214 Number-Free RPG

An RPG that uses no numbers.

I’ve been playing Massive Chalice lately (and honestly, I am totally obsessed with it! Shout out to the team over at Double Fine for this game!). One thing that caught my eye was a stats-heavy screen that’s accessed from each hero’s details pane:


(Phew! That’s a lot of numbers)

To be honest, there’s nothing particularly wrong with these numbers-driven games. Being a math aficionado makes me predisposed to like them, actually. So I do enjoy them, often, but sometimes simplicity can be a fresh breath of air.

( As a side note: it can be particularly frustrating when a game has stats like these, and also choses not to explain them to you! I’m looking at you, Massive Chalice! It’s my general rule of thumb that if these values aren’t going to be fully explained, then there’s no reason they need to be available to the player, or at the very least can often be simplified. That said, Massive Chalice doesn’t rub the values in your face anyway, so it’s not a problem there. In Double Fine’s defense, their Costume Quest series does quite the opposite, and successful avoids any focus on numbers and still creating a fun and strategic RPG. )

I’m not sure what this Number-Free RPG would be like exactly. Depending on the type of game… maybe your Strength/Dexterity balance is shown through character models; the more beefy characters are stronger, the thinner ones are more nimble. Armor could be shown this way as well. Stats like Intelligence are more difficult to nail down visually, but could be represented by the character’s clothing, or maybe a sigil on them somewhere. Plenty of games have gone HP-free, getting rid of that stat and showing it through a gradually reddening screen, a fatigued character model, or through sound design. Games like Dead Space got rid of the Ammo count meter by placing it directly on the gun, though it might be interesting for a player to not know whatsoever the number of bullets in their gun (unless they keep track!).

These are just ideas, but the concept remains to simplify. Of course, not simplifying needlessly, though. Also, we could just make a game that didn’t focus on mechanics that even need numbers at all. But the point here is to take systems that are generally very strategic and dynamic, but not simple, and making them more accessible and digestible to the player (even if the complexity remains behind the scenes).

[ Today I Was Playing: The Witcher: Enhanced Edition and Dragon Age II and Massive Chalice ]

August 2, 2015

#experimental-game, #role-playing-game