Tacticular Cancer: We'll have your balls

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I want to immerse myself in the Decline

Discussion in 'General RPG Discussion' started by Ovg, Mar 15, 2012.

  1. Outlander Custom Tags Are For Fags. Patron

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  2. octavius Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    Good show.
    Do you consider the Ultimas "proper CRPGs"? Playing games chronologically - both replaying old favourites and playing those I missed 20 years ago - and having now reached mid 1991, to me Ultima VI has been the greatest decline so far (tiny view area, clucky inventory system, boring gameplay), even though it was the first CRPG to use VGA graphics. In the Ultimas you were forced to chose from a limited amount of NPCs. Personally I don't have a problem with this, though. I like som variety.
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  3. Ebonsword Savant

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    I'll give you two: Storm of Zehir and Operation: Darkness.
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  4. Ed123 Arcane Patron

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    The MEERSUCKZHALEROCKZ movement totally baffles me. I've watched a bunch of youtube comparisons, and all I can sense is a slight tendency towards blandness on Meer's part, and histrionics on Hale's.

    die
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  5. lulurkinglurkerlurk Learned

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    play DEUSEX2 no more needed.
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  6. Unorus Janco Lurker

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    BLOB CRPGs are proper CRPGs, single character CRPGs can be proper CRPGs :rpgcodex:


    That's also gameplay... You know, RPGs are not about combat alone, they're also about solving problems (Ultima and Fallout were all about this), and NPC interaction is used to provide clues to the player.
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  7. MMXI Prestigious Gentleman Prophet

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    More spells. More classes. Dual classing. It streamlined some stuff, but by being a higher level adventure it also had added depth. But you're right in that Pool of Radiance felt a lot more free and had a greater variety in terms of stuff you could do.

    Indeed. I think it's quite obvious that this game was rushed out of the door. But they improved afterwards with Pools of Darkness so it isn't really a sign of any decline.

    I agree with this assessment.

    I agree with this too. It was a huge decline from the best Gold Box games for the reasons you mentioned. Combat wasn't anywhere near tactical enough and dropping down to four party members was even more of a decline than the fall from eight to six between Wizard's Crown and Pool of Radiance. I can appreciate its dialogue tree approach to conversation systems because for the time it was massively under-explored in the genre, but speaking from 2012 it's safe to say that dialogue trees were a massive decline from the more abstracted forms of conversations that we had previously. Unfortunately, it looks like there's no going back now as too many gamers are used to selecting things for their characters to say. In fact, many even define cRPGs by it, even though the entire concept was stolen from adventure games.

    Indeed. And you didn't even mention the move to single character control. This was perhaps the biggest decline, together with its imbalanced and simplistic combat system and broken AI. In my view it didn't even do anything mechanically interesting. It's only really noteworthy for having a crap load of non-combat binary skill checks. The whole low intelligence dialogue thing is a great example of what the game was all about, yet on a mechanical level it was a rigid waste of time. When developers have to resort to adding lots of "if statements" to scripts in order to add depth, you know they've gone in the wrong direction.

    I agree with most of this. The game did popularise real-time combat which unfortunately led to far more horrible games afterwards, but it's still worth noting that the combat in the Baldur's Gate games and Icewind Dale were still a hell of a lot more tactical and complex than the vast majority of cRPGs that came both before and after. In fact, if you were to make a list of cRPGs and ranked them in order of combat depth/complexity, these games would rank somewhere near the top, behind games like Jagged Alliance 2, Temple of Elemental Evil, Knights of the Chalice and arguably the Gold Box games. The combat is a hell of a lot better than the two Dark Sun games though, even though it isn't turn-based.

    Well it's nice to know that you can appreciate the game. It did a lot of things right in my opinion, but the increased linearity (especially through the mid-portion of the game), restricted world exploration (a similar decline to the one between Pool of Radiance and Curse of the Azure Bonds), romances (and worthless party banter in general) and JRPG/Planescape: Torment inspired "personal story" with a repeatable villain really dragged it down. Still, some of the encounters were truly fantastic, and the increase in classes, abilities and items led to more varied combat gameplay. Like its predecessor, it also allowed you to play with full party creation (or even partial party creation) using the multiplayer option. I very much appreciate this feature today as it's the only interesting way to play the two games (though not with a full six characters because six player created characters makes the games way too easy).

    I agree with this assessment. It was like the world was trying to re-learn what turn-based combat meant in the space of a year or two. It's funny how the game fell for all the traps that developers in the late 80s learnt to overcome.

    And you haven't mentioned two fundamental steps in the decline. Firstly, notice how in Knights of the Old Republic you can't position multiple characters at the same time? You can pause the game, but you can only queue up actions. You have to position characters manually using WASD while the game is unpaused, one character at time. Secondly, all possible companions wait around on your ship. You never really have to make permanent choices as to which ones you want. And furthermore, characters that you don't take with you while questing automatically level up to your own character's level. This means that every single companion in the game levels up whether you use them or not. If this isn't a huge decline then I don't know what is.

    Indeed. The combat system was great, but the content not so much. It's a shame really. I find it hard to call it a decline though, because it was mechanically more interesting than the vast majority of RPGs that had come out in the decade before it. After Hommlet it was more about game mechanics (combat) than shitty scripted quests.

    I didn't find the combat any easier than the already easy first game. The biggest decline here is that people hold this game up as a great cRPG "because of its writing". I see it name dropped all the time outside the Codex. "Play Knights of the Old Republic 2. It's one of the best RPGs because the characters are really well written!"

    Agreed. It's a fantastic game. One thing that would have improved it would have been a larger party size, though. And more character classes. But it's criminal how little attention this game gets. It would have fit nicely into the mid-90s in my opinion (ignoring the fact that the rules hadn't been invented then), and could have demanded enough attention to have changed the course of the genre for the better. As it stood, Baldur's Gate came out after a period of real-time first-person faggotry, making it look better than it was, and subsequently influencing decline thereafter.

    Ah, Dragon Age. Such a shitty game but you could tell that the inept BioWare designers at least wanted some parts of it to be decent. Almost all non-combat gameplay was a massive decline over almost any other cRPG, including shit like Knights of the Old Republic. No punishment for pickpocketing? Seriously? But yeah, the combat was woeful too. You could tell that someone in the company wanted to return to at least Baldur's Gate's level, but the system was almost a straight up World of Warcraft rip off. It was extremely shallow as you could repeat the same set of moves for every single fight and win with ease.

    And Dragon Age II? Not even worth mentioning.

    Like I said in another thread where someone complained about it, uncovering shroud goes back way further than whatever you're thinking of. Phantasie had it in 1985.

    Agreed.

    I sort of agree. The Infinity Engine's AD&D rules and mechanics resulted in the games having far better combat than the vast majority of cRPGs, but real-time with pause was always a decline, however you look at it. D&D saved the Infinity Engine. Any homebrewed system would have resulted in a complete piece of shit.

    Agreed.

    Indeed.
    PorkaMorka Brofists this.
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  8. groke Arcane Patron

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    Codex 2013 Codex 2014 Serpent in the Staglands Divinity: Original Sin Torment: Tides of Numenera
    Delayed!! Not cancelled! DELAYED!
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  9. Infinitron RPG Codex Staff Patron

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    Codex 2012 Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2
    PorkaMorka You should post the Chronicle of Decline on the W2 forum, just to rile up the storyfags.
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  10. Roguey Magister

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    If you fail pickpocketing in Denerim, a bunch of guards will waylay you when you try to travel within the city. :M

    Not a fan of Darklands?
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  11. Ed123 Arcane Patron

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    I don't know anything about RPGs. Why am I even here...
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  12. Awor Szurkrarz Arcane

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    Darklands combat system for conventional combat would be a great cure for the ills of the IE conventional combat.
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  13. MMXI Prestigious Gentleman Prophet

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    Darklands had a shit combat system. The reason the game was any good was because of everything else the game had going for it.

    Define conventional combat.
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  14. PorkaMorka Arcane

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    I'm no Ultima expert, but generally I'd leave them out. Early Ultimas = proto-CRPGs, not really existing in any particular sub-category, but existing before well defined sub-categories arose. Around Ultima 5 it starts to look like they're going to turn into "proper CRPGs" but they eventually go into another direction. By Ultima 7 they're a completely different type of CRPG (and you can understand why the developers felt that nothing much would be lost by going from Ultima 7's combat to an action adventure type of combat).

    I should really try to get a better understanding of how Ultimas 3-6 fit into things though.

    When I said "proper CRPGs", I didn't mean that those were the only games that were CRPGs. I simply meant that those were games where a (pen and paper) roleplaying game was simulated on the computer; computer roleplaying games in the most literal sense. Notice that all the games listed there are based on a P&P roleplaying system with the exception of Fallout (they lost the license in mid development) and Dragon Age (Bioware's attempt at a homebrew system after they no longer had their P&P licenses).

    Analyzing the decline of all RPGs at the same time is too ambitious for me. I think you need to group similar games into sub categories and analyze only one sub category at a time. Blobbers and action RPGs didn't share the same trajectory of decline that "proper CRPGs" did. Some sub categories may not even have declined (roguelikes).

    Text puzzles are gameplay, but reading plot and fluff text isn't gameplay. It would be overly generous to call the NPC interactions in most of these games (especially the Bioware ones) "text puzzles", at best you could call them "guessing games". But in the instances when all the dialog options lead to the same results, even that might be too generous.

    You're right that Fallout and some of the Ultima "adventure game CRPGs" have some parts that could rise to the level of "text puzzles". I omitted those Ultimas for a reason and also mentioned that Fallout was more properly thought of as a different kind of RPG. Fallout is still relevant for the reasons I mentioned in my first post though.

    You're right, in the interest of saving space I was overly harsh on Curse of the Azure Bonds, by listing the downsides but omitting the positives, it does have a lot of upside. But it is a lot less ambitious and you can see them settling into the formula.

    Thanks, excellent addition regarding KOTR. And thanks for the feedback in general.
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  15. Awor Szurkrarz Arcane

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    Why "shit"? From what I've heard the shit part was having to explore some locations in that mode and interface, not the combat system itself.

    Melee and ranged combat. Mainly ability to pick attack modes - normal attack, full attack without defence, aiming for vulnerable point and focusing on defence. No all or nothing armour. Distinction between damage that just impairs fighting capability and physical damage.
    In ranged combat, reloading as reloading not attacks per round which means that you can't just run away after firing for a round and then fire your crossbow again.
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  16. MMXI Prestigious Gentleman Prophet

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    Yes. Darklands had many combat options that would have been a great addition to AD&D games like Baldur's Gate. Furthermore, the calculations involving those options were very well thought out and on the whole very realistic. But the implementation of the combat in the game was dire, and I'm not talking about the interface. As most of the combat mechanics were invisible to the player and because the system was properly real-time (with pause) instead of broken up into discrete rounds, it ended up being even more decline than the Infinity Engine. In fact, many of the reasons why are exactly the same as the reasons why action RPGs have worse combat than turn-based RPGs. In Darklands you have to feel your way through combat. You have to get a feel for the power of each of your characters. You have to learn how to use them through practice and experience. You aren't making strict on the spot decisions using a little mathematics like in D&D. In other words, even though its "conventional" combat mechanics are a hell of a lot deeper than D&D's (look up the calculations if you haven't), it's still less of a thinking man's game than even Baldur's Gate.

    But I do agree that Baldur's Gate with combat stances and ranged weapon reloading would be better than Baldur's Gate as it is.
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  17. circ Arcane

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    Boring lists. How are you supposed to get any kind of objective impression if all you do is play one type of engine, namely Goldbox.

    Try Centauri Alliance. Magic Candle. Battletech. Roadwar. Menzoberranzan/Ravenloft. Not all of those are classified as RPGs, but they share similarities. Some may require emulators. Roadwar shouldn't be played on anything else than an Atari ST for the best looking version. Might be on Amiga too.



    Everything about it kicks Bard's Tales ass.
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  18. Awor Szurkrarz Arcane

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    I preferred proper real time of Darklands over the pseudo-RT of Baldur's Gate. Also, I prefer the simulationfag approach over the abstractfag approach, so to me Darklands in as incline. I want to think in categories of realistic tactics, not in categories of abstract numbers.
    Also, manual contains info on what weapon can penetrate what level of armour and about how damaging it can be.
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  19. MMXI Prestigious Gentleman Prophet

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    The only reason anyone prefers a "simulationfag" approach to combat over an "abstractfag" approach to combat is that you can often get by with little knowledge of the specific system. It's like trying to play chess for the first time using basic military tactics, it may serve you well enough early on, but you'll need to adopt a different way of thinking to get anywhere. Also, the abstract approach seen in games like D&D is far better for an RPG than a game that relies more on obscured simulation, because then it's no longer a game of having to iteratively learn the obscured simulation through experience and is instead about making fair choices using the same set of discrete information everyone would have.
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  20. Awor Szurkrarz Arcane

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    No. The reason is that it is more realistic.
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  21. MMXI Prestigious Gentleman Prophet

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    Realistic eh? No wonder you always ignore spell casting.
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  22. Awor Szurkrarz Arcane

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    In a realistic game, spell casting would be possible as long as it's realistic inside of the game setting. So, for example realistic spellcasting in Forgotten realms would require having spell components and on the far end of realism scale a fireball would cause third degree burns.

    I ignore spell-casting in my criticism of BG because spell-casters aren't treated as second-class characters. Generally, when playing BG1 and later BG2, I would still spend a big part of combat in melee and shooting things, which made the treatment of warriors stick out to me like a sore thumb.
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  23. JarlFrank Великий князь Patron

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    Realistic within the inner logic of the world.
    You may live in a super duper magic world with prancing unicorns and wizards who can cast SPELL OF DOOM +99 around each corner, but a warhammer hitting your skull in full force will still kill you instantly, or at least break your skull and disorient you for quite some time, followed by a horrible headache, if you're even conscious.

    Some people just think this is more fun than abstract draining HPs, me included.
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  24. MMXI Prestigious Gentleman Prophet

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    This is irrelevant because you have to learn what this inner logic is as it's not common place in our world. It's pretty much the exact same thing as having to learn any unrealistic system whether it's abstract or not. The only difference is that it's justified by the setting.

    But this isn't really the debate at all. Having locational hit points is still abstract, but less so and more complex. Having flags for broken limbs is also still abstract, but potentially even less so. By introducing things like these you not only up the complexity but you also up the realism. However, you could also up the complexity but also lower the realism by doing completely alien stuff that doesn't tie into any internally justified "logic". In other words, realism and abstractness are two different things. But which one is most important/favourable in an RPG?

    If you took an RPG and made it as realistic as possible, you'd have to completely eliminate turn-based combat in favour of phase-based combat. You'd also have to introduce true collision detection and reaction based on weapon blows. Wounds will have to form based on the force of the weapon and the area it collided with. Bones will have to break using complex physics involving the distribution of force over different armour, including shock absorption and even resonance. Pain will have to be modelled. The effect of weapon damage and armour indentation will have to be modelled.

    What you end up with is a highly realistic system that models just about everything you could imagine, but is almost entirely redundant due to the limited control the player has over their characters in an RPG. Attacking an enemy could involve the player slashing a weapon across an enemy's mesh to get the "pixel perfect" slice to use in the calculations. The pattern of movement used to charge into a ranged combatant could be played out by the player. But firstly, what's the point in the player being able to specify this precision during pauses when there's a period of time in which the player has no control in (between pauses)? And secondly, this is an introduction of unnecessary "player skill" to an RPG. The steadier the hand the more effective the slice line of a sword swing is etc. Abstraction is important.

    And if you do leave the player's interaction as abstract as it is in cRPGs we actually do have, the level of realism becomes absolutely meaningless as the player doesn't have enough control over it. For example, who cares if there's a chance that your character can break the fingernail of an opponent in combat when you can't actually tell your character to attempt to do so? Furthermore, a broken fingernail has no tangible effect on your next move. It doesn't add anything tactically interesting to a game.

    So it's a trade off really. You can add as much realism as you want but to make the majority of that realism meaningful you have to give the player finer control over their characters to match. However, the finer the controls are (with the extremes being pixel by pixel sword slashes and pixel by pixel movement), the less abstract the control system is and the further away from an RPG you go due to less emphasis on decision making and more on "practice" and "skill".

    This may sound entirely off topic as it really doesn't apply to Darklands at all. However, the point here is that Darklands models combat to a depth that the player never has to care about. You could switch out the hardcore simulation to comparing abstract numbers like in D&D and it won't even result in a less interesting game from a tactical point of view.
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  25. Awor Szurkrarz Arcane

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    I suspect that when using a physics system and player control of sword you would get something that is completely unrealistic. Combat involves a lot of stuff that can't be done by just moving a sword with a mouse.

    If you want to see an example of realistic crpg combat mechanics, check out this:
    http://www.driftwoodpublishing.com/support/TheRiddleOfSteel.zip
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