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I wouldn't say the limitations are the same at all.  I think it's a huge difference, and its applications result a very different play experience.  Let's say you, the player, are having a conversation with an NPC.  In a tabletop game, you could say any number of things, with all sorts of inflection and references contained therein.  In a CRPG, your conversation will permit you a very specific number of particular options.  There's no room for any gray area whatsoever - your choices are clearly defined before you as the player are even aware of what they are.  Improvisation on the part of a DM might not be nearly as important as improvisation by the player; in a CRPG the player has essentially no room for improvisation beyond what is coded into the engine.  I believe that to be a very significant distinction.

It's significant, yes, but they're differences in scale, not differences in kind.

 

In some respects, a CRPG is one extended monologue provided by the developers.  They have to sustain a reality using this incredibly complex technology that we, as consumers, have the luxury of sitting back and enjoying pretty passively.  If a tabletop RPG is a 50/50 split in responsibility, I don't think it's unreasonable to say that a CRPG is 90/10 (or even 99/1), with the lion's share of work falling to the developer.

I disagree. The game is what happens at the table. In a CRPG the developer puts the systems in place but everything is driven by the actions of the player, one way or another.

 

 

This makes perfect sense - and I like the terminology you use.  Ultimately I suppose the level of desired 'hardness' (*har har*) would come down to the player, and where the player is getting their enjoyment from the game itself.  For the sake of argument, I think this falls under the umbrella of earlier statements of mine to the effect that in a tabletop game, the 'hardness' of the frame has a level of flexibility based on the interaction between DM and PC.  In a CRPG, the developer has to anticipate how important they think certain decisions will be in the mind of a player.  An excellent play experience means that you and the developer were of like mind in this regard, while a poor experience is when you want more - or fewer - decisions regarding a certain event, but this isn't a guaranteed outcome even in the best circumstances.

Well, yeah. If the DM and the players have a fundamental disconnect as to what they each want out of the game, they can sit there and talk about it and change things up so that everyone is on the same page. If the player wants something out of a CRPG that the game isn't providing, there's nothing the player can do about it but find another game. (I count mod tools as "find another game." You're just making the game yourself instead of looking for something made by someone else.)

 

This is unfortunate but I wouldn't call it a problem per se. I'm fine with saying "This game just isn't for me."

 

I had read another post by you wherein you said that your patience for games has diminished significantly since you were younger - you no longer want the 80+ hours of game time that you did as a kid.  I'm the same way.  I'm much quicker to say that a game is wasting my time than I ever was ten years ago.  Stuff that seems 'soft frame' when you're fifteen just reads as filler when you're older.  So don't think that I'm an apologist for games with lots of pointless combat - I commend you for walking away when you've had enough!

It's not that I don't want 80 hours of content, it's just that I'm much faster to quit games when I'm not having fun. When I was a kid I'd pump dozens of hours into games I hated simply because I had gotten bored enough with replaying the ones I liked and had nothing better to do with my time. Nowadays it takes something very special to make me want to put that much time into it.

 

 

What follows is probably the meat of what I'm getting at.  When the beginning and the end of a particular game are preordained (as in CRPGs) - I find that I'm not really comfortable with the manipulation of the interior details being described as 'narrative' or even 'story.'  I tend to lump choices like 'I shoot him' or 'I let him go' into gameplay elements rather than story elements.  This is part of the reason why I think there's such a significant difference between tabletop RPGs and CRPGs.  As a player in a tabletop RPG, I take part in conceiving the story, ad-hoc, alongside the DM and other players.  We grow the narrative out of the gaming experience.  We can riff on each other and give one another immediate, significant feedback.  As a player in a CRPG, I can sort of nudge the story elements down certain paths that the developer has cleared for me, but at no point can I operate outside the structure that has been packaged and sold to me as a product.  I can't help but view the 'experience of deciding' through the abstraction of the game itself: the door A, B or C that has been erected by the stage hands.  It's a decision, but a decision that is designed, is heavily constrained and lacking in the complexity or context that defines a choice in real life.  It feels more like the illusion of choice than real choice.  On a philosophical level, it more resembles tying my shoes than it does defining myself in any significant way.

 

This closes the gap between 'player choice' and all those stupid bandit attacks and brings them much closer to one another than to the actual manipulation of a narrative - at least in my mind.  I cannot for the life of me feel like I am telling the story, because I know any decision I make is already written into the code.  I suppose this sort of thinking makes me a gaming Calvinist.  It's also why I'm prepared to view 'Story' and 'Game' as binaries when it comes to CRPG design.  Once the code is written, the conversation is over - the player is just choosing which parts of it they want to hear.  I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, but I do think it is a defining part of the medium as it currently exists.  Hopefully that clarifies a few of my thoughts on the topic.

I cut out several parts of your post because you essentially repeat this argument again and again: I'm going to respond to it here so as not to repeat myself.

 

Basically, you're making the same argument Bioshock made: The developer designs the system the player uses to interact with the game world, and the system determines what happens in the game through the responses the game gives to what the player decides to do. Because it's the system that determines how the game goes, you ultimately have no power. A game can, at best, provide only the illusion of choice. When Ryan says the command word and your character starts acting without your input, all of your previous agency is rendered null and void.

 

I think this is horse****.

 

You don't get to decide what paths there are, or where they lead, but you do decide what path you take. The system determines how the game works but you are a part of the system. The system might incorporate you more or less, but it's not an all-or-nothing deal.

 

Probably the purest ludic expression of what I mean here is the Mythic GM emulator. If you've never tried it, I highly suggest you attempt it at least once: It's a system that enables DM-less play by relegating the role to a set of dice rolls, using player interpretation to drive it (it assumes you're playing with a group but it works just fine solo). It'll probably change the way you think about what the player's input in an RPG actually means.

 

(Rory's Story Cubes is a similar idea that operates with much less structure.)

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precisely why I don't like random encounters.

Remember: Argue the point, not the person. Remain polite and constructive. Friendly forums have friendly debate. There's no shame in being wrong. If you don't have something to add, don't post for the sake of it. And don't be afraid to post thoughts you are uncertain about, that's what discussion is for.
---
Pet threads, everyone has them. I love imagining Gods, Monsters, Factions and Weapons.

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The primary benefits (to the game) of random encounters seems to be building character experience and using up party expendable assets. You could accomplish the same thing by providing pseudo-XP for travel across perilous regions of the world map, which can then be purchased in exchange for expendables. There could be a box on the map where you can put travel expendables; as you travel across dangerous regions, those are randomly used up and you gain XP in exchange.

"It has just been discovered that research causes cancer in rats."

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The primary benefits (to the game) of random encounters seems to be building character experience and using up party expendable assets. You could accomplish the same thing by providing pseudo-XP for travel across perilous regions of the world map, which can then be purchased in exchange for expendables. There could be a box on the map where you can put travel expendables; as you travel across dangerous regions, those are randomly used up and you gain XP in exchange.

Perfect and after that we can go on a pseudo-adventure in which upon entering the area we pick a faction we helped and check boxes for what tasks we accomplished. Edited by UpgrayeDD
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The primary benefits (to the game) of random encounters seems to be building character experience and using up party expendable assets. You could accomplish the same thing by providing pseudo-XP for travel across perilous regions of the world map, which can then be purchased in exchange for expendables. There could be a box on the map where you can put travel expendables; as you travel across dangerous regions, those are randomly used up and you gain XP in exchange.

Perfect and after that we can go on a pseudo-adventure in which upon entering the area we pick a faction we helped and check boxes for what tasks we accomplished.

 

If you like. ;)

 

Unless there is some specific type of event going on, like the movement of an army, cross-country encounters in dangerous regions are going to be random affairs anyway. There's just no way to make them predictable without perfect intelligence. If you don't want to include random encounters, then travel becomes a pretty boring affair unless you mini-game it.

"It has just been discovered that research causes cancer in rats."

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I find your distinction between scenarios to be arbitrary. A bit like asking "would you rather have cake or a poke in the eye with a stick?"

 

"There's no proper context because the bandits just pop in out of nowhere"

 

As does the cop in your scenario (who has no motivation ascribed to him as to why he wants to pull you over - just as the bandits have no way to assume you have money the cop has not been given a reason to assume you need to be pulled over)

 

"and you never hear from them again."

 

This isn't a fault of the scenario, its the fault of the world not responding to the players choice. The cop could be bluffed and go away and never be heard from in your scenario - does it make it bad that that happened?

 

So some bandits jump out and attack you.

 

You get two initial choices - fight or flee (your cop scenario only gets one more option dialogue which could easily be implemented for the bandits). That doesn't mean, however, that the game couldn't make the bandits part of a larger faction. That it couldn't be built into the narrative. It doesn't even mean that it doesn't respond to your choices (maybe the road is one of two choices, and one is known to be patrolled by bandits. Maybe the local guard hired you to travel the road because of reports, maybe you choose the road because it puts you closer to where you want to go even though its more dangerous.

 

IMO the problem isn't the bandit scenario, but of motivating the story elements and creating a context and consequences around even the most minor of game element. Which then comes down to story vs verisimilitude IMO - how much do you want the game to mirror a novel (where everything happens for a reason) vs real life (where everything doesn't have a logical motivation as people collide within a framework that allows for the random and unmotivated and surprising).

 

In that sense, I have no problem with the random encounter.

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Basically, you're making the same argument Bioshock made: The developer designs the system the player uses to interact with the game world, and the system determines what happens in the game through the responses the game gives to what the player decides to do. Because it's the system that determines how the game goes, you ultimately have no power. A game can, at best, provide only the illusion of choice. When Ryan says the command word and your character starts acting without your input, all of your previous agency is rendered null and void.

I think this is horse****.

You don't get to decide what paths there are, or where they lead, but you do decide what path you take. The system determines how the game works but you are a part of the system. The system might incorporate you more or less, but it's not an all-or-nothing deal.

 

 

I think this is arguing semantics. He says that choice is illusory because your choices have predefined boundaries. You say that's bull because your choice is, nonetheless , a choice. I don't think either of you are wrong. At least from my perspective.

I just see a difference in focus. One can focus on the fact that in a game, no choice can be made that isn't permitted by the system. And, usually, these choices are in the system by design.

Or you can focus on the fact that, the system notwithstanding, you can still make your choices (provided they are permitted). And perhaps more importantly, you can have your own reasons for making those choices- that is something that cannot be contained in code or a system. Whether there are infinite paths that you can take, or just two, you can still be an agent to decide what path you go down. I suppose you can even argue with only one path you decide whether to go down it at all.

 

 

IMO the problem isn't the bandit scenario, but of motivating the story elements and creating a context and consequences around even the most minor of game element. Which then comes down to story vs verisimilitude IMO - how much do you want the game to mirror a novel (where everything happens for a reason) vs real life (where everything doesn't have a logical motivation as people collide within a framework that allows for the random and unmotivated and surprising).

 

I agree; I don't think that there is an inherent problem with random encounters or bandit tropes per se. I think that bandits kind of create a context for themselves. They'll do what, in my mind, bandits do. Attack. I guess. I just think Micamo brought up a good point, even if I don't feel as strongly about it. There can be a range of context for these encounters. And the more the merrier! On the other hand I don't necessarily need to know the reason for everything (your novel vs random life point)... buuuut I'll stop rambling, because that's easy for me to do if I let myself.

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Basically, you're making the same argument Bioshock made: The developer designs the system the player uses to interact with the game world, and the system determines what happens in the game through the responses the game gives to what the player decides to do. Because it's the system that determines how the game goes, you ultimately have no power. A game can, at best, provide only the illusion of choice. When Ryan says the command word and your character starts acting without your input, all of your previous agency is rendered null and void.

 

I think this is horse****.

 

You don't get to decide what paths there are, or where they lead, but you do decide what path you take. The system determines how the game works but you are a part of the system. The system might incorporate you more or less, but it's not an all-or-nothing deal.

 

 

I think this is arguing semantics. He says that choice is illusory because your choices have predefined boundaries. You say that's bull because your choice is, nonetheless , a choice. I don't think either of you are wrong. At least from my perspective.

I just see a difference in focus. One can focus on the fact that in a game, no choice can be made that isn't permitted by the system. And, usually, these choices are in the system by design.

Or you can focus on the fact that, the system notwithstanding, you can still make your choices (provided they are permitted). And perhaps more importantly, you can have your own reasons for making those choices- that is something that cannot be contained in code or a system. Whether there are infinite paths that you can take, or just two, you can still be an agent to decide what path you go down. I suppose you can even argue with only one path you decide whether to go down it at all.

 

Thanks PieSnatcher - I didn't intend to take an adversarial stance or anything - I mostly wanted to draw the connection between player choices and the labor involved in game design.  I think the attitude of the designers toward narrative, and what they're focused on, can often show through by what they emphasize in the final product.  I like choices in games, but it does seem the enjoyment that I derive from those choices is different from Micamo.  To each their own.

Edited by HunterOG
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That doesn't mean, however, that the game couldn't make the bandits part of a larger faction. That it couldn't be built into the narrative. It doesn't even mean that it doesn't respond to your choices (maybe the road is one of two choices, and one is known to be patrolled by bandits. Maybe the local guard hired you to travel the road because of reports, maybe you choose the road because it puts you closer to where you want to go even though its more dangerous.

 

IMO the problem isn't the bandit scenario, but of motivating the story elements and creating a context and consequences around even the most minor of game element. Which then comes down to story vs verisimilitude IMO - how much do you want the game to mirror a novel (where everything happens for a reason) vs real life (where everything doesn't have a logical motivation as people collide within a framework that allows for the random and unmotivated and surprising).

 

In that sense, I have no problem with the random encounter.

Well yeah. I'm not arguing that the cop scenario couldn't be implemented in a boring, horrible, and pointless way, or that the bandit scenario couldn't be implemented in a fantastic way. Maybe you spend a large portion of the game driving and cops just pull you over randomly for no reason, and the encounter with the body in your trunk plays 100% identically to every other encounter (and there's no special chance of anything going differently because of the changed circumstances). My frustration isn't with combat itself but in the way meaningless combat scenarios that I don't care about are so frequently thrown in to pad hours onto CRPGs. It's the DM showing up to the session saying "Sorry guys, I was busy snorting coke off of hookers and didn't prepare anything for this session. Have 4 hours of random encounter tables!"

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Probably the purest ludic expression of what I mean here is the Mythic GM emulator. If you've never tried it, I highly suggest you attempt it at least once: It's a system that enables DM-less play by relegating the role to a set of dice rolls, using player interpretation to drive it (it assumes you're playing with a group but it works just fine solo). It'll probably change the way you think about what the player's input in an RPG actually means.

 

(Rory's Story Cubes is a similar idea that operates with much less structure.)

 

 

I didn't know about the mythic GM emulator until I read your post. Now that I looked up what it is, I think this is the best thing ever, thank you very much for hinting at its existence!

 

On the topic of filler combat serving as a means to make the gameplay longer:

I appreciate having a longer game, as I find it harder and harder as time goes on to find new games I actually like to play.

 

I remember when I was 8 years old I cared a lot about game length. My parents basically considered games to be junk food and would only get me new ones maybe once every 2-3 months, if I was lucky. Being finished with a game in a weekend or, god forbid, a single day of playing was disappointing because that means I'd have nothing new to do until the next game came around. Now that I get games as often as I want, 99% of the time if a game is longer than like 2 hours I'll never finish it: New stuff I'm interested in comes out faster than I can go through 20-80 hour games. I just don't have the patience anymore to slog through boring filler to get to the good parts when there's like a hundred new games I could be trying instead.

 

 

Therefore I'm really wondering how you can find so much games you enjoy that you can be so "picky" about them (as in laying them down about after 2 hours not because they are bad but because there is so much other stuff). You don't seem to have low standards so I'd really appreciate it if you could elaborate a bit more about where you get your games from and what kind of games you like. Of course, if you don't want to make that public, you can always PM me about that as well.

 

Everything else I think about this topic has already been said by other persons.

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That doesn't mean, however, that the game couldn't make the bandits part of a larger faction. That it couldn't be built into the narrative. It doesn't even mean that it doesn't respond to your choices (maybe the road is one of two choices, and one is known to be patrolled by bandits. Maybe the local guard hired you to travel the road because of reports, maybe you choose the road because it puts you closer to where you want to go even though its more dangerous.

 

IMO the problem isn't the bandit scenario, but of motivating the story elements and creating a context and consequences around even the most minor of game element. Which then comes down to story vs verisimilitude IMO - how much do you want the game to mirror a novel (where everything happens for a reason) vs real life (where everything doesn't have a logical motivation as people collide within a framework that allows for the random and unmotivated and surprising).

 

In that sense, I have no problem with the random encounter.

Well yeah. I'm not arguing that the cop scenario couldn't be implemented in a boring, horrible, and pointless way, or that the bandit scenario couldn't be implemented in a fantastic way. Maybe you spend a large portion of the game driving and cops just pull you over randomly for no reason, and the encounter with the body in your trunk plays 100% identically to every other encounter (and there's no special chance of anything going differently because of the changed circumstances). My frustration isn't with combat itself but in the way meaningless combat scenarios that I don't care about are so frequently thrown in to pad hours onto CRPGs. It's the DM showing up to the session saying "Sorry guys, I was busy snorting coke off of hookers and didn't prepare anything for this session. Have 4 hours of random encounter tables!"

 

Maybe you just don't like RPG combat then?

I personally spent at least 100 hours grinding on random encounters in Crusaders of the Dark Savant just to get my party as godly as possible, and I don't remember it ever feeling boring or tedious, you know because the combat in that game is just that damn good.

 

Same goes for Bard's Tale I, combat was so fun that fighting endless encounters of 99 Barbarians wasn't annoying.

 

But then again no RPG with real-time combat has ever had really great combat, so perhaps as far as PE is concerned best to keep the combat to a minimum.

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DA:O is what the OP basically describes.

 

You open a door, turn a corner or leave a loading screen and you're engaging in dialogue with some seedy ****. Two prompts later, they're in your face and you're stabbing them to death.

 

DA:O doesn't let you run away from encounters:

A) party is too slow

B) levels are too small

C) enemies are too fast

D) enemies never de-aggro (and clip through closed doors to boot)

 

And it doesn't usually let you talk them down.

 

It's symptomatic of games today because there's this perceived notion that if you aren't hitting people over the head constantly, the game is boring. It's this unconscious design decision that spawned the likes of Mass Effect and Dragon Age.

 

Action needs to be weighty and tense for it to actually matter. Older RPGs are better at making action matter, about building it up and about giving players a choice to pursue it or to escape it.

 

It's why Dark/Demon's Souls are so popular - combat is tense. A lot of old MUDs I've played with can create this same sort of tension by making monsters powerful, rare, and enigmatic. You're always turning the corner, looking warily ahead of you for an enemy, never sure what they will do to you when you find them. Infect you with an awful disease? Maim and cripple you? Maybe set you on fire so that even if you kill it, you lose all your health burning afterward.

 

But when combat is always just around the corner, always one step away... it loses all value and meaning. It just becomes about the grind. About levels and classes and junk.

I imagine PE willl be closer to Dragon Age in how it treats combat. But I'm not sure. It's not that bad to have an action-focused game, but, ideally, I agree it can be handled much better.

Edited by anubite

I made a 2 hour rant video about dragon age 2. It's not the greatest... but if you want to watch it, here ya go:

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What you say of Dark/Demon souls is true but it is also fitting of the overall experience and narrative. In those games your character has died and is now in what could be the incarnation of their culture's hell. So the tension serves to support the overall narrative that you are in the afterlife and the enemies you encounter are indicative of the story as they are all somewhat related to the narrative of the level. So when you are on a swamp that was used to dump aborted fetuses and are drowned by undead bloody babies (in what could arguably be the best pro life argument) It doesn't feel out of place.

I have digress enough, I thought this thread was going go over the flaws of a roll based system on video game but apparently only I have that beef with RPGs.

I'd say the answer to that question is kind of like the answer to "who's the sucker in this poker game?"*

 

*If you can't tell, it's you. ;)

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In BG 2 or Planescape Torment; I never felt that any encounter was out of place or tedious. There was some of it in BG1, where random encounters was pretty boring and seemed very random, but in the other infinity engine games, there was little of that. Even where bandits attacked you in BG 2, you usually got a dialogue, and you understood what the bandits were after, sometimes they were even a part of driving the main story forward. If Project Eternity are going the route of the Infinity Engine games, the random encounters will not feel as random, at least not to me. Now the worst offenders of random encounters are JRPG's, and seeing the OP's mention of specific games like Fire Emblem, I think that where this gripe comes from, but I might be wrong.

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Torment definitely has them, and it suffers from this problem probably the least out of any traditional CRPG I've ever played: You can go several hours in Torment without fighting a single guy. Rubikon is the worst offender (though to be fair it's technically optional). Literally copy-pasted square rooms with identical mooks inside where you can very easily get lost unless you very carefully hand-draw a map and keep track of your position at all times.

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I think in tabletop games it's everything but the combat that makes it fun to play, but it's up to you if you want to approach each encounter in such a way to avoid combat.  Inevitably, someone in your party wants to conquer everything they face so you'll often be dragged along for the ride.  I know I always wanted to play as a cowardly bard that boasts of all his heroic deeds and then hides in the corner while his companions do all the fighting, but the fact of the matter is this approach, as entertaining as it is, will eventually get you looked at as a liability rather than an asset and it won't be long before the DM sets up a scenario to get you killed if you keep walking that same path.  The bottom line is that combat, as much as it doesn't equate to good roleplaying, is a big part of the challenges put before you.  Not every encounter can be resolved peacefully.  I agree that it would be nice to give you that option a bit more than we see presently, but no one wants their game to be called "easy".

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Personally for me, as well as the opportunities that all encounters should bring to the group not being explored enough, I think that the pacing of them is somewhat off.

 

With an open world game such as New Vegas or The Black Gate one can choose when to thrust oneself headlong into the jaws of adversity, creating a pace that suits one own taste, whether that be combat heavy, exploratory or what have you. However with many single player rpgs one must trawl straight through repeated combat scenarios, which even at the best of times when one is at the edge of the seat praying to the god of the dice for a good throw, eventually become repetitive.

 

Now i'm not saying that the rhythym of encounters should be on and off and repeat until the end, i'm saying ensure there's enough alternate content lying around so that the players may unwittingly make that choice according to their own tastes. Even if it's just the simplest of content to add atmosphere and of course expand the gameworld.

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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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Actually, rpg like you describe here is the best definition of "paper" rpg, but it can't be applied to video games, for several reasons.

As you say roleplaying is best defined by conversation. But the conversation itself require an intelligent being to interact with the player, and though I do not doubt the intelligence of video games writers, they do not interact directly with the player, everything is scripted and it result in limited outcomes for every situation which are already decided. They're no room for improvisation and a situation unexpected by the writer will never be handled as a DM would handle it by improvising during a paper rpg session.

Because of this huge limitation inherent to the support, comparisons between video game rpg and paper rpg is hardly relevant.
That being said, I understand your point about meaningless fight and all. I didn't remember playing a rpg in which the fights where most annoying and meaningless. My principal reference is Baldur's Gate. And yes, there were some bandits attacking randomly, and it would seems like they just went out of nowhere. So what? Is this so absurd that there are some bandit attacking travellers? Does that really need to have any sense? A world isn't build over pure consistency and not everything have to happen for a reason and if someone attacks your team without letting a chance to speak. That can just happen and after all it's just normal. Even when I'm playing paper rpg and I'm the DM I sometimes introduce enemies that have no intention to speak with PCs (some sort of zealous warrior which doesn't give a damn about anything they say) and will eventually reluctantly say few words if they are captured alive. Sometime it's relevant, sometime not and they will be forgotten as they are no longer useful for my scenario, but they are still part of the setting, highlighting how dangerous this area is.

Players continue to play and travel, fighting various monster, bandit and all, and much of them have no real meaning other than telling players "that's what happen when you spend most of your time on the roads and wild lands" common people just stay at home especially to avoid being in danger. Because the danger exists, as the villain does, whether there's a reason or not.
If the bandits motivations are to something in the scenario which make you understand at a certain point "ah, so that's why those bandits attacked me in the 1st chapter..." it would be pretty cool. But what they are just forgotten? I mean... I would like to know why they attack me, why now, why here, etc... But then should I have the same explanation for every event in the game as I would want to justify a fight encounter? The world and characters exist beyond the PCs understanding, and sometimes, as contradictory as it can appear, consistency can rely on the lack of explanation. And I'm not saying this as a lazy DM, I too often write pages and pages of dialog, different outcomes to so many situations and trying to justify a lot things, but sometimes I just realises that, if we are thinking in terms of pure roleplay, avoiding any metagame, NPCs will never have the chance or means to discover those justification.
Well I have to go back to my work and that's a pretty messy addition to that topic, I will probably edit it later :p
 

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I think that people have different tolerances for combat. "Too much" for some people could be "Just right" for others.

 

Project Eternity is going to have a mega dungeon right? I doubt there is going to be a massive amount of plot in there but I think that a lot of people will play it. So some people do enjoy combat in CRPGs. That enjoyment is something that the OP seems to be lacking.

. Well I was involved anyway. The dude who can't dance. 
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Actually, rpg like you describe here is the best definition of "paper" rpg, but it can't be applied to video games, for several reasons.

As you say roleplaying is best defined by conversation. But the conversation itself require an intelligent being to interact with the player, and though I do not doubt the intelligence of video games writers, they do not interact directly with the player, everything is scripted and it result in limited outcomes for every situation which are already decided. They're no room for improvisation and a situation unexpected by the writer will never be handled as a DM would handle it by improvising during a paper rpg session.

Because of this huge limitation inherent to the support, comparisons between video game rpg and paper rpg is hardly relevant.

It's very relevant: I believe smart design can overcome most of these limitations. Take, for example, the big confrontation with Benny in FO:NV. In any other game the casino would be this giant dungeon filled with mooks you have to gun down before you get to Benny at the end, who gives a few one-liners and then attacks you with his inordinate superpowers. They didn't do that though, instead they did something really smart, engaging, and memorable. It's almost as good as having a human DM there in every way that matters, and it's the standard that I expect P:E to live up to.

 

That being said, I understand your point about meaningless fight and all. I didn't remember playing a rpg in which the fights where most annoying and meaningless. My principal reference is Baldur's Gate. And yes, there were some bandits attacking randomly, and it would seems like they just went out of nowhere. So what? Is this so absurd that there are some bandit attacking travellers? Does that really need to have any sense? A world isn't build over pure consistency and not everything have to happen for a reason and if someone attacks your team without letting a chance to speak. That can just happen and after all it's just normal. Even when I'm playing paper rpg and I'm the DM I sometimes introduce enemies that have no intention to speak with PCs (some sort of zealous warrior which doesn't give a damn about anything they say) and will eventually reluctantly say few words if they are captured alive. Sometime it's relevant, sometime not and they will be forgotten as they are no longer useful for my scenario, but they are still part of the setting, highlighting how dangerous this area is.

Two things.

 

First, by "meaningless" I don't mean "there is no conceivable reason this would ever happen in the real world." I mean "this doesn't advance the narrative in any important fashion." Verisimilitude doesn't mean random **** gets flung at the players for no reason, unless the central theme of your game is about nihilism and the pointlessness of existence or something, it means that the story establishes an internal logic and follows it.

 

Second, random encounters to build "danger" is actually a really bad idea. This is due to what I like to call the "Demon Lord Problem." You see, in 3rd edition source books about the Abyss in D&D, the writers frequently describe things by saying "This thing X is so dangerous even Demon Lords are afraid of it!"

 

The thing is, the first time you hear that you think "Wow, that thing X is super dangerous!" but the tenth time you hear it you think "Wow, demon lords are complete wusses!"

 

You can't establish the world as dangerous by having the players mow their way through hundreds of enemies. This only establishes that the enemies shouldn't be taken seriously, which is the exact opposite of what you're trying to accomplish.

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You can't establish the world as dangerous by having the players mow their way through hundreds of enemies. This only establishes that the enemies shouldn't be taken seriously, which is the exact opposite of what you're trying to accomplish.

That's assuming the group triumphs easily. If the group is forced to use a fair bit of their available resources (such that they have altered their plans and now have to go rest or resupply) you've still effectively kept the idea that the world doesn't revolve around the goals of the players (ie its not a narrative being played but a world being inhabited).

 

If they have to run away, then surely they think its dangerous.

 

That said, for me, I prefer to see random encounters as "local color" as much as opportunities for combat. It can help stage dress the world for the players. I think as a DM (and again this is where P&P so vastly differ from cRPGs) you can adjust your encounters.

 

Just because you rolled a pack of wild dogs on the random encounter table doesn't mean you have to have the dogs attack the players. Maybe they sit outside of camp growling and run away when the players try to deal with them (disrupting sleep). Maybe the players are followed by the pack for several days and after a tough planned encounter they attack the weakened group. Maybe the druid can interact with them if there's a druid allowing you to provide some more information to push the story you want to tell forward.

 

cRPGs will struggle with the kind of "on the fly" adjustment and probably always will (although as they become more complex they may be able to take into account larger, more complex reactionary programing).

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That's assuming the group triumphs easily. If the group is forced to use a fair bit of their available resources (such that they have altered their plans and now have to go rest or resupply) you've still effectively kept the idea that the world doesn't revolve around the goals of the players (ie its not a narrative being played but a world being inhabited).

 

If they have to run away, then surely they think its dangerous.

Yeah, and this is something best used sparingly. An encounter against one dude where you have to spend 90% of your resources just to make it out alive makes you think "Wow, that dude was dangerous!" Twenty encounters like this back to back just makes you think "Wow, this campaign is really tedious and frustrating." You can't create tension by spamming "dangerous" encounters at the players for the same reasons you can't be scared of a monster in a horror game when you're looking at it. The exposure desensitizes.

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Yes, even random encounters (which I like in P&P because it can lead to unthought of possibilities) is best worked into play in ways that fit the goals the DM is striving for.

 

Which gets us back to cRPGs. And IIRC; since there's less room to creatively adapt random encounters, there probably has to be more planning up front about what random encounter might mean.

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I think in tabletop games it's everything but the combat that makes it fun to play, but it's up to you if you want to approach each encounter in such a way to avoid combat.  Inevitably, someone in your party wants to conquer everything they face so you'll often be dragged along for the ride.  I know I always wanted to play as a cowardly bard that boasts of all his heroic deeds and then hides in the corner while his companions do all the fighting, but the fact of the matter is this approach, as entertaining as it is, will eventually get you looked at as a liability rather than an asset and it won't be long before the DM sets up a scenario to get you killed if you keep walking that same path.  The bottom line is that combat, as much as it doesn't equate to good roleplaying, is a big part of the challenges put before you.  Not every encounter can be resolved peacefully.  I agree that it would be nice to give you that option a bit more than we see presently, but no one wants their game to be called "easy".

when danger reared it's ugly head you bravely turned your tail and fled?
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