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Josh Sawyer reveals some information about Project Eternity's attribute scores


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Tale,

 

Do you think that approach to character building was appropriate to IWD or BG1?

I try to speak of what I consider an ideal. Baldur's Gate and IWD were not ideal. But they made their audience happy, me included. And that's absolutely fair.

 

But I also remember that I had to cheat my way through every final boss encounter in the series of BG for one reason or another. I remember tagging Katanas. I remember struggling to find a good club for Jaheira. I remember that when I fought Melissan, only one person in the group had a weapon that could hit her. I remember the Golems in D'arnise Keep, I figured out they required special damage types to beat. I savescummed for hours just trying to figure it out and couldn't. So I looked it up online. I remember the guy outside of Friendly Arm who could one shot you as a mage.

 

I don't think a single one of these things made the game a more enjoyable experience for me.

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Think of rolling up a character as combat 

 

Uh, no? Why would I do that?

I think of the character generation as the menu of a fancy restaurant. And I assume and demand that none of the food is rotten.

 

It's nice that you find pleasure in "solving the optimization problem", but that isn't what an RPG is about and you shouldn't demand this as a feature. If an RPG with 10 classes can only be played through to the end if you choose a specific one and level that one in a specific way, then that's a design flaw.

 

I agree that you should be able to play a character that's bad at his class... deliberately. For example it can be fun to play a Fighter with the trait "Afraid of weapons and armor". A character should only be bad at his class if his skillset really looks like that was a bad idea.

Another option is to have a game where character generation actually isn't in the hands of the player. The game gives you a random character and you have to make do. That can be fun if you know it beforehand, and if the game encourages you to not just start over if you roll a bad character. Playing a weakling who sometimes has to choose morally questionable options simply because he can't survive the game otherwise is a thrilling experience. (It's what I loved about FTL: Faster Than Light, for example.) But like I said, you have to know beforehand. And for P:E, something like that shouldn't be default, though I can imagine it as a mod or as a hardcore mode.

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@Agris:

 

You wanna know what? I totally disagree, but that's the first post bemoaning the attribute system I've seen in this thread that I feel is well-argued. You explained the appeal of potentially making a "bad" character in a way I could understand, and you did so without belittling those who feel otherwise or acting as if your preference is an objective reality all must accept. Kudos. Seriously.

 

And, for what it's worth, although I disagree with your ultimate conclusion, I do actually think you're onto something with the "optimization problem" idea. I think that certain players (the math-oriented ones especially) really like the feeling of superiority over others they get when they create a well-optimized build, and don't quite grasp why others don't feel the same way about it. They see it as an element of the game they enjoy being removed, and they don't see the value in the system replacing it. To them, knowing how to make a good character is a skill that should be necessary for all cRPG players, and those who - in their minds - "refuse" to learn that skill should be "punished" with inferior builds.

 

If you'll permit me to take some folks to task, the problem with that idea is simple: it is necessarily elitist, and that sort of "you must know the secret handshake" elitism among core genre advocates is not conducive to the growth of the genre. It is not conducive to growing the market.

 

I recognize that many of you view "growing the market" a necessary evil at best, but you must consider the secondary and tertiary effects of a static market. No growth in the market means little to no room for experimentation with the "old-school cRPG" format. No room for experimentation means the genre doesn't evolve - and I mean really evolve, not "be more like action games for Call of Duty monies" evolve. Do you really want "Be exactly like this old game I enjoyed to the point of replicating its flaws which I myself have complained about!" to be the outer limit of cRPG developers' ambitions?

 

At the end of the day, if you truly care about the continued health of the classical cRPG, you gotta let newcomers into the clubhouse. That means sacrificing at the altar of progress a few mechanics that result in a demonstrably worse experience for ninety percent of players and a small ego boost for ten percent of them.

 

And yes, it is absolutely about ego to some degree. Maybe not a lot, and maybe not for everyone, but it is. I hear many people on the "bad build" side of the fence also decrying "player ego-stroking." That cuts both ways. Just as excessively egalitarian computer role-playing systems (your Mass Effects, your Skyrims) result in bland but playable generalist builds for every player, excessively meritocratic computer role-playing systems tend to result in bland but playable well-optimized specialist builds and a ton of suboptimal builds that range from kind of crappy in most situations to downright unplayable.

 

Is the boost to your ego you get from crafting a well-optimized build really worth turning off players who crave a meatier cRPG experience than what's out there now, but aren't D&D lifers? Because it's hypocritical in the extreme to hate on "ego-stroking" and then turn around and complain that character creation should be an inscrutable puzzle that only the "wisest" (read: random people who are the best at intuiting developer whims and word choices) among us should be able to solve. "Stroke me, I'm the bestest ego of all!" is just as bad as "Stroke all the egos!"

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I am not terribly concerned with what Mr. Sawyer has alluded. There was not information supplied to where I can make an informed oppinion, or even a broad assumption. I will have faith that Obsidian will develop an attribute system where all attributes can be useful to every class, in-so-much as that characters can be "viable" regardless of the particular preferences that manifest in any one player's composition.

 

I understand the anxieties associated with the potential over-simplication of character creation. With another company--or a different project, those fears might be more warrented. Please remember that this game is not primarily intended on gaining mass appeal. Obisidian wishes to build a game within a niche that they enjoy--that we enjoy. We have every indication that both mechanically and thematically, it will pursue that end.

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I guess it depends how you look at it. Very bad possibly not, but I'm satisfied if there is enough potential to make average and rather powerful builds. With the former, you could get problems on higher difficulty and small groups.

Even if you can't make a weak because intelligent and charismatic fighter anymore, there will still be stat distributions that are weaker than others, and you might make bad choices with your skills and feats, by combining them bad, or choosing feats/skills that don't fit your stats or your overall build concept well.

I think the intent is to make it without traps, not make it foolproof. So there may indeed be corner cases such that you build a character with stats that completely contradict equipment, or you maximize penalties that the game explicitly warns you not to do.

 

Like a fighter that equips the mage tome and robes, then stocks up on heavy armor mobility feats or something.

 

Reasonable. If Obsidian refers to the IE games however, I wouldn't say that they had traps. Putting aside the point that in a game where you control up to 6 party members, your main character usually isn't all that important anyway, It was hard to screw up your character at character creation because of your choice of stats. Even at the character creation screen (at least in BG and IWD) it was clearly noted which attributes were important for what classes, e.g strength and constitution for fighters. So if you made a fighter with 15 Intelligence and 15 Charisma, but 8 Strength and 8 Constitution, you're either a fool, or you did it on purpose for role-playing reasons. In the former case I have to agree with Nonek: RTFM.

 

If there is an advantage, than it's rather that you're more free to roleplay without affecting your characters efficiency in combat, which is I think what Josh Saywer actually meant. At least with regards to the IE games. 

Edited by Iucounu
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Read the manual, no puzzle in character creation then.

Not true. The manual tells you what a skill is supposed to do, not how it actually shakes out in gameplay. Look at Fallout. If you've never played it, and therefore have no idea what's already in the game, Outdoorsman might sound like the perfect thing to put a bunch of points into. Then you play the game, and it barely affects anything, and you've sunk precious points into an essentially useless ability. To someone who's never played Fallout before, Outdoorsman has just as much of a chance of being useful as Guns and Energy Weapons.

 

Yes, you could ask someone who knows what the viable builds are, but that's no fun, and it limits what character concepts you can actually play without worrying about going back to the beginning.

 

And yes, starting over until you figure out which classes are viable by arsing around with numbers is bull****, and I don't care what anyone says. If you like starting over as different builds before you find the one you like, more power to you, but it should be a literal choice between which build you like playing the most, not a question of which will be the key that opens the game's lock. You should be thinking, "Hmm, well, I really like being able to dodge stuff and pick locks, so I might take the Rogue. On the other hand, I'm controlling a party, so the Paladin's group inspiration mechanics might offer a nice buff to total party effectiveness, even if I'm not too keen on roleplaying a Paladin." Et cetera. Isn't "What will I like the most?" a better question to be asking than "What will I hate the least?"

 

If trying every key on a keyring until you find one that fits sounds like a good time to you, well, bully for you, but I don't think games - casual or hardcore (which is a false if occasionally useful distinction anyway) - should be made to cater to the five people who think that not being able to get into their house is an enjoyable pastime. The rest of us would like to enter our houses and get on with our days, thanks.

 

 

I do apologise if I caused offence Ffordesoon, but I honestly always read the manual, try to grasp the skill and attribute system and make my characters from an informed viewpoint. I'm sorry if this upsets you for some reason, I certainly don't think of myself as elite for doing so, I just got into the habit with the old Ultima manuals which were cracking reads, as well as being informative.

 

For your example of Outdoorsman, even though Fallout wasn't an Infinity engine game I agree that the skill was woefully underused, especially considering the enviroment of the Wasteland. I tagged it and found little use, except perhaps as a character defining trait. The rest of the SPECIAL system however made it easy to design a potent character who was shaped according to my desires, and the manuals aided me if I wished to catch up with a skill i'd underdeveloped or ignored (such as the mid game introduction of naturally superior energy weapons.) I certainly did not think it was unduly harsh, no offence if you found it so, we all have different areas in which we learn at different rates.

 

I have no problem with entry or egress from my domicile personally. 

 

Edit: I admit I do usually start a game over a few times with different builds and characters, to see whether their implementation matches my expectations, however that has little to do with mechanical issues and more to do with animations, looks etcetera.

Edited by Nonek

Quite an experience to live in misery isn't it? That's what it is to be married with children.

I've seen things you people can't even imagine. Pearly Kings glittering on the Elephant and Castle, Morris Men dancing 'til the last light of midsummer. I watched Druid fires burning in the ruins of Stonehenge, and Yorkshiremen gurning for prizes. All these things will be lost in time, like alopecia on a skinhead. Time for tiffin.

 

Tea for the teapot!

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Read the manual, no puzzle in character creation then.

I used to read the manual, until they largely stopped being useful...eg, just listing the controls/hotkeys, a few of the "possible cool items you may find!" and a bit o' flavor backstory on enemies or chrs. or whatnot.

 

A line that goes something like "Strength is the attribute that dictates how hard you hit" and "Life is what dictates when you die" isn't very useful in terms of knowing whether I'm going to like a Sword-Warrior or a Mace-Warrior in a particular game, or whether a mixed-skill type of character may be viable or not.

 

Some manuals are still better than others these days, of course. But a lot of the time...pffffft.

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@Agris:

 

I think the answer to your problem lies in the circumstantial effectiveness of your build.

 

What I mean is, if you make a Warrior with max Defense and HP, but with hardly any offensive capabilities whatsoever, then if you're trying to have him take stuff down, you have "failed." BUT, he's still viable. In general. You CAN use him for something, viably, throughout the whole game. If you spend all your time having him engage foes and corner and route enemies, he could be QUITE good at what he does.

 

So, yes, there can be a sense of accomplishment in more efficiently utilizing the rules to achieve your goal, as opposed to less-efficiently/effectively doing so. BUT, I don't think there's any need for you to be able to put 18 (DnD numbers example) in 3 stats, and 7 in 3 others, and have your character not be viable for ANYTHING in the game, just because of his class.

 

Basically, the game needs to have a greater variety of criteria for what is viable and what isn't. Or, to put it another way, a range of different forms of viability.

 

If you've "failed," it needs to be in the form of your character not being effective in the specific manner in which you wish them to be effective. Not "Your character literally is disabled, because your stat allocation counteracted all ways in which you're supposed to allocate your stats for this class." If you want to make a Wizard with 18 Strength who fights unarmed, then just because his Unarmed fighting capabilities aren't on par with a Fighter's or a Monk's doesn't mean he's nonviable, or that his melee fighting can't be useful. Maybe when opponents close in on him, he can effectively stun them, and/or disarm them, etc., then escape their engagement.

 

Again, if you just want him to smite everyone at close-range, without the use of his Wizardry, then yeah, he's not very viable under your criteria. So, strictly because of what you wanted out of your character, you shouldn't have built him that way, and you may have effectively "failed" at character creation.

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Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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@Ffordesoon and @Lephys

 

So I wrote a nice little reply and then accidentally clicked back.. anyway, thanks for the thoughtful comments. There's a lot going on in this discussion in regards to nostalgia, expectations and making an homage to some of the most revered RPGs '99 - '01. I think I've said everything I needed to, but I agree with a lot of what you both aree saying (at least in regards to mechanics, and respecting that others didn't like how punishing aspects of the old games were). Still, I'm holding out hope for enough complexity in character creation to reward those who spend time delving into the details of the game. Hopefully most agree with that, as it doesn't have to punish those that don't bury the face in the manual (or wiki).

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@Nonek:

 

I'm the one who should apologize. I failed to make clear that the latter half of the post you quoted (the angry-sounding part) was a belated response to Chrononaut's posts a few pages back. Your attitude, I have no problem with. The part before I get all sweary was the one directed at you.

 

As to your point about the Outdoorsman skill, I agree that it on its own is not game-breaking. There are probably better examples, even in Fallout itself (having to abruptly switch from building your Guns skill to building your Energy Weapons skill halfway through the game is another good example of an imbalance that only makes itself clear through play). It's just that Outdoorsman is famously useless, and most people here have probably played Fallout at least once, so it's an example that makes sense to people. I could have also mentioned Charisma, which is pointless if you play as a "good" character and virtually useless if you play as a character who's "bad" enough.

 

But reading the manual (which I always do, particularly if I'm about to start playing a classic computer game - not just because it's good standard practice, but because I like the old manuals and their focus on being enjoyable reads) does not tell you that Outdoorsman is going to be essentially useless. I've copied the description straight from my PDF of the manual to show you what I mean:

 

Outdoorsman. This is the skill of outdoor living, and survival

in a hostile environment. Not many people from the Vault are skilled

in Outdoorsman! Automatic use.

Initial Level. Starting Outdoorsman skill is equal to 5% + (1%

x the average of your Intelligence and Endurance). Average charac-

ters will have a 10% skill.

 

Now, if you can intuit what on God's green earth that description means in game terms without looking it up on the Fallout wiki, you clearly possess precognitive powers of some sort, because all I see is an entertaining description followed by the formula used for calculating the percentage - which would be very nice, if it was at all clear what the skill actually did.

 

My point: sometimes those old manuals, despite being tremendously fun to read, can nevertheless be misleading. As such, solving the puzzle of the character creation screen is not always a matter of simply reading the manual. That's all I'm saying.

 

Again, I apologize for not making it clear that I wasn't yelling at you in the latter half of my post. My bad. :)

 

EDIT: @Agris:

 

Oh, nobody's saying it can't be complex! I'd be very disappointed indeed if it weren't!

 

My only point is that a meaty, complex character creation system doesn't have to be (and, in my opinion, shouldn't be) a battle of wits between player and designer. But I absolutely want the people who like to "go deep" during character creation to be able to do so.

Edited by Ffordesoon
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@Agris:

 

I think the answer to your problem lies in the circumstantial effectiveness of your build.

 

What I mean is, if you make a Warrior with max Defense and HP, but with hardly any offensive capabilities whatsoever, then if you're trying to have him take stuff down, you have "failed." BUT, he's still viable. In general. You CAN use him for something, viably, throughout the whole game. If you spend all your time having him engage foes and corner and route enemies, he could be QUITE good at what he does.

 

So, yes, there can be a sense of accomplishment in more efficiently utilizing the rules to achieve your goal, as opposed to less-efficiently/effectively doing so. BUT, I don't think there's any need for you to be able to put 18 (DnD numbers example) in 3 stats, and 7 in 3 others, and have your character not be viable for ANYTHING in the game, just because of his class.

 

Basically, the game needs to have a greater variety of criteria for what is viable and what isn't. Or, to put it another way, a range of different forms of viability.

 

If you've "failed," it needs to be in the form of your character not being effective in the specific manner in which you wish them to be effective. Not "Your character literally is disabled, because your stat allocation counteracted all ways in which you're supposed to allocate your stats for this class." If you want to make a Wizard with 18 Strength who fights unarmed, then just because his Unarmed fighting capabilities aren't on par with a Fighter's or a Monk's doesn't mean he's nonviable, or that his melee fighting can't be useful. Maybe when opponents close in on him, he can effectively stun them, and/or disarm them, etc., then escape their engagement.

 

Again, if you just want him to smite everyone at close-range, without the use of his Wizardry, then yeah, he's not very viable under your criteria. So, strictly because of what you wanted out of your character, you shouldn't have built him that way, and you may have effectively "failed" at character creation.

 

Agreed. I always thought it would have been cool in the old D&D rules if there was really a good Wizard build for using touch spells like Shocking Grasp and Vampiric Touch, which were totally suboptimal, because if your Wizard was in melee you were probably doing something wrong, and touch spells were inferior to missle or area effect spells of the same level. It would be really cool if P:E allowed good nontraditional builds, like the armored wizard who can wades into melee and zaps people. Perhaps the new stat system will allow for something like this.

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I think a good rolepaying game has these qualities:

 

1. You define your character at character generation.

2. You grow your character through landmark choices during the game.

 

For #1, you NEED to convey to the player a sense of identity. It needs to be very strong, because we want our players to immediately start roleplaying the moment the game begins. A lot of RPGs that have you start out with few skills and identifying characteristics end up making me feel like I'm playing a blank slate that has no history or personality. Even if the choices we make at character generation are token gestures or cosmetic, as long as they feel impactful at the outset, I think the system is successful initially.

 

For #2, you NEED to offer compelling choice. This is what D&D and many other RPGs often lack. If RPG systems in a game present a warrior a binary choice at every level up ("More Damage/str!" or "More health/vit!"), then the game isn't presenting anything for our archetype characters to grow from.

 

Although I can't think of an RPG that does this, I think ideally, we should present players with very difficult chocies. It's one thing to play a dumb brute at the outset, but wouldn't it be interesting if that brute transformed into a scholar at the end of the game's narrative? You'd have a 'character arc'. An 'ideal' RPG should challenge players on the ways they plan, build and roleplay their characters.

 

Path of Exile, for instance (an ARPG), does challenge players with its system. http://www.pathofexile.com/passive-skill-tree

 

You start as a Marauder, and at first, your choices are very binary: damage or health. But as you progress, 2 choices become 4, 4 become 8, 8 become 16 and so on - eventually, you wonder, "Would a Marauder with daggers work? Would a Marauder that casts spells work?" Path of Exile's system is hardly perfect, but the theme here is what I'm espousing.

 

I agree that players should be able to quickly identify with the character they generate, but they should never feel like they're "forced" to bulid a character a certain way to be viable. The best way to accomplish this is to reward players who attempt creative builds. Make sure there are items or skills in the game that scale or are most effective with unusual attributes for a given class (a wand that requires a fast attacker, or a staff that has lots of critical strike chance). A single strong, role-defining item can be just enough to make certain odd builds viable in the context of the game. The same can happen with a skill.

 

You don't need a prestiege class to make certain "off-attributes" viable for classes. Consider a very powerful magical spell that only works at melee range and can be interrupted by attacks that deal a certain amount of damage - such a spell would require mages to wear plate and get into melee to utilize it most effectively. A skil like that existing is really all it takes to make certain odd builds viable in a strategy game.

 

Shadowrun Returns just game out and my main is classless. I've just been picking up skils and raising attributes that I think go well together. It's interesting so far, the game is actually really good if you play a hybrid class. So long as your points aren't spread too thin, you can still deal effective damage with guns while casting spells and conjuring allies.

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Tale,

 

Do you think that approach to character building was appropriate to IWD or BG1?

I try to speak of what I consider an ideal. Baldur's Gate and IWD were not ideal. But they made their audience happy, me included. And that's absolutely fair.

 

But I also remember that I had to cheat my way through every final boss encounter in the series of BG for one reason or another. I remember tagging Katanas. I remember struggling to find a good club for Jaheira. I remember that when I fought Melissan, only one person in the group had a weapon that could hit her. I remember the Golems in D'arnise Keep, I figured out they required special damage types to beat. I savescummed for hours just trying to figure it out and couldn't. So I looked it up online. I remember the guy outside of Friendly Arm who could one shot you as a mage.

 

I don't think a single one of these things made the game a more enjoyable experience for me.

 

 

But you still remember them? Then I think that it was especialy good. I have played ME 2 years back and honestly didnt remember much of it, because there was no chalange in it. And just for note, there is now katana in BG1 (even in weapon tag skills) and there is scimitar only with expansion installed if I am correct.

Edited by Chilloutman

I'm the enemy, 'cause I like to think, I like to read. I'm into freedom of speech, and freedom of choice. I'm the kinda guy that likes to sit in a greasy spoon and wonder, "Gee, should I have the T-bone steak or the jumbo rack of barbecue ribs with the side-order of gravy fries?" I want high cholesterol! I wanna eat bacon, and butter, and buckets of cheese, okay?! I wanna smoke a Cuban cigar the size of Cincinnati in the non-smoking section! I wanna run naked through the street, with green Jell-O all over my body, reading Playboy magazine. Why? Because I suddenly may feel the need to, okay, pal? I've SEEN the future. Do you know what it is? It's a 47-year-old virgin sitting around in his beige pajamas, drinking a banana-broccoli shake, singing "I'm an Oscar Meyer Wiene"

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But you still remember them? Then I think that it was especialy good.

The mind is often better at recalling bad memories than good ones. So don't read too much into the fact that I remember.
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I find their approach too radical. I didnt like path of exile that much either. I think the best way would be to build a system that is a hybrid of these two extreme ends. Although the dnd system never really was at the extreme opposite end of what PE is going with either, at least not in 3e like IWD2. Intelligence was still good on a rogue and consitution was still good on a wizard. That was a decent system at the core, but very crude. A better approach would have been to make a similar system that is more sophisticated.

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But you still remember them? Then I think that it was especialy good. I have played ME 2 years back and honestly didnt remember much of it, because there was no chalange in it. And just for note, there is now katana in BG1 (even in weapon tag skills) and there is scimitar only with expansion installed if I am correct.

ME2's combat system had plenty of challenges. Most of those challenges consisted of resisting the sometimes overwhelming temptation to blow your brains out with a shotgun, but they were challenges nonetheless.

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It should absolutely be possible to build a character who is bad at his class.

 

As for beginner traps, I would argue that later editions (3+) did that more often than the earlier editions did, as the earlier editions offered dual-classing as a get-out-of-jail-free card. Plus, dual-classing allowed you to mix-and-match abilities in non-stanard ways without disadvantaging your character.

 

Do you want your Necromancer to dual-wield rapiers? You can do that in 3E by taking some Fighter or Rogue levels, but that reduces your effectiveness as a Necromancer relative to your encounter level. But in 2nd edition, you could simply dual-class from Thief or Ranger and then your Necromancer ultimately pays no penalty.

 

Agreed.

I think we need more info.

 

About choosing the wrong weapon or ability in cc and paying for it later: That is a separate issue entirely.

"The harder the world, the fiercer the honour."

Weapon master,- Flail of the dead horse +5.

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I find their approach too radical.

 

Provided you are talking about PE we really don't know how radical their approach really is. A "viable build" could be still very far from optimal.

 

It also could mean the character is only effective with a very specific weapon- or armour configuration or needs a very unusual combat tactic that isn't easy to find out. It could mean that you have to take specific traits or skills to make that build viable.

 

I think the last example really is the best that could happen. It would mean character creation on the first play through is never a dead-end later because you can always learn the necessary skills while playing, but on replay or playing the next game chargen is very important to find different builds.

Edited by jethro
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@Agris:

 

You wanna know what? I totally disagree, but that's the first post bemoaning the attribute system I've seen in this thread that I feel is well-argued. You explained the appeal of potentially making a "bad" character in a way I could understand, and you did so without belittling those who feel otherwise or acting as if your preference is an objective reality all must accept. Kudos. Seriously.

 

And, for what it's worth, although I disagree with your ultimate conclusion, I do actually think you're onto something with the "optimization problem" idea. I think that certain players (the math-oriented ones especially) really like the feeling of superiority over others they get when they create a well-optimized build, and don't quite grasp why others don't feel the same way about it. They see it as an element of the game they enjoy being removed, and they don't see the value in the system replacing it. To them, knowing how to make a good character is a skill that should be necessary for all cRPG players, and those who - in their minds - "refuse" to learn that skill should be "punished" with inferior builds.

 

If you'll permit me to take some folks to task, the problem with that idea is simple: it is necessarily elitist, and that sort of "you must know the secret handshake" elitism among core genre advocates is not conducive to the growth of the genre. It is not conducive to growing the market.

 

I recognize that many of you view "growing the market" a necessary evil at best, but you must consider the secondary and tertiary effects of a static market. No growth in the market means little to no room for experimentation with the "old-school cRPG" format. No room for experimentation means the genre doesn't evolve - and I mean really evolve, not "be more like action games for Call of Duty monies" evolve. Do you really want "Be exactly like this old game I enjoyed to the point of replicating its flaws which I myself have complained about!" to be the outer limit of cRPG developers' ambitions?

 

At the end of the day, if you truly care about the continued health of the classical cRPG, you gotta let newcomers into the clubhouse. That means sacrificing at the altar of progress a few mechanics that result in a demonstrably worse experience for ninety percent of players and a small ego boost for ten percent of them.

 

And yes, it is absolutely about ego to some degree. Maybe not a lot, and maybe not for everyone, but it is. I hear many people on the "bad build" side of the fence also decrying "player ego-stroking." That cuts both ways. Just as excessively egalitarian computer role-playing systems (your Mass Effects, your Skyrims) result in bland but playable generalist builds for every player, excessively meritocratic computer role-playing systems tend to result in bland but playable well-optimized specialist builds and a ton of suboptimal builds that range from kind of crappy in most situations to downright unplayable.

 

Is the boost to your ego you get from crafting a well-optimized build really worth turning off players who crave a meatier cRPG experience than what's out there now, but aren't D&D lifers? Because it's hypocritical in the extreme to hate on "ego-stroking" and then turn around and complain that character creation should be an inscrutable puzzle that only the "wisest" (read: random people who are the best at intuiting developer whims and word choices) among us should be able to solve. "Stroke me, I'm the bestest ego of all!" is just as bad as "Stroke all the egos!"

 

I don't agree with you that the RPG genre necessarily needs to reject "build optimization" in order to "grow". Roguelikes are an RPG subgenre that is essentially based on trial-and-error build optimization and they've proven to be quite popular.

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While I can see that a well-optimized build might give a sense of satisfaction, I don't think the prospect of failure is absolutely necessary for that, as long as the options are varied enough to produce different gameplay experiences. In other words, different builds can provide satisfactorily different experiences without necessarily providing "better" or "worse" experiences, so to speak. However, the question of how different builds lead to divergent experiences is a complex one.

 

Ultimately the problems lies with combat outcomes, which are traditionally predicted in terms of "dps". If one attribute lets the player swing their sword harder, and one lets them swing it faster, the difference between putting points in either stat will be somewhat negligible, as they both improve dps. Now, you could say that this trade-off may lead to characters being more effective against certain kinds of enemies, which is true, but I'd still say that this kind of attribute system isn't the most rewarding.

 

If you want to move toward further abstraction, you could represent the sum of combat viability as "ddps-dtps" (or damage dealt per second minus damage taken per second). In this way, even defensive stats begin to serve the same purpose of improving the "ddps-dtps" quantity, and to some extent which stat you choose to increase is inconsequential (improving any attribute just makes you better at killing things before you get killed), etc. This is indeed mitigated by other factors such as party synergy and support abilities, and whether builds align with personal playstyles, but even so it starts to feel a bit pointless and only changes the player's experience in a shallow way.

 

In a traditional system (i.e. DnD-based), this is further mitigated by the inclusion of non-combat skills and abilities into the effects of various attributes, but we know that there will not be trade-offs between combat and non-combat effectiveness in PE. So- unless Obsidian can figure out a way to have each individual attribute possess equal relevance to combat and non-combat gameplay- that leaves two options for attributes (and I think we know which Obsidian is taking): either have the attributes exclusively affect combat abilities, or have them pertain exclusively to non-combat abilities.

 

Personally if I had to choose, I would pick the latter since non-combat tends to be more holistic (and therefore more requiring of broad attribute trade-offs) and then have some kind of perk-based system for combat, but instead I think that we will get some variation of "attack power, attack speed, attack accuracy, evasive defense, and endurance defense" etc. That leaves me concerned that the attribute allocation step of character creation will be more cosmetic than actually influential on gameplay (which will still depend on ddps-dtps, whichever attributes you choose to increase), and that the non-combat skills will be left unintegrated with the rest of the system.

Edited by mcmanusaur
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That leaves me concerned that the attribute allocation step of character creation will be more cosmetic than actually influential on gameplay (which will still depend on ddps-dtps, whichever attributes you choose to increase), and that the non-combat skills will be left unintegrated with the rest of the system.

Hasn't Josh explicitly said that there will be no such thing as a purely non-combat skill?  

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That leaves me concerned that the attribute allocation step of character creation will be more cosmetic than actually influential on gameplay (which will still depend on ddps-dtps, whichever attributes you choose to increase), and that the non-combat skills will be left unintegrated with the rest of the system.

Hasn't Josh explicitly said that there will be no such thing as a purely non-combat skill?  

 

Has he? What are crafting, stealth skills, and so on, then?

 

I should probably clarify what I meant by "unintegrated", which is a situation in which you have a comple and unified combat system (ex. combat-based classes and attributes that affect combat performance), and then non-combat skill points are something that you independently allocate on the side, implicitly relegating non-combat approaches to a secondary, comparatively simplistic role ("okay, now that you've spent the last twenty minutes defining your character's abilities in combat, just allocate some skill points and you're good to go!").

Edited by mcmanusaur
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That leaves me concerned that the attribute allocation step of character creation will be more cosmetic than actually influential on gameplay (which will still depend on ddps-dtps, whichever attributes you choose to increase), and that the non-combat skills will be left unintegrated with the rest of the system.

Hasn't Josh explicitly said that there will be no such thing as a purely non-combat skill?  

 

Has he? What are crafting, stealth skills, and so on, then?

 

I should probably clarify what I meant by "unintegrated", which is a situation in which you have a comple and unified combat system (ex. combat-based classes and attributes that affect combat performance), and then non-combat skill points are something that you independently allocate on the side, implicitly relegating non-combat approaches to a secondary, comparatively simplistic role ("okay, now that you've spent the last twenty minutes defining your character's abilities in combat, just allocate some skill points and you're good to go!").

 

 

Josh said the following on his Formspring a couple weeks back: "PE's skills grant auxiliary combat bonuses. I'm designing them to have a minor but not insignificant effect on how individual battles and series of battles unfold. Combat capability is dominantly determined by your class (and class abilities), attributes, talents, and gear."  So I assume that he did not mean to exclude any skills.  If you recall, part of the whole reason for the now-scrapped durability mechanic was to make sure that all skills had combat and non-combat applications.

 

I understand your fear with regards to lack of integration, but I think, given the above and other things Josh has said elsewhere, that it's not a peculiarly reasonable fear.

Edited by tajerio
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If you want to move toward further abstraction, you could represent the sum of combat viability as "ddps-dtps" (or damage dealt per second minus damage taken per second). In this way, even defensive stats begin to serve the same purpose of improving the "ddps-dtps" quantity, and to some extent which stat you choose to increase is inconsequential (improving any attribute just makes you better at killing things before you get killed), etc. This is indeed mitigated by other factors such as party synergy and support abilities, and whether builds align with personal playstyles, but even so it starts to feel a bit pointless and only changes the player's experience in a shallow way.
 
In a traditional system (i.e. DnD-based), this is further mitigated by the inclusion of non-combat skills and abilities into the effects of various attributes...
 

 

If you reduce combat to an integer there is only one dimension left to go. If someone is only interested in max diff-dps instead of what tactics he can employ he will always find a build that has max effectiveness overall (while maybe ignoring the fact that there are more profound weaknesses against specific enemies, but lets not diverge on that tangent).

 

I don't see this changed in any meaningful way in D&D. Sure, the attributes also influence non-combat skills, but all this means is that the wizard gets the skills that need high int because he already has high int. For the power gamer there is no meaningful choice involved and even the role-player is bound by the D&D rules to either let combat rule the attributes or play one difficulty level lower. When did you last play a low-int or even medium-int mage? My answer to this question would be "never".

 

So there is this D&D system where one attribute build is essentially the one true build irrespective without any mitigation worth mentioning and I don't think it should be praised for that

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I don't mean to praise DnD-based systems at all (rather, many DnD conventions have my personal permission to die in a fire); rather I simply mention DnD as the example of a system where there are more concrete trade-offs between combat viability and non-combat viability, which at least hypothetically leads to more variation in gameplay experiences based off the details of attribute allocation in a given build. In such systems, allocating points to attributes such as intelligence and charisma tends to result in greater non-combat viability and a more different playthrough than would result if the only options were distributing points into more generalized abstractions like attack power, rate of attack, attack accuracy, etc. (which are along the lines of what I'm expecting due to the claims that all attributes will be equally viable for every class) that all just ultimately contribute to dps, and simply increasing dps via different avenues doesn't lead to adequately unique and interesting gameplay experiences to justify the inclusion of attribute allocation in my opinion. If the developers can figure out somehow to make the attributes generalized but not bland like those that I mention, or if they can ensure that attribute allocation affects both combat and non-combat sectors of player experience without creating a trade-off between the two (which they aspire to avoid), then perhaps this won't be an issue, but we have yet to see the specific solution that PE proposes.

Edited by mcmanusaur
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