Author Topic: Module Design: Coric's Definition of "Good" (by Coric)  (Read 865 times)

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Module Design: Coric's Definition of "Good" (by Coric)
« on: February 12, 2009, 11:24:27 PM »
Coric's Definition of "Good"
Written by Coric

Reprinted From UANL #1

As we all know, taste is objective. No two people like exactly the same things (although it would be romantic to think so). So it will come as no shock to me if I am bombarded with letters, telling me how wrong I am about "good". But I diverge...

So, what DOES make a module good? Having played many RPG's, both UA and commercial, I have come up with my own theory. A good game has to have things:

   1. An involving plot.
   2. No bugs.
   3. Good, imported graphics and cool new monsters.
   4. Not too much combat
   5. Nice, flowing maps that have consitant walls (lets face it, caves do NOT have wood or stone floors, as some designers may not know).
   6. Good story development

Now, for an explanation:

A game needs (1) for a simple, single reason: without an engaging plot the player is bored. A module should provide a unique and new experience that can be found no where else. A gamer can only play so many "save the world from a bad evil by finding an ancient artifact" modules before he looses intererest. It is the designer's job to find out what a player wants: usually, it can be found in his own heart. He has to ask himself: "If I was playing this mod., what would I want for a plot?"

A good game also needs (2) for the same reason. A player will not stand for a mod. that is riddled with bugs, typos, and, of course, the dreaded 'lock-up' (e.g. forgetting that last transfer module, that teleporter, the password to the thieve's den). I have played too many modules that start off with a good idea, then die a quick death from bugs.

(3) is just something I like. I expect to see something new; yes, my imagination is good, but you can only stretch that kobold into a gold dragon for so long before the mind snaps. It's simple: to keep things interesting, a mod. has to have some sort of hook. If the graphics are the standard, I've-seen-em-a-thousand-times fare, well, there isn't that much to look forward to. Again, it is that anticipation of the unknown: players love to wonder what that last monster will look like, who that evil mage is, etc. And if that monster turns out to be, say, a red dragon, there is something lost.

"A red dragon?" the player asks. "I've seen this a thousand times, who cares?"

(4) too much combat kills a mod. quicker than anything else. The UA engine was not designed for the quick and dirty combat that random c. requires. Even the simplest battles drag on, and on. This is fun for the set encounters, but when confronted by 12 guards every ten steps, the player looses interest fast. The story may be good, but if he has to fight through all those guards every ten steps, it isn't worth it. Try to space out combats, and make sure that they are not too difficult. Delayed-blast fireballs are a quick way to end a mods. hd life...

(5) Maps are a necessity. And if these maps have flaws, the sense of suspended reality that the designer is striving for is lost. Think: do walls in real life have only one side? When I turn a corner, does the wall turn into a line (looks like | )? Do wooden-fire places belong in a stone-room? The answer to all these questions is a resounding 'no!" Always design corners square -and NEVER mix walls sets in one room unless they go together (the two tree sets, two stone-walls, etc.) Never loose the fantasy!

(6) even if a plot is good, if the rest of the execution is poor, the player will not stick around to see the outcome. Starting off with a grand, epic plot, then dropping the pc into a world that is designed only to challenge him with combats and puzzles until he reaches the main goal is not fun! Make the plot fit the world, not the other way around. Keep the player interested with side quests, humorous interludes, fun explorations, etc. Be sure to keep the plot consistent - this is not a video-game! If you want the party to find the sage, then make sure that everything relates to that. Dropping them onto an island ruled by the minotaurs may be a cool idea, but if it does not add to the main plot, drop it (or turn it into a different module later).

The general rule of thumb is simple: If you enjoy playing the module (again, play-testing is key), then we here on AOL will too.

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