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Interview Divinity: Original Sin 2 Combat Mechanics Interview at Gamasutra

Discussion in 'RPG News & Content' started by Infinitron, Feb 12, 2018.

  1. Infinitron I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
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    Tags: Divinity: Original Sin 2; Larian Studios

    Divinity: Original Sin 2 was our RPG of the Year for 2017, but we never did get around to reviewing it. The reason being that none of our reviewers was able to finish the game before ragequitting in disgust. Although clearly not enough to sway popular opinion against it, the changes Larian chose to introduce to the Original Sin combat system seem universally unpopular. Which raises the question of why the heck they were introduced in the first place. That question is sort of addressed in today's interview with systems designer Nick Pechenin over at Gamasutra, although you may find his reasoning questionable. Here's an excerpt:

    There’s a special kind of anarchy in the fights you experience in Divinity: Original Sin II.

    This computer RPG, released last year by Larian Studios, encapsulates the freeform promise of the genre, allowing you to tackle its quests and face its world’s threats in wildly varying ways. Nowhere is that principle better expressed than when you’re in combat. In any fight, half the battlefield can end up on fire and the other drenched in acid. The air might be thick with electrified clouds, and summoned characters and resurrected corpses wander free.

    Victory often feels as if it’s plucked from the jaws of death – or from chaos – and yet DOS2’s combat design is founded on establishing predictability for players, so they can make and execute plans, tight pacing, and also a sense of a story within the battle. As systems designer Nick Pechenin says, “Fights are basically performances, and you want some kind of plot in them.”

    DOS2’s combat design is a close evolution from 2014’s Divinity: Original Sin, but Larian Studios knew the original had some issues. The team liked the depth of its combat, but felt that it tipped the balance too far towards chaos. The problem was with its armor system.

    Armor had the chance of blocking status effects, meaning that if you planned to knock a bunch of enemies out with a stun attack, you didn’t know for sure it’d work in every case. “The good part about this was that every encounter felt different, so when you started a fight it felt fresh. Things went wrong and right in very different ways,” says Pechenin. “But at the same time it really prevented long-term planning, because you didn’t know how many people you’d stun, so you couldn’t predict what you’d do next turn, and because of this you just wouldn’t think about the next turn.”

    So one of the big changes to DOS2’s combat design was to its armor system. Rather than absorbing a proportion of incoming damage, armor completely negates it. There are two armor types: physical and magic, which negates any magical attack, including negative status effects. But as these values take damage they’re whittled down, and once gone, the character is left open to losing HP and vulnerable to status effects.

    So far, so deterministic, but Larian wanted attacks to retain a ‘spicy’ feeling. The solution was a small variability in incoming damage which may entirely knock armor out, or it may not. “So there’s still some RNG there and you don’t know exactly how things will turn out, but you have a high chance that things will go as you want them to,” says Pechenin. “But at other times the game will throw a curve ball at you and make you scramble to find a new plan.”

    The next challenge was to set the pacing of battles. Larian wanted each to last an ideal number of turns. They wanted the time it took to destroy the armor on an enemy to feel good, as well as the number of turns that it’d take to stun an enemy, to destroy the armor on a player character, or to kill them.

    It was not easy, since DOS2 features so many variables. Larian’s combat designers never know how many characters the player will be fielding in an encounter, since one or more of them can be off exploring an entirely different part of the map.

    The characters who are in the fight will be equipped with very different armor and weapons, which might be very powerful because they’ve explored every inch of the maps, or they might be very weak because they’ve only played through the main campaign. They may be high level for the area, or low. Players might have unlocked many different spells and abilities, or very few. They may not know how to use them well, and they may simply forget to use them. They may have large stocks of consumables such as grenades and potions, or they might be hoarding them. In short, the dynamic range of the potential power a player fields in any given encounter is very wide.

    Larian’s approach to balancing enemies’ armor and HP values was to create a curve to the way HP increases as characters level up, and then to use that a baseline value from which enemies’ stats would be calculated.

    “Getting that curve nailed down was quite a challenge, just because of how much extra content we have,” says Pechenin. Some players might have discovered an amazing sword that allows them to one-shot enemies, which effectively reduced the challenge to nothing.

    But rather than balance out these extremes, Larian embraced them. “Our usual philosophy is for player to be as OP as they want to be,” says Pechenin. But to mitigate the effects of a player finding an amazing sword, they also steepened the HP curve so that in a few hours that sword will be next to useless, returning the character to the baseline – unless they’ve found an excellent replacement.

    In truth, he admits they went a little far with the steepness, because players complained about their super weapons getting superseded too soon, and so they patched in a slightly gentler curve. “This is completely valid, but in general the curve allowed us to give something very impactful to the player but still present them challenges even after 50-60 hours of playtime.”​

    Oookay. This interview is really quite bizarre, and I'll let you guys pick it apart. At least Larian appear to be vaguely aware of the issues people have had. What comes next, I wonder? They were supposed to announce something new at PAX South last month, but that ended up not happening.
     
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  2. TheSentinel Magister

    TheSentinel
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    shit game
    no one will remember it in 20 years.
     
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  3. lukaszek Arcane

    lukaszek
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    I take back any good words about larian fighting a good fight. To say something along those lines means that one never played a game? Said RNG might come into picture once every few hours. Very 'spicy'
    On highest diff it takes between 1 to 2 rounds even with playing solo in act1. Then its always 1 round. Did he play this game?


    So answer is to set up figts towards noobs? THere are multiple difficulties already...

    If they wanted all items to be temporary they could have introduced wear down mechanics instead of number bloats


    Except acid will quickly explode. Everything will be on fire/cursed fire

    so... its better to attack enemy with armor to take it out to put on debuffs over just putting those debuffs on unarmored one?
     
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  4. frajaq Educated

    frajaq
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    It's a shame they fucked up the armor/magic armor system AND the item scaling stuff, because otherwise the game would be near perfect, I enjoyed that fact that each encounter was unique (well with a few exceptions) a LOT
     
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  5. Black Arcane

    Black
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    No, it wouldn't, there's more problems than just armor and item scaling
     
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  6. Tuco Benedicto Pacifico Arbiter

    Tuco Benedicto Pacifico
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    There may be.... But nothing comes even close to annoy me as much as the itemization in this game.

    My suggestions (which Larian will never listen to) are:
    - Remove randomized crap and replace it all with unique and deliberately designed items.
    - Make the range between beginner equipment and end game items far more narrow, ideally limited to few distinct tiers.
    In other words, copy what Baldur's Gate 2 did.

    About the new armor system... I gave it a fair chance before deciding if I liked it or not.
    I swear I tried... And I came to the conclusion that it's a textbook case of "solution in search of its problem".
    It goes out of its way to "fix an issue" that was never an issue to begin with (to summarize: "Oh noes, there's some random chances to take into account when applying status effects! Not everyone in a group may be affected!") and replaces it with a system that in all its perfect predictability is remarkably worse.
    For one, it takes away from the game any degree of uncertainty ( which is a change for the worse in itself in my opinion) and in doing so it also makes mixed-up parties a less-than-optimal solution, while also turning some gadgets and abilities EXTREMELY situational and virtually useless most of the times, compared to pure damage.
     
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  7. Chaotic_Heretic Dumbfuck! Dumbfuck

    Chaotic_Heretic
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    Is it too much asking for the content of divine divinity, the atmosphere of Dragon Knight Saga and the systemic framework/interactions/mechanics of DOS1 classic in one game too much?

    Apparently it is.

    :negative:

    The popularity of DOS2 has led to Larian having its own safe space echo chambers.
     
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  8. Zanzoken Savant

    Zanzoken
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    :martini:
     
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  9. ozymandiusz Novice

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    You don't like the game because it is too hard? For all of you peasants who can't handle DOS2, you should try easy mode or just go and play dragon age inquisition.

    "I ragequited mom, it is too hard, what should I do now?"
     
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  10. AwesomeButton Cut a deal with the authorities Patron

    AwesomeButton
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    PC RPG Website of the Year, 2015 Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
    Who was more drugged/stoned during this interview - the interviewer or the guy answering the questions?
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2018
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  11. Infinitron I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
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  12. CryptRat Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    You don't remember shit games from more than 20 years ago? I surely do :
     
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  13. Bohrain Learned

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    I think the deterministic success rate of debuffs isn't an inherently doomed idea, but the way Larian executed it was abysmal. For example you could make it so that armor blocks certain status effects at certain percentage thresholds, or make more stuff pass armor, but be blocked by immunities.
    But I think both the armor system and itemization suffer from the idea of trying to make every build viable, which always leads to bland gameplay with less distinct roles and no memorable items whatsoever. It's exactly the same issue Sawyer has in his design, but it manifests a bit differently.
     
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  14. Infinitron I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
    I don't see how these things are related. In fact one complaint about the armor system is that it punishes hybrid builds.
     
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  15. DeepOcean Arcane

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    Nope, if the combat didn't suck balls, D:OS 2 would be better than D:OS 1, but D:OS 1 itself suffered from alot of issues that D:OS 2 doesn't solve like:
    Really bad storytelling.
    Characters that are bland non-entities.
    Crap worldbuilding.
    Ultra simplistic leveling options for characters that don't allow much for build creativity.

    Let's be real, the only reason most people here enjoyed D:OS 1 was for the combat, the rest is mediocre to crap, when D:OS 1 was released, I enjoyed the combat but everything else was really weak but I thought D:OS 1 as a base from where Larian could improve, well... that didn't turn out well.
     
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  16. Gellus25 Barely Literate

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    • "But rather than balance out these extremes, Larian embraced them. “Our usual philosophy is for player to be as OP as they want to be,” says Pechenin. But to mitigate the effects of a player finding an amazing sword, they also steepened the HP curve so that in a few hours that sword will be next to useless, returning the character to the baseline – unless they’ve found an excellent replacement."
    How is that not balancing out those extremes?
     
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  17. DeepOcean Arcane

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    Divine Divinity 1 is still the best Larian game, yes, even with the terrible combat system. There was an honest attempt into creating a complete RPG, even if failed on some areas.

    The more Larian abandoned that attempt of recreating Ultima and embraced popamole, the worse they got. Swen talks alot about Ultima to score cool points but Diablo II is a much bigger influence on the actual design of the game than Ultima is, actually, the Ultimaish traits of the game were toned down on D:OS 2, with the enviromental interaction during combat becoming a bad joke.

    When you have this Diablo influence with absolute crap like "item fever" associated with Larian control freak attitude on this game you have a nightmare. The vibe I got from this interview was of a control freak tendency on the designers, they got so obsessed that some player, somewhere, might have broken the system or wasn't understanding it that they tried to make a system and got entangled with designer ideas and they didn't understood the consequences of their ideas.

    Really hope Larian is self critical enough to reconsider and isn't taken away into self delusion territory by the opinion of the ass kissing sychopant scrubs that probably stopped playing at act 1.
     
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  18. himmy Arcane

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    OK, so now a dozen nerds on a forum nobody cares about complaining about a game makes it ”universally unpopular”? I swear to God, this fucking place.
     
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  19. Infinitron I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
    I meant that in the context of the Codex userbase:

    *the popular opinion of the Codex.

    I can't say that I've seen anybody here who unequivocally thinks that stuff made the game better.
     
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  20. V_K Arcane

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    Trust it to the Russians to always screw things up.
     
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  21. lukaszek Arcane

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    not true. Fact that hybrid builds can chose which armor to drop makes up for less bloated numbers in single direction.
    Also rogues and rangers (+ that weird case of crit mage) can have hybrid dmg output without compromising their builds.

    Most that were complaining were playing parties like 3 physical and 1 magical so obviously mage felt a bit useless.
    If you were to complain is that this armor system urges your party to be of same specialty: physical/hybrid/magical
     
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  22. Diggfinger Savant

    Diggfinger
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    This game puzzles me.
    Although on paper it seems promising (isometric, TB etc.) I never got around to buying either DOS and the mood I get from my Codex bros is that it's crap...sub-par.

    Can someone please succinctly bitch about it outline its shortcomings...is DOS1 better than 2?
     
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  23. DeepOcean Arcane

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    You seem to care alot about what "those dozen nerds on a forum nobody care about" say.
     
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  24. lukaszek Arcane

    lukaszek
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    [​IMG]
     
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  25. Ismaul Arcane Patron

    Ismaul
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    Codex 2014 PC RPG Website of the Year, 2015 Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech A Beautifully Desolate Campaign
    Wrong.

    I played DOS1 co-op with a buddy. For us, the story was abysmal, and the combat was great in theory, until we learned the system and it turned into this:
    • Stack initiative to act before enemies
    • AoE CC everything
    • Win
    The only "danger" to us was CCing ourselves in the environmental effects, and that just added more time to the combat. Plus later on you just gained immunity with a Talent. Attribute points negated enemy resistances, so that "randomness" of will the CC apply or not was just absent. Keep in mind that we played Tactician, and we didn't play a lot so we didn't have time to properly metagame the system, yet it was very easy to do so.

    So, for us, DOS2 brought back the challenge. The Initiative change, while far from ideal, made initiative stacking not an option. It fixed the major problem, while creating minor ones, like my crit guy wants to act last to be buffed but Wits increases both crit and initiative; but there's Delay so it's tolerable.

    The Armor system prevents CCing everything on the first turn and negating the whole challenge, that's a major win. For those that say it prevents hybrid parties, I disagree, we use the physical dmg guys against low phys armor, and the magic guys against the low magic armor. It added a layer of tactics for us. Also, it made diversifying your build very interesting, so that when needed, your physical guy could help a bit doing magic damage, and vice versa. Finding out how to do so efficiently is great for character building.

    We also never found Armor to be that bloated. If you can't go through it in 1 or 2 turns on Tactician, you've just not understood how to make an effective character able to deal proper damage. Admittedly the tooltips do not help, gotta know which damage modifiers are additive and which are multiplicative. The formula is Base weapon/spell damage X (Stat + weapon skill increases) X Element skill increases (Warfare for physical) X (Crit multi + Heigth advantage increases). If you don't build towards the three multiplier groups but just focus on one, thinking all +5% are equal, you'll do shit damage.

    Added to that, the writing is much less cringeworthy, and there are even some nice and funny moments, plus some party interplay / PvP, so that's greatly improved our enjoyement of the game. Graphics are also better. Plus, alien elves, undead...

    For us, DOS2 > DOS1 in every way.

    And that is despite Defensive skills being shit, and most weapon skills too when you get the damage formula and realize Stat increases are enough.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2018
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