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A critique of Obsidian from KOTOR to NWN2


actmodern

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Hi guys,

 

I've been a long time fan of your work. From your days at Interplay right up to NWN2 which I bought without question hoping you would deliver on the quality RPGs I am used to.

 

What broke? Other than the heart of your customers. When you're doing interviews why don't you talk about the things that really concern us. I'll list a few and maybe you guys can respond to your customer base before it twindles into a mass that is only reachable by good marketing and no longer responsive to the quality you produced in the past:

 

(1) Your games are either over ambitious or under ambitious. The current trend to release short games isn't helping your quality much. It only goes to show you are biting off more than you can chew. You need much better project planning to increase the efficiency of your team. Less emails -- more open trouble tickets and a motto of ABC "Always Be Closing" when it comes to your trouble tickets.

 

(2) Drop the influence system. Drop it. Drop it. Drop it. There's nothing out there that screams RELOAD when you have a big negative number jump up on the screen. I'm sorry if that makes us (your customer) shallow.

 

(3) Don't go posting on the NWN forums about branches and code being merged with complicated work arounds for the customer. What are you guys thinking? We don't want to know how you manage your technology. We're buying your technology.

 

(4) Stop shoveling out bad technology. It took you a couple of years to get your NWN2 engine working properly. That's not acceptable. I would have been happy with KOTOR graphics. You need much better art direction. Take a look at the World of Warcraft. Runs smoothly on old boxes and looks good too!

 

I hope my feedback makes it somewhere in Obsidian and you go back to your roots of creating quality products (DROP THE INFLUENCE SYSTEM).

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I've started to warm to the influence system as how it was implemented in Mask of the Betrayer. While I still think lots could be done to improve it, it's starting to feel much more natural.

Though I can't say I've ever reloaded when I get an influence down. Come on, there are players who will reload at anything... Quest didn't turn out in an optimal way? Reload! I don't think that's a reason to remove the system.

 

Anyways, try MotB if you haven't. It most definetely feels "complete" and solid.

 

I don't see what game of Obsidians that have been "under-ambitious" though.

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Amen, keep the influence system. Indeed it started off sketchy somewhat, but it seems Obsidian managed to refine to the point which Starwars mentioned, comfortable. MotB especially so.

 

The influence system though as we know, is not something new Obsidian had been using. The first RPG I played that involves a degree of influence system would be the Star Ocean series. I really hope Obsidian takes some good pointers from the JRPG game I mentioned to further improve and refine the system.

Edited by Zoma
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Yeah, games like Star Ocean get away with it quite nicely because they keep it hidden. They don't start popping numbers up that let people know they did something "wrong." Those - and + numbers end up becoming feedback for players that is often more important to them than the actual NPCs reactions. I think there's something wrong with that. Influence is good for tracking NPC reactions, though. So, hide the numbers!

"Show me a man who "plays fair" and I'll show you a very talented cheater."
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Yeah, games like Star Ocean get away with it quite nicely because they keep it hidden. They don't start popping numbers up that let people know they did something "wrong." Those - and + numbers end up becoming feedback for players that is often more important to them than the actual NPCs reactions. I think there's something wrong with that. Influence is good for tracking NPC reactions, though. So, hide the numbers!

 

Nothing screams min/max when numbers float up on the screen. The downside is, do you really want to play through the story without unlocking every NPCs backstory through the influence system? That's why I reload.

 

I only played about 20 minutes of MotB before putting it down. I own a PS3 and even with its low game count there are currently more compelling titles I can play on my couch. I need a good reason to upgrade my video card and MotB isn't it yet.

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The downside is, do you really want to play through the story without unlocking every NPCs backstory through the influence system?

 

I've played plenty of games where I haven't unlocked every NPC's backstory or every NPC event. Baldur's Gate II being a prime example. I've played plenty of games where NPCs didn't even have backstories.

 

Min/maxing has nothing to do with it. The apperance of numbers is a discrete and obvious reinforcement. The more obvious/immediate the negative consequence of an action, the more averse to it people tend to be. The less obvious/immediate the consequence, the more likely they are to ignore it. This sounds like the root of your complaint.

 

It's operant conditioning. The presence of a - serves as a positive punishment (especially when the consequences of the - are obvious). Reloading occurs because that behavior [reloading] becomes associated with replacing the - with a + and the replaced + comes to serve as a positive reinforcement of the reloading behavior.

 

I actually think I'm not explaining it well. Basically, people viewing the + or - symbols are given feedback that either punishes (-) or reinforces (+). People, in games, typically aren't very keen on punishment. So, it's often better to either not punish for simply mistakes (people come to expect punishment for big mistakes, such as mistakes that expectedly lead to character death) or make it not so obvious that you are punishing. I'm all for keeping the system and just obscuring the punishment because I think it helps to make the character interactions meaningful.

Edited by Tale
"Show me a man who "plays fair" and I'll show you a very talented cheater."
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I don't follow the criticism of developers posting comments ... developers should be free to interact with those of the fanbase who wish to interact ... if you don't want to read the (complicated or whatever) developer posts, then don't! For those of us who are interested in the technology that the games are built with, the dev comments are very illuminating.

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I don't follow the criticism of developers posting comments ... developers should be free to interact with those of the fanbase who wish to interact ... if you don't want to read the (complicated or whatever) developer posts, then don't! For those of us who are interested in the technology that the games are built with, the dev comments are very illuminating.

 

Seconded.

 

And I always bitch about NWN2's Perf issues, but the game is quality... The shadowing system is actually extremely impessive. WoW looks crap, blizzard build their games to run on anything, the result? Another grind fest that looks very much like a game from the same era as the orginal NWN's.

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"I'm a programmer at a games company... REET GOOD!" - Me

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Yeah, games like Star Ocean get away with it quite nicely because they keep it hidden. They don't start popping numbers up that let people know they did something "wrong." Those - and + numbers end up becoming feedback for players that is often more important to them than the actual NPCs reactions. I think there's something wrong with that. Influence is good for tracking NPC reactions, though. So, hide the numbers!

 

Nothing screams min/max when numbers float up on the screen. The downside is, do you really want to play through the story without unlocking every NPCs backstory through the influence system? That's why I reload.

 

I only played about 20 minutes of MotB before putting it down. I own a PS3 and even with its low game count there are currently more compelling titles I can play on my couch. I need a good reason to upgrade my video card and MotB isn't it yet.

 

MotB is best game in years. You lose.

 

Yeah, definetly one of my most intelligent posts :bat:

 

1) Under ambitious? Eeerr? "The current trend to release short games isn't helping your quality much" errrrr? Project planning has definetly been problem, especially with NWN2. But so far from looks of MotB it looks like OE has finally delivered "full" title.

 

2) NO NO NO. Even with its flaws influence system is ten times better than e.g Bioware's "you'll hear more about me when I gain new level" system aka K1 and Jade Empire. Besides it's more realistic ( although far from perfect on this regard ) system. Why should people who hate you share their stories with you and follow you around?

 

3) Eh? :ermm:

 

4) MotB has great art direction as well as soundtrack. No whining about it.

Edited by Xard

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While I disagree with your overall assessment, act, I completely disagree with your position on influence.

 

"(2) Drop the influence system. Drop it. Drop it. Drop it. There's nothing out there that screams RELOAD when you have a big negative number jump up on the screen."

 

If you feel the need to reload, then reload. If you consider that one portion of the game so important that you must reload on a mistake, apparently even just one, then you probably reload often for other mistakes as well. I don't begrudge you your particular playing habits. However, I would rather you didn't assume all gamers share them.

 

"I'm sorry if that makes us (your customer) shallow."

 

Not all. Just some.

 

The choice seems to be more opaque or more transparent. I wouldn't mind seeing Obsidz drop the numbers stating losses or gains in influence, but I think most players would probably be confused otherwise. The influence system is good and some feedback for the player is a necessary evil.

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The influence system is pretty critical to any systemic process for monitoring the impact of decisions and actions taken by the PC throughout the game. Just removing it won't solve the problem it was created to address. Also, I like the way it was implemented. (Even if I do reload, I *like* re-loading. It's like exercise.) :)

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(Even if I do reload, I *like* re-loading. It's like exercise.) :)

 

Haha. This is great quotable material. :Cant's chuckling icon:

Fionavar's Holliday Wishes to all members of our online community:  Happy Holidays

 

Join the revelry at the Obsidian Plays channel:
Obsidian Plays


 
Remembering tarna, Phosphor, Metadigital, and Visceris.  Drink mead heartily in the halls of Valhalla, my friends!

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Yeah, games like Star Ocean get away with it quite nicely because they keep it hidden. They don't start popping numbers up that let people know they did something "wrong." Those - and + numbers end up becoming feedback for players that is often more important to them than the actual NPCs reactions. I think there's something wrong with that. Influence is good for tracking NPC reactions, though. So, hide the numbers!

 

Agreed. I think if they are going to keep the influence system, stop with the "Influence Gained" messages. Just put your influence level on the character sheet and leave it at that, then if you really want to know your influence level, you can find it, but it doesn't interrupt gameplay with numbers.

 

As for releasing short games... The only game OBS has released that I consider short is MotB, which is an expansion. As a full game, its short. As an expansion, its long. MotB proves once and for all that OBS is capable of AAA quality titles.

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To tell the truth, I would love for more RPGs to be shorter. A bit longer than MotB perhaps, if it means more replayability and polish. I find most RPGs to be far to long in the sense that there are often sections in the game that bore the hell out of me. The NWN2 OC is a prime example of this, I really think it would've been better had a few sections been cut out of the game.

Fallout 1 was very good for me in that way because it's really not a long game by any means. But there's also not much content that feels 'filler'. The only thing I can think of is the Thieves Guild which really felt tacked on. Whereas Fallout 2 is a lot longer, but have several parts that I just dread replaying (many of the 'dungeons' and a few of the cities are just bleh).

 

My other favourite RPGs suffer from this as well. PS:T for example has the prison combat (where you find Trias), and while one might think that it doesn't affect the awesomeness of the game in the end, stuff like that really sours the experience for me.

 

That's not to say that I dislike long RPGs in general. But I would rather take a shorter, more focused and polished RPG than a longer and less focused one. I think that's part of why I view MotB so fondly now, because there is really no section of the game where I loathe the idea of replaying it.

Listen to my home-made recordings (some original songs, some not): http://www.youtube.c...low=grid&view=0

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I personally prefer shorter RPG games, around 30 hours would suffice instead of one that involves 100+ hours with 80% of the gameplay simply involves grinding.

 

A focused game like MotB or PS:T is my preferable choice, since my life is too busy to devote any time for extremely long games.

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I can't even consider 30 hours "short." Suikoden II is only about 20 hours, if I recall correctly, and it's one of my favorite games of all time.

 

Long games threaten tedium. Unless there's something immensely compelling, players will get bored before they finish. That is to say you have to have a story and gameplay mechanics good enough to be one of the very best games of the year to pull it off.

Edited by Tale
"Show me a man who "plays fair" and I'll show you a very talented cheater."
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Yeah, games like Star Ocean get away with it quite nicely because they keep it hidden. They don't start popping numbers up that let people know they did something "wrong." Those - and + numbers end up becoming feedback for players that is often more important to them than the actual NPCs reactions. I think there's something wrong with that. Influence is good for tracking NPC reactions, though. So, hide the numbers!

 

Agreed. I think if they are going to keep the influence system, stop with the "Influence Gained" messages. Just put your influence level on the character sheet and leave it at that, then if you really want to know your influence level, you can find it, but it doesn't interrupt gameplay with numbers.

It should be configurable, ideally, just as the messages of damage (hitpoints) can be toggled on/off, for example. -_-

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Yeah, games like Star Ocean get away with it quite nicely because they keep it hidden. They don't start popping numbers up that let people know they did something "wrong." Those - and + numbers end up becoming feedback for players that is often more important to them than the actual NPCs reactions. I think there's something wrong with that. Influence is good for tracking NPC reactions, though. So, hide the numbers!

 

Agreed. I think if they are going to keep the influence system, stop with the "Influence Gained" messages. Just put your influence level on the character sheet and leave it at that, then if you really want to know your influence level, you can find it, but it doesn't interrupt gameplay with numbers.

It should be configurable, ideally, just as the messages of damage (hitpoints) can be toggled on/off, for example. :w00t:

A most excellent idea -_-

 

I think I'll join the club of "Longer is Better". I don't really play a lot of games, but those I play, I play a lot.

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice.” - Albert Einstein

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I personally prefer shorter RPG games, around 30 hours would suffice instead of one that involves 100+ hours with 80% of the gameplay simply involves grinding.

So what you're saying is that you'd rather play a 30 hour game instead of a bad longer game? Genius. The games I'm talking about contains no "grinding". Basically, all the games I enjoy playing contain a lot of free-form gameplay. If I'm not interested in following the main storyline, the game lets me do stuff on my own. Some people like it, some don't. To call it grinding is a bit narrow-minded though. Not everyone wants to be hand-held through a corridor the entire time (the other extreme).

 

A focused game like MotB or PS:T is my preferable choice, since my life is too busy to devote any time for extremely long games.

This is another thing I just don't understand. You say you're "too busy to devote any time for extremely long games"? So what do you do instead? You buy a short game, play it through and quit gaming forever? No, you buy a short game, play it through, buy another short game, play it through and so on. You DO have time. Just instead of buying three short games, you get to play one game three times longer. Unless you've only played one short game in your entire life, you DO have time to play long games. Try adding up the time you've spent playing all your short games and see where this argument fails.

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Playing 3 short games is far better than playing 1 huge game. Why? More variation. More storylines. More gameplay. More, more, more. At the very least, I will have to adapt to the new cirmustance, and that adaption may be much more fun than getting used to the situation where it feels like grinding.

 

It's exactly the reason why I favor cheat mode. If I get tired going through a grind, I can just just skip to the ending, then pump in game #2. But without a cheat mode, that game's going to be DELETED and I'll move on regardless.

 

Of course, KOTOR is easy, so there is no need for a cheat mode. But for other games, ahem...

 

... games I'm talking about contains no "grinding". Basically, all the games I enjoy playing contain a lot of free-form gameplay.

 

Yeah, I like them. But I only play them for 2-3 hours too, before I get bored, shut off, and go to other games. Hey, blowing stuff up in GTA3 IS fun. Just that I like more variation. So, once I sample through the modes in a sandbox game, and beat the main story, I'll turn off the game.

Edited by SilentScope001
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Long games for me. How often do we get a NWN or a BG -game? Once every 5 years? If you beat it in 20 hrs, are you gonna hang out at the Bio/OE -boards for another 5 yrs and chit-chat until you get another 20 hrs -game?

 

Expansions do the trick though, to a certain extent.

 

Also, railroading vs. exploring makes or breakes a game for me. NWN2 was just horrible. You couldn't even walk off the road, ditch a character, or die. And you couldn't even control them, even in puppet-mode. So why even play (read: click through) the game? They should've made a movie instead. And with all the movie-"clips", they were pretty close. With regards to exploration, NWN2 doesn't even hold a candle to NWN.

 

A looong game, with lots of areas to explore. No easy cheat-modes or walkthroughs on the web 2 days after release. I'd like to hear stories about the guy who beat that new game, and how he finally did it after 3 months.

 

J.

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I'm not sure why are you attacking my post mkreku.

 

Its stated openly that those are my own personal opinions, not one which is meant to challenge and start an argument. I hope you are able to respect the opinions of others instead of attacking. Those are my feelings on the approach of RPG games, never meant to challenge other people's post here who thinks otherwise.

Edited by Zoma
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