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RPG => Colony Ship: A Post-Earth Role Playing Game => Topic started by: Vince on July 18, 2016, 03:57:13 pm



Title: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: Vince on July 18, 2016, 03:57:13 pm
Let’s talk about our design "brand" as it applies to all future games and the Colony Ship RPG is next on the list. AoD wasn’t perfect and we want to do better but without changing the core design to appeal to a wider audience. In other words, we want to do better for our existing audience, so let’s examine the pros and cons of each design aspect (and then you can tell us how we can improve them).

  • Turn-Based combat with action points and different attack types based on tradeoffs. I see nothing but pros here, so let’s move forward.

  • Skill-Based character system.

    Class-based systems offer you different packages of skills and abilities, designed to ensure that no man is left behind and your rogue can kick as much ass as your fighter. It’s a good, time-honored design that makes it very hard to make mistakes. In comparison, skill-based systems offer all the freedom you can handle and don’t restrict you in any way, so the chances of you screwing up your character is fairly high, especially for the first time players.

    Neither system is better by default so it comes down to personal preferences and firmly held beliefs, which is where it gets a bit complicated. Some folks believe that games shouldn't allow the player to make bad builds and choices; anything else is bad design. I think that if every decision is awesome, it hardly matters what you choose. Making mistakes is part of the learning experience but not everyone has the patience for it.

  • Stats & Skills Matter not only in combat where they provide various bonuses but outside of combat as well, when exploring or dealing with people. It’s a deceptively simple aspect, so let’s examine it in details.

    What it means in practical terms is that your character would succeed in areas where his/her stats and skills are strong but fail where they are weak. For example, a perceptive person would notice something others won’t; a brute would be able to move a heavy object, etc.

    Obviously, the effect can be minor (i.e. you moved a boulder and found a couple of coins underneath it!), major (you moved a boulder and found a passageway to another area!), or anything in between (you moved a boulder and found a passageway to another area where you found … a couple of coins! T’was a good day for adventuring).

    Usually, stats and skills are checked in the following situations:

    • Multiple solutions (i.e. different ways to arrive to the same destination, everyone’s happy and nobody’s upset)
    • Optional content (limited ways to unlock optional content, aka. “gated” content)

    Multiple solutions are an important gameplay element, which allows you to go through a game in a manner fitting your character, but it is the optional content that truly differentiates one playthrough from another and boosts replayability (because solving the same problems in different ways isn’t enough).

    Naturally, optional content must differ in accessibility. Someone’s old shed should be easy to break into (let’s say everyone with a single point in lockpick, which is 80% of all players). An area that resisted all attempts to get into for decades or centuries like the Abyss should force most people to turn back to preserve the setting’s integrity (let’s say only 10% of players should explore it). The rest of the content would fall somewhere in between.

    This approach greatly upset some players who felt that they were punished “just because they chose the ‘wrong’ stats”. Some RPG players are notoriously obsessive-compulsive and won’t rest until they create a character that can get the maximum amount of content, which does require reading online guides and meta-gaming like there’s no tomorrow – the fastest way to kill all enjoyment and ruin the game. Of course, the counter-argument is that failing repeatedly (considering how easy it is to make a character ill-equipped for what you're trying to do) is an equally fast way to kill the enjoyment.

    I’m not sure there’s a way to “fix it” as those who want to get maximum content in a single playthrough will continue to metagame no matter what. The moment you tell the player "sorry, buddy, you need to be this tall to ride this", some players won't accept the failure and would want to know this kind of info in advance. Not many people see it as "you win some, you lose some" design. Anyway, I'd love to read your thoughts on this matter.

  • Non-Combat ways through the game

    While combat should always be the main pillar of RPGs, allowing the player to avoid combat and progress in different ways opens up more role-playing and story-telling opportunities. Also it makes killing your way through the game YOUR choice rather than the only thing to do.

    AoD allowed you to talk your way through and in the CSG we’ll add a stealth path through the game. Here is what it means design wise:

    Combat should be avoidable in most cases. Enemies shouldn’t turn hostile on sight, which means that filler combat is out, which in turn makes the game much shorter. Populating a map with “enemies” is easy. Providing paths to sneak past and writing fitting intros and dialogues with logical speech checks (you can’t just ask them nicely and passionately to let you through) for each encounter, as well as reasons for them to be there in the first place isn’t. It’s also very time-consuming and heavy on scripting, which is always an issue for a small team.

    Even playing Pillars of Eternity I was surprised how much filler combat the game had and wondered if cutting it out wouldn’t have boosted the game’s replayability as I’d rather play a shorter game several times to explore different options than run through an endless bog of generic encounters that serve absolutely no real purpose.

    Keep in mind that combat is an active gamepay aspect – basically, its own game with its own rules and complex mechanics. Dialogues are a passive aspect. You choose a line, click and see what happens. Unless dialogues are the main and only gameplay element, it will always be inferior to combat on a system level, much like no RPG has managed to offer a stealth system that rivals that of Thief.

    Thus the talking and sneaking paths will be much shorter by default but the assumption is that it’s part of the meal not the meal itself, i.e. the full experience will require several different replays, combat AND non-combat, which brings us to the next item: replayability.

  • Non-Linear & Replayable

    First let’s define what it means. Linear design is easy to understand: you move from A to B to C, always in this order, which takes away the freedom of choice completely. Then we have the “Bioware design”: do 4 locations in any order, which as an illusion of choices, much like dialogues where you get to say the same thing in 4 different ways.

    True non-linearity requires two things:

    • Multiple ways leading toward the endgame location (i.e. branching questlines), so you never have to travel the same path if you replay the game
    • Very few “required” story-telling nodes (locations, conversation, events) the player simply must visit or trigger in order to progress.

    The positives are clear. Now let’s take a look at the negatives:

    • The game will be short because you’re taking all available content and splitting it between multiple paths and filter it down via mutually exclusive decisions. AoD has over 110 quests, which is a lot, but you get no more than 20-25 per playtrhough and that’s if you leave no stone unturned.
    • The game will be even shorter because it’s easy to miss locations and content. Throw in the gated content and non-combat gameplay and it will be even shorter.

    Not surprisingly, "the game is too short" was complaint #3, right after "the game is too hard" (#1) and "too much meta-gaming" (#2).

Overall, I believe that it’s about finding the right balance, which is always the case with all sufficient complex systems and issues. Your feedback is critical, provided it fits our design core, so regardless of whether or not you agree or disagree with my take on these aspects, feel free to share your thoughts.

Now that we got this out of the way, let’s introduce location #2 aka the Armory:

(http://media5002.dropshots.com/photos/1181160/20160718/b_143045.jpg)
Click Here (http://media5002.dropshots.com/photos/1181160/20160718/x_143045.jpg) to see the larger version

It’s a restricted location that resisted all attempts to plunder its depths (it’s sitting in one of the cargo holds and goes 3 levels down). Fortunately you won’t have to meta-game to figure out how to gain access because you were Chosen to receive a magic plastic card in the beginning of the game (see the intro posted earlier). You’d still have to get past the evildoers waiting for you to open the door though.

In other news, we've gained a talented artist (3D modeling and mapping): João Barradas of Portugal. Now we can have all the art assets we need, starting with upgradeable firearms:

(http://media5002.dropshots.com/photos/1181160/20160718/145421.png)
^ multibarrel shotgun, tier 1, click here (https://sketchfab.com/models/fcf26bae78af4fb985e3bf1fb64f63d6) to see the model in 3D.

Each weapon will have its own detailed 3D model (not just an icon) and will be visible when equipped, so you can quickly tell which enemy is packing what. In the next update we'll introduce Romeo, the first party member who's always in the mood for some romance. Full name: Unit Romeo Whiskey Sierra, model XV. Designation: Riot Suppression.


Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: sporky on July 18, 2016, 11:15:26 pm
I wish I could be totally prevented from metagaming. I always end up with a sniper/burglar and he has to be the best!


Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: Sunfire on July 19, 2016, 01:03:09 am
It's all looks (and feels) cool to me.


Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: Kirinyale on July 19, 2016, 05:38:30 am
Turn-Based combat with action points and different attack types based on tradeoffs. I see nothing but pros here, so let’s move forward.

Like it's that easy... :)
Ok, I won't argue with this formula (I do love turn-based combat with action points), but there are some specific things I'd like you to consider:

1) More tactics, more attention to combat environment. For some reason, most games never use the terrain / environment in combat. At most, some allow using it for cover. Distances mean nothing beyond weapon range and movement AP cost. Formations never matter beyond protecting "weak" party members from direct assault by blocking the way with "strong" ones' bodies (oh, and an occasional "flanked" status). In AoD, even cover often doesn't work because it's randomly "transparent" for projectiles for no apparent reason (e.g. a tent near entrance to the "old facility", or wall twists and neighbouring rooms in the monastery). If you add party, you'll definitely need to do better than that. And maybe try adding some contextual formation bonuses/penalties (e.g. for fighting back to back, shoulder to shoulder, back to the wall etc). More active abilities would help too, although I'm not sure what they might be in a no-magic setting - maybe more different traps and throwables?

For me, the best example of turn-based tactical combat lately is Divinity: Original Sin. It executed many "classic" ideas beautifully and added lots of originality, and the result is so good that I just can't remember the last time I enjoyed a turn-based combat so much. Definitely worth looking at for some inspiration, even though it's traditional high fantasy with magic.

2) More freedom. Combats in AoD are very "staged". While that's good to avoid filler combat, it also removes many tactical and other opportunities. You can't start combat from an exact spot. Even if you are 100% sure that there are thugs waiting for you behind a door, you can't just open it and attack immediately with your ranged weapon - no, you need to obey the script that puts you 2 or 3 cells inside, next to one of these thugs, and then spend a turn or two running into a corner and throwing liquid fire to keep them at bay. Sometimes you are offered to "attack from a distance" by a helpful script, but that's it - you still have to trust the designer's choice of exact initial position. I dread the day when the same will apply to a party... :)

Running away should be an option too, at least sometimes. I won't mind if some enemies will be able to follow, though. Or perhaps lay low and ambush you again later, when you think you've lost them.

3) Less random. Maybe it's just me, but I'm absolutely tired of fighting against the RNG. Even with 10 in a weapon skill, AoD can sometimes put you against a dodger with 15% chance to hit him. 50%-60% hit chances are pretty common (at least for a crossbowman). And getting 4 good shots in a row (which is sometimes critical for your survival) turns out to be next to impossible with any amount of save scumming even if all the hit chances are around 80%. Fixed 25% miss chance with a bola to the head is something only a crazy ironman would tolerate when bolas are in such a short supply. Especially when you don't have AP for a second attempt, and the enemy you've just missed is surely going to kill you next turn.

And then there are "special" items (nets, bombs, liquid fire), which can only miss due to a trajectory/collision bug. This mix of extreme randomness and guaranteed success feels really weird to me. I'd love to see something more balanced - not in terms of challenge and realism, but rather tactical playability.

Perhaps it might benefit from some kind of "effort" system allowing you to boost your hit/dodge/block chances at specific ("critical") times by willingly sacrificing something that's not easy/quick to replenish (to keep it balanced). Seems to be in line with the "tradeoffs" idea.

4) AP conservation / action continuation? In AoD, if you use a scoped heavy crossbow from a distance (6 AP snipe, 6 AP reload), having anything except 6 or 12 AP per turn makes absolutely no difference. If you don't have 12, you won't be able to shoot more often than once per 2 turns, despite 9 AP over 2 turns being mathematically enough for 2 shots and a reload in between (9+9=18=6*3). Extra movement is not that important most of the time, because either the enemy is too far anyway, or he's already reached you and running a few cells away will at most save you from one attack (but probably replace it with a free one for disengagement).

This is just one of the many obvious examples. What I'd like is to see some mechanism of putting these spare AP to good use - either by conserving some of them for next turn (the "easy way", D:OS even does that to some extent), or allowing to start a "long" action and finish it next turn, once you get more AP. The latter would obviously lead to interruption opportunities with various penalties (e.g. to dodge/THC during an attack), and sometimes just waste the planned action due to changing circumstances (e.g. if you start a 6 AP hammer blow when having only 3 leftover AP, and your target moves away from that blow on their own turn, the result is definitely a miss - and you've just wasted 3 AP from your next turn because it was too late to cancel, essentially making it an "active dodge" instead of the RNG-based one).

Skill-Based character system.
Stats & Skills Matter

Making mistakes is part of the learning experience but not everyone has the patience for it.

That's great, but there are mistakes and mistakes. :) I think that one of the biggest problems with AoD skill system (or maybe THE biggest) is that the 1..10 scale is counterintuitive when you have so much opportunities to use the skills. I finished the game more than 10 times, and still don't have an understanding of the conceptual difference between 3 and 4 or 7 and 8 in a skill. Do you even know it yourself? :) Or do you just pick  numbers which "somehow sound right" for a specific stage in the game?

Every time I win or fail a check, it's not because I planned carefully and decided on the right amount of skill to tackle a specific problem - no, it's rather because I guessed the designer's intention - sometimes blindly, sometimes less so. E.g. if sneak 1 + critstrike 8 is not enough for a kill I want, then the check probably wants a sum of 10, because it's a round number and why the hell not. :) Or, I already know that most skills work fine in Teron when they are at 3-4, so maybe it's 7-8 for Maadoran...

1..10 scales are not bad for pure-combat skills, where you get a clear numeric representation of your skill level through attack/defense ratings. However, social skills need something else to minimize metagaming and guesswork. A good range for a persuasion-like skill might be between 3 to 5 skill levels (not counting the "zero" level) - anything less is not a skill, anything more is too much to keep every level meaningful for players. And then you'd need to come up with good skill level descriptions - not funny ones like in AoD, but meaningful ones, establishing rules which let the player understand how much skill he needs for a specific check without asking on a forum, looking through game scripts, or just testing it by save-load. Sometimes, it might make the skill levels look more like "perks" with very specific effects, but is it a bad thing?

Of course, it might also be tricky balance-wise to abide by such rules throughout the game if you have a more or less specific sequence of "main" events. E.g. I don't remember specific numbers, but convincing Antidas to act against Carrinas without any proof probably shouldn't be that much easier (for a charismatic person) than most of the persuasion checks in Ganezzar. On the other hand, if a check in Teron required persuasion=8, it would become impossible to win for any player except 1% who put all their SP into persuasion and nothing else.

Optional content (limited ways to unlock optional content, aka. “gated” content)

I can't speak for all players, but for me, gated content is the most frustrating when it is:

1) Too visible.

E.g. it's hard to miss the Abyss or the Arch, but most characters won't be able to do anything there. When there is a complete location which is freely accessible by anyone, but only meaningful for select few, it can get very irritating especially after many different playthroughs. I think you can call this kind of gating "negative", because that's what provokes the most negative reactions.

On the contrary, it feels awesome when you find something you've never expected to find. Harran's Pass, Darius' Tomb, Livia's personality, Aemolas' gold retrieval quest are all great examples of "positive" gating in my opinion: you don't even know they exist if you don't meet the requirements; when you finally do, you get a nice surprise - and that's when you really start feeling that your current playthrough is different from all the previous ones. Playing multiple times just to see the different guild quests is nice, but again - that's something you definitely expect, and it's the surprise factor that helps replayability the most.

2) Too unbalanced.

The worst example of this in AoD is the whole historical/explorative part. I see AoD as a game with two separate "main stories" which every character gets: one is your guild, the other is everything that has to do with the Empire, "gods", ruins and artifacts. And that's cool - until you realize that the second "main story" is gated by a set of skills/stats specific to a single type of character (loremaster). Sure, you can visit all the main locations without any specific skills (except Inferiae, which, if I remember right, is gated by lore=3, and Al-Akia which is faction-gated), but there's a fat chance that you won't get anything from any of them except some exploration SP - and that always feels like you are robbed of 50% "playthrough content" (not to be confused with ALL game content). The only other "big gate" is the Arena and the side quests it unlocks, but it's still much smaller, and it's also a "soft" gate, meaning that practically any character can win it by trying hard enough and using all the tricks he can.

If you absolutely have to put so much content behind a single "gate", the only way to "fix it" I can see is adding even more gated optional content for all the other archetypes (i.e. different builds "reasonable" from role-playing perspective). Baldur's Gate 2 has "strongholds" gated by main character class, which is a lot of content - and I've never heard anything but praise of this decision. Why? Because there's always a stronghold for you, no matter what class you pick, so no one "loses" anything - instead, every player "gains" something that most other players do not. And the important part is that it's all optional, unlike AoD's guilds (well, technically they are optional too, but what's there to do if you don't join a guild and don't play a loremaster?). Of course, I don't really expect a small team to compete with BG2 (after all, Obsidian still can't do it with all their talent and money). But perhaps it means that you need smaller "gates" - but more of them instead.

Basically, gating in general is fine - but giving huge "unfair advantage" to 1 or 2 select builds out of dozens or hundreds possible ones is much less so. In AoD, it's very much possible to play a pacifist loremaster/praetor with high charisma and intelligence, get ready for ascension, and still have enough spare skill points to raise combat skills for the Arena, especially if you keep the power armor...

Dialogues are a passive aspect. You choose a line, click and see what happens. Unless dialogues are the main and only gameplay element, it will always be inferior to combat on a system level, much like no RPG has managed to offer a stealth system that rivals that of Thief.

I can't quite agree with that. I'd really love to see a true RPG with a more "active" dialogue system without sacrificing the rest of the systems. Of course it's hard, but hardly impossible.

I have a pet RPG project too, although for some reasons (biggest of them being myself) it will probably take even more than AoD's 11.5 years at current rate. :) "Active" dialogues and active skill usage instead of "choosing, clicking and seeing what happens" is something I'd really like to explore in depth if I ever get it to a proper state. Perhaps you can too. :) Much like adding peaceful ways makes combat the player's choice, I dream of a CRPG which makes threats, jokes, abstract logical arguments and other skill-based dialogue options a conscious role-playing choice rather than just letting players pick the best-looking option from a list. And then consistent role-playing can have as much impact as decision-based reputations: e.g. joking gets easier and more natural if you do it all the time, but it may also make it harder for you to stay serious when it's important, hiding "serious" options unless you resist the system and opt to "pay" for them, suggesting even more jokes by default, and definitely modifying NPC reactions when you do something that's not typical for you (if they know it, of course).


Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: Vahha on July 19, 2016, 06:30:07 am
Kirinyale wins the Biggest First Post award!   :galsiah:


Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: Wizard1200 on July 19, 2016, 06:54:38 am
  • Skill-Based character system.
  • Stats & Skills Matter
  • Non-Combat

A skill-based system is in my opinion better, because it increases the replayability.

I think that a game is boring if the stats and skills do not matter, because why should i think about them if they have no effect. Important stats and skills increase the replayability of a game, too, because they increase the number of choices and consequences.

The choice between non-combat and combat solutions makes a game more realistic in my opinion. Non-combat solutions can be as active as combat solutions if the player has to think about his answers and their consequences. This is especially the case if the player has to select the "right" answer multiple times during a conversation to reach his desired goal.


Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: Kirinyale on July 19, 2016, 07:15:23 am
Kirinyale wins the Biggest First Post award!   :galsiah:
Well, I'm posting a lot on steam forum, just didn't have a good reason to migrate here before :P


Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: Vince on July 19, 2016, 07:52:12 am
Thank you for your feedback. Quick comments:

For some reason, most games never use the terrain / environment in combat.
The reason is simple: it's a fairly complex feature, big enough to be listed first. Considering that RPGs consist of many complex system, throwing in another one, especially a major one, isn't something that can be done lightly.

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2) More freedom. Combats in AoD are very "staged". While that's good to avoid filler combat, it also removes many tactical and other opportunities. You can't start combat from an exact spot. Even if you are 100% sure that there are thugs waiting for you behind a door, you can't just open it and attack immediately with your ranged weapon - no, you need to obey the script that puts you 2 or 3 cells inside, next to one of these thugs, and then spend a turn or two running into a corner and throwing liquid fire to keep them at bay. Sometimes you are offered to "attack from a distance" by a helpful script, but that's it - you still have to trust the designer's choice of exact initial position. I dread the day when the same will apply to a party... :)
I agree. The dungeon crawler already allows you to place your characters manually before a fight, which will be a standard feature from now on.

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Running away should be an option too, at least sometimes. I won't mind if some enemies will be able to follow, though. Or perhaps lay low and ambush you again later, when you think you've lost them.
i.e. more scripting. AoD has over 100 fights, let's say we let you run away in 30 fights. That means we have to write and script 30 different post-fight situations.

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Less random. Maybe it's just me, but I'm absolutely tired of fighting against the RNG. Even with 10 in a weapon skill, AoD can sometimes put you against a dodger with 15% chance to hit him.
Well, they don't call it a Random Number Generator for nothing, but we'll make sure that skills will play a stronger role in the fight against RNG. Since you've mentioned it, which dodgers had such high defense against 10 in weapon skill?

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And then there are "special" items (nets, bombs, liquid fire), which can only miss due to a trajectory/collision bug. This mix of extreme randomness and guaranteed success feels really weird to me. I'd love to see something more balanced - not in terms of challenge and realism, but rather tactical playability.
Bombs really shouldn't miss. Liquid fire too. Nets? Originally the THC was determined by your Dex + Throwing against enemy's Dex + Dodge, but most players who start a fight by throwing a net would just reload if they miss. So we toned down their effect and added them to the 'always hit' category, which isn't unreasonable considering their size.

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4) AP conservation / action continuation? In AoD, if you use a scoped heavy crossbow from a distance (6 AP snipe, 6 AP reload), having anything except 6 or 12 AP per turn makes absolutely no difference. If you don't have 12, you won't be able to shoot more often than once per 2 turns, despite 9 AP over 2 turns being mathematically enough for 2 shots and a reload in between (9+9=18=6*3). Extra movement is not that important most of the time, because either the enemy is too far anyway, or he's already reached you and running a few cells away will at most save you from one attack (but probably replace it with a free one for disengagement).
We've considered and even implemented transferable APs (half of your unused APs are added to your next turn's AP pool) but it completely fucked up the balance, so it never made it past the internal testing. Such things often seem like great ideas on paper but their effect is hard to predict until implemented.

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That's great, but there are mistakes and mistakes. :) I think that one of the biggest problems with AoD skill system (or maybe THE biggest) is that the 1..10 scale is counterintuitive when you have so much opportunities to use the skills. I finished the game more than 10 times, and still don't have an understanding of the conceptual difference between 3 and 4 or 7 and 8 in a skill. Do you even know it yourself? :) Or do you just pick  numbers which "somehow sound right" for a specific stage in the game?
Would the problem really go away if we switch to a smaller scale? You can ask the same question: what's the difference between 2 and 3 or 3 and 4? Combat systems have a ready answer: in our case it's 10% THC bonus and % bonus to passive. With non-combat skills that don't rely on % roll, the conceptual difference is non-existent.

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Every time I win or fail a check, it's not because I planned carefully and decided on the right amount of skill to tackle a specific problem - no, it's rather because I guessed the designer's intention - sometimes blindly, sometimes less so. E.g. if sneak 1 + critstrike 8 is not enough for a kill I want, then the check probably wants a sum of 10, because it's a round number and why the hell not. :) Or, I already know that most skills work fine in Teron when they are at 3-4, so maybe it's 7-8 for Maadoran...
Are you talking about hybrids? Like you said most skills work fine in Teron if you have 3-4. Considering that you can start the game with 3-4 in your key skills and quickly add 2-3 skills or raise your key skills to 6, it's really hard to fail unless you go for a hybrid right away and spread your points too thin.

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I can't speak for all players, but for me, gated content is the most frustrating when it is:

1) Too visible.

E.g. it's hard to miss the Abyss or the Arch, but most characters won't be able to do anything there. When there is a complete location which is freely accessible by anyone, but only meaningful for select few, it can get very irritating especially after many different playthroughs. I think you can call this kind of gating "negative", because that's what provokes the most negative reactions.
I don't consider it a flaw.

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2) Too unbalanced.

The worst example of this in AoD is the whole historical/explorative part. I see AoD as a game with two separate "main stories" which every character gets: one is your guild, the other is everything that has to do with the Empire, "gods", ruins and artifacts. And that's cool - until you realize that the second "main story" is gated by a set of skills/stats specific to a single type of character (loremaster). Sure, you can visit all the main locations without any specific skills (except Inferiae, which, if I remember right, is gated by lore=3, and Al-Akia which is faction-gated), but there's a fat chance that you won't get anything from any of them except some exploration SP - and that always feels like you are robbed of 50% "playthrough content" (not to be confused with ALL game content). The only other "big gate" is the Arena and the side quests it unlocks, but it's still much smaller, and it's also a "soft" gate, meaning that practically any character can win it by trying hard enough and using all the tricks he can.

If you absolutely have to put so much content behind a single "gate", the only way to "fix it" I can see is adding even more gated optional content for all the other archetypes (i.e. different builds "reasonable" from role-playing perspective). Baldur's Gate 2 has "strongholds" gated by main character class, which is a lot of content - and I've never heard anything but praise of this decision. Why? Because there's always a stronghold for you, no matter what class you pick, so no one "loses" anything - instead, every player "gains" something that most other players do not. And the important part is that it's all optional, unlike AoD's guilds (well, technically they are optional too, but what's there to do if you don't join a guild and don't play a loremaster?). Of course, I don't really expect a small team to compete with BG2 (after all, Obsidian still can't do it with all their talent and money). But perhaps it means that you need smaller "gates" - but more of them instead.

Basically, gating in general is fine - but giving huge "unfair advantage" to 1 or 2 select builds out of dozens or hundreds possible ones is much less so. In AoD, it's very much possible to play a pacifist loremaster/praetor with high charisma and intelligence, get ready for ascension, and still have enough spare skill points to raise combat skills for the Arena, especially if you keep the power armor...
That's a good topic, so let's talk about it for a moment.

First, "strongholds for everyone" fucking sucks, which highlights Bio's "everyone is special so everyone gets a stronghold!" mentality. Back to AoD. I agree that Lore was a key skill that handled way too much, but it was kind of fitting. We could have split it into 3 skills but that would have forced you to spend more and only increased metagaming. In general, I don't think it was very hard to keep investing in Lore, once you realize its significance.

Anyway, let's talk about the CSG skills like Computers (aka the new Lore). Clearly, computers play an important role in this setting and people who are skilled in this area will have an advantage over their unwashed brethren. I really liked the new Deus Ex game, can't wait for the sequel, but that "let's leave datapads with passwords EVERYWHERE to offer a viable alternative to hacking" was kinda silly.

So what would be an appropriate alternative to Computers that wouldn't cheapen the skill and make investing into it pointless?

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I can't quite agree with that. I'd really love to see a true RPG with a more "active" dialogue system without sacrificing the rest of the systems. Of course it's hard, but hardly impossible.
Of course it's possible. The only factor is time. Originally I wanted to focus on redesigning the dialogue system and making it more "tactical", but we've decided to focus on a stealth path instead as it adds more. Basically, we have to pick our battles and now is not the time to fight this one. We'll tweak the dialogue system to make sure that the first failure doesn't end conversations but act as a modifier but the core will remain the same.


Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: Kirinyale on July 19, 2016, 11:31:15 am
Since you've mentioned it, which dodgers had such high defense against 10 in weapon skill?

Plaudius the Arena challenger - 14% against 9 in crossbow skill, with a non-crafted repeating crossbow at 3 cell range. Ok, let's make it 24% against a 10.
Although I still killed that guy without too much trouble - got 2 lucky throwback hits out of 7 or 8 shots I had in my first 2 turns and added some poison... but I could just as well miss all 8 and get brutally murdered.

Bombs really shouldn't miss. Liquid fire too.

Well, if you can dodge an arrow, you can certainly dodge a bomb. Of course, it doesn't mean you will avoid all damage - it just won't hit the exact spot I aimed at, but still damage you if area of effect is wide enough. Though I'm not asking for this - it would only ruin the tactical aspect even more... :)

but most players who start a fight by throwing a net would just reload if they miss.

Isn't it the same with bolas? I understand that the choking effect is much more powerful than a net, but it's exactly the same: if my tactics rely on using it and I miss, I'll just reload and try again. And if an enemy is scripted to start by choking me with a bola, I'll reload until he misses. :)

We've considered and even implemented transferable APs (half of your unused APs are added to your next turn's AP pool) but it completely fucked up the balance, so it never made it past the internal testing. Such things often seem like great ideas on paper but their effect is hard to predict until implemented.

Was your enemy AI using it too? It's certainly hard to keep balance when adding features easily exploitable by humans, but blindly ignored by the NPCs...
Anyway, the second option might work differently since it doesn't give you extra AP "for free". Of course, it would require just as much testing (and much more work to implement).

Would the problem really go away if we switch to a smaller scale? You can ask the same question: what's the difference between 2 and 3 or 3 and 4?

But that's half as many questions, which makes them easier to answer. E.g. in AoD the crafting skill already has 5 meaningful levels (outside the explorative uses). It's bronze, iron, steel, blue steel and meteor metal for 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 respectively. Sharpening bonuses increase by the same 2-level steps IIRC. So why not bring it all to 0..5 scale and "normalize" the other uses?

I am still thinking about proper "steps" for various "peaceful" skills. It's certainly not easy without any existing examples (beyond simply splitting their uses into a catalogue and assigning a known level to each one, like it's often done with magic). One of the ideas I had was something like this for Persuasion:
1) You can convince someone who doesn't really have much against helping you, but doesn't see a good reason to make the effort.
2) You can convince someone who's mildly afraid of helping you.
3) You can convince someone who's actively opposed to what you are asking for due to reasons practical, but not essential to his/your personality.
4) You can convince a man to go against his personal principles (if he has any), or betray someone who's always been good to him (or, on the contrary, someone who's bad enough to not be wanted as an enemy).
5) You can convince someone who hates you personally (not necessarily to drop that hate and help you immediately like you are best friends, but at least listen to some of your arguments).

Of course it's very crude and probably can't account for all possible situations (but it's also not the only talking skill in the world) - but I think it's a decent starting point to illustrate what I mean. With 5 levels, establishing such rules for all skills is hard but theoretically manageable. With 10, it becomes impossible and you have to resort to assigning random-looking requirements to each check as you see fit.

Another one of my recent ideas is branching skills, or specialties. E.g. a Persuasion skill can branch at level 3, forcing you to choose between, say, Reason, Deception, Eloquence and Intimidation (the last one, of course, might be affected by some other factors, like it is in AoD). These 4 specialties are separate flavors of the skill, all usable independently in different situations. First 2 levels of the skill affect them all (to give the new player a small taste of everything before he's ready to choose what he likes best - but he might still have to think and use them proactively), and then only one is raised to 3 and beyond, leaving the others at 2 forever. Of course, this will limit the player freedom somewhat, but do it in a more-or-less natural way, preventing thin-spread builds, but making specialized ones more "personalized".

Are you talking about hybrids?

I am talking about first-time players who don't read guides and know nothing about usefulness of specific skills and amount of available skill points. I think it's quite natural to go for a hybrid right away when you are getting acquainted with the game, especially when there are so much temptations to resist (i.e. visible skill checks), and no one around to tell you that you HAVE to focus on at most 4 skills to get them all to highest levels. And when you play the second time, you probably already know many of the checks in advance.

it's really hard to fail unless you go for a hybrid right away and spread your points too thin

In Teron - yes, but it's quite easy to fail in Ganezzar. I failed the Commercium questline on my very first run because I didn't want to kill Cassius in the beginning, and didn't have "just enough" persuasion/streetwise/charisma in the end to convince Meru to give me a chance despite Feng's accusations. It's also extremely easy to fail 40 thieves in Ganezzar after passing all their previous tasks with flying colors, if you prefer sneaking and stealing (or fighting and killing) to lockpicking, throwing and disarming traps (which aren't too common before Ganezzar tunnels).

I don't consider it a flaw.

I don't say you have to. I'm just trying to explain where some of these complains are coming from and what can be done about them (to some extent). And of course, I don't say that all gated content should be invisible - it just won't make any sense sometimes. But more "surprise content" will probably improve the overall reaction greatly. My best moments when replaying the game for N-th time were surely the ones when I found something new where I thought I've already left no stone unturned.

First, "strongholds for everyone" fucking sucks, which highlights Bio's "everyone is special so everyone gets a stronghold!" mentality.

Ok, you'll be the first one. ;)

I agree that Lore was a key skill that handled way too much, but it was kind of fitting. We could have split it into 3 skills but that would have forced you to spend more and only increased metagaming.

Perhaps not if you had less levels in each of these 3 skills. If wouldn't have added much stress for a pure loremaster, but could have given more options to hybrids if they don't want to be jacks of all trades, but still want to stand a chance in a specific lore-related area.

In general, I don't think it was very hard to keep investing in Lore, once you realize its significance.

But you can't invest anything into intelligence if you deliberately started with a dumb character and hoped for more opportunities to use your strength, dexterity and constitution for something other than simply killing things. :) Of course, 10 lore & 4 intelligence is better than nothing...

So what would be an appropriate alternative to Computers that wouldn't cheapen the skill and make investing into it pointless?

First of all, if you haven't already done this (seems pretty obvious), then Computers/Programming/Hacking/whatever-you-like-to-call-it (the new Lore) can naturally be paired with Electronics (the new Crafting), because hardware and software is not the same. Or, glancing back at my specialties idea, it might become a Science skill branching into several mutually exclusive specialties:
- Electronics - disabling alarms, bypassing (not hacking!) code locks, fixing broken gadgets, assembling robotic helpers (but the latter will probably be stuck with lousy "stock" AI).
- Programming - for an adventurer it's probably mostly hacking, but may come in different flavors - from cracking passwords to reprogramming turrets to improving robots' behavior to setting booby traps based on face/image/sound recognition to finding bugs in security programs and exploiting them later without actually altering or breaking anything (just like we constantly exploit AI deficiencies to win a combat)...
- Chemistry - Alchemy's respectable twin sister. :) Can be used to blow up / melt strongboxes and doors instead of hacking their codes...
- Medicine - pretty self-explanatory, though doesn't have much to do with computers and strongboxes...
...and maybe something else that makes sense in your setting.

Well, these aren't really "alternatives", but I'm not sure a party-based RPG with predefined companions (they are predefined, are they?) will need them. A good party will likely have experts in most if not all fields (but skill branching might make it less straightforward). If it was single-character... leaving passwords everywhere is silly of course, but:
- You can intimidate/torture/bribe someone who has the right knowledge, not necessarily right on the spot where you need it - i.e. hire Iola or Bennie to help you with the monastery machine in AoD. That, of course, is risky because they might betray you or use the knowledge you shared with them against you. Also, if your only access point is the sewers teleporter, you'd have to work out a way to get your hired help there (i.e. Iola might not have enough con+dex to swim there on her own, so it might add a strength requirement to help her and a persuasion check to make her agree to that madness).
- You can sometimes copy some information and keep it until someone decyphers it for you. E.g. in AoD it would be nice if a character with high perception & dexterity was able to make a copy of an ancient inscription he can't read, then bring it back to Abukar for translation. There was even a quest like that in Skyrim's thieves guild, but, naturally, they kept it straight and simple like they always do.
- If your goal is getting somewhere (as opposed to understanding/using something), you may use your strength/dexterity to take a route unavailable for a "man of science". AoD sewers are a good example of that, but they ultimately lead to a machine which you can't use and canister you can't get if you are too stupid (though there are also other bonuses like respirator and some meteor metal, which is good). Heavy stone in Saross is a different example I still don't understand at all, because it requires great strength and doesn't seem to help reaching the secret chamber in any way. Why not remove the grating and attach a grappling hook to get inside through the service vent? And then use an old-school torch to examine the dark room?
- If everything else fails, you can SELL access to the weird places you've found to some prospector/loremaster who'll know what to do with them (getting some extra SP for such a deal, and, possibly, some interesting consequences after your buyer actually makes use of the tech & knowledge).

Simply speaking, if your character is too thick to understand something himself, find someone/something who can. Then manipulate them into doing what you want or explaining the most important parts in layman terms. Even a dumb person might be able to use sophisticated tech (e.g. hellgate grenade) if provided specific instructions (e.g. by Bennie - the fact that the first construct is already dead doesn't mean you won't need it later). And you don't have to be a genius to understand most of the pre-war lore if someone tells it to you straight (like Zamedi demon does, if you can convince him).

In fact, AoD already has lots of potential in that direction and could eventually be expanded to better support non-intelligent explorers. Of course, it would require more scripting... It always does. In the end, only you and your team can know how much of it you can handle.

Also, "balancing" doesn't necessarily mean giving full access and understanding of all loremaster-oriented areas to everyone. Instead, gate some content with other skills, so that even loremasters won't get everything. To quote your original post:

you moved a boulder and found a passageway to another area!

Why the hell not? :) If a loremaster can find new areas by reading old scrolls and talking to other loremasters, a brutish thug can find different areas by moving boulders or killing and robbing people. As long as the balance is right, they will both feel rewarded (just in different ways). Monastery is one such location (which you find by getting hurt on a regular basis and going to healer), but one is just not enough when loremaster has what - 5? And what does a thief/assassin/grifter find that everyone else can't?


Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: Vince on July 19, 2016, 02:14:49 pm
Was your enemy AI using it too?
Yes. The AI uses all available APs not a fixed amount.

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Would the problem really go away if we switch to a smaller scale? You can ask the same question: what's the difference between 2 and 3 or 3 and 4?

But that's half as many questions, which makes them easier to answer. E.g. in AoD the crafting skill already has 5 meaningful levels (outside the explorative uses). It's bronze, iron, steel, blue steel and meteor metal for 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 respectively. Sharpening bonuses increase by the same 2-level steps IIRC. So why not bring it all to 0..5 scale and "normalize" the other uses?
Oscar would agree with you but I feel that gaining skill level is an important aspect and 1-5 scale is simply too small, regardless of other factors. With 1-5 it would take you twice as long to gain a skill level, especially in an increase-by-use system.

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I am still thinking about proper "steps" for various "peaceful" skills. It's certainly not easy without any existing examples (beyond simply splitting their uses into a catalogue and assigning a known level to each one, like it's often done with magic). One of the ideas I had was something like this for Persuasion:
1) You can convince someone who doesn't really have much against helping you, but doesn't see a good reason to make the effort.
2) You can convince someone who's mildly afraid of helping you.
3) You can convince someone who's actively opposed to what you are asking for due to reasons practical, but not essential to his/your personality.
4) You can convince a man to go against his personal principles (if he has any), or betray someone who's always been good to him (or, on the contrary, someone who's bad enough to not be wanted as an enemy).
5) You can convince someone who hates you personally (not necessarily to drop that hate and help you immediately like you are best friends, but at least listen to some of your arguments).
I see it a bit differently. It should be tied to the task not to the person.

Asking to borrow a pen is easy. Asking to borrow a car for a week isn’t. Asking your boss for a position you want is much harder than asking him for a raise, neither is an easy task. Convincing Mercato (a pissed off guard who was passed for promotion) to tell you what you need to know, which doesn’t harm the Imperial Guards (the faction) directly is one thing. Convincing Carrinas to break the siege giving a big fuck you to Paullus and ruining his plans is another. Carrinas may like you a lot but what you’re asking for is simply too much.

It’s very hard to convey this information to the player, thus the only hint is common sense: the player must be aware of the constantly raised stakes. In Teron you use streetwise to convince some guy to deliver poisoned wine to the outpost. In Ganezzar you convince a zealot to die for you or some mercenaries to hand over the power armor.

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Another one of my recent ideas is branching skills, or specialties. E.g. a Persuasion skill can branch at level 3, forcing you to choose between, say, Reason, Deception, Eloquence and Intimidation (the last one, of course, might be affected by some other factors, like it is in AoD). These 4 specialties are separate flavors of the skill, all usable independently in different situations. First 2 levels of the skill affect them all (to give the new player a small taste of everything before he's ready to choose what he likes best - but he might still have to think and use them proactively), and then only one is raised to 3 and beyond, leaving the others at 2 forever. Of course, this will limit the player freedom somewhat, but do it in a more-or-less natural way, preventing thin-spread builds, but making specialized ones more "personalized".
It is too limiting. I don’t think you should be able to go through a game using nothing but Reason or Deception. You have to use both as neither one would work on everyone.

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First of all, if you haven't already done this (seems pretty obvious), then Computers/Programming/Hacking/whatever-you-like-to-call-it (the new Lore) can naturally be paired with Electronics (the new Crafting), because hardware and software is not the same.
Sure but then we’re back to that deadly Lore/Crafting combo.

Yes, the party setup will remove some of the pressure but I was curious how to solve this problem in a single-character game.


Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: Kirinyale on July 19, 2016, 03:07:48 pm
Quote from: Kirinyale link=to---pic=7217.msg146099#msg146099 date=1468945875
Was your enemy AI using it too?
Yes. The AI uses all available APs not a fixed amount.

I mean, was it smart enough to willingly conserve AP where it makes sense (i.e. stand back and skip turns, inviting you to go first) instead of just closing in and attacking?

I see it a bit differently. It should be tied to the task not to the person.

But what I wrote is about the tasks. It's just that persuasion tasks are deeply tied with a person's feelings towards a specific proposition, or towards the person who's making it, so some classification might be possible. Lets see...

"Asking to borrow a pen" - this probably won't require a skill check at all, unless this specific pen is very dear to its owner and/or he doesn't have another one. Ok, maybe it's 1 if he's a greedy bastard.

"Asking to borrow a car for a week" - If you are really good friends with the owner, this is probably 2 or 3, depending on how often the owner is using it himself (i.e. how much inconvenience it would cause to him), and how much he trusts you not to crash it... and you might have to offer something in return.

"Asking your boss for a position you want" - 3 if you are qualified for this position, 4 otherwise.
"Asking him for a raise" - 2 to 4, depending on how much you actually deserve it.

Both can easily go up to 5 if your boss doesn't like you (but in that case, you are likely to be fired before you get a chance to ask for anything).

"Convincing Mercato (a pissed off guard who was passed for promotion) to tell you what you need to know, which doesn’t harm the Imperial Guards (the faction) directly" - 3 if you are nice to him. If you are not... well, as far as I remember, it's free because you have a really good leverage, but will certainly raise the difficulty of all subsequent dealings with him to 5.

"Convincing Carrinas to break the siege giving a big fuck you to Paullus and ruining his plans" - 4 to 5, depending on whether he does like you a lot.

Well, as I said from the start, it's pretty crude right now...

It is too limiting. I don’t think you should be able to go through a game using nothing but Reason or Deception. You have to use both as neither one would work on everyone.

If you specialize on Reason (with level 3+), you still keep level 2 at Deception and vice versa. Also, Persuasion doesn't have to be the only skill usable in dialogue. E.g. I'm also thinking of including "Inspiration" (which includes charm, wit, fervor and wisdom in its current iteration), and some lore/science/art-based skills with their own sets of specialties. Going through the game with a set of 3-4 "strong" specialties and a bunch of weaker ones is quite possible even in AoD. Though of course it's a very different design overall.

Yes, the party setup will remove some of the pressure but I was curious how to solve this problem in a single-character game.

Well, I don't have a magical solution yet. :) In my project, I've spent most of the time so far on the tech side, and some of it on a rough story carcass, and only now (after getting more free time) starting to put together all my "systemic" ideas into something design-like. It's definitely going to take a while. Meanwhile, I'm just sharing some of these ideas in case you find any of them useful from your experience standpoint. And, in any case, such solutions are highly context-specific. I'd be very surprised if anyone found a skill combination which is always functionally equivalent to a different skill combination - but if you review it quest-by-quest, location-by-location with a few specific builds/archetypes in mind and all major NPCs in place, alternative solutions for individual problems can be found.


Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: Vince on July 19, 2016, 04:27:53 pm
I mean, was it smart enough to willingly conserve AP where it makes sense (i.e. stand back and skip turns, inviting you to go first) instead of just closing in and attacking?
It didn't conserve AP the way the player would (which was problem #1 as it encouraged the player to skip or waste a turn by falling back to pile up more AP for the next turn, so essentially attacking every other turn to unleash the full power of your AP became the best strategy.

I don't recall the rate, I think you got 1AP for every unused 2AP to the maximum of 5, but I don't recall for sure as it was back in 2008. It was filed under 'failed experiment' and never revisited again.

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"Asking to borrow a pen" - this probably won't require a skill check at all, unless this specific pen is very dear to its owner and/or he doesn't have another one. Ok, maybe it's 1 if he's a greedy bastard.
Good pens are hard to come by. Anyway, your system is as arbitrary as mine because the player would still have no real way to tell why this check is 3 and the other is 4. The only way to fix it is by giving the player detailed stats on the NPCs (greed, honor, loyalty, distrust, confidence, etc). So if you're making an argument against Honor & Loyalty (Carrinas when you ask him to betray Paullus), you need to have Persuasion & Streetwise higher than the traits you're trying to undermine.

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Meanwhile, I'm just sharing some of these ideas in case you find any of them useful from your experience standpoint.
Of course. Always appreciated.


Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: MF on July 19, 2016, 06:06:09 pm


So what would be an appropriate alternative to Computers that wouldn't cheapen the skill and make investing into it pointless?



That's something that bugged me in AOD.

There are loremaster NPC's in the game. I know Feng is a quack and the other guy is a bit of a weirdo, but they are loremasters and I'm sure they could solve more of the character's lore-related problems than they do now. A fighter would be able to intimidate them, a commercium player would be able to buy their service and a very persuasive character might convince them to help somehow.

I know this would make the player's lore skill less meaningful, but it would solve the hard gating for OCD players and make the world feel a little bit more alive. Int he CSG game, I'm sure the party-based mechanic will make up for some of this.

I'm not saying this would have been the way to go in AOD, but it did feel weird that I couldn't enlist help, no matter how rich or persuasive I was.


Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: Vince on July 19, 2016, 06:34:16 pm
There are loremaster NPC's in the game. I know Feng is a quack and the other guy is a bit of a weirdo, but they are loremasters and I'm sure they could solve more of the character's lore-related problems than they do now. A fighter would be able to intimidate them, a commercium player would be able to buy their service and a very persuasive character might convince them to help somehow.

I know this would make the player's lore skill less meaningful...
A lot less. Why would you invest into a skill wasting valuable points if you can easily bypass it with your primary skills or money?


Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: Pladio on July 20, 2016, 04:12:48 am
Combat system
I think it may be worth adding active abilities like Expeditions Conquistador did.
For example, a bowman should be able to use some AP to boost his aim for the next two shots. Or a swordsman could use his AP to increase his block chance for the next turn.

Also, make use of unused AP. For example, if I don't use all of my AP on one turn, why not make it regen one HP and give me another AP for next turn ?

Passive abilities could also be used to further flesh out characters. Or perks like in Fallout.

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I’m not sure there’s a way to “fix it” as those who want to get maximum content in a single playthrough will continue to metagame no matter what. The moment you tell the player "sorry, buddy, you need to be this tall to ride this", some players won't accept the failure and would want to know this kind of info in advance. Not many people see it as "you win some, you lose some" design. Anyway, I'd love to read your thoughts on this matter.

I think it may be worth looking at how Piranha Bytes "solves" this. In Gothic you can become whatever you want: a mage, a fighter, a hybrid and join multiple factions, but the choices are quite obvious. Once you join a faction, you know you cannot do other things.
Maybe this would be a good way to handle it.

Taking AoD as an example. It might be worth telling people, now if you do this for us, you are with us. There is no turning back. You'll be an assassin and no one else will ever think of you differently. Some doors will open. Others will shut.

Another way, it might be useful to suggest even on character creation the amount of unique content not possible to achieve with those starting stats.
For example, with intelligence of 9, you can get to 10 unique locations, but with 8 you can only get to 6, however, because you have now increased your dexterity the number is 7 locations.
No need to say which, but this way, people can min-max if they want to, but it gives some more information to the play to decide how to play ?



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A lot less. Why would you invest into a skill wasting valuable points if you can easily bypass it with your primary skills or money?

I actually think it makes sense though. And you wouldn't be able to bring Feng or Cassius with you everywhere, so it's only of limited use unless you raise your own Lore skill..


Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: Kirinyale on July 20, 2016, 04:25:31 am
Also, make use of unused AP. For example, if I don't use all of my AP on one turn, why not make it regen one HP and give me another AP for next turn ?
We just discussed this... :D

A lot less. Why would you invest into a skill wasting valuable points if you can easily bypass it with your primary skills or money?
Hmm, role-playing and personal preferences? :) Why would anyone invest in etiquette, steal or trading if they are rarely needed and easily bypassed? Why would I invest in combat skills if the game is easy to finish without them?

Also, it just feels inconsistent sometimes. You practically start Maadoran by showing artefacts to Abukar, and it's often useful but about half of them can't even be shown. Even a few generic lines like "Abukar, what's this? - No idea, get it out of my face!" would help. You can show the surgery tools to Bennie but not to anyone else. Hell, Bennie even helps you for free after that (well, maybe not completely free - he does want the Divine Spear first), and it's the only time in the game when you actually enlist help of a loremaster. Other times, you can't even try.

I think you did an awesome job accounting for every imaginable little detail in Teron (and I guess you also spent the most time on it?), but on later stages that familiar feeling of "you can only try something if it actually works" sometimes returns.


Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: Vince on July 20, 2016, 07:03:59 am
A lot less. Why would you invest into a skill wasting valuable points if you can easily bypass it with your primary skills or money?
Hmm, role-playing and personal preferences? :) Why would anyone invest in etiquette, steal or trading if they are rarely needed and easily bypassed? Why would I invest in combat skills if the game is easy to finish without them?
Etiquette and Steal are my failures (I failed to write enough faction-related content for these skills) not good examples of skills working as intended. Trading is useful, there are tons of checks, but only a merchant would benefit from it. In the future I definitely want to do better, not as good as or worse.

I want to make sure that each skill get enough use and content, so the way I see Lore is an example of a well-done non-combat skill that everyone wanted to have. I agree with you that it was too useful and it basically governed access to the "historical/explorative part", but I'm not sure how to solve this problem in the future as skills like Lore or Computers don't really have any viable alternatives. You either know how to operate computers or you don't (I don't mean accessing computers to read logs or open doors a-la Fallout 4, I mean using computers to perform complex tasks).

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I think you did an awesome job accounting for every imaginable little detail in Teron (and I guess you also spent the most time on it?), but on later stages that familiar feeling of "you can only try something if it actually works" sometimes returns.
Each city took about a year and a half, but I spent an extra year improving Teron.


Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: Kirinyale on July 20, 2016, 07:26:22 am
Trading is useful, there are tons of checks, but only a merchant would benefit from it.
Yes, I know of these checks, but there are always alternatives to them in guild quests - mainly persuasion, streetwise & charisma. I don't think you really have to invest in trading to be a successful merchant. Of course, it also saves money, but there are multiple ways to make so much of it that you just stop caring about the prices. :)

In fact, etiquette can be more important for a merchant at least once - I recall a hidden etiquette check necessary for convincing lord Senna to join the conspiracy. But I can't imagine any reason of getting it to 10 (though I never really tried). Same with trading: it is useful, but not as your main skill, so there's no real reason to have it higher than 4-5, since you still need to invest in persuasion/streetwise.

I want to make sure that each skill get enough use and content, so the way I see Lore is an example of a well-done non-combat skill that everyone wanted to have.
Yes, I definitely agree with that, and I really enjoyed using it in my first run (I'm often playing RPGs with a "mage" class on my first time, so loremaster was the obvious choice). The problem is not that Lore is "too good", it's rather that most other skills are not equally good - so perhaps it's fine to keep lore/computers a "priority skill", but also add more similar gates which can't be opened without something else.

There's a beautiful example in Torment: Tides of Numenera beta: the game will probably end up being balanced for Nanos (local name for magi/loremasters), but despite that, taking the dumbest possible, illogical, completely unnecessary (it doesn't even take a skill check to do it "the right way") route and smashing a complex piece of technology angrily can lead to a whole new experience, including an alternative solution and extra content in an unrelated side quest...

Each city took about a year and a half, but I spent an extra year improving Teron.
It shows. :)


Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: Vince on July 20, 2016, 07:38:25 am
In fact, etiquette can be more important for a merchant at least once - I recall a hidden etiquette check necessary for convincing lord Senna to join the conspiracy. But I can't imagine any reason of getting it to 10 (though I never really tried). Same with trading: it is useful, but not as your main skill, so there's no real reason to have it higher than 4-5, since you still need to invest in persuasion/streetwise.
There are some good checks here and there, many of them hidden, just not enough to make it a recommended skill.


Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: Scott on July 20, 2016, 09:13:02 am
Turn-Based
Re: Combat, I'd like to see something closer to JA:2's system of careful aim. It takes 4AP to fire a rifle, character has 7AP but crap THC. Right click on target to spend 1AP to increase that chance to hit.
Re: RNG, characters aiming at same target with ranged weapon get slight bonus (3-5%) to hit for each subsequent shot, provided they don't move, change equipment, get hit themselves, etc. Applies to enemies too of course.
Others have a good point regarding saving AP for future rounds, but I can see how it could severely throw game balance and also give the human player a huge advantage, so I can do without it.
Use a curve instead of a linear progression on combat skills, meaning on a 1-10 scale the player goes from "completely unskilled" at Skill 1 (10%THC) to "moderately skilled" at Skill 3 (50%THC), and then levels out with diminishing returns at the higher levels. Going from never picking up a rifle to eight hours training and one firefight is a much bigger leap than the next eight hours of training and the second firefight.

Skill-Based character system.
Idea: allow for a bit of synergy in your party, so that the skills of NPCs who aren't the best in the party aren't completely wasted. You're always going to use your best hacker when the check comes up. Give him a moderate bonus based on the hacking skill of the second best hacker in the party. Someone more knowledgeable about computers (especially in a situation where there's no formal training) doesn't necessarily know more about every aspect than someone less knowledgeable.

Stats & Skills Matter
Quote
So what would be an appropriate alternative to Computers that wouldn't cheapen the skill and make investing into it pointless?
I feel like this is going to be a *lot* less of a concern when you've got a party system. Why not have a character who's good at Computers? It seems like you'll have less opportunity for Skill-based gating. Use faction-based gating instead. That will be a lot less cryptic to the player and won't result in munchkins pumping up Lore (maybe this is already obvious and I'm just bleating?)

Quote
I’m not sure there’s a way to “fix it” as those who want to get maximum content in a single playthrough will continue to metagame no matter what.
This is a problem that doesn't require a solution. The game is designed for replayability. That's de facto incompatible with metagaming. However, the internet will allow our OCD comrades to get as close to satisfaction as the design will allow. They might find it frustrating. I think I would find Call of Duty frustrating.

Non-Combat ways through th
Quote
While combat should always be the main pillar of RPGs...
Boy, we are in complete agreement on that one!

Re: Paths to sneak past -this is a scripting nightmare, as you pointed out, and how does it work with a party anyway? I don't think I've ever seen that implemented. Or does one sneaky guy break away temporarily? Sticking with dialogue-based stealth is definitely the easiest answer here. Players may find it less satisfying (though not necessarily), but a graphically represented system that sort-of works would be even less satisfying.

I don't think anyone ever complained that AoD was light on combat, and there was no filler there. The problem with combat IMO was that it was for combat-centered characters only. Hopefully you'll find it in your heart to occasionally have a fight that a hybrid combat/non-combat party can handle.

Dialogue doesn't have to be passive (boring). I think the key to good dialogue trees and superior quest design is multiple, instead of binary, levels of success, at least in significant dialogues. Example: you're trying to get information. Instead of 1. no info, 2. get info, have a variable assigned to how much the NPC likes you (this is what I had planned for Cyclopean). Dialogue choices drive that variable. Ultimate result is 1. no info, 2. basic info, 3. detailed info, 4. detailed info plus advice on how to use it, or NPC gives you an item or other bonus.

Similarly, multiple levels of success for an assassination quest: 1. failure, 2. killed target but left witnesses, 3. killed target, no witnesses, 4. killed target, no witnesses, and eliminated corpse.

Non-Linear & Replayable
Quote
Multiple ways leading toward the endgame location (i.e. branching questlines), so you never have to travel the same path if you replay the game
I think a person could go too far with this. Multiple paths are good, but "never have to travel the same path" is too much. AoD did a great job of presenting a very different playthru depending on factions and Lore but you could dial it back a tiny bit and still have a very replayable game. I'm surprised people complained about the length, since it was 20-25 hours without filler, which is a hell of a difference from 20-25 hours of Skyrim. I think a longer playthru with 6 radically different playthrus instead of 10 would be an improvement.

Armory looks great! Though if those folks were gunned down approaching the door a few scattered items on the floor would make sense.
----
Welcome João!




Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: suibhne on July 20, 2016, 10:04:54 am
I want to make sure that each skill get enough use and content, so the way I see Lore is an example of a well-done non-combat skill that everyone wanted to have. I agree with you that it was too useful and it basically governed access to the "historical/explorative part", but I'm not sure how to solve this problem in the future as skills like Lore or Computers don't really have any viable alternatives. You either know how to operate computers or you don't (I don't mean accessing computers to read logs or open doors a-la Fallout 4, I mean using computers to perform complex tasks).

Sure, but other people also know those things. In other words: there might not be a viable alternative path for the character to accomplish Lore-based or Computer-based tasks on her own, but there's no reason she can't use non-Lore/non-Computer skills to win the support of other people (or even other tools, like automated programs) that can accomplish similar tasks or disclose similar knowledge.


Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: Morbus on July 20, 2016, 04:24:49 pm
Great read, as usual.

About the meta/gating/skill-check thing, I would like to share my view on the design decisions take in Age of Decadence.

First off, in my opinion, The Age of Decadence is the best cRPG ever made. It took me three playthroughs to realize it, the last of which I used a walkthrough to some extent (because it was on camera and it was supposed to be special), but I have no doubt about it. Fallout is not as good. Arcanum is not as good. And Torment is not as good.

That aside, I don't think it's a perfect game. Not in its execution (there are a few features missing in the combat system, which is understandable) and not in its design, but it's very close to perfect. Where I think AoD fails design-wise is in welcoming stubborn players. Those that complain that it's a) too hard (it's not), b) requires meta-gaming (it doesn't) and c) it has too little content (it most certainly does NOT). So much in fact that I've been writing a few things to make a video with the working title of "A sensible explanation of why people hate good RPGs".

So, for me, the fundamental mistake AoD incurs into is it doesn't "shape" its content in a way that can be understood easily. In pursuit of this goal, bad game designers will dumb down quests, add quest-markers, add questhubs, invincible NPCs, quest items, make their game easy as pie and do other game crimes of the sort. And while AoD isn't as "bad" at "letting you figure it out by yourself" as other games, it's still "bad" enough that it will deter a lot of players.

On the other side of the fence, we have another RPG with a lot of gated content as well that came out roughly at the same time: Underrail. That game is amazing, and despite being very hard and definitely way less replayable and with way fewer choices, it manages to deliver them in a "controlled" way. Because it's obvious when you're being given a choice, and you usually don't get physically barred from accessing different areas, you just don't get to talk to the whole faction you just alienated. Or murdered.

So this first point is all about how you let the player know that he is making a choice. And in AoD, I'm never truly sure I'm screwing up or doing something that won't get me killed. The main reason for this is that there are too many choices, but these come from a very early stage in the writing process, because that's just how the game was written. A couple of things that I believe could have been easily implemented that would minimize this issue is:
- less "hidden" quests, or at least a way for you to pick up on rumors that would lead you to these "hidden" quests, like at the inn or characters talking about other people. Not only would this add to the sense of cohesion in the game-world, but it would also help diminish the feeling that the game requires meta-knowledge;
- ways to (partially) undo mistakes like when you sell a quest-item. These need to be written into the quests, of course, but they shouldn't require too much additional work, I don't think. So I sold the artifact that would unlock a huge underground temple? Let me blow up the temple sidewall and partially explore it. For example;
- allow for world exploration. If you didn't go to the Brotherhood and they didn't send you to the Glow, you could still find it by yourself. If you killed the mutants in Necropolis, you could still find the Military Base. But if I didn't talk to a very specific character about stuff, I would never know about Inferiae. And that will most likely bar my access to that tower in the north. What hurts is you don't get to see cool stuff, not so much the fact that you miss on the quests. Proof is my mercenary playthrough took me to so many different areas my mind was blown away, but I never missed those in my first playthrough as a loremaster, because I didn't even know they existed. When I found the underground mutation thing in the desert, it was awesome! Proof is I knew there was stuff that happened when you because the champion in the arena. I was fine with my loremaster not being able to win a single fight, so I didn't even try. Same with my thief. But I was blown away when my mercenary unlocked that huge amount of content after that. Conversely, I hated how I couldn't get into the abyss, because it was obviously possible to do it, but it wasn't for my loremaster or thief, and probably wouldn't be for my mercenary either if I hadn't followed the walkthrough. I hated that I couldn't rebuild the light bridge at the end, because I didn't know what was on the other side, so I think the game could have done a better job there at telling me it was "all right" to miss that one.

Ultimately, it's all about knowing WHAT you're missing on WHEN you know you're missing on stuff. And keeping the other stuff hidden well enough that you're not gonna be upset that you don't see it.

My other point has more to do with the nature of the character system and the skill checks. AoD is a game you have to play with savescumming in mind if you wanna have fun exploring all the different solutions to the same quest. Like I would usually start a conversation and see where I could get, and then I'd reload and upgrade a skill and see where it'd get me. The reason for this is that there's enough of a distinction between a 4 and a 6 in alchemy, for example. How the hell should I know if I'm gonna be able to make a stable bomb to open this door at 4 alchemy?

So I think the game could do a better job of telling the player what he's capable of doing, and what he's almost capable of doing. I can see multiple ways of doing it with the 0-10 skill system, with different pros and cons. Mostly I think the dialog system needs to be upgraded to allow flexibility for the designers to convey certain messages to the player. Of course, I am aware AoD was never meant to be innovative so this is not a complain.

Still, in the spirit of conveying my point, I'll go into a bit of detail.

For example, if you have five tiers of alchemy skill, and each is in relation to a particular subject, it instantly becomes obvious to the player what he can and cannot do. This could also open different possibilities of completing a quest with the same skill, i.e. using differently alchemy solutions for the same problem. Think alchemy is: tier 1, healing salves; tier 2, poisons; tier 3, acids; tier 4, explosives; tier 5, arcane. This is just off of my head, and oversimplified, but what I mean is, if you have Alchemy 3, then maybe you can melt that door, but you'll know messing with explosives is probably gonna end badly.

But you can do it in a completely different manner. What if, accompanying your dialog choice to melt the door, you get an "insight" from your character, telling you about your chances to do what you're trying to do. An insight tied to your skill level, of course. I think that would go a long way to help players feeling less lost and the added flavor text would make it more than just a "oh, I failed the skill test".

There are many ways to do this, but I realize it's just a matter of design.

Sorry for the long text, I didn't mean for it to get so big.

That's what she said.


Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: AbounI on July 20, 2016, 05:22:03 pm
Turn-Based
Re: Combat, I'd like to see something closer to JA:2's system of careful aim. It takes 4AP to fire a rifle, character has 7AP but crap THC. Right click on target to spend 1AP to increase that chance to hit.
Wasn't it already in place with the fast/normal/brutal attack?At least, the result was quite the same from the choice of the style of attack : spending more or less AP for a better chance to hit.So would you like to get another form of THC bonus?

Quote
Re: RNG, characters aiming at same target with ranged weapon get slight bonus (3-5%) to hit for each subsequent shot, provided they don't move, change equipment, get hit themselves, etc. Applies to enemies too of course.

Sounds good

Quote
Use a curve instead of a linear progression on combat skills, meaning on a 1-10 scale the player goes from "completely unskilled" at Skill 1 (10%THC) to "moderately skilled" at Skill 3 (50%THC), and then levels out with diminishing returns at the higher levels. Going from never picking up a rifle to eight hours training and one firefight is a much bigger leap than the next eight hours of training and the second firefight.
But the more you level up a skill, the more you need skillpoints to improve that skill, so it's quite the same idea.What would be the easier to implement, the easier to fix/balance?

Quote
Skill-Based character system.
Idea: allow for a bit of synergy in your party, so that the skills of NPCs who aren't the best in the party aren't completely wasted. You're always going to use your best hacker when the check comes up. Give him a moderate bonus based on the hacking skill of the second best hacker in the party. Someone more knowledgeable about computers (especially in a situation where there's no formal training) doesn't necessarily know more about every aspect than someone less knowledgeable.
And regarding the "learn by use" system, who will improve in the skill?I would suggest both (when it fits the situation), like when a master is teaching to his apprentice : the master improves his art and shares his own knowledge.


Quote
Dialogue doesn't have to be passive (boring). I think the key to good dialogue trees and superior quest design is multiple, instead of binary, levels of success, at least in significant dialogues. Example: you're trying to get information. Instead of 1. no info, 2. get info, have a variable assigned to how much the NPC likes you (this is what I had planned for Cyclopean). Dialogue choices drive that variable. Ultimate result is 1. no info, 2. basic info, 3. detailed info, 4. detailed info plus advice on how to use it, or NPC gives you an item or other bonus.

Similarly, multiple levels of success for an assassination quest: 1. failure, 2. killed target but left witnesses, 3. killed target, no witnesses, 4. killed target, no witnesses, and eliminated corpse.
Hard to design, as for assassination, whether the skillchek pass or not, it opens generally a fight with the witnesses (see bandit camp).Regarding the battlemap, it's hard to believe a lone skilled assassin can easily cut everyone's throat before they can move.It does not make sense, unless PC is a pure ninja  :panic:
But I guess your idea is good if it can be applied to a specific situation like dialogues.That could also serve the "learn by use" system: the better you succeed, the greater is the "XP" reward (and by "XP", I don't only mean skillpoint gain, but also unlock some optionnal content, it depends if a success rewards content or skillpoints)



Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: Lurker King on July 20, 2016, 05:42:25 pm
The Age of Decadence is the best cRPG ever made. It took me three playthroughs to realize it, the last of which I used a walkthrough to some extent (because it was on camera and it was supposed to be special), but I have no doubt about it. Fallout is not as good. Arcanum is not as good. And Torment is not as good.

(http://i.imgur.com/bhKp2.gif)


Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: Scott on July 21, 2016, 07:28:35 am
Turn-Based
Re: Combat, I'd like to see something closer to JA:2's system of careful aim. It takes 4AP to fire a rifle, character has 7AP but crap THC. Right click on target to spend 1AP to increase that chance to hit.
Wasn't it already in place with the fast/normal/brutal attack?At least, the result was quite the same from the choice of the style of attack : spending more or less AP for a better chance to hit.So would you like to get another form of THC bonus?
I don't mean *adding* this system to AoD's system, but replacing it. In AoD, fast/normal/brutal corresponded to varying damage as well as THC. With ranged weapons this wouldn't apply. And a fixed three-tier system doesn't have as many options. Character has 8AP, takes 4AP to shoot, he can spend +4AP to increase THC by 40%. This would cut back on long gun battles where nobody's hitting anything and alleviate the complaints about RNG. If you can't hit it, take more time setting up the shot. It worked in JA:2 to keep low-ranged-skill people from being totally useless. 20%THC + 40% is still only 60%.

Quote
Hard to design, as for assassination, whether the skillchek pass or not, it opens generally a fight with the witnesses (see bandit camp).Regarding the battlemap, it's hard to believe a lone skilled assassin can easily cut everyone's throat before they can move.It does not make sense, unless PC is a pure ninja  :panic:
Well, the Bandit Camp is one example from a different, single-PC game, and assassination was just the first type of quest that came to mind.

Obviously it would be more work but the payoff is less frustration/reload and metagaming. Isn't this the reason AoD was so hard (aside from combat), that failing one quest derailed everything? Change it up and failure doesn't mean not advancing any further with the faction and essentially gimping your entire game.


Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: Wrath of Dagon on July 21, 2016, 11:45:25 am
"Of course, the counter-argument is that failing repeatedly (considering how easy it is to make a character ill-equipped for what you're trying to do) is an equally fast way to kill the enjoyment."

I agree with this argument. Considering how many non-combat skills you need to upgrade you could fail quite frequently. In a combat play through you're rewarded by winning the combat, in non-combat play through you need to be rewarded by finding cool stuff, otherwise it's just not fun.

"Even playing Pillars of Eternity I was surprised how much filler combat the game had and wondered if cutting it out wouldn’t have boosted the game’s replayability as I’d rather play a shorter game several times to explore different options than run through an endless bog of generic encounters that serve absolutely no real purpose."

Even without considering replayability, it's a problem for finishing the game at all. The solution would've been to simply cut back on the filler, and make the remaining more interesting. A better quality game is preferable to a longer one.



Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: AbounI on July 21, 2016, 03:04:32 pm
Turn-Based
Re: Combat, I'd like to see something closer to JA:2's system of careful aim. It takes 4AP to fire a rifle, character has 7AP but crap THC. Right click on target to spend 1AP to increase that chance to hit.
Wasn't it already in place with the fast/normal/brutal attack?At least, the result was quite the same from the choice of the style of attack : spending more or less AP for a better chance to hit.So would you like to get another form of THC bonus?
I don't mean *adding* this system to AoD's system, but replacing it. In AoD, fast/normal/brutal corresponded to varying damage as well as THC. With ranged weapons this wouldn't apply. And a fixed three-tier system doesn't have as many options. Character has 8AP, takes 4AP to shoot, he can spend +4AP to increase THC by 40%. This would cut back on long gun battles where nobody's hitting anything and alleviate the complaints about RNG. If you can't hit it, take more time setting up the shot. It worked in JA:2 to keep low-ranged-skill people from being totally useless. 20%THC + 40% is still only 60%.
Ok, said like that, it now makes sense for me, as CSG will be more focused on ranged combats, unlike AoD





Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: Lurker King on September 02, 2016, 06:57:25 am
The worst example of this in AoD is the whole historical/explorative part. I see AoD as a game with two separate "main stories" which every character gets: one is your guild, the other is everything that has to do with the Empire, "gods", ruins and artifacts. And that's cool - until you realize that the second "main story" is gated by a set of skills/stats specific to a single type of character (loremaster). Sure, you can visit all the main locations without any specific skills (except Inferiae, which, if I remember right, is gated by lore=3, and Al-Akia which is faction-gated), but there's a fat chance that you won't get anything from any of them except some exploration SP - and that always feels like you are robbed of 50% "playthrough content" (not to be confused with ALL game content). The only other "big gate" is the Arena and the side quests it unlocks, but it's still much smaller, and it's also a "soft" gate, meaning that practically any character can win it by trying hard enough and using all the tricks he can. (...) If you absolutely have to put so much content behind a single "gate", the only way to "fix it" I can see is adding even more gated optional content for all the other archetypes (i.e. different builds "reasonable" from role-playing perspective).

The reason why lore and crafting are more important than other skills in AoD is the way the setting and game world works. When you complain that other skills should be equally important, you are assuming that the setting should be determined by gameplay (read: gamers’ whims), which in turn means that settings in cRPGs are not important. I disagree and I think that most cRPGs are so superficial because of this.

I'd really love to see a true RPG with a more "active" dialogue system without sacrificing the rest of the systems. Of course it's hard, but hardly impossible. (...) I dream of a CRPG which makes threats, jokes, abstract logical arguments and other skill-based dialogue options a conscious role-playing choice rather than just letting players pick the best-looking option from a list. And then consistent role-playing can have as much impact as decision-based reputations: e.g. joking gets easier and more natural if you do it all the time, but it may also make it harder for you to stay serious when it's important, hiding "serious" options unless you resist the system and opt to "pay" for them, suggesting even more jokes by default, and definitely modifying NPC reactions when you do something that's not typical for you (if they know it, of course).

I agree, but that is a gargantuan task and no cRPG eve came close to solve this problem. It is also an ungrateful task, since most players only care about combat. If you think that a more sophisticated dialogue system would be attractive to most players, you are in for a treat. The problem is no that we don’t have more stuff to do in dialogues, on the contrary, the problem is that we already have a lot to do in dialogues and they are nothing like combat. The deeper the dialogue system becomes, the more frustrated players will become. When they say, “This is too passive” what they really mean is “This not combat, I’m wasting my time”.


Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: lonewolf3135 on October 19, 2016, 10:41:49 pm

- less "hidden" quests, or at least a way for you to pick up on rumors that would lead you to these "hidden" quests, like at the inn or characters talking about other people. Not only would this add to the sense of cohesion in the game-world, but it would also help diminish the feeling that the game requires meta-knowledge;
- ways to (partially) undo mistakes like when you sell a quest-item. These need to be written into the quests, of course, but they shouldn't require too much additional work, I don't think. So I sold the artifact that would unlock a huge underground temple? Let me blow up the temple sidewall and partially explore it. For example;
- allow for world exploration. If you didn't go to the Brotherhood and they didn't send you to the Glow, you could still find it by yourself. If you killed the mutants in Necropolis, you could still find the Military Base. But if I didn't talk to a very specific character about stuff, I would never know about Inferiae. And that will most likely bar my access to that tower in the north. What hurts is you don't get to see cool stuff, not so much the fact that you miss on the quests. Proof is my mercenary playthrough took me to so many different areas my mind was blown away, but I never missed those in my first playthrough as a loremaster, because I didn't even know they existed. When I found the underground mutation thing in the desert, it was awesome! Proof is I knew there was stuff that happened when you because the champion in the arena. I was fine with my loremaster not being able to win a single fight, so I didn't even try. Same with my thief. But I was blown away when my mercenary unlocked that huge amount of content after that. Conversely, I hated how I couldn't get into the abyss, because it was obviously possible to do it, but it wasn't for my loremaster or thief, and probably wouldn't be for my mercenary either if I hadn't followed the walkthrough. I hated that I couldn't rebuild the light bridge at the end, because I didn't know what was on the other side, so I think the game could have done a better job there at telling me it was "all right" to miss that one.


I agree with this, There are a LOT of quests you would never know about unless you have a specific build. Now don't get me wrong I am not saying that you should be able to complete every quest on the first play through, but rather you know that it is there via rumor or dialog. 

As for the different paths to get to the same objective, that seems to me like it would create a ton of added work. I guess that would depend on the situation though. I would say simply marking the item as a key item would be a hell of a lot easier.

I play a lot of different genre games and one thing I am big on is open world/exploration. So yeah that was one thing about AoD that I kinda felt it was missing, I would not mind seeing random encounters either. I Especially love the fallout 2 style "special" encounters that left me lmao. Of course random encounters may produce the grinding affect.  :panic:   


Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: Pladio on November 29, 2016, 10:04:16 am
Hello Vince and team, will you have an update on your thoughts regarding this anytime soon?


Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: Vince on November 29, 2016, 04:51:50 pm
I agree with this, There are a LOT of quests you would never know about unless you have a specific build.
Which is the very definition of replayability for me - you replay the game with a different character and get content you didn't even know was there.

Quote
I play a lot of different genre games and one thing I am big on is open world/exploration. So yeah that was one thing about AoD that I kinda felt it was missing, I would not mind seeing random encounters either. I Especially love the fallout 2 style "special" encounters that left me lmao. Of course random encounters may produce the grinding affect.  :panic:   [/color]
The main reason we didn't do random encounters in AoD is because we didn't want to force talkers to fight. In general, random encounters should fit the area and not be truly random and if that's the case, they might as well be part of that area (like the prospector in the Library).

Where I think AoD fails design-wise is in welcoming stubborn players. Those that complain that it's a) too hard (it's not), b) requires meta-gaming (it doesn't) and c) it has too little content (it most certainly does NOT).
I agree that the game is hard to get into and we will certainly do a better job with the CSG without streamlining anything, but we can't make people like the game when they really don't want to. As you say yourself, it's not too hard, it doesn't require meta-gaming or min-maxing, it doesn't have too little content, etc. If they can't figure it out, most likely the game isn't for them.

Look at Dungeon Rats. We added difficulty levels, which didn't stop some people from claiming that the game is too hard and impossible. It's actually quite interesting - new players are used to Hard being normal/easy, so they play it solo on Hard as their first playthrough, die a lot and remain unimpressed. Every day I'm reading new claims - daggers are useless (they aren't), can't beat the game solo on Hard (you can), can't beat the game with a blocker (you can), can't beat the game with a spearman dodger (you definitely can), can't beat the game without alchemy (you can), can't beat the game without min-maxing (you can) or without max party (you can), etc.

It's an uphill battle and we aren't going to fight it because we can't win it. These complaints are what led to streamlining in the first place (see Blackguards 2 which took the complaints to heart and sold fuck all).


Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: Scott on November 30, 2016, 08:39:24 am
can't beat the game with a spearman dodger...
Come ON. That's the easiest build of them all. You mentioning "streamlining" all those times made think of streaming. It would be a great rebuttal to the complainers if you could link to a video showing the exact thing they're complaining about being done. But now that I think about it, I remember that even people who have watched the videos *still* say the game is too hard, that the people on the video actually learned the rules and how to play, as if that were a form of cheating. At some point in the last 15 years people have come to the conclusion that games should basically be Skyrim like movies. You just sit back and watch everything unfold with no challenge whatsoever.


Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: Ipaloplu on February 07, 2017, 01:36:49 pm
This approach greatly upset some players who felt that they were punished “just because they chose the ‘wrong’ stats”. Some RPG players are notoriously obsessive-compulsive and won’t rest until they create a character that can get the maximum amount of content, which does require reading online guides and meta-gaming like there’s no tomorrow – the fastest way to kill all enjoyment and ruin the game. Of course, the counter-argument is that failing repeatedly (considering how easy it is to make a character ill-equipped for what you're trying to do) is an equally fast way to kill the enjoyment.

I’m not sure there’s a way to “fix it” as those who want to get maximum content in a single playthrough will continue to metagame no matter what. The moment you tell the player "sorry, buddy, you need to be this tall to ride this", some players won't accept the failure and would want to know this kind of info in advance. Not many people see it as "you win some, you lose some" design. Anyway, I'd love to read your thoughts on this matter.

One of the reasons that makes the upset reaction common is that precise stats checks are pretty archaic and don't make much sense nor logic to the player. It doesn't trigger the thought "Well I guess it's logical that I can't do this now" but more often "god I must be missing one damn point in that stat", especially when stats checks are frequent and visible like in AoD.
I believe that most players don't have a good representation of their character through its stats, mostly assign their points in a combat build perspective, and overall don't really "roleplay" whatsoever their playthrough. I liked the traits idea in AoD and I think that they were underused.
You can't change the way people play these days, or prevent loadscumming, and you shouldn't. Don't build your game around it.

Displaying choices that will inevitably fail is very double-edged and imo not worth it. Yes, in some way, it gives a sense of freedom and can have chuckles-worth responds from npcs, but it also gives a hint of deception or pointlessness and increases the feeling of constant failure. Why is the game giving me dialog options that I can't actually choose? Why can my character give the same well-thought reply while not being evenly convincing? Tone and oratory skills need huge efforts to get transcripted properly, you can't just say that "it didn't sound right" without making it look like bullshit. It also decreases replayability in a sense that, since you see most (I know some stay hidden, but very few to me) options right off the bat for the npcs you meet, you can easily foresee what would happen if you were to create another character that could go through X option, which gives that hint of pointlessness in doing another playthrough that way.

When it comes to gated content, I would suggest gating it more with dialog and actions choices than stats checks, because when it's made right, it's just way more natural.


Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: Vince on February 07, 2017, 02:17:37 pm
One of the reasons that makes the upset reaction common is that precise stats checks are pretty archaic and don't make much sense nor logic to the player.
No more archaic than turn-based combat or dialogue trees. As for sense and logic, stat checks are a fairly realistic concept. Either you're strong enough to lift a heavy object or you aren't. Either you're perceptive enough to spot something or you aren't. Either you're smart enough or charismatic enough, etc.  It's not an arbitrary concept and I'd say we all know what our real stats (aka limits) are.

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Displaying choices that will inevitably fail is very double-edged and imo not worth it. Yes, in some way, it gives a sense of freedom and can have chuckles-worth responds from npcs, but it also gives a hint of deception or pointlessness and increases the feeling of constant failure.
Why constant failure? Unless you spread your points way too thin, which is a beginner's mistake, you're bound to succeed at some tasks and fail at others.

Most checks in AoD fall into 3 categories: combat, speech, crafting/lore. In Teron most checks require 3-4 (you can easily start the game with 3-4 points in the key skills), which is hardly unreasonable.

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Why is the game giving me dialog options that I can't actually choose? Why can my character give the same well-thought reply while not being evenly convincing? Tone and oratory skills need huge efforts to get transcripted properly, you can't just say that "it didn't sound right" without making it look like bullshit.
I worked in sales for 12 years, working my up to VP of Sales & Marketing in 6 years. I did everything: sold, hired, trained the new hires, helped them close, managed sales reps and managers. I can assure you that giving a new recruit a rock-solid script full of well thought replies to every possible comment and concern won't make the recruit a good sales rep. Not even close. It's always about how you say it: tone, confidence, mannerism, reassuring way you speak, eye contact, and many other things that are taken into consideration. Nobody is a natural in this game. It always comes with experience.

If you want a good analogy, then a simple thing like approaching a girl you like and introducing yourself can easily go horribly wrong if you aren't 'skilled' at making introductions (without being nervous, worrying what she thinks about you, what her friends think, what if she says no, etc). Most situations in AoD are much more stressful than introducing yourself to a girl.

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It also decreases replayability in a sense that, since you see most (I know some stay hidden, but very few to me) options right off the bat for the npcs you meet, you can easily foresee what would happen if you were to create another character that could go through X option, which gives that hint of pointlessness in doing another playthrough that way.
Unless the game branches out and passing a check can lead to very different outcomes and things you can't foresee.

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When it comes to gated content, I would suggest gating it more with dialog and actions choices than stats checks, because when it's made right, it's just way more natural.
Then the stats won't matter outside of combat, which isn't a desirable outcome for us.


Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: Wrath of Dagon on February 07, 2017, 10:36:40 pm
I think he meant "arcane" instead of "archaic".


Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: Ipaloplu on February 14, 2017, 10:35:48 am
No more archaic than turn-based combat or dialogue trees.
I'm not really sure how the archaism of one thing excuses another, but turn-based combat has been constantly remade and revised through the years with different and/or additional mechanics. Hardly can say the same about stats checks. Even dialogue trees have seen improvements in some ways.

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As for sense and logic, stat checks are a fairly realistic concept. Either you're strong enough to lift a heavy object or you aren't. Either you're perceptive enough to spot something or you aren't. Either you're smart enough or charismatic enough, etc.  It's not an arbitrary concept and I'd say we all know what our real stats (aka limits) are.
You missed my point. I wasn't talking about realism but about the player's perception and feeling of it in a ludic perspective. Of a number or a numbers difference determining alone what he can or can't do.

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Why constant failure? Unless you spread your points way too thin, which is a beginner's mistake, you're bound to succeed at some tasks and fail at others.

Most checks in AoD fall into 3 categories: combat, speech, crafting/lore. In Teron most checks require 3-4 (you can easily start the game with 3-4 points in the key skills), which is hardly unreasonable.
Because in AoD, except for non-combat playthroughs (perhaps), there will always be way more stats checks (with all displayed/available options) that you'll fail than you'll succeed. It's as simple as that and technically in such a game, it should be. But not being displayed that much.

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I worked in sales for 12 years, working my up to VP of Sales & Marketing in 6 years. I did everything: sold, hired, trained the new hires, helped them close, managed sales reps and managers. I can assure you that giving a new recruit a rock-solid script full of well thought replies to every possible comment and concern won't make the recruit a good sales rep. Not even close. It's always about how you say it: tone, confidence, mannerism, reassuring way you speak, eye contact, and many other things that are taken into consideration. Nobody is a natural in this game. It always comes with experience.

If you want a good analogy, then a simple thing like approaching a girl you like and introducing yourself can easily go horribly wrong if you aren't 'skilled' at making introductions (without being nervous, worrying what she thinks about you, what her friends think, what if she says no, etc). Most situations in AoD are much more stressful than introducing yourself to a girl.
At this point I'm wondering if I express my thoughts in english that terribly. I wasn't saying that elocution is not real, but that it needed huge efforts to be transcripted (or the lack of it) properly and convincingly, especially as the reason of a stat check failure. By "you can't just say that "it didn't sound right" without making it look like bullshit. ", I implied it was how it was shortly transcripted in the vast majority of cases in AoD. At least from my experience in several runs.
Moreover, my second rhetorical question implied that you were kind of "given" a line no matter your, roleplaying and stats wise, oratory skills. Still talking about the displayed options here.

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Unless the game branches out and passing a check can lead to very different outcomes and things you can't foresee.
...
Then the stats won't matter outside of combat, which isn't a desirable outcome for us.

I honestly don't get why you're replying to me like i'm dealing in absolutes when i'm not but whatever.


Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: Vince on February 14, 2017, 11:08:05 am
No more archaic than turn-based combat or dialogue trees.
I'm not really sure how the archaism of one thing excuses another, but turn-based combat has been constantly remade and revised through the years with different and/or additional mechanics. Hardly can say the same about stats checks. Even dialogue trees have seen improvements in some ways.
I meant that neither turn-based combat nor other "old-school" features are really archaic. They just don't tend to sell as much as their mainstream-oriented cousins. Plus, I don't see how TB was remade and revised. Different developers have different preferences usually revolving around how to handle actions per turn:

- a single action (roguelikes)
- move and/or attack (new XCOM)
- level-based (DnD)
- action points (Fallout)

It doesn't change the core and there is no clear progression from old, "archaic" mechanics to the new and improved ones (if anything the new XCOM is a step back).

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You missed my point. I wasn't talking about realism but about the player's perception and feeling of it in a ludic perspective. Of a number or a numbers difference determining alone what he can or can't do.
Player's perception is a very subjective thing. There are people who like their stats and skills (aka numbers) determining what you can and can't do, and there are people who see it as a needless restriction interfering with their ability to have fun (which explain why the character systems have became more of a "spend points to become even more awesome" optional minigame).

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Because in AoD, except for non-combat playthroughs (perhaps), there will always be way more stats checks (with all displayed/available options) that you'll fail than you'll succeed. It's as simple as that and technically in such a game, it should be. But not being displayed that much.
...

Moreover, my second rhetorical question implied that you were kind of "given" a line no matter your, roleplaying and stats wise, oratory skills. Still talking about the displayed options here.
What's the solution then? There are hidden lines (there is an 'on appear' check) that require specific knowledge or would work regardless of delivery, but most lines are displayed openly. We can hide them as well but that would create an impression that you have very few (if any) options. Plus these options often hint at different branches and quest solutions, showing the player what's possible with a different build, which isn't a bad thing either.

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I honestly don't get why you're replying to me like i'm dealing in absolutes when i'm not but whatever.
Then I probably misunderstood you.


Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
Post by: Ducade on March 26, 2017, 04:38:43 pm
    • Skill-Based character system.

      Class-based systems offer you different packages of skills and abilities, designed to ensure that no man is left behind and your rogue can kick as much ass as your fighter. It’s a good, time-honored design that makes it very hard to make mistakes. In comparison, skill-based systems offer all the freedom you can handle and don’t restrict you in any way, so the chances of you screwing up your character is fairly high, especially for the first time players.

      Neither system is better by default so it comes down to personal preferences and firmly held beliefs, which is where it gets a bit complicated. Some folks believe that games shouldn't allow the player to make bad builds and choices; anything else is bad design. I think that if every decision is awesome, it hardly matters what you choose. Making mistakes is part of the learning experience but not everyone has the patience for it.
    Personally I prefer a combination of the two so that the player can know what to expect, and express themselves fully. If the game for example has a list of skills, and asks me to design a class and pick say two primary skills, three secondary skills, and four tertiary skills, I can ascertain right away that these skills are going to be capped based on these choices, that I can design a character to suit my interests, and that I should expect to raise those skills to their respective potential within such a system. The problem with pre-designed classes is that they limit expression. The problem with an open skill system like we had in AoD is that the player is unsure of how many skills they can reasonably invest in because there is no framework to plan within until you have gone through the game once or twice to get a feel for it. So in AoD I felt that I was more or less forced to play a traditional class, but that the game wanted to give the impression of greater choice. I don't like first play through to feel like a trial run, and if you offer a blank template the player can fill in, you provide a structure for the player to follow while offer actual choice. Of course this is something closely tied to how skills functions, and in AoD there was a real sense of all or nothing regarding skills, especailly after leaving the first town.

    Additionally skill synergies need to actually be useful to offer variety and utility for the player. The synergies of AoD do not really make sense. For example all ranged combat forms offering synergy with each other does nothing for the player because investing in multiple ranged attack options offers nothing when the bow is clearly superior for a dedicated ranged fighter. It would have been better to have dagger, spears, and axes offer synergy with thrown to allow for and encourage variety of tactics for a soldier classes. Additionally perhaps Crafting should have offered a boost to crossbow rating. The synergies need to encourage diversity otherwise they function solely as a late game buff to boost the rating of your primary weapon.

    • Stats & Skills Matter not only in combat where they provide various bonuses but outside of combat as well, when exploring or dealing with people. It’s a deceptively simple aspect, so let’s examine it in details.

      What it means in practical terms is that your character would succeed in areas where his/her stats and skills are strong but fail where they are weak. For example, a perceptive person would notice something others won’t; a brute would be able to move a heavy object, etc.

      Obviously, the effect can be minor (i.e. you moved a boulder and found a couple of coins underneath it!), major (you moved a boulder and found a passageway to another area!), or anything in between (you moved a boulder and found a passageway to another area where you found … a couple of coins! T’was a good day for adventuring).

      Usually, stats and skills are checked in the following situations:

      • Multiple solutions (i.e. different ways to arrive to the same destination, everyone’s happy and nobody’s upset)
      • Optional content (limited ways to unlock optional content, aka. “gated” content)

      Multiple solutions are an important gameplay element, which allows you to go through a game in a manner fitting your character, but it is the optional content that truly differentiates one playthrough from another and boosts replayability (because solving the same problems in different ways isn’t enough).

      Naturally, optional content must differ in accessibility. Someone’s old shed should be easy to break into (let’s say everyone with a single point in lockpick, which is 80% of all players). An area that resisted all attempts to get into for decades or centuries like the Abyss should force most people to turn back to preserve the setting’s integrity (let’s say only 10% of players should explore it). The rest of the content would fall somewhere in between.

      This approach greatly upset some players who felt that they were punished “just because they chose the ‘wrong’ stats”. Some RPG players are notoriously obsessive-compulsive and won’t rest until they create a character that can get the maximum amount of content, which does require reading online guides and meta-gaming like there’s no tomorrow – the fastest way to kill all enjoyment and ruin the game. Of course, the counter-argument is that failing repeatedly (considering how easy it is to make a character ill-equipped for what you're trying to do) is an equally fast way to kill the enjoyment.

      I’m not sure there’s a way to “fix it” as those who want to get maximum content in a single playthrough will continue to metagame no matter what. The moment you tell the player "sorry, buddy, you need to be this tall to ride this", some players won't accept the failure and would want to know this kind of info in advance. Not many people see it as "you win some, you lose some" design. Anyway, I'd love to read your thoughts on this matter.
    I think there is a way to address this issue of gated content by allowing players to communicate their findings to NPCs as others have mentioned, but by bringing in the drama associated in working with others. For example in AoD perhaps the advantage of being skilled in lore and crafting is that you alone can decide how to utilize the artefacts you discover, whereas a soldier can inform his superiors, and be allowed to follow as a guard on an expedition, but have little say in the matter, and perhaps is given a few options along the way to interfere based on other skills, but ultimately will be a witness to the event rather than a coordinator.

    Regarding stat checks, I find them good practice, but in need of more options. I remember in fallout there were instances where having low intelligence offered you unique options for instance. I also think there should some wiggle room regarding the pass/fail check. For example if it's a combined attribute and skill check needing a total of 14 to pass, perhaps 11-13 allow dice rolls with increasing success. 

    • Non-Combat ways through the game

      While combat should always be the main pillar of RPGs, allowing the player to avoid combat and progress in different ways opens up more role-playing and story-telling opportunities. Also it makes killing your way through the game YOUR choice rather than the only thing to do.

      AoD allowed you to talk your way through and in the CSG we’ll add a stealth path through the game. Here is what it means design wise:

      Combat should be avoidable in most cases. Enemies shouldn’t turn hostile on sight, which means that filler combat is out, which in turn makes the game much shorter. Populating a map with “enemies” is easy. Providing paths to sneak past and writing fitting intros and dialogues with logical speech checks (you can’t just ask them nicely and passionately to let you through) for each encounter, as well as reasons for them to be there in the first place isn’t. It’s also very time-consuming and heavy on scripting, which is always an issue for a small team.

      Even playing Pillars of Eternity I was surprised how much filler combat the game had and wondered if cutting it out wouldn’t have boosted the game’s replayability as I’d rather play a shorter game several times to explore different options than run through an endless bog of generic encounters that serve absolutely no real purpose.

      Keep in mind that combat is an active gamepay aspect – basically, its own game with its own rules and complex mechanics. Dialogues are a passive aspect. You choose a line, click and see what happens. Unless dialogues are the main and only gameplay element, it will always be inferior to combat on a system level, much like no RPG has managed to offer a stealth system that rivals that of Thief.

      Thus the talking and sneaking paths will be much shorter by default but the assumption is that it’s part of the meal not the meal itself, i.e. the full experience will require several different replays, combat AND non-combat, which brings us to the next item: replayability.

      • Non-Linear & Replayable

        First let’s define what it means. Linear design is easy to understand: you move from A to B to C, always in this order, which takes away the freedom of choice completely. Then we have the “Bioware design”: do 4 locations in any order, which as an illusion of choices, much like dialogues where you get to say the same thing in 4 different ways.

        True non-linearity requires two things:

        • Multiple ways leading toward the endgame location (i.e. branching questlines), so you never have to travel the same path if you replay the game
        • Very few “required” story-telling nodes (locations, conversation, events) the player simply must visit or trigger in order to progress.

        The positives are clear. Now let’s take a look at the negatives:

        • The game will be short because you’re taking all available content and splitting it between multiple paths and filter it down via mutually exclusive decisions. AoD has over 110 quests, which is a lot, but you get no more than 20-25 per playtrhough and that’s if you leave no stone unturned.
        • The game will be even shorter because it’s easy to miss locations and content. Throw in the gated content and non-combat gameplay and it will be even shorter.

        Not surprisingly, "the game is too short" was complaint #3, right after "the game is too hard" (#1) and "too much meta-gaming" (#2).

      Overall, I believe that it’s about finding the right balance, which is always the case with all sufficient complex systems and issues. Your feedback is critical, provided it fits our design core, so regardless of whether or not you agree or disagree with my take on these aspects, feel free to share your thoughts.
    I honestly think that a lot of the issues with AoD was the feeling that the world was a bit lifeless. Hear me out, there are several instances where things are ostensibly going on, but in order to even learn of these events in the world requires multiple play throughs and going through all of the various factions. This is great for offering fresh content every time you start up a new character, but the problem is that there are references to things that happened, that you as a player have no idea of because there is no hubbub in the world. The example that springs to mind is when you play as a praetor and there is no talk of a caravan attack until you confront the legion head at the fort and he mentions it in passing as the reason you would request an audience. That only makes sense if you actually play through the imperial guard portion and attack the caravan. The game world needs to be more informative for the player so that they have a sense of the narrative and of the world from the get go instead of piecing together events that should be common knowledge only through playing the game from various perspectives. For example a delayed caravan would be a hot topic at the marketplace for sure, and the local lord would be concerned with it and bring it up. The core idea is great, but the execution left me bewildered, and I think that was the biggest flaw with how it was handled in AoD. While I am not a fan of bethesda games, I really enjoyed morrowind and the dialogue system that it used, which allowed you to ask any npc about rumors or advice and get a sense of the world and underlying machinations. So instead of showing these events to the player solely from the perspective of the various "paths" they happen to be on, show how a player on a different "path" would hear of the event. All paths would have a version of the event, but only by playing a role in one of the paths involved in it directly would show the truth. This can also open up additional depth for gameplay. For example a rumor of an event could label a certain faction or character as evil or deceitful, when in actuality it really is just a rumor, but the player will carry that false knowledge with them into their interaction with that faction/individual, and then when the player starts another character and sees what really happened they are going to have that "oh shit!" moment.

    Other than that the core of your system is really amazing and vital for solid choice and consequence RPG, it just lacks cohesion(I hope that's the right word).


    Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
    Post by: Lurker King on March 27, 2017, 06:59:25 pm
    Vince, do you think it would be interesting to present dialogue trees like the dialogue balloons we find in comic books?

    Do you read any comic books?


    Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
    Post by: Vince on March 27, 2017, 09:37:36 pm
    Vince, do you think it would be interesting to present dialogue trees like the dialogue balloons we find in comic books?
    Too much text.

    Quote
    Do you read any comic books?
    On occasions.


    Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
    Post by: Sodomy on June 20, 2018, 09:12:16 pm
    it doesn't require meta-gaming
    Yes, I know I'm going back through old topics, but lolwut?  AoD is nothing but metagaming, it's the game where if you try to build a thief and don't balance disguise vs. steal vs. other thief-y stuff just right you just get told "lol fuck off, there's nothing for you to do because you don't have the exact right mix of skill points".  The metagaming complaint around AoD is totally legit, and it's kind of shocking to see it brushed off like this (and also tells me everything I need to know about whether CSG will be any good).

    Combat builds are also nothing but metagaming, since linear dodge/block vs. linear weapon skill to-hit means that optimal apportion of defense vs. offense is based entirely on the invisible stats of enemies.


    Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
    Post by: Vince on June 21, 2018, 11:57:51 am
    it doesn't require meta-gaming
    Yes, I know I'm going back through old topics, but lolwut?  AoD is nothing but metagaming, it's the game where if you try to build a thief and don't balance disguise vs. steal vs. other thief-y stuff just right you just get told "lol fuck off, there's nothing for you to do because you don't have the exact right mix of skill points".  The metagaming complaint around AoD is totally legit, and it's kind of shocking to see it brushed off like this (and also tells me everything I need to know about whether CSG will be any good).
    So now that we've established that CSG won't be any good, is there anything else you'd like to discuss?


    Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
    Post by: Sodomy on June 21, 2018, 07:41:53 pm
    Sure.

    1.  How do you plan on avoiding the issue that Prelude to Darkness's stealth skills (where it was nearly impossible to get them to usable levels) or TES's crafting and acrobatics skills (where every character ends up maxing them) have in a "learn by doing" system?
    2.  In the interview that sent me here in the first place, you indicated that any party would end up "specialized" because fighters in a party lead by a diplomat wouldn't have many opportunities to flex their skills.  In this case, what's the point of having a party based game at all?  Why not take inspiration from Torment: Tides of Numenera's "crisis system" where successful navigation of a crisis can involve having different people in your party accomplish different tasks while working together, such as talkers distracting guards while a thief steals something, or tanks/fighters keeping two pissed off factions physically separate from each other while the talker negotiates with the leaders?


    Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
    Post by: menyalin on June 22, 2018, 01:52:38 am
    Non-Linear & Replayable
    Maybe not need too much non-linearity? AoD was very interesting, but i personally hope that in your next game you will make less main storylines in total, but longer ones (and not less unique).


    Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
    Post by: Vince on June 22, 2018, 06:57:56 am
    1.  How do you plan on avoiding the issue that Prelude to Darkness's stealth skills (where it was nearly impossible to get them to usable levels) or TES's crafting and acrobatics skills (where every character ends up maxing them) have in a "learn by doing" system?
    PtD didn't offer enough opportunities to increase the skill which is an easy problem to fix. Stealth will be one of the three main paths through the game, so you'll get plenty of opportunities to develop this skill.

    As for Bethesda, they have different goals and thus different design. They give you unlimited opportunities to practice your skills so you can max all of them if you're patient enough. Crafting and Acrobatics are simply the easiest skills to max. We have different goals and designs, so we won't be offering unlimited opportunities, thus it's a question of balance not design.

    Quote
    2.  In the interview that sent me here in the first place, you indicated that any party would end up "specialized" because fighters in a party lead by a diplomat wouldn't have many opportunities to flex their skills.  In this case, what's the point of having a party based game at all? 
    Are you implying that 'diversity' is the only possible reason to have a party?

    Since we're going with an 'increase by use' system, a party that fights a lot (i.e. solves all problems with violence) will have much higher combat skills than a party that uses a more balanced approach. Like a jack of all trades, the balanced party won't be exceptionally good at anything but would be able to handle a wider range of quests.

    Maybe not need too much non-linearity? AoD was very interesting, but i personally hope that in your next game you will make less main storylines in total, but longer ones (and not less unique).
    We won't have parallel questlines like in AoD so the main quest will be longer but more non-linear, not less.


    Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
    Post by: Sodomy on June 22, 2018, 06:48:06 pm
    As for Bethesda, they have different goals and thus different design. They give you unlimited opportunities to practice your skills so you can max all of them if you're patient enough. Crafting and Acrobatics are simply the easiest skills to max. We have different goals and designs, so we won't be offering unlimited opportunities, thus it's a question of balance not design.
    How do you plan on limiting skills like mercantile/barter/whatever you end up calling it, pickpocketing, and crafting which, by their very nature, can be used pretty much whenever?

    Quote
    Are you implying that 'diversity' is the only possible reason to have a party?
    If I'm splitting my loot 4 ways, it's because I think the dudes I'm splitting it with can help me get over 4 times the loot I could get on my own. 

    If I'm truly dedicated to the concept of getting my loot by harming other living beings, sure, three more dudes is three more weapons, but I don't need three dudes behind me piping in in while I'm making a sales pitch to some guy, or following me if I'm sneaking into someone's house to steal their shit.  In those latter cases, they'd better have something else to bring to the table to earn their share of the cashmoney.


    Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
    Post by: Vince on June 22, 2018, 07:07:06 pm
    As for Bethesda, they have different goals and thus different design. They give you unlimited opportunities to practice your skills so you can max all of them if you're patient enough. Crafting and Acrobatics are simply the easiest skills to max. We have different goals and designs, so we won't be offering unlimited opportunities, thus it's a question of balance not design.
    How do you plan on limiting skills like mercantile/barter/whatever you end up calling it, pickpocketing, and crafting which, by their very nature, can be used pretty much whenever?
    We don't have such skills.

    Quote
    Quote
    Are you implying that 'diversity' is the only possible reason to have a party?
    If I'm splitting my loot 4 ways, it's because I think the dudes I'm splitting it with can help me get over 4 times the loot I could get on my own. 
    Or they keep you alive or do thing you can't or know things and people you don't.


    Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
    Post by: Sodomy on June 22, 2018, 07:31:29 pm
    As for Bethesda, they have different goals and thus different design. They give you unlimited opportunities to practice your skills so you can max all of them if you're patient enough. Crafting and Acrobatics are simply the easiest skills to max. We have different goals and designs, so we won't be offering unlimited opportunities, thus it's a question of balance not design.
    How do you plan on limiting skills like mercantile/barter/whatever you end up calling it, pickpocketing, and crafting which, by their very nature, can be used pretty much whenever?
    We don't have such skills.
    So is everything always the same price when you shop from a merchant no matter what skills you have?

    Quote
    Quote
    Are you implying that 'diversity' is the only possible reason to have a party?
    If I'm splitting my loot 4 ways, it's because I think the dudes I'm splitting it with can help me get over 4 times the loot I could get on my own. 
    Or they keep you alive or do thing you can't or know things and people you don't.
    [/quote]
    And how are they keeping me alive if they don't have skills I don't, unless I'm going full-combat?

    Isn't "doing something I can't" literally the definition of having a diverse party in an RPG context?

    If they know a thing or person I don't, why wouldn't I ditch them immediately after I used them?


    Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
    Post by: Vince on June 22, 2018, 10:28:52 pm
    So is everything always the same price when you shop from a merchant no matter what skills you have?
    Yes. I've never thought that being able to get better prices is a vital part of RPG experience.

    Quote
    And how are they keeping me alive if they don't have skills I don't, unless I'm going full-combat?
    Like I said, "a party that fights a lot (i.e. solves all problems with violence) will have much higher combat skills than a party that uses a more balanced approach. Like a jack of all trades, the balanced party won't be exceptionally good at anything but would be able to handle a wider range of quests."

    Just because your jacks of all trades party won't be able to handle every fight in the game doesn't mean it will be useless in a regular fight.

    Quote
    Isn't "doing something I can't" literally the definition of having a diverse party in an RPG context?
    I don't recall disagreeing.

    Quote
    If they know a thing or person I don't, why wouldn't I ditch them immediately after I used them?
    Depends on the person. If you're working for the Church then ditching the guy the Church gave you to make sure you keep your end of the bargain would end your relationship with the Church.


    Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
    Post by: Sodomy on June 23, 2018, 01:24:47 am
    Depends on the person. If you're working for the Church then ditching the guy the Church gave you to make sure you keep your end of the bargain would end your relationship with the Church.
    Oh, so party members could be foisted on you somewhat unwillingly?  That's a really neat idea, I don't think I've ever encountered that in an RPG before, but it could lead to some really cool dynamics.


    Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
    Post by: Vince on June 23, 2018, 06:11:25 am
    Our party system design goals:

    http://www.irontowerstudio.com/forum/index.php/topic,7120.0.html


    Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
    Post by: Wrath of Dagon on June 23, 2018, 10:22:43 am
    How about having the XP gain depend on the difficulty of the task? Thus a higher skill character would get less XP for the same task since it would be easier for him. This, along with tagged skills, would alleviate the need to take the same approach in every situation, which I consider very undesirable.


    Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
    Post by: Scott on June 27, 2018, 10:45:41 am
    My concern with the jack-of-all-trades party is that AoD was *really* unforgiving in its quests. You had to have the right skills for your position in the narrative to solve things a certain way. With combat it makes sense: four mediocre guys can be more effective than one super-killer, they have many many more tactical options, variety of equipment, etc.

    I imagine the individuals in your JOAT party would still each need to max 1 or 1.5 skills to be effective, one lockpicker, one talker, etc. But since the xp is divided four ways how are they going to keep up with the skill checks? Over the course of the game, given the reduced xp, they're going to keep sliding farther behind the curve versus the check for the committed single-player lockpicker, or whatever.

    Or are there going to be that many opportunities and ways to solve problems that it doesn't matter your party is made up of a mediocre fighter, a mediocre sneaker, a mediocre talker, etc.? If this is a problem and I'm not just confused, will swapping out party members for more skilled folks be a solution?



    Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
    Post by: Vince on June 27, 2018, 10:59:00 am
    I imagine the individuals in your JOAT party would still each need to max 1 or 1.5 skills to be effective, one lockpicker, one talker, etc. But since the xp is divided four ways how are they going to keep up with the skill checks? Over the course of the game, given the reduced xp, they're going to keep sliding farther behind the curve versus the check for the committed single-player lockpicker, or whatever.
    You'll gain XP by solving quests, which will be split between the party members. The XP will be used to level up, not to increase the skills.
    You'll increase your skills by using them. So if you have a 'thief' and you go for stealth solutions a lot, then you'll end up with a highly skilled thief. If you use your thief occasionally, then you'll end up with a mediocre thief. How often do you use your abilities is the only factor that determines your skill level.


    Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
    Post by: Scott on June 27, 2018, 11:11:19 am
    Guess I should've figured that out by now. Still stuck in the points-based mindset.

    But wait: if I have a one-character-party and always choose Stealth as a solution, I'll have a huge Stealth score. If I have four people, one of whom specializes in stealth, he will only have 1/4 the opportunities to use stealth, given that his allies need an opportunity to use their specialty to solve problems. Do you see what I mean?


    Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
    Post by: Vince on June 27, 2018, 12:35:25 pm
    But wait: if I have a one-character-party and always choose Stealth as a solution, I'll have a huge Stealth score. If I have four people, one of whom specializes in stealth, he will only have 1/4 the opportunities to use stealth, given that his allies need an opportunity to use their specialty to solve problems. Do you see what I mean?
    Yes but it's not that simple.

    First, not every quest can be solved with stealth only just like not every quest can be solved with pretty words or violence. So you will be able to gain other skills without trading away stealth opportunities. Second, there are quest solutions and stand-alone thieves only opportunities. So if you have a full party and you want to have jacks of all trade, they will be just ok or good but never great, which makes sense.

    Third, while AoD was balanced for specialists which made playing jacks painful and nearly impossible for new players, TNW will be balanced around jacks, while specialists will get bonus content that jacks won't be able to come close to. For example, only a combat-focused party would be able to wipe out the gangs in the Factory. Jacks will be able to fight their way through, but not venture in deep. Etc.


    Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
    Post by: Wrath of Dagon on June 28, 2018, 10:45:42 am
    So to make the main game challenging for the focused party, they would regularly have to run into situations where they have take the difficult path, where a more balanced party has easier options.


    Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
    Post by: Vince on June 29, 2018, 07:40:27 am
    So to make the main game challenging for the focused party, they would regularly have to run into situations where they have take the difficult path, where a more balanced party has easier options.
    It's a matter of balance, of course, (meaning we may or may not get it right) but here is how I see it:

    We'll have 3 types of encounters: normal, hard, impossible. A 'balanced' (not sure it's the right word) party will be able to handle normal encounters (which won't be easy) and some but not all hard encounters. They won't stand a chance if they try the impossible encounters. A combat-focused party will be able to handle all 3, but it won't be a walk in the park either.  Hard will still be challenging and Impossible will become Very Hard but doable.

    So roughly a balanced party will be able to handle 60% of encounters whereas a combat-focused party will be able to handle all 100% but the top 20% will consist of very hard fights (like the mine fight in AoD). 



    Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
    Post by: Wrath of Dagon on June 29, 2018, 01:34:54 pm
    But if the combat focused party can get through the game just doing the 60% of encounters which are not too tough then they're not being challenged, and the only remedy I see is to make sure they regularly run up against a situation where their lack of high non-combat skills forces them into the Hard category fight.


    Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
    Post by: Vince on June 30, 2018, 08:17:02 am
    But if the combat focused party can get through the game just doing the 60% of encounters which are not too tough then they're not being challenged, and the only remedy I see is to make sure they regularly run up against a situation where their lack of high non-combat skills forces them into the Hard category fight.
    You ask good questions but they're nearly impossible to answer at this stage. Like I said before, it's a matter of balance and since we haven't done any yet, I can't offer any assurances or explanations.

    The key issue is the skill difference between the jacks and masters and its exact effect on the difficulty. Let's say it's 1-2 ranks in Act 1, which is not that different from AoD. Many players had 5-6 ranks in Teron but some players had 6-7, yet nobody complained that Teron was too easy. So I believe it's possible to keep the game challenging for both parties. The jacks would have to sweat a bit more and the specialists a bit less, but we certainly don't want to turn it into an easy mode.


    Title: Re: CSG update #7 - ITS design brand
    Post by: Wrath of Dagon on June 30, 2018, 10:11:35 pm
    So I misstated what I was proposing earlier to help balance the game (because of some confusion). It's not XP that would depend on the difficulty of the task, it's how much the skill would increase. So if a mediocre combat party managed a tough fight their combat skill would increase more than the skill of a combat focused party for the same fight. Of course the combat party would still be ahead since they could do more fights. Another way might be to have some rewards for mid-difficulty task help a different skill than the one used, like cracking a safe with an exceptional weapon. The really hard tasks should generally reward the skill used.