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tidehunter

how do you feel about the content density?

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First let me just say that PoE has been, so far, a stellar game, and this is mostly meant as constructive debate about potential improvements for the next iteration.

 

I am just making my way through defiance bay for the first time, and I remember reading an old blog post about content density, especially in comparison to BG2.

 

Now from what I remember, Athkatla was a bustling place, and this wasn't a turn off. You walk in to the Copper Coronet and you have so much stuff going on. You pick and choose what caters to your interests. Then there was BG1, where content was less dense, but you got the ENTIRE city, edges perfectly lined up from one zone to another. There were so many random little houses and corners which you could poke around in.

 

I guess in PoE, the cramped wilderness areas had already foreshadowed the issue somewhat. I mean you go to the first wilderness area from the initial starting zone and you are basically confined to walk a very narrow and short path through it. You got inaccessible cliffs and a little grassy area and you are done. In itself it's not a big deal, but there are so few of the areas in total. Still, I was eagerly anticipating reaching the first major city to see what it would have in store.

 

Now to give you a summary of the feel: I'm walking through the administrative centre, and there's just 3 buildings you can enter! And not much is going on in any one of them. I'm sure there are some tie-ins with future quest-specific reasons to visit, but the general pattern is each building has 1-3 people with actual names, and then a bunch of generic NPCs who all say the same rotation of phrases. Another example is the major inn at the city. There's barely anything of interest going on, and compare that with BG2's major inns. The net effect is when you go on a tour of the environment, it feels a bit dead, at least in comparison to the games I mentioned (and even Planescape).

 

To sum it up, I would say that not only is the scale somewhat diminished (which is understandable given the development challenges), but the content could definitely be more densely packed in the environments that were actually fleshed out.

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Completely agree. I found Defiance Bay to be (unfortunately) very content light through almost all five areas. The exception being Ondra's Gift. This area, at least, seemed pretty packed with content. The other areas... not so much.

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It's more comparable to Baldur's Gate than Athkatla. Some zones don't have much, some zones have a lot, and it's a decently sized but not superhuge city. 

 

Athkatla, of course, is almost incomparable. 

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Feels good man. Six or seven quests just in Copperlane, five shops not counting the inn. Several factions to consider, and a boatload of quests, NPCs and shops citywide. There is a solid amount of content in Gilded Vale and its environs, with Raderic's/Stronghold acting as good capstones before the player heads to DB for Act II. Dyrford has a good amount of hustle and bustle. While I haven't explored much of the side content in Act III, testimony around the forums is that that content is particularly strong. Various quests in and around the Stronghold weave a kind of non-linear content density into the game, in that the Endless Paths and bounties seem to be intended to be completed intermittently, as the player goes about other things in the game.

 

If anything, sometimes content density is too high, in the case of filler combats and repetitive horde encounters. Just imagine the content density if you stopped to read every backer NPC story...

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Exoduss, on 14 Apr 2015 - 11:11 AM, said: 

 

also secret about hardmode with 6 man party is :  its a faceroll most of the fights you will Auto Attack mobs while lighting your spliff

 

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I agree with @mazeltov, there's too much for me in the game already ! I remember having played 50+ hrs, just entering Act II, being somewhere around 5-6 lv, while feeling overwhelmed by the content !

 

 

Naturally, I didn't do it all (im not a completionist). I select to leave out whole chunks of content, so that there are many new things to see when doing another playthrough. That's how I've also been playing the old ie games all those years (and i reckon there are still things i've never done in BG2, though only few :D )


Matilda is a Natlan woman born and raised in Old Vailia. She managed to earn status as a mercenary for being a professional who gets the job done, more so when the job involves putting her excellent fighting abilities to good use.

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Completely agree. I found Defiance Bay to be (unfortunately) very content light through almost all five areas. The exception being Ondra's Gift. This area, at least, seemed pretty packed with content. The other areas... not so much.

 

Ondra's Gift was perfect. It felt lively, but not overly so, it felt like it was worth exploring, and had a couple of quests. The other areas feel devoid of life, and even the marketplace in Copperlane is basically a few MMO vendors neatly stacked in a row.

  • First Fires is completely devoid of feels, and fails to convey the importance of the locale, and the ruined temple even feels out of place; it's been decades, and it's right next to the most important building in the city.

     

  • Copperlane fails to deliver the impression of arriving to a bustling city, it fails at feeling like a market district, and the theatre and 2/3 of the map feels like meaningless filler, or rather un-filled and unfulfilling filler.

     

  • Heritage Hill is basically a dungeon, but that's fine, it's meant to be. It's a bit much like a "the graveyard district", and it should've aimed to be a bit more "upper-class-gone-wrong". And it's odd that there's a massive pit there with a tower that apparently was starting to be studied only recently. Like what the hell, it must've been there for multiple decades, and why would there be a big dig in the middle of the most exclusive district?

     

  • Brackenbury feels tiiiiny. It's essentially just two nobleman's houses that of course are essential to the story in some capacity or another. It feels like a minimum-effort afterthought to squeeze in some necessary bits. They're not out of place, but the district could've been bigger and tried to be a bit more of an "upper-class" merchants and bourgeoise area, as opposed to the nobility area of Heritage Hill.

     

  • All of Defiance Bay completely fails to convey the tension that is mentioned in dialogues. It does not look like or feel like there's a crisis going on, or that there are refugees coming in front, left or centre. The bridge should be clogged with people. The guard at the main gate should stop you and ask you what business you have in the city, and complain about the peasants pushing into the city.

     

    There should be beggars throughout the city, and makeshift "refugee camps" in the outlying areas of Copperlane. There should be an altercation or two as peasants are pushed out of Brackenbury, and there should be all kinds of related issues in Ondra's Gift (A conflict between refugees and the woman that wants the Lighthouse? Forced/desperate prostitution?)

I always preferred Baldur's Gate to Athkatla in almost every single way, by the way, but the only area that sorta hits the mark is Ondra's Gift, I think. The rest of Defiance Bay could use a lot of work.

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Feels good man. Six or seven quests just in Copperlane, five shops not counting the inn. Several factions to consider, and a boatload of quests, NPCs and shops citywide. There is a solid amount of content in Gilded Vale and its environs, with Raderic's/Stronghold acting as good capstones before the player heads to DB for Act II. Dyrford has a good amount of hustle and bustle. While I haven't explored much of the side content in Act III, testimony around the forums is that that content is particularly strong. Various quests in and around the Stronghold weave a kind of non-linear content density into the game, in that the Endless Paths and bounties seem to be intended to be completed intermittently, as the player goes about other things in the game.

 

If anything, sometimes content density is too high, in the case of filler combats and repetitive horde encounters. Just imagine the content density if you stopped to read every backer NPC story...

Yea I agree.  Methinks tidehunter's analysis makes differences without distinctions.


The  thing about political Power is that, like everything else, it's an illusion and often confused with Authority whereas authority is static; passive and defensive as it is given by power and can be taken away;  Power is taken,  fluid,  willful and offensive, and cannot be taken, only replaced. 


 


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I disliked Athkatla in Baldur's Gate 2. Too many quests in very few locations. When I pick a few quest and just want to finish exploring the area, and do these quests, I get 40 quests on my way. I like this density more. What Defiance Bay COULD use, for sure, is more townsfolk. It DOES look empty.

 

It also makes sense that Twin Elms is even less dense than Defiance Bay. It's not as urbanized, it relies more on hunting, and that's just not as efficient for feeding lots of people. Even districts are 1 hour away from each other. I would be happy to see more zones, though. I heard Twin Elms was supposed to get another zone, an overgrown graveyard, entered from the druid circle.

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Defiance Bay was not a disappointment to me as I did not expect a really big city.  Dyrwood itself has a forlorn and empty feel.  I do think the city could have been improved with more refugees especially since that seems to be the main complaint of the guards.    I expected more refugees.  First Fires was a disappointment although it was very attractive for some reason it not impress me as the cneter of government.  Graphically good but with no life to it.


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to be honest, I´d rather have more of those smaller villages like gilded vale instead of big multi-mapped cities.

Gilded Vale was great, honestly. Gilded Vale knocks the socks off all the districts of Defiance Bay save Ondra's Gift. Is a really well-made hub, both content-wise and stylistically. Which is probably why so many people get no feels for most of the Defiance Bay hubs.

 

Dyrford Village could also have been better, it felt pretty small compared to Gilded Vale, more like a road-crossing than a village.


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Yeah first fires was probably the weakest area in DB. But as a whole I though it worked well, though I preferred Gilded Vale. Twin Elms was for me the weakest city/village. Not from design but content. It really felt forced. Probably more a pacing issue from the story though.

The last act happened very suddenly - not sure if some one from OBS suddenly realized that they had just run out of money...

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Obsidian had the same problem in NWN2 OC, the last part, and especially the area with the undead before the inner sanctum, was clearly rushed. Artwise, there are plenty of lovely stuff aft Act II and in and around Twin Elms, but overall, the content density in Act I and II is pretty fab IMHO. Act I could have been a bit less linear and have a little more content, whereas Defiance Bay was just about right for our first city. First Fires felt a bit thin, that's true, but if you did the CK quests and the Pallegina quest it felt at least coherent and fun enough.


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

 

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Defiance Bay was a big let down for me. Here's what I think of it (scroll down to highlighted "my biggest dissapointment in the game" if you're bored reading the rest of the stuff).
http://forums.obsidian.net/topic/77841-i-finally-finished-the-game-and-heres-what-i-liked-and-didnt-like-about-it/?do=findComment&comment=1664797

 

Twin Elms was much better, imho, regarding population and themes/things to do compared to size.

Replaying BG2 last summer, though, I can say that Athkatla was NOT a bustling place :p
It was big, yes, and maybe it was something huge to see back at the time, but I believe is that memory of the big city with the ambient sounds that makes us believe Atkatla was such a bustling place. It was not :)  It just had many things to do.

Edited by Sedrefilos

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As far as number of quests go in the cities, I think the game is close to "bang-on" for me. You get them in a steady stream, but you don't walk into an area and get 10 NPCs all wanting *you* to complete all their quests so that, when you get to the 6th quest, you don't even remember meeting the bloody NPC in the first place. The rate of how quests are received is very good.

 

Now, I think what I miss is some quests that are more sprawling and involved. Make use of the size in the various Defiance Bay areas. It could've used a big investigation quest or two, that is just dropped in your lap with no real hint as to what to do with it. And then you investigate around town. There could've been a lot more NPCs in areas such First Fires for example that serve as "hint-droppers" for quests and such.

Dunryd Row has an investigation quest but it points you in the right directions right away so you don't really get to... well, investigate.

So yeah, a few more wide, sweeping quests would've been nice.

 

Twin Elms, Gilded Vale and Dyrford all felt good to me keeping in mind what kinds of locations they are. For Twin Elms, it would've been nice I think to have a few more quests trying to connect it to other areas (not just the ones right around it I mean), but at the same time it makes sense for what it is, it *is* a bit out of the way.

 

For wilderness areas, well... Here is where I would've liked to see A) bigger areas and B) more stuff to do in them Some of them feel really small *and* bare which is a bit unfortunate as it doesn't give you that feeling of exploring large areas like in BG (where the emptiness *sometimes* worked to create that explorative atmosphere) nor does it give you a lot of content. So they simply feel small and a bit disappointing.

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I disliked Athkatla in Baldur's Gate 2. Too many quests in very few locations. When I pick a few quest and just want to finish exploring the area, and do these quests, I get 40 quests on my way. I like this density more. What Defiance Bay COULD use, for sure, is more townsfolk. It DOES look empty.

 

 

I think the official website of Baldur's Gate 2 is still accessible via the Internet Wayback Machine. There is or used to be an FAQ section where various player feedback to part one was adressed. I think the "busy" city as well as the more linear structure rather than the exploration that was present in BG1 was a direct response to that feedback of the not_so_silent majority of player feedback they got. I don't hate it really but... There's another thing with the city, by the way, and it's that the entire chapter has so many quests and strongholds and what not that you can do this like forever, despite the narrative strongly going against that kind of thing. Your

half-sis

has just been captured. The thing initially tries to push you into wanting to save her. It's obvious that there's personal preference at work here -- but yeah, this all contributed to the game feeling more staged and gamey rather than a real "place". Every place, every click brings you immediately to an area of interest (or should I say quest objective). Whilst BG's wilderness was by some critisized for the exact opposite, just woods and nothing in them, I think that firstly a) travelling to places actually felt somewhat like travelling, and b) it seems the Biofolks took all of that criticism and didn't merely try to adress it, but to an extent outright reversed some of the original's design in the process. In my opinion this was the first step towards the more compact interactive movie kind of experience of the games they made thereafter.

 

As for the density, obviously working on comparably tight budget restrictions it's less likely for a game such as PoE to have "flair" stuff, in quality 2D art all the same. Whcih means in busy places such as cities areas of interest might be all related to quests/NPCs directly in one way or another, and weren't there wilderness areas to be planned for and cut, actually? I don't remember. Hell, even big budget titles are under constraints, and this is the ultimate irony in the history of video games: back in 1992 and 320x200 art a hand full of guys were able to populate complete cities full of individual NPCs in Ultima VII -- by the time Ultima IX (and eventually subsequent Elder Scrolls games) came about, capitals of major fantasy realms consisted of the local pub, two make-shift shags, the court's yard and a bush. As a result, the city of Daggerfall alone in the 1996 rendition could house all of Skyrim's places and then some.

 

In terms of sheer numbers, content, like quests, is often overvalued. Still for PoE I took my time and played for 70+ hours and still had like close to ten quests on my list I did not finish/take due to my rogue not willing to save every old lady's kitten from the tree (if you catch the drift). Maybe that will be different in a subsequent run, I dunno. Expecting this to ship with as much stuff in terms of numbers as some of the old IE games was never advertised nor realistic to begin with (at least not in comparison to BG2). There have been I think various interviews in which some of the lads actually voiced concerns about that BG2 kind of thing, equally it was said that the AI and encounter scripting won't be as complex yet... the thing was packed with stuff and probably has the most (hand crafted, quite complex) quests of any RPG for a reason to this day. Lots of character/creature art that could be reused, the tools that had been in place for multiple titles, the staff being used to them and the game coming out in an age where fully voice-overs and playing Hollywood-pretend cutscenes weren't considered an entry level requirement probably didn't hurt either. But the density, that's some good points made there. I think some of the backer NPCs actually contributed to it all. I.e. most, if not all of the NPCs who have something to say besides the brief standard lines for the respective location that are cycled through are those backer NPCs. But in fairness, they naturally deserve to be in the game, or to put it in another way, the backer NPCs are fine, maybe it's also worth looking at the "generic" townsfolk, at least some of it.

Edited by Sven_

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And if you include the backer beta, it almost amounts to some kind of world record. For the most part, it has been a fun ride, though. Hopefully, Obsidian will keep on making PoE1/2/expansions in a reasonably semi-open process.


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

 

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I feel that this game may be the most nit-picked game I've ever seen...

 

Clearly you have never been to Battle.net

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TrueNeutral: I have, and it makes these forums look like kindergarten. However, the nitpicking is about the story/writing, devs' choices and a lot more than just mechanics, auction house or not, well, you know those themes.


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

 

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I feel that this game may be the most nit-picked game I've ever seen...

 

Clearly you have never been to Battle.net

 

 

I have.  I stand by my statement though since I see PoE as better than anything Blizzard has made over the past decade.

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First let me just say that PoE has been, so far, a stellar game, and this is mostly meant as constructive debate about potential improvements for the next iteration.

 

I am just making my way through defiance bay for the first time, and I remember reading an old blog post about content density, especially in comparison to BG2.

 

Now from what I remember, Athkatla was a bustling place, and this wasn't a turn off. You walk in to the Copper Coronet and you have so much stuff going on. You pick and choose what caters to your interests. Then there was BG1, where content was less dense, but you got the ENTIRE city, edges perfectly lined up from one zone to another. There were so many random little houses and corners which you could poke around in.

 

I guess in PoE, the cramped wilderness areas had already foreshadowed the issue somewhat. I mean you go to the first wilderness area from the initial starting zone and you are basically confined to walk a very narrow and short path through it. You got inaccessible cliffs and a little grassy area and you are done. In itself it's not a big deal, but there are so few of the areas in total. Still, I was eagerly anticipating reaching the first major city to see what it would have in store.

 

Now to give you a summary of the feel: I'm walking through the administrative centre, and there's just 3 buildings you can enter! And not much is going on in any one of them. I'm sure there are some tie-ins with future quest-specific reasons to visit, but the general pattern is each building has 1-3 people with actual names, and then a bunch of generic NPCs who all say the same rotation of phrases. Another example is the major inn at the city. There's barely anything of interest going on, and compare that with BG2's major inns. The net effect is when you go on a tour of the environment, it feels a bit dead, at least in comparison to the games I mentioned (and even Planescape).

 

To sum it up, I would say that not only is the scale somewhat diminished (which is understandable given the development challenges), but the content could definitely be more densely packed in the environments that were actually fleshed out.

 

This is also one of my critiques to the game. Defiance Bay feels "hollow", empty, both visually and content-wise. Even in the middle of the game's day, the districts really feel like everyone's at home, dozing off. There is not that much to see, do, or talk about. I was surprised to find that many inns, in Defiance Bay.

 

In fact, considering how deserted the districts felt, whereas I was expecting them to be bustling with activities of their own, and things to do for me (Ondra's Gift is the only exception: it does feel acceptably populated and there are enough "things" going on).

 

On the other hand Dyrford, for example, is a small village out in the sticks, and despite its 8 total buildings actually feels more "lively" and better "crafted": this seems a bit at odds with the "state" Defiance Bay is in.

 

On occasions I wondered if this was a deliberate choice from the devs, in order to convey a sense of "gloominess" and "melancholy", resulting from the city having had a glorious past and now being somewhat dimmed because of internal strife and the ongoing and apparently unstoppable Legacy.


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That's a good point about midday seeming the same as midnight.

 

I remember in BG1 certain people would only show up for heists in dark alleys after dark, for example. I think even in Beregost the blacksmith closed up shop in the evenings. Contrast this with PoE where everything is static 25/7, and it only compounds the feeling of the absence of vibrancy. Must have been a design choice? Because it doesn't seem like it would be very taxing to implement these nuances, and others, such as having more generic people out and about in daytime.

 

Some people have said they preferred the lower density of Baldur's Gate vs Athkatla. I loved both the approaches and can see the strengths of each. They each do different things well. I am not against the density in PoE as a hard and fast rule, but I think given that there are so few areas to begin with, the aggregate effect is that you feel you are in a very small place.

 

In Athkatla, even though I can understand why some people find the bombardment of events overwhelming, I feel it was necessary to get the "big-city" feel across, given that it was in actual fact a smaller place than Baldur's Gate. You are not in fact seeing the whole city, the illusion is held up by virtue of you accessing several "hot spots" within the much larger whole. It would thus make sense that you are not getting a total random sampling; these accessible zones would be disproportionately "busy".

 

In Baldur's Gate, things were more spread out. You had inn after inn, so it was okay if some of them didn't seem like they existed solely to wait upon your grand entrance like in BG2. I just pulled up the map to check exactly how many

 

http://www.mninter.net/~jch/bg/bg-citymap.jpg

 

now that actually looks and feels more like a place where people have a place to live.

 

I guess the TL;DR is: if you are only modeling "pockets" of the city, I would have preferred higher content density. Otherwise, you need to scale up the environment IMO.

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