Pen and Paradise Episode 2: Skyrim Continued

Pen and Paradise Episode 2:

Skyrim Continued

Allow me to explain a little more about what I have in mind for the thieving model. Right now, stealing is no challenge. Anything people don’t see this specific instant is up for grabs. You can steal battleaxes, statues, and full plate armor as long as everyone’s backs are turned.

Moving to a Suspicion model would help with this. In short, I have in mind that players should arouse suspicion rather than the binary get-caught-or-don’t model. Sure, if you’re seen taking something in broad daylight, the guards will shortly come for you. But just because you’re not spotted immediately doing something doesn’t mean you won’t be a suspect. Take something when you’re shopping, and the owner is likely to have the guards sent to ask very pointed questions.

The Suspicion model would be handled by three factors: being seen, the value of the item taken, and the starting location chosen. The last is the trickiest. You can just walk up and take things, but for real heists, you’d want to begin at a Thieving Point. This is just a waypoint which enables you to have an alibi. Then, you must make your way stealthily to your targe. Preferably you want to avoid being seen, but it’s better to walk slowly down the city streets like a normal person than sneak around the alleys but get caught. Once you arrive at your location, you must make sure noone sees you enter. Then you can grab stuff and make your way back the same way. As long as you don’t raise too much suspicion, you won’t be caught. Depending on what items you wear, you might have an advantage in avoiding suspicion.

The advantage of this mode is that it has enough challenge to make thieving fun again. It’s just too easy to nip in an nab somebody’s goodies otherwise. it will also force care in designing cities, since you’ll have to work on making dark alleys and places to dodge the guards. But it’d be a lot more fun.

Also, it allows you to separate thieving from the Thieves’ Guild. You’d be able to sell items, as long as they’re not too unusual. The Guild could then offer better rates, more contacts, tips on where to find goodies and ways of disposing loot much too hot for a normal merchant. Hilariously, both in Oblivion and Skyrim you really couldn’t steal anything for sale without joining the Guild, since you needed them to open up fences for you.

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7 Responses

  1. Everything stolen seems to have a secret mark on it that the guards use to recover goods & coin. Is it the Aedra/Daedra? Probably not. Just game design limitations. Generic items ought not be instantly recognizable as stolen but the heirloom of Clan Shatter-Shield, or the Markarth statue of Dibella – that is recognizable. Thanks for sharing.

    • Editorial0 is busy moving, and I fear I don’t play these games – but that does seem a bit impractical… If everything has a secret mark on it, then everyone who makes anything must know about it – ergo, no secret, and everyone knows what to change to make an item unidentifiable. Worse, this requires that the guards have records of everything, and that each mark be unique (otherwise you can’t tell an item that’s stolen apart from a similar one).

      Ah well. Perhaps it would make more sense if I played the game.

      • I end up agreeing with Thoth, the algorithm for this is a lot more complicated than Editorial0 is making it out to be. This is a lot more computationally complex than a simple “Is player character in line of sight of npc when taking item possessed by someone else? If so, then raise the alarm”. As Thoth stated, everyone that would be monitoring for “suspicion” would need to be keeping lists of what should be where, did they ever see the PC (or someone else) in the vicinity at the time of the thefts, and some sort of an algorithm that lowers suspicion over time.

        At this point, you’ve replaced a single if-then statement with possibly dozens or hundreds depending on who might happen by, how often they wander by, and then have to include tables tied to each NPC of what they are looking for and where it should be. There is a reason why Bethesda didn’t go this route. Maybe as 64-bit processing and multithreaded applications become more common, this type of thing might start to be implemented, but I highly doubt we will see this sort of thing soon given the industry resistance to biting the multi-threading bullet.

      • Ah, I was referring more to the social implications – but I tend to think first about the in-the-setting explanation. I suspect that you could black-box fake something that would give a player the impression of something more sophisticated going on in the background without making it too horrendously complex.

        Lets see…

        *Whenever a character steals something, increment their temporary “suspicion” score. That can just be a part of the “steal” command.
        *Let temporary suspicion decrease gradually with time. Presumably there are countdown timers already in the game to keep track of durations and quests and things.
        *Whenever you’re caught with stolen goods, increment “permanent” suspicion just a bit.
        *Optionally, add a few quests that cooperate with law enforcement; these decrease “permanent” suspicion. That’s just a number – and I bet that the games already full of side quests.
        *Whenever you “successfully” steal something, the system would check against (Temporary + Permanent) suspicion. On a success, the local guards become aggravated with you, and will stop you to see if you’re carrying stolen goods next time they see you. (I presume that a system for creatures becoming “angry” is already in place, along with some sort of cooling-off function; it seems like you’d need it to control opponents anyway). That can, once again, just be triggered by the “steal” command.

        Items would need two tags – one for being “stolen” and one for how long it is until the “stolen” tag goes away. Simplest; give them a “stolen” number and have it count down like spell durations. For cash, or food, or whatever, it’s low and the “stolen” status goes away fast. For the unique crown jewels of somewhere, it’s so high that it may effectively never go away.

        If the guards catch you, they do whatever they do currently. (I’d tend to presume that that’s take away everything you’ve got that’s still tagged “stolen” and inflict some sort of short-term penalty, but I’ve never played this to find out).

        How much of a programming burden that would be I don’t really know – I’m not a programmer – but I don’t think it should be all that bad.

      • Actually Thoth, that could work quite well. I obviously don’t have access to the game’s source code, but the act of grabbing something is typically done as a lookup of the game’s item table for the immediate environment, copying the values in that table to another one (i.e. character’s inventory) and then removing the entry in the environment. It would be a simple matter to add one or two values to the table being copied and have it increment the hidden character sheet at the same time. Most everything else you mentioned is already in place in the game. You could even calculate the decay time and suspicion level from the item’s value as a shortcut.

        It certainly couldn’t lead to any more aberrant behavior like currently being able to strip a shop clean so long as you avoid direct line of sight with anyone. I may have to see if the game’s modding tools could accommodate this…….

  2. I think you’re overestimating my ambitions. I’m not talking about adding coplex variables. Instead, I’d insert a simple cutoff. Anything super-cheap could be sold even if tagged as stolen. More expensive stuff would need shady merchants. The really valuable items, and unique ones, would require the most secret fences..

    I didnt’ want to go into the whole fencing system in the article, though.

    • Ah, I understood the bit about doing away with the “binary get-caught-or-don’t model” to mean that the system should do something other than a simple check at the moment of theft for line of sight and that instead the guards would be alerted by something in the environment. Hence your mentioning of the “being seen, the value of the item taken, and the starting location”.

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