Making Magic Macigal Again

Think back to those old interactive fiction games. Remember them? Yeah, those were the good old days, or so I've been told. It's not like I was around for them. I have played some of those games, though. And, I'm actually in the process of creating a design document for one. I'll keep you updated on it. Anyhow, remember how you could type STATS, and the computer would spit everything back at you in numerical and fractional form, such as:

Health: 45/50

Magic: 5/47

Let's take a look at Doom. Doom had an extremely unique and intuitive feature in it's HUD. It was simply a head, your head, that is. Your head got bloodier, and bloodier as you lost health. Likewise, it healed as you gained health. The face would also give an evil smirk when you picked up a weapon. This display technique was great, and very refreshing. On the downside, Doom also had a stupid health counter, which was redundant, and a mistake on the designers' part. Now you have two ways to watch health, and there's obviously a superior way, the numbers. "Numbers don't lie," goes the saying, and it holds true here. If I want to know exactly how much health I have left, I just take a gander at the numbers. If there was only the head as a health indicator, the game would have been harder, more interesting, and a lot more realistic.

The same concepts should be applied to magic. We are still using the same Dungeons and Dragons formula we have been using forever. Yeah, that formula of calculating the exact stats in front of everyone is great for the game, because it shows you aren't cheating, but video games work invariably different. The player or players should not see the calculations or display of any numbers when it comes to magic, as this should be hidden away in the code, and left there to stay.

Magic stems from the needs of our human race to explain and control all things. Magic does not follow any rational laws, and therefore shouldn't be treated rationally. Magic is a basically a load of rubbish, and never when presented in our world, does it have a set number of uses. This may sound stupid to a programmer, who has probably always used numbers to describe everything, but how can you describe the indescribable? Well, you can't, at least with direct numbers. Granted, we have graduated to the use of bar graphs and the like to display the numbers in a more indirect fashion, but this way still doesn't show a realistic view of magic. As it is just a percentage, which is one number divided by another number. Again, with the numbers. We need to stay away from them as much as possible with magic.

In our games, magic is always the welcomed gift of the 3rd person of a four person party, or the sidekick of the hero who will get all the credit . If you were a wizard, would you sit around counting up your Mana, and saying, "Oh, darn, only enough for one more Lightning Strike,"? In real world magic, Mana doesn't exist. There' an infinite amount of uses, as I said before, and in games, magic should be treated the same way. On the subject of real world magic. People revere it, they don't think of it as everyday stuff. There's no "Oh, hey, another one of these magic rods, this might be handy." If I picked up a Magic Staff +2 Fire, I'd be like, "Holy crap! A staff full of fire! I hope it doesn't kill me!"

If we treat magic exactly how we treat it in the real world, we'll be able to to more accurately portray it in our games, and consequently create more intriguing and interesting games that more people will play.

Thanks for reading the first post of my blog. Let me know what you think, and if you have any post ideas, please, feel free to share them.