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Player limitation is a strange business, a smart player will often buck at authority or ask why he cannot pursue some course of action, when it seems the most logical option. Sometimes this is a good thing, and a good party of inventive characters can drive the story as much or more than the GM.

 

However one is left wondering what subtle or not so subtle shepherding you have found to be palatable? Obviously this is a matter of taste, and with the modern prevalance and popularity of graphical picture books like Dear Esther and Bioshock: Infinite where there is no choice, no consequence and no real interaction, there are obviously players who just want to be told a story rather than play a game. But for those of us who like interactivity, what limitations do not chafe too heavily?

 

For myself I have found weather to be very effective, the avalanche in the pass in Icewind Dale for instance, a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, at least for low level characters.


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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I generally find limitations to be irritating when they both feel artificial and have serious repercussions for my character(s). Something like an invisible wall at the edge of an area doesn't usually bother me because it normally doesn't have serious negative effects on my character. It just means I can't go that way, which isn't a problem unless the game decides that something I need to get to is past the wall, but won't let me go through it.

 

As I mentioned in another thread, I kept getting annoyed in Bioshock because there were plenty of low hanging balconies that a regular person could have climbed up to in order to get around certain obstacles, but my character couldn't do so because he apparently has no arms (in addition to being mute). As such, I was forced to take extremely roundabout and dangerous routes to get anywhere.

 

Cut scenes, however, are the most infuriating limitation I find in games. They limit you from being able to interact with events that may have serious ramifications for the story. Usually they just force you to stand around like an idiot watching while the bad guy slowly (and it's usually slowly) carries out his sinister plan. Then once he's done, the cut scene ends and you, the player, get to clean up the mess that might not even exist if you could have acted in a timely and rational manner.

 

For example, [ALPHA PROTOCOL SPOILERS] in the museum, I always choose to go after the bomb rather than the hostage. After defusing the bomb, Marburg always stands out in the open, making himself a very easy target. He then lets his hostage go, points his gun at her, and says something like "God wills" (my Latin is pretty basic). To me, it seems fairly obvious that the professional murderer in front of me, the man who was trying to blow up a museum full of innocent people just one minute prior, is about to shoot her. So clearly this would be the time for me to start shooting at him to try to redirect his attention. Instead, the cut scene makes you stand there and watch him shoot her. Then to make matters worse, you have to watch your character run up to her corpse and start ranting impotently instead of, you know, staying behind cover and shooting the people responsible with THE GUN HE IS CARRYING IN HIS HAND AND HAS BEEN USING MERCILESSLY ON THE EXACT SAME GROUP OF PEOPLE UP TO THAT POINT. The ridiculousness of the situation is further aggravated by the fact that in most of my playthroughs I don't get to know the hostage at all, so while my character did say that he'd protect her, it seems bizarre for him to completely lose his head over a more-or-less stranger's death when he's spent the last week knifing people to death. [END SPOILERS] Anyway, this narrative imposed limitation keeps the player from acting sensibly or in keeping with his behavior up until that point which has negative repercussions. As such, I find it to be a rather annoying segment in an otherwise excellent game. 

Edited by eimatshya
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For example, [ALPHA PROTOCOL SPOILERS] in the museum, I always choose to go after the bomb rather than the hostage. After defusing the bomb, Marburg always stands out in the open, making himself a very easy target. He then lets his hostage go, points his gun at her, and says something like "God wills" (my Latin is pretty basic). To me, it seems fairly obvious that the professional murderer in front of me, the man who was trying to blow up a museum full of innocent people just one minute prior, is about to shoot her. So clearly this would be the time for me to start shooting at him to try to redirect his attention. Instead, the cut scene makes you stand there and watch him shoot her. Then to make matters worse, you have to watch your character run up to her corpse and start ranting impotently instead of, you know, staying behind cover and shooting the people responsible with THE GUN HE IS CARRYING IN HIS HAND AND HAS BEEN USING MERCILESSLY ON THE EXACT SAME GROUP OF PEOPLE UP TO THAT POINT. The ridiculousness of the situation is further aggravated by the fact that in most of my playthroughs I don't get to know the hostage at all, so while my character did say that he'd protect her, it seems bizarre for him to completely lose his head over a more-or-less stranger's death when he's spent the last week knifing people to death. [END SPOILERS] Anyway, this narrative imposed limitation keeps the player from acting sensibly or in keeping with his behavior up until that point which has negative repercussions. As such, I find it to be a rather annoying segment in an otherwise excellent game. 

Just a side comment.

 

<AP spoiler>

 

It kinda works for good Thorton, seeing that she's the only person that didn't really backstab him or have hidden agendas. That makes sense if Thorton is trying as hard as he can to prevent her death and to be stricken by grief later, even so if you romanced her. She's positioned in front of Marburg's henchmen and will die regardless if Thorton starts shooting.

 

To make it up, at least you can goad Marburg to death in Rome, and boy THAT is satisfying.

 

But I agree, if your Thorton is douche/professional Thorton, yeah, it's a ridiculous scene.

 

<end AP spoiler>

 

 

Edited by exodiark

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When the course of action leads away from the player's goals, then it's not acceptable to force the player down that path. Diversions are acceptable that look like they're going against the goals, but only if they lead to larger gains towards that goal.

 

This is why I feel it's good to let the player know what kind of goals the game will support early on.

 

I don't know if that really answers your question based on the examples. I don't think players will be too bothered by somewhat less sensible actions as long as the nonsense of those actions doesn't take away from what they're trying to accomplish. And as long as it's not complete moon logic.

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"Show me a man who "plays fair" and I'll show you a very talented cheater."

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I like soft limits. Ways to block a course of action, not because it is impossible, but because it is so hard that no-one in their right mind will attempt it. And should you as a player manage to somehow outsmart the developers, good on you!

 

I resent limitations whenever they feel arbitrary, they remind me that I am playing a game, and thus break immersion.

 

For instance if I can't enter an area because "your level is too low" how about you just let me figure that out by quickly dying. This will actually increase my feeling of freedom, because it will be *My* decision that I don't yet want to be here. Or at least I will think it's my decision.

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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.
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Pet threads, everyone has them. I love imagining Gods, Monsters, Factions and Weapons.

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I thought the Cazadors in New Vegas were quite a good example of a soft limit, though I know a lot of people hated them with a vengeance.

 

Personally in Alpha Protocol *SPOILERS* I didn't mind the Marburg situation, mainly because I was trying to recruit the gentleman as an asset and turn him, Madison had performed her role as Rome stress relief and was therefore expendable. *END SPOILERS*  But in general I agree, the overriding of the protagonist in cutscenes is really inexcusable, from Adam Jensen's stupidity to the numerous villains (Letho and that space ninja chap from ME3) who beat you despite being whipped like red headed step children a moment before.

 

Edit: It seems especially egregious in games that otherwise allow a degree of choice and consequence, for that to be taken away during cutscenes. You can see why a lot of poeple dislike cutscenes for that very reason.

Edited by Nonek
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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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<Warning heavy BG2 spoilers.> 

 

There were a few events similar in the BG series too, such as Imoen's interference in the Irenicus v cowled wizard death match. In a normal scenario the whole party would have joined in the fight right away ... then there was the mad mages v Irenicus in the asylum ... technically the party should have had a ghost of a chance in a direct confrontation without needing the mages, now that they have a leader that is capable of becoming an avatar of murder. However you don't even get a stand up fight against Irenicus+divine soul to ascertain that it is too hard. 

 

However these are hard coded annoyances. 

 

Now I could understand if the cut scene shows an event the party cannot see or one they cannot expect, only react to. Sudden murder, explosion, dragon from the sky, etc. 

 

Lengthy (gameplay trap) cutscenes and railroaded solutions are murder on roleplay and long term enjoyment of replays (in that area of the game). What kills franchises is the 'sudden unaccountable reversal' cutscenes ala MA3 (and unsatisfying and poorly planned endings). Don't get me started on 'artistic integrity' either. If a story I write has something jarringly wrong and half assed, I rewrite that part. I usually catch a mistake that bad on the first edit too.

 

Sorry, sorry. MA3 hurt me in a way only a long running series can. DA2 less so.

The end result of the 'churn out half finished, rushed, deceptively awesome games so we can make a killing on DLC later' plan EA uses.

Long story short, EA is dead to me. 

 

... who am I fooling with this rant? You know I'll end up a sucker prepaying for DA: Inquisition. Then hating myself (and EA) after.

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There are games that push you to explore and try to give you all the tools to do, as well as cool things to find. Might and Magic, The Elder Scrolls, and Gothic series come to find. These types of games tend to lack much of a story and in some cases the writing and acting is dreadful (the Two Worlds games come to mind). Other games push a story so much that they limit freedom and are extremely linear (most modern Bioware games), but on the other hand they have, at least for computer games standard, a decent story and characters, so you may overlook these problems. Very few games manage a good compromise. I think Baldur's Gate (the original) was one of them. There was a story, but most of the world was open to you from the beginning, and there were very few purely linear segmants.

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The Extra Credits Youtube show has recently done a series of videos on this topic, worth watching even though they're pretty basic.

 

When it comes to limitations, I heavily prefer non-arbitrary restrictions in which you are free to experience the negative consequences of any relevant course of action rather than being prevented from taking that course in the first place. For instance, in Europa Universalis' current state it's impossible to conquer more than a couple provinces from a single war, regardless of how one-sided the war is; instead, the game should model the reasons why you might not want to take on so much land so quickly (and to some extent it already does, making this arbitrary limit all the more baffling). You could likewise argue that the player should be able to experience the consequences of committing evil acts rather than being prohibited from performing such acts, but I think you can make the case that certain things are irrelevant enough that they don't need to be simulated.

 

As a general point, I think that too many designers focus exclusively on "rewarding" the player, and- while that's definitely important- it's a big mistake to ignore the behavioral conditioning value of "punishments"; without punishments it's very difficult to dissuade players from undesired behaviors, and they'll just be left wondering "what could have been". The "punishments" don't even have to be that punishing to achieve this most of the time, just as extrinsic "rewards" need not be so rewarding if the core experience is fun. The most important thing is giving interesting and meaningful feedback that motivates the player to align his or her goals with those accommodated by the game's design, and many RPG's seem to suffer from assuming that those goals are aligned from the start.

 

However, the problem with this approach is of course that with every system of consequences you program, you are widening the scope of the game's simulation, which drains development resources. In my experience though, even the simplest feedback can be sufficient (such as a single perhaps-humorous line to describe an irrelevant object that the player attempts to interact with), as long as it provides an in-world explanation (i.e. more so than Skyrim's "you cannot go this way"). I myself love "wide" games, but it does seem that there are a lot of people who enjoy more "narrow" (not necessarily deeper in my opinion) games.

Edited by mcmanusaur
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There are games that push you to explore and try to give you all the tools to do, as well as cool things to find. Might and Magic, The Elder Scrolls, and Gothic series come to find. These types of games tend to lack much of a story and in some cases the writing and acting is dreadful (the Two Worlds games come to mind). Other games push a story so much that they limit freedom and are extremely linear (most modern Bioware games), but on the other hand they have, at least for computer games standard, a decent story and characters, so you may overlook these problems. Very few games manage a good compromise. I think Baldur's Gate (the original) was one of them. There was a story, but most of the world was open to you from the beginning, and there were very few purely linear segmants.

 

Personally I don't see this as a binary thing, there is nothing stopping an open world game from having a deep, complex and intriguing narrative as New Vegas, Betrayal at Krondor, Arcanum and the old Ultimas prove. Admittedly not every game has the budget or development scope to embrace interactivity, but when they do it seems obvious to me that they should, after all this is the key strength of the medium. That said, obviously there must be limitations because of the lack of a GM, and the superior human brain, thus my original question on what limitations are palatable.

 

The red mist of Dead Money strikes me as a good example of a malleable barrier, along with the alarm system, in that both can be manipulated to an extent and yet still serve as an effective hard limit. Thus making the player clever and potent, and yet more satisfactorily constrained.

 

The vagaries of weather and nature also seem more palatable, perhaps because of our intrinsic susceptibility to the elements. It was very refreshing to have to prepare and equip oneself for the trip into the northern reaches of the Serpent Isle in the game of the same name, and be punished if one should opt to ignore the repeated warnings.

 

Of course for a high level party such considerations are lessened or vanish, as a single teleport can bypass what was previously impassable, or the weather can be tamed etcetera, which makes the designers have to work harder and smarter one suspects.

Edited by Nonek
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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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The Extra Credits Youtube show has recently done a series of videos on this topic, worth watching even though they're pretty basic.

 

When it comes to limitations, I heavily prefer non-arbitrary restrictions in which you are free to experience the negative consequences of any relevant course of action rather than being prevented from taking that course in the first place. For instance, in Europa Universalis' current state it's impossible to conquer more than a couple provinces from a single war, regardless of how one-sided the war is; instead, the game should model the reasons why you might not want to take on so much land so quickly (and to some extent it already does, making this arbitrary limit all the more baffling). You could likewise argue that the player should be able to experience the consequences of committing evil acts rather than being prohibited from performing such acts, but I think you can make the case that certain things are irrelevant enough that they don't need to be simulated.

 

As a general point, I think that too many designers focus exclusively on "rewarding" the player, and- while that's definitely important- it's a big mistake to ignore the behavioral conditioning value of "punishments"; without punishments it's very difficult to dissuade players from undesired behaviors, and they'll just be left wondering "what could have been". The "punishments" don't even have to be that punishing to achieve this most of the time, just as extrinsic "rewards" need not be so rewarding if the core experience is fun. The most important thing is giving interesting and meaningful feedback that motivates the player to align his or her goals with those accommodated by the game's design, and many RPG's seem to suffer from assuming that those goals are aligned from the start.

 

However, the problem with this approach is of course that with every system of consequences you program, you are widening the scope of the game's simulation, which drains development resources. In my experience though, even the simplest feedback can be sufficient (such as a single perhaps-humorous line to describe an irrelevant object that the player attempts to interact with), as long as it provides an in-world explanation (i.e. more so than Skyrim's "you cannot go this way"). I myself love "wide" games, but it does seem that there are a lot of people who enjoy more "narrow" (not necessarily deeper in my opinion) games.

I think too many designers are afraid to make games difficult. For example afraid of having areas much to difficult for players to enter, afraid to pose puzzles that one encounters early in the game, but can only solve later, et. I personally don't mind a "narrow" game if it offers me an interesting story. For example Knights of the Old Republic is a fairly linear game, but I liked the story, so it seemed like a good tradeoff for not being so wide.

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There are games that push you to explore and try to give you all the tools to do, as well as cool things to find. Might and Magic, The Elder Scrolls, and Gothic series come to find. These types of games tend to lack much of a story and in some cases the writing and acting is dreadful (the Two Worlds games come to mind). Other games push a story so much that they limit freedom and are extremely linear (most modern Bioware games), but on the other hand they have, at least for computer games standard, a decent story and characters, so you may overlook these problems. Very few games manage a good compromise. I think Baldur's Gate (the original) was one of them. There was a story, but most of the world was open to you from the beginning, and there were very few purely linear segmants.

 

Personally I don't see this as a binary thing, there is nothing stopping an open world game from having a deep, complex and intriguing narrative as New Vegas, Betrayal at Krondor, Arcanum and the old Ultimas prove. Admittedly not every game has the budget or development scope to embrace interactivity, but when they do it seems obvious to me that they should, after all this is the key strength of the medium. That said, obviously there must be limitations because of the lack of a GM, and the superior human brain, thus my original question on what limitations are palatable.

 

The red mist of Dead Money strikes me as a good example of a malleable barrier, along with the alarm system, in that both can be manipulated to an extent and yet still serve as an effective hard limit. Thus making the player clever and potent, and yet more satisfactorily constrained.

 

The vagaries of weather and nature also seem more palatable, perhaps because of our intrinsic susceptibility to the elements. It was very refreshing to have to prepare and equip oneself for the trip into the northern reaches of the Serpent Isle in the game of the same name, and be punished if one should opt to ignore the repeated warnings.

 

Of course for a high level party such considerations are lessened or vanish, as a single teleport can bypass what was previously impassable, or the weather can be tamed etcetera, which makes the designers have to work harder and smarter one suspects.

 

I definately agree with you. Its possible, but apparently very difficult, as there are very few  games in this category. Most games either fail on the side of narrative or scope.

Edited by forgottenlor

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Speaking of the people like that ninja chap from ME3 who beat you despite being whipped by you, it would DEFINITELY be a better idea to have them be "supposed" to be really, really tough, and simply allow the player to POSSIBLY outsmart/beat them, and have that affect the outcome of that bit of story, even if it means that they get away unscathed or something.

 

The simplest example of this I can think of is of those occasional boss fights in old-school turn-based console RPGs (like Final Fantasy and such) that, if you die in, the story still progresses because you were "supposed" to die. But, sometimes you can actually still win (though, in those games, it was usually just a matter of grinding your level up beyond reason before going into the fight), and the outcome would be slightly different. Granted, you usually just got bonus loads of money/exp, maybe a spiffy item you can't get any other way, etc. But, in a game like P:E, the outcome variance could be much more significant.

 

Still, if you NEED the bad guy to maintain the upper hand in the grand scheme of things, there are plenty of varied outcomes you can allow for while still allowing for the overall narrative to continue in the same direction. It doesn't have to just be between "this guy whoops you good" or "you smite the crap out of him and thwart all his plans."

 

Kai Leng! That's his name! <ME3 MINOR SPOILERS> The ME3 cyber-ninja. Yeah, somehow, he beats you no matter what, even though HE doesn't even beat you. A gunship that's somehow got an impervious flood light and cannot be harmed by any means at all beats you. So, basically... he's not any better than a single gunship, even though you've taken down like 3 of those so far since the first game. It's just rather silly. <END ME3 SPOILERS> It's as if the developers thought "Hmm, for the duration of this boss fight, we couldn't care less about how any of this fits into the lore or story or ANYthing. All we care about is making this a tough fight, with gameplay mechanics." Then, after the fight, they just have the story pretend it never happened. It just pretends you watched a cutscene or something, rather than participated in a dynamic fight. The fight allows for plenty of dynamics, but only one outcome.

 

Anywho... I just thought that was a good thing to point out (when Nonek pointed out those annoying villains). Really, it just comes down to the fact that, it doesn't make any sense for them to just be invincible and "win" no matter what. Oh, you just sawed them into 7 pieces? Well, the story just compensates for whatever you did to get everything right back on the EXACT same track it was, with absolutely no differences. As in, the only two options are "this guy just kicked your party's arse, then laughed and fled," or "you just kicked this guy's arse, after which is threw some super-powerful bomb that you don't know why he didn't use before, thereby instantly kicking your party's arse, then laughing and fleeing." There's really no need for the arbitrary course correction. If you want to maintain the same course, then just write/design things in such a way so as to constrain the course variance to a narrower field.

 

I don't mind some "linear"/definite aspects to a story. Like "The bad guys are EVENTUALLY going to get their hands on this ancient artifact." But, if that's so, then I'd like to affect how and when they do it, and I'd like how and when they do it to affect the course of events leading up to that, and the choices available to me, and the situations I've got to deal with.

Edited by Lephys
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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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I have a fairly high threshold for player limitation, I think, provided that the game offers me choice within those limitations (keep me busy with which road I take to Mordor and I'll not complain that I couldn't take an eagle), and as long as the limitations do not cause characters to behave out of character (the easiest way to do this in an rpg, is to limit the character). There are always going to be limitations, unless you go absolute Dr Manhatten sandbox, but I'm not sure that would be very fun to play.

 

The worst example of player limitation, since it fails horribly on both counts, was good old Dirge of Cerebus, a "game" so horrible that even my jrpg softened heart couldn't bear to play past the 1st hour. Justified completely by this Let's Play, which contains strong language and is my favourite thing on the internet.

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I would play the **** out of a Dr. Manhattan sandbox, if Alan Moore was ok with it and you went around naked.


"Take your child murderin' god and shove his him up his own ass."-Volorun

 

"...the vote of a black redhead disabled homosexual transsexual Jew should probably be worth the same as at least a hundred white heterosexual Christians."-Rostere

 

"i can think of many women i would gladly sleep with, but not a single one that i would want as a girlfriend/wife... neither real nor fictional."-teknoman2

 

"I'm all for killing dogs in film." - algroth

 

"Iselmyr is the one who did GOMAD... Aloth is lactose intolerant" -ShadySands

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Aside from the blue genital simulation aspect of it, I use the thing as a potential extreme of my many issues with the sandbox genre. Just because something can be done does not mean that it is worth doing in a game.

 

To me, all games should essentially come down to 'Here is the task, here are your tools, use these tools to the best of your ability to complete the task'. I'd sooner the task was the complex part and the tools limited, but these days, in the world of Farcry and the new GTAs, there seems to be an expectation for as many tools as possible but whether by direct causation the tasks seem to become simple and repetitive (to allow for this?). Games that offer me the opportunity to do mundane crap that I not only could do in real life but actively choose not to (There will never be a greater culprit for this than the Sims) are worse still.

 

Anyway, that venting slid slightly outside of the point, as I'm sure no-one is asking for those levels of sandboxing any more than I am asking for a game that is railroadingly linear.

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I prefer the method of the old Might and Magic games. If you go the wrong way you get the s..t kicked out of you or you set off a trap that eradicates all of your characters, or you reach a box which your weakling characters can't force open yet. You go "Hmm. Maybe I'm not ready for that challenge yet." You reload and go somewhere else.

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At some level, I acknowledge that I'm playing a game and there is no computer game that exists that can have unlimited flexibility.

 

So I play what the game gives, not what I wished it gave.  As long as its internally consistent, there isn't a problem.

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I think that statement succinctly hits the nail on the head, we're all looking for consistency in our playthroughs, the world and its players to react in a believable and logical manner. When they do not, when one is asked too many times to partake in nonsensical actions, then one feels a dissonance and percieves that there is no agency and no real point in playing.

 

Betrayal at Krondor has a very nice example of subverting a soft limitation, *SPOILERS* ahead obviously. While travelling south to Krondor one may find Moredhel (big barbaric warlike elves) lockboxes, and deciphering them will result in uncovering a number of missives hinting at an ambush on the most populated road leading south. Changing to the coastal path will lead into a trap, which the Moredhel leader has crafted for the party, and reveal that those notes were carefully placed ruses relying on the players curiosity and greed. And of course one may well uncover this ambush as well, coming to the site forewarned and forearmed. *END SPOILERS*

 

I found this very palatable, it did not just reward exploration as is normal, but rewarded an attitude where the player tried to stay one step ahead and questioned everything, and through doing so was able to adapt and overcome. Indeed the central mantra of the game seems to insist that nobody is trustworthy, refreshing cynicism.

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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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