Iíd love to head other peopleís take on my opinions below.
Someone pointed out on this board that slashing a monster 84 times with a sword and merely causing 300 of its 900 hit points damage is a tad unrealistic. Where I come from most hits with a Katana are critical by nature.
The basic premise of hit points, stared I guess in D&D and picked up in Proving Grounds, requires a little suspension of disbelief as we role play in a world where all entities have a quantifiable Ė and easily adjustable Ė life force. This is almost everywhere in gaming: in Quake you can be down to 3% health, but step on a few med kits, and then youíre fit as a fiddle.
Attached to the notion of hit points is a hyper-elongated concept of character growth: they can start out with 10 hit points, but level up to have well over a hundred. Again, where I come from, one healthy individual isnít at all capable of sustaining 10 times the amount of physical damage as another one, especially if their stamina is based on how many things theyíve killed (experience points)!
Adding more realism in the above areas, however, would not make for a better gaming experience. For one thing, exponential character growth provides a constant challenge in the dungeon. After all, what fun would it be if the monsters on level 10 were the same strength as level 1? By upping the stakes in the power of monsters and character abilities, the game stays fresh and retains a constant challenge for survival. Besides, games that have experimented with slowed character growth Ė Dragon Wars comes to mind Ė are much more frustrating to play, since thereís little continual rewards and a sense of accomplishment.
What Iím getting at then, is that realism in gaming is not always the way to go. The one thing I harp on in gaming is food: I have to go to the grocery store enough on this planet without having to play a game where Iím more worried about ration stats than hunting dragons. As far as Iím concerned, my characters can sleep and eat on their own time; when Iím controlling them, I just donít need the broader party management skills in dealing with such banalities; I would much rather be concerned with the spiritual enlightenment and critical thinking skills game play provides than constantly worrying more than necessary about things like chain mail rusting.
But the main concern with realism I have with computer RPGs is the graphics. RPGs are built on dice and imagination Ė and this spirit survives today in the text-only MUDs. As technology gets added to a game, an extraordinary care needs to be taken to make any new technology transparent. Sure I can switch floppies, but nothing about the fantasy world should ever seem artificial in comparison to its medium.
I consider Proving Grounds acceptable in this respect Ė the black and white walls and character stills are sufficient enough to provide a window to the world Iím navigating, and not feel like itís a computer screen: they donít over-reach in their attempt to be realistic. Any graphics or other special effects are also merely tools for relating the underlying plot, which is what the game is all about anyway (as Iíve mentioned before, George Lucas is a successful filmmaker because he is conscious of this).
When I look at some of the screen shots out there today, especially those with blocky 3D polygons, it really makes me shake my head, because to me, theyíre too greedy in their technological efforts of what can be realistically expressed on the screen Ė which in actuality just emphasize their artificiality - and just donít get why people (or me at least) play computer games. To be fair, they are stills of lighted and animated images, so I realize weíre seeing them at their worst.
Still waiting for holodeck technology,