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Josh Sawyer: Balance and Utility

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#41
Lephys

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(EDIT: You guys totally beat me to most of what I was saying, haha.)
^^^@Quadrone:

I think he only wants to get away from the design of classes that can only accomplish certain, necessary tasks. Example:

Mage's shields. In a lot of prior RPGs, if a Mage is using a barrier to render 99% of your party's attacks useless (if not 100%), then the ONLY thing you could do was have a Mage cast the correct spell to un-invulnerablize him (totally a word... don't look it up, it's... really new?). Well, in P:E, the blast from a firearm can pierce the Mage's barrier. And, since they mentioned something about "close range" (which makes sense, because the blast/bullet constantly loses velocity the longer it's out of the barrel), I'd guess that taking on that Mage with just a gun-wielder in your group will be different from simply casting "DE-BARRIER!". You might have to get someone close to the Mage, or fire several shots that crack the barrier before its pierced.

There's a difference between accomplishing the same goal and doing the same thing.

As for the negative impact, I think the only thing that'll be is that "Awww, I'm kinda nostalgic about how I used to have to use one class to do this this certain way and that was it. He felt super uber important because of that!". Which, I'm not mocking that nostalgia, and it IS something that we can't really feel to quite the same degree without relying on specific class roles. BUT, we'll still be able to feel that our classes are important, because they're still doing useful things, and how we build/use them will be very important.

In the example above, you can STILL have a Mage who de-barriers that enemy Mage, and think "Man, I sure am glad I built my trusty Mage like I did. He sure is trusty and handy. I don't really want to have to crack shields with firearms."

So, it basically says "Hey, look at all the customization you have with your characters! And don't worry, because many skills/builds are quite useful across a range of situations!", instead of the previous "Hey, look at all that character customization! Oh, but you might not wanna pick that ability, or raise that skill, or your character will be too weak to perform his appointed task, u_u".

Edited by Lephys, 14 December 2012 - 12:03 PM.

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#42
Adhin

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100% agree there Lephys, personally never had a nostalgia with that level of forced class stuff heh. I loved BG man, always held it above other things back then, was so revolutionary and all that to me. But I just kept wondering why I was so forcibly restricted in what any given person could do it never made sense to me. I got real excited when I was reading up documents and the approaches being taken for 3E and all the customization and 'everyone has skills now' and all that. Felt like all my internal whining and complaints about 2E was getting dealt with heh.

As for PE, their whole soul premise along with the design philosophy (that's a newer, updated reminisce of the 3E advances) has me just as excited.

#43
Lephys

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^ Heh, yeah, I personally always tried to push the class bounds in 2E when my friends and I played. :)

It was pretty tough. But, in the pen and paper games, the DM had the power and liberty to allow for tweaks to the system. Sort of on-the-spot modding, if you will, to allow for more versatility. So, he could allow my Mage to be slightly less useless in melee combat. Or, I'd pick skills like Climb and Hide, and he'd match my creativity by adding in little things here and there that would allow something other than my Intelligence and Magic to be useful.

But, cRPGs can only have so much hardcoded into them, so, if the devs don't design the system to support variance from the get-go, you run into the severe-restriction dilemma. It's just not fun to be strictly penalized for trying to be creative with the options provided for you in character development. It's like they've put out a buffet table, with 100 dishes, but only one of them is actually edible. The rest of them are rocks and bits of scrap metal and shards of glass... chemicals... Heh. "Oh, you can totally eat ANY of this stuff, but if you pick anything but the mashed potatoes, you'll suffer from internal bleeding the entire night."

Edited by Lephys, 14 December 2012 - 12:46 PM.

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#44
Quadrone

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I agree with what has been said in rebuttal to my previous post and do hope your assumptions are right, since having multiple solutions to a problem is absolutely fine, or actually something to expect.
Just to point it out though, my example of the fighter party was a bit of hyperbole and worst case scenario on my part, based on the possibility of not needing "a character of class x/y/z to move forward". I didn't really think that Obsidian would go down such a road of extreme "balance" but felt it necessary to show what such an inclusive, balanced approach could lead to.
Namely a game in which you can never go wrong and any challenge can be overcome by anyone at any time.

#45
l3loodangel

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A quick questions to JS:
1. What if everybody plays a chanter? Don't tell me you are going to Buff 10 classes. Same question applies to races.

#46
Elerond

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A quick questions to JS:
1. What if everybody plays a chanter? Don't tell me you are going to Buff 10 classes. Same question applies to races.


I think that in case that one class or race is superior to others, then that class or race will get nerf update.

#47
ogrezilla

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I am super happy they are moving away from the DnD class designs. I am also happy they aren't listening to the fans too much. The guys at Obsidian are better game designers than we are. There is no doubt in my mind that JS has a better understanding of what will make a game I enjoy than I do myself. This thread has me even more optimistic.

Edited by ogrezilla, 15 December 2012 - 04:53 AM.

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#48
wanderon

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While concerns are understandable, toward the unknowns of what the developers are attempting . . . I find something else to be concerned about. It's not what Obsidian are doing that I find of concern, it's the fan views of every last thing they're doing. The amount of negativity toward almost every single aspect, toward almost every single decision, is going beyond simply questioning. Questioning would be fine. It's this outright certainty some people have that one aspect, another, several or all of P:E is inherently wrong or flawed or what have you that's starting to get on my nerves.

It's nice to see people voice their concerns, and to see Obsidian respond to them, of course. Still, in short I agree with his response to one of the questions here:

Inevitably? Come on.


The questioner is so certain, and so certain based on . . . what? I share Sawyer's disbelief in the above quote. More and more people that think they know more about the game the Developers are making, than the Developers themselves, despite having next to no information on the game made public yet.


This - exactly!

#49
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the more I hear Josh talk the more confident I become that this is going to be a great game. Everything he says just inspires more confidence to me that he "gets it".
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#50
Dream

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A quick questions to JS:
1. What if everybody plays a chanter? Don't tell me you are going to Buff 10 classes. Same question applies to races.


I think that in case that one class or race is superior to others, then that class or race will get nerf update.


Who nerfs singleplayer games? That's about the most retarded thing I've ever heard of.

#51
Tamerlane

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A quick questions to JS:
1. What if everybody plays a chanter? Don't tell me you are going to Buff 10 classes. Same question applies to races.


I think that in case that one class or race is superior to others, then that class or race will get nerf update.


Who nerfs singleplayer games? That's about the most retarded thing I've ever heard of.

Firaxis, Bioware, Bethesda, and Obsidian all come instantly to mind.

Some developers try to balance their single-player games. Madness, I know.
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#52
Frenetic Pony

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The simple equation here is that you need to hit a range, where players can fail, perhaps greatly on the hardest difficulties if they do the "wrong" things, and succeed greatly if they do the right things. This includes how you build out your party. If there's no "wrong" party balance, then alternately there's also no "right" party balance. There's nothing to win, and it becomes an aesthetic choice rather than an interesting, strategic one.

And an aesthetic choice should be fine for lower difficulties. Players there might just want to have the npc's they think are the most fun to have around, and choose the powers they think are the coolest, all without regard to how the party works together.

But for higher level difficulties I suspect players are going to desire, even expect that optimizing each characters build with respect to the party as a whole to be incredibly important. This is an area where DIablo 3, among many other modern RPG games, went wrong. They see simply that there's a section of players that don't enjoy the challenge of building out there characters in an extremely optimized way; and so they get rid of that. This completely ignores a large section of players that DO enjoy optimizing numbers and character builds.

A game can have it both ways if the work and effort is put in, but many game developers don't even recognize that otpimization players are even there (loud and vociferous as some may be). Personally I hope Project Eternity is a game that can accomplish both goals.
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#53
Wirdjos

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And an aesthetic choice should be fine for lower difficulties. Players there might just want to have the npc's they think are the most fun to have around, and choose the powers they think are the coolest, all without regard to how the party works together.

But for higher level difficulties I suspect players are going to desire, even expect that optimizing each characters build with respect to the party as a whole to be incredibly important. This is an area where DIablo 3, among many other modern RPG games, went wrong. They see simply that there's a section of players that don't enjoy the challenge of building out there characters in an extremely optimized way; and so they get rid of that. This completely ignores a large section of players that DO enjoy optimizing numbers and character builds.

A game can have it both ways if the work and effort is put in, but many game developers don't even recognize that otpimization players are even there (loud and vociferous as some may be). Personally I hope Project Eternity is a game that can accomplish both goals.


This is a great point, Frenetic Pony. I actually fall into both of the catergories you mentioned depending on the day. Sometimes I do want combat to easy almost to the point of triviality because I'm only there for the story. Other times I want to metagame and min-max my way through soul crushing challenges. For people like me, and I doubt the way I play is terribly rare, a game that has a vast range of difficultly (in combat especially) between the easiest and hardest settings is ideal. It would be so ideal that I feel it does surpass the 'if it's in the budget' barrier that so many optional options should and do run into. I really do hope they are able to develop an AI that can scale difficultly through strategic means and not power/health adjustments as I think it would help to create that range and keep each difficulty fun.

#54
Dream

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Firaxis, Bioware, Bethesda, and Obsidian all come instantly to mind.

Some developers try to balance their single-player games. Madness, I know.


Balancing is one thing, but nerfing after its been released?

#55
Lord of Lost Socks

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The optimal party balance means that every class will feel distinctive but they will all be completely viable regardless of party composition.

Iirc, Bards sucked in Baldur's Gate. What I would like to see is a system where having a party of 6 bards is as viable as having a party with 5 mages or a party with one of each archetype. All without sacrificing what makes classes special. Hard maybe, but I refuse to believe impossible.

#56
Tamerlane

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Firaxis, Bioware, Bethesda, and Obsidian all come instantly to mind.

Some developers try to balance their single-player games. Madness, I know.


Balancing is one thing, but nerfing after its been released?

All the companies I mentioned above have done that with games released in the last few years.

#57
Lephys

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The simple equation here is that you need to hit a range, where players can fail, perhaps greatly on the hardest difficulties if they do the "wrong" things, and succeed greatly if they do the right things. This includes how you build out your party. If there's no "wrong" party balance, then alternately there's also no "right" party balance. There's nothing to win, and it becomes an aesthetic choice rather than an interesting, strategic one.


I don't think anyone wants there to not be a wrong party build. When they say "There shouldn't be a 'right' party build," it means, more-so, that there shouldn't literally be A correct party build, as far as why that particular phrase gets used. Obviously, there's going to be more than 2 party builds, one being right and one being wrong. But, the very fact that you have a system in which you can build 700 different party variants should mean that 600 of them shouldn't be completely out-of-the-question. Some of them are always going to be at the bottom of the usefulness range, but the goal is to design the game such that the viable-to-not-viable ratio is as high as possible. That's all.

Your skill points and character development are like currency. If you have $100 to spend, you don't want the options of:

A) This nuclear death ray, OR

B) This toothpick.


While the options you get aren't going to be perfectly even (unless your game has literally no variance whatsoever to allow for situational advantages/disadvantages), you don't just say "Oh well, they're gonna be uneven... who cares HOW uneven...".

I think that's all that's being emphasized here.
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#58
Gatt

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My thoughts? This is terrible design. It generates numerous unresolvable problems.

-First, it invalidates the decisions you make during character creation. Picking a well balanced party is pointless, because even if you don't take a thief you don't miss anything. So the "decisions" you make during party creation are meaningless, because it ceases to matter what party you make, you'll be just fine with anything.

-Second, it promotes degenerate gameplay. Since it doesn't matter what party you have, the only party to have is the one with the highest damage outpout. Right there, the healer class, thief class, bard, ranger, druid, etc, they're all useless. The only characters to make are the Fighter and the Mage. Because all of those special purpose classes no longer have a purpose, since "We don't want any class to be necessary", those special purpose classes are no longer necessary. In a system where you don't need to have a thief to open locks and find traps, there's never a reason to pick one over a fighter. In a system where you don't need a healer to heal you, there's never a reason to pick a Cleric over a Mage. Especially since that also means your class won't open/close any quest doors.

--Third, it starts closing doors on story. Can't have a storyline involving your Cleric desperately trying to heal someone, they can't. Can't have a storyline about your thief trying to steal something, your thief isn't special anymore, anyone can do it since we don't want to have to require a thief.

Honestly, PE is really starting to reek of 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons. At-will magic powers with cooldowns, no healer required just get your "Second wind", etc. Considering that 4th edition D&D didn't do well at all, I'd really caution against using the systems from it as a design model. Generally speaking, if product A sold badly because of it's qualities. putting them into product B will have the same result.

#59
anubite

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Generally speaking, if product A sold badly because of it's qualities. putting them into product B will have the same result.



Things can be more than the sum of their parts, though I do agree with your fears to a certain extent. I don't think it's impossible to make the mechanics you listed work. But, I think they would be better off reconsidering some of these systems and trying some more traditional base systems, with some more creative in-house details to such systems (perhaps multiple classes can perform the role of a healer, not simply a priest/spellcaster), or what-not.

The one thing I have to say in regards to Sawyer's video is that... when designing a game, one should strive to make all options potentially valid, but you don't want perfect balance. You want there to be a "good" and a "bad" choice in any given situation. If every choice is "equally valid" then there is scarcely a game to be had, because any choice you make wins the game equally.

#60
Zenning

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My thoughts? This is terrible design. It generates numerous unresolvable problems.

-First, it invalidates the decisions you make during character creation. Picking a well balanced party is pointless, because even if you don't take a thief you don't miss anything. So the "decisions" you make during party creation are meaningless, because it ceases to matter what party you make, you'll be just fine with anything.


Are you serious? No really? Are you serious? Did you not pay attention to what Sawyer and the rest of the people were saying? I mean, its like you heard "We're gonna balance things so nobody can just dismiss any class or skill", and somehow got "We're gonna make every character identical". Not to mention, being fine with anything does not mean you'll get to experience everything. Sure, you can beat the game with 6 warriors, but it will be a completely goddamn different experience than playing with a regular balanced party. Nowhere in anything did he even imply that somehow imply that you no longer want a balanced party. Nowhere.

-Second, it promotes degenerate gameplay. Since it doesn't matter what party you have, the only party to have is the one with the highest damage outpout. Right there, the healer class, thief class, bard, ranger, druid, etc, they're all useless. The only characters to make are the Fighter and the Mage. Because all of those special purpose classes no longer have a purpose, since "We don't want any class to be necessary", those special purpose classes are no longer necessary. In a system where you don't need to have a thief to open locks and find traps, there's never a reason to pick one over a fighter. In a system where you don't need a healer to heal you, there's never a reason to pick a Cleric over a Mage. Especially since that also means your class won't open/close any quest doors.


There it is again. Look, being able to solve every encounter with any party layout, does not mean that every party needs to be able to finish it identically. Hell, outside the main quest, it doesn't even mean that specific party layouts can solve it. Not to mention, are you seriously claiming to understand the classes and systems Obsidian is putting in place for clerics and other spell casters? How the hell do you suddenly know what these clerics are gonna be like now that healing is no longer just straight give more people hp. Next, you once again are somehow thinking that not being necssary is now equal to being useless. It's just the idea that yes, I can have my warrior run through those traps, and be severly weakend for the next fight, or I could have my theif go and disable em. Or hell, maybe I'll have my mage summon monsters to "disarm" em, or better yet, I'll mind control my enemies with my Chanter, and make the enemies run straight into their own traps. See, I was able to come up with situations that would be completely different and viable, without relying on any single class.

--Third, it starts closing doors on story. Can't have a storyline involving your Cleric desperately trying to heal someone, they can't. Can't have a storyline about your thief trying to steal something, your thief isn't special anymore, anyone can do it since we don't want to have to require a thief.


I have never, EVER, heard of a game like this that gave you class specific quests. Ever. It has not been done. Period. And hell, you're the roleplayer right? If your reason for ass kicking i to heal every person you see, or lighten the pockets of every merchant you come across, you can still do that. Once again, I really don't get where the hell you're making these assumptions from. Its like you're assuming the developers are all idiots, who can't tell the difference between balanced, and everything being identical. Also, how exactly does allowing for a more diverse style of play close doors? Sure, now they won't suddenly know exactly what the player is capable of in each encounter, but that just means that they will have to allow for even more freedom in how to solve these encounters, not less (Unless they're terrible developers).

Honestly, PE is really starting to reek of 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons. At-will magic powers with cooldowns, no healer required just get your "Second wind", etc. Considering that 4th edition D&D didn't do well at all, I'd really caution against using the systems from it as a design model. Generally speaking, if product A sold badly because of it's qualities. putting them into product B will have the same result.


4E sold well, and has a sizeable fanbase. Its about as popular as Pathfinder, and it is fun, if for different reasons. I don't want PE to be 4E, and I don't want it to be pathfinder, I want it to be PE. And right now, we don't know much about how mechanically these classes will function, and how they will vary. But we do know that Obsidian is pretty damn good at these kinds of games, so at the very least we can give them the benifit of the doubt until they start telling us exactly how the game actually plays, instead of just assuming that what ever design their going for already sucks.
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