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Monday, May 19, 2008

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The Emotional Impact Of RPGs
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

Tales of the Rampant Coyote recently published its third roundtable discussion with Indie RPG developers. This time Basilisk Games' Thomas Riegsecker, and Planewalker Games' Jason Compton were among those discussing the power of emotional impact in RPGs.

Is emotional impact something you try to achieve in your games? If so, what do you do to involve the player emotionally in your game, and what sort of emotions do you try to bring out in the player? If not, is this something you'd consider worth doing in an indie RPG? Why or why not?

Thomas Riegsecker, Basilisk Games ("Eschalon: Book 1"):
I don't know if emotion is a big factor in RPGs or not. Certainly here are some console RPGs (Final Fantasy comes to mind) that provide an emotionally charged storyline in lieu of a deep role-playing experience. Short of that, I'm not sure that an RPG is the most effective format for delivering an emotionally loaded story. To get a meaningful emotional response from a player requires a carefully delivered storyline, which is hard to accomplish with an RPG where the story is erratically paced and rarely linear.
Regardless, I do think it is important to give the player a sense of personal involvement in the story. In Eschalon: Book I the player has a meeting with his brother, which for as short of an encounter that it is, generated a surprising number of responses from players who were moved by it. So yes, I think emotion can work well in individual scripted situations where feelings of empathy, anger or fear can be an immediate factor to drive the player forward to his or her next goal.

Jason Compton, Planewalker Games ("The Broken Hourglass"):
Yes, we're certainly looking to evoke emotional responses. There are a number of reasons to play a game through to completion (and then come back and play it again), including dogged determination, curiosity about "what's behind the next corner?", new rules exploits to try, and so forth... but one of the most enduring reasons are characters that players enjoy interacting with and responding to.
We're using a number of devices to that end. We put the PC in a situation where they have to make a crucial decision early on which should provoke an emotional response. We give joinable NPCs a range of motivations and priorities, ways to explore their own stories and in some cases romantic entanglements.
I'm not sure there's any particular emotion we're actively *avoiding*. The real trick is to avoid harping too much on emotional themes of despair and loss. Finding a way to pace humor, friendship, and romance in the midst of death and destruction is hard enough in linear media, considerably moreso when the pace and the sequence of the story are to some extent controlled by the player's whim. So we'll see how well it all works out.
Head over to the link below to read the rest of the comments.

Tales Of The Rampant Coyote: Indies Roundtable 3
Basilisk Games
Eschalon: Book I
The Broken Hourglass
Buy Eschalon: Book I

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