Thievery

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Thievery

Postby youngneil1 » Tue Dec 18, 2012 12:28 am

Some aspect I often find rather badly intergrated into cRPG is thievery, mostly in the form of picking pockets (but also stealing from chests or simply stealing items lying in the open).

This is a two fold problem, it seems, of (1) a good detection mechanism of NPC noticing the thief and (2) even more imprtant: a convincing and balanced sanction system. Some systems try to further balance it by some fence component, preventing the unlimited sale of stolen items.

Detection: Would be nice if the player would be rewarded for careful and planned approaches, e.g. boni for stealing from distracted targets, for stealing from behind, from sleeping targets. etc. Also line of sight of owners of items (or other lawful people) should matter when picking up stuff from chests or the ground. Nigth time with more people sleeping and less witnesses would be ideal then. Also LoS of NPC would be shorter, too. Armor would ideally factor in a well as skills and stats, of course.

Sanction: A sanction so hard that it very likely triggers a reload would be non-ideal for me (like e.g. turning the whole city instantly aggressive towards the player, shutting down many quests in the process). I am also not a great fan of artifcially imprisoning the party again and again... and then have repeating, boring escape scenes. Actually I would like it the most, if even utterly failed attemps would be interpreted as only triggerign suspicious awareness and protection of property: Detection would permanently (or perhaps only for a certain, but long time) remove the item from the player' reach (e.g. the NPC takes its pouch right into its hand because he's got a suspicion or takes the stuff away from the table or out of that chest to put it somewhere safer). Also the NPC's disposition towards the party will lower - but not from 100 to 0, just a bit. Actually the NPC has not caught the party stealing, he just suspected them to plan something, being unsure himself. This way there would be a negative consequence, but not that harsh that playing onwards would be made to unattractive. Being within a house and making oneself suspicious this way will also result in being thrown out of the house right now and alter again, when seen at non-business hours (or at any hours in private places, must be careful with quest related places here).

This is a very automated and mild system - one migth also go for more freedom, like have comabt when caught, make witness NPC killable, send guards. I totally see the realism of that. Again, just trying out some new ideas with the aim to encourage carefully plaenned steal attempts and to accept success as well as failure.

Loot: Only important stuff please ( it's in the hand of the adventure designer anyway)- I dislike it to have to steal from 1.017 barrels and find 1.016 junk items, but one magic ring in the end. Better only a few, but nice steal options.

Fence: A nice idea, but somehow it feels strange to me, hwo all those mundane stolen goods are recognized as stolen in the whole world.

I am still looking for an ideal solution here - all brainstorming most welcome.
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Re: Thievery

Postby Pongo » Tue Dec 18, 2012 10:20 pm

Within ice blink, I'd rather designers have flexibility with some of these issues.

Things like Line of Sight are great in theory, but really hard to execute in practice - especially in a turn based system like iceblink I suspect, as you won't get much idea of where icons will be looking (I suspect all of mine will be looking to the left!! ;) ). In terms of distraction etc, I guess you'd be able to programme that in if you feel strongly enough about it - ie, you could have a scenario where a character needed to start a fire in order to distract the otherwise dutiful guard. There are loads of big budget games with line of sight mechanics where stealth is done badly (I'm looking at you, Mark of the Assassin) so I'm not sure its realistic here to have it as a mechanic.

Fencing - yeah, this bugs me when its done badly. Guards / shops shouldn't magically know that you stole something! Again, I suspect this is something for the game designr to include specifically, rather than have it as a mechanic - ie, if you've taken a certain item from a locked chest, perhaps certain other characters you might encounter would recognise it and raise issues / alert guards etc. Its not chance, its just that until the PC meets a character who the designer has decided would recognise the item, no action is taken.
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Re: Thievery

Postby youngneil1 » Wed Dec 19, 2012 7:38 am

Indeed, LoS indication on the adventure map will be difficult (unless we would like to see arrows/colored borders of tokens, indicating facing direction all the time, which I would find too immersion breaking.).
A thief might be able though via hotkey to have the facing of Npc temporarily displayed (facing arrow shown), perhaos he could even make all fields colored eg transparent red that are currently "under watch", this range would probably be less than the whole LoS.
A part of thieving gameplay could indeed be to distract people then, making them turn via dialogue or doing distracting stuff on the adventure map.
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Re: Thievery

Postby Lurking Grue » Wed Dec 19, 2012 12:54 pm

It's true that thieving (stealing stuff) is rarely done very well in CRPGs. Granted, it has perhaps taken a bit too big a role in CRPGs, making stealing stuff be the accepted (and expected) way of acquiring items and funds. This is especially bad in games (like most JRPGs) which just ignore the whole ownership thingy and let you take everything not bolted on with no repercussions. This results in stupid and ridiculous situations, where you can walk into someone's home, ransack it roof to floor, take his family silverware (among other things) and move on, selling the silverware to the neighboring shopkeeper for a little extra pocket change; all this with no objection from the poor sucker who you just robbed in plain daylight. In fact, he still continues to talk to you in a friendly and happy manner. Sheesh! This is something I hope to avoid with IB.

However, trying to make a highly elaborate system for thieving and selling stolen goods (and all that pertains to these two) will quickly become a massive beast to code, I fear, for a mere fraction of gameplay gain which some modules or players might not even ever use. This is not an engine for the Thief series, after all. Therefore, I'd suggest going the easy route and keeping it simple. Why not just have NPCs be able to spot all around them (no facing involved in this; facing matters and is shown in combat only) and if there is a Line of Sight to the character doing the stealing (and he fails his thieving skill roll), he is caught in the act (or, as our Canadian songsmith ;) suggested above, he aborted his thieving attempt before he was caught - to avoid the complications of jail time). This is the way it works e.g. in Jeff Vogel's indie CRPGs (Avernums & Geneforges), IIRC, not counting skill rolls, only the LOS part.

Oh well, I might not be best to comment this, because I rarely do much stealing or pick-pocketing in CRPGs myself, so I'll leave it at this. I just wish this won't become a huge time sink on the programming end, stealing focus from other things (poor pun, sry). What I'm basically looking forward to, with regards to thiefly skills, is how lockpicking and trap disarming will be implemented. Those I will use in my modules, pick-pocketing and general larceny I think I'll try to minimize as best I can by module design.
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Re: Thievery

Postby youngneil1 » Wed Dec 19, 2012 3:13 pm

Hehe, got me there. Ah, good old Neil... you got a Heart of Gold ;-) to remind me of him, much appreciated.

Anyway, Thieving is indeed not utmost priority. I think I can live perfectly for starters with making special dialogue situations (or even "conversations" with objects for few selected, but relevant steal attemnpts). Each potential steal situation coudl be a minquest of its own (checking whether e.g. the character did prior talks to dsitract people, manipulated teh area to create diversions, check for the gear he wears, his skills...).

So, maybe it can just be solved by some creative use of the dialogue system. We will see.

And I agree, houses should not be like super marts. I will simply have only releavnt items selectable at all (and some special of those stealable).
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