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Top Ten @ Obsidian


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#21
Llyranor

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I want NWN2 DD mods.

#22
Azarkon

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Let me take it from the top:

#1: I feel that the biggest problem with the influence system, from playing KOTOR 2, was that it felt artificial. Not that the alternative of asking your companion to chat and getting the same answer back every time isn't artificial, but I felt that a typical player of the game simply didn't *stress* over that. They waited for the periodic conversations to pop up and maybe asked their companions a question every once in a while. That worked fine because the game flow wasn't interrupted by the player having to go through routine "dialogue check-up" points in order to not have missed anything. *That* felt artificial.

Moreover, I also think that fly-by (NPC-initiated) dialogue has a certain advantage in that they *can't* be repetitive - you get them once, choose what you want to say, and they're gone. Woosh. Never to return. Not so with player-initiated dialogue in which the system is inherently limited to a set number of choices and *must* be forced to repeat certain lines again and again sooner or later. To stress this particular avenue of NPC interaction is to purposefully reveal the seams, so to speak, and that led to a focus on the artificial side of NPC interaction that I think detracted from the experience. This is particular true when combined with that earlier aspect of having to check, time from time, whether the NPC has anything more to say or whether you could progress to the "next step." I could only take Aton's "I don't think this is the right time for this talk" so many times before throwing my light sabers up in exasperation.

#2: Nice to hear that the "where's the text" crowd won't be left behind, and as always, quality trumps quantity. I do think that good voice acting adds to a game, so I don't think the move to less text due to audio & localization is a bad thing. Perhaps this can even be rectified one day with some sort of computer generated voice system, but that's a far ways off.

#3: It's accepted nowadays that the direction we're moving towards with regards to games is interactive cinema. But I can't help but wonder, from time to time, what we're losing in the process. Certainly, the first rule of writing is to "show, not tell." And translated to a graphical environment, that roughly becomes "display, not describe." But the jump from text to graphics is not necessarily so simple, I think. Text has a way of setting fire to your imagination that pictures don't, or can't. I remember the days when I played roguelike games and MUDs when a single scarlet 'D' or prismatic ASCII 'elder dragon lord' could hold my attention.

The battle in-game was simple enough: a contest of numbers where I matched my hps to the enemy's and stared intently at descriptions of "you slash an elder dragon lord with GODLY force" while fearing the equivalent counter-attack to appear on the next line. Yet in my head the battle was in full-swing, each fire ball streaking across the film of my mind to explode in variegated sparks on the dragon's shimmering scales. I'm not so good at make-belief to feel the heat of dragon fire upon my cheeks, but I was certainly excited enough that it made no difference.

So I wonder, really, what is lost by departing from the abstraction provided by text. Certainly, the fact that novels are still popular even in this age of silver screens and cathode ray tubes should say something about the enduring power of language. And I worry - can those majestic lines really be replaced by photorealistic renderings of the same? CRPGs have, for now, the best of both worlds. But how long before the push of mass commercialization abolish paragraphs altogether and replace them with strictly the snappy lines of pop culture? Would it - could it - still have the same impact as a good novel did, or is the genre to forego its textual roots and enter full-fledgedly into the realm of interactive cinema?

#4: I must say that it heartens me greatly to hear that PS:T is your proudest achievement, MCA. I recently read an extensive explanation of the game from back in the day and it just struck me how different the game was from everything else that's come along in the CRPG genre. Certainly, there are games in the adventure genre that might be comparable, and perhaps PS:T was more like an adventure game in many respects, but it was still one of a kind. It did indeed break new grounds.

But enough praise and nostalgia. Any plans for a game like PS:T? *duck* :x I had to ask.

#5, 7: I think Eldar summarized my concerns over Mature & Teen and ratings in general pretty well.

#6: Thanks for the reply. I think something like this will really help wannabe modders like the rest of us do well in NWN 2 :ermm: One specific comment:

One last thing - any NPC who disparages your character or doesn't acknowledge that the main player is super cool on some level, even if it's grudgingly, is generally not as well liked as other companion characters.


I think this is true, but that being "well liked" is not necessarily a unanimous NPC goal. Maybe having a competitor within the party can motivate the player just as well? I guess this wouldn't work very well if you had the choice of dropping the self-important bastard in an alley somewhere, preferrably where he'll get bitten to death by rabid dogs. But still, conflict is a source of inspiration, and absent the ever-present villain, a rival could work to carry the player through the more "routine" parts of the game.

Maybe this'll work better in a game where you don't have a small set of companion characters, but must work within a permanent, but larger "squad" where rivalries and friendships can both blossom within the context of a greater story.

#8: I'll go ahead and agree that games are already works of art. And not just art in the PS:T sense of literary value, but also art in the sense that they communicate something meaningful. Game mechanics *can* communicate a certain sensibility, I think, but maybe that's just because my times in a MMORPG have brought about a change in my person. Freaky, I know.

#9: Interesting insight into the changing game industry. I guess high-profile designers are an inevitability, since the game industry doesn't quite have the equivalent of actors (though voice actors definitely receive attention as well), and so gamers have nothing to worship aside from company brands and team leads. I certainly think a star-worship cult is forming around designers, and become reminded of this each time my friends mention Hideoki Kojima, Ralph Kostor, Lord British, or Chris Metzen.

Which gets me to the question, can I have your autograph?

#10: Hmm. Can't say I agree with the publisher trends. I think someone posted an article earlier that outlined the problems of where the publishers are pushing the industry - namely, towards things like better graphics, accurate physics, streamlined gameplay, and a cinematic experience. All of these things are great, arguably, but they're approaching the point where they're becoming victims of diminishing returns. It leads down the path of buying games for superficial improvements: things like higher res textures (HDR, which is apparently a big thing nowadays to put on your game boxes), improved ragdoll systems, metal that looks more metallic, soil erosion - and my response to it all is: who cares?

The jump from 2D to 3D was significant enough, but who cares if soil erodes in Oblivion? Who cares if the trees have a million triangles as opposed to 500,000? Does it really improve my gaming experience that much if you translated BG 2, with the same gameplay, into 3D? The answer, I think, is an increasingly vehement "NO." And I'm not just talking about gamers like myself and those who frequent the Codex. I'm talking about casual gamers who I discuss these things with - they, too, are getting tired of the focus on superficial qualities as opposed to the real, core game mechanics that make a game enjoyable.

I don't think verisimilitude is the ultimate aphrodisiac of the gamer psyche. Some of the best and most classic games of this day and age are on handhelds, and improving their graphics really doesn't do anything more than invoke a gasp or two at the progress of portable technology. Would you really enjoy Pac-Man more if you could see the fear in the ghosts' eyes as you chomp your way towards them? Or Tetris if the blocks looked like actual cement from the Chrysler building? I, personally, don't think so. And I think that we're due for a time when shinier graphics and snazzier physics just won't do it anymore. The time will then be set, I hope, for another CRPG Renaissance. :cool:

Anywho, thanks to everyone for posting their insightful questions, Chris for answering them, and Fionavar for setting this up :o I really like this sort of in-depth interaction with the devs and think that it's a great idea overall (thought it might help in he popularity if the NWN 2 board could've also participated). Good night all.

Edited by Azarkon, 22 June 2006 - 07:54 PM.


#23
Atreides

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I don't believe, for a moment, that bristling at restraint constitutes artistic freedom.  Having some desire to include sex and violence as a form of social protest is useless, worthless, and sometimes downright harmful.  On the other hand, protesting against restraints on your artistic vision that mute your voice on serious social matters is entirely legitimate.

Matt Cavotta, the dude that's part of the art handling of MtG (he's an artist himself) said that constraints can promote creativity as the artist is given focus. He was commenting on the process where artists are given a description of the card and what they wanted the art to look like in general (say picture of an angel bound in chains). I'm guessing there's a kind of parallel in storytelling.

#24
kirottu

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Congrats of your victory. It was 0-2, but you totally owned Feargus with your m4d n1nj4 posting skillz. I mean 10-3... Whoa. :thumbsup:

#25
Jora

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Dungeons & Dragons: The Temple of Elemental Evil - A Classic Greyhawk Adventure sold quite well. It was a cheap game to make and was, IIRC, Atari's third or second best-selling PC game in 2003 (ahead of Hordes of the Underdark).

I'm disappointed in some of Avellone's answers. Particularly how he thinks long dialogues are not fun and that your character should be able to do something else at the same time. Seriously, WTF?

#26
aVENGER

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I'm disappointed in some of Avellone's answers. Particularly how he thinks long dialogues are not fun and that your character should be able to do something else at the same time. Seriously, WTF?



Perhaps he meant that, with today's technology, it's possible to express many aspects of the dialogue through other means. For example, ever since I've played VTM:Bloodlines, I've become a fan of realistic facial expressions and body language in games. IMO, both of these things can do a great job in further reinforcing the emotions conveyed through regular dialogue. Thanks to that, the developers could remove some of the more abstract scene descriptions (which were present in their older games) and present them in a visual form instead.

Don't get me wrong though, I loved the lengthy scene descriptions of Fallout and PST (those two are my favorite games after all :cool:) and the extra lines made both games much more immersive for me at that time. However, using modern technology, the developers can now actually make those lines come to life, and thus achieve an even higher degree of realism and immersion while saving some money on the localization costs at the same time.

#27
Tigranes

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The issue is that the degree of description possible with pre-era RPGs (up to BG2, even) cannot yet begin to be rivalled by the newer technology. Instead of waiting for the possibilities of that technology to mature so that there is an actual improvement, we are left with a *replacement*, thanks to a rushed implementation (and domination) of a system whose technology has and will for some time numerous drawbacks. The most obvious? The limited nature of facial expressions / animations.

#28
Musopticon?

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I'm sure when NWN 2 finally get released, purists will be all over it for having "less" dialogue than for instance PST, just because the devs didn't write lengthy textboxes, explaining what the character is doing during the dialogue.

#29
Jora

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MCA has talked about dialogues getting in the way of hot fireball action before, so I don't think his answer was just about bringing new technology to conversations.

I doubt there was anyone who didn't like the facial expressions in Bloodlines. However, in my opinion text descriptions are better because they're much more flexible and can be used in many other circumstances too (when entering a new area, for example, like in this screenshot: http://www.basiliskg...om/Screen5.htm)

Prelude to Darkness managed to make the descriptions both easy to read and elegant. They fit perfectly in the text boxes and worked really well. http://www.zero-sum....s/screen148.jpg

Edited by Jora, 23 June 2006 - 03:44 AM.


#30
Musopticon?

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Personally I hope that there won't the amount of text PST had. Animations and facial expressions go a long way. Long enough to make the boxes obsolete.

Edit: Thanks, Pidesco.

Edited by Musopticon?, 23 June 2006 - 04:37 AM.


#31
Plano Skywalker

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@Azarkon....I agree with much of what you said there. I liked the influence system of KOTOR 2 but I agree that it did not feel organic enough and I did not like metagaming to get to certain results (whether that be LS/DS shift or something else).

perhaps a solution is, as you say, more NPC-initiated dialogue. that way, if you go up to an NPC and start talking, you are doing that just for fun. if they approach you, you have to really concentrate on what you want to say as that segment will (most likely) never be repeated again.

and, perhaps, more of a random element in the dialogues. for instance, if you start talking about the Mandalorians (to a non-Mandalorian), someone walks into the room and takes over the conversation from the one you had been talking to. things like that, anything to make it feel a little more organic.

still, they were definitely on the right track.

#32
Llyranor

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'Dialogues' become boring when they're freaking monologues. It has to be interactive in more ways than just 'go on, please, please just go on' virtually all the time. Dialogue has to feature a gameplay element, in which the player actively interacts and plays a part in said dialogue, not just be an exposition device. The conversation with Atris (I timed it! 45 mins!) is one of my favorite scenes because it WASN'T a monologue. You were defining your character at the same time as being fed relatively large amounts of information about your past. Would it have been more fun if it were full of narrative such as 'Atris leans back and strokes her chin, her icy glare piercing your eyes with hot sweaty hatred'? I'm not convinced.

MCA isn't wrong, though. Economy of words is important. Be too overly verbose, and the player isn't even reading what you're writing. In which case, you've already lost.

The thing, all that energy being spent on narrative and descriptions I would rather have invested into further character development and relationships, especially with party members. The amount of input those dudes get during dialogue is very appreciated, but please sir, I want some more. There's a lot of room for more interaction there. This was done much better in KOTOR2 than in PST, in which, intraparty interaction was pretty minimal - it was basically 'you and me' relationships. I'd give up narrative for this, especially when ample narrative isn't really that optimal an option anymore.

#33
Blank

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Personally I hope that there won't the amount of text PST had. Animations and facial expressions go a long way. Long enough to make the boxes obsolete.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Text-boxes nowadays are great for low-budget modules, but for game developers the standards are higher. Gamers today who pay want voice-overs, facial expressions, and scenery displayed graphically rather than textually. These things are all possible and will improve with time.

On the other hand, text descriptions in games can tap into your imagination better than anything graphically can, much like a book. Maybe we are talking about two different branches here, rather than one branch growing into another.

Edited by Blank, 23 June 2006 - 11:40 AM.


#34
Llyranor

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Mutual exclusion is a myth.

#35
mkreku

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The weird thing is that Jora, who is a finn, is actually asking for more text in games.. There goes my stereotype out the window. Personally I've always been more impressed with artists that can express a ton of emotion using as few words/pictures as possible. Take Aki Kaurismäki for example. He's so brilliant in the way he uses two or three short scenes in his movies and you immediately understand a huge part of some character's life (for example). Less is more, sometimes.

#36
Jora

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I'm not saying that every RPG should be like PS:T (although a few more wouldn't hurt!) but I find Avellone's talk about the need to make dialogues shorter and prettier worrying. Combine that with Feargus' love for particle effects and who knows what kind of monstrosity might be born? :)

And I'm not asking for overly verbose descriptions before and after every sentence an NPC utters. A few lines here and there can add much to a dialogue.

#37
Musopticon?

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They can add much...or nothing at all.

#38
metadigital

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I have to say that I find the Teen v. Mature rating issue is interesting to me.
...
I'd really, really like to see mature themes in many of these games.  The demo to Hitman, which is something I have only had a chance to play once, brings some of that home.  It depicts violence within the context of the story and, so far, the demo has not glorified or reveled in the violence.
...

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

The latest Splinter Cell does a good line in ethical dilemmae, apparently, too.

#39
Jora

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They can add much...or nothing at all.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Of course. But the same could be said about anything. Graphics can add much... or nothing! I just assume that MCA & others could write well.

#40
funcroc

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BTW, who's an ideal candidate for the next Top Ten @ Obsidian?




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