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On "Degenerative Gameplay" - Fixing the Incentives for Healing and Scouting

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There's a really simple solution to this one. Remove Detection from the scouting mode. It doesn't belong there anyway. Give it its own "detect" button that can be switched on/off at will without making everyone walk slo-mo.

 

If it doesn't impose a movement speed penalty, under what circumstances would you ever want to switch it off?

 

None. And so what?

 

Theoretically, leaving it on shouldn't guarantee its success. Successfully finding hidden objects/traps should be based on how many ranks you have in the governing skill and the player's willingness to be thorough and cover the whole map. That's all. It should impose no more costs on the player than that.

 

That's how the IE games did it. There's simply nothing wrong with such an implementation.

Edited by Stun
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(Durlag's Tower was awful.)

(Durlag's tower was the greatest single gaming experience ever)
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(Durlag's Tower was awful.)

(Durlag's tower was the greatest single gaming experience ever)

 

 

This.


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Yup. I like Watcher's Keep too. Not as much, admittedly, but that might be a super-level issue.

 

Am I allowed to like both?


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I like both. The maze stuff in Watcher's keep was a bit banal. The Demon level was cool though (where you had to use the fan and open doors etc)

 

Those kinds of environmental puzzles are fun.

Edited by Sensuki
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If it doesn't impose a movement speed penalty, under what circumstances would you ever want to switch it off?

 

None. And so what?

 

 

 

I think that question rose, because you said that there should be 'detect' button that purpose is to switch detect mode on and off, so it comes to question why there is need to switch detection mode off, because if there isn't reason it is usually better not waste GUI space for button that has no purpose.

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I stated that damage prevention is *always* better than healing.  The tactical and strategic resources thing only comes into account if there isn't something that affects both but there is.  Damage prevention helps you in the short term it *also* helps you in the long term.  "Bubbles" are already in this game they just take the form of things like the Priest's Blessing spell.  There is no thought on when one uses a heal currently.  It's as a last resort when you've used all your your damage prevention methods.  I don't heal poison damage I use suppress affliction period end of story.  Healing isn't so much a poison but it's the equivalent of treating a symptom rather than reaching a cure or preventing the spread of a disease.  It is, by design, *always* the wrong choice.

 

You have to remember that not every player is going to be playing with a separate monitor running an excel spreadsheet.  Players naturally think healing is a good idea (because it's been that way forever).  It simply is not in PoE.  It is, by design, a trap as things currently stand.

 

 

 

I think you might be suffering from an existential crisis. All life leads to death! Why bother going on?

 

It doesn't matter if it's your health bar, or your precious store of healing spells and health potions.

 

Real cute.  Then tell me why would you use something like the Trollhide belt?

To... suck it up and move on?


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There's a really simple solution to this one. Remove Detection from the scouting mode. It doesn't belong there anyway. Give it its own "detect" button that can be switched on/off at will without making everyone walk slo-mo.

 

If it doesn't impose a movement speed penalty, under what circumstances would you ever want to switch it off?

 

None. And so what?

 

Then why not just make it passive (=always-on) like, say, the barbarian's Raw Strength?

 

Theoretically, leaving it on shouldn't guarantee its success. Successfully finding hidden objects/traps should be based on how many ranks you have in the governing skill and the player's willingness to be thorough and cover the whole map. That's all. It should impose no more costs on the player than that.

 

That's how the IE games did it. There's simply nothing wrong with such an implementation.

The IE games did impose a movement penalty when you had search mode on though. That's why it was a mode. If it had no penalties, it'd just be a passive ability.

 

I would just make it a passive ability, with, say, one check per second tied to your Perception. Searching in scouting mode would still be more effective because you're moving more slowly and therefore get more checks per area.

Edited by PrimeJunta

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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The IE games did impose a movement penalty when you had search mode on though.

They didn't. They imposed a time penalty. There's a difference. The way the IE games did it was via a 'pulse' check. when you had search on, the game checked for traps every 6 seconds. Thus there was a chance you'd miss finding a trap unless you were cautious and stopped every once in a while to let the game do its checks.

 

I suppose making it passive instead of assigning a button to it would be alright, so long as the mode automatically stops when you perform another action Like swing your sword at an enemy, or drink a potion, or cast a spell. Because, again, that's how the IE games did it - you couldn't search and fight at the same time. The button turns off automatially when you engage in another action.

Edited by Stun

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I may be mixing it up with something else, but didn't they say somewhere that it would work in a similar way as IE, but having passive checks on all the time and scouting mode increasing the frequency of the checks?

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I suppose making it passive instead of assigning a button to it would be alright, so long as the mode automatically stops when you perform another action Like swing your sword at an enemy, or drink a potion, or cast a spell. Because, again, that's how the IE games did it - you couldn't search and fight at the same time. The button turns off automatially when you engage in another action.

They should make it so it turns it off when the combat state starts ... p. simple

 

I also would like passive mechanics checking when not in stealth (works when idle) and only when moving in stealth.

Edited by Sensuki

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I suppose making it passive instead of assigning a button to it would be alright, so long as the mode automatically stops when you perform another action Like swing your sword at an enemy, or drink a potion, or cast a spell. Because, again, that's how the IE games did it - you couldn't search and fight at the same time. The button turns off automatially when you engage in another action.

They should make it so it turns it off when the combat state starts ... p. simple

 

I also would like passive mechanics checking when not in stealth (works when idle) and only when moving in stealth.

 

 

So if it turns off when combat starts then you can't choose to search for traps in that area while your comrades are fighting off the enemy? I seem to recall areas in the IE games where battle zones were trapped - BG final battle for one.

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I may be mixing it up with something else, but didn't they say somewhere that it would work in a similar way as IE, but having passive checks on all the time and scouting mode increasing the frequency of the checks?

 

If this is how it works, I'd be fine with it. I'm not sure that's true, though... 

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So if it turns off when combat starts then you can't choose to search for traps in that area while your comrades are fighting off the enemy? I seem to recall areas in the IE games where battle zones were trapped - BG final battle for one.

Good point.

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So if it turns off when combat starts then you can't choose to search for traps in that area while your comrades are fighting off the enemy? I seem to recall areas in the IE games where battle zones were trapped - BG final battle for one.

Yep. That's why it won't work in a system where it's "group-check-or-nothing". In BG, if you wanted to handle the traps while the rest of your party was fighting Seravok & Co., you kept your thief out of combat so that they could do a dedicated search.
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So if it turns off when combat starts then you can't choose to search for traps in that area while your comrades are fighting off the enemy? I seem to recall areas in the IE games where battle zones were trapped - BG final battle for one.

Yep. That's why it won't work in a system where it's "group-check-or-nothing". In BG, if you wanted to handle the traps while the rest of your party was fighting Seravok & Co., you kept your thief out of combat so that they could do a dedicated search.

 

 

Absolutely. It was actually a nail-biting experience to have all your people run interference to buy the thief time to disable those traps before Sarevok/Tazok closed and forced you into the traps.

 

The idea about having it structured as a passive ability that stops when the character is performing actions is definitely a good one, I think. It removes an "activity" for the player to do(push a button, tolerate dawdling speed, etc.) but not in a negative way.

 

Wouldn't it make sense to have an individual pulse check with perception as a main factor, possibly modified somewhat by class and skill(mechanics being the natural choice)? A rogue might have an edge on other classes due to his 'profession', but nothing would stop your super-perceptive Paladin mechanic from handling things.

Edited by Panteleimon

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1) Cause healing spells to heal a small amount of health as well - perhaps 1/6 or 1/8 as much as stamina. And only allow them to be used in combat (i.e. on "recent" wounds). This could make sense lore-wise (combat-only restriction means that only very recent wounds can be healed, which would fit with their lore reasons for no strategic healing) while allowing the player to use healing to somewhat alleviate the issue with frontliners losing all their health. Would also mean that healing is always a good thing - as it should be. :p

2) Have enemies attack downed characters, doing health damage vs reduced defenses. This would absolutely solve the problem, absolutely make sense (why does a wolf or beetle stop savaging you when you fall, exactly?), and absolutely be very punishing. This could be somewhat alleviated by making it a reduced ratio of health damage (definitely 1/4, maybe even 1/8), and would probably also be smart to only have non-intelligent enemies do this (as wild animals should keep attacking/eating, whereas smart enemies would realize they should move onto another threat). Even if only non-intelligent enemies did this, the DG problem would be fixed - after all, playing dead against a humanoid enemy would be a viable tactic in real life. Just not against everything.

3) Take a wound every time a character falls. minus-whatever to attributes until rest. Not a perfect solution, but it would resolve the incentive issues.

4) And finally (not gonna happen), remove health altogether and allow a certain number of falls before being maimed (dependent on class and talents). This would completely solve the incentive issues, making healing an altogether good thing (as it should be). 

 

 

5) Give a Morale malus to characters who go down that wears off after some time. This would make sense in the game world (you'd probably be a bit shaky if you've just been almost killed) and create an incentive for players to heal. 

(RP-wise this should be a Resolve or maybe Might [soul is weakened] malus but that would favour some builds over others)


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The idea about having it structured as a passive ability that stops when the character is performing actions is definitely a good one, I think. It removes an "activity" for the player to do(push a button, tolerate dawdling speed, etc.) but not in a negative way.

 

Or alternatively just have the passive ability be hindered when an action is performed.  When in battle I wouldn't expect my trap detector to be functioning at full capacity as other things are on his/her mind, but there should at least be some chance that they will spot the tripwire or avoid the slightly different coloured floor tile.  Just make it more difficult for them, and then fights which include traps will be easier for a party that includes a master of trap detection, whereas parties who just want to detect static traps outside of combat could get away with somebody with somewhat less skill.

 

This removes the "player activity" as you say and also seems more lifelike.

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5 reasons why I hate the notion of "degenerative gameplay":
(Note: I'm going to abbreviate it to DGP. Yeah, I'm lazy.)

1) It's poorly defined. Actually it's not defined at all. You can take any gameplay aspect and call it DGP. And then - unless you're simply trolling - you need to explain what you're talking about. So why don't you skip vague buzzwords and go straight to business?

2) It's purely subjective. Just because you dislike something doesn't mean everyone does. Ever wondered why D:OS is so popular and so praised despite all its issues? Because it's diverse and because so many things are optional there. E.g. I don't care for crafting in general and I find it particularly tiresome in D:OS. Good news: I don't have to do it. But I know people who love crafting. More good news: they have an opportunity to experiment with potential ingredients to their heart's content.

But personally I still don't care for crafting and I still feel it meaningless. So is extensive crafting DGP? Who will decide and based on what?

3) It doesn't help to identify the cause of the issue. Let's take for example "bad design" - another common inane phrase (which I shamefully admit to using). At least it puts the blame squarely on the product. Conversely, when we say something like "inflated expectations" we blame the target audience. We may as well be wrong in both cases but at least we've made ourselves clear.

 

Gameplay is partially a byproduct of design and partially just personal preferences - this is especially true for complex games like CRPGs where players generally have a lot to do and problems can be solved in various ways. So something is wrong, but what and where? Slapping a DPG label won't help us find out.

4) The wording is extremely unfortunate because it's derogatory and insulting. It sounds childish and silly. If someone called my way of playing a game DGP I'd be inclined to click ignore instead of reply. And that's a temptation I tend to give in to.

 

In any case you can hardly hope to get a polite and insightful response. Do we really need to incite and encourage flame wars? I think they happen often enough on their own.

 

5) It's simply overused which makes it all the more annoying. Seriously, aren't you tired of typing "degenerative gameplay"? At least "bad design" is short. Learn from the old skool, guys. :)

 

---

 

TL;DR: just let it die.

Edited by prodigydancer
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1) It's poorly defined. Actually it's not defined at all. You can take any gameplay aspect and call it DGP. And then - unless you're simply trolling - you need to explain what you're talking about. So why don't you skip vague buzzwords and go straight to business?

 

That was part of my motivation for making this post - to try and provide a clear definition. The definition I propose is "a game mechanic that incentivizes (what would be in the game world) absurd behavior by making said absurd behavior the optimal strategy".

 

 

2) It's purely subjective. Just because you dislike something doesn't mean everyone does. Ever wondered why D:OS is so popular and so praised despite all its issues? Because it's diverse and because so many things are optional there. E.g. I don't care for crafting in general and I find it particularly tiresome in D:OS. Good news: I don't have to do it. But I know people who love crafting. More good news: they have an opportunity to experiment with potential ingredients to their heart's content.

 

True. Which is why we need a clear definition. Granted, there's some subjectivity still, but that's just the nature of design. There is no objectively "best" design for anything - that's what makes it different from analysis.

 

3) It doesn't help to identify the cause of the issue. Let's take for example "bad design" - another common inane phrase (which I shamefully admit to using). At least it puts the blame squarely on the product. Conversely, when we say something like "inflated expectations" we blame the target audience. We may as well be wrong in both cases but at least we've made ourselves clear.

 

When using the definition I propose for DG (my abbreviation is even shorter, which kind of leads me to assume you didn't read my post as you would've simply used said already established abbreviation - forgive me if I'm wrong. :p), it does help identify the cause of the issue - namely, mechanic design that incentivizes absurd behavior. So by my definition, DG (at least the kind worth talking about) is the fault of the designer. Sure, some players will find a way to cheese anything - but that doesn't forgive mechanic design with mechanics that are absolutely begging to be exploited. If you read my OP, I think I made that fairly clear (and I apologize if I didn't).

 

4) The wording is unfortunate because it's derogatory and insulting. It sounds childish and silly. If someone called my way of playing a game DGP I'd be inclined to click ignore instead of reply. And that's a temptation I tend to give in to.

 

I mean, if you choose to take it in an insulting way I apologize for offending you - but I hardly think it's childish or silly. Terms exist to let us concisely express complex ideas - if the term is clearly defined and used properly, the way it "sounds" is hardly relevant. As for calling your way of playing a game DG, I again am led to believe you didn't read my post, because I didn't call any particular way of playing out as DG. Instead, I called certain (IMO badly designed) mechanics out for promoting DG.

 

5) It's simply overused which makes it all the more annoying. 

 

Which is why we need a clear definition so it can be used properly.

 

 

 

In general, I'm getting the impression that you just don't like the term. Which is fine. But that doesn't mean it can't be a useful term to use when discussing game design - design of this game in particular, since the term was coined by this game's lead designer (AFAIK).

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Ooh, may I?

 

5 reasons why I hate the notion of "degenerative gameplay":

(Note: I'm going to abbreviate it to DGP. Yeah, I'm lazy.)

 

1) It's poorly defined. Actually it's not defined at all. You can take any gameplay aspect and call it DGP. And then - unless you're simply trolling - you need to explain what you're talking about. So why don't you skip vague buzzwords and go straight to business?

It's not poorly defined. It means "any strategy which exploits a design flaw in the mechanics to gain an advantage." The only point of contention is whether something constitutes a design flaw, and since we have the designers here to answer that, there should be zero contention about the term.

 

It's frequently abused, for sure, but so then which term isn't?

 

 

2) It's purely subjective. Just because you dislike something doesn't mean everyone does. Ever wondered why D:OS is so popular and so praised despite all its issues? Because it's diverse and because so many things are optional there. E.g. I don't care for crafting in general and I find it particularly tiresome in D:OS. Good news: I don't have to do it. But I know people who love crafting. More good news: they have an opportunity to experiment with potential ingredients to their heart's content.

Again, completely wrong. Degenerate strategy is one of the very, very few terms in games that are almost not subjective at all. See the definition above.

 

Subjectivity does come into the equation because some people appear to enjoy degenerate strategies. They want mechanics that are breakable and exploitable so they can score easy wins, even if the way to score them is boring, mechanical, or repetitive.

 

But personally I still don't care for crafting and I still feel it meaningless. So is extensive crafting DGP? Who will decide and based on what?

The designer, parbleu! How did he intend the crafting system to be used? Are you using it against his intent and thereby making the rest of the game easier than he intended? If yes, then it's degenerate. If not, then it's not.

 

3) It doesn't help to identify the cause of the issue. Let's take for example "bad design" - another common inane phrase (which I shamefully admit to using). At least it puts the blame squarely on the product. Conversely, when we say something like "inflated expectations" we blame the target audience. We may as well be wrong in both cases but at least we've made ourselves clear.

Wait, are you actually saying that 'bad design' -- or, basically, 'design' itself -- is a useless or inane phrase?

 

That's weird.

 

Every game, from Rock-Paper-Scissors to the most sweeping of cRPG's is a designed artifact. They did not just miraculously appear. Somebody decided what the rules are, what's in the game, and what's not. Every single of those decisions was a design decision, and the way they fit together is a design. Sometimes those designs evolved over time and we don't know who the original designer was, but they're still designs. Some of those designs are really good (e.g. chess), and some are really bad (e.g. every piece of shovelware anyone only downloads by mistake and immediately forgets about).

 

Gameplay is partially a byproduct of design and partially just personal preferences - this is especially true for complex games like CRPGs where players generally have a lot to do and problems can be solved in various ways. So something is wrong, but what and where? Slapping a DPG label won't help us find out.

Of course it won't, if all you do is slap on the label. It can be, however, a useful diagnosis. Slapping on a label "Diabetes" won't help anything, unless you've first ascertained that the patient does, in fact, suffer from a syndrome that matches the diagnostic definition of "diabetes." Same with degenerate strategy.

 

4) The wording is extremely unfortunate because it's derogatory and insulting. It sounds childish and silly. If someone called my way of playing a game DGP I'd be inclined to click ignore instead of reply. And that's a temptation I tend to give in to.

Who does it insult? The player clever enough to find the flaw in the mechanics, or the designer who made the mistakes that left the hole in? Surely not the player?

 

In any case you can hardly hope to get a polite and insightful response. Do we really need to incite and encourage flame wars? I think they happen often enough on their own.

No, we don't.

 

5) It's simply overused which makes it all the more annoying. Seriously, aren't you tired of typing "degenerative gameplay"? At least "bad design" is short. Learn from the old skool, guys. :)

'Degenerate strategy' is not the same thing as 'bad design.' Not all bad design leads to degenerate strategies. Some games are boring without having degenerate strategies. That's bad design too.

 

---

TL;DR: just let it die.

Absolutely not. It is an extremely useful concept, and the term describes it well. If you're not interested in discussing it, then by all means don't, of course.


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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PrimeJunta,
 
I recall a post you made about degenerate gameplay and you gave an example:
 

If systemic rewards and in-game objectives are misaligned, you get degenerate strategies. For example, Suppose that in-game a druid is defined as a class whose mission is to protect nature. If the game rewards killing wild animals, you get a misalignment: a druid that kills wild animals whenever he meets them becomes more powerful than a druid who goes out of his way to avoid killing them.

 
Now lets apply this to the Beta with the Dragon egg quest. I recall a poster on these forums who didn't want to take the egg whilst roleplaying their druid. Maybe stop the adventurers at the cliff face but also protect the egg due to the whole 'balance of nature' thing?

 

How does a druid who wants to roleplay this type of druid also get rewarded with xp. Why does the druid who does take the egg get rewarded over the druid who want to protect nature? Would you say this is an example of degenerate gameplay?

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Hiro: That would be a very nice example of degenerative gameplay. In fact, every druid taking that egg and earning quest xp for it is an act of degenerate gameplay.

 

prodigydancer had some important points in his list about "degenerate gameplay", and If I may add to those, most successful games, and this definitely includes CRPGs, like BG, PST and NWN2: MotB, have plenty of degenerative gameplay that never was intentional, but when taken together, the overall effect was improved gameplay and more fun. Sometimes the sum of a game's parts manage to the exceed the whole of it, and then it somehow outdoes itself and become magical. Often, these magical boosters in CRPGs come about from devs trying something out for the first time. This goes for BG, PST and MotB. In short, flaws can be blessings, and degenerate gameplay isn't an exception to this. There is nothing objective about art, and I consider game-making and CRPGs to be art. :)


*** "The words of someone who feels ever more the ent among saplings when playing CRPGs" ***

 

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@Hiro: No, I wouldn't, because it does not arise from systemic features. It is not a strategy. This is different from the example you quoted, which does arise directly from systemic features (kill XP in this case).

 

I would consider it a design lacuna, though: they put in a class with a role of 'protector of nature' and failed to script in outcomes that would support this role. There should have been another possibility open to a druid in the scripted interaction, e.g. "summon a spirit of nature to watch over the egg and hide it from others who would want to steal it." There, closure, and an alternative ending.

Edited by PrimeJunta
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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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