Having read The Grand List of Console RPG Clichés, written an article on the subject and recently beaten The Witcher 3 : Wild Hunt (all recommended consumption, btw), I’d like to propose some solutions for issues present in almost every RPG I’ve ever played.
Problem 1: Quest rewards that aren’t rewarding.
Description: You’ve slogged through a half hour of dialogue and cutscenes, killed countless creatures along the way and you ‘turn in’ the quest just to get an item that has lower stats than everything you’ve got equipped or a pouch of currency that you wouldn’t even bother looting with ‘take all’.
Solution: Percentages! Upon award, generate item stats at a percentage increase to current equipment & character level. Epic loot can just have higher percentages or procs. For gold, a percentage of earned gold total would be reflective of both value & the ‘experience’ of the character.
Problem 2: Refuse a quest? Refuse the reward.
Description: You may have the option to decline a request made of you by an NPC, but doing so means that you won’t get any results – no achievement, no reward, no nothing. Often, if you do revisit the NPC, you’ll get to accept the quest like you’ve never made a choice to refuse it in the first place.
Solution: Validation! Saying no is a choice. There is no reason why the player shouldn’t be rewarded for refusing to take quests that are out of character, would get in the way of a more critical task or are too trivial. There’s no reason why the main quest giver couldn’t add a few bobs onto your wage slip for keeping focused or having a refusal trigger a resulting story arc. Create achievement trees that award regardless of choice for the corresponding outcome.
Problem 3: The character creator is a player face; copy + paste.
Description: Given the option, you can pour a serious amount of time into appearance and background; but if you’re expecting the story to do more then give a nod to these choices; keep dreaming. Often, the NPC’s won’t ever even recognise the name you’ve given your character.
Solution: Do or do not! It’s much better to have a single, multi-dimensional PC with quirks, history and meaningful interactions. Stop offering different races, genders or character customization options if it will have little to no impact on the story and the experience whatsoever. Where is the creativity in a character creator that churns out the same game for a half-blind, balding dwarf bard from Hightown as it does for a waif-like, raven-haired elf sorceress from Ar’than? Finally, cell-phone AI can pronounce names, why don’t VO Actors take a similar approach and record phonetic sounds that can be combined and speed/pitch adjusted to pronounce the PC’s name.
So, what did you make of the ideas? Got some of your own? Let us know down in the comments below.