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13 hours ago, xzar_monty said:

Gilded Vale and the trees was a very striking start. Really, really good. Ghastly, but good. But then, I was slightly disappointed that even if I changed Gilded Vale rather a lot, nothing became of it later in the game. The whole place was just forgotten, although I did away with the tyrannical leader and so on.

I actually like when you try to do the right thing but it backfires.  Gilded vale suffers without a leader.  As they say "the road to hell is paved with good intentions"

 

I was actually super surprised with my outer world's ending slide.  I guess I made all the right decisions?

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A city is a hub with merchants, taverns, quest lines, a something to return to, that changes and grows (and, occasionally, burns). Kirkwall was unique as it changed over time, more than any other city (excluding Baldur's Gate and its DLC) could due to the structure of the game. I appreciated that. Also there was the capital in Fable III, but I don't remember much about it.

A town is a something to get a few unimportant quests to turn in, loot everything lootable, kill everything killable, then move on and forget that it ever existed.  Though, I did like Majula from Dark Souls II, but it was a hub with merchants and all NPCs ended up there, so it fits the definition of "a city in an RPG" above.

 

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10 hours ago, Hawke64 said:

A town is a something to get a few unimportant quests to turn in, loot everything lootable, kill everything killable, then move on and forget that it ever existed.

Not really. You can do it like that, but there's no rule that says that you can't have important quests in a town or village and that it can't be a hub that you'll return to frequently. Example: Stalwart. 

That village seems to be liked best by most players who played PoE + expansions. I don't have numbers obviously, but if you read about complaints about settlements in PoE you only read about Defiance Bay and Twin Elms. Dyrford, Stalwart etc. are rarely mentioned, if ever. Now you could say that's because the players "forgot that they ever existed" - but at least Stalwart is so integral to the whole WM expansions that I don't think that's the case. 

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I wonder what the general consensus is regarding Defiance Bay vs. Twin Elms -- i.e. if somebody made a survey, I wonder whether it'd turn out that Twin Elms is a lot less liked than Defiance Bay. I personally found it very hard to get into Twin Elms. The graphics are nice, I fully admit that it does look good, but by the time you get there, you've already reached level cap(*) and you almost immediately get to know that you're basically on the brink of finishing the whole thing. Thus, I found it very hard to find the motivation to walk up to every named character to have a chat (to get more quests, to get to know things better, etc: all the stuff you do in Defiance Bay).

(*) Note: obviously this is not a definite fact, but I'd wager it tends to be true more often than not. Also, reaching level cap does not decrease gaming motivation for everybody, but again, for a lot of people it does.

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I also think Twin Elms suffers for its place in the game. Like... I don't think the content there is amazing (well, except the conversations with the gods) but the biggest problem is where it shows up in the game. Like you say, you're kinda gathering momentum for the final parts of the story at that point, so it feels a bit weird running around even more doing people's sidequests and stuff. It's even more noticeable with the White March expansion, all the Twin Elms content just seems to fade into the background even more.

 

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I'm not as crazy about Stalwart as most people seem to be but yeah, The White March is absolutely superb all in all. I just finished replaying PoE and all in all it's an *amazing* expansion. I didn't feel the DLCs of Deadfire were nearly as good unfortunately.

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As @Boeroer said, the problem with having a majority of the game take place in a city is that the devs have to pack the place with quests. In Athkatla, after leaving the tutorial dungeon you can't walk three steps without running into another quest. If you grab every quest as you come across it soon your journal is full of a quests, making them feel random and disconnected because they piled up so fast. Spreading that content out over several locations and putting space (spacial and/or temporal) in between them makes those same quests stand out more.

In this way Vizima (as it was mentioned earlier) in the Witcher 1 is a case of 'town' because in order to reach new districts you have to progress the main story, thereby separating those districts in time (also, half the game does take place in towns or the swamp anyway).

Cities vs Towns is the Open World vs Hub World argument in microcosm.

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8 hours ago, the_dog_days said:

If you grab every quest as you come across it soon your journal is full of a quests, making them feel random and disconnected because they piled up so fast.

I don't agree with this. The quests did pile up fast, but I didn't get the impression of randomness or disconnectedness. It was more like being in New York, London, Paris or Bangkok for the first time: boy, there's a lot to do here. So I was enthusiastic. And yes, I can understand the opposite reaction, too, but I didn't have it myself.

Edited by xzar_monty
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As we all know, RPGs often look artificial in that everybody waits for you to solve their problem and are willing to wait for you forever. Hub cities that dump on you twenty quests as soon as you enter the city make that situation look even more artificial. Were these poor souls waiting specifically for me? And what would they do if I didn't show up?

Unfortunately, there aren't easy solutions for this, it seems, because if the quests were spaced temporally, this would force the players to patrol the city periodically to check if there are any new quests whose time has come. And if the quests were set to be dependent on each other, then players would start to complain that their freedom is restricted.

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You could simply tie certain quests to game progress. Or the resolution of earlier quests. Or character level. Or reputation. Or all of that. Or whatever would make sure you don't get them all at once.

Wouldn't it be cool if you got certain "shady" quests only if you had build up the fitting reputation? Why would you get "benevolent" quests from townies if you're known to be a murder hobo?

 

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35 minutes ago, wih said:

As we all know, RPGs often look artificial in that everybody waits for you to solve their problem and are willing to wait for you forever. Hub cities that dump on you twenty quests as soon as you enter the city make that situation look even more artificial. Were these poor souls waiting specifically for me? And what would they do if I didn't show up?

Unfortunately, there aren't easy solutions for this, it seems, because if the quests were spaced temporally, this would force the players to patrol the city periodically to check if there are any new quests whose time has come. And if the quests were set to be dependent on each other, then players would start to complain that their freedom is restricted.

You touch an important topic here, and one that frankly baffles me quite a lot. I'm sorry to bring up that old chestnut again, but back in the 1980s, Ultima V contained a world where people had their routines. For example, they tilled their farm during the day, they went to bed at night, they went to the tavern for lunch, and if they were a particular bunch, they even gathered for a secret meeting by the village well at midnight. There was a certain person who hid certain very useful tools in a certain location at certain times. And you were a part of this world: it was your job to figure out what happened where and when. The complexity was lovely -- if you were a low-level character and you arrived at a city too late in the evening, you might not be able to simply walk in, because the gates were closed and it was possible you had to sleep outdoors and expose yourself to proper danger.

What baffles me these days is that none of the big CRPGs even make the attempt to create a living world. As you quite rightly point out, basically everybody stands still and waits for you to come to them, and they are willing to wait forever. This despite the fact that computers these days are capable of handling much greater complexity with great ease. Things do move around a bit in Neketaka, but here's the important point: essentially everyone who walks around the map is just a cosmetic backround phenomenon and has nothing to do with the story or any of the quests; they're simply scenery. The only exception to this that I can think of is the back alley thing in the docks, i.e. you have to arrive at the alley late in the evening to find the guy with the wolf -- he's not there during the day. There may be other examples like this, but I can't think of any. So even the bustling-looking Neketaka is essentially dead, it only comes to life when the player interacts with it.

Quests could easily be given to you on the basis of your reputation (like Boeroer suggests). And things could be dependent on chance (a certain itinerant vendor will only appear in a certain street corner at certain days, varying from game to game, and it's entirely possible you will never meet him). Or some quests could become available only as a result of how you finished some other quests. Like, person A arrives at location X only if you made his arrival possible by providing him with the means to travel by supporting character B at location Z, and the arrival of person A at location X will happen six days after your dealings at location Z, because the trip takes some time. All of this and a lot more would be possible, but my sense is that nobody even makes an attempt at any of it. I do not understand why.

In general, I would greatly enjoy a game set up in such a way that it contains, let's say, 100 quests, but only 75 of them can become available in any single playthrough -- their availability would be limited by the factors I described in the previous paragraph (note: one of them being chance). This would greatly increase replayability and this would make each game a lot more unique.

Only the main storyline needs to be set in stone, so to speak. There's an awful lot of room to play around with the additional quests. But nobody even makes the attempt.

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I think one reason why devs avoid to design quests like that (I mean quests that only a fraction of players might see) is that development time is so expensive. And if you make 100 quests you will have to spend money for 100 quests. But if only 50 quests will contribute to the "perceived" content of the game (because players will  miss the rest that doesn't fit their char) players might argue "Why is this game 50 bucks? It's way too short/small for 50 bucks". Of course this would solve itself if all players would play the game more than once with different chars, but with the usual longish RPG not that many players seem to do that.  

That's obviously the advantage of roguelikes/roguelites where it's the normal game mode to start again very often.

Edited by Boeroer
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Yep, that is a valid point. The development costs of a game like Ultima V were negligible -- if that -- compared to Deadfire. However, I still argue that on this particular level, Ultima V showed more ambition than Deadfire, which frankly baffles me, as I said.

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6 hours ago, Boeroer said:

You could simply tie certain quests to game progress. Or the resolution of earlier quests. Or character level. Or reputation. Or all of that. Or whatever would make sure you don't get them all at once.

Wouldn't it be cool if you got certain "shady" quests only if you had build up the fitting reputation? Why would you get "benevolent" quests from townies if you're known to be a murder hobo?

 

Then it is all the more puzzling why they don't do it. Maybe because BG2 didn't do it :) BG2 is the gold standard after all.

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On 12/8/2019 at 3:33 AM, xzar_monty said:

What baffles me these days is that none of the big CRPGs even make the attempt to create a living world. As you quite rightly point out, basically everybody stands still and waits for you to come to them, and they are willing to wait forever. This despite the fact that computers these days are capable of handling much greater complexity with great ease. Things do move around a bit in Neketaka, but here's the important point: essentially everyone who walks around the map is just a cosmetic backround phenomenon and has nothing to do with the story or any of the quests; they're simply scenery. The only exception to this that I can think of is the back alley thing in the docks, i.e. you have to arrive at the alley late in the evening to find the guy with the wolf -- he's not there during the day. There may be other examples like this, but I can't think of any. So even the bustling-looking Neketaka is essentially dead, it only comes to life when the player interacts with it.

The last game I really saw this at play was Oblivion. Even though FO3 and F:NV had the same engine, they didn't nearly do it in spades or try to plug in as much emergent gameplay. (In Oblivion you could leave a poisoned apple around and put it on top of someone's plate and wait for them to eat it; it was a bit janky, but there's no equivalent in games hence basically. Also in Oblivion, much like the Ultima games of yore, you could follow NPCs around and watch them go about their day. Though you do have to hear their short bark dialogue all the time "HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT THE HIGH ELVES?" In FO3/NV/Skyrim/FO4, unless they are one of the explicitly-intended-to-be-regional-merchants, they basically do a small orbit in one of a few rooms that may or may not involve a bed.)

Like Boeroer says, there's a huge cost component. I would also venture to say the vast, vast, vast majority of players in Oblivion never noticed or took advantage of the "real world" elements of gameplay (as evidenced by how buggy and janky the poisoned apple mechanics could be), so I don't think people really are missing out on anything.

Deadfire is more reactive than PoE1 in this respect, and you could tell how far we are from the RPGs of yesteryear by doing a google search for something like "Where is Una in Deadfire?" People just aren't used to the idea that a merchant might actually go to sleep at night. Also, despite the fact that I have nostalgia for Ultima games (though mostly 7 and Underworld), I'm pretty ambivalent about this frankly, even the little bit that is in Deadfire - even though it's just a few button clicks and a short wait, I find it a bit annoying to have to wait for daytime so that some of my vendors appear (anecdotally, my wife--who is really into first person open-world RPGs and never grew up playing the old cRPGs--really hates ever having to wait for anything or trying to remember people's schedules). As another example, rain introduced RNG and almost botched my Ultimate run (and screwed up another; rain causes people to seek shelter; if you're planning on trying to steal or sneak and it's time sensitive, having everyone seek shelter right next to the thing you want to steal is extremely inconvenient).

 

Quote

Quests could easily be given to you on the basis of your reputation (like Boeroer suggests). And things could be dependent on chance (a certain itinerant vendor will only appear in a certain street corner at certain days, varying from game to game, and it's entirely possible you will never meet him). Or some quests could become available only as a result of how you finished some other quests. Like, person A arrives at location X only if you made his arrival possible by providing him with the means to travel by supporting character B at location Z, and the arrival of person A at location X will happen six days after your dealings at location Z, because the trip takes some time. All of this and a lot more would be possible, but my sense is that nobody even makes an attempt at any of it. I do not understand why.

I admit I was a bit surprised by how both PoE1 and Deadfire were generous with quests. You could flat out refuse a quest, and you'd still get a journal entry. But players hate botching quests or missing out on content because they didn't do the right RPG voodoo (either correct dialogue response or right stats). I think this is part of the continuing "streamlining" of game mechanics in an effort to lower barriers and broaden appeal across much of the RPG genre while reducing costs. Unlike the immersive component above, this is one aspect that I am decidedly less ambivalent about and miss more. I think stats and decisions should be meaningful, and that should pertain to more than just combat or ending slides - I want more explicit tradeoffs like the Bardatto vs Valera questline, or hard checks to even get a quest like in Fallout 2.

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Talking

On ‎12‎/‎7‎/‎2019 at 12:41 PM, Boeroer said:

Not really. You can do it like that, but there's no rule that says that you can't have important quests in a town or village and that it can't be a hub that you'll return to frequently. Example: Stalwart. 

That village seems to be liked best by most players who played PoE + expansions. I don't have numbers obviously, but if you read about complaints about settlements in PoE you only read about Defiance Bay and Twin Elms. Dyrford, Stalwart etc. are rarely mentioned, if ever. Now you could say that's because the players "forgot that they ever existed" - but at least Stalwart is so integral to the whole WM expansions that I don't think that's the case. 

I second this. Maybe I'm odd, but one of my favourite places in BG2 is Trademeet. It was technically just a town but it had multiple quests leading to it, that would then get you connected to the other quests when you got there, and other quests that would bring you back there later. Resolving it's main plotlines and getting the statues of your party felt like a completion in itself, giving you a sense of accomplishment while still being able to "move on to the next town" as a tabletop adventuring party.

Edited by FlintlockJazz
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8 hours ago, FlintlockJazz said:

Talking

I second this. Maybe I'm odd, but one of my favourite places in BG2 is Trademeet. It was technically just a town but it had multiple quests leading to it, that would then get you connected to the other quests when you got there, and other quests that would bring you back there later. Resolving it's main plotlines and getting the statues of your party felt like a completion in itself, giving you a sense of accomplishment while still being able to "move on to the next town" as a tabletop adventuring party.

This. I loved Athkalta, but I also really liked Trademeet. I actually didn't even uncover it until a later run, because I only did a subset of the stronghold and stronghold-adjacent quests at first. I was actually blown away that there was so much to do there, a whole market (with unique-to-Trademeet items, whereas small towns in like BG might not have anything going for them in terms of vendors), the elven chain mail, and getting the statues was also real great. And yeah, questlines that I didn't even realize had continuations into Trademeet (like the whole tannery business from the Bridge District).

Really, BG2 did a lot of things great with area design. No wonder it blew out BG in sales (and all other IE games).

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22 hours ago, thelee said:

This. I loved Athkalta, but I also really liked Trademeet. I actually didn't even uncover it until a later run, because I only did a subset of the stronghold and stronghold-adjacent quests at first. I was actually blown away that there was so much to do there, a whole market (with unique-to-Trademeet items, whereas small towns in like BG might not have anything going for them in terms of vendors), the elven chain mail, and getting the statues was also real great. And yeah, questlines that I didn't even realize had continuations into Trademeet (like the whole tannery business from the Bridge District).

Really, BG2 did a lot of things great with area design. No wonder it blew out BG in sales (and all other IE games).

Finding the tanner there is a moment that has stuck with me, I was so not expecting to resolve that quest there! Trademeet was such a strange discovery, it was a like it's own mini-campaign hidden within the game that you could totally miss yet once found felt kinda integral to the whole experience. To me anyway.

"That rabbit's dynamite!" - King Arthur, Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail

"Space is big, really big." - Douglas Adams

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23 minutes ago, FlintlockJazz said:

Finding the tanner there is a moment that has stuck with me, I was so not expecting to resolve that quest there! Trademeet was such a strange discovery, it was a like it's own mini-campaign hidden within the game that you could totally miss yet once found felt kinda integral to the whole experience. To me anyway.

This is a bit confusing. When you first leave Athkatla, you must leave by the City Gates, and when you enter that area, you are approached by Flydian who tells you of the animal trouble in Trademeet. So it's a bit hard to miss Trademeet, I think. Did I read you wrong?

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5 minutes ago, xzar_monty said:

This is a bit confusing. When you first leave Athkatla, you must leave by the City Gates, and when you enter that area, you are approached by Flydian who tells you of the animal trouble in Trademeet. So it's a bit hard to miss Trademeet, I think. Did I read you wrong?

Does Flydian actually approach you or do you have to talk to him?

It's been a while so I don't remember, but like I said I remember completely missing Trademeet in my first few runs, and I'm pretty sure I went out through the city gates in those runs for various reasons.

 

(For similar reasons, the first time a friend told me about Jan Janssen and all his unique gear I thought he was off his rocker. Somehow I had completely missed him in the government district.)

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I can't remember it exactly, either, but my sense is that when you see him on the screen, there's instantly a message above his head (or something) that says he wants to talk to you. Judging by what you say, however, it does seem rather likely that you can exit the City Gates without actually talking to him.

Jan Jansen is an absolute treasure. Boy he's good.

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