Tragic Hero: Baiting the Trap

Posted: May 21, 2011 in Game Design
Tags: , , , , , , ,

A few days ago I had an idea about making a game were the player becomes a tragic hero, rather than watching a story unfold that has a tragic hero in it. You should probably read it, if you haven’t already, before continuing with this one. That same day I also had a post about the BrainHex quiz which tries to determine the primary motivation for why people games. It just occurred to me that the different categories in the BrainHex quiz can help me lay traps for players in the tragic game, and I will explain shortly.

So first off, the game is a traditional medieval RPG, but the player character starts out quite strong compared to other RPGs. In the last post I said I just wanted side quests, no main quest, and the tragedy would be hidden in one of those optional quests. I’ve decided that having a main quest would work better, but if you do it without following any of the optional content, the game will be very short and very bland. You will get the one “good” ending where nothing horrible happens to your character.

The other problem with my previous post was that I thought I could trick every single player into falling for the same trick, leading to a tragedy. Thanks to the BrainHex listing several different categories of gamers, we can set tragic traps that prey on specific play styles. Probably should have a few for each category spread across the game world, to minimize the chance that they will accidentally miss it.

For seekers it should be easy enough, there will be many optional dungeons throughout the game, most of which are completely safe, but a few of them will have cursed treasure, like the kind mentioned in the previous post, or some variation that leads to a similar result. The player slowly gets weaker, attempts a final quest to undo it, than dies.

Conquerors shouldn’t be too hard. Since the player starts out so much stronger than in normal RPGs most quests will be too easy and the conquerors will crave more challenge, so offering up a series of increasingly challenging quests should be the perfect bait for them. Maybe the player fights an enemy that delivers a mortal wound that will slowly lead to their death.

Achievers could be the easiest of all. Simply make an achievement that tells them something like, start a brawl in the pub, but really it can be pretty much anything we want. Unable to resist the urge to get an achievement, these guys will follow a path to their own demise. Maybe the person they get into a brawl with in the pub just happens to be a wizard who curses them, and will only lift the curse if they do tasks for him.

Some categories might be harder than others to come up with, especially socialiser, which seems nearly impossible to work out in a single player game, but maybe someone can think of a way to do that one. Anyway this is just a theoretical exercise so its not a big deal if I can’t think of something for every category.

An important aspect of the game, is that after the terrible fate, whatever it may be, has befallen the player they get quite a bit of time before the end. They can try desperately on a quest to overturn the fate that has befallen them, or they can continue on the main quest and try to finish it before their demise, or they can go on any number of sidequests, or they can sit around doing nothing while their death approaches. There will be a large number of possible endings based mainly on what tragedy befalls the player, and what they do with their limited time.

  1. Haychen says:

    The idea of using the BrainHex quiz is really interesting.

    I don’t think side quests should be what make a game fun. I know the first time I play a game I do very few sidequests and focus instead on the main storyline. After all, that’s why its the MAIN storyline– it has to be important, and it has to be fun. To draw people in, and all.

    Now, I think what would be a good idea is to have a quiz similar to the BrainHex at the beginning, and the game will change a bit to suit their needs. Based on their results, the locations of key items and quests in the game would be different. IE, for a seeker, there would be more stuff in caves. For a conqueror, more stuff would drop off of increasingly powerful monsters.

    Let it go on for a while. Let the player get confident. Then, at the height of their increasing power, bring them to their knees. The rest of the main quest is spent struggling for redemption, but they’re already in a downward spiral, and only players who know what they’re doing and who pay attention should be able to figure out the ‘good’ option.
    IMHO, multiple endings gives it replay value, and people will work harder to get the good ending, so it can’t be easy to get.

    • maxff says:

      I kinda get what you’re trying to say, but there’s sort of an important reason why I want the fall brought about by optional quests. The purpose of the game is to make the player a tragic hero, not to just make a story that is a tragedy. In order for the player to be a tragic hero, their fall must be brought about by their own actions. If the fall is beyond their control, then they can’t be blamed for their fall, and therefore not a tragedy.

      I don’t really see any need for the tragedy to be part of the main quest. Seekers, for example, explore by their very nature, and we can set up a tragedy caused by their uncontrollable exploration urges. If the tragedy was caused by following the main story, then it has nothing at all to do with preying on their need to explore.

      You can say that this game would have a poor main quest, and I could say the same about Fallout 3, go ahead just try to argue Fallout 3 had a good main quest and I’ll have to call bullshit on that. Anybody who spends a moderate amount of time side questing should stumble upon a tragedy, and most importantly, it will likely be related to the type of player they are.

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