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. MMXI Prestigious Gentleman Prophet

    MMXI
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    Old. And I've already seen it. That's abstractly "realistic". It's not realistic. This is the way cRPG combat systems should be. The system simulates things to a level that is sufficiently accessible by the player through the abstract options presented to him/her. The key is that you need to keep the abstraction, which limits the amount of simulation you'll ever need to do. Simulation breadth is far more of an issue to today's RPGs than simulation depth. If the things you're simulating have no tangible impact on the player's choices of tactics and strategy then it's worthless.

    THAC0 and AC in D&D definitely had a tangible effect on the combat. But half the shit supposedly simulated in Darklands? Did you even know that half of that stuff was going on underneath? Did you even need to? No. Not at all.
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  2. Awor Szurkrarz Arcane

    Awor Szurkrarz
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    We were talking about abstract simulation like in Darklands - which is more abstract than in TROS.
    I think only Draq is a fan of physical simulations.
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  3. MMXI Prestigious Gentleman Prophet

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    It's really not because you have to take into account that it's real-time, which removes any sort of time-based abstraction. And then you have to take into account that it's all relative to the level of input the player has. In Darklands you can choose a stance and weapon etc. In TRoS you have far more options, resulting in subtleties in the calculations having an actual impact on at least something you can subsequently do. In other words, what's being simulated in TRoS is far more meaningful.

    Indeed.
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  4. Awor Szurkrarz Arcane

    Awor Szurkrarz
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    To me, the increased amount of options means that a layer of abstraction is torn away, because actions that previously were just assumed to be a part of a roll, now become concrete actions.

    Thac0 and AC have tangible influence on combat but you don't know Thac0 and AC of the enemy so you can't calculate that influence and you can't calculate result because it's based on random rolls. Also, AC almost exclusively represents armour since it doesn't raise together with Thac0.
    Information about armour is in the manual - it tells you what weapons can penetrate what armour, so there's an equivalent of information about Thac0 and AC available.
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  5. MMXI Prestigious Gentleman Prophet

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    Not really. Don't get me wrong, TRoS is a hell of a lot deeper, but it's also the breadth of options available that helps to make the inner workings more meaningful. I mean, the most abstract system would be one with automatically resolves combat using a "combat score" comparison. But then if you introduce a trillion different statistics and calculations under the hood, using terrain, weather and I don't know what else, you have a far more realistic simulation but most of it is effectively worthless as the player can't use those things to adapt any tactics. Then you can break the combat down by giving the player a number of light high level options. And you can keep drilling down until you reach close to the level the simulation works at. If the terrain matters then let the player move his characters around etc. TRoS has the player options sitting nicely at the level of the mechanics allowing a worthwhile feedback loop. Baldur's Gate (AD&D) has this too, just like almost all pen and paper RPGs. If you are getting hit too much then you need to increase your AC or decrease their THAC0. You can then look through your spell book or inventory and build up a set of options to help do those things, and then it's up to you to weigh them up. In many other games you find yourself losing a battle because of some calculation happening deep below the covers, and the easiest solution is to just level up some more or buy more expensive weapons as these have widespread enough effects to reach that calculation and help boost your chances. Have you realised that in D&D games like Baldur's Gate you rarely ever feel the need to level up some more or obtain better weapons? There's usually always some way to win and it's usually not a trial and error activity to find it.
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  6. Awor Szurkrarz Arcane

    Awor Szurkrarz
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    To be honest, I can't really relate to what you're talking about Darklands because I never was in a situation where I don't know what to do to improve my chances of winning.
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  7. MMXI Prestigious Gentleman Prophet

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    Exactly. Or you always know what to do to win because you've found a way to always win. I steamroll the combat each time I play it, but even I was surprised at how the system operated when I looked it up. It seemed rather shallow to me when playing it. The end result is combat you learn rather than decisions you learn to make wisely.
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  8. Awor Szurkrarz Arcane

    Awor Szurkrarz
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    Have you fought any battles against equally armed enemies?
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  9. MMXI Prestigious Gentleman Prophet

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    Of course I have. I've beaten the game numerous times. The tactic you adopt in the game is one that you figure out by playing. I still don't know why most of the things I do in combat actually win me fights, yet I don't need to know because I'm already concious of them. Compare this to my tactics in Baldur's Gate II to take take out a group of mindflayers, for example. I know what makes mindflayers painful and I know what counters them. I know what options are in the game to allow me to beat them easily enough and so I know what I can do to win. It's all in the AD&D rules. Encounters can still be hard by mixing them up, and this requires more thought as to how to win. But you can literally learn to beat any encounter in D&D first time if you sit there with your character sheets and with knowledge of each enemy's abilities. It just takes time.
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  10. JarlFrank Великий князь Patron

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    Well, in respect to the more simulationist approach to combat, I've mostly been thinking about first person combat systems, but I get your point about any rules being abstract even if they're realistic, because, after all, there's still numbers and game rules that try to simulate real combat, but they're still game rules and therefore abstract.

    Yep, got your point.
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  11. MMXI Prestigious Gentleman Prophet

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    That was never my point. In fact, I never even said that. Oh well!
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  12. Stelcio Learned

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    Call me a storyfag or whatever, but if we define cRPGs as computer games simulating P&P RPGs than there is no decline at all or the decline is much smaller than the Codex says. Or maybe it is just different from how it is described here.
    You can play P&P RPGs in many ways - you can focus on fighting, leveling, looting, you can focus on exploring, adventures, you can also focus on story, playing your role in the world. What happened in cRPGs throughout the years is a change of priorities. Devs stopped focusing on the fighting, dungeon-crawling side and instead started to think of the story/world exploration/playing your role part. An attitude which is sometimes called "storytelling" amongst P&P players.
    If someone is raised on D&D-like tactical games, where you play mainly with the mechanics, not with the world itself actually - it's obvious he would call recent cRPGs a decline, because these games just don't focus on that part of RPG. CRPGs change just as the P&P RPGs change.
    If these recent RPGs are good for what they are - is a completely different matter. I'd say some are, some aren't.
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  13. JarlFrank Великий князь Patron

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    What about "level design and storywriting have declined compared to games of the past, it has all become more linear and focused on filler combat instead of cleverly designed encounters, and there hasn't been a story that wasn't about BEING THE CHOSEN ONE in many years".

    What do you say against that argument?
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  14. sgc_meltdown Arcane

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    so you're talking about how content and gameplay mechanics is a zero sum thing and focus has merely shifted and we're getting the same amount of game

    a proposal like this is not new here

    However it completely overlooks the fact that any focus on story is the equivalent of a very rigidly plotted campaign by a DM who gives you dialog and scenario choices without allowing for any variation whatsoever. That is not optimal P&P storytelling or faithful ruleset translation by any stretch of the imagination, but it is necessitated as the nature of resource limitation means rpg videogames are finite in scope. And therefore inevitable.

    So you WILL get a decent facsimile of a preplotted interactive story at best and a horrendously bland by the numbers themepark or mechanically competent but always identical rollercoaster ride at worst.

    On the other hand there are very little concerns with being able to simulate combat to the fullest extent of the ruleset in videogames. That means maximum depth and all the options you'd expect with p&p with the advantages of technology in resolution thereof.
    There is no gameplay benefit or large resource requirement that asks for diluting combat complexity, and yet it happens.

    That is the decline that we are talking about. The lesser of both worlds.
    PorkaMorka and Crooked Bee Brofist this.
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  15. Stelcio Learned

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    I don't agree. Level design maybe, but if we assume that decline started in early '90s or even late '80s (as some here stated) then the storywriting is lightyears ahead now with PS:T being a peak and VtM:B, SW:KotOR, MotB or even Mass Effect being solid points on storywriting timeline. The only cRPG from the past with such a good storywriting would be Betrayal At Krondor.
    YES, that's almost exactly my point. It has all become more linear - in the sake of the story! Not focused on filler combat - just using it =>for the sake of the story<=. Hard to make a story about hero without some fight.
    True, but the stories about being the chosen one are getting better and better. A way of evolution, I'd say.

    sgc_meltdown - I started to respond on your post before reading it to the end and then I realised we have same thougths, only different conclusions. The thing is - I don't expect story-driven cRPGs to be as exact in simulating P&P as tactical encounter-focused cRPGs. I see these limits and take them into account when rating a story-driven cRPG. Also - story-driven cRPGs exceed P&P storytelling in terms of audiovisual effects, direction, etc. So it is a matter of using available resources in given limits to make the best game possible. And in terms of gameplay quality these games are pretty decent. Maybe not in terms of gameplay quantity and depth - but let's take those limits into account.
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  16. Infinitron RPG Codex Staff Patron

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    Codex 2012 Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2
    Storyfaggotry is an inherently less worthy pursuit, since it doesn't take full advantage of the strengths of the medium. :obviously:

    As Patrick K. Mills said:

    Playing a game "for the deep storyline" is like listening to music just for the lyrics. (and analogously, really bad lyrics can ruin a song, and lyrics do make a song more interesting, but they still aren't the point of it)
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  17. Stinger Augur

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    I think the point of Mills final statement isn't a combatfan argument but rather he's saying that videogame writing works best when the story is actually integrated through gameplay.

    For example, the way the story can unfold in Fallout is something no book or film can pull off. Accidentally openning the secret passage in the Cathedral to find the truth behind it early on in the game can setup a very different story compared to going through the storyline on the more 'conventional path- again, that's an experience that a novel or film will never be able to provide as it gives the player control over their own storyline and in a way that's more tangible than LARPing bullshit headcanon.

    Torment and other stuff by Avellone and other :obviously: writers have done a lot towards being able to integrate story and gameplay together to establish a type of storytelling that only the gaming medium can provide. I'd hardly call that an inherently worthless pursuit.
    visions Brofists this.
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  18. Infinitron RPG Codex Staff Patron

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    Sure, that's not storyfaggotry.

    Also, lol at filler combat being "for the sake of the story". :roll:
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  19. Stelcio Learned

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    Well, if you find it amusing, tell me what exactly is "filler combat". I find almost every fight in Mass Effect or KotOR story-related and important, even if it's not challenging. Random encounters from Fallout or Baldur's Gate 2 are actually more of a filler combat to me - they compensate lacks of story-driven opportunities to advance your character, which feels sometimes more of an objective there than a way to make your character important and influential in the world and story of the game.

    Also:
    What is actually appealling in most of story-driven games is how you can actually PLAY with the story. You can influence the story with your activity. That's what would made Mass Effect series great if not for the 3rd part. That's what made KotOR a fine game. I wondered how it would be to visit Korriban after the revelation of your identity, so I did it and it was a cool thing to do. It was something that made Fallout 1&2 a great game, deep and very interactive in terms of story - my favourite cRPGs actually. If we apply your analogy to the music - some vocalists use the lyrics to accent the music, to enrich it. They also use their voice in that manner, not the lyrics itself. That's what the story should do in the games - it shouldn't be great as a story, but as a part of the game, something you could play with. In some games it is and calling these games "decline" because some other elements are lacking in quality/quantity/whatever is like calling Angry Birds "decline", as someone did earlier sarcasticly. These games just aren't the same kind of games that were made in '80s and '90s.
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  20. Infinitron RPG Codex Staff Patron

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    Codex 2012 Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2
    Question:
    How many awesome and memorable set-piece battles can you recall from your Mass Effect playthrough?
    And how many can you recall from your Baldur's Gate 2 playthrough (which I assume was many years before ME)?

    That's good. Unfortunately, the focus today is on telling a story (it goes right down to difficulty levels called "Tell me a Story" or "Story Mode"), not providing players with tools for story authorship.
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  21. Stelcio Learned

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    Answer 1: Pretty damn many, starting from Eden Prime to Feros (Thorian) to Virmire (fantastic landscapes while driving the tank) to fighting on Citadel (huge thing). And that's just part 1.
    Answer 2: Pretty much none, because I find BG2 combat annoying - maybe because I'm not a big fan of D&D or maybe because I'm not a combatfag generally. Actually that's a reason why I've never beaten the game. So bad choice of game really. Still curious what you was trying to point out.

    If not for Mass Effect 3, which flushed all the player's decisions down the toilet, I would disagree. Instead I have to admit that SOME games do that, but still some don't. KotOR didn't for example and it's a game linked with decline term very often. It had some basic plot structure over which player could bind up his own actions and therefore influence the final outcome as well as the details within the gameworld (Korriban casus). Of course he couldn't change everything but it's neither possible in most P&P games - the gamemaster forbids it as his role is to create and maintain some consistent environment for players' actions. Same limitations stand for tactical combat - you cannot use broken sword as an improvised weapon in most (all?) cRPGs even though many GMs wouldn't have a problem with that.

    So is it still such a decline in cRPGs or is it just that computer gaming limitations are now more visible as the games changed their focus?
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  22. Roguey Magister

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    So story-games are like spoken word poetry albums? I can live with that analogy.
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  23. DraQ Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    I merely see untapped potential and the ways they could be really revolutionary to both design and gameplay in a dumb, completely formal system without GM, AKA cRPG.

    Only a fool wouldn't see that.
    Then again, there are lots of fools out there.
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  24. Awor Szurkrarz Arcane

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    How are you going to develop a realistic combat system and AI for that?
    And by realistic, I mean not physical damage but realistic manoeuvres.
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  25. DraQ Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    Hierarchically.

    At the bottom I would have some combination of predefined moves and inverse kinematics. On top of that there would be system assigning low level goals (like "put that shield in the path of this incoming sword" or "move out of the way of this attack", or "swing this sword across that guy's neck") feeding desired position into aforementioned part of the system, above that there would be high level decision making combined with long range pathfinding. Optionally there could be a module responsible for team communication and cooperation going on top.
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