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General feedback from a veteran

Game Design Mechanics art

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#1
Vorgmechen

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After years of silence in which I have played games casually while studying philosophy I think it is evident that some problems may be persitent or it may be, that what I think is problematic and a flaw in the design is not something the community or the designers feel urgent to correct and change. Many things can be said to strengthen such a view, but I will leave it at that. I will in the following make a comment to the combat system and how it handles the translation from program structure (mechanics or systems) to meaning for the player.

 

Pillars of Eternity is a game I backed from the beginning and I played the beta a little while, but soon found that the game was a dissapointment. Beeing a game made by my childhood heros of sorts I did not give it much thought and was sure that in time things would come around and the game would ship in perfect order.

 

Struggling to make a character with a historical depth due to my age mostly (39) I managed in the end to come up with a roleplaying idea of no small measure. I am playing an aged and tired Korgan Bloodaxe. Yes, the Dwarf from Baldur's Gate. A retired mercenary that no longer have the taste for blood and axes and just want to settle in a new land away from the problems of the world and the men and organizations that tend to hunt him for his past deeds. Korgan is now a greyhaired stoic and deceptive dwarf and he refuses to get involved in the world around him, but as the story goes, beeing a Watcher, he soon finds that one last involvement becomes a pressing matter.

 

Before Korgan Bloodaxe, I played around with forty different avatars trying to get a sense of the mechanics and power of the different defenses, classes, weapons and so forth. This is probably due to my current studies and the fact that I have played games for over 20 years and is hard to please. I attend a master at a local university studying games. The only university in fact, that has such a program. I am from Denmark, Copenhagen and have a bachelor in philosophy.

 

Design is all about creating structures that gives the player a good sense of depth and meaning. In games such as this one, structures should support and account for pyschological depth and philosphical thoroughness both formal and non-formal.

 

What is a beeing you could ask? It does not matter whether such a beeing is an elf, dwarf or human. They can all be mercenaries and originate from the same region so all races should have a generic pychological potential and therefore be restricted, "controlled" (Foucault) and moved by the same cultural instituitions and phenomenons. The question of; what is a beeing, comes down to the question of; what we as humans are, since whatever races or other beeings we "construct" are mediated by the way we see ourselves and have seen ourselves throughout history. There is nothing else. Everything is first and foremost humanoid no matter what horrors or extraterrestial creatures we construct. A ghost is a memory, a horror is a nightmare and so forth. Nothing otherworldy can be created in reality and what is otherworldy to us, is only our way of making a thing obscure, secret and dramatic. This is the strength of art. In fantasy video games specifically, we can make a magic system and by so doing say something about the existence of Man in subtle ways.

 

Combat

I see a string of questions. The first one is whether it is possible to play Pillars of Eternity without a some way besides defenses of surpressing afflictions? I will see past difficulty. The normal difficulty should be the only difficulty in my opinion. Here the game should be perfect and should tell the story vivdly and make the right challenge appear at the right time all the time.

 

Korgan Blood axe is a physical powerhouse of proportion. He has poor reflexes and not much brawl in him any longer. He is old and the passion for war and his fearful demeanor has all gone. Korgan is a troubled man now with countless of deaths on his conscience. He has super strength (21), super constituion (18), high dexterity (16) and high intelligence (16). Perception and resolve is rock bottom (this is how i translated and made him). As such, his reflex and will defense are poor, but his fortitude defense is extreme. He is basically a fighter made as if he was a barabarian (Berserker in his case). I looked forward to see how such an avatar, the famous Korgan Bloodaxe would fare in-game and I was stunned..

 

Example 1

Ghouls (weakness)

 

Korgan fights a single ghoul and is almost killed. How is this possible? Well the ghoul has a high attack speed and can reaaply the weakness affliction permanently. Korgan hits the ghoul 4-5 times and it dies, but Korgan is hit maybe 10-12 times and looses 100 health and almost goes down. Is Korgan tough? Do I feel a sense of power as the player playing him? I most certainly do not. The entire battle gives me sense of a flawed combat system and Korgan Bloodaxe is nowhere to be found.

 

Example 2

Mushroom cave (prone)

 

So I venture into the cave to collect mushroom samples for a cure. Three sentient mushrooms attack. Korgan is surrounded, but a battleworn mercenary like Korgan will surely just dispose of theese neutral enemies defending there mother hen. Korgan is prone. Korgan is down. A flawed combat system?

 

The combat system does not commute to the player how things should and would be in real battle, but tries to uphold a structure or mechanic. This is a serious issue. A mechanic should serve an intellectual purpose or meaning and never rule. If the combat system begins to repair itself just so it can exist, then the combat system is flawed (Nietzsche). It should not be possible to knock a character like Korgan on his heels and then pound him to grinded meat with 6 attacks dealing +15 damage. Korgan has ONE defense and my entire roleplaying idea hinges upon this defense. When both a ghoul with indefinte weakness apllication and a few sentient mushrooms just pummels him to dust, something is wrong. The problem can be corrected. To make apparent my point and not to give technical recommendations, it is done by resolving how afflictions work in relation to GRAZES. A graze should not be able to knock Korgan out for 3 seconds! This is contraintuitive, it kills the mood and the battle realism. My story crumbles and I am lead to believe that this game can not be played without a priest or by drinking potions. Hence I reload and begin with the spell "suppress affliction" and set Korgan loose. The battle is over in seconds. But if this is inteded, then it is no longer Korgan I am playing - it is nothing but a damage MACHINE with an immunity field! It kills the "person" Korgan Bloodaxe (commuted in combat primarily through attributes and defenses) or at least I have to "repair" him with another story to justify such a flaw. Obviously this is not a solution. This then, in turn, removes the impact and cultural meaning of the entire defense system. The pyschology, history and any philosphical notion about our existence, that such a system should serve and support, is removed from the game and this can not be intended. If in stead, Korgan would have resisted all but very few seconds of weakness and perhaps 1 sec of prone, then Korgan as a "person" would have been present. I would have felt his presence – attacks grazing, strengt applied, damage soaked, vicious damage dealt etc. Combat systems CAN NOT remove the historical fleshy personality and replace it with a mathmatical structure like an ORC in Warcraft or a Hydralisk in Starcraft you just need to buff. The stuctures we program to commute personality should serve and never rule. What I experience should be "Korgan Bloodaxe" and hence his defenses and attributes, not the fact that he is some-thing that needs a buff or a potion to modify a number or else he will stop operating. The numbers and structures should be invisible and serve a well thought of intellectual scheme. In a game where an avatar is core such flaws are just not welcome. It reduces the combat system to the systems known in real time strategy games. I do not want my avatar to be a piece in a puzzle, I want my avatar to be special and want my choices in character creation to have a huge impact on how I experience the game.  

 

M

 

 

 


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#2
View619

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Yeah, grazes inflicting status affects is weird. Not sure why they didn't make spell resolution like:

 

  1. Miss - No damage or status affect.
  2. Graze - Reduced damage, no status affect.
  3. Hit - Full damage and normal status affect.
  4. Crit - Increased damage and increased status affect.

 

To be honest, sometimes I wonder why graze even exists.


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#3
Serdan

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As a philosopher you should know how to express yourself clearly and, just as importantly, concisely.

My eyes glazed over when I got to the wall of text at the end.


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#4
Varana

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What exactly do you mean by "Perception and Resolve are rock-bottom"?

I think, however, that you're approaching the issue from a somewhat unrealistic (if that can be said) angle.
Your Korgan is not a hardened veteran of many battles. Your Korgan starts as a level-1-character. He will become a veteran.
Setting some attributes to what you would find appropriate for a character who lived through BG2 (which started, in fact, at a relatively high level), is a strange way to create a character. You can do this, but you will sacrifice other aspects along the way, which essentially (should!) bring down your character back to what he is: a level 1 freshman.
Attributes of 10 are obviously considered somewhat average. I'm not going to calculate how much you had to lower the "dump stats" for your attributes, but I get the strong impression that you didn't create a "character". You created an assortment of attribute values that seemed to fit your preconceived notion of what these numbers should express, without much regard whether they actually do that in this rule set.
Part of what makes fantasy worlds fascinating is how they recombine our imagination and twist it - sometimes less so, sometimes more. Ghouls in this game are not simply ghouls, they're PoE ghouls. They are ghoulish enough to be called so but how strong they are or what they#re doing to your character, is entirely up to the game. Whether Korgan should plough through small mushrooms depends entirely on how PoE chooses to depict those mushrooms, nothing else. If they're dangerous in this world to someone like him, he won't be able to one-hit them.

That said, I don't deny that there are aspects to the combat system that could be better or don't make much sense. It seems to me, though, as if the specific issue here are not the details of combat mechanics but the way of looking at the game, in general.

#5
Zorfab

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Deflection is the god defense here and lowering it by dumping Resolve and Perception creates a punching bag and not a tank or someone who can wade into melee and survive. Dexterity and might are DPS stats, Int is buff duration and AoE stat and Con is... punching bag stat. :no:

 

Does the stat system make sense? Not in a simulationist sense. It´s a gamist construct and exist outside conventional wisdom in some respects. Trying to apply realism or vision to such a thing is going to result in failure. Sorry you had to experience it first hand.



#6
TheisEjsing

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I almost made popcorn while reading the OP. Why would you need to use Foucault, and Nietzsche to validate your argument? You're not writing a paper here. And are you serious about PoE being flawed because it can't support your extremely specific type of character?

You make a character with low defenses, you get knocked on your ass. That's the deal. Can I expect a response featuring Hegel or Bourdieu? ;-)


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#7
Rosveen

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Pillars of Eternity wasn't meant to be a real life simulator. You didn't create a person, you created a character limited by the contraints of this particular video game's mechanics. Mechanics you don't seem to understand very well, using the attribute names while creating your character without care for what these attributes actually do. In Korgan's case, you focused on fortitude, which is defense against attacks on your body systems: poison, disease. You completely ignored deflection, which is typical physical sturdiness and the ability to withstand melee and ranged single target attacks. Your battle-worn berserker can survive the plague, but he'll fall over when a child whacks him with a stick. This is the person you created and then you wonder why you can't tank anything...

 

Out of curiousity, I went into the game and checked your stats. To reach these values, you had to dump Resolve and Perception to 3-4. As a fighter, your deflection is 29 to 58 fortitude. As a barbarian, your deflection would be a grand total of 3 points.


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#8
Yosharian

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9/10


Edited by Yosharian, 12 April 2015 - 07:20 AM.

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#9
Emperor Pen

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Philosophy major explains everything.

#10
philkingz

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As a philosopher you should know how to express yourself clearly and, just as importantly, concisely.

My eyes glazed over when I got to the wall of text at the end.

All you do in this comment is confirm the prejudice that american people do more stive for rhetoric than content.

There is absolutely no wall of text, it is for you, you have the attentionspan of a child.

 

Additionally as a "philosopher" your thoughts should be anything than short, cause a philosophers wants to look behind the everyday reductionism

to uncover its deceitfulness instead of making it even stronger.


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#11
dorkboy

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As a philosopher you should know how to express yourself clearly and, just as importantly, concisely.

My eyes glazed over when I got to the wall of text at the end.

All you do in this comment is confirm the prejudice that american people do more stive for rhetoric than content.

There is absolutely no wall of text, it is for you, you have the attentionspan of a child.

 

Additionally as a "philosopher" your thoughts should be anything than short, cause a philosophers wants to look behind the everyday reductionism

to uncover its deceitfulness instead of making it even stronger.

 

Notice how concisely you were able to formulate that?



#12
View619

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As a philosopher you should know how to express yourself clearly and, just as importantly, concisely.

My eyes glazed over when I got to the wall of text at the end.

All you do in this comment is confirm the prejudice that american people do more stive for rhetoric than content.

There is absolutely no wall of text, it is for you, you have the attentionspan of a child.

 

Additionally as a "philosopher" your thoughts should be anything than short, cause a philosophers wants to look behind the everyday reductionism

to uncover its deceitfulness instead of making it even stronger.

 

 

Nice assumption that he's an American. It's a wall of text no matter how you look at it.



#13
majestic

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If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?



#14
Noin

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If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

If a dwarf dies in a cave and no one is around to witness it, is the combat mechanic flawed?


Edited by Noin, 02 June 2015 - 11:48 AM.

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#15
majestic

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If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

If a dwarf dies in a cave and no one is around to witness it, is the combat mechanic flawed?

 

 

Hm, then what is the sound of one axe grinding? :w00t:


Edited by majestic, 02 June 2015 - 01:18 PM.


#16
Faerunner

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Pillars of Eternity wasn't meant to be a real life simulator. You didn't create a person, you created a character limited by the contraints of this particular video game's mechanics. Mechanics you don't seem to understand very well, using the attribute names while creating your character without care for what these attributes actually do. In Korgan's case, you focused on fortitude, which is defense against attacks on your body systems: poison, disease. You completely ignored deflection, which is typical physical sturdiness and the ability to withstand melee and ranged single target attacks. Your battle-worn berserker can survive the plague, but he'll fall over when a child whacks him with a stick. This is the person you created and then you wonder why you can't tank anything...

 

Out of curiousity, I went into the game and checked your stats. To reach these values, you had to dump Resolve and Perception to 3-4. As a fighter, your deflection is 29 to 58 fortitude. As a barbarian, your deflection would be a grand total of 3 points.

 

This.

 

It's not Obidian's fault that you developed such unrealistically high expectations of what the game will and will not provide, and designed a character based on how you think he would work in your mind rather than how the mechanics of the game actually work.



#17
Clicks

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and want my choices in character creation to have a huge impact on how I experience the game.  

 

 

 

Well, when you think about it your choices in character creation have made a huge impact to your experience. You dumped perception and resolve and your front line warrior is getting knocked down a lot.

I think it's unreasonable to assume the developers should have regard to the millions of different potential role play ideas that people may come up with. I always have a general idea of the way I want to role play a character. The only thing you can do is adjust the attributes as close as the game allows.


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#18
SlayerDorian

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This is not really general feedback.  It seems more like a long winded complaint about graze still applying negative status effects.  Many agree.  I've seen a few suggestions going around that make sense.  I like the idea of graze applying lesser version of the status effect (and for a shorter time) such as prone becoming an interrupt instead. 



#19
Ivonbeton

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You're kind of allover the place with this, you've typed a lot while actually saying very little. I think you have urealistic and very narrow expectations of what kind of experience an isometric cRPG should provide. Immersion in these kind of games does not stem from it's realistic nature or mechanical autarky of your avatar, it comes through the story progression and adventures you set upon. Did you honestly play the Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale series? Who in their right mind - atleast at proper difficulty - would send in their tank without buffing their entire party? Most of my time in these games was spent buffing my party. Especially getting your tanks immune to CC was essential in those games. This is a mechanice I personally LOVE about these games and it's one I've been missing ever since they were released. I love the tactical and strategical nature of combat and how every situation has a right spell to counter it. I honestly think that's something most players appreciate about this game.

 

So despite the fact that I strongly disagree with your reasoning as to why these mechanics ruin immersion, I do believe that the magic and status system in this game needs some tweaking. The CC in this game needs to be shorter and there needs to be WAY more resistance against said CC. I'd like to see more defensive spells and less offensive ones, that could do the trick. Also providing stronger will and/or fortitude checks might be a start aswell. My experience towards the later levels of Caed Nua was simply this :

 

1. I bombard them with CC spells. Either confusion spells or stun spells, depends on the amount of enemies.  

2. The few enemies that didn't get affected bombard my party with CC spells or simply ignore my tanks. 

3. Either I live to bombard them with more CC and some damage in between, or I reload. 

 

It's fine when enemies have less CC themselves and decent CC resistance though, but when that is not the case, it kind of ruins the strategical mindgames that make combat so fun. That's what I loved about BG1 and the early levels of BG2, spells were about incremental changes and minor or average advantages. Not bombarding eachother with nigh unresistable God spells. Reminds me of how MTG evolved.



#20
Horrorscope

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Yeah, grazes inflicting status affects is weird. Not sure why they didn't make spell resolution like:

 

  1. Miss - No damage or status affect.
  2. Graze - Reduced damage, no status affect.
  3. Hit - Full damage and normal status affect.
  4. Crit - Increased damage and increased status affect.

 

To be honest, sometimes I wonder why graze even exists.

 

Funny, you explain why it exists right above, to deal reduced damage.







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