Reward made easy

Because simple is best


Rewards – give them away!

We had a bit of a family gathering this last weekend and I introduced my sister to Dungeonsiege. I have to admit that I love this game for a variety of reasons. Whereas Neverwinter Nights has a powerful tool-set and the D&D rule-set behind it, Dungeonsiege has a couple of somethings that makes it a far more successful gateway game to the uninitiated.

For starters, the entire system can be mastered with only a mouse. Where keyboard inputs certainly make potion use easier, there isn’t a need for much more than point and click. In fact, the entire game is rather similar to Diablo (a blessing as well as a curse depending on who you ask.) Diablo gained popularity in part because of its streamlined interface, opening up the RPG to a wider audience. While that might seem like a drawback to depth, my experience in the exact opposite. Any time you force the player to take focus off the game and onto the interface, you’ve broken the immersion.

Next, the game lends itself to the simple “kill them and take their stuff” mode that most early D&D games emulated. Again, a good homage in my book.

I’ll briefly mention that the lack of load screens and the whole world as a single map are great inducements to multiplayer games. And let’s not forget the simple “click on my pic to follow/support me” mode. God I love that – and constantly wonder why NwN doesn’t have something akin to it. These simple enhancements allow for a group feel that helps an experienced player introduce the game to another with relative ease.

Perhaps I should consider scripting the functionality up – KO

Finally, and the focus of what makes this game a great gateway drug, the improvement reward mechanics are about as simple as can be.

  • Want to be a better melee basher? Then just pick up a melee weapon and start bashing. Doing so will improve your melee skill as well as your strength.
  • Want to be a better archer? Start killing things with your bow. Doing so will improve your ranged skill as well as your dexterity.
  • Want to be a better nature mage? Then use nature magic. Doing so improves your nature magic skill as well as your intelligence.
  • The same pattern applies for combat magic.

The simplicity of this brilliant improvement mechanic is genius. Its easy to understand, follows a predictable pattern, and instead of having an arbitrary choice after the fact, places the decision of improvement directly into the game world. That’s simplicity and immersion in the improvement mechanic. And that’s sheer brilliance.

So what can we learn about rpgs in general from this little Dungeonsiege plug?

For starters, for a game to appeal to a wide range of players, it should be relatively easy to pick up, easy to immediately “get in to”, and easy to teach. It should also allow for the flexibility of increasing the complexity as required by the players. But sometimes complex isn’t necessarily better – in fact, I’m aware of at least a handful of individuals who won’t play D&D. The bulk cite complexity as their major hang-up to the game. Not that I’m advocating taking flexibility out of the system, rather I’m in favor of streamlining the rules to allow for more logical outcomes from actions.

That’s something I tried to keep in mind when I began thinking about the level/improvement/reward mechanics for KORE.

In scouring other games, I found that the two mainstream games that somewhat modeled this behavior were Top Secret and Call of Cthulhu. In both, when you succeed at a skill test, you have a chance of improving in that skill. A simple and easy method to understand a la “Practice makes perfect.”

That’s the mechanic I hope to emulate in KORE – with flourishes of course.

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