Let’s talk a bit about items in games, and how little you can generally do with them. This was intended to be an entry about the item properties in U.R.R, but I now realise a little bit of abstract discussion is required first in order to explain why I’m trying to model items so realistically, and why I actually care about the melting point of copper and stuff like that. When you contrast items in most games with individuals – the player, enemies, NPCs, whatever – items are almost impossible to do anything with, and you interact with them in a very linear manner. The extreme is obviously point-and-click advantages where the player must somehow work out which one item will connect with which other one item to move them forward, but this is still a strong trend. In the average FPS, the sequence is thus:
You cannot choose to drop a gun – but then, why would you need to? Gordon Freeman can apparently store all his weapons, bazooka included, in the apparently prodigious storage orifices the Hazard Environment Suit has designed, presumably, for this purpose. Or perhaps it’s a flat-pack bazooka and just telescopes somehow to fit in his pocket.
Whatever the cause, there are no more advanced options with the average FPS weapons than displayed above, and excluding keys, keycards, quest items, etc, there aren’t really many other items in FPS games. However, given that – to some extent – I’m making an RPG, let’s look instead at a quick flowchart I put together for weapons – which you can do more with than most items – in a relatively advanced RPG. Were Skyrim out, I’m sure I’d wax lyrical about it instead, but since it isn’t, let’s talk about Oblivion, and look at this flowchart.
This has a lot more to do. Sure, you can’t attack an Orc with a pair of rusty greaves, hack its arm off, pick up its arm and then beat it to death with it before kicking the battered corpse of the Orc out of the pool of its own blood and vomit (which, I feel compelled to point out, you can do in U.R.R) but you can still drop them, repair them, and (nominally) move them about even outside your inventory.
However, all of these actions take place in inventories – which is to say, some of the time the weapon is in your hands, sometimes in the hands of a shopkeeper’s hands, and the only time they are out of your hands are the moments between the slaying of a foe and the looting of its corpse, and there isn’t really anything you can do at this point.
Additionally, these items are generally invincible, except under specific circumstances. Which is to say – if you collect a sword from Oblivion, climb to the top of the tallest mountain, hurl it off the peak, then find it, leave it underwater for a year, then find it again, hurl fireballs at it, jump up and down on it, throw it against a cliff a few thousand times and then look at it again… it will be undamaged. Utterly. However, if you take this same sword and kill a bug with it, the sword will be damaged upon the conclusion of the combat. The weapon only actually functions as you’d expect in a very specific context (though, with that said, it would have to be some flimsy iron that becomes damaged by slicing a bug) and if you do anything outside that context, the item simply remains invincible.
Thus: what can be done to resolve this? To me, items in most games are almost ‘on rails’ – unless you do the specific actions expected, the item behaves as if it simply doesn’t exist at all. I’m hoping to try something different in U.R.R. However you use items – whether you wield that sword against your enemies, or throw it on the floor, or leave it in a fire, or dip it in the ocean, or a large enemy stamps on it, or anything else, the item will respond appropriately. If you leave your armour in the path of a rampaging horde of Titans, you will not have any armour left to come back to. If anyone has any thoughts on the narrow functions of items in games (or any property items should have in U.R.R. I don’t seem to have thought of!), then please leave your thoughts below…
Coming Monday: U.R.R. items: damage to decay, volume to weight, and material to melting point…
Coming Friday: Detail of the morale system, or: how to terrify an Orc into insanity.