[Idea] Rabbit hole text adventures: Can't get ye flask? Make ye flask!

Discussion in 'Quests & Lore' started by Astrobia, Feb 10, 2014.

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  1. Astrobia

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    This is a run on from another thread which I split and expanded on to keep it on topic.
    Quick summary is the idea of using the described rabbit holes and launch points for text adventures written by the community to get the writer side of the community cheaply involved. Probably pipe dream but throwing the idea out there anyway for the sake of the writers.

    What is a rabbit hole and the crowd sourcing implications?:
    The name is obviously a Lewis Carroll and the Sims 3 has an almost literal example where you can send a sim to investigate a hole, the sim jumps down and disappears (the player no longer able to control it) and goes on an adventure on its own (depicted by text notifications of events pulled from a random pool) and climbs out several minutes later (control now returned to the player) with a series of randomised buffs/injuries and loot/losses.
    There are countless other examples, sending the sim to work/school, on a stroll in the forest, to investigate a cave/crypt and various other buildings sims can enter but the player can't...

    Now one more interesting use I've seen for rabbit holes is as entry ways for text adventures. You do not have to limit yourself to simply popping up randomised events once you remove the character from the world space, you can give players interactive choices. This lets them do complex things without the overhead of having to animate/render the actions...

    One of my favourite games is the space rangers series, which is a space trading/combat TBS. Most the time you are flying around in space fighting and scavenging but occasionally you get a mission that requires you to land on a planet and go on an adventurer and when you do it looks like this:

    It's a nice simple interface, options are clearly presented in the bottom right. An image in the top right represents the current situation (pulled from a pool of generic stock pictures that all the quests use in this case, picking which is the closest fit), top left explicitly states what is going on... The bottom right is used for a variety of things including puzzles, acting as an inventory and generally keeping track of things from scene to scene.
    SotA already has an inventory system which could be used in combination with gumps for interaction, also health and mana bars where relevant... But a persistent text space is still useful to keep track of things like how many moves you left to solve a puzzle, how much longer you can hold your breath, what the current colours of the glowing crystals over the control pannel etc.

    And the variety of the quests is staggering. Everything from presidential campaigns, haunted houses, animal hunts, fishing contests, negotiating peace treaties, battling mechs, racing, repairing broken VCR's (seriously). Now disregard the scifi setting consider the number of adventures that could be made with just a handful or rabbit holes... A path into thick wooded forest, a trap door in suspicious house, a rope down a well, a ship in the harbor...

    I mention the last one because that seems to be something they are planing anyway. Non player driven ferries players can get on to travel between island locations with a chance for random encounters along the way.

    This might be a possible way to solve the problem of how to let the writers in the community do something other then write fan fiction and write something to submit that can be included in the actual game... For example, run the following minor contest:

    Now I wouldn't want the devs to take time away from working on regular player controlled first person quests (and I don't mean view perspective) to make more then a cursory number such text adventures themselves... But modelling a simple rabbit hole entrance as described that can then be dropped at various locations around the world map would give a wealth of "extra" content that players could partake in for minimal investment on behalf of the devs.

    They could even group those submitted crowd source adventures by type (caves full of kobolds, ones that include encounters with dragons, river rapids, pirate treasure stashes) and apply each group to a specific cave so you effectively get themed mini dungeons...

    Other dev uses and community involvement:
    The implications using the conversation text parser are staggering. It would be very easy to drop in NPC into these adventures and if an action parser is added for rabbit holes you could create some quite in depth adventure games inside the game itself. But this would require some extra work on the dev's part and feature creep is something too watch out for... It would need some pretty well established guidelines for the community to follow along side good parser technology to avoid issues... http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/YouCantGetYeFlask

    Still even without taking too much time away from the devs it opens up some interesting avenues. Before plot comes setting, and most the setting information for the game gets written long before it can be included in the game itself for players to learn... (If they are exposed to it at all not everyone reads those "History of empire" books left lying around the game if there is no chance of getting a skill boost from them)

    But say they release those snippets of setting information in text quest writing competitions asking community members to write events and scenarios that teach players questing down rabbit holes about the game world by creatively imparting that setting information.

    The scope for doing so is huge too... I mean the 3 C's of game design are Content, Content and Content. This isn't free content, in addition to the well established guidelines and well developed back end all the submissions need to be processed, vetted and edited to make sure they are good quality, internally consistent to the games lore and aren't creating new lore that needs to be kept track of by future writers. Plus a well polished interface needs to be developed for presenting these adventures in a seamless unjarring manner.

    Still that is relatively cheap compared to some of the things they are doing now, especially where the writing community is involved. I mean I have seen two or three writing contest so far that Richard, Starr, Tracy and Gina (probably others) have had to spend time reading to pass judgement on. What is the outcome for those?

    Are any going to be included in the game? Entries for the poetry competition will be included in an NPC book. Actually writing and implementing quests based on the stories or even including easter eggs referencing them would be wonderful but the sad reality is it's simply going take too much development time to be feasible on any noteworthy scale. We are still waiting on scenario submission guidelines and Starr has said we'd need to reach 3.5 million in funding before they could consider doing something like that, even in a limited capacity.

    If they actually get written as text quests to begin with (especially if there's a back end in place for submitting them in that format) once they've gone through editing they are virtually drag and drop to get into the game. They are reading through all contest submissions now and will still have to go through editing for anything they actually want to include anyway... It is still not trivial but comparatively speaking...

    Say they run a huge quest writing contest and offer to include the top 10 entries as quests in the actual game... For the same amount of work they could do the top 3 as actual in game quests and include the top 50 runner ups as text adventures. That is an awful lot of extra content for sandbox world to expand the number of activities players can participate in after completing the main story line. For the same amount of dev work hours that is.

    It is for us to do, not them:
    Now I want to emphasise again this isn't something I'd want to see the devs writing much content for themselves. Any quest written by Richard and Tracy do not need to be vetted or go through extensive editing to make sure they fit the setting before the team codes them up. They define the setting, are all inherently congruous and of consistent quality and I want them to spend their time working on implementing those world defining quests in the game proper.

    There's a difference in the necessary writing style for each type of quest as well. A first person quest, the writer has to take into consideration the number of NPC's that need to be created to carry out the quest, the number of dialogue trees that need to be written to give them a back story to fit them into their location in the world, their daily schedules written and programmed, any quest items need to be modelled by artists, programmed, databased, locations visited need to be fleshed out, modelled, decorated. It is a lot of overhead. In a text adventure those things are expendable and just a couple lines of descriptive text.

    That compactness is key, as they also passive experiences. You can't have engaging adrenaline pumping combat in a text adventure. Exploration is on rails. The lack of real time visuals means events have less impact. This means making it engaging is a challenge and they go stale quickly. I'm happy to spend half a day tracking and chasing as serial killer, following leads from town to town across the over world as I quest to bring them to justice (black gate reference)... I would not want to spend more then 20 minutes playing a text adventure in the middle of such a journey though.

    They make a good side activity to mix things up and are something community members could easily submit to expand the game... But they don't make a good core experience and I want to see the devs fleshing out the core content and leaving fleshing out extra secondary content like this to us. That said however that doesn't mean they can't have significant value coming from the community.

    The importance of delivering meaning:
    On of my favourite quests in a video game is in Ultima 8 when trying to join the Theurgists (who I will hence forth refer to as the cult of Stratos) and the quest giver basically says if you want to join us you have to prove you understand or philosophies., so go into our library and learn about our history then come back and I'll give you a pop quiz to see if you are worthy.

    There's two things that make the quest brilliant, the first is it's not fetch, no go kill something, no deliver this, no act as a go between for some NPC's or go fix something we are to lazy to do ourselves... The second is the quest forces you to go and learn something about the game world and what it delivers is quite insightful. Also the way the quest is delivered is brilliant.

    You go to the library, you read the books, you go back and take the quiz and the questions... Which turn out to not answered in the books at all. It is not a comprehension test, the answered aren't written anywhere. The questions are about demonstrating you understand the way they think. Example: Is it better to first punish a wicked child or comfort a crying one?

    This one of those great justice verses valor ethical parables ultima is known for... But it's not asking what you think, it's asking what they think. The clincher is you get a series of these questions, if you get one wrong you fail and they don't say which you got right are wrong. Even though it's multiple choice trail and error would be a huge pain the ass... And in an age before the internet and gamefaqs...

    Now there isn't a book that tells you which child to deal with first but the one on raising children does state there is no such thing as a bad child, just children that don't know bwetter and it's better to teach them why what they did is wrong then punish them for it. You can derive the answer from the various stories like these allowing you to answer the questions correctly on your first try if you absorb the underlying meaning and vibe they convey. They are great stories to... Check out these two:

    Yes further expanding the wall of text to read here, but I think for the writer community these are worth sharing... Especially not already familiar with Ultima and Richards fondness for including ethical parables.

    As far as short stories that slap you in the face with an Aesop go those are two of the best I've ever read. I read a lot of golden books as a kid but the little steam engine who could has nothing those bad boys.

    I doubt your average person would spend 10-15 minutes on this quest. The game world has much more depth and richness to it after having done it and as soon as it is done you are off to some catacombs to fight some monsters for the silver ore they are guarding. What I'm saying is it's one of the best quests I've come across in a game and if it was delivered as a text quest, the game wouldn't have been any poorer for it.

    They don't have to be big discover yourself and learn some morals stories to be impactful and have value either. I'm a big fan of tangential learning. Edutainment has it wrong, you don't stick numbers in balloons, give kids a maths problem and tell them to pop the right numbered balloon to have fun while learning. You give them an objective and the tools to figure out things on their own.

    I've never sailed a boat, but I know how to use a compass, sextant and sea chart... Why? Videogames taught me. Now the first rule of writing is write what you know. We have people here from all walks of life, if someone wrote a text adventure in which you had to learn some basic tenants of chemistry to solve a puzzle for an alchemist... And you make sure not to walk them through it, just give them access to what they need to know and let them figure it out for themselves, then when they solve it they feel uplifted. They also know a little more and they will take value away from it.

    How many people have we seen in here who have said they learned about baking bread from ultima 7 black gate? I doubt it taught any of them to bake bread that tasted partially nice but I'm sure for some of them it was the first time they were introduced the basic ingredients and process for combining them and some others I know for a fact it inspired to learn the process in more detail and now bake their own bread on a regular basis simply because an NPC in Britain offered them 1GP per loaf. :p

    Of course this is not a one size fits all solution:

    I'm sure we will see a lot of these quests in the main game, it's what I'm looking forward to and why I'm backing SotA and not WoWclone563... But I would like to see as many as possible covering as many subjects as can be fit in.
    I don't see them as a core mechanic, I would not go out of my way to do them often, it would not appeal to everyone and I don't expect the community to be able to churn out such quality quests in epically massive quantities...
    But if including crowd sourced text adventures increase the amount world and player enriching content by even as little as 15%, that's worth it in my book.

    There are some talented people here and this is just one idea about how we can cheaply get them involved to expand the scope of the game, so just throwing the idea out there. If it's ignored and disregarded I wont lose any sleep over it. There may be other developers in here who pick up on it and find it useful. If the idea is out there it can be adopted, shifted and improved upon in any number of ways. Plus I wanted to give the writers here a shot at doing something more then fan fiction.

    What do you say community? Is this something you think is worth the effort? Do you have other idea of your own to contribute? How can we make it easier on the devs to utilise all branches of this community to make a better game?
    Fireangel and Bubonic like this.
  2. Bubonic

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    I love the idea. Always down for any way to add crowdsourced supplemental content.
  3. confusedcious

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    A good idea though I wouldn't want text walls to become too frequent.
  4. Astrobia

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    Well ideally they should be optional anyway. Like all side quests. :p
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