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Here's why I'd like there to be less party micromanagement in combat


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First of all, it has nothing to do with difficulty, so hopefully that preempts any "play on easy mode" comments.

 

It has to do with what I see as the basic nature in the game, and was brought on by an exchange I saw in another thread. Someone was wondering why spellcasters didn't just cast the appropriate spells automatically, and someone replied to the effect of "Well do you just want to watch the computer play the game for you?"

 

My answer to that question is "yes", and for a very specific reason. At its core, Pillars of Eternity isn't a squad-based tactical combat game. It's a role-playing game where you're in control of one central character who just so happens to make certain friends over the course of his travels. As the game makes clear, these companions aren't under your control - you can't, for instance, decide what they'll say or how they'll react in social situations.
 

So to me, it would be consistent to apply that to combat as well. That doesn't mean that you have no input at all, just that this input should be in the form of you giving them general instructions while talking to them, rather than handpicking each of their actions during combat. As clunky as it was, I liked the system in Arcanum very much. The companions acted on their own, and in fact they had their own leveling schemes as well, so they truly felt like independent individuals who just happened to be with you at that moment, as opposed ot units under your control in some strategy game. I believe Fallout and Fallout 2 did this as well, though it's been a while since I played those games so I might be mistaken.

 

On the other hand, in games like Icewind Dale I felt perfectly happy managing the entire squad, because in essence I was the entire squad. I created all the characters, decided their race and class, chose who they spoke to and what they said, so it made sense that I had the same level of control in combat as well.
 

Now, I don't know if system similar to Arcanum would be technically feasible here. I feel like the combat system has gone a bit overboard to the point where even on easy mode you don't really have much of a chance if you limit yourself to controlling just one character (even if the rest did have halfway competent AI). But I still think it would be desirable at least in principle.
 

And to preempt another common argument: yes, I realize that some people enjoy the squad micromanagement. I'm not saying that the option should be taken away - just that it would be better for there to be an option for people who want to play differently.

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Pillars of Eternity isn't a squad-based tactical combat game.

 

Pillars of Eternity is a squad-based tactical combat game. That was a defining characteristic of the Infinity Engine games, what was prominently pitched for the Kickstarter, and what Obsidian has advertised the game as. 

 

Of course, it is also a role-playing game with a personal story. Many of us are very happy that a good story is combined with carefully written party NPCs and squad-based tactical combat. 

 

It may be 'consistent' in a specific sense of realism to deprive players of party control, but it sure would result in much less interesting and much less tactical combat. And that would infuriate the many many people who bought the game for that.

 

Now, it has been requested that POE feature AI scripts, possibly customisable, as to reduce the micromanagement if the player wants it. I think the official word was they wanted to do it but couldn't fit it in for the release version. I would never use it, but that would be a reasonable solution. 

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And to preempt another common argument: yes, I realize that some people enjoy the squad micromanagement. I'm not saying that the option should be taken away - just that it would be better for there to be an option for people who want to play differently.

 

Choose passive abilities on level-up, avoid classes that require a lot of micro-management, such as Rogue, Ranger and Cipher. As stated above it is a squad-based tactical combat game, but the dev team included options in the event that you want to be more passive during combat.

Just be prepared to adjust your tactics and strategies to take advantage of your party setup.

Edited by View619
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Pillars of Eternity is a squad-based tactical combat game. That was a defining characteristic of the Infinity Engine games, what was prominently pitched for the Kickstarter, and what Obsidian has advertised the game as. 

 

Well yeah, I did fear as soon as they announced their intentions that the desire to create a game that's a cross between Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale (going by what was in the early promo material) might result in an awkward situation like this where the parts don't fit too well.

 

Having said that, if you regard the old IE games as ones that were primarily tactical combat rather than role-playing (or even as games where the tactical combat was as important an aspect as the role-playing), that's fine and all, but I daresay it's not the definitive way to characterize those games. Torment, for instance - it had a nominal amount of combat by necessity, but if I were to call it a "squad-based tactical combat game with elements of role-playing" I'd just sound silly. It's kind of sort of true for Icewind Dale and it sequel (though even then I know quite a few people who breezed through on easy mode because they didn't really care about the combat and just liked the quests and writing).

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I'm not trying to hate on your playstyle, but developing a complex set of AI scripts like the one you describe would have taken a huge amount of of time and resources -- and I'm not at all confident that the result would have been very impressive, given that even pathfinding is something that PoE struggled with during the beta.

DID YOU KNOW: *Missing String*

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"Project Eternity will take the central hero, memorable companions and the epic exploration of Baldur’s Gate, add in the fun, intense combat and dungeon diving of Icewind Dale, and tie it all together with the emotional writing and mature thematic exploration of Planescape: Torment.

 

Combat uses a tactical real-time with pause system - positioning your party and coordinating attacks and abilities is one of the keys to success. The world map is dotted with unique locations and wilderness ripe for exploration and questing. You’ll create your own character and collect companions along the way – taking him or her not just through this story, but, with your continued support, through future adventures. You will engage in dialogues that are deep, and offer many choices to determine the fate of you and your party. …and you'll experience a story that explores mature themes and presents you with complex, difficult choices to shape how your story plays out."

 

These were first words that Obsidian used to describe what they have in mind for the game in their Kickstarter. 

Edited by Elerond
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Pillars of Eternity is a squad-based tactical combat game. That was a defining characteristic of the Infinity Engine games, what was prominently pitched for the Kickstarter, and what Obsidian has advertised the game as. 

 

Well yeah, I did fear as soon as they announced their intentions that the desire to create a game that's a cross between Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale (going by what was in the early promo material) might result in an awkward situation like this where the parts don't fit too well.

 

Having said that, if you regard the old IE games as ones that were primarily tactical combat rather than role-playing (or even as games where the tactical combat was as important an aspect as the role-playing), that's fine and all, but I daresay it's not the definitive way to characterize those games. Torment, for instance - it had a nominal amount of combat by necessity, but if I were to call it a "squad-based tactical combat game with elements of role-playing" I'd just sound silly. It's kind of sort of true for Icewind Dale and it sequel (though even then I know quite a few people who breezed through on easy mode because they didn't really care about the combat and just liked the quests and writing).

 

 

It's... not an awkward situation where parts don't fit too well. This is exactly how it worked in even PS:T with its extremely personal story; Icewind Dale; Baldur's Gate.. this is how it works. Nobody would say "this game is an IE successor" if you don't have the option of controlling a party. Nobody would say POE ever stopped describing itself with tactical squad combat at its heart.

 

Look, it's OK to say, "to me these games are all about a personal story and I would like some way to not control all party members so much". As I say, it'd be nice if Obs could make AI scripts in the future. But if you're trying to argue the IE legacy as a whole & POE don't have tactical squad combat at its core, you have to ignore a lot of the facts. Why not just make the much more reasonable case that you'd like to be able to play the game your way, too?

 

(People who play on easy or god mode to 'enjoy the story' exist even for almost every type of RPG, and the minority who played IWD that way doesn't change what that game was primarily about.)

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Pillars of Eternity is a squad-based tactical combat game. That was a defining characteristic of the Infinity Engine games, what was prominently pitched for the Kickstarter, and what Obsidian has advertised the game as. 

 

Well yeah, I did fear as soon as they announced their intentions that the desire to create a game that's a cross between Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale (going by what was in the early promo material) might result in an awkward situation like this where the parts don't fit too well.

 

Having said that, if you regard the old IE games as ones that were primarily tactical combat rather than role-playing (or even as games where the tactical combat was as important an aspect as the role-playing), that's fine and all, but I daresay it's not the definitive way to characterize those games. Torment, for instance - it had a nominal amount of combat by necessity, but if I were to call it a "squad-based tactical combat game with elements of role-playing" I'd just sound silly. It's kind of sort of true for Icewind Dale and it sequel (though even then I know quite a few people who breezed through on easy mode because they didn't really care about the combat and just liked the quests and writing).

 

 

Have you ever played BG or BG2? Those games are a mix of Torment and IWD in terms of gameplay, and POE is best compared to them. BG series is also considered to be among the best CRPG series ever created.

 

You don't have to like it, but POE was pitched as being a spiritual successor to games like BG. Nothing wrong with personal preference.

Edited by View619
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It's... not an awkward situation where parts don't fit too well. This is exactly how it worked in even PS:T with its extremely personal story; Icewind Dale; Baldur's Gate.. this is how it works. Nobody would say "this game is an IE successor" if you don't have the option of controlling a party. Nobody would say POE ever stopped describing itself with tactical squad combat at its heart.

 

Look, it's OK to say, "to me these games are all about a personal story and I would like some way to not control all party members so much". As I say, it'd be nice if Obs could make AI scripts in the future. But if you're trying to argue the IE legacy as a whole & POE don't have tactical squad combat at its core, you have to ignore a lot of the facts. Why not just make the much more reasonable case that you'd like to be able to play the game your way, too?

 

(People who play on easy or god mode to 'enjoy the story' exist even for almost every type of RPG, and the minority who played IWD that way doesn't change what that game was primarily about.)

 

 

I breezed through Torment without ever controlling party members (except for pathfinding issues, and that weird bug where they'd sometimes target a party member after killing any enemy). The scripting in Baldur's Gate was also usually good enough to get the job done. The parts where I did have to assume direct control did break immersion, but I let it slide because of the overall quality of the game.

 

Now, I get that you like the game, and you think that this aspect of it is a good thing, but let's leave that aside for now. Let's not even talk in terms of whether it's good or bad. Let's just go back to my very basic argument - that making the player control party members in combat is inconsistent with you not having control of them in other aspects. Now maybe to you this is something that doesn't even register, and I'm not faulting you for that, but for people like me it's a matter of immersion.

 

It's like that other thread where the guy was asking for a walk option and people replied with "Why don't you just play in slow motion". It's an exercise in missing the point.

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That's why AI scripts would be a good option for players who want to just control one player... like I've said three times now.

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Have you ever played BG or BG2? Those games are a mix of Torment and IWD in terms of gameplay, and POE is best compared to them. BG series is also considered to be among the best CRPG series ever created.

 

You don't have to like it, but POE was pitched as being a spiritual successor to games like BG. Nothing wrong with personal preference.

 

 

Of course I've played Baldur's Gate. As I recall, those games did have AI scripts, which I made heavy use of to avoid this problem. Though that wasn't a perfect solution since A) some combats needed micromanagement, and B) the scripts were ultimately something that I had set, so the independence on the part of the companions didn't feel as genuine as it could be. As I said above, I think Fallout/Fallout 2's system was the best in this regard (which is not to say that I think it was the best game, merely that it got this one thing right).

Edited by aiqidar
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If you don't want to control a full party, I'm not sure what the old-fashioned isometric style of game offers you.

 

Dragon Age is probably the best comparison for a game that tries -- with less than perfect success -- to bridge the gap between these two dramatically different gameplay styles. Those (like my roommate for example) who play Dragon Age controlling only their PC, typically choose to play with the camera fully zoomed in for a more visceral feel to the battle.

 

The one big advantage of a birds-eye view is that it enables you to see and control battles from a tactical standpoint. If you don't need to manage a full party, why choose an isometric view at all?

 

And I don't think these are styles of play that blend well, even with a much larger development budget. Throughout the life of the Dragon Age series, the need to accommodate a single-character, action-oriented style of play has always come at the expense of a clumsy, frustrating implementation of tactical play.

 

As someone who prefers the tactical style, I'm glad that PoE didn't try to be two things at once the way Bioware did.

DID YOU KNOW: *Missing String*

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What we really need to do is push the devs to make this even more Infinity Engine like and add scripting :p

 

In BG2, I had scripts for my entire party so they did things automatically in most fights.  Injured players would "shout" (not really) and the clerics would here the silent shouts and send heals to them.   Rogue was all the time looking for traps.  Wizards would roll through their spells based on the criteria I came up with. Etc.

 

For this game, I'd want things like having a chanter check to see if he has three phrases and once he does, either summon or nuke the weakest enemy.  The priest should be tossing heals at anyone dropping below 50%.  Bow-using rogues should automatically target any enemy they can sneak attack based on prone, hobbled, etc, and shoot at the closest to dead enemy otherwise.

 

Alas, I suspect this engine wasn't made that much of a clone of IE :p

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And even if they didn't have AI scripts, most encounters (at least in BG1), could be won by managing one character, and having everyone else just auto attack.

 

 

In any case, I wouldn't want the game to play itself. And unlike some people, I don't view micro-management as a bad word. Tougher encounters should require you to manually decide every action of every party member. Moderately tough encounters should require that you pause every once in a while to give orders to your party members (especially your spell casters), while the easy encounters should be winnable by just selecting everyone and then clicking on the enemy and then just sitting back to watch the slaughter.

Edited by Stun
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I would appreciate very basic party AI templates/behaviors, just to not have to constantly make sure people aren't doing nothing. But, I don't really want the AI to decide what spell to cast and where, etc., without my input. Maybe just "protect this guy, in general. Engage targets within X feet," etc. That might be kind of nice. "If something engages you, switch to weapon set 2 (melee)."

 

That would hardly win the battle for you, but it would sure make a little more sense than "Oh no, I cast that spell, and now I'm still just standing here like an idiot while 3 things hit me!"

 

I'd like just a tiny bit of autonomy as a groundwork for in-between player commands.

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Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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If you don't want to control a full party, I'm not sure what the old-fashioned isometric style of game offers you.

 

Dragon Age is probably the best comparison for a game that tries -- with less than perfect success -- to bridge the gap between these two dramatically different gameplay styles. Those (like my roommate for example) who play Dragon Age controlling only their PC, typically choose to play with the camera fully zoomed in for a more visceral feel to the battle.

 

The one big advantage of a birds-eye view is that it enables you to see and control battles from a tactical standpoint. If you don't need to manage a full party, why choose an isometric view at all?

 

And I don't think these are styles of play that blend well, even with a much larger development budget. Throughout the life of the Dragon Age series, the need to accommodate a single-character, action-oriented style of play has always come at the expense of a clumsy, frustrating implementation of tactical play.

 

As someone who prefers the tactical style, I'm glad that PoE didn't try to be two things at once the way Bioware did.

 

Actually, the customizable scripts in Dragon Age were one of my favourite things about the game. I would say they handled it near-perfectly. Not only could I make the characters completely independent, but I could give them behaviours that kind of suited their personalities as well (even if it didn't necessarily result in the most efficient combat tactics).

 

Another good example comes from Neverwinter Nights 2. Due to the settings I gave her, Qara would often do things like launch a fireball at a single orc, and in the process blow up the chest in the room, destroying some of its contents. This obviously isn't something that I personally would do if I were controlling a mage, but it makes perfect sense that Qara did it. And touches like this (even though this was an unintentional thing; I doubt the developers specifically had this in mind when designing NWN 2 combat) add flavour to the game for me in ways that I could never get if I'm just trying to go for some kind of hive-mind tactical optimization from the entire squad.

 

As for why I like isometric games, my main reason is that it gives you a visual perspective that you don't get from first person or 3D games. Some of the best artwork I've seen comes from games with this perspective. And I've played plenty of isometric games that not only didn't have squad control but indeed didn't really have any combat at all - Sanitarium, for instance.

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Baldur's Gate was exactly the same as well. You started with your own character and NPCs join your party. I loved the combat there. Especially in Throne of Baal, combat was so intense I was pausing every few seconds to reissue commands.

 

To be honest, I never liked NWN series of games because of the 'watered-down' combat to make it more simple. You control your main character just as you've said.

 

As a true successor to BG, I'm more than happy with this system.

 

To address your other points, I don't feel it breaks immersion at all. It is a RPG and tactical game after all, and marketed as such. I am also looking for these elements in the game, not just the story.

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The team based tactical combat is what makes the game!  It is a thinking mans game from beginning to end.  How you build your stats how stats and abilities combined and how the PC combines with the party.   This guy said is best

 

And even if they didn't have AI scripts, most encounters (at least in BG1), could be won by managing one character, and having everyone else just auto attack.


In any case, I wouldn't want the game to play itself. And unlike some people, I don't view micro-management as a bad word. Tougher encounters should require you to manually decide every action of every party member. Moderately tough encounters should require that you pause every once in a while to give orders to your party members (especially your spell casters), while the easy encounters should be winnable by just selecting everyone and then clicking on the enemy and then just sitting back to watch the slaughter.

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I remember the DA:O and NWN2 scripts for companion characters as being something I enjoyed having.  I actually think it's a better option than having no true scripts in a RTWP system... I either want full control of my characters in a turn based environement, or I want to be able to have my companions at least behave predictably and in a semi-intelligent way in real-time scenarios.

 

As it currently stands, I basically play with pause on for most major combat events to try to simulate as close to turn-based combat as possible.

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The team based tactical combat is what makes the game!  It is a thinking mans game from beginning to end.  How you build your stats how stats and abilities combined and how the PC combines with the party.   This guy said is best

 

Kind of going off-topic here, but...

 

You're right - there is thinking involved, but it's a very particular kind of thinking. Let me compare it to a different style of tactical game to illustrate my point. Something like X-COM or Jagged Alliance. I've heard these games described as difficult, but they never felt that way to me (even though you could easily spend a hour+ on a single map if you played on high difficulties and were serious and trying to limit casualties). It's because the kind of thinking I had to related to actions that were realistic or at least plausible (with the exception of mind control); it made it easy to immerse myself in that. Doing the thinking never felt like a chore.

 

Here, on the other hand, the combat feels more like it does in Diablo 2 or Torchlight than it does in a true tactical game like X-COM. I.e. it's geared around making combat confrontational and artificially even, and "fair", rather than a more realistic approach where you would strive to make things extremely unfair and would be quite pleased with yourself if you pulled off a plan where you wiped out your enemies without even being seen. That's not to say that it's a bad thing; I've spent (and continue to spend) countless hours playing ARPGs. However, my relationship with them blows hot and cold. There are times when I have great fun playing them, and other times when I think "Oh my god, I'm wasting precious hours of my life doing mindless repetitive tasks that are superficially "challenging" but have no intellectual depth". When that kind of mood comes over me, thinking about build optimization etc. does start to feel like a chore.

 

I would love for a true isometric RPG to have the same level of tactical depth as Jagged Alliance. I would even completely forget about the immersion issues I've been talking about due to the sheer awesomeness of something like that. The closest I've gotten I've gotten though is Fallout/Fallout 2. For some reason medieval/fantasy style games completely abandon the concept of real-world tactics and base their combat on a different logic. Even though it doesn't have to be this way (after all, there are plenty of spells that are very obviously analogous to things like guns, grenades, chemical weapons etc. so it's not as though it's impossible to translate things).

Edited by aiqidar
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Actually, the customizable scripts in Dragon Age were one of my favourite things about the game. 

 

You don't surprise me -- they are optimized for exactly the style of play you've described as your favorite in this thread.

 

The focus on that style of play came at the cost of making tactical play tooth-grindingly clumsy.

 

I'm very pleased that Obsidian avoided a similar "trying to be all things to all people" pitfall with PoE.

DID YOU KNOW: *Missing String*

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