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Zanshibumi

To avoid derailing the "despised game features" thread

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Original post by Way Walker
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Original post by Zanshibumi
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Original post by treetrunker If you raise something that is useless, it makes you less powerful.
If you make wrong moves in chess, you lose.
How long is a single game of chess? How long is a single game of a MMORPG?
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Original post by Derakon I've never seen a game that requires an even remotely optimal build. Outside of Diablo II, I suppose. Every RPG I've played that allows customizable builds has enough room for you to experiment a bit without making the game unplayable. While you may not get the most effective results, that just means that the game is slightly harder to complete. Not impossible by any stretch of the word.
But shouldn't the person who's more skilled be given the harder challenges to keep things interesting for him? Shouldn't the easier challenges be given to the newbie who's just learning the ropes?
I was answering treetrunker idea of dumbing down the games so people who don't want to think can play too. Of course there should be harder challenges for people who know the game better or simply are more skilled. It also adds replayability to games; if difficulty levels are well implemented, the gameplay can change quite a bit as you raise the bar, keeping the game fresh. What I'm against is removing strategy, complexity, depth, from a game just to get a bigger audience. I can't play Go as a master, I'll never be able to; I wouldn't like it's rules to be changed to "the one who finds the smallest stone wins" just so three year olds can play. They have other toys to play with anyway. Ok, it's a gross exageration but I'm sure you understand what I meant.

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I'm sorry if you misunderstood what I was saying. I'm not saying that games need to be dumbed down. I think when I made the useless raising comment, I should have said it differently.

When you gain a level in an RPG game, it is supposed to be advancement, and therefore make you more powerful. This should be a strictly linear progression, as opposed to chess, which definitely isn't. You can't compare making a move in chess to gaining a level in an RPG game.

In Runescape, which I have unfortunately played a lot of, the best builds are "pure builds," where your character has very high attack power in various areas, but absolutely no defense. These are the only characters that win in PvP. However, newbs to the game come in, die a lot, and decide to increase their defense to help them not die so much. Later, once they get about midlevel, they decide to do some player killing, but find out that they will die every single time, because of their defense levels. Now, if they want to do PvP, they have to go back and train a whole new character from the very beginning to get the correct build.

That's what I'm talking about. THAT is what is stupid. There should be ways to have a bad build, as there are always certain combinations of abilities that don't work well together. However, this shouldn't make you less powerful than before you leveled up.

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Original post by Zanshibumi
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Original post by Way Walker
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Original post by Zanshibumi
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Original post by treetrunker
If you raise something that is useless, it makes you less powerful.

If you make wrong moves in chess, you lose.

How long is a single game of chess? How long is a single game of a MMORPG?

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Original post by Derakon
I've never seen a game that requires an even remotely optimal build. Outside of Diablo II, I suppose. Every RPG I've played that allows customizable builds has enough room for you to experiment a bit without making the game unplayable. While you may not get the most effective results, that just means that the game is slightly harder to complete. Not impossible by any stretch of the word.


But shouldn't the person who's more skilled be given the harder challenges to keep things interesting for him? Shouldn't the easier challenges be given to the newbie who's just learning the ropes?


I was answering treetrunker idea of dumbing down the games so people who don't want to think can play too.


See Deus Ex I for an example of "any choice works". It doesn't dumb down the game; it makes it such that choices you made at the beginning, in ignorance (because you don't know enough about the game yet), don't bite you in the ass thirty hours later. That's why the difference in length between chess and a video game is important. In chess, you'll lose minutes. In an RPG, you'll lose hours. Over a couple hours, I can play several games of chess, varying my strategy each time. To do the same in an RPG can take months.

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Of course there should be harder challenges for people who know the game better or simply are more skilled. It also adds replayability to games; if difficulty levels are well implemented, the gameplay can change quite a bit as you raise the bar, keeping the game fresh.


That bit was more thinking about multiplayer RPG's, especially MMORPG's.

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What I'm against is removing strategy, complexity, depth, from a game just to get a bigger audience. I can't play Go as a master, I'll never be able to; I wouldn't like it's rules to be changed to "the one who finds the smallest stone wins" just so three year olds can play. They have other toys to play with anyway.


I don't think I advocated anything like that. I just want character design choices to be made in ignorance at the start of an RPG to be equivalent or clearly marked as a form of difficulty setting (like the start of Oregon Trail).

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Original post by treetrunker
When you gain a level in an RPG game, it is supposed to be advancement, and therefore make you more powerful. This should be a strictly linear progression, as opposed to chess, which definitely isn't. You can't compare making a move in chess to gaining a level in an RPG game.

I meant it as an example of generic decision that most probably will have its consequences later in the game.

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Original post by treetrunker
In Runescape, which I have unfortunately played a lot of, the best builds are "pure builds," where your character has very high attack power in various areas, but absolutely no defense.

Ok, that sounds like a bad design. But I think the mistake here is not to have build decisions have consequences in character power level but to have build decisions have unforeseeable results because of counterintuitive mechanics.

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Original post by treetrunker
That's what I'm talking about. THAT is what is stupid. There should be ways to have a bad build, as there are always certain combinations of abilities that don't work well together. However, this shouldn't make you less powerful than before you leveled up.

I suppose you mean "less powerful" by comparison with the environment, or "more powerful but not enough as to best the increase in opponent's level.

I think that choosing badly enough the abilities during character construction or advancement should cripple him. However, having just one (or even five or ten) possible best builds much better than any other option is equally wrong. If you add to this the thing about the best build being a simplification instead of a perfect synergy, the design quality really goes down.

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Original post by Way Walker
In chess, you'll lose minutes. In an RPG, you'll lose hours.
[...]
See Deus Ex I for an example of "any choice works". It doesn't dumb down the game; it makes it such that choices you made at the beginning, in ignorance (because you don't know enough about the game yet), don't bite you in the ass thirty hours later. That's why the difference in length between chess and a video game is important. In chess, you'll lose minutes. In an RPG, you'll lose hours. Over a couple hours, I can play several games of chess, varying my strategy each time. To do the same in an RPG can take months.
[...]
I just want character design choices to be made in ignorance at the start of an RPG to be equivalent or clearly marked as a form of difficulty setting.


There are other ways of avoiding most of those problems that I think should be applied much before even thinking about reducing the impact of choices themselves:

1- Reducing the delayed consequence effect:

Many games let you live with bad starting choices because they are much easier at start so you can't see your build is useless until you've been playing it for far too long.

In Sacred, a bad character build hits you in the third or fourth full game round. You finish the full game, then finish it again in a harder difficulty, then again and then, when you're about to find the really epic content everyone is talking about in the forum, you simply can't keep advancing because the skill set that allowed you to get there is simply useless.
If making a weak choice could be seen before, you would have been able to change skills, collect different equipment, etc... And recover a path with a future.

There's no need to make it so hard as to force decent builds or stop advancing, even small hints like enemies hitting a bit too much compared with a couple of levels before or dps going down instead of up with each level are enough.

Another source of this delayed consequence effect is changes of paradigm. Imagine a game where warriors can wear heavy armor and wizards can't. As the player goes up, he picks defensive skills as a wizard to survive and offensive as a warrior to deal damage. Then, he finds stellarite (or whatever) armors that mages can wear and titanite hammers (not swords) that are the best weapon in town. The defensive wizards suddenly turns into a useless tank and the warrior who ultraspecialized in swords can find a new job as shopkeeper.

Changing the rules of the game make any previous decision a matter of pure luck.


2- Avoiding trap choices:

That's a typical "story writer vs game designer" discussion. Adding choices because "they fit" usually creates traps for the player.

The poison (typically) skill tree; added just for flavor that cripples any character who maxes it.
The four elements have to be exactly four. You know fire will work and earth has a good chance. Before taking water or air you better read the forums/faq/guide.
The bard; because there has to be a bard. ...
The master of knife specialization, because there is a specialization skill for each kind of weapon. In a game where knives stop being generated after 10 levels and are replaced by short swords.


3- Separation of optimization cycle and character lifespan:

If the game is about a million hours long, let the players modify the choices later in the game. MMORPGs can be endless compared to a single Go game, but the optimization cycle doesn't have to equate character life. If you let the player change his skills every now and then, he can "choose, try, fail, decide, repeat" as often as in a normal rpg.

Wow made a mistake with that. If you let equipment to make half a player's build, you have to let it to be changed as often as skills.
I suppose they didn't implement this because grinding for better and better items is what keeps players between content releases.


In conclusion, there are many players that enjoy starting over and over again to find the perfect combination of race/class/skills. They try the strangest build orders in RTSs, they check if using 12 light missile launchers instead of a large one deals more dps in short ranges, they know another player's full skill tree just by seeing the armor he's wearing and the blue aura around his weapon. It's simply a different way of enjoying games.

There are ways to avoid excluding everyone else from those games that still keep the fun for min-maxers/powergamers/munchkins.

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Original post by Zanshibumi
1- Reducing the delayed consequence effect:


I think this would end up making the game harder for all choices, which isn't the desired effect.

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2- Avoiding trap choices:


This is what I was arguing for.

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3- Separation of optimization cycle and character lifespan:


This would also work, but somewhat cheapens the character design.

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In conclusion, there are many players that enjoy starting over and over again to find the perfect combination of race/class/skills. They try the strangest build orders in RTSs, they check if using 12 light missile launchers instead of a large one deals more dps in short ranges, they know another player's full skill tree just by seeing the armor he's wearing and the blue aura around his weapon. It's simply a different way of enjoying games.


But we weren't talking about RTS's. The length of an RTS is more on the order of a chess game than an RPG.

I'm arguing that you replace "perfect combination of race/class/skills" with "perfect combination of race/class/skills for this player" in an RPG. In an RTS, all bets are off as it's a completely different beast. If the game does any justice to the S part, then you will find that certain strategies are better than others.

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