Many RPGs revolve around quests, story and dialogue. Some revolve around action and leveling up for the sake of it, and you skim through the dialogue that explains the plot about you being the only person who can save the world. Kenshi is neither, its more of a simulation of a living world.
Posted by captain_deathbeard on May 29th, 2011
Firstly, the game is not based around scripted events, or even scripted AI. I am aiming as much as possible for an emergent game, that means basically that everything that happens occurs as a result of interacting forces, rather than specifically being scripted to happen. Mainly this means factions, nations and individuals pursuing their own goals will cause events to occur in the game world. The player may run into these events, hear about them, or just see the after effects (or warning signs).
Secondly, there are no "quests", unlike the standard for most RPGs. You are not told what to do all the time and continually given menial tasks, like fetching a farmers missing ring. What you have instead are professions and self-interests.
You enter a village and talk to the chief who tells you they have a bandit problem, and asks you to go off and kill them all. Great. So you follow the map marker, kill the bandits, come back, get your crappy reward. Great. Why did you do it? Because its there, its a quest, but you don't actually feel like you saved a village from bandits, do you? You feel like you just killed some more bad guys and then collected your reward from the "quest giver". Same as you always do. If you didn't take the quest, you could come back a week later and the bandit quest and village will still be there, in the exact same state. Everyone is just waiting around for you, like actors in a farce.
Lets say you enter a village, you like this place, its in a handy location for you to rest and resupply, and you use it all the time. Maybe its a good trading route, maybe you own a building or a business there. Now one of the big bandit gangs that wander the world map has visited and done all the scary threats and posturing and said, "we're coming back in 1 week, if you don't have 1000 boxes of rice for us by then we will burn this place to the ground!". Maybe you saw this event, maybe you didn't, either way all the villagers are panicking about it and maybe they have even been hiring mercenaries. So you hear about this and think "damn, if those bandits burn this place that means my favorite village will be gone, and it will mess up my best trading route too, and the price of rice will skyrocket. Oh dear."
So then you DECIDE to stand with them to defend the village, you help shore up the defences and maybe gear up some locals, then you have a lovely great big battle 7-samurai style and the bandits flee. You just had a major impact on the state of the game world, you did something because you wanted to and it had a real effect. You saved a village, made the area safer, maybe tipped the balance of power among the bandit clans. If you did nothing the village would have been razed, they wouldn't all have waited around for you to "accept the quest".
Now you have all sorts of offshoots to think about. You have to decide if you should pursue the bandits and wipe them out, because thats a real group, they weren't just spawned for the purpose of that one event, they will probably be back for revenge. And what if one of your men got captured during the attack? Now you have to go track down their camp and rescue him. Sneak him out, free him by force, buy him back, or maybe he is skilled enough to escape by himself.
And thats just one example, its the tip of the iceberg. Imagine this occurring in different events all over the world among factions, lawmakers, thieves, guards, kings, nations, traders, armies, zombie hordes etc. Its the holy grail that developers talk about all the time but so far nobody has the balls to try it because quite frankly, its chaotic and unpredictable. I am essentially designing a game to be beyond my control.
I know what you are thinking now, you're thinking "that's too much work, doing all that, single handed, you'll never manage it, you're a fool! A handsome fool!". Truth is, its not as hard as it sounds. It only seems difficult because no game has done it before. Its still hard, but for a single handed programmer who specialises in AI and has little time and art resources and a large world to fill, its actually a better idea, because such a system essentially generates the game content and events for me. Unpredictable, chaotic content perhaps, but fun and real. Its not like conventional methods where I have to manually dictate everything that can happen, it saves me a lot of time in many areas. I'm not saying I can do it perfectly, but I'm going to damn well try.
So if its so great why hasn't any big developer done it yet? Why can I do it and not them? They should, but mostly they are not allowed, no sane investor would allow such a gamble. Not to mention its so unpredictable you don't know how its going to turn out, and developers really don't like not having absolute control over everything. To me however, thats the whole fun of it.
Its something only an indie developer can do, someone who is not being controlled and not making a game for money or a target market, someone who is making a game because they want to play it themselves, because they want to see it done.