The many properties of a U.R.R. item

This is partly a follow-up to the some of the discussion in the comments page of the previous entry. Still, if you’ve read that (or haven’t, and can’t be bothered), this post is about items in U.R.R, and the many, many ways in which they interact. Alas, since a list turned out to be a much better way to talk about items there is no flowchart this time, but our normal flowchart programming is sure to resume soon enough.

First, it’s worth noting not all items have all the same properties. Potions do not have a “material” property because all potion bottles are made of glass. Scrolls, likewise, because all are made from paper (and highly flammable paper at that – take note!). Similarly, weapons have more properties than armour, which in turn has more properties than alchemical substances, and so on and so forth. Because weapons a) have the most properties, b) are a vital part of what you & your allies go into battle with, and c) are almost fully programmed, this entry is going to focus on weapon properties. However, a lot carry over to other item types too.

Volume – all items have a volume. This determines how many can fit into a single square of the map; how many you can fit into containers; and, on a basic level, simply how large it is, and therefore how likely it is to hit someone if thrown, for instance. No longer are roguelike boxes of endless depth; you can only fit so many bodies in a container before you just can’t close the damned lid.

Weight – all items have a weight. This influences how far you can throw them, how clear a trajectory they take (momentum!), how much you and other creatures can hold at any one time, how likely ice is to crack if you put it down on it, etc. Some items are simply too heavy – no matter how strong you become, you can never carry a full Titan corpse. A Titan, head, however, is a rather more manageable weight (and volume, for that matter).

Melting Point – applies to almost all items, but non-metallic items have this functioning as a “burning point” rather than a melting point. This ties in to the previous entry, therefore – if you charge into battle with any fire-breathing creature wielding your wooden club high above your health and covered in wooden armour, you will shortly find your club destroyed, and everything you’re wearing on fire. Which will, of course, burn you until you take it off. On the other hand, a full set of tempered steel will stand up rather better. I am considering putting in a freezing equivalent whereby items become brittle, can shatter, etc – thoughts in the comments on this if you have any!

Material – this determines how it behaves in certain environments. Metal rusts in water; wood rots in water; etc. Closely tied to melting point.

Damage – metallic swords, for example, can be intact, notched, damaged or badly damaged. The damage an item takes from use reduces how effective it is combat, and its value. As with most games, you can repair these things yourself given enough skill – and a campfire, appropriate smithing tools, time undisturbed by foes, raw materials, etc – or simply pay some random civilian to do it for you. That’s what they’re there for!

Decay – closely tied to material. Rusting, rotting, etc. Once again, reduces effectiveness, but not as severely as damage. Can also slightly change the effect of a weapon – an intact longsword is better at slashing, while a badly rusted one is much less powerful, but might cause nastier wounds. This is never a worthwhile trade-off, but keeps weapons semi-useful even when twisted, blackened wrecks.

Enchantment, blessing, quality, alignment – determine, respectively, damage added on to every attack (e.g. +3); a variety of effects (the undead hate blessed weapons; cursed weapons can be tricky to get rid of; etc); the multiplier to the price it fetches at market; and what alignment of foe it is particularly effective against, if any.

This page is subject to change before the alpha release, but if you ask the game to show you the detail of a weapon, a larger window will appear and show you:

Tempered steel longswords are the peak of the class of ‘sword-like’ weapons…

This also, of course, shows another feature I haven’t even mentioned until now – weapons have a history, which keeps track of particularly noteworthy creatures you killed, and how you killed them. Perhaps, if you kill enough uniques with one weapon, the rest of the world will come to regard that blade as an artifact…

Anyway – weapon histories being a whole series of posts in themselves – the white text denotes the best possible outcome in that category. In this case, an unrusted sword. Light grey denotes the second best – the “particularly sharp” modifier is below the sharpest that bladed weapons can be. Runic information will be displayed in the appropriate colour, while the histories are displayed in descending order of fame (and, therefore, strength of creature slain) and likewise descending colour.

So there’s a pretty comprehensive summary of weapon properties, at least. All items can, of course, be thrown in to fires or carried with you across lakes if you want to find out what happens. More will be said on this in time – particularly on modelling fire, and cellular automata – but until next time: don’t fight dragons with wooden armour.

Coming Friday: Detail of the morale system, or: how to terrify an Orc into insanity (Part 1).

Coming Monday: Detail of the morale system, or: how to terrify an Orc into insanity (Part 2).


Item properties, and why we need them

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.