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This article might be relevant to the balance discussion:  http://www.wizards.com/magic/magazine/article.aspx?x=mtgcom/daily/mr11b

 

Yes, a MTG is a totally different genre than CRPGs, but the distinction between the player types is universal.  "Johnny" type players are strongly opposed to the concept of balance, because part of the point of this personality type is to make something that everyone else thinks is "bad" into something that is useful.  I fall into that camp myself.

 

Thanks for the read. Although I've read similar ones in the past, it was still educational.

 

But I don't follow your logic. The article you linked never mentions Johnnies being opposed to the concept of balance. I consider myself belonging to that category too, and I love balancing (did it for years on an RTS mod). You can always self-gimp yourself, no matter how balanced or unbalanced the game is. In a cRPG, play without mages (Keyrock's all might MM X party does this right now). Don't use multi-class or dual class characters. Only use melee weapons. The list is endless, you're not limited by game balance. -- Now that I'm writing about this, I recall that I played DA:O on Nightmare with the self-imposed challenge of never allowing characters to be downed. I had to win all battles with all party members standing. That was a fun one.

 

 

If a game was fully (or statically) balanced then, by definition, there would be no functional difference between factions / classes -- in MtG terms, black would have just as much healing as white, because otherwise it is "unfair", or in CRPG would not have classes or races that had any difference beyond the cosmetic.  Chess is an example of a statically balanced game.  In such games the skill of the player is exhibited by their ability to win despite a level playing field.

 

Now, dynamic balance is something that most people, including myself, favors -- but this means that different factions and different classes have strengths and weaknesses, and therefore there are "good decks / builds" and "bad decks / builds".  In such a game the player can (if he/she is sufficiently skilled) ensure their success before the conflict even starts, due to (meta-game) preparation.  In a CRPG, this could include everything from only using the "most effective" abilities, exploiting limitations in the AI of opponents, to taking advantage of outright bugs in the games rules.

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Now, dynamic balance is something that most people, including myself, favors -- but this means that different factions and different classes have strengths and weaknesses, and therefore there are "good decks / builds" and "bad decks / builds".  In such a game the player can (if he/she is sufficiently skilled) ensure their success before the conflict even starts, due to (meta-game) preparation.  In a CRPG, this could include everything from only using the "most effective" abilities, exploiting limitations in the AI of opponents, to taking advantage of outright bugs in the games rules.

 

I have great news for you and everyone else who's concerned that "overbalancing" will somehow make the game unfun: no matter

what they do, you will still be able to build "good decks" and "back decks" within the game. Their task is impossible, so you'll get what you want. During the first few weeks of beta, player reports will feature a large number of exploits, and some of those will not be fixed by launch, or later, or ever (maybe in a player-made mod), because they would require a redesign of features, and the producer's cost analysis shows that it's just not worth it.

 

The goal is to lessen the gap between the absolute best decks and the absolute worst decks. "Viable". A more level playing field, not a flattened playing field. I've watched Guild Wars, loosely based on Magic: the Gathering, being balanced for 6 years, and after many efforts at bringing ****ty skills into play and cutting back on overpowered ones, including a total class redesign with the Dervish, the game's balance still had some pretty big holes. But! BUT! Build diversity definitely improved with balancing. The efforts were not wasted.

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The Seven Blunders/Roots of Violence: Wealth without work. Pleasure without conscience. Knowledge without character. Commerce without morality. Science without humanity. Worship without sacrifice. Politics without principle. (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi)

 

Let's Play the Pools Saga (SSI Gold Box Classics)

Pillows of Enamored Warfare -- The Zen of Nodding

 

 

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^ Guild Wars is such an excellent example, because that game has like 80-million builds with any given character. Earlier on, they had like 50% of them that were blatantly inferior, and they improved that. They didn't do it by killing diversity.

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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From my perspective, I look at it like this:

 

Assuming that different builds are possible, and that those builds have unique capabilities, then (by definition) exactly 50% will be "better than average" and 50% will be "worse than average" when builds are compared to one another with some common criteria ("combat effectiveness" being the relevant term here).  It is almost certain that the builds will be distributed along a standard bell curve, with the vast majority being within one standard deviation of the theoretical "average build".

 

This means that you can't simply eliminate bad builds from the game -- if you identify the bottom 25% of builds, and modify the mechanics to make these builds "better", all you've really done is push the average build "up", reducing the interval between "bad" and "good", but there are still bad builds available, they are just different bad builds.  The only way to truly eliminate the risk of a player having a poor experience / having to restart the game due to make poor selections during level up is to altogether eliminate the functional distinctions between potential builds.  While I doubt that Sawyer intends to go this far, I certainly haven't seen anything from him that says where he is planning on drawing the line -- and that concerns me.

 

To use an analogy -- "poverty" is very much defined in relationship to your personal experiences.  In the US, someone living in a poorly maintained apartment, with running water, who gets 1200 calories a day in food is considered to be living in poverty.  In other areas of the world, though, that same person would be considered to be "average", or even "above average" -- after all, the have shelter and clean water.

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^ True, but if all your "impoverished" people can afford food and shelter on a daily basis, as opposed to half of them being unable to do so, that's an improvement despite their relative financial status.

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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Yes, you explained this really well. The statement is: reducing the deviation is worth it, it improves the player experience among the whole distribution. You think that this change is not a real change. I think it's a real change.

 

There is a challenge level provided by the game. If you lessen the gap between bad and good, it's more likely that the player's power will fall close to that level. You brought up statistics -- this is exactly what reducing the spread does, the majority gets closer to the average. And the average is where the developers TRY to put the challenge level. Both too little and too much challenge leave a bad taste in the player's mouth.

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The Seven Blunders/Roots of Violence: Wealth without work. Pleasure without conscience. Knowledge without character. Commerce without morality. Science without humanity. Worship without sacrifice. Politics without principle. (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi)

 

Let's Play the Pools Saga (SSI Gold Box Classics)

Pillows of Enamored Warfare -- The Zen of Nodding

 

 

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Concerning 'bad builds' -- not everyone is a power gamer. Many like their protagonist or NPCs to have a wide array of skills suitable for many situations, or they may like their Cleric/Mage to be able to hit hard with a Great Axe.

 

The fact that the option is given to those people is grand.

 

It is even greater that PoE is a game with that kind of rule-set.

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Matilda is a Natlan woman born and raised in Old Vailia. She managed to earn status as a mercenary for being a professional who gets the job done, more so when the job involves putting her excellent fighting abilities to good use.

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No. I'm speaking for actual, existing people who don't care to have MAX this, MAX that.

Matilda is a Natlan woman born and raised in Old Vailia. She managed to earn status as a mercenary for being a professional who gets the job done, more so when the job involves putting her excellent fighting abilities to good use.

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Hm. Could it be you are speaking of this elusive and possibly mythical "gamers who play for fun" clan?

 

Everyone plays for fun, it's just that differnet people have different deffinitions of fun.

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Haha! You're such a funny person! People who don't like to max-min builds, nor experience spiritual transcendence when watching numbers jump up and down on the screen? 

 

Whatever will you come up with next?

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Concerning 'bad builds' -- not everyone is a power gamer. Many like their protagonist or NPCs to have a wide array of skills suitable for many situations, or they may like their Cleric/Mage to be able to hit hard with a Great Axe.

 

The fact that the option is given to those people is grand.

 

It is even greater that PoE is a game with that kind of rule-set.

I think, in this day and age, one of the main points of game design in an open ended game like this is to deliberately prevent "gimp" builds from being made. Everything has to be viable in some way. 

It's part of the reason Diablo 3 became much less user selection and more "you're a XXX you get YYY at level ZZ". Simply to remove the fact that people who don't know anything about a game will probably end up finding a way to utterly annihilate their chances of success compared to other builds by putting points in the "wrong" stats. 

 

Dragon Age got around this too by having the player just become a god among men and the game just roll over and give up for the second half of the game because even a "terrible" build would just maul their way through almost anything coming at them.

 

As To PoE, I think one of the things they'd have to do is something akin to this or a tutorial about building a character. If they don't they could create a game that is very easy to make difficult for new players, and if this game is going to be commercially viable, they have to catch new players. Backers are great and all, but the thing is by offering up the game to backers as part of the backing, they lose a portion of those who would actually buy the game, thus they have to work harder on the other end to make it viable to players who normally who wouldn't normally pick up a game like this, or who have no experience/nostalgia with the game types they're trying to emulate.

 

After all, since the IE games popped out an entire generation has been born and are now entering highschool.

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To go off on a tangent... well, a little. I minmax, like, a lot, in RPG's. It makes it difficult for me to get into them actually because as soon as I realize I've made a mistake, I have to start over, and I make a lot of mistakes, so by the time I manage to come up with a build I really like, I'm already bored.

 

This is worse if the game mechanics are in conflict with the game story or content. The famous 'ludo-narrative dissonance.' I just started a replay of KOTOR 2 with the restored content mod (hadn't played it with the mod before), and it's hitting me big-time. The mechanics give extremely strong incentives to light-side or dark-side from the get-go, but the narrative is all about challenging the whole light/dark split and perhaps even the Force itself. I.e., I'm torn between wanting to explore the story -- role-playing -- and wanting to beat the game mechanically. This dissonance is significantly reducing my enjoyment. I would have found it much more enjoyable if a "gray" alignment would not have been unambiguously less powerful than a light-side or dark-side one, but would instead have had different but unique advantages of its own.

 

Ultimately my solution was to roll up a bruiser Guardian with low WIS and CHA who doesn't even use Force powers much at all. With him, I can gray away as much as I like, and STR and CON 18 (D-packages FTW!) gives enough advantages in combat that that's fun too. I'm finding that much more enjoyable, and am actually playing in-character, which is very nice. It's just a shame I had to more or less ditch the distinguishing core mechanic of the game to get there. A 'gray' Consular would be seriously gimped!

 

I'm fairly certain that Obs would have designed the mechanics differently had they had that option, but they had to work within the franchise. I love the writing in KOTOR2, but perhaps it would have been a better game had they not written against the grain of the mechanics, if changing the mechanics was not possible. P:E doesn't have this problem obviously, which is one more reason to look forward to it.

I have a project. It's a tabletop RPG. It's free. It's a work in progress. Find it here: www.brikoleur.com

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Never heard of that term before, Primejunta, but what an excellent one it is.

 

For all I'm concerned about having "all builds viable" as a goal, I am at least encouraged by the character stats not instantly encouraging min-maxing; a flaw all the IE games had in common. Perhaps it's because I grew up on SPECIAL, but I always found it deeply grating that my intelligence 3, charisma 3 Barbarian was going around engaging in philosophical debates with wizards.

 

The ever-popular "All or none" morality system is, even outside of KoTOR, absolutely horrible and serves to reduce player agency in the narrative. I'm not certain that KoTOR 2 doesn't encourage it to enhance the antagonising qualities of Kreia, however. It's difficult to say. For all the issues that arise from it being incomplete KoTOR 2 has another issue that arises from the inconsistency between what the designers were trying to do and the first game. I know that lots of people love it, and where more than on an Obsidian forum, but in my opinion the first game is superior on almost all levels. One of these is that you can be "grey" in the story whilst being "light" in the statistics screen (evidenced by my initial playthrough, where Kjaamor the peerless Jedi guardian saved the universe in order to nob Bastila).

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 Perhaps it's because I grew up on SPECIAL, but I always found it deeply grating that my intelligence 3, charisma 3 Barbarian was going around engaging in philosophical debates with wizards.

 

well we sure hope obsidian does a better job than did special... 'cause special is a horrible example o' balance.  nope, there weren't no "grunt" response written into every ie game dialogue, which admittedly were mostly window dressing in fo and only actual changed meaningful consequences o' a few encounters. that being said, am not sure why a 3 charisma would prevent you from having a philosophical debate with a wizard. am suspecting that more than a few o' our professors at university had charisma in the fiveish range... if such a stat weren't anything other than a silly abstraction. heck, a third o' the profs we knew were probable at university 'cause their people skills and personality were so bad that doing anything o' use in the real world were largely impossible. 

 

add grunt response for every dialogue is HaHa worthy, but if obsidian don't do that, we won't be bothered. as long as there is practical benefits and costs for each ability point, we will be satisfied. ie games did a horrible job o' making sure each ability had costs and benefits, but then again, so did d&d. kinda had to depend on the dm for many such penalties and bonuses... and neither bioware or obsidian/black isle did much with the abilities. "chuckle* the one game black isle did put effort into abilities being meaningful to characters, other than as prime attribute, were ps:t, which were possible the most unbalanced ie game we can think of at the moment in terms o' abilities. nowadays we can't even force our self to play a ps:t character without high wisdom and charisma. bad design.

 

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"If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence."Justice Louis Brandeis, Concurring, Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357 (1927)

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..funny you should mention Kotor2 as an example of mechanics breaking with the narrative. Because I always thought that game made a lot of sense when playing it.. over and over again a while back.

 

And then I started playing it again now. And realized that the reason why the game made sense was that I always chose a high wis/dex sentinel. Without that build, very little of the role-playing worked, I ran around in power-armor, didn't care about the force, aspired to conquer the universe, destroy the entire world, and destroy my enemies with my mind, AHAHAHAHA.

 

Then again, maybe that was the entire point, what would I know. That the game was written to allow both the destructive and the seeking path, without the character committing to either by choice of actual dialogue in the game. And that it encouraged you to decide what the ambiguous dialogue would actually mean.

 

The Visas arc is probably the best example of that in any game I've played. In that you can convincingly intend to trick her from the beginning, and the dialogue makes complete sense. You could also just guide her along, until she sacrifices herself of her own will. Or, you could genuinely be trying to figure her out and connect with her. Etc., etc.

 

Only problem with this approach is that you always end up with some situations where the writer knows what is supposed to happen, so they don't introduce you carefully enough into the scenario. Have had that problem several times when writing role-playing scenarios - that instead of the story being dynamic, it just seems vague and random. Then again, make things more pointed, and you start gating people.. Not easy.

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