Combat and violence shouldn't be trivial; make the player live with the blood on their hands
Especially since it looks like a lot of the game can be played without violence, when the player DOES choose to go to the sword, it shouldn't be glamorized or trivialized.
A lot of games have been showing a more realistic image of violence these days, and I think that's a good thing. I guess what I'm asking is that the following things be kept in mind while doing combat design:
1. There is virtually no way to kill someone instantly and painlessly. People (and animals) will linger, terrified and in agony, but unable to fight back or help themselves for anything from a few seconds to a few hours before they actually die. The mortally wounded will scream, write, sob, groan, beg for help or to be put out of their misery, plead for answers as to why they've been harmed so, etc.
2. Being stabbed/slashed/burned/shocked/shot/bludgeoned HURTS. People (especially ones that are outmatched) will scream in agony, limbs won't work right, etc.
3. Real violence is MESSY. People will slip in blood and fall. They'll attack in clumsy and unsexy ways. Clothing gets tangled, weapons get broken or stuck. Improvised weapons will be implemented. The surrounding environment gets banged up and turned over. Non-combatants will join in based on snap decisions. Even non-lethal fights can get ugly pretty fast: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ApCVw3PopE
4. People outmatched by an opponent will run, plead for mercy, scream in terror, cower, experience incontinence, etc.
5. People really good at violence tend to fight in horrifyingly dirty ways. They go directly for sensitive spots like sensory and reproductive organs, strike without warning, and take the pain of their opponent (and the psychological affect it has on that person's companions) into account. They also tend to be hard and callous or somewhat haunted by what they've done. (And these conditions are not mutually exclusive.) The really bad ones will see everyone in the environment as a tactical resource, and will deliberately cause collateral damage if they think it will rattle their opponent.
6. The friends and loves ones of people who have been the victims of violence are often traumatized by it beyond just a desire to seek revenge. Having your spouse or child killed in front of you is a life-shattering event.
LotoSage - it's not impossible (if you can destroy the brain by surprise, it'll work) but most attacks don't do that.
But even what we're conditioned to think of as instant kills often aren't. That was something I learned in some criminal investigation classes I took - even people that commit suicide with firearms will continue to move for a while afterward (trying to lift themselves up off the ground after shooting themselves in the head, for example). "A while" can be a few second or several minutes.
Bottom line: You can often kill QUICKLY but almost never INSTANTLY.
"There is virtually no way to kill someone instantly and painlessly."
Who told you that? Other than that, you make good points.
You could have a system for regret/insanity. Similar to Palladium Rifts insanity rolls ( using base M.E. attribute ). You'd need some kind of scale for combativeness...
1) The more combative your opponent is against you the easier it is to save vs. regret.
2) The less combative your opponent is the harder it is for you to save vs. regret.
3) Having a large tide influence with aggression/war helps you save vs. regret too.
4) Having a large tide influence with calmness/peace gives you a penalty to save vs regret.
Failing a save means you get some kind of regret value, penalty, or growing insanity. These modifiers could be really cool,and even give bonuses in some situations.
Couldn't agree more: nothing is more frustrating in an otherwise solid violent game or movie than downplaying the sheer brutality, ugliness and inhumanity of combat just to lower the age rating.
The keyboard I typed the original message on had some issues with the "h" key, and these forums have no provision for editing afterwards, much to my chagrin. The "write" typo bothers me every time I check back here to see how people are responding. :/
While you are correct about things like marksmanship and larger weapons being a bit more "clean" this is far from a guaranteed thing. A person shot in the neck or abdomen will linger for long enough to suffer and/or be horrified by their situation. A staff or club will break bones and cripple limbs. Axes or swords will leave horrific wounds and sever appendages; none of it is clean or pretty.
Oh, and the fight I linked to is from the movie Haywire; not some police tape or something. It's wholly fictional.
Subzero Wolfman commented
I agree in general, and you have my votes for depicting things in profound rather than trivial ways.
Nonetheless, my two cents:
I think there should be a distinction between realism and moralism in this discussion.
This ain't edutainment, right, and I pass my own moral judgment.
Maybe for some, walking knee-deep in (pixel) blood is a cathartic experience?
And maybe for some, being constantly reminded that this enemy also was a daddy, a brother, a son is a bit, well, intrusive?
You can argue that, yeah, depicting violence for how it is has a stimulating or habitualising effect; you can opine with equal confidence that it is cathartic or inhibiting.
The only thing we agree on is that the reception depends on the individual (sic!) recipient.
Since we are mature gamers (it says so right in the lawbooks), the discussion is "What do we want to see?" rather than "What are we being taught by what we see?". Methodically, I don't mind what amount of blood or intestines I get to see; didactically, I want to judge for myself.
I, for one, will rather choose not to watch the link you provided, because I can imagine, and would consider it voyeuristic to watch "ugly non-lethal fights" as a proof of how ugly and unglamorous a fight really is; this not being my moral judgment of your intentions, but my expression of how I tend to go about it myself.
On a sidenote, what you are saying about "people really good at violence" pertains to fisticuffs, combat knifing, and other forms of close quarters fighting, but not to fencing, bojutsu (eg), or marksmanship, generally speaking. In fact, the more versed a weapon user is, the quicker (not necessarily less bloody) the kill; and he will go for the LARGEST and least defended aiming zone, not the most incapacitating one. Weapon kills in skirmish situations will more often than not result from Trauma/Hydrostatic Shock rather than organ damage or blood loss per se.
That being said, I'm looking forward to seeing the mortally wounded write. ;)
Woops ... that's more like $2.50, sorry.
Agony is important. It's realistic (as in, if not present, it will kill any sens of belief or immersion), and it's a good way to really show what you do with your character.
While I like some of those ideas it is for me dubious to bring our ethic or our reaction to violence to a game/world where the violence is a daily fact. I would appreciate if the authors will develop something coherent with the context.
An example would be the ancient Greece: Every Citizen had an experience of fighting with a sword or a spear, face to face. That was life and if you loose the battle, it was not just your life you lost: A city taken would often be sold to slavery.
From 20 to 35 yo a Citizen would consider being part of an expedition to go to War every summer or so (Athens or Sparta were at war against each other or other cities for most of the VI and V century BC)
Like them, a character in this game would be much more familiar to violence, death and blood than us.
We are lucky today even if we do not realize it.
Another inspiration for how to implement this kind of thing might be something along the lines of the fight with The Sorrow in that Metal Gear game - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40chueG-4II - I've never played it, but the idea of such a seminal event taking place which directly confronts you with the consequences of your violence triggering the psychological effects of your deeds makes sense from a narrative perspective.
It can be an actual meeting with the dead, as in MG, or something metaphorical, such as having a near-death experience that teaches your character what their violence does to others. Tying this kind of narrative arc to specific, mandatory encounters while still keeping a reactive element that responds to general actions (i,e, number of kills, type of victims, maybe even tactics used etc.) to tailor the impact to the playstyle might be a useful model here. So a plot-relevant encounter plays out differently if you are a pacifist vs. an AoE mass murderer vs. a silent assassin who only kills few people etc....
+1 to the idea of tying the combat system to Tides in order to achieve this idea! It would also definitely change how a character responds to violence and what problems they might have to deal with... Maybe a violent Red Tide character has trouble controlling his/her emotions in non-combat contexts without resorting to violence?
On the other hand, there are ideologies and ideals which provide extremely effective paths to dealing with the psychological aftermath of violence. Often, these involve either simply being too closed-minded or slow-witted to understand the consequences of your actions or, conversely, cultivating an elaborate mindset that allows for violence when justified. These can be conventionally "moral" (the "stupid" character simply doesn't realize that casually breaking a man's legs might cause him great feelings of helplessness along the lines of torture victims and focuses on the fact that he didn't kill the man; the "clever" character rationalizes the need for violence in accordance with some moral imperative, such as to prevent future violence) or conventionally "immoral" ("Stupid" quite simply doesn't CARE, "clever" is a high-functioning sociopath who is absolutely certain that other people have no feelings/value). So I can definitely see "strong-minded" characters who are capable of dealing with the consequences of their actions in a way that makes sense with their Tide - and some of these characters will be absolutely reprehensible MONSTERS from the player's perspective, while others might be more like veterans who truly believe in a cause.
On one hand I accept that realistic violence is not glamorous or trivial. On the other hand I would like to play this game through at least once or twice using force without having to deal with screaming or pleading every time I attack someone.
The former slave with terrible memories in ME1 was pretty affecting, too.
+1000 Timespike's latest comment. Gore is a very inefficient way of emphasizing the horribleness of violence; Starcraft 2 is much more gory than Banner Saga, for instance, yet I wince every time I lose a soldier in Banner Saga, and don't blink at sending hundreds of Marines to their deaths in Starcraft.
The most violent moment in ME:3, arguably, was hearing a woman who suffered from PTSD recount the horrors of a mission gone wrong, and explain why she needed a gun and isolation from humans. No gore, no visuals, no erotic-tinged women impaled on spikes (as per ME 1), just a human being explaining her past, and the realization that her mind and soul will never be the same again.
Gore can sometimes help make violence seem more serious in its consequences, but sometimes it doesn't. Good writing, though, and realistic reactions? That seems much more consistently effective, and within the project's scope.
Torment's not a medieval setting, per se; it's science fantasy. And it's possible to give violence more "weight" without getting overly Gory. Take a look at I Am Alive. It's also possible to make violence less glamorous in a variety of settings. You mentioned The Witcher, but what about Spec Ops: The Line or the new Tomb Raider?
I really don't care that much about gore. I want horror, grief, guilt, fear, dread, moral injury, and PTSD in the game. Others have made an excellent point that realistic animations are probably not within the project's scope. SERIOUS consequences, though? Those ARE the project's scope.
> I'm pushing to make the violence more realistic in therms of its moral and psychological characteristics.
You can't make it this way. To create "realistic" feeling of medieval violence, you also need medieval player: the one who had death and suffering around from his birth. And don't forget that actual situation "kill or be killed" is a stress and human perception changes - character in-world has this mental protection, but player doesn't.
It's like actors on stage have to speak in loud voice and with emphasis on words so that spectators get the feeling of a normal talk.
You may have a look on Witcher game (and especially on Sapkowski books on which the game is based) to see how more or less "realistic" experience may be achieved. And even that may not go well with Torment style. Going even further may well make gore not just an element, but the defining game feature. Not something I'd wish to see.
@Abstraction: Right, but that's kind of my point; I'm pushing to make the violence more realistic in therms of its moral and psychological characteristics. But to push for that, I felt like I needed to establish how unreal most video game violence is to the other posters here.
Good point, strange conclusion. When I play flight sim, I want to imagine that I fly a real plane. When a programmer hacks Pentagon server in a movie, I am supposed to believe it is real action (being a programmer myself, this is tough). And though there may be reasons for game designers in some game to remind player about game world being unreal, I don't think that this is the case for Torment.
@Abstraction Actually, points 1-3 are pretty much just to establish that real violence and video game violence are about as similar as an arcade flight sim and flying a real plane.
I see a problem here. Killing others matters for the CHARACTER, but points1-3 are aimed at the PLAYER. It is just like you would prohibit an ugly player to play a beautiful character or vice versa. Not good.
Interesting idea may be to reflect killings made in some part of the Castoff's Labyrinth or, as suggested by @Kerlyssa, change attitude of different factions. But path of a deathbringer is (should be) a possible one, not barred by the shocking visuals, what you seem to be suggesting.
Great ideas here.
I would add that even if combat "style" and effects are based on Tides the designers should make sure that neither is an -easy- solution in some quests-problems, and that it represents an increased challenge and further complications in others.