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Pillars of Mechanics: Pillars' and Deadfire's place amongst CRPGs & the future of "Infinity"-likes and their features.


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#1
injurai

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This thread is based on a response wrote for the "POLL - What game do you think is better Witcher 3 vs Deadfire" thread, which was locked before I could submit.

 

This thread's is NOT based on that thread, but what became the heart of my response. (Hint in the title.)

 

 

 

It's nigh impossible to compare in most respects, better to contrast; So I'll say this:
 
Someone would have made something akin to TW3 eventually. If it wasn't for a timely crisis at Obsidian, a timely renaissance surge of alternative funding in the form of crowd sourcing, the right composition of infinity-like veterans at Obsidian, and a throbbing lust for a genre only dead for a lack of publisher perception. Then we would would have never seen something quite like Pillars birthed. To get something like Deadfire was miraculous.
 
That we can compare the two is a testament to both, each required vision and passion to delve into unexplored territory. Each required just the right pool of talent and orchestration of resources to pull off. Since The Witcher games rely so much on action and when compared to other action games in the top of their class, like Bloodborne, the new God of War, or Horizon Zero Dawn; I'd say The Witcher 3 has a worse weakness (compared to Deadfire) given the type of product that it is. In many ways both Pillars of Eternity and Deadfire are bigger leaps forward for their respective genre's although having one's genre essentially be dead for over a decade helps. Deadfire is a perfect example of not going backwards to go forwards, but going forwards from where things were left off. It's clear The Witcher manages mass appeal better, and I don't think it sacrificed it's design to achieve that. As someone who does however have the passion for a more niche title like Pillars, I have this sense that Deadfire will age better, at least for me.
 
There is a timelessness captured in this style of game, it's apparent going all the way back to the original Baldur's Gate. If anything in those original games hasn't aged well, it's the D&D 2e ruleset. While, no ruleset will ever be perfect, what Josh has done with Pillars has not only been refreshing, but is in the spirit of progress. By making a ruleset that is for a crpg first, not a ttrpg, we get something with a life of it's own. No longer are infinity-likes merely digitized D&D campaigns. Further, the type of prose enabled by Pillars is far more akin to literature which already ages like wine, and the series does not shirk this opportunity. Deadfire convinces me that the possibilities of it's medium a far from being tapped out, and the ceiling is higher than we think. I hope Obsidian finds a growing audience to not only sustain these ventures, but to pursue the limits.

 

 

 

So the response is a bit of an ode to Pillars. How would you capture Pillars of Eternity's place amongst both it's own genre, and other RPGs at large? Where does it's value lie to you? What might it's future be? How might genre's core pillars be pushed forward, expanded, or what new one's might be added?

 

I think Tyranny and Deadfire are useful measures as to just how far and different these games push things, but they are just a start of what could be. My post isn't a full answer to these questions, but I'm more interested in what the community thinks and feels.


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#2
rjshae

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To summarize: tastes vary.



#3
IndiraLightfoot

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My summary:

-Deadfire is a great CRPG. It's not among my top five, but most likely top 10.

-I really like the setting and the lore and all the cultures, languages, etc.

-Oddly enough, though, I'm not a great fan of factions. I didn't like them in F:NV, and I don' like them here. It's not Skyrim-bad, but it's too close for comfort.

-I still don't enjoy the CRPG system, and by that I mean the combat system in particular. It's been changing constantly, not really evolving either, and it never really sits well with me. The names of spells and some features are very cool, but a lot of stuff is annoying or even worse.

-It's pretty cool that you can play the entire game using custom AI scripts. I did it on PotD. After lots of playing during the beta with no AI scripts, I still feel that the system is too far integrated and streamlined for that kind of play in mind. Deadfire sorta plays itself. It feels too much like a computer RPG system, while I'm so tainted by decades of pen-n'-paper RPGs and miniature games that I get more warm and fuzzy when CRPGs lean heavily in that direction (it may be real turn-based or RTwP, I don't really care).

-I feel that the RPG bit in CRPGs needs to be made much more advanced in future CRPGs. Choices need to matter more, and your character needs to be more personally involved in the mechanics, and with the rest of your party, all this in order to find that sweet immersion I crave.


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#4
Multihog

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The Witcher 3 has a worse weakness (compared to Deadfire) 

The Witcher 3's, and almost any AAA game's, worst weakness is that they completely spoil themselves by always pointing the player directly to the objective. Back in the day, you could look up a walkthrough of a game if you were stuck; today, such a walkthrough comes built into almost every game, and it can't be turned off. If it can be turned off and you do so, then the game becomes unplayable because the HUD provides all the information necessary to finish the quest, not the game world. 

 

The game never leaves anything for the player to figure out or discover in regard to quests. It's always a matter of religiously following the quest marker and step-by-step list of objectives. Paying attention to the 3D world—or knowing what you're even doing, where you're going, and what the quest is about—is optional, the HUD and minimap being the main components that call for the player's attention. You can be completely clueless as to what you're doing in any quest in the game and finish it. 

 

Fortunately, PoE and Divinity: Original Sin aren't poisoned by this design.

 

Having to know what you're doing in a game instead of blindly following a dotted line nowadays is considered "archaic" design by many. This, among many other reasons, is why I think it's silly to even compare IE-style games and something like The Witcher 3. They have next to nothing in common from a design standpoint.


Edited by Multihog, 11 July 2018 - 04:54 PM.

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#5
Aotrs Commander

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The Witcher 3 has a worse weakness (compared to Deadfire) 

The Witcher 3's, and almost any AAA game's, worst weakness is that they completely spoil themselves by always pointing the player directly to the objective. Back in the day, you could look up a walkthrough of a game if you were stuck; today, such a walkthrough comes built into almost every game, and it can't be turned off. If it can be turned off and you do so, then the game becomes unplayable because the HUD provides all the information necessary to finish the quest, not the game world. 

 

The game never leaves anything for the player to figure out or discover in regard to quests. It's always a matter of religiously following the quest marker and step-by-step list of objectives. Paying attention to the 3D world—or knowing what you're even doing, where you're going, and what the quest is about—is optional, the HUD and minimap being the main components that call for the player's attention. You can be completely clueless as to what you're doing in any quest in the game and finish it. 

 

Fortunately, PoE and Divinity: Original Sin aren't poisoned by this design.

 

Having to know what you're doing in a game instead of blindly following a dotted line nowadays is considered "archaic" design by many. This, among many other reasons, is why I think it's silly to even compare IE-style games and something like The Witcher 3. They have next to nothing in common from a design standpoint.

 

 

Actually, I think in Witcher 3's case, the main reason I played it straight (i.e. not playing anything else in the meantime) for 215 hours (not something I think I can say about any other RPG, though I can still cite PS:T as my favourite) was that the markers gave me a sense of progression. No other open-world game has held my interest for maybe a quarter of that time, if even that.

 

(Not sure, though, that it would be practical to have that sort of amount of stuff in an IE-style game, as the work (for combats) would no doubt exponetially increase when you have to worry about more than one chracter's abilities.)

 

I will also note that IE games never had the need to have such a thing (save until Deadfire, maybe), since they were a set of discrete areas (which you opened in, at best, a loose sequence), so it was a fair bit harder to miss anything with a thorough exploration of each area. Especially once the "highlight-clickables" thing finally came in; that bit of quality of lfe, is in, my opinion absolutely vital and for point-and-click adventures too).

 

So, while IE-like games probably don't need that approach so much (to a degree, I am very much against the journal or whatever NOT reminding you where NPC quest-giver XYZ is because I don't want to search endless areas for them), I think it is closer to a necessity for an open-world game.



#6
VillageIdiot

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The Witcher 3 has a worse weakness (compared to Deadfire) 

The Witcher 3's, and almost any AAA game's, worst weakness is that they completely spoil themselves by always pointing the player directly to the objective. Back in the day, you could look up a walkthrough of a game if you were stuck; today, such a walkthrough comes built into almost every game, and it can't be turned off. If it can be turned off and you do so, then the game becomes unplayable because the HUD provides all the information necessary to finish the quest, not the game world. 

 

The game never leaves anything for the player to figure out or discover in regard to quests. It's always a matter of religiously following the quest marker and step-by-step list of objectives. Paying attention to the 3D world—or knowing what you're even doing, where you're going, and what the quest is about—is optional, the HUD and minimap being the main components that call for the player's attention. You can be completely clueless as to what you're doing in any quest in the game and finish it. 

 

Fortunately, PoE and Divinity: Original Sin aren't poisoned by this design.

 

Having to know what you're doing in a game instead of blindly following a dotted line nowadays is considered "archaic" design by many. This, among many other reasons, is why I think it's silly to even compare IE-style games and something like The Witcher 3. They have next to nothing in common from a design standpoint.

 

Divinity games did those weird no clue quests and it was awful. I played DOS2 and Divinity, both suffers the problem that at one point walkthrough is all you going to get or starve yourself on limited exp, it encourages you to game the bloody system and spend hours on walkthroughs instead of immerse yourself in the game.

 

Deadfire quest descriptions are nice enough, but still lacking like Aloth's quest, expecting you to literally look for the entire map, DOS2 system is even worse, helpful quest guidelines such as "I found this gem stone, wow." "I discovered a ghost, wow" "I found an abandoned ruin, wow" literally zero directions in most of the quest, it does not test player intelligence, it test player's patience to dig the entire map (not to mention it'd be empty most of the time since you cleared the non-respawn mob), it is frustrating rather than "intelligent". I expected my protag to be smarter than find a stone and not questioning where could it be related, and that is what we are lacking in quest log currently. 

 

Witcher 3 might suffer from quest markers, but game is still doable with exploration aspect since the game is filled with helpful witcher sense clues that let you dig further without trying to find a needle in a haysack. 



#7
Arddv

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I still remember that one quest from the fughters guild in Morrowind where you need to find some crab following directions in your journal (something like 'turn right on the third crossroad then left etc..). The only quest I spent hours on and never completed.



#8
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Deadfire is unquestionably the best CRPG to come out since the "renaissance" that started back when Pillars, Wasteland 2, etc were garnering support on Kickstarter.  I don't think it's even in question, although Original Sin 2 blew me away with how much better it was than the first, especially in terms of storytelling.  Tides of Numenera was, frankly, something of a disappointment and Wasteland 2 felt like it was missing a few things to be the tactical experience it seemed to want to be (honestly, just copy XCOM Enemy Unknown's basic mechanics and go from there if you're going to make a turn-based shooty tactics game.)  UnderRail was a wonderful trip down memory lane but it has the same kinds of problems that the old Fallout games do (though intentionally so), Tower of Time was a massive and pleasant surprise that unfortunately began to feel rather repetitive after several hours and didn't have the writing chops to keep me slogging through it to see what happens next, and so on.

 

That said, I think Deadfire is also unquestionably worse than the best of the Infinity Engine games.  I also think that Deadfire is a horrible ****ing MESS of too many different ideas - it's trying to be too many damn things at once and I can only assume everyone at the design table had their own pet idea that they refused to budge on.  I'm confident that Deadfire would be orders of magnitude better if it just focused on only one or two things, at the cost of leaving some people disappointed, than by apparently trying to give everyone a little bit of what they want.  In almost every area except for presentation - because a 2018 game is obviously going to look and sound and play a hell of a lot nicer than a ca. 2000 game - Deadfire is worse than the best games of the Infinity Engine era and its contemporaries.  So my praise for it definitely has reservations... and while I don't want to sound entitled or sour, I feel like Obsidian could have done a lot better despite how good Deadfire is objectively.



#9
VillageIdiot

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Deadfire is unquestionably the best CRPG to come out since the "renaissance" that started back when Pillars, Wasteland 2, etc were garnering support on Kickstarter.  I don't think it's even in question, although Original Sin 2 blew me away with how much better it was than the first, especially in terms of storytelling.  Tides of Numenera was, frankly, something of a disappointment and Wasteland 2 felt like it was missing a few things to be the tactical experience it seemed to want to be (honestly, just copy XCOM Enemy Unknown's basic mechanics and go from there if you're going to make a turn-based shooty tactics game.)  UnderRail was a wonderful trip down memory lane but it has the same kinds of problems that the old Fallout games do (though intentionally so), Tower of Time was a massive and pleasant surprise that unfortunately began to feel rather repetitive after several hours and didn't have the writing chops to keep me slogging through it to see what happens next, and so on.

 

That said, I think Deadfire is also unquestionably worse than the best of the Infinity Engine games.  I also think that Deadfire is a horrible ****ing MESS of too many different ideas - it's trying to be too many damn things at once and I can only assume everyone at the design table had their own pet idea that they refused to budge on.  I'm confident that Deadfire would be orders of magnitude better if it just focused on only one or two things, at the cost of leaving some people disappointed, than by apparently trying to give everyone a little bit of what they want.  In almost every area except for presentation - because a 2018 game is obviously going to look and sound and play a hell of a lot nicer than a ca. 2000 game - Deadfire is worse than the best games of the Infinity Engine era and its contemporaries.  So my praise for it definitely has reservations... and while I don't want to sound entitled or sour, I feel like Obsidian could have done a lot better despite how good Deadfire is objectively.

 

Pillar's combat and debuff/buff system is undoubtably better than DOS2 here. DOS2 is literally position skills then DPS race to the bottem while occasionally buff yourself with action points (elfs are still broken in this regards). Late game it is even more absurd to spam a screen full of arrow storm/meteor shower/lighting storm, who needs disables when you can kill all of your enemies in one turn? Lone wolf is again, broken as hell coupled with execution + elf ability for nearly 4 turns worth of AP. The beta involved alot of better strategies but the armor system for DOS2 suckass and makes the combat pretty boring outside of meme strat like stacking oil barrels for Twitch luls. 


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#10
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I'll have to wait until they get it patched after the last DLC to honestly say, remember how different PoE at release was then how it is now to get what I mean.
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#11
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I'll have to wait until they get it patched after the last DLC to honestly say, remember how different PoE at release was then how it is now to get what I mean.

 

That's what has me holding out hope.  Pillars 3.0 is massively improved over Pillars 1.0.  That doesn't excuse it, though - that just encourages me to take a "wait a year" approach with PoE 3 whenever it arrives.






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