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

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ah, okay. Perhaps the devs will add in another line of text for all classes and not just the druid because it shouldn't be only for druids. But it would give the class like the druid that option for their class. 

 

Maybe quests in the game should take into account the 'class' aspect to it with extra dialogue options for all classes. I'm sure we haven't see the last of this type of slip up.

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PJ: It does arise from systemic features: quest xp. The player that has her/his driud doing that just for completing the quest and getting its xp would be just as involved in "degenerative gameplay" as a player that plays BG1 and follow baddies before the story etc in order to get kill xp, since there's a choice not to take the egg, no?

Edited by IndiraLightfoot

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

 

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I'm not going to get into an argument but I do agree with Indira. It does promote degenerative gameplay.
 
As Josh said:
 

If these behaviors are advantageous enough, players will gravitate toward them with increasing frequency until they become the de facto "correct" tactics and strategies for play.

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Obviously, I'm teasing a bit here, but it's because I really wanted to drive my point (and prodigydancer's, I believe) home, that "degenerate gameplay" isn't as useful for game design as we think it is. First and foremost in a game comes fun, varied and engaging gameplay, and there will be logical flaws in such gameplay, always.

Edited by IndiraLightfoot

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

 

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ah, okay. Perhaps the devs will add in another line of text for all classes and not just the druid because it shouldn't be only for druids. But it would give the class like the druid that option for their class. 

 

Maybe quests in the game should take into account the 'class' aspect to it with extra dialogue options for all classes. I'm sure we haven't see the last of this type of slip up.

 

They seem to be trying; there are already lots of different outcomes for many of the quests even in the BB. There's no way they're going to account for every possible motivation (class-based or otherwise) everywhere, but the more, the better.

 

I won't get into an argument about this either, but I do disagree with both of you in re the applicability of 'degenerate strategy' in this case.


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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Obviously, I'm teasing a bit here, but it's because I really wanted to drive my point (and prodigydancer's, I believe) home, that "degenerate gameplay" isn't as useful for game design as we think it is. First and foremost in a game comes fun, varied and engaging gameplay, and there will be logical flaws in such gameplay, always.

 

Consider Soul Ignition in the first BB. That let you cheese through the entire beta because you could fire it off at insane range, it did not trigger aggro, and it made absurd amounts of damage. Using it that way was a classic degenerate strategy: it posed no challenge, was repetitive, and was boring, and was clearly not what the designers intended the spell to do.

 

Should the devs just have left it as it is, because we players are of course free not to do that?

 

I don't think so. And I'm quite sure neither do you. So where then do you draw the line? What kind of degenerate strategies should the devs try to prevent, and what should they allow? Who makes the call and with what criteria?

 

I think they should do their damnedest to stamp them all out. That they most likely will never be able to catch them all does not change the importance of the objective. Not trying leaves a Swiss cheese of a system that's no fun at all.

Edited by PrimeJunta
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Consider Soul Ignition in the first BB. That let you cheese through the entire beta because you could fire it off at insane range, it did not trigger aggro, and it made absurd amounts of damage. Using it that way was a classic degenerate strategy: it posed no challenge, was repetitive, and was boring, and was clearly not what the designers intended the spell to do.

 

Should the devs just have left it as it is, because we players are of course free not to do that?

No because it's too low a level an ability. Had it been a power that Ciphers get at, say, 12th level, then I'd advocate that they keep it in...even if it maintains its Over-poweredness relative to enemy encounters at that level. Because at that point in the game you've already been challenged. You've already been put through the ringer, so a lone OP ability that strokes the ego should not be 'stamped out at all costs'. The player has earned the right to a little cheese. (also see BG2: Timestop; and IWD2: Wail of the Banshee)

 

But "Cheesy OP spells" are hardly the scope of Sawyer's gigantic Degenerative Gameplay blanket, are they. There are things he considers Degenerate gameplay that aren't even close to being game breaking. Take "rest spamming" for instance. Contrary to what Josh has instilled into our heads, junta, the so-called '15-minute-workday' does NOT remove challenge or fun from a game, since anyone who feels the need to rest after every battle is Obviously either 1) already being challenged, otherwise he wouldn't feel the need to rest after every encounter, or: 2) he's really having fun using his limited Per-day abilities, otherwise he wouldn't be resting after every encounter to get them back. So yes, Sawyer's decade long attempt to stamp out rest spamming has been *Pointless* at best, and anti-fun at worst.

 

Then there's Luck...which is tied to 'save scumming' - another 'degenerate behavior" that josh has fought a crusade against for a decade. In Josh's mind, time honored fantasy-RPG elements like Death spells, Wands of Wonder, Decks of Many things etc., serve no purpose but to cause players to reload their games if they receive an un-optimal random outcome. But He's WRONG, here. Flat out wrong, each and every one of those was fun. No.... more than fun. They kept decent gamers on their toes, and they added tons of flavor to any game they were in.

 

But, you'll never again see them if Josh has any say in the matter, because in his eternal quest to control how players play their own f*cking single player games, he has decreed that Save scumming is O.U.T. of the question.... So, no more Luck, no more chance. Just....spreadsheet gameplay... for Math nerds who get off comparing decimal point differences in DPS.

Edited by Stun

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That doesn't really answer the question, Stun. It just states your personal preferences.

 

Again: what criteria should designers use when deciding which degenerate strategies to stamp out and which to leave in? If they decide to leave a degenerate strategy in, does that make it not-degenerate by definition?

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That doesn't really answer the question, Stun. It just states your personal preferences.

 

Again: what criteria should designers use when deciding which degenerate strategies to stamp out and which to leave in? If they decide to leave a degenerate strategy in, does that make it not-degenerate by definition?

I know that's a question for Stun, but I'll give my answer:

 

A) If the degenerate strategy becomes a silver bullet that works against all enemies. It's out.

 

B) If the degenerate strategy prevents the game from being challenging on any level. It's out.

 

C) If the degenerate strategy is incredibly obvious AND has no risk or downside. Its out.

 

That's my criteria for which degenerate strategies should be removed.

Edited by Namutree
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"Good thing I don't heal my characters or they'd be really hurt." Is not something I should ever be thinking.

 

I use blue text when I'm being sarcastic.

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That doesn't really answer the question, Stun. It just states your personal preferences.

 

Again: what criteria should designers use when deciding which degenerate strategies to stamp out and which to leave in? If they decide to leave a degenerate strategy in, does that make it not-degenerate by definition?

 

What definition? That's easy, they should see what was fun and if changing some part of it would make it unfun.

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I like both Namutree's and Sarex's answers.

 

The trouble is that 'fun' is subjective. Clearly some people like farming, for example, whereas others feel that it cheapens the game. 

 

I do not believe in design by committee. While we absolutely should voice our preferences, it's ultimately they designer's job to decide what goes in and what stays out. I.e., it is up to the designer to use his judgment to decide what he thinks his users are likely to consider 'fun' or not. Sometimes there will be bad calls, with something fun removed intentionally, just like sometimes there will be design lacunae that remove fun or put in un-fun by mistake. That's just the way things work.

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That doesn't really answer the question, Stun. It just states your personal preferences.

 

Again: what criteria should designers use when deciding which degenerate strategies to stamp out and which to leave in? If they decide to leave a degenerate strategy in, does that make it not-degenerate by definition?

Fun should be the main criteria. But if you're going to render the debate stillborn by simply invoking the "we all have our subjective opinions", then let me toss another criteria out there for you that isn't subjective at all: Freedom. If you find yourself, as a developer, focusing on ways to LIMIT a player's behavior....your priorities are wrong.

 

But I'll tell you what shouldn't be a criteria: Opinions formed by watching a few Let's Plays on you tube. Have you actually ever talked to Josh about the Degenerate Gameplay issue? I have. His arguments are so ridiculously anecdotal that they verge on dishonesty. On his Mindspring a while back someone asked him a question about Death spells. 3 minutes later we got a rant from him about Degenerative behavior/Save Scumming. He cited a bunch of Lets Plays on You Tube, and how players were killing Chaopek the Guardian (A Black dragon in IWD2) in 1 round by casting Finger of Death, and just reloading the game over and over until the dragon failed its save.

 

In other words, his argument literally boils down to: "Death Spells can cause save scumming, and save scumming is degenerate behavior...check You Tube if you don't believe me." So it's all out. No more chance, no more save or Die. no more permanent petrification. No more long lasting charm spells. No more of those *GREAT* elements of chance that made combat so unpredictably cool in BG2.

Edited by Stun
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Again, subjective preference. I did not enjoy those save-or-die effects. They were basically a speed bump. You got hit once, then you figured out/looked up what the counter was, and proceeded, effectively ignoring them. Or, alternatively, when combined with unlimited save-load, they became an easy way to cheese through the game. They were a boring, un-fun mechanic. Good riddance.

 

You disagree? Awesome. That's your prerogative. It'd be boring if everybody agreed about everything all the time.

 

That you don't like Josh's winning personality is neither here nor there.

 

As to the "freedom" argument... that, pardon my French, Stun, is totally bogus. Every RPG is freedom within constraints. You get complete freedom -- or as good as -- by opening the console and hammering in cheat codes. The game is nowhere near as fun that way as when you're working within its constraints. "Bang you're dead!" is extra-freedom, but it is not fun. The main job of a systems designer is to figure out how to limit the player's freedom for maximum fun. Is unlimited spellcasting fun? No: so you add a limiting mechanic, like having to memorize and rest. What if the rest mechanic allows you to completely defeat that mechanic? Then you might as well not have put in the limitation to start with, and made spells automatically re-memorize after every combat. Would that have been fun? I don't think so.

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I've seen a few posts with Josh describing degenerate gameplay and there is no one definition. He moves the goal posts all the time. One day it's this, another day it's that. So it's not a question of what is degenerate gameplay, it's what Josh decides at any given time with what he perceives to be degenerate gameplay.

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Stun, do you really believe he just bases his decisions on watching LPs? Do you think that's how he got to his position? Do you think that's how he justifies his design to his boss? Are you kidding me?

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I don't know why Josh made poe the way it is, but I also don't care. It's strange to me that other people do. 

Edited by Namutree

"Good thing I don't heal my characters or they'd be really hurt." Is not something I should ever be thinking.

 

I use blue text when I'm being sarcastic.

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Stun, do you really believe he just bases his decisions on watching LPs? Do you think that's how he got to his position? Do you think that's how he justifies his design to his boss? Are you kidding me?

Probably not. I'm sure a good portion of his stance comes from a few sore moments he suffered as a DM, when he'd spend hours designing a critical encounter only to see his players breeze through it with a couple lucky dice rolls or 1 quick, well placed spell. I've been there too. It hurts.

 

But it doesn't matter. For whatever reason, if you corner him and get him into a discussion about Degenerate gameplay, he will not explain his stance to you beyond the anecdotal.

Edited by Stun

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Stun, do you really believe he just bases his decisions on watching LPs?

Not just LPs. He has said that he pays more attention to what people do when playing the game - Testers and Let's Plays, and people he watches rather than what people write on a forum.

Edited by Sensuki

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I've seen a few posts with Josh describing degenerate gameplay and there is no one definition. He moves the goal posts all the time. One day it's this, another day it's that. So it's not a question of what is degenerate gameplay, it's what Josh decides at any given time with what he perceives to be degenerate gameplay.

 

That's kind of his prerogative as the designer, you know.

 

We the players can actually only guess -- i.e., try to divine the designer's intent, and then decide whether a given (winning) strategy goes against that intent or not. Most of the time it's fairly clear, such as when two mechanics clearly collide with one neutralizing the other, such as with per-day casting and unlimited resting. At other times it's a lot fuzzier. But the designer always knows because only he knows his intent.

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Again, subjective preference. I did not enjoy those save-or-die effects. They were basically a speed bump. You got hit once, then you figured out/looked up what the counter was, and proceeded, effectively ignoring them. Or, alternatively, when combined with unlimited save-load, they became an easy way to cheese through the game. They were a boring, un-fun mechanic. Good riddance.

 

Well; you can't use save or die spells to cheese through the whole game. Some enemies are immune to death. Also the save reload idea sounds obscenely boring and inefficient way to play to me.

 

I personally considered every reload a loss. I only save to quit, and only reload to pick up where I left off. If I reload for any other reason I feel that I lost. So if I used that death spell strategy on the dragon I would feel like a loser. That's just me though.

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"Good thing I don't heal my characters or they'd be really hurt." Is not something I should ever be thinking.

 

I use blue text when I'm being sarcastic.

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As to the "freedom" argument... that, pardon my French, Stun, is totally bogus. Every RPG is freedom within constraints. You get complete freedom -- or as good as -- by opening the console and hammering in cheat codes. The game is nowhere near as fun that way as when you're working within its constraints. "Bang you're dead!" is extra-freedom, but it is not fun. The main job of a systems designer is to figure out how to limit the player's freedom for maximum fun. Is unlimited spellcasting fun? No: so you add a limiting mechanic, like having to memorize and rest. What if the rest mechanic allows you to completely defeat that mechanic? Then you might as well not have put in the limitation to start with, and made spells automatically re-memorize after every combat. Would that have been fun? I don't think so.

Oh pardon me, you're certainly entitled to your subjective preferences. Edited by Stun

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Wait, Stun. Surely you're not saying that playing a game with console cheats is more fun because more freedom?

 

The only part of the paragraph you're quoting that is my opinion is that in my opinion DnD style games would be less fun if all your spells return automatically after every fight. Are you disagreeing with that?

 

If not, then what is the issue? Clearly unlimited resting turns per-rest spells into per-encounter spells, unless you, the player, for whatever reason decide not to make use of the possibility.

 

I'm all for self-imposed challenges (win the game solo... and naked!) but that's a whole different discussion.

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Well PrimeJunta, one of the reasons for the current mechanics in PoE is: to mitigate the desire to rest-spam - Josh

 

But then we have the bizarre response from Josh thinking that players will rest-spam anyway in PoE (LOL) so he's upped the level of difficulty with battles in cities to accommodate those rest-spammers because of easy access to inns.

Edited by Hiro Protagonist II

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It's one thing to say that the current resting gameplay is wrong (it is), it's another to accuse the lead designer of intending it to be this way because it's not balanced yet/the mechanics are not producing the desired gameplay.

Edited by Sensuki
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