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11 minutes ago, Sven_ said:

As for my own experience, I liked the VO in Deadfire (I'm reading/playing in German, actually). Good Job.

So, do I understand this correctly: for you, the experience is something like watching a movie voiced in English and subtitled in German? In other words, both languages are present, one in voice and one in text. Is this correct?

I just want to make sure I understand your playing experience right.

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Of course Full VO can be nice, I like the VO of Deadfire, too. Question is if the outcome justifies the investment when talking about financial success of Deadfire. Or why it did sell badly. Missing VO can't be the reason for low sales. But Full VO might be a reason why it didn't break even sooner.  

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Posted (edited)

Another question is whether "most customers expect it", as has been claimed in this thread. I do not think this is true at all, within the cRPG genre.

For me, conceptually speaking, the most troublesome aspect of full VO is that it effectively ties the writers' hands too early, and this is not a good thing. I know that things can be retrospectively changed (and more material can be added, like was done in Deadfire), but full VO creates unnecessary complications, which, in my view, are probably not worth the financial cost.

Edited by xzar_monty
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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, xzar_monty said:

So, do I understand this correctly: for you, the experience is something like watching a movie voiced in English and subtitled in German? 

It's comparable. :) On occasion I skip the voiced dialogue early though as you're usually faster reading than listening. 

Edited by Sven_
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2 hours ago, xzar_monty said:

For me, conceptually speaking, the most troublesome aspect of full VO is that it effectively ties the writers' hands too early, and this is not a good thing. I know that things can be retrospectively changed (and more material can be added, like was done in Deadfire), but full VO creates unnecessary complications, which, in my view, are probably not worth the financial cost.

I absolutely agree. That was also the biggest disadvantage (besides the immense costs) that Josh Sawyer brought up.

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2 hours ago, xzar_monty said:

But hey, if D:OS2 was the first one to really do it, how many cRPGs actually have full VO? Seriously. Two? How many?

Maybe try to view this less as a crpg  oldtimer and more like a general gamer. I started with Megadrive games that had no voice acting. Then look at younger generations of gamers who grew up with every line being voiced, games generally getting more cinematic, yadda yadda. Just compare the quality of game VO 20 years ago to now. It's worlds apart. I doubt that making crpgs just for us old farts would be very economical. You have to pick the youngsters up somewhere. 

Also citing random people who disliked the narrator from the forum is as anecdotal as you accuse me of being. 

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30 minutes ago, SchroedsCat said:

You have to pick the youngsters up somewhere. 

Doing VO itself seemed to have helped preciously little though. Doing VO is the same game albeit with a somewhat different coat of presentation paint. This is a good topic though. It would be interesting to see how much players of Pillars, or Pathfinder used to Play the IE games back in the day. It would be also interesting to see how many newcomers these games managed to bring into the fold. 

My guess is, the overlap between IE players and pillars would be somewhat higher, as it was specifically sold first as a "nostalgia thing". That was a strong selling point in the entire Campaign back then. Pathfinder meanwhile, well the Pen&Paper is pretty popular in itself, and Pathfinder was at its Peak when D&D was entering its 4th Edition, so well past Black Isle had folded.

And this goes out to Beamdog, how many newcomers their Enhanced Editions brought in. 

On the topic of Pillars, it is/was in big ways a nostalgia thing. Maybe a third game could wrap it all up, and then let's see where we're going next.

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33 minutes ago, SchroedsCat said:

Also citing random people who disliked the narrator from the forum is as anecdotal as you accuse me of being. 

But I have not accused you of anything.

My rationale for keeping this within the cRPG world is that genres are different, and what works in one may not work in another. Or may be entirely superfluous, etc.

Also, I am not sure whether it's necessary to pick up the youngsters. Sure, the companies would rather have them than not, but it would be actually be interesting to see the age distribution of these games, even the very successful ones. Not sure at all if there are many youngsters involved -- depending on the definitions, of course.

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7 minutes ago, Sven_ said:

And this goes out to Beamdog, how many newcomers their Enhanced Editions brought in.

That's a really good question! My guess -- and mind you, without knowing anything for sure -- is almost zero. Practically none at all.

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28 minutes ago, xzar_monty said:

That's a really good question! My guess -- and mind you, without knowing anything for sure -- is almost zero. Practically none at all.

Well... I probably would have played it even without being enhanced... but i only ever played the enhanced version... so i might fall into the newcomer category.  though i would attribute that more to playing POE(first crpg i played) and enjoying it.

 

As far as voice overs go.  I really enjoy them, however if it is the difference between the series being profitable... I will make my lazy ass read.

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Posted (edited)

I actually think the amount of players who hadn't played those games upon their initial release but came in later to the show would be surprisingly high. E.g. "It's only the old geezers in their 30s and up who play this type of game anymore." May have been worth a poll when the forum was a bit more busy, e.g. by the time of release.

This doesn't merely imply players of the Enhanced Editions, mind. There's likely quite a few of players who've played Pillars as their "first" for instance because it was an Obsidian game, a new RPG to play, etc.
 

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Posted (edited)

As to managing expectations, inXile sort of went all-in with The Bard's Tale 4 (playing right now) too. According to Fargo, the budget for that one was over ten million Dollars -- for a "blobber" type of game and a sequel to a series once reknown 30 years ago...

There's one thing in common with Obsidian too, which is that their first game/s were a success in Wasteland 2 and PoE. WIth their first projects, things worked out. But what are they trying to prove now? Back in the day, Ultima was considered a hit at over 100,000 units or something and even later on, a couple hundred thousand units of Icewind Dale et all was considered profitable. Games development isn't cheap, in particular not in that area, but... to be honest, now with Microsoft I don't see both of them ever scaling back. 

The core audience is still there, as shown, and it's likely not purely old folk. It's just not grown any much bigger.

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  • 2 weeks later...

This may be a silly question, but I really do hate abandoned franchises. Isn't it tiring to get into new worlds again and again instead of seeing existing ones expanded? Thinking of all the potential the world of Eora still holds for classic RPG adventures makes me sad to think we might never see them... I'm simple when it comes to my CRPGs, and while I do appreciate interesting new mechanics, I'd really be quite happy with just more of the same, as long as the writing, quest design, mechanics stay on the really high level of Deadfire. Unfortunately, it seems that the devs think that a failure to expand their market equates to a failure of the game full stop (which is a shame). I'm wondering whether now boosting sales of Deadfire could still do any good for PoEIII? I mean, what if we all bought a copy and gifted it to a friend as a sort of statement that yes, there is a player base which cares strongly about the Isometric RPG format rather then getting a Skyrim or FF:Tactics, as I understand are being considered? It may never be the most successful game out there, but with a dedicated playerbase that ensures sales and some cutting costs (voiceovers, e.g.), I believe PoEIII could easily be profitable. But how to convince the devs of that? 😢

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  • 4 weeks later...

I think there's a factor that was touched on earlier in the discussion but not elaborated on: this was an ambitious, risky project from the beginning. The project to create a new intellectual property that would form the basis of multiple games is a big one. It's one reason why many Hollywood studios, which are typically headed by risk-averse business types rather than dream-big creative types, prefer to mine popular existing worlds for stories than to create new ones (another being, as pointed out earlier, that audiences tend to want the right mix of new content and familiar stories, worlds, or characters). I would argue that the Eora Project (a name I invented just now for lack of anything more real) was considerably more ambitious.

Consider: not only did Obsidian leave behind a lot of the familiar fantasy tropes that one gets from a standard, medieval Europe type of fantasy setting. They also made a lot of narrative work for themselves: animancy, firearms, deep backstory based on a history going back thousdands of years, and the rather novel notion that the gods of this world had been very literally created by people who had been disappointed to find that there was no architecture behind their world*. This work isn't just for them, it's for their players: to read, to absorb, to embrace. I was very skeptical of firearms and animancy coming into PoE, and Obsidian did a spectacular job of layering magic and divinity alongside chemistry and spiritualism in a seamless, nuanced way that put my concerns to rest quickly and quietly. On top of all of this, Obsidian made a very clear decision to eschew tropes, clichés, and standard fantasy props in favor of subtlety, nuance, and complex human interactions. No orcs. No good/evil axis. No Mary Sue character written in to tell the player how to think about their decisions. Even the history and the geopolitical environment attempted to have the texture and depth of a real world. Instead of "a nation of vikings who worship the god of war" or whatever, you have trading consortia and muddled interests and the very plausible consequences of having real, embodied gods who can act to change the world.

On top of the narrative and world-building ambitions, they decided to try to fix the obvious problems with the Infinity Engine games' mashup of a real-time with pause combat system bolted to a very turn-based D&D game system, not to mention the entrenched balance problems of D&D. So they set out to build their own mechanics where each stat has roughly equal value, each class is equally viable, and there are no trap options. Although they fell short of total success here (and who wouldn't?), they came close enough to their objectives that they reached what I would call a very good result. This, however, came with the cost to the player of a new game system to learn, one with nuances specific to RTwP gameplay, and a more complex build environment to manage, which is overhead when considering a new RPG. As others have mentioned, time economy changes as we age. I bounced hard off PoE and didn't return until White March 2 was released - as a kid with far fewer games to choose from I wouldn't have, but as an adult with limited gaming time and way too many game options, I can't always come home at the end of a day of systems analysis and sign up for some more, voluntary, unpaid systems analysis. When I came back, many changes had been made and there was more guidance on the boards and I dove deep into PoE and am very glad I did.

All of this to say that I think this was a massively ambitious project from the outset. Obsidian took on a lot of voluntary challenges in building the Eora world, and staked out some very bold narrative and mechanical ground. I would argue that PoE came out at the right time, and, as others have guessed, I guess that it may have oversold on a bit of a wave of nostalgia. But I am speculating here based on very thin evidence and I haven't looked at the release environment to validate my suspicions about nostalgia - I am mostly working off of my own memory of salivating while waiting for PoE to be released.

So then Deadfire came along, and some changes were made and more risks absorbed. Marketing, if it was indeed absent (I just can't comment precisely, but my memories are of reading about this game as a side note on gamer press stories about Fig or crowdfunding, and then getting updates from Fig), is hugely important. Josh Sawyer commented about the voiceover expense in time and money (which I would argue is an indicator that the assumption that it is now required needs to be rethought - but that has been discussed :) ). The image I most associate with Deadfire's marketing is the picture one still sees on the Steam library page, of Serafen, Edér, Pallegina, and Aloth fighting off... pirate zombies? while tentacles attack? and maybe other pirate zombies are helping? or not? on a ship? It's dramatic and evocative, but evokes to my mind a Johnny Depp movie more than a dark, nuanced, thoughtful RPG meditation on the nature of souls, so I think there's some merit to the argument that it felt like a big departure from the first game.

Is familiarity a decisive factor in a sequel's sales? Not necessarily. But it doesn't have to be. It can be one of several non-decisive factors that sinks the ship (you see? I can employ nautical themes, too). For me it was not, because of my experience being skeptical about the first game's themes and then discovering that my skepticism was unnecessary and the seemingly jarring collection of themes meshed together well under the guidance of skilled writers. I started Deadfire and saw a significantly different tone, but still the same deep writing, the nuanced take on personal and collective motivations, and more rumination on the nature of divinity and the interesting notions of souls, reincarnation, and the Wheel. But those are the things I care about. Another player, who cares more about the dark feel of PoE, might have seen sun-drenched beaches and heard jolly pirate shanties being sung as jolly buccaneers freeboot from island to island, and looked away.

There are other factors. There are more streams and more let's-plays out there for people to watch before they buy. There are more isometric RPGs out there. Big megahits distort the market and players' expectations of what an RPG should be (Witcher 3, Skyrim, Original Sin 2 - and pour mettre mon propre grain de sel, I enjoy none of those three games). The state of localization was mentioned, an element I hadn't read about, and I agree - in such a narratively-driven game, it's important to get localization right if you're going to attempt it. None of these sound decisive to me, but I think each of them is a factor. And when one has an ambitious project (which Deadfire also was), those ambitions make the project more brittle.

Another earlier point that I think is very important: it's too early for anybody to say right now whether the game was successful or not. It sounds like there was a bit of "development hell" involved in the production of the game, at the least for Sawyer himself, so it's unlikely that he's going to be able to look back on things with perfectly clear eyes. For the sake of example: the game broke even recently. That's great news. Even if it never sells another copy, there is room for improvement. If I were an analyst for Obsidian, I'd at least do a rudimentary analysis of the project: if we could cut the "entire game gets VO" deliverable and only lose 5%, 10%, or 15% of sales, would the project meet our profitability targets for a viable project? There are likely other obvious questions to the people at Obsidian - I'm working only with what Sawyer shared in that presentation in Europe and my own speculations. But I wouldn't assume we know for sure that there cannot be a PoE3. I also caution that these discussions can't happen until more time has passed, so again: it's too early to say.

This was longer than I expected. I blame Boeroer and his love of Skyrim.

 

* I once described PoE by telling a friend that "it seems to have been a game designed around Voltaire's quote that 'if god did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him'." My friend, who has worked in the game development industry for decades, said "Such a high-minded concept usually isn't a good sign." We agreed that maybe the game worked because Obsidian didn't reveal that notion until well into the third act.

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9 hours ago, Scrapulous said:

This was longer than I expected. I blame Boeroer and his love of Skyrim.

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Thanks for the long text.

"* I once described PoE by telling a friend that "it seems to have been a game designed around Voltaire's quote that 'if god did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him'." My friend, who has worked in the game development industry for decades, said "Such a high-minded concept usually isn't a good sign." We agreed that maybe the game worked because Obsidian didn't reveal that notion until well into the third act. "

 

Very interesting. This reminds me of Deus Ex. According to the german wikipedia, the original game sold 1 million copies between 2000 and 2009 and human revolution sold more than twice as many. But Deus Ex was a masterpiece in terms of gameplay and level design. There were several ways to solve every problem. You could finish the game almost without killing anything or you could shoot everything, including killing some later "bosses" long before you are supposed to fight them.

PoE was a classic RPG. It had a new setting and the character system was new, but if you ignore the details about races, classes and dice rolls it is exactly like most other RPGs, like the IE games for example. I still have no idea why Pathfinder Kingmaker sold much more. Both games were good RPGs and both games were buggy as hell at release. PoE2 was less buggy at release than PoE1. I had to quit PoE1 because of bugs during my first playthrough. I finished PoE2 on my first playthrough, but it was too easy and many bugs, though many of them helped the player instead of stopping him. I waited several month before starting PK, so I had no problem there.

Maybe the fanbase of DnD 3E nerds is bigger than I think, those who think that a game cannot be too complex or too difficult and everything with less than 30 races and classes plus tons of complicated rules and enemies that kick your ass unless you pre buff for an hour is considered dumbed down. So maybe there is a group of hardcore nerds and a group of casual gamesrs and PoE was cought in the middle between them? This does not really sound convincing to mee.

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3 hours ago, bugarup said:

That was a bait. In order to understand what it means you'll have to read the whole essay. :biggrin:

I read the whole post (difficult not to since that statement came at the end). Still can't find the causal connection. :)

 

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I thought I detected a bit of disgust earlier in the thread at your affection for Skyrim, so I thought I'd invent a fake reason to get on the bandwagon, since you had thumbed your nose at gatekeepers. I was embarrassed at writing so much and deflected by making fun of you (or I suppose in actual fact making fun of myself by being even more ridiculous (who cares what games other people like?) than writing a long, dry post about game design).

Dirty Skyrim-lover.

 

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Hehe - I indeed do not like gatekeeping. But at the same time I don't really care whether others agree with my gaming preferences or not. :) 

I wouldn't call myself a lover of Skyrim - but I had fun with it. I played it on a PS2 on a big screen though and not on PC. Maybe I would think differently if I played it on PC (which wasn't possible at the time it came out because I use Linux - and there was no Steam Proton yet)? Who knows...

Good post by the way, doesn't matter how long it is.

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18 hours ago, Madscientist said:

Thanks for the long text.

"* I once described PoE by telling a friend that "it seems to have been a game designed around Voltaire's quote that 'if god did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him'." My friend, who has worked in the game development industry for decades, said "Such a high-minded concept usually isn't a good sign." We agreed that maybe the game worked because Obsidian didn't reveal that notion until well into the third act. "

 

Very interesting. This reminds me of Deus Ex. According to the german wikipedia, the original game sold 1 million copies between 2000 and 2009 and human revolution sold more than twice as many. But Deus Ex was a masterpiece in terms of gameplay and level design. There were several ways to solve every problem. You could finish the game almost without killing anything or you could shoot everything, including killing some later "bosses" long before you are supposed to fight them.

PoE was a classic RPG. It had a new setting and the character system was new, but if you ignore the details about races, classes and dice rolls it is exactly like most other RPGs, like the IE games for example. I still have no idea why Pathfinder Kingmaker sold much more. Both games were good RPGs and both games were buggy as hell at release. PoE2 was less buggy at release than PoE1. I had to quit PoE1 because of bugs during my first playthrough. I finished PoE2 on my first playthrough, but it was too easy and many bugs, though many of them helped the player instead of stopping him. I waited several month before starting PK, so I had no problem there.

Maybe the fanbase of DnD 3E nerds is bigger than I think, those who think that a game cannot be too complex or too difficult and everything with less than 30 races and classes plus tons of complicated rules and enemies that kick your ass unless you pre buff for an hour is considered dumbed down. So maybe there is a group of hardcore nerds and a group of casual gamesrs and PoE was cought in the middle between them? This does not really sound convincing to mee.

even without most of the bugs kingmaker still have a system that barely function

many player might be satisfied when they find someway to break the system with some ridiculous multiclass build

the system also break under its own math on higher level

3.5 dnd does seems to have a extremely fanatic player base

but it lack potential for growth

develop a game now doesn't switch to much more elegant pathfinder 2e or easy entry dnd 5e are bad idea

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Posted (edited)
3 minutes ago, uuuhhii said:

even without most of the bugs kingmaker still have a system that barely function

This claim does not sound true to me. I finished P:K, and in no way did I think that the system "barely functioned". I started playing tabletop DD in the 1980s, so I know the roots of this system reasonably well. Could you perhaps explain what you mean?

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26 minutes ago, xzar_monty said:

This claim does not sound true to me. I finished P:K, and in no way did I think that the system "barely functioned". I started playing tabletop DD in the 1980s, so I know the roots of this system reasonably well. Could you perhaps explain what you mean?

finished three playthrough on the 2.07 and 2.08 version of kingmaker

even with the familiarity of the system it is still obviously broken

things like the mess of stacking luck morale circumstance enhancement alchemical bonus are pretty obvious

many crazy multiclass combination include monk 1 paladin 2 can be mostly blame on power gamers

but it is also a problem that already solved by other class in the same game

monk only need 1 level to get all wisdom or charisma bonus on ac but sword saint only get intelligent bonus ac up to sword saint level

the way bab and saving throw advance by level but ac doesn't force the system put too much ac on equipment

cmd and cmb calculation are obvious nightmare one can only pity those who use it in tabletop

the way flat foot and touch ac might be design to make sense of how some attack and spell work but also make anything target touch ac overpowered

skill can be increase 1 per level but saving throw doesn't so the system must go through more math gymnastics to give higher level creature different ways to increase saving throw but some skill check just doesn't seems to fail at all at certain point

in the end the entire system just have to rely on complicated math to even the number as level goes up but this problem could have been easily prevented at the start

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First of all, it has to be said that your writing is quite hard to follow.

Second, if you finished three playthroughs, either the system cannot be broken, or what you mean by "broken" is something other than broken. So there is a contradiction in the premise of what you write.

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