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Hi! I'm a massive fan of Black Isle / Troika / Obsidian as well as a student majoring in Computer Science, a game hobbyist and an amateur game developer. (Disclaimer)

 

So, my question for today is a very profound one, and one that carries a lot of meaning to me, personally, and especially from a game developer studio perspective: What's wrong with Obsidian?

 

Everything starts with Black Isle and Fallout, which (if you're aware of the story around the production) was a general huge mother****ing mess. After Black Isle was shot down, the general messiness seemed to follow with Troika games, who made a couple of brilliant yet very flawed games. After that, the legacy, thanks to a few key individuals and their ideals, was transferred into what is today Obsidian.

 

Now, as a disclaimer, I have to say, I love everything created by these guys: Black Isle Studios, Troika and Obsidian. BI's slogan: "By gamers, for gamers" is still something I keep as an inspiration very close to my heart every single day (as an unknown amateur developer), and what they created is simply beautiful. However, everything created by this troupe and their derivatives has always been somehow fundamentally wrong: bugged as hell, imbalanced as foobar, illogical as hell.

 

My question is: WTF is wrong with Obsidian? Why can't they make solid products? I know there's a lot of tension between publisher - developer relations, that's always a handful and something for an entirely different discussion, but my presumption here today is that:

There is something wrong with the communication between the designers and the coders in Obsidian?

 

Because at many times it seems I'm playing a game with a beautifully designed world with lots of content and shreds of the designers souls visibly poured into every single detail, yet at other times I'm stumbling upon the very simplistic, childish even, mistakes that could be repaired with some simple programming with a little bit of forethought. Are you guys talking? Is there something between, even though this time (PoE) you were independently funded, and no publisher has a **** to say about yoru game? What's the problem?

 

Now, I'm not blaming anyone, I'm simply tryng to inquire some details about your methods into developing games, and whether there'd be something to improve. No doubt I'm going to get a generic response of "yes, we're constantly improving our methods and processes in all areas", but what I'm really interested in is the actual schizms between the programmers and the designers, since that's what I think is the main reason for this outcome.

 

Anyway, while any perspectives are welcome, obviously I'd rather take on some pov's from the crew.

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Big crpgs

You can't predict every complication (and mistakes happen fast), nor is it easy to test because these games tend to be big.

 

On that note look at the short games Dungeon Siege III and South Park which were pretty solid.

 

(At least thats what people assume)

Edited by C2B

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Well, I don't think BIG is the answer to everything, since they should have plenty of experience from BIG. Of course it probably has an impact on things, but regardless, it's not the only factor. At least that's my theory.

 

Edit: DS3 and South Park also had their share of problems on launch, albeit not quite as big.

Edit2: Especially SP I think had some pretty major bugs on launch, if I remember right (you could probably track it down by searching for early forum posts)

Edited by catmorbid

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Well, I don't think BIG is the answer to everything, since they should have plenty of experience from BIG. Of course it probably has an impact on things, but regardless, it's not the only factor. At least that's my theory.

 

Edit: DS3 and South Park also had their share of problems on launch, albeit not quite as big.

Edit2: Especially SP I think had some pretty major bugs on launch, if I remember right (you could probably track it down by searching for early forum posts)

DsIII's biggest problem was that you couldn't set keybindings and that wasn't a bug. South Park I wouldn't say was buggier than your usual modern release. Worst offenders were a bit of stuttering on consoles and two issues that prevented achievements IIRC.

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...., yet at other times I'm stumbling upon the very simplistic, childish even, mistakes that could be repaired with some simple programming ....

 

 

What mistakes are you referring to ?


"There once was a loon that twitter


Before he went down the ****ter


In its demise he wasn't missed


Because there were bugs to be fixed."


~ Kaine


 


 


 

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Obsidian's only problem, is that their product attracts know-it-all critics. 

 

Oh yes, that's because of having overly high expectations they're sometimes also being over-critized, but I guess that's just a part of their charm.

 

...., yet at other times I'm stumbling upon the very simplistic, childish even, mistakes that could be repaired with some simple programming ....

 

 

What mistakes are you referring to ?

 

 

Well, for example, there seems to be consistently something broken in their itemization system. I'm not sure if it's a database problem, or something inherently problematic with RPG's (you should be able to know what kind of DB works after a few games...), let alone the quest systems which are always broken. In some cases the merit goes to another party (e.g. Bethesda @ Fallout: NV), but at other times, there seems to be not much anything to blame. Maybe their proprietary engine is very good at that stuff, which would kind of explain why DS3 received very little critique in that area, regardless of the solution in Onyx engine it feels a bit weird they couldn't have ported it to work with unity. My guess is it just wasn't good enough for what PoE required and they had to make (at least some parts of it) anew.

 

And I'm not even talking about all the UI related business here. E.g. why did they completely disregard the awesome mouse-drinven context-based UI in TOEE for a 20 year old mouse-driven awkwardness? (Granted, a lot of general things are done right) Ok, I haven't followed the game throughout the beta, so I've no clue what kind of ****storm took place there, but OBVIOUSLY there's lots of room to improve, but that's partly due to trying to follow Baldur's Gate too much, which in UI (and game system)-wise isn't the best possibl example...

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Obsidian's only problem, is that their product attracts know-it-all critics. 

 

Oh yes, that's because of having overly high expectations they're sometimes also being over-critized, but I guess that's just a part of their charm.

 

 

 

 how could you POSSIBLY have overly high expectations of a dev studio that has always failed your expectations .

 

upon stumbling across this statement i found it very simplistic, a mistake that could have been repaired by even a child. For children are renowned for having the logical sense to understand how illogically baffling this Janus of a backer is.

 

 

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They make huge games with complex rule systems. This combination makes their games virtually impossible to fully validate before the release. It's not specific to Obsidian: if you look at, say Bioware and the Baldur's Gate series, there was plenty of broken quests and item glitches there too. In fact, IIRC, even after all of the patches, there was a mod called Baldurdash or something like that which fixed a slew of bugs that Bioware didn't consider important enough to bother with.

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 ... E.g. why did they completely disregard the awesome mouse-drinven context-based UI in TOEE ...

 

 

 

Do you mean the Radial menu? I have no idea why we don't have that in PoE....I always thought PoE would have it

 

 That worked fantastically in ToEE and NwN (two brilliants RPGs and some of my favorites)

 

 

EDIT: But I definitely see ToEE influence in combat  i.e. over-engineered, unforgiving, hard-core combat mechanics. Which is fine.

Edited by Luj1

"There once was a loon that twitter


Before he went down the ****ter


In its demise he wasn't missed


Because there were bugs to be fixed."


~ Kaine


 


 


 

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 ... E.g. why did they completely disregard the awesome mouse-drinven context-based UI in TOEE ...

 

 

 

Do you mean the Radial menu? I have no idea why we don't have that in PoE....I always thought PoE would have it

 

 That worked fantastically in ToEE and NwN (two brilliants RPGs and some of my favorites)

 

 

EDIT: But I definitely see ToEE influence in combat  i.e. over-engineered, unforgiving, hard-core combat mechanics. Which is fine.

 

Yes, that exactly that!

 

Also I think I know what you mean with the other ToEE influences, but those are really up to taste, not necessarily about neither improvement nor retrogression.

Edited by catmorbid

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..., but those are really up to taste, not necessarily about neither improvement nor retrogression.

 

 

Agreed. I prefer a simple foundation for RTwP combat systems (SWKotOR, NwN) but I can enjoy the more complex ones and grow fond of them as well.

Edited by Luj1

"There once was a loon that twitter


Before he went down the ****ter


In its demise he wasn't missed


Because there were bugs to be fixed."


~ Kaine


 


 


 

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Big crpgs

You can't predict every complication (and mistakes happen fast), nor is it easy to test because these games tend to be big.

 

On that note look at the short games Dungeon Siege III and South Park which were pretty solid.

 

(At least thats what people assume)

 

they just need to give Sensuki access to all their betas :D

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I've played for 50 hours and encountered only one bug (certain SFX not triggering properly). Comparing that to my experience with KOTOR2 (ran into a game-breaking bug requiring I start over from the beginning... twice, among other issues) and New Vegas (which is so buggy I've never been able to go more than 10 hours with a save being irrevocably broken), I don't find the need to be very critical of Eternity. Insofar as I have seen, it is--by far--the most stable game they've ever produced.

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Like others already wrote... Obsidian makes complex games usually with lots of Choice&Consequences. You can't compare this to a Mass Effect, where all but very few actions lead to the same result. It's really not the same. If you look closely, you can see that Obsidian is trying to streamline their processes to produce as little bugs as possible (just look at how games like Fallout and Arcanum are structured and how e.g. Dungeon Siege 3 is), but still it is impossible to work 100% bugfree due to all the possible variations that can happen.


"only when you no-life you can exist forever, because what does not live cannot die."

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I don't want to point fingers at anyone, but the word "troll" came to mind as soon as I read the OP. I don't think a person with some experience with programming beyond the "Hello world" stage would dare to say programming a game is so easy, that Obsidian's programmers are obviously bad at what they do


Let's Play The Temple of Elemental Evil (Complete)
Let's Play Neverwinter Nights and Hordes of the Underdark

Let's Play Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn

I was struggling to understand ths until I noticed you are from Finland. And having been educated solely by mkreku in this respect I am convinced that Finland essentially IS the wh40k universe.

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And I'm not even talking about all the UI related business here. E.g. why did they completely disregard the awesome mouse-drinven context-based UI in TOEE for a 20 year old mouse-driven awkwardness? (Granted, a lot of general things are done right) Ok, I haven't followed the game throughout the beta, so I've no clue what kind of ****storm took place there, but OBVIOUSLY there's lots of room to improve, but that's partly due to trying to follow Baldur's Gate too much, which in UI (and game system)-wise isn't the best possibl example...

 

The Temple of Elemental Evil had a very bad UI. You had to repeatedly keep clicking just to know what you options were. If this is the sort of thing you're criticizing Obsidian for, I'm glad they're not listening to you.

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I've played for 50 hours and encountered only one bug (certain SFX not triggering properly). Comparing that to my experience with KOTOR2 (ran into a game-breaking bug requiring I start over from the beginning... twice, among other issues) and New Vegas (which is so buggy I've never been able to go more than 10 hours with a save being irrevocably broken), I don't find the need to be very critical of Eternity. Insofar as I have seen, it is--by far--the most stable game they've ever produced.

 

Raedric's hold bug was about critical as it gets, and looking at the tech support forum it seems quite a few had it, and that's just those bothering to write on forums - not everyone doe. Then there's, broken stats buffs (bonuses accumulate), broken items etc. Granted, it could be worse.

 

I don't want to point fingers at anyone, but the word "troll" came to mind as soon as I read the OP. I don't think a person with some experience with programming beyond the "Hello world" stage would dare to say programming a game is so easy, that Obsidian's programmers are obviously bad at what they do

I never said it's easy to make this kind of game. I said some of the problems appear like they'd be very easy to fix, and in fact prevent alltogether with a bit oversight when designing the software. And my question was more to propose my theory that designer and coder talent don't quite mix well in Obsidian. You see, ideally you'd have designers who are coders. That way they can code themselves whatever they design, but nowadays that usually isn't the case, unless we're talking about smaller indie studios. Anyway, i'm not pointing fingers at anyone, but even though I really appreciate the guys, I think I still have the right to question their products and critique them, no?

 

 

And I'm not even talking about all the UI related business here. E.g. why did they completely disregard the awesome mouse-drinven context-based UI in TOEE for a 20 year old mouse-driven awkwardness? (Granted, a lot of general things are done right) Ok, I haven't followed the game throughout the beta, so I've no clue what kind of ****storm took place there, but OBVIOUSLY there's lots of room to improve, but that's partly due to trying to follow Baldur's Gate too much, which in UI (and game system)-wise isn't the best possibl example...

 

The Temple of Elemental Evil had a very bad UI. You had to repeatedly keep clicking just to know what you options were. If this is the sort of thing you're criticizing Obsidian for, I'm glad they're not listening to you.

 

I don't see how much better it's having to constantly move the cursor bottom left away from the focus area on the screen, then back again whenever you want to point at something. Anyway, in my opinion TOEE's radial menu was a pretty intuitive way to handle lots of menus, at least lot better than what this is now in PoE.

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I don't see how much better it's having to constantly move the cursor bottom left away from the focus area on the screen, then back again whenever you want to point at something. Anyway, in my opinion TOEE's radial menu was a pretty intuitive way to handle lots of menus, at least lot better than what this is now in PoE.

You would rather have radial menu's obscuring the combat? And repeated clicking to perform basic tasks? And when you issue orders, you usually have the game paused, so it's not a problem that you're looking at another part of the screen.

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You would rather have radial menu's obscuring the combat?

 

 

 

 

Radial menu is a brilliant design, mind you. Worked pretty well in Planescape Torment and Neverwinter Nights (where it was opaque, even better).

Edited by Luj1

"There once was a loon that twitter


Before he went down the ****ter


In its demise he wasn't missed


Because there were bugs to be fixed."


~ Kaine


 


 


 

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Raedric's hold bug was about critical as it gets,

 

 

I got a black screen there that crashes the game, so I had to manually edit my savegame files to continue. Don't ask. There is also the Sanitarium glitch which comes damn close to game-breaking and ruins your reputation completely in the biggest town. That's unfortunate considering you need reputation in Defiance bay for at least two things - Eder's companion quest and the premium weapons/amor at the Dozen.

 

But no, its more important to remove non-issues from the game because some transvestite demanded so on twitter. Go Josh and Obsidian.

 

EDIT: Not to mention the huge discrepancy between classes. You either take cipher/chanter/druid/fighter and faceroll the game on hard, or you get rogue/monk/ranger/barbarian and get cancer.

Also, the efficiency gap between spells is serious. Some spells are near-useless while specific spells are pretty much required to beat certain mobs.

Edited by Luj1

"There once was a loon that twitter


Before he went down the ****ter


In its demise he wasn't missed


Because there were bugs to be fixed."


~ Kaine


 


 


 

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you say you're a developer yourself... then you should be able to appreciate the insane size and complexity of the state machine that makes up the foundation of a game like this. there are so many interdependencies between different events, dialogue choices and progression paths that the resulting game states are virtually impossible to comprehend in their entirety, let alone test reliably (both isolated and in correlation)

 

P.S.: Obisdian also doesn't have the budget of big AAA publishers to put into extended QA measures, yet these big AAA titles are often very buggy as well at release. go figure

Edited by cdd

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