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Gamescom talk - Josh needs help

counseling soul feedback wacky

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#1
Sacred_Path

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finding his 'soul', specifically.

 

During his Gamescom presentation Josh mentioned a common complaint of players who were disappointed with PoE because they found its 'soul' to be missing. Josh also comments that 'soul is elusive'. Implying, of course, that players don't actually have a clue of what it is they're missing. So let's help him.

 

For people to be disappointed, there must have been certain expectations. We can assume that these expectations had something to do with the Infinity Engine games. All of these were D&D games, and most were set in the Forgotten Realms. I believe this is already the heart of the matter. As Josh mentioned elsewhere, D&D has always been an uneven rules system, torn between simulationism and gamism. And the Forgotten Realms are a notorious setting; they have been called silly, which they often are, but most of all they strive to be fantastical. Or, as I put it, wacky™.

 

In high fantasy, wacky things always happen. One of the tenets of fantasy is simply to boggle the mind, or at least surprise the recipient. Beings and items show unexpected behaviour or unnatural properties all the time.

 

In his quest to balance the rules and avoid degenerate player behaviour - which is often just making use of these special properties - pretty much everything in the game was streamlined. If you compare e.g. Baldur's Gate 2 with PoE, BG's wackiness is apparent. Its quirky spells, for example, have far more to offer than PoE's samey buff/ debuff/ damage spells. No hard counters means less impressive abilities on enemies. And magical items hardly ever did anything exciting - not even mentioning the fact that you always knew what they did right away.

 

The second blow to the traditional fantasy elements that could have been came from the game's tone; it's clearly trying to be serious. I say trying, because serious fantasy is boring and a dichotomy. My argument here rests on two assumptions:

 

1) fantasy is always escapist

 

and

 

2) escapism is not serious business.

 

​Now, PoE clearly wanted to be darker in tone than the IE games, but dark =/= serious. In many cases, there's nothing sillier than a grimdark setting. So I'd say this in itself wasn't problematic - PoE could have been a dark, but still fantastical game, like its predecessors. What's really problematic is that it takes itself too seriously - and serious and wacky are on opposite sides of the spectrum. As such, this approach was unsuited to a successor of the IE games, or even fantasy RPG's at large. Sentient items, level draining, or raising the dead are more than just mechanics. They reinforce suspension of disbelief by being tied to the numbers. And I don't care if these are old, tired examples - Obs' job would it have been to make it better, not to simply avoid all this stuff.



#2
Loren Tyr

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Care to provide some support for those assumptions? It's not much of an argument so far, just a statement of your personal preference. And frankly, if "wacky" is the soul of fantasy, then go Team Soulless! (also: go Team Balanced Game Mechanics!) 


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#3
demeisen

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I disagree with the premise.

 

​​I'm sure there are people who were disappointed.  There were what, 700K people who bought the game?  Surely some will not like it.  Nonetheless, it was very well received.  It's currently sitting at 89% on metacritic, and most reviews I've read - either professional or player - have given it around 9/10.  Sometimes better.  A great many people love the game.

​​

​What's really problematic is that it takes itself too seriously

 

PoE speaks to people who want an updated, somewhat BG2-ish, complex RPG with a rich world that does take itself seriously, with events that matter to the characters in the game.  It's not trying for "wacky".  This is our niche, and it's been teetering on the brink of extinction for two decades.  Please let us have it.  There are a million other games out there for people who don't like this style, but we get only a few, and rarely at that.  Doubly so for those of us who don't enjoy consolified UIs.

In trying to please everyone, it's frightfully easy to please no one at all.  PoE is not a perfect game, and it can be improved, but it should not abandon its audience to chase another.


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#4
Sacred_Path

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It's currently sitting at 89% on metacritic

 

Obs of all people should know what a fickle mistress metacritic is.

 

PoE speaks to people who want an updated, somewhat BG2-ish, complex RPG with a rich world that does take itself seriously, with events that matter to the characters in the game.  It's not trying for "wacky".  This is our niche, and it's been teetering on the brink of extinction for two decades.  Please let us have it.  There are a million other games out there for people who don't like this style, but we get only a few, and rarely at that.  Doubly so for those of us who don't enjoy consolified UIs.

 

Having wacky elements doesn't mean events don't matter to the characters, as they do matter in most fantasy stories. To me the attempted seriousness of PoE doesn't transport more emotion than BG's characters. They just lack that gaudy let's-go-on-a-quest feeling, which is bad because most of the time, that's what you're doing.

 

Not that it matters but I think you shouldn't hold your breath for un-consolized UI's in the future, after the direction Larian and InXile are heading.



#5
Arddv

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I think you misunderstood TS a bit. PoE takes itself too serios compared to BG, not compared to a AAA bestseller.

 

Imagine scale of "fantazyness" and take BG2 as a zero. So on this scale Fallout4 and DA:O are like +40 and F:NV is -20. PoE on this scale is -100, because it is too realistic in terms of consequences of actions, too close to real life. There are no easy choices that lead to obvoiusly good or bad outcome. There's no magick word that would make all Dyrwoodans happy in the end, no Save-or-Die Spells of Ultimate Doom, no long forgotten artifacts that give simple answers to the questions of life, universe and stuff. Just actions, consequences and an eternity of unanswered questions... just like in RL.

 

And many gamers come to RPGs to find that feeling of specialness, ability to influence the whole imaginary world all by themselves, and they are naturally frustrated with what they find in PoE. The goal of a game designer here is to find a fine balance between realism and fantazy. And BG2 team did that perfectly. The opposite side of the spectrum is the DA:I with it's egomaniacal nonsense.


Edited by Arddv, 23 August 2016 - 05:59 PM.


#6
Sacred_Path

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Imagine scale of "fantazyness" and take BG2 as a zero. So on this scale Fallout4 and DA:O are like +40 and F:NV is -20. PoE on this scale is -100, because it is too realistic in terms of consequences of actions, too close to real life. There are no easy choices that lead to obvoiusly good or bad outcome. There's no magick word that would make all Dyrwoodans happy in the end, no Save-or-Die Spells of Ultimate Doom, no long forgotten artifacts that give simple answers to the questions of life, universe and stuff. Just actions, consequences and an eternity of unanswered questions... just like in RL.

 

And after getting stabbed, shot in the face and run through with pikes, everyone gets up and has a laugh. Just like real life.

 

And many gamers come to RPGs to find that feeling of specialness, ability to influence the whole imaginary world all by themselves, and they are naturally frustrated with what they find in PoE. The goal of a game designer here is to find a fine balance between realism and fantazy. And BG2 team did that perfectly. The opposite side of the spectrum is the DA:I with it's egomaniacal nonsense.

 

I agree a balance has to be found, and BG2 did that pretty well.

 

In wanting to balance the systems they forgot to balance the realistic with the fantastical elements. You obviously need both, the realistic because people have to accept your vision, and the fantastical because it's still a fantasy RPG.


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#7
Fenixp

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Obs of all people should know what a fickle mistress metacritic is.

You sort of missed the point there - this 'people' entity you have mentioned on several occasions which had been disappointed with Pillars of Eternity has given the game average rating of anything between 80-90% on just about all user rating sites I've seen. Which means that, by and large, Pillars of Eternity is pretty damn liked by its fanbase as opposed to being disappointing. Oh, sure, you'll find a decent amount of forumites complaining about the game, but that's quite simply how complaining works - people are generally a lot more likely to go trough the trouble of registering on a forum and writing a post when they're unhappy about something.


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#8
Boeroer

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I love fantasy, I hate Terry Pratchett's stuff, I loved BG, IWD and NWN, liked DA:O, hated DA2 and DA:I, liked Skyrim and love PoE. It's complicated obviously.

You can't boil things down easily to a point where you can say: "That's why everyone likes it". Unless you don't do a big survey you can only say why you liked or didn't like it.

For me, PoE is silly enough (you just have to play a char who's hunting for the clever disposition). It's epicness is good enough for me. I also like it's seriousness and sobriety. I really like it that items don't do things that are too weird and powerful. There could have been more diversity in the effects, true, but it's also cool that most unique weapons don't stand out so much and follow a certain set of rules - or should I say "set of effects" that are put together like Lego.
And with WM OBS introduced quite a bit of weapons which have truly unique features like Bittercut, Stormcaller, St. Ydwen's Redeemer and so on.
Designing and especially developing and testing such unique features (which you can't reuse in the game) costs time and money. Lets not forget that PoE had a small budget and a rel. short development time compared to many other games of that quality and scale.

I also like that they started the rule system as a streamlined one. They only got caught up in too much fuzz on the way. I mean look at the many different ways damage can be applied (direct damage, damage over time which depends on MIG and INT, damage over time which depends on MIG only and so on) and look at the six (?) categories of stuff that influences recovery time. But still I appreciate the effort.

For me, PoE is definitely not soulless.

Edited by Boeroer, 23 August 2016 - 10:12 PM.

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#9
Sacred_Path

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You sort of missed the point there - this 'people' entity you have mentioned on several occasions which had been disappointed with Pillars of Eternity has given the game average rating of anything between 80-90% on just about all user rating sites I've seen. Which means that, by and large, Pillars of Eternity is pretty damn liked by its fanbase as opposed to being disappointing. Oh, sure, you'll find a decent amount of forumites complaining about the game, but that's quite simply how complaining works - people are generally a lot more likely to go trough the trouble of registering on a forum and writing a post when they're unhappy about something.

 

By "disappointed with PoE" I meant no more than "disappointed with this certain aspect of it", although I've seen enough people criticize the game at large. Still, Josh has taken notice of the problem so it's kind of pointless of you to deny it exists.



#10
Sacred_Path

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I love fantasy, I hate Terry Pratchett's stuff, I loved BG, IWD and NWN, liked DA:O, hated DA2 and DA:I, liked Skyrim and love PoE. It's complicated obviously.

You can't boil things down easily to a point where you can say: "That's why everyone likes it". Unless you don't do a big survey you can only say why you liked or didn't like it.

For me, PoE is silly enough (you just have to play a char who's hunting for the clever disposition). It's epicness is good enough for me. I also like it's seriousness and sobriety. I really like it that items don't do things that are too weird and powerful. There could have been more diversity in the effects, true, but it's also cool that most unique weapons don't stand out so much and follow a certain set of rules - or should I say "set of effects" that are put together like Lego.
And with WM OBS introduced quite a bit of weapons which have truly unique features like Bittercut, Stormcaller, St. Ydwen's Redeemer and so on.
Designing and especially developing and testing such unique features (which you can't reuse in the game) costs time and money. Lets not forget that PoE had a small budget and a rel. short development time compared to many other games of that quality and scale.

I also like that they started the rule system as a streamlined one. They only got caught up in too much fuzz on the way. I mean look at the many different ways damage can be applied (direct damage, damage over time which depends on MIG and INT, damage over time which depends on MIG only and so on) and look at the six (?) categories of stuff that influences recovery time. But still I appreciate the effort.

For me, PoE is definitely not soulless.

 

I was specifically talking about people who are disappointed in a way with the game, not those who "love" it. But how can someone love PoE and BG/ IWD at the same time?!? Truly, I think it's possible. Maybe they like the diversity. Maybe they feel the game is more than the sum of its parts. Maybe, or very likely, these people aren't aware of the rift between serious business dialogue and roflstomping dragons for phat loot. Either way, I don't think it matters.



#11
Loren Tyr

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By "disappointed with PoE" I meant no more than "disappointed with this certain aspect of it", although I've seen enough people criticize the game at large. Still, Josh has taken notice of the problem so it's kind of pointless of you to deny it exists.

 

Josh also seems to think that six party members may be too much. That he sees a problem doesn't necessarily mean that there is one, or that his analysis of it is correct. But even if we do posit that there is at least a significant minority of players who found the 'soul' to be lacking in some sense, that doesn't mean that your analysis of it is correct. And frankly, you have yet to provide any compelling argument for your "soul == wackiness" claim. 

 

Moreover, even if wackiness is what those players complaining about soul were missing, it doesn't follow that a) adding wackiness would have made for a better game, or b) adding wackiness would have made for a more successful game. If adding soulful wackiness pleases one segment of the audience and disgruntles another segment of the audience in equal measure, it's just a lateral move as far as b) is concerned. 


Edited by Loren Tyr, 24 August 2016 - 03:22 AM.

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#12
Sacred_Path

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Josh also seems to think that six party members may be too much. That he sees a problem doesn't necessarily mean that there is one, or that his analysis of it is correct. But even if we do posit that there is at least a significant minority of players who found the 'soul' to be lacking in some sense, that doesn't mean that your analysis of it is correct. And frankly, you have yet to provide any compelling argument for your "soul == wackiness" claim.

 

Josh thinks he's onto something

 

I think he's onto something

 

You don't think so (because you like the game)

 

not a compelling argument either.

 

 

Also I'm open to counter points beyond "you can't prove that" :dancing:

 

Moreover, even if wackiness is what those players complaining about soul were missing, it doesn't follow that a) adding wackiness would have made for a better game, or b) adding wackiness would have made for a more successful game. If adding soulful wackiness pleases one segment of the audience and disgruntles another segment of the audience in equal measure, it's just a lateral move as far as b) is concerned.

 

This is not about sales numbers, if it was about sales I'd suggest Obs dumb down and consolify their games more but they're already doing that (hello Tyranny).

 

Adding wackiness, quirkiness, whatever you call it, would have been required to make a more traditional RPG, and certainly to make an IE games successor. That's my point. If that's better or not is open to discussion, but as I said if you argue against it you'd have to reconcile the serious business tone of things with the "let's go kill some evul munsters" aspects first.



#13
Climhazzard

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I'm not a fan of "wacky", but like fantasy, including high fantasy, though mostly enjoy dark fantasy.  That fantasy is or should be "wacky" is an entirely baseless claim.  Yeah BG had more wackiness, but that was hardly the soul of BG, and making PoE the same would not have saved it's "soul".  Assuming PoE really is missing it's soul.


Edited by Climhazzard, 24 August 2016 - 09:38 AM.


#14
Sacred_Path

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Yeah BG had more wackiness, but that was hardly the soul of BG

 

  1. "My hotel's as clean as an Elven arse."
  2. "Heya, it's me, Imoen!"
  3. Xzar and Montaron
  4. Khalid
  5. Minsc
  6. "Methinks you are no ordinary chicken!"
  7. Noober
  8. Golden pantaloons
  9. Edwina
  10. "Me axe is bloody ready!"
  11. Jan Jansen
  12. Planar Sphere
  13. Human Flesh Armor
  14. Boots of Speed
  15. Raise dead
  16. Level drain
  17. Mage battles
  18. Contingencies
  19. The Underdark
  20. Good/ evil path

 

I rest my case (just because I can).



#15
Tigranes

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Wow, good / evil path! So wacky!


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#16
aluminiumtrioxid

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Imagine scale of "fantazyness" and take BG2 as a zero. So on this scale Fallout4 and DA:O are like +40 and F:NV is -20. PoE on this scale is -100, because it is too realistic in terms of consequences of actions, too close to real life. There are no easy choices that lead to obvoiusly good or bad outcome. There's no magick word that would make all Dyrwoodans happy in the end, no Save-or-Die Spells of Ultimate Doom, no long forgotten artifacts that give simple answers to the questions of life, universe and stuff. Just actions, consequences and an eternity of unanswered questions... just like in RL.

 

And this is supposed to be a drawback... umm... why exactly?


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#17
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Still, Josh has taken notice of the problem so it's kind of pointless of you to deny it exists.

Did you see the GDC talk? Did he say anything along those lines? To my knowledge, Josh Sawyer only wishes for more diverse environments (which is quite understandable regardless of tone) and would like to add, quote, "Some sillier characters", emphasis on some - and, true enough, the game could use a little bit more humor, altho not that much. Overall, from interviews I've seen/heard, he's fairly happy with the tone of the world they've set in the original game. So where did you get the idea that even Josh Sawyer agrees with all of your points, disregarding the fact that him agreeing doesn't necessarily mean he's correct?



#18
Loren Tyr

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Josh also seems to think that six party members may be too much. That he sees a problem doesn't necessarily mean that there is one, or that his analysis of it is correct. But even if we do posit that there is at least a significant minority of players who found the 'soul' to be lacking in some sense, that doesn't mean that your analysis of it is correct. And frankly, you have yet to provide any compelling argument for your "soul == wackiness" claim.

 

Josh thinks he's onto something

 

I think he's onto something

 

You don't think so (because you like the game)

 

not a compelling argument either.

 

 

Also I'm open to counter points beyond "you can't prove that" :dancing:

 

I'm not saying you can't prove that. I'm saying you haven't, not even by the vaguest of approximations. You're the one making all sorts of claims here, this is your thread. That puts the onus on you to substantiate those claims.

 

 

 

Moreover, even if wackiness is what those players complaining about soul were missing, it doesn't follow that a) adding wackiness would have made for a better game, or b) adding wackiness would have made for a more successful game. If adding soulful wackiness pleases one segment of the audience and disgruntles another segment of the audience in equal measure, it's just a lateral move as far as b) is concerned.

 

This is not about sales numbers, if it was about sales I'd suggest Obs dumb down and consolify their games more but they're already doing that (hello Tyranny).

 

Adding wackiness, quirkiness, whatever you call it, would have been required to make a more traditional RPG, and certainly to make an IE games successor. That's my point. If that's better or not is open to discussion, but as I said if you argue against it you'd have to reconcile the serious business tone of things with the "let's go kill some evul munsters" aspects first.

 

 

Again, required by whom? What are you basing that on? Because you are strongly suggesting that this is some established fact, rather than just your particular view of things, but are thorougly failing to provide any support for that. Moreover, whether that would be better is certainly open for discussion, you're the one who opened it. 

 

Also, where exactly is the difficulty in reconciling a serious tone with rooting out evil? There's no contradiction there. Helps if you spell it right, I suppose. Or for that matter, don't get too caught up in some good vs evil dichotomy, it's more a "shades of grey" kind of thing. Which fits a serious work of fiction rather well, of course. 



#19
Nonek

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Personally for me the "wackiness" of the BG games got old very quickly, I didn't enjoy them for this reason but rather the following: A fairly sensible main plot, some interesting side quests, some of the less squeeing characters, exploration of what felt like a well realised world and of course the personal nature of the protagonists connection to the overarching narrative.

 

Minsc and Boo and their humour were not paticularly attractive, and became old very quickly because there was nothing else to them, whereas Morte in Planescape took the place of Mercutio, a derisive observer with far more character and depth. Thus beyond the quips lay an interesting person, rather than yet more wackiness. Interestingly enough I would say Korgan Bloodaxe also fulfills essentially the same role, there is more to him than just his psycopathy, though that is not explored in enough detail but more hinted at through his interactions with others.

 

I think if Poe lacks a distinctive "soul" then the answer lies in making a complete game rather than cutting corners, having attributes that make sense and are intuitive, having no features that are left unexplained because the developer couldn't be bothered, having a main quest line that affects one personally, not being herded into chokepoints where all ones hard work is rendered pointless, exploring the world one has created rather than altering it upon introduction, making mechanics that are sensible and easily explained rather than try to bluntly solve a gameplay problem.

 

However that's my own view, and it may be that there is no single answer when it comes to such a nebulous conundrum.


Edited by Nonek, 24 August 2016 - 12:02 PM.

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#20
Sacred_Path

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Wow, good / evil path! So wacky!

 

Being evil or good gives you magical powers

 

you think this is realistic

 

good on you







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