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If there are in-game books and other flavor stuff, will you read them or ignore them?


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The Baldur's Gate series had lots of these. One of the first items you pick up is a History of Halruaa for a quest in Candlekeep, just a few paragraphs discussing a country you will never visit in-game and which has zero impact on gameplay. There were books like that scattered all over the game, completely meaningless in terms of gameplay but which added a sense of the greater Forgotten Realms actually existing outside of the main plot of the game.

 

I'm curious: who here stops to read things like that? If there's a semi-detailed history of the Free Palatinate of Dyrwood lying around someone's house in P:E, will you stop to read it, for flavor's sake? Or do you think of that kind of thing as a boring waste of time? 

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Depends. I like ingame books but some of them just don't interest me. I'd say that the history of the Dyrwood would fall into that domain unless it had some relevance to the plot. However, I love reading short stories, legends and fairytales set in the world of the game. Morrowind, for example, had both - and while it took me some time to finally read the Brief History of the Empire, I've read all the stories like Withershins, A Dance in Fire, The Black Arrow, A Game at Dinner and so on.

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For me it really depends on whether they're presented in an interesting manner and if they have a purpose other than "flavor". While as an "explorer"-type of player I do definitely love learning about fictional settings and such, I guess to me doing that simply by reading everything sort of defeats the purpose of the medium's interactivity. Yes, some reading should and always be required as part of that, but I think there is some validity to the argument "if I wanted to spend all my time reading in-game then I'd choose to read a book IRL instead".

Edited by mcmanusaur
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Brevity, I think, is important here. I'm still playing a game, after all, and if I'm going to be interrupted in my questing by some flavor text I'd rather it be easily digestible so I can get back to my quest with a minimum of fuss. 

 

Splitting longer stuff into multiple volumes works well, I think, and was the approach BG took. So you could have a 'History of the Free Palatinate of Dyrwood pt. 1' with maybe two or three paragraphs and just spread a bunch of books like that around, so the interested can read them a piece at a time without getting bogged down.  

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Depends on the topics. I'll give books on magic, demons, other planes or really interesting figures a shot. If they're entertaining I'll continue to read them, if not I'll start ignoring them. Also I find that if they're too frequent it interrupts the pacing of the game. Personally I felt DA:O had journal updates far too often so while I was interested in reading about some things I didn't want to stop every 15 minutes or so take a break and read all the lore they were tossing my way.

Also I think it's generally better to work interesting bits of lore and history into the gameplay rather than just tossing a book your way and saying 'hey here is a book read this.' An example I enjoyed from Skyrim was with Potema. She was a significant historical figure from the past that you may or may not have cared about but you eventually get a quest (or simply stumble into a cave) where a cult is trying to resurrect her. They make it all sound very dire and that much doom and gloom would be the result of her returning which made me wonder who the heck she was which lead to me reading all the volumes of the wolf queen I stumbled across. Her history wasn't forced fed to you through a lengthy and cheesy exposition but it was hinted at and if you were interested there was a way to delve further into that lore.

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It's not all about topics and how the books blend into the game and serve some purpose. It's also, well mostly, about style.

 

Game designers have never (or just very rarely) been good writers. They can sometimes write some pretty good dialogue, but other than that the literary value of text in games is mostly close to zero. I remember buying Skyrim for the Xbox 360 because I didn't have a PC back then. Maybe it was just a bad translation (into German) - I don't know, since I couldn't change the language settings - but whar I read was absolutely, horrifically, terrifyingly terrible. Seriously, I could've cringed at basically every sentence. It has been almost the same with all the games I've played throughout the years. I even find the books in Baldur's Gate to be not-so-top-notch, especially the ones that deal with mythology. I feel that the writers sometimes don't really understand the text types they're writing. I picked mythology here because that is probably one of the most difficult things to write without it sounding ripped off or it being a child's picture of mythology. 

 

So my point is: don't write lenghty books on every topic imaginable if you don't have a full-time-writer doing the job, and by full time I don't mean guys like R.A. Salvatore. I don't even know why I'm playing fantasy-games, because usually they're so damn terrible. Ugh.

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It's not all about topics and how the books blend into the game and serve some purpose. It's also, well mostly, about style.

 

Game designers have never (or just very rarely) been good writers. They can sometimes write some pretty good dialogue, but other than that the literary value of text in games is mostly close to zero. I remember buying Skyrim for the Xbox 360 because I didn't have a PC back then. Maybe it was just a bad translation (into German) - I don't know, since I couldn't change the language settings - but whar I read was absolutely, horrifically, terrifyingly terrible. Seriously, I could've cringed at basically every sentence. It has been almost the same with all the games I've played throughout the years. I even find the books in Baldur's Gate to be not-so-top-notch, especially the ones that deal with mythology. I feel that the writers sometimes don't really understand the text types they're writing. I picked mythology here because that is probably one of the most difficult things to write without it sounding ripped off or it being a child's picture of mythology. 

 

So my point is: don't write lenghty books on every topic imaginable if you don't have a full-time-writer doing the job, and by full time I don't mean guys like R.A. Salvatore. I don't even know why I'm playing fantasy-games, because usually they're so damn terrible. Ugh.

 

Do you think this applies to the writing of guys like Chris Avellone, as well? That is, the people working on the game we're waiting for currently?

 

Because Obsidian has had its bad writing moments (I can't get through one of Ulysses' overblown monologues in Lonesome Road without gagging), but in terms of awful writing they've never been Bethesda, thank god. 

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Hopefully Obsidian can expand on what they did with books in Dungeon Siege 3 where books where parts of quests (treasure room).  They could be used to drop hints about locations for quests, legendary items, provide new recipes for crafting, food, etc., expand the player's lore in a manner that potentially gives points in that skill and also in driving the plot.  They could also serve to give the player valuable information on critters or enemies.

 

Finally,  they could be incorporated into the stronghold; collect books to build or add to your library.  Collect enough books and you might get certain bonuses to lore or crafting.  Collect a number of rare books and your library could add to you prestige, which could in turn bring special visitors to the stronghold who would provide bonuses in relevant areas as per the recent update (63).

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Just finished playing Arcanum (for the first time) and I skimmed through all of the ones I came across, stopping briefly on interesting bits.

Read maybe half or a third of the newspapers and then only the headlines (except later a few arronax articles which I read completely).

 

20yrs ago I'd have read them all. Gone spoiled.

Edited by Jarmo
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I'll probably read through many if not all of them, if they're there. I'm more likely to read such books when a setting is more unfamiliar to me, and that would apply in this case. I'll usually read them every now and again even if it's a familiar setting, because they can be interesting, and rarely do they take much time at all to read.

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The Baldur's Gate series had lots of these. One of the first items you pick up is a History of Halruaa for a quest in Candlekeep, just a few paragraphs discussing a country you will never visit in-game and which has zero impact on gameplay. There were books like that scattered all over the game, completely meaningless in terms of gameplay but which added a sense of the greater Forgotten Realms actually existing outside of the main plot of the game.

Funny you should bring up BG, I didn't think of that. Probably because I never bothered with books in BG. First of all the Forgotten Realms seem to cliché laden and uninteresting, and the second was, what with the wealth of FR material, trying to learn about its lore via ingame books seemed like an uphill battle.

 

In P:E though, I'll gobble up any lore I can find.

Edited by Sacred_Path
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It greatly depends. Used to read all the things, not only books, but also all of the item descriptions. I guess the less time I have for gaming, the less time I spend on such a thing, like reading the entire lore hidden in those descriptions. But still I try - mostly. Books are "kewl", both: real and virtual.

 

The Baldur's Gate series had lots of these. One of the first items you pick up is a History of Halruaa for a quest in Candlekeep, just a few paragraphs discussing a country you will never visit in-game and which has zero impact on gameplay.

 

Flying ship spell ingredients protected by Shandalars daughters. Well, at least you get to know some of its inhabitants  :ermm:

It would be of small avail to talk of magic in the air...

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I don't tend to read very many. I'll often read the first few to get an idea/see how they're being presented, but after that I'm likely to ignore them, unless something in particular grabs me (like I'll often read "monster lore/legend" ones, but find "city history" boring). The exception would be if there's some kind of mini-game challenge to finding them/reading them all. Or if the books are inventory items vs. only log text, sometimes I get a hankering on my own to collect them all, piling them up in a room or barrel somewhere. A collecting compulsion. :)

 

I have no problem with them being in the game - sometimes they're interesting, and even when I don't find them so, it's not like it interferes with any of my gaming preferences if they're there.

 

The one caveat - I prefer them to be in sensible locations. Dusty books in abandoned dungeons/castles or in libraries, or in someone's house on a shelf/table. Not just constant random things you find in the forest or in every bandits treasure bag, if you know what i mean.

“Things are as they are. Looking out into the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.” – Alan Watts
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The one caveat - I prefer them to be in sensible locations. Dusty books in abandoned dungeons/castles or in libraries, or in someone's house on a shelf/table. Not just constant random things you find in the forest or in every bandits treasure bag, if you know what i mean.

 

In the original Baldur's Gate, you could go to Durlag's Tower, a centuries-old ruin intentionally turned into a nigh-impenetrable deathtrap by its insane former master, and find books in its dusty, abandoned library talking about political events in Shadowdale that took place in the last year or two.

 

Were people breaking into the dungeon just to restock the shelves with more recent titles? Perhaps a group of adventuring librarians with a overzealous dedication to their duties? I don't know, but it left me feeling very confused. 

 

In other words, I agree. Sensible locations and sensible books for those locations are both very nice. Though I suspect the issue isn't high on their priority list.

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Something that none of these Lore stuff games have taken into consideration is....

I think it'd be wise to go into another aspect first. So, first of all: BG, BG2, IWD, PST, Skyrim and all of those games are WAY more intriguing than the Mass Effect or Dragon Age method. You pick up a virtual copy of a Book in-game and then you open it and read it. I read a lot of lore from BG, BG2, IWD, TES. In Mass Effect and Dragon Age I don't.

Why? I can't say for sure, but there is a certain different "emotion" I think to picking up a book and reading it page by page. In Mass Effect and Dragon Age it's just a cluttered clutter of cluttering information. It's so much! Everything has a name, everything has a short story, look at something and *pop* "You've got a new codex entry". It becomes a lot.

I am of the opinion that virtual in-game books ("physical stuff you can pick up") is more interesting than the ME or DA method.

Anyways, back to what I was going to talk about from the very start. Some rather complex stuff I believe and I don't think Obsidian would have the resources for it:

Story reading around the camp fire. Companion reaction to some of the lore or some of the books. Equip a book onto a Companion and he might recite some words later~ yep, kind of complex and easy to miss by the majority of players. When me and my friend played Baldur's Gate, we used to have some story sessions where one of us read aloud, great fun.

As for the thread title question: I'll read most of them, might ignore a couple of them. I like to read descriptions and books. I also want to manipulate the information from time to time if possible, maybe finding an uncomplete book that's missing a couple of crucial words and I can go on a quest to find the true words supposed to be there. Or perhaps even be able to write in a couple of false pages in another book and then distribute it. Then some random generic villager #2 might recite a passage or whatnot from the book "The famous lord Ulfer went and took a dance at the ball and pissed himself on the floor!" or whatever I choose to put in there.

Whilst I'm already at it. I want a blank manual Journal and Quest management Option (optional on/off thing). No auto-updates but I would have to observe the world and the things that go on in it and then write my own clues and ideas. Instead of "Updated my Journal = Go West" I'd have to fully read what the Quest Giver is saying and then write down my own notes. I want to cast spells that have blank descriptions and then after I've cast it I want to write out what it was I just saw, heck, even the damage too (which I could see in the Combat Log).

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As long as they are good, fun to read, and there isn't a metric butt ton of them I will read them all.  EDIT: I agree with what Osvir says about this subject, but I would mention you have to be reasonably forgiving in Mass Effect's case.  That game having a "central codex" makes sense, in the far flung future print media is likely extinct and most people would get their info from some sort of digital database they could access on any old "internet" device.

Edited by Karkarov
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If they're any good, damn straight I'll read them. I loved the ones in Morrowind and Arcanum for example; the BG's and NWN OC's not so much. Not a huge fan of the Sword Coast and related areas; too generic for my blood, so I don't get all that enthused about the lore either.

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If the lore is done in the moronic way that Baldur's Gate did it, no.  Who wants to spend time reading lore when your party is having it's ass handed to it by the nearest enemy because someone decided not to pause the game world when accessing the inventory?

 

If accessing the inventory pauses the game world, sure.

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