Lifelike Manifesto: Paladin’s Rules for Improving Role Playing Video Games

Originally published: 2/3/2006. In all but a few of my 40 46 years, I’ve been playing video games. Now I’m starting to accumulate a list of rules that video game developers should consider (really, they should just obey them) when they’re looking to build the more realistic, engaging adventure experiences that we all crave.

I’m sure you have others. Please let Paladin know.

General

  1. First-person perspective
    Do any of us live with a third-person perspective? Of course not! The benefits of 1st person far outweigh the disadvantages.
  2. Adventuring is dangerous
    Other than monsters, there should still be other ways to hurt oneself. If a character tries to walk off a cliff, the game should let him. No invisible fences. There should also be traps set from time to time, especially where bad guys have secured a valuable item. Like, “Duh?”
  3. Life Isn’t Linear
    The only thing linear about life is time. We aren’t constricted to only be able to open 1 of the rooms 4 doors. If I’m holding a gun powerful enough to blow away a giant space alien, surely it’s strong enough to open a locked door. Don’t build levels where I can only move through it one way, give us choices.

Movement

  1. Realistic speed of movement
    Dogs can run about 20-25 mph, whereas a Greyhound can reach speeds up to 45 mph. Humans can job at about 5 mph, sprint up to 22-25 mph while Sprint Champions could possibly reach approximately 35 mph. Now, if we’re playing a superhero, those numbers go out the window.
  2. Duration of sprint
    There should be nothing called “Always run.” Humans, like animals, all wear down over time. Then they should have to rest before being able to sprint at high speeds again.
  3. Unexplored places should be unknown
    The Fog of War is generally a good idea. Unless I have an map of an area (which would make a great item, hint!), I shouldn’t know what to expect it to look like until I get there.

Inventory

  1. Realistic weight limits
    There should be any slots, it should be based on how much weight that character can carry. Certain objects are heavier than others. There should never be any unlimited categories, such as gold, ammunition, etc.
  2. Backpacks are not instantly accessible/stored
    Putting away your long bow and getting our your set of throwing knives should take significantly longer than 1 nanosecond. All weapon switches should take at least a few seconds with the possible exception of pulling a blade from an accessible holster.
  3. No arbitrary ammo limits
    How does it make sense to cap my rocket launcher shells at 5? If there are 10 on the floor there, I should be able to pick them all up, right? Unless that breaks #1 (see above).

Combat

  1. Expertise comes from practice
    Reading books, talking to other characters, etc. should never increase a character’s expertise. In some cases, a magic potion could potentially temporarily enhance or even permanently improve an area of expertise. These increases should happen gradually over time, not all at once when some arbitrary level or threshold is achieved.
  2. Weapons/Armor break
    Unless there is a special magical property, all weapons, armor, shields, etc. should degregate over time and at some point should be broken and at that point useless.
  3. Friendly-Fire is reality
    Making it impossible to hurt an ally is absurd. If you buddy is currently engaged in battle with a Ghoul and a couple of Skeletons, you better move around to the side if you want to avoid hitting your comrade.

Enemies

  1. Enemies size should factor in to their Hit Points
    It’s rediculous to think that a giant Ogre would have less hit points than a ferocious Ferret, no matter its “level.” Size matters.
  2. Enemies size should factor in to their Dexterity
    Common sense tells us that Serpents and Wild Cougars would be more dextrous than a Lumbering Giant or Woolly Mammoth.
  3. The concept of Respawn is insane
    I know that games can’t be totally realistic or you’d have only one life then *poof* but if you clear out a section of terrain, Monsters shouldn’t just respawn but might be able to move in from another part of the world.
  4. When close to death, Enemies should flee
    It almost never happens, but if you’ve whittled an opponent down to within an inch of their life, and their not hopped up on crack or a magic Rage potion, they should bolt. At least, the thinking creatures. Crazed loonies aren’t governed by this rule.
  5. Each type of Enemy should engage you differently
    Most enemies should attack en masse. Some might send one or two to “scout” you out. Others could even run up close, not attack, then flee immediately when they see they are grossly outmatched. But most of the time, all the enemies should attack, all at once.
  6. Enemies should be grouped according to Task
    It’s completely unrealistic to scatter enemies about, standing idle or “patrolling” a tiny piece of earth, just so the Adventurers can fight them in more easily digestible groups. They should be part of a scouting group (small), an attacking group (larger) or some other functioning group like sleeping, repairing, buiding, meeting, etc.
  7. Enemies should utilize weapons, ammo, powerups themselves
    Isn’t it strange to finish off a group of soldiers firing pistols at you, only to find that there’s a stash of high caliber machine guns sitting on the floor directly behind where those enemies were stationed? If I were an enemy, I would have traded in my pop-gun the first chance I had.

Rewards

  1. Animals shouldn’t have gold
    Only thinking beings who actually use gold to buy and sell stuff should ever have gold. If I kill a Swamp Monster, he shouldn’t have any gold on his person. Orcs, Dark Elves, etc. yes, but unthinking beasts no.
  2. All visible items should be available after a creature is killed
    If an Orc is attacking me with a bastard sword while wearing chain mail and wielding a magic shield, when I kill him, those items should be available for me take. Period.
  3. Treasure should never be larger than Monster
    How in the world could a giant rat produce a 25lb. halbred after it’s killed? I mean really.
  4. Magic items should be practically unique
    It’s not like they are created on an assembly line. How many +3 Mace of Sturdiness’s could there be?
  5. The nature of a magic item should only be identifiable by someone with expertise in that area
    The strong Captain of the King’s fighting force should not be able to differentiate be a +1 Sword of Sharpness and a +5 Vorpal Sword, except that he might understand they behave differently when he uses them. Note: Determining whether an object is magic or not magic can be open to everyone, or hidden. “Would you like at that blue glow coming of that long bow?!?”
  6. Other than Magic, Healing shouldn’t be instantaneous
    How unrealistic is it for you to gather up boxes of “Health” then after your arm is blown practically off of your body to “Use” one of these boxes to fix you up? Truly bizarre concept.

Paladin is an Internet-veteran turned tech-savvy Realtor. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter.

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