success align when you zoom in or out? I ask because repeated rolls to determine the outcome of an action can change the margin of success, or at least the perception of the margin, because being able to roll ten times before determining the outcome compared to rolling once and being stuck with the outcome can have a huge effect on both the perception of player-control and investment in the outcome and on the actual chance of success overall.

Also, longer series of rolls tend to utilize and use up more character resources, with a wider variation in usage results the more rolls there are. How are those expenditures/losses balanced out in your system? Or is this something that your players don't mind, or some of them do and others don't, and how has it worked out in play? What have the players done with it when given the option?

Haha .. you've touched upon our secret weapon, Greyorm. Our basic philosophy is that if the players have a vested interest in the outcome of an event, they should be able to roll more and have more opportunity to affect the outcome. (Conversely, an uninteresting event should not be rolled or at least rolled minimally.)

I like to think of our game engine this way: a tight zoom is like manual transmission in a car, whereas a wide zoom is like automatic transmission. The tight zoom allows a lot of die-rolling and tactical play and, just like a manual transmission, players can squeeze extra juice out of the system if they know what they're doing. On the other hand, wide zoom has the advantage that the chances of success and variability in results don't change as numbers are scaled up, although personality gets washed out. Clearly, zoomed out combat is not a good idea if the enemies pose a real threat and the PCs are personally involved. However, zoomed out combat is a great idea towards the end of combat when the results are nearly assured, or if a PC is acting as a commander of an army. The individual rolls lose importance next to the net effect.

As for figuring out the expenditure of resources, it is dangerous to do this automatically where PCs are personally involved, so we avoid that. ("Wait, I lost five charges on my wand of fireball and we still lost?! If I was in control of those fireballs, we could have won! WTF??")  Fortunately, it only becomes a question upon zooming out, and, as I mentioned, zooming out is only justified in certain cases. During these cases, players can expressly state which resources they do or do not want to involve. Yes, magic throws a bit of a wrench in this given the sheer variety of spells and their applications, but the utility of any given spell during combat can be "averagized" to a single combat number. Here, too, a PC is better off zooming in if he wants to make maximum use of his spells, but we don't need to care if 100 competing faceless NPCs also make full use of their spells, since their results will cancel each other out to a large degree, so an averagized value is sufficient.

Otherwise, it's perfectly justifiable to figure out the expenditure of resources automatically, probabilistically. Our engine should handle all the hideously complex math (e.g. 6 gobs x 1d6 damage x 1dead/2rounds x whatever), with a not unreasonable amount of handling time, though we've not had a chance to test it yet. The average is taken by default since it keeps the system and game consistent, and a rolled amount is really not necessary. (Did the doomed goblins do a total of 12 or 16 or 13.54242 damage? Answering the question would violate our philosophy.)


Regards, Dan Blain.
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Arthur: "It's times like these that make me wish I'd listened to what my mother told me when I was little."
Ford: "Why? What did she tell you?"
Arthur: "I don't know. I didn't listen."
Erudite
Member

Posts: 27

Games designed to catch everyone may catch no one


« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2009, 03:57:05 PM »

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Daniel B
Member

Posts: 171

Co-inventor of the Normal Engine


« Reply #2 on: January 04, 2009, 06:18:21 PM »

Yes .. I think this kind of zooming must happen a lot, so that people must have to drift from their systems in order to pull off the kind of situation that you described, Erudite. It's rather unfortunate more systems don't take it into account in the first place. I know I've had games where this happened; eg our PCs would climb up to such a level that we would start owning property and hiring staff, sometimes whole territories with lots of people. It always sucked that we would, effectively, have to make up our own system for this scale. (I still regret that we couldn't take more advantage of the Gnome's Tower we stormed. I had my own floor!!)

The following particular scene has become a huge motivation for myself and my buddies, for the system we're building. I, personally, won't be happy until we can recreate something similar with our system with a maximum of ease. Imagine, if you will, a group of players:
  • Medium scale / both wide and tight zoom concurrently: one is playing a small, fuzzy, tribal character who's forest is being stormed by large mechwarrior type things. He and his tribal allies are doing reasonably well against the intruders despite their superior technology!
  • Small scale / tight zoom: another few PCs, the roguish humans and droids, are attempting to break into the secret base to disable the planetary shield generator.
  • Large scale / wide zoom: The GM, controlling the evil forces of the empire, and a player controlling a General, are "duking it out" above the planet, throwing their capital ships against each other in an attempt to quell each other's forces.


Remind you of anything?
(Apologies to Star Wars super-fans if I got a detail wrong.)
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Arthur: "It's times like these that make me wish I'd listened to what my mother told me when I was little."
Ford: "Why? What did she tell you?"
Arthur: "I don't know. I didn't listen."
greyorm
Member

Posts: 2233

My name is Raven.


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« Reply #3 on: January 04, 2009, 08:42:25 PM »

Cool, Dan. BTW, part of what you guys are calling "Zooming" is what is commonly referred to as "Scale". It was one of the big issues I had to deal with in ORX, since a single die roll could encompass any conflict, from the smallest most individual action to the most complex sequence of events involving whole nations.

Quoting a bit from ORX: "How long it takes, how many actions it encompasses, and how many variables are at work are not set in stone when the player Narrates his victory or defeat. This breadth of possibilities creates the Scale of the Conflict, and any or all of the above items in any degree may comprise the Scale of the Narration. For example, an orc might face a whole army in some mad attempt to crush and scatter them, but the player may have only rolled once to decide the outcome of all the individual battles that took place in that attempt, rather than once for each individual battle with each opposing warrior."

(ORX is a very different game stylistically from what you are designing, though, so I how I went about it would likely not be of much value to your system.) I do see that you're handling situations like this by having Zoom (which appears to be the amount of detailed influence over the results of a conflict) and Scale (which is the measure of the number and nature of the elements involved in the conflict).

So...

  • A close Zoom on a large Scale would be similar to: two fleets of enemy starships blasting away at each other, with large numbers of rolls and calculations and tactics involved on the part of the involved players.
  • With a close Zoom on a small Scale being: typical D&D-ish combat.
  • And a far Zoom on a small Scale would similar to: two men slashing at each other with lightsabers, with one or two quick rolls determining the outcome.
  • While a far Zoom on a large Scale would be: a quick roll to decide which fleet of spaceships won an engagement, or who was pulling ahead in a war.

Is that right? (BTW, I don't know if Zoom is the best word. Focus? Detail? Granularity?)
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Daniel B
Member

Posts: 171

Co-inventor of the Normal Engine


« Reply #4 on: January 05, 2009, 03:48:34 AM »

You've got it Raven.

I was the one who chose the wording, actually, based a little bit on my background is math and stats. "Scale" in that context simply deals with sheer magnitudes, so a scaled up image has larger dimensions and more pixels. Similarly, a tribe of attackers (or even a magically enlarged tribesman) might do the same numerical damage as a single tank, so they are at the same scale. This would be independent of the actual number of rolls involved.

That said, I understand what you mean by "Scale of Narration" and it makes sense. We're trying to make this game instantly recognizable and playable to ease it's introduction to the market (even though the "guts" of the machine will be vastly different), so I might just change the terms to match what's most common out there, if most RPGers interpret 'scale' to be identical to 'scale of narration'.

Dan
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Arthur: "It's times like these that make me wish I'd listened to what my mother told me when I was little."
Ford: "Why? What did she tell you?"
Arthur: "I don't know. I didn't listen."
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