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Does the term "realistic" have any meaning in RPGs?


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When people discuss how a game should be, many people (including myself) sometimes say that you should choose option A over option B because A is more realistic.

 

Computer RPGs are not simulations:

- They do not simulate real middle age economy

- They do not simulate real martial combat

- They do not simulate real middle age political system

- Tons of other things

 

People have no problem to accept, that a game has elves, magic, resurrection, . . .

 

On the other hand, many poeple would complain if:

- Your characters walk through walls.

- "Rotten zombie bones" are the favourite meal of humans in the game world

- In PoE a char pulls a lightsabre out of his pocket and cuts a dragon in two pieces with a single strike

 

 

So what do you thing about fantasy games and the word "realistic"?

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People who argue that realism has no meaning in fantasy games are usually just using it as a cheap shot when they start losing an argument on some unrelated issue and those against them on the issue make the "mistake" of mentioning realism. It obviously matters, but it's always good for a bunch of thoughtless support to say stuff along the lines of "why should realism matter (in relation to whatever is being argued) in a game with freaking dragons and with people that can get hit with 30 arrows and survive?"

It's obvious that realism does matter. Like you said, if people can just walk through walls and fly around and characters never die (or do die for no perceivable reason) when PoE ships, people will be asking a lot of reasonable questions about why these things are in the game because they deviate from an implied baseline of reality. Specifically, reality is important in that internal consistency is very important, and most of these fictional worlds in fantasy closely resemble our own, meaning that internal consistency of those worlds often relies on reality.

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"Forsooth, methinks you are no ordinary talking chicken!"

-Protagonist, Baldur's Gate

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Word "realistic" in the RPG have a bit different meaning - closer to "probable". Appearing of the "elves, magic, resurrection" in the alternative universe is "possible" - and there is no way (for now) to prove that it's not - kind of like a GOD - some people belive in HIS existance and some dont - but none of them can prove it. In case of the "rotten zombie bones" being humans favourite food - well - "rotten" means its old and generally bad for your health (xP), "zombie" means its undead, "bones" means its hard - it is doubtfull that it would taste good in any universe to any humanoid (though in cases of extreme starvation or mental problems some may take a bite xP). 

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I belive the correct meaning of "realism" is complexity but It's been said so many years It just stuck with It. I belive when, gamers or developers says about realism It's just about adding more depth and complexity. 

 

For ex. "My party is traveling around the world, wished there was a ration stystem", "I've been out cold too long wished game makes me cold too" Examples like these can be incresed. It's just a way of adding having fun with challanges, rules... Afterall thats makes any game fun.

 

** It's like a secret known by everyone.

Edited by ruzen
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Kana - "Sorry. It seems I'm not very good at raising spirits." Kana winces. "That was unintentional."

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crpgs is games.  typically is Fantasy games, regardless o' whether they is set in futuristic, contemporary or technological retarded past settings.  people who want "realism" frequent (not always) ain't knowing how to use their words, 'cause nobody who plays a crpg wants realistic combat or realistic biological needs  or even realistic magic... as wacky as that sounds.  if you wanted realism, you wouldn't actual want to play the game.  reality is readily available and is alternatively boring or frightening when compared to games.

 

some people want visually realistic weapons, but they has a hard time explaining why. some people want realistic weight for gold or realistic food consumption.  is not that they want game to be realistic, but folks want those aspects to be teh realz... which is fine.  unfortunate, most people have difficulty expressing why they want realistic weight for gold but want so many other aspects o' the game to be fantastical.

 

we got no problem with folks who want realistic _________.  heck, we don't like anime weapons, but we ain't gonna explain why at this time as is a whole 'nother issue. nevertheless,  the problem is when folks don't know how to use their words and they fail to explain why realistic ________ makes the game better. reality, in and of itself, is not better.  even the folks who want realistic ___________ will want a dozen other features to be fantastic.  so, explain and we got no problem discussing the advantages and disadvantages o' realistic __________, but realism itself is not a noteworthy goal.

 

somebody will eventual says "immersion."

 

...

 

is a game over moment when that happens.

 

HA! Good Fun!

Edited by Gromnir
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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)

"Im indifferent to almost any murder as long as it doesn't affect me or mine."--Gfted1 (September 30, 2019)

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I believe the word you are searching for is verisimilitude.

doesn't really change anything, does it?

 

bob wants realistic weight for gold.  why? verisimilitude?

 

change word does not fundamental change the nature o' the question.

 

HA! Good Fun!

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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)

"Im indifferent to almost any murder as long as it doesn't affect me or mine."--Gfted1 (September 30, 2019)

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So what do you thing about fantasy games and the word "realistic"?

I think that realism in fantasy games is very important. It is called "thematic", and a thematic world with or without magic and fantasy, explains itself.

 

Realism means that you have humanoid characters moving their bodies as expected, attacking, defending, traversing the world. Even eating and drinking, sleeping, though the latter is more advanced. Simulating day to day life in the video game and in the situation the heroes are in.

 

Traveling takes lots of energy, for instance, and eventually you'll rest up here and there and so on. Camping out in the wild and perhaps even be capable of setting up guards or whatnot. Realism adds more to the world. Unless the narrative is that everyone feeds on in-world oxygen that gives everyone all of the nourishments they need. But it quickly becomes rather flat and boring with such a story.

 

The best types of worlds are those that are believable, and sells themselves well, Stuff that makes sense in the world itself. Do people eat in Eora? Do they drink? Do they require medicine do they bleed etc. etc.?

 

EDIT: "Versimilitude", "thematic", "immersion" are key words.

Edited by Osvir
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People who argue that realism has no meaning in fantasy games are usually just using it as a cheap shot when they start losing an argument on some unrelated issue and those against them on the issue make the "mistake" of mentioning realism. It obviously matters, but it's always good for a bunch of thoughtless support to say stuff along the lines of "why should realism matter (in relation to whatever is being argued) in a game with freaking dragons and with people that can get hit with 30 arrows and survive?"

It's obvious that realism does matter. Like you said, if people can just walk through walls and fly around and characters never die (or do die for no perceivable reason) when PoE ships, people will be asking a lot of reasonable questions about why these things are in the game because they deviate from an implied baseline of reality. Specifically, reality is important in that internal consistency is very important, and most of these fictional worlds in fantasy closely resemble our own, meaning that internal consistency of those worlds often relies on reality.

 

Realism doesn't matter at all... What you are talking about is challenge, but even that doesn't matter. What matters in the end is that the game is fun for you.

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Well, when I hear people talk about "realism" in terms of setting, nine times out of ten what they usually mean is that it's "DARK, MAN, DARK!" Game of Thrones is a good example; I'm always hearing praise for how "realistic" it is, that is, how closely it resembles the European Middle Ages (in their understanding, at least).

 

This sort of "realism" needs to be thrown in the rubbish bin, if you ask me. I despise how utterly mundane fantasy settings have become lately, to the point where many can be charitably described as "12th century England with some nastier beasties roaming the swamps." To use an RPG example, compare the alien landscapes of Morrowind to the follow-up games Oblivion and Skyrim. Oblivion took place is a setting that was utterly banal, and Skyrim did the same thing while adding a veneer of "gritty realism" to its artistic style. Dragon Age: Origins gave us a setting that was filled with dirty, filthy shanties, and whose only notable characteristic was just how brown everything was. The Witcher is another example...but I've already written at length of my hatred for that particular franchise in other threads so I won't repeat it here.

 

Nor is "realism" desirable in gameplay mechanics. In a shooter, "realism" would dictate that getting shot just once would incapacitate you. In a game like KotOR, it would mean that getting hit by a lightsaber-wielding opponent would immediately kill or dismember you. I don't know about you, but I don't consider that "fun."

 

What is desirable is verisimilitude and believability, and I believe many RPGs go wrong in this regard by failing to show consequences for the PC's actions. There's a sidequest in the original campaign of Neverwinter Nights where I have to steal some pieces of artwork from three noblemans' estates. The way I accomplished this was by slaughtering the entire guard staff of each estate. And yet there are no consequences for my actions, no repercussions despite the fact that I basically barged into someone's private property and killed everyone inside.

 

Or how about Mass Effect? I can have Shepard shove a loaded gun in the face of an annoying civilian. Amusing, but Shepard's a military officer, and pulling that kind of stunt ought to result in a court martial, or at least some sort of reprimand. In the second game, he can resolve a hostage situation by murdering the hostage right in front of numerous police witnesses, and the consequence for this is...nothing. The police don't shoot him down or take him into custody, and none of his teammates have anything to say, either. It's a thoroughly ludicrous and unbelievable series of events.

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"There is no greatness where simplicity, goodness and truth are absent." - Leo Tolstoy

 

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People who argue that realism has no meaning in fantasy games are usually just using it as a cheap shot when they start losing an argument on some unrelated issue and those against them on the issue make the "mistake" of mentioning realism. It obviously matters, but it's always good for a bunch of thoughtless support to say stuff along the lines of "why should realism matter (in relation to whatever is being argued) in a game with freaking dragons and with people that can get hit with 30 arrows and survive?"

It's obvious that realism does matter. Like you said, if people can just walk through walls and fly around and characters never die (or do die for no perceivable reason) when PoE ships, people will be asking a lot of reasonable questions about why these things are in the game because they deviate from an implied baseline of reality. Specifically, reality is important in that internal consistency is very important, and most of these fictional worlds in fantasy closely resemble our own, meaning that internal consistency of those worlds often relies on reality.

 

Realism doesn't matter at all... What you are talking about is challenge, but even that doesn't matter. What matters in the end is that the game is fun for you.

 

No, that's not really what I'm talking about, though it would apply to the examples I gave of walking through walls, etc. An example having nothing to do with challenge would be "Why do none of the humans have heads?" We expect them to have heads for a reason, and if a reasonable explanation isn't given as to why they don't, then a problem is perceived. It's not about challenge but rather about, as I mentioned, internal consistency which, like I said, often has a lot to do with realism due to these worlds being based on and using aspects of reality.

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"Forsooth, methinks you are no ordinary talking chicken!"

-Protagonist, Baldur's Gate

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I think there are ground rules that the developer has to create in his world if everything is based upon our physical world, yet a guy can jump over a building just because, would certainly cause a red flag, but if the same guy did it with technology then it's not contradictory. If in a magical sense a lot of the world is based upon a predisposition that green crystals give you healing ability, but for this stranger who's not part of our world actually kills him, that's still a viable way to tell a story because the dev has established the rules of the world. Also sometimes it's perception of reality. Often times females in fantasy are portrayed as this skinny 80 pound girl with DD boobies and carrying an 18 pound greatsword on her back that she swing's around as if it were a drumstick and people are ok with it because they've seen it already 100 times. When it's not something you see everyday then the cognitive dissonance occurs and you expect a different result. If you grew up and your parents told you don't smoke because it kills you, and you go your whole life no one in the family smokes, and one day you come home and you see your parent with two cigarettes, one in their mouth and another in their hand, you're going to question what they're trying to do.

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"A Song of Ice and Fire" tries to be a realistic fantasy soap-opera saga. I define realism in fantasy as the rational behavior of individuals within the fantasy environment as it has been defined by its creator, without pulling mcguffins out his ass.

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In fantasy, realism means establishing some rough guidelines over the course of the story for the way things work in that world and sticking to them. If you do at some point break your own established rules, make the fact that someone is breaking the rules as unbelievable to the characters in the story as it would be for us if we saw some guy in the real world start levitating under his own power.

 

More often than not, the rules amount to 'the same as in our world unless otherwise noted.' People who don't eat starve. People who don't drink die of dehydration. Only women get pregnant. Armor is heavy. Gravity exists. The sun rises in the day and sets at night. And so forth. If those rules differ, you'd best make it clear well before you use it as a major plot point. If you don't and then plead that 'it's fantasy, so anything goes', it's just plain bad writing. 

Edited by Death Machine Miyagi
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They don't have to be realistic. They have to make sense.

If a character does something in a fantastic setting, I need to understand why and how they're doing so. Weather it a descision or the use of magic.

If you have men to be superior to women in your fantastic setting because this was how it used to be in real world middle ages, this makes no sense whatsoever.

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Here's a good video about realism in games.

Great video, nice post.  Totally agree with it.

 

Realism in RPG's, fantasy or otherwise, is huge if you want to tell a mature adult story with complex themes.  It isn't about the mechanics of the game, or what your characters are capable of.  It is about the believability of the setting, your ability to become immersed in it, and making the player care about the story and characters.

 

Everyone can enjoy a good old fashioned romp through a traditional heroic story.  But if you are trying to do something more thought provoking and thematic that relies on a serious plot you better have some realism in your game.  Or it will fall flat on it's face.

 

I will briefly borrow Mass Effect in this case.  Mass Effect 1 is the best game in the series because it is a bit more... realistic in scope than the others.  Your character is trying to stop this huge invasion but the game ends on a note letting you know "hey guy, good job, but you won a battle not the war".  What was even cooler about it was if you took the time to go through all the story and lore type info in the game you found it had explanations for everything.  Even down to explaining why there was no ammo in the game.  Was it "realistic" no in the sense that in reality that tech doesn't exist.  But the world was believable and it had an air of realism to it because of the thought that went into it and the depth of history and information on why the world was how it was. 

Edited by Karkarov
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Here's a good video about realism in games. 

The video is correct that The Witcher is "mature" in that it attempts to present moral conflicts of greater complexity than "Us good, them bad." (Though I would argue that Geralt is most certainly not a realistic character by any stretch of the imagination- he's a mess of anti-hero cliches shamelessly nicked from Michael Moor****'s Elric of Melnibone, right down to the "White Wolf" moniker. He is no more "realistic" than Batman or The Punisher)

 

But here's the thing: "mature" and "realistic" does not equal "good" or "enjoyable." There's a great quote from C.S. Lewis on the matter:

 

“Critics who treat 'adult' as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

 

A good example of a "realistic" setting done well is the Thief series. The main character Garret is, well, a thief. He's not a hero, he's not out to save the world (at least not initially), and he's not really a good person. For the most part, he's just looking out for number one. When he avoids killing people, it's not because of his morality, but because he considers it "unprofessional."

 

The principal conflict in the game between the Hammerites and the Pagans is not one of Good VS Evil, but two radically differing philosophies. The first two games show both the good and bad aspects of each faction. The third game, Deadly Shadows, revealed that the Keepers, the closest thing the setting has to the "good guys," are highly corrupt and incompetent.

 

So why do I love this series so much while utterly loathing The Witcher? Simple - the setting of Thief is compelling, while the setting of The Witcher is not. Thief takes places in a world that can be described as a combination of film noir, steampunk, and gothic horror, something I consider unique and interesting, while The Witcher is, as I said in an earlier post, just 12th century Europe with some beasties roaming the swamps. It's far more realistic than, say, Forgotten Realms, but that doesn't mean I have any desire to waste my time experiencing that world via a video game. Second, the Thief games lets you discover the darker aspects of the setting yourself, rather than ramming them down your throat. There's nothing as absurd as random NPCs saying things like "I can't sleep over the sound of my neighbour beating his wife." In fact, there's not even any sign of a main plot at the start of the games beyond "Here's some nobleman's house, go rob it." It's only later that Garret gets drawn into the central conflict...usually against his will.

 

So there you have it - two "realistic" settings that I consider polar opposites in terms of what I consider quality. Thief is a classic series (shame the recent reboot was so mediocre), while The Witcher is just intolerable rubbish.

Edited by 500MetricTonnes
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"There is no greatness where simplicity, goodness and truth are absent." - Leo Tolstoy

 

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Here's a good video about realism in games.

Great video, nice post.  Totally agree with it.

 

Realism in RPG's, fantasy or otherwise, is huge if you want to tell a mature adult story with complex themes.  It isn't about the mechanics of the game, or what your characters are capable of.  It is about the believability of the setting, your ability to become immersed in it, and making the player care about the story and characters.

 

Everyone can enjoy a good old fashioned romp through a traditional heroic story.  But if you are trying to do something more thought provoking and thematic that relies on a serious plot you better have some realism in your game.  Or it will fall flat on it's face.

 

I will briefly borrow Mass Effect in this case.  Mass Effect 1 is the best game in the series because it is a bit more... realistic in scope than the others.  Your character is trying to stop this huge invasion but the game ends on a note letting you know "hey guy, good job, but you won a battle not the war".  What was even cooler about it was if you took the time to go through all the story and lore type info in the game you found it had explanations for everything.  Even down to explaining why there was no ammo in the game.  Was it "realistic" no in the sense that in reality that tech doesn't exist.  But the world was believable and it had an air of realism to it because of the thought that went into it and the depth of history and information on why the world was how it was. 

 

am not even sure if it is possible to more complete disagree... am just not sure how far we wanna get into this.

 

frank miller graphic novels, has anybody read them?  is likely you have at least heard of 300 or the dark knight returns.  now, thematically you got dark and mature storytelling, particularly when compared to genre as a whole.  but realism? there is very little realism in tdkr other than the emotion. visually, the tdkr characters is so unrealistic that for years we heard that tdkr could never be animated simply because no character that looked like batman or joker from miller's work could possibly be made to move and still look like a frank miller character.  you gots mutants and superman and nuking of fictional islands and the joker as a guest on david letterman... where he predictably kills everybody in the audience. realism?  

 

am gonna simple mention 300 once again and let the self-described historians on the board tell us just how realistic miller's portrayal o' the battle o' thermopylae were, or his visual and or literary description o' the antagonists o' the battle. 

 

as we get older, we have greater difficulty in recognizing what is adult and mature in literature.  to our way o' thinking, mature and adult is frequent having opposite meanings.  compare coraline or the graveyard book by neil gaiman to 50 shades of grey.  now, 50 shades is clearly meant for adults, but we would hesitate to suggest that it were more mature than gaiman's works that is specific meant for youth readers.  a swiftly tilting planet and the phantom tollbooth is also meant for young readers, but you does a horrible disservice if you suggest that you do not have complex and mature themes in those works.  is not much realism in any o' the youth works we mention.

 

we mentioned gaiman earlier.  take a looksee at his adult novels such as neverwhere and american gods. we like gaiman's work, but am not gonna even try and sell you on the fact that he is even slight concerned about realism save for creating Emotional verisimilitude.  gaiman has internal coherence in his works, but realism?

 

thomas pynchon or (*shudder*) william s. burroghs had a very antagonistic relationship with reality, but you got a fight on your hands if you try and claim that lack o' realism robbed pynchon o' a chance to tell "a mature adult story with complex themes."

 

as we said earlier, we kinda hesitate to get too far into this, but we is near certain that when folks in this thread use the word "realism" they is not all using the same dictionary. sure, we all know what realism means and could identify correct on a multiple-choice test, but in context o' what elements and features in games must needs be realistic and why, we is all speaking a different language.

 

HA! Good Fun!

 

ps please note that we is not arguing against injecting reality into specific features and mechanics o' games, or into the games as a whole, but realism is not a goal in and of itself.  need ask the following: why does making __________ realistic make the game better?  realism is not a goal.

Edited by Gromnir
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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)

"Im indifferent to almost any murder as long as it doesn't affect me or mine."--Gfted1 (September 30, 2019)

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frank miller graphic novels, has anybody read them?  is likely you have at least heard of 300 or the dark knight returns.  now, thematically you got dark and mature storytelling, particularly when compared to genre as a whole.  but realism? there is very little realism in tdkr other than the emotion. visually, the tdkr characters is so unrealistic that for years we heard that tdkr could never be animated simply because no character that looked like batman or joker from miller's work could possibly be made to move and still look like a frank miller character.  you gots mutants and superman and nuking of fictional islands and the joker as a guest on david letterman... where he predictably kills everybody in the audience. realism?

TDKR is a dark story, but I wouldn't call it a serious one or one with a deep plot.  Almost no comic story has one of those.  I am not even sure I would call it "mature".  No one actually believes batman's world is real (especially the Frank Miller version where Batman is a total prick) and it has little realism to it.  Why?  Because it is a "hero story".  It isn't meant to be realistic or to be super mature in the sense of intelligent adult content that makes you think.  If you think TDKR's is bad on the realism department I am also wondering if you ever read the sequel cause.... man.

 

What you are calling mature and what I am calling mature are not the same thing.  But you are aware of that.

 

50 Shades of Grey is a great mention though.  Because it is actually the exact opposite of a mature story.  It is the average bored housewife power fantasy, AKA pure drivel from the story, character, and plot perspective.  Which is probably a big part of why it sells so well.

 

I agree realism is not a goal.  But if you want your world to be fully realized, immersive, and able to support an actual franchise of mature themed serious story CRPG's realism in the sense that the setting is believable and it's non pure reality elements have logical and reasonable explanations is super important.  There is nothing believable about 300.  To borrow the video creators words..... it is the titties and blood version of mature.

 

I also suspect you are taking my use of the word "realism" way too strictly.

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am fully cognizant o' the fact that we are using mature and realism different from you... that were our point as you seemed to use adult and mature almost synonymous. furthermore, we don't see any conflict with a hero (or even superhero) story being potential mature. the lack o' realism surely does not preclude maturity.  the odyssey were a hero story and so were beowulf and gilgamesh. in point o' fact, we could bore you to death with the parallels between beowulf and tdkr.  am having some difficulty accepting your premise that a hero story is adversarial with maturity... if that is your suggestion-- am still not certain what you is trying to say.

 

...

 

but again, your observation (or affirmation) that we is using realism and mature and adult different from each other were exact the point we were making.  given the near guaranteed failure o' finding common ground for such terms, we suggest people discuss individual features and aspects o' a game and then explain why doing a particular way would make the game better.  somebody bring up weighty gold and starts talking about verisimilitude, immersion or realism and we is gonna have problems.  why does weighty gold make game better?  

 

*shrug*

 

HA! Good Fun!

 

ps far too often, "immature" and "lack of realism" is ways for folks to say, "it sucks," while convincing selves that they were giving a more enlightened critique than the vacuous "sucks" dismissal. am not suggesting that krakarov is doing so, but far too often we see lack o' maturity condemnation used with the same lack o' support or insight as "it sux."

Edited by Gromnir

"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)

"Im indifferent to almost any murder as long as it doesn't affect me or mine."--Gfted1 (September 30, 2019)

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Why realistic ___ if not purely for realism's own sake? 

 

One reason is consistency, both causal and stylistic. If all barrels are 30% realistic, then a 15% barrel might seem like a bit of a false note. Hard to unhear it once you've heard it.

That doesn't mean that everything has to be 30% all over the place. We're capable of quickly arranging game elements into different categories and holding them to different standards.

The problem is when an NPC starts talking about their Hit Points - unless it's the kind of game/situation where it seems obviously intentional. 

 

Another reason might be that realism is a lowest common denominator. People probably won't see eye to eye on who really runs the world or whether or not Jackson Pollock's paintings are brilliant, but I reckon very few are going to need any explanation of how chairs and tables are supposed to work and what they generally signify. So the world is populated (or stuffed) with objects that need no further introduction. Elves, dwarves, dragons and magic - being shared cultural goods - also fall into this category to some extent, I guess.

Does that make the game better? Well.. it will probably be more immediately accessible to a wider audience. 

This statement is false.

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I think realism is the wrong word. What many people probably mean when they use it in this context, is that next to everything in a game should make sense according to the logic of the game and its world.

 

When I start a game and learn how the magic in this game works, I accept this - if those rules are suddenly broken for no good reason, then my immersion breaks.

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