Over at Kotaku Australia, they have a report on a talk given by designer Chris Avellone at a convention in Melbourne. Chris hates RPGs, or at least, RPG cliches.

For those who don’t know, he worked on Planescape: Torment, Fallout 2 and Knights Of The Old Republic 2. So he has some experience under his belt.

The piece covers several instances where Avellone broke with RPG conventions, applying his “hatred” to something he didn’t like. One is PS:T, where Nameless is immortal, and death doesn’t mean “game over, man; time to reload”.

There are several points I could write about; the one I decided on was this:

Avellone says that in most RPGs, you have a lesser experience when you’ve done bad deeds and become hated by everyone. This usually means people won’t talk to you or they’ll just attack you on sight. He wants to continue the idea that hatred is a “gift” and that when your character accumulates a negative reputation with other NPCs, the player still gets just as much enjoyment from the interaction as the player who has a positive rep.

Presumably, that means NPCs will still talk to you, even if they hate your guts. Although I don’t see where that would be enjoyable. What could they say beyond expressing how much they despise you? It might be fun the first time, but it would get old pretty fast.

Of course, the people on “your” side would react differently. But I think Chris means the usual run of NPCs in a game. Well, if your reputation is poor, if you’ve been doing all sorts of “evil” or “bad” things, why would anyone want to talk to you?

Let’s consider a typical RPG. We always have “help me, Obi-Wan”, where you pick up those little side jobs. An ordinary person isn’t likely to ask for assistance from someone with a poor reputation.

Certainly, there could be a branch in the game path, one for “good” and one for “evil”. That may be what Chris has in mind. Then you’d be talking to people who wanted all sorts of nefarious things done.

We saw something like that in Might & Magic VII, where halfway through you chose between light and dark paths. You carried out many – though not all – of the same jobs on either path, but you did get different endings.

On the other hand, if we take “hated by everyone” literally, how could your experience be made enjoyable? In Geneforge 5, for instance, it’s possible to tick off both the Shapers and the rebels. Both sides consider you too dangerous too live, so they join forces to hunt you down and kill you.

That is the logical thing in a world where you have no friends, where your actions have turned everyone against you. So there has to be some “evil” side, some “evil” path for the PC to follow.

Still, the “everyday NPC” would want to avoid you. If you saw a known killer walking down the street, decked out with all sorts of weapons, you’d be moving away fast in some other direction. Who knows what such a person might do?

RPG Designer Hates RPGs