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Let's talk: Vancian systems

magic vancian discussion

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#41
Loren Tyr

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Maybe because they are the core audience? )

 

On the topic. Where your personal dissatisfaction with vancian casting comes from? You can't play other calsses because casters can do same things better or what? This is the single player game so you are basically palying it with yourself. Why do you so desperately need balance among classes when the only balance that matters is the  player vs enviroment one?

 

Says you, but you offer very little support for your claim. So either by "role-playing community" you mean the general population of cRPG gamers, in which case it is on you to prove that at least a large majority of them hold to this supposed rather definite concept of a wizard (I'm part of that population and I don't, for one; neither, presumably, are others in this thread arguing for changes). Or, you mean a much more specific subset of this general cRPG population, in which case it is hardly evident that they are the core audience.

 

I want balance among classes because that's what a well-designed game needs: balance between its various elements. That ensures that there is a large number of different viable playing styles. Without such balance, you will either have underpowered classes (relative to the difficulty level) that are frustrating to play because they can't contribute to the party and/or overpowered classes (relative to the difficulty) that take all the challenge out of it. And the same applies to balance among items, stats, spells, etc. I mean, they could give wizard a first level Disintegrate spell that does 1000 raw Foe AOE damage at +100 Accuracy; it would be hideously unbalanced and essentially makes all other spells irrelevant. It would be incredibly bad design, but following your logic it wouldn't matter in a single player game.


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#42
Althernai

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I want balance among classes because that's what a well-designed game needs: balance between its various elements. That ensures that there is a large number of different viable playing styles. Without such balance, you will either have underpowered classes (relative to the difficulty level) that are frustrating to play because they can't contribute to the party and/or overpowered classes (relative to the difficulty) that take all the challenge out of it. And the same applies to balance among items, stats, spells, etc. I mean, they could give wizard a first level Disintegrate spell that does 1000 raw Foe AOE damage at +100 Accuracy; it would be hideously unbalanced and essentially makes all other spells irrelevant. It would be incredibly bad design, but following your logic it wouldn't matter in a single player game.

 

I disagree. There's no evidence that a well-designed game needs to be balanced beyond eschewing the corner cases. For example, consider Baldur's Gate 2 which had an average of at least one completely unbalanced spell or ability per class (some had more, a few had many more.. and you could combine them) as well as items which ranged from severely unbalanced to stuff which modern, MMO-influenced gamers would be unlikely to believe could be in a mainstream game. Despite this, BG2 was, in my opinion (and, if you don't trust that, also according to Metacritic), a better game than PoE. You are not wrong about balance, overpowered and underpowered classes and all the rest, but all of this has to be balanced ( :)) against other considerations.

 

Consider, for instance, how the player is rewarded for accomplishments. In the most balanced games (usually MMOs), they get a perfectly balanced reward consisting of something slightly better than what they had. This results in a treadmill: in the N-th area N-th level characters can find +N equipment and monsters of N-th level with +N stats so the game feels more or less the same throughout and the rewards are effectively meaningless. To be fair, PoE is not quite at that stage: it has a substantial number of unique items and some of them are even significantly more powerful than others (or at least that was the case when I last played -- from the patch notes it looks like there were some nerfs). However, it is not nearly as rewarding a game as BG2; balance is always the priority over giving the player something truly awesome. The same goes for the character progression: the initial version of the game had one outlier in making lower spell levels per encounter, but they nerfed that too.

 

The same problem afflicts the implementation of Vancian casting. On the one hand, balance demands that such casters somehow be useful despite being per-rest, but on the other, it also demands that they not trivialize boss encounters. The game mostly makes this work... but is the result as fun as the old games which gave the player extremely powerful spells? In my opinion, no, it is not even close.



#43
Fenixp

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and, if you don't trust that, also according to Metacritic

I wouldn't really trust Metacritic on this either - There's a massive cloud of nostalgia and rose-tinted glasses that shrouded Baldur's Gate games throughout the years to the point of people unquestioningly rating it highly as the "best game ever" purely based on nostalgic memories alone (many old games get far higher user scores than they'd deserve due to this). Aside from that, Baldur's Gate, at the time of its release, was a revelation to many. It has streamlined the previously clunky and overly complex RPG genre, it has simplified it and opened it up to a much wider audience, to the point where BG and Infinity Engine games as a whole were the first RPGs many were really able to get into. At this point, it has a massive historical and cultural significance to gaming as a whole.

 

Pillars of Eternity, being mostly a derivative of what Infinity Engine games were back in the late 90s, can't ever live up to that kind of legacy. With that in mind tho, I would absolutely say that it's a significantly better game than Baldur's Gate 1 and, in my mind, also surpasses Baldur's Gate 2 in many areas - proper balance being one of those things. Sure, it was awesome to get that amazing weapon which was oh so much more powerful than your most powerful stuff... Just to find out that you have specced your party so that nobody can really use it. It was so great to get those massively powerful spells until you noticed you can't use them because your specialization forbids it. And when the realization that my entire party only exists to protect the mage who does the vast majority of the actual damage, let's say 'fun' wasn't exactly the word that came to my mind.

 

Then there's writing which I was never a big fan of in Baldur's Gate, it always kinda reminded me of the silly campaigns we've done in DnD as opposed to the amazing ones, but hey, we're getting into a massively subjective territory here.


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#44
Loren Tyr

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I disagree. There's no evidence that a well-designed game needs to be balanced beyond eschewing the corner cases. For example, consider Baldur's Gate 2 which had an average of at least one completely unbalanced spell or ability per class (some had more, a few had many more.. and you could combine them) as well as items which ranged from severely unbalanced to stuff which modern, MMO-influenced gamers would be unlikely to believe could be in a mainstream game. Despite this, BG2 was, in my opinion (and, if you don't trust that, also according to Metacritic), a better game than PoE. You are not wrong about balance, overpowered and underpowered classes and all the rest, but all of this has to be balanced ( :)) against other considerations.

 

Consider, for instance, how the player is rewarded for accomplishments. In the most balanced games (usually MMOs), they get a perfectly balanced reward consisting of something slightly better than what they had. This results in a treadmill: in the N-th area N-th level characters can find +N equipment and monsters of N-th level with +N stats so the game feels more or less the same throughout and the rewards are effectively meaningless. To be fair, PoE is not quite at that stage: it has a substantial number of unique items and some of them are even significantly more powerful than others (or at least that was the case when I last played -- from the patch notes it looks like there were some nerfs). However, it is not nearly as rewarding a game as BG2; balance is always the priority over giving the player something truly awesome. The same goes for the character progression: the initial version of the game had one outlier in making lower spell levels per encounter, but they nerfed that too.

 

The same problem afflicts the implementation of Vancian casting. On the one hand, balance demands that such casters somehow be useful despite being per-rest, but on the other, it also demands that they not trivialize boss encounters. The game mostly makes this work... but is the result as fun as the old games which gave the player extremely powerful spells? In my opinion, no, it is not even close.

 

 

That rather depends on how you define well-balanced, I suppose. I'd say that however fun BG2 may have been, it had considerable room for improvement in this regard. 

 

Note that I'm not arguing for the kind of mathematically exact equivalence of MMOs (not that I ever played any, but I get what you mean). Balance, in my view, doesn't entail an exactly even distribution of power and quality and whatnot, without (real) variation. By all means, you need that variation and that differential, especially in the interaction of spells and abilities and items, to give players something to explore and discover. To come up with a build that exploits some combination to get an unexpectly powerful result, or to manage to make that seemingly worthless talent actually worth something. So you need that variation, but it can't have too many outliers. If they're at the top end of the spectrum they devalue everything else and make the game too easy when you have it. If they're at the bottom end of the spectrum, they're just going to clutter up the game and lead to disappoint (since people will still tend to assume that they must be good for something). 

 

And obviously it is also a matter of accessibility and prevalence. Having one base class being much more powerful than the rest is much more problematic than having some particular very powerful build. It's going to make all other characters seem very weak in comparison, and if it's an NPC with that class (s)he going to overshadow the protagonist. Whereas a powerful build like the Kensai-Mage, that's much more a niche kind of thing, it takes a bit of effort and meta-game knowledge to get it to work well, and it's quite fulfilling if you came up with it yourself. 

 

Same with items, weapon types, etc. The MMO approach of a progression of weapons incrementally but strictly better than the one before it doesn't work, because there's essentially nothing for you to decide. But the same applies if the variations in power are too large, and especially if the variation is basically on a single axis (ie. damage range). If the Splattery Hammer +10 you have is just way better than everything else you have, there is again not really a decision for you to make. And the same for weapon types and fighting styles; as I recall for example the hammers in the IE games were significantly inferior to pretty much anything else. Which is also where it helps to have multiple axes of variation, like damage per hit, attack speed, accuracy and damage type. That way each weapon and weapon type still retains some weaknesses, and you have much less of a chance that one weapon or weapon type is strictly superior, in turn leaving the decision-making much more with the players rather than pushing them into a particular direction. 



#45
Althernai

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Pillars of Eternity, being mostly a derivative of what Infinity Engine games were back in the late 90s, can't ever live up to that kind of legacy. With that in mind tho, I would absolutely say that it's a significantly better game than Baldur's Gate 1 and, in my mind, also surpasses Baldur's Gate 2 in many areas - proper balance being one of those things.

 

While PoE certainly does surpass BG2 in balance, I don't think that makes it a better game. It would be one thing if they came up with something brilliant and new which allowed them to have balance and player rewards at the same time, but they only achieved the former by sacrificing the latter and on the whole the outcome was worse. The same goes with aiming at serious drama rather than self-aware humor (although that is certainly a topic for another thread).

 

That said, PoE does fix a lot of the problems in the BG series, especially at low levels. The idea to add per-encounter abilities (e.g. Arcane Assault) to Vancian casters was a good one.



#46
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Overcoming challenging obstacles is a reward in and of itself, the player doesn't need a +15 sword of epic awesomeness to feel accomplished after beating a challenging battle, and making a balanced game is the first step to providing challenging obstacles in that game.

 

I'd make the argument that this game has great itemization, yeah some will look at a sword with the marking ability and think it's a piece of junk, but someone else will understand it's actually great for a support based melee character.  The fact that there is itemization that is good for a support style melee character (Paladin for example) is what makes the itemization good, you can find items that support most kind of builds you could come up with.  There are weapons with increased engagement slots for your tanks, there are weapons with stun properties for your rogues, there are weapons with increased attack speed or damage penetration for DPS madness, and many more.

 

It is a lot better than a linear progression that gives you no choice at all... something like...

 

Sword

+1 Sword

+5 Sword of awesomeness

+10 Sword of Epicness

+15 Sword of Epic awesomeness

 

Which is a progression I've seen in many other games, and I never once felt it was rewarding to go from a +5 weapon to a +10 weapon, the only thing that is different is the number.  But coming up with an interesting build that is supported by a property on a weapon you found, that is rewarding, and that is what Pillars of Eternity itemization has.


Edited by Climhazzard, 24 August 2016 - 03:28 PM.

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#47
Loren Tyr

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I actually do want my Splattery Hammer +10 now, though. Like, a giant two-handed (for non-Ogres) Ogre hammer; hits like a truck, Push and AOE damage on hit, +100% recovery penalty... 


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#48
DreamWayfarer

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I actually do want my Splattery Hammer +10 now, though. Like, a giant two-handed (for non-Ogres) Ogre hammer; hits like a truck, Push and AOE damage on hit, +100% recovery penalty...


That would be too balanced for the "epicness" folk... even if I feel quite sure it would be possible to fully compensate its penalty by giving it to a Barbarian with Bloodlust+Bloodthirst.

#49
hrwd

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Well, it's an ugly baby anyway, so that's hardly a loss. You seem to be missing the point that what may need changing is "the playstyle". That some undefined "role-playing community" has (according to you) a rather definite concept of what constitutes the 'soul' of the wizard class is good for them, but why would their opinion matter here, or to the PoE 2 devs?

Maybe because they are the core audience? )

On the topic. Where your personal dissatisfaction with vancian casting comes from? You can't play other calsses because casters can do same things better or what? This is the single player game so you are basically palying it with yourself. Why do you so desperately need balance among classes when the only balance that matters is the player vs enviroment one?

I don't know. I've been wondering about that for quite a while now. Ever since MMOs started to overbalance their PvE content to be exact. I mean, some challenge is ok, but whom are you hurting exactly if you obliterate that npc?

...ask the devs? I am clueless on this one. I would never spend so much time balancing a PvE game. One thing is to make sure everyone's useful. It's whole another thing when the nerfs / buffs begin because something is ~10% better etc.

I don't understand.

#50
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I actually do want my Splattery Hammer +10 now, though. Like, a giant two-handed (for non-Ogres) Ogre hammer; hits like a truck, Push and AOE damage on hit, +100% recovery penalty... 

 

I have just the thing for you!  http://www.gamebansh...rs_Items.id=963

 

It is Mythic! Which is surely better than +10!  And it is the only two handed hammer in the game.  If you put it on a Barb it'll even be AoE!  Sure maybe you've basically beat the game by the time you get it... but what better reward could there be?!

 

If only there was a way to make it push/prone on hit...


Edited by Climhazzard, 24 August 2016 - 04:39 PM.


#51
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Says you, but you offer very little support for your claim. So either by "role-playing community" you mean the general population of cRPG gamers, in which case it is on you to prove that at least a large majority of them hold to this supposed rather definite concept of a wizard (I'm part of that population and I don't, for one; neither, presumably, are others in this thread arguing for changes). Or, you mean a much more specific subset of this general cRPG population, in which case it is hardly evident that they are the core audience.

 

I want balance among classes because that's what a well-designed game needs: balance between its various elements. That ensures that there is a large number of different viable playing styles. Without such balance, you will either have underpowered classes (relative to the difficulty level) that are frustrating to play because they can't contribute to the party and/or overpowered classes (relative to the difficulty) that take all the challenge out of it. And the same applies to balance among items, stats, spells, etc. I mean, they could give wizard a first level Disintegrate spell that does 1000 raw Foe AOE damage at +100 Accuracy; it would be hideously unbalanced and essentially makes all other spells irrelevant. It would be incredibly bad design, but following your logic it wouldn't matter in a single player game.

 

First of all, you know well enough that a dissatisfied customer is times more likely to voice his opinion than a satisfied one, thus we may view you and others asking for change as 'vocal minority'. Also, let's have a constructive argument here instead of a 'popular terminology-slinging', trying to point out the lack of 'evidence', shifting the 'burden of proof' and so on.

 

Second, balance. As I understand you consider that casters are wastly more powerful in PoE than non-casters (which is debatable by itself, any class can solo the game) and want to bring their power level down. But why don't you want to bring non-caster power level UP? If the balance among classes is the thing a well designed game needs why not make every possible build of every class OP? Besides, none of the classes in this game is underpowered relative to difficulty, there are only varying degrees of overpowerness (the game is pretty easy after all).

 

My main point is - if every class is balanced around the idea that they should be able to overcome the same obstacles with the same resourses and time investment then there's no point in having diferrent classes at all. The only thing that diferrentiates them is the VFX and color of the abilities. Like in DA2. I advocate for classes to be asymetrically balanced, with having power spikes at diferrnt levels, diferrent strenghts and weaknesses etc. And with asymetrical balance there are always classes that perform better at any given time. I see nothing wrong with casters performing slightly better by the endgame. In this matter, PoE is better balanced than most RPGs IMO.



#52
Loren Tyr

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I actually do want my Splattery Hammer +10 now, though. Like, a giant two-handed (for non-Ogres) Ogre hammer; hits like a truck, Push and AOE damage on hit, +100% recovery penalty... 

 

I have just the thing for you!  http://www.gamebansh...rs_Items.id=963

 

It is Mythic! Which is surely better than +10!  And it is the only two handed hammer in the game.  If you put it on a Barb it'll even be AoE!  Sure maybe you've basically beat the game by the time you get it... but what better reward could there be?!

 

If only there was a way to make it push/prone on hit...

 

 

Might be able to add that and the slow down into it, actually... It would take some fairly extensive manual asset editing (not sure there are any item modding tools, anyway), but it's possible. I already know how to get the game to accept a new asset file as an item I can Console in, so I could probably strip down Abydon's Hammer to just the parts I need and add in the rest. Though I'd still have to find the string tables to alter descriptions and edit a map to actually put the item in somewhere. Could be a fun project though :grin:



#53
demeisen

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​​

There's a massive cloud of nostalgia and rose-tinted glasses that shrouded Baldur's Gate games throughout the years to the point of people unquestioningly rating it highly as the "best game ever" purely based on nostalgic memories alone

 

Probably fair to say, but on the other hand, does that not still mean that someone likes the old game, albeit for their own reasons?

I ​agree with your take on PoE vs BG2, that PoE has improved on BG2 in some ways, and improved on BG1 in many ways.​  I suppose one might consider a game in absolute terms, or relative to its own era.  Some games that were legitimately great in their day end up far surpassed later on, due to UI improvements or what have you.  Others that were great in their day manage to hold up as enjoyable much later on.  I feel BG2 is in that category: although it's been surpassed in various ways, it's still a fun experience.  I'd say the same about Dungeon Master (the 1987 game from FTL), and some others: they show their age, but are by no means unplayable today.  (In fact, Almost Human's Grimrock series is to Dungeon Master what PoE is to BG.  They both modernize an old but quite solid formula).

​Also agreed with you about the BG2 writing.


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#54
Loren Tyr

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First of all, you know well enough that a dissatisfied customer is times more likely to voice his opinion than a satisfied one, thus we may view you and others asking for change as 'vocal minority'. Also, let's have a constructive argument here instead of a 'popular terminology-slinging', trying to point out the lack of 'evidence', shifting the 'burden of proof' and so on.

 

Whereas you represent the silent majority? You still have provided nothing to support that claim. You can try to weasel around that with an appeal to 'constructive argument', but the 'constructive' part of that generally does entail substantiating what you say. 

 

 

 

Second, balance. As I understand you consider that casters are wastly more powerful in PoE than non-casters (which is debatable by itself, any class can solo the game) and want to bring their power level down. But why don't you want to bring non-caster power level UP? If the balance among classes is the thing a well designed game needs why not make every possible build of every class OP? Besides, none of the classes in this game is underpowered relative to difficulty, there are only varying degrees of overpowerness (the game is pretty easy after all).

 

My main point is - if every class is balanced around the idea that they should be able to overcome the same obstacles with the same resourses and time investment then there's no point in having diferrent classes at all. The only thing that diferrentiates them is the VFX and color of the abilities. Like in DA2. I advocate for classes to be asymetrically balanced, with having power spikes at diferrnt levels, diferrent strenghts and weaknesses etc. And with asymetrical balance there are always classes that perform better at any given time. I see nothing wrong with casters performing slightly better by the endgame. In this matter, PoE is better balanced than most RPGs IMO.

 

Power is relative to a level of difficulty, there is little point in powering all the other classes up if this subsequently requires all sorts of other changes to attain the desired level of difficulty. Given an existing situation, it is therefore a priori more efficient to reduce the power of the three Vancian classes, rather than increase the power of all the others and rebalance the difficulty level around that. 

 

But more fundamentally, the whole Vancian system in my view just doesn't work very well. It may work fine in the P&P setting it originates from, but lacking a DM it just doesn't translate properly to cRPGs. The power of the Vancian spells is supposed to be balanced against the fact that they can't use them as often, which is managed by the need to rest. But neither PoE nor its predecessors have really succeeded in making resting a genuine cost, and by its very nature that's unlikely to happen at all; resting is simply to binary and coarse-grained a thing to be able to do that properly. Hence the argument for changing it up more, to innovate a bit and go for a system better suited to cRPG. This would also allow for more differentiation of Wizards, Priests and Druids at a more fundamental level, rather than (mostly) just in terms of the spells they get.

 

And by the way, nowhere am I advocating for making all classes identical, far from it. So kindly keep your straw men at bay. I want classes (and any other aspects of the game) to be varied, complex and interesting. At the same time, I want them to be balanced (against each other, against the rest of the game) and mechanically well designed as well. PoE is certainly a big improvement in this regard, but the Vancian casting system is an aspect that is still in need of being thoroughly overhauled. 


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#55
Arddv

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And by the way, nowhere am I advocating for making all classes identical, far from it. So kindly keep your straw men at bay. I want classes (and any other aspects of the game) to be varied, complex and interesting. At the same time, I want them to be balanced (against each other, against the rest of the game) and mechanically well designed as well. PoE is certainly a big improvement in this regard, but the Vancian casting system is an aspect that is still in need of being thoroughly overhauled. 

 

Examples, pls.

 

I undestand what you don't want, but still have no idea what you actually want. The passage I quoted seems unrealistc a bit, like 'peace in the whole world'. What exactly you want  ex-vancian wizard, priest and druid to be and not to be capable of? It is 'magic' after all, it does 'magical' stuff that is impossible to reproduce in non-magical ways. Should wizard be capable of flinging fireballs, teleporting around and creating layered magical defenses? Or should a priest be able to ask his diety to grant him power to smite the hordes of undead?

 

Explain your vision of magic and it's place in cRPGs. I have a subtle feeling that behind your arguments about balance and mechanics hides the eternal 'magic vs mundane' dispute.



#56
Loren Tyr

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And by the way, nowhere am I advocating for making all classes identical, far from it. So kindly keep your straw men at bay. I want classes (and any other aspects of the game) to be varied, complex and interesting. At the same time, I want them to be balanced (against each other, against the rest of the game) and mechanically well designed as well. PoE is certainly a big improvement in this regard, but the Vancian casting system is an aspect that is still in need of being thoroughly overhauled. 

 

Examples, pls.

 

I undestand what you don't want, but still have no idea what you actually want. The passage I quoted seems unrealistc a bit, like 'peace in the whole world'. What exactly you want  ex-vancian wizard, priest and druid to be and not to be capable of? It is 'magic' after all, it does 'magical' stuff that is impossible to reproduce in non-magical ways. Should wizard be capable of flinging fireballs, teleporting around and creating layered magical defenses? Or should a priest be able to ask his diety to grant him power to smite the hordes of undead?

 

Explain your vision of magic and it's place in cRPGs. I have a subtle feeling that behind your arguments about balance and mechanics hides the eternal 'magic vs mundane' dispute.

 

 

Seriously, WTF? I'm not sure where you're getting that from, but it's certainly not from what I'm actually saying. Nor is there anything particularly unrealistic about it, in my view the non-Vancian classes in PoE are quite well-balanced (as are many other aspects of the game), it's mainly the Vancian casters that are a bit of a sore thumb (though even there in PoE not nearly as much as in other games). I believe the problem is inherent in the whole Vancian/per-rest system, which is why I have been arguing for changing the mechanics of the Vancian casters. How you got from there to "magic vs mundane", I have no clue. 



#57
Elric Galad

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Another idea would simply to change the "level design". If there were more areas with limited or no resting (like act 4), or Quests limited in time (like in PnP) vancian casters would be more limited. You'll still appreciate having a few ones, but you'll need other characters.

Time limit for quest could even be a mode like expert mode that could be removed for more casual gaming.

Limited rest could be an issue for health too. But if food restored a bit of health, that could solve the problem.

Edited by Elric Galad, 25 August 2016 - 09:01 AM.

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#58
hrwd

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Be as it may, it seems Tyranny is doing away with this. Custom spell creation(if I understood properly), cooldowns, manouvres(combo skills)...actually fun and exciting stuff. Whether this is the future of Obsidian design, nobody can really tell.





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