Knights of the Old Republic EP23: You Must Gather Your Party

By Shamus
on Oct 22, 2015
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning


Link (YouTube)

In this episode we talk about one of my great problems as an RPG fan, which is that the game style I like doesn’t actually exist, and so everything is a compromise. I’m picky about gameplay, and this genre really doesn’t have a lot of room for people who are picky about gameplay.

The preferred paradigm is the “turn-based realtime”, where you pause, issue orders to the whole party, then un-pause for a second, then pause and repeat. For me it’s like trying to play chess but stopping to watch five seconds of a movie fight scene after every move. It ruins both experiences. The action distracts me from concentrating on the strategy, and the pausing breaks the flow of the action.

Hate.

Hate.

HATE IT.

My ideal games commit to either one or the other. Give me full-on turn-based like Fallout 1 / XCom, or embrace the action gameplay of (say) the Witcher 3 or the later Mass Effects. And whatever you do, don’t ask me to control a party. I’m here because I want to play a character, not manage a murder committee.

Which… fine. So go play action games, right?

Except, action games are usually dedicated to full-on voice acting. They don’t have time for text and they’re pretty crap at worldbuilding.

My ideal game would play like a proper action game (Tomb Raider, Batman Arkham Whatever, Bulletstorm) but would be an RPG at heart. It would have cool characters, flavor text, long branching exploratory dialogs, lots of player agency, and an open world. Ideally I’d like the dialog to work like the Planescape: Torment system where people introduce themselves with a voice clip but then speak entirely in text.

And it’s easy to see why that doesn’t exist. Rich text-based gameplay is problematic on consoles, where people are sitting far back from a television and aren’t going to want to do a lot of reading. Which means the game is going to be PC exclusive. Which means the audience isn’t big enough for a AAA budget. Which pretty much precludes third / first person action-based gameplay.

The closest thing I can find are Bethesda-style games. And I enjoy the hell out of those. But writing is not their strong suit.

So Shamus, what you’re saying is that you want incredible writing, but AAA production values, but you also want all that focused on PC-based design and a super-niche focus on worldbuilding. And you want to design your own protagonist instead of playing as a fixed, marketable lead? Did you ever think maybe there’s a REASON you’ve never seen your perfect game?!

Yeah, I know.

Which is why I was hoping that the tools will keep making game development cheaper. I keep hoping that sometime in the next decade, we’ll reach a point where I can get something that does Pillars of Eternity style worldbuilding and roleplaying, but with AAA action gameplay / camera views. I want my story immersion and my visual immersion in the same package.

Still, things are strange. I don’t know where this new world of crowdfunded, semi-indie games are going. In the meantime the best I can do is play Bethesda games and bitch about their faults in excruciating detail.

Related: Fallout 4 launches in 2 weeks, 4 days and 9 hours.

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A Hundred!20202018Many comments. 178, if you're a stickler

From the Archives:

  1. I somewhat agree. While one of my favourite games of all time is the incredibly wordy Siege of Avalon, I don’t necessarily enjoy scrolling through text anymore. I suppose this is because I’ve long since given up on game developers telling a story I truly care about. To be fair you did say this was your ideal game so I suppose we could be assured that the story was good.

    More realistically I don’t believe that it’s all that hard to create an interesting enough battle system, and an interesting world.

    For the combat, something as basic as Geometry Wars is miles ahead of any RPG I’ve ever played. Sure it can be improved upon, but it would be enough for me not to dread fighting in the game for out of game reasons (tedium).

    For the world, I’m pretty easy. Let’s say the game is set on some sort of pulp fiction space station. It’s pretty easy to create some interesting systems in such a world. Give the player a reputation system with the various gangs, basic human requirements (hunger, sleep), various ways to make money and I’ll be pretty engaged. If you wanted to make the game darker I would love to play as a drug addict who has to constantly feed his fix.

    The problem with most RPG’s is that they have a big open world that you just do stuff in, as opposed to a world that you actually exist in, and I think the very idea of having a set story with branching dialogue is the opposite mindset required to create an interesting world that I actually want to play in.

    I’ve actually designed (in actual detail) the games that I want to play, but I’m still figuring out the actual making them part. I mostly get to around 5000 lines of code and then realize the enormous amount of work ahead of me and simply quit. I’ll get to the finish line eventually.

    By the way, I’ve been a reader since ~2006. If 9 years seems like a long time to lurk it’s because I’ve never commented on anything ever.

    • Jakale says:

      I’ve never actually seen anyone just happen to mention Siege of Avalon before. I only played the set of games once, but I remember it fondly.

      So, since the horror discussion happened recently and brought up discussion about the different types of tension buildups and what most games offer vs what many fans would like, how many branches of RPG genre are there?

      You’ve got your general JRPG which tends to be you controlling a(group of) character(s) that are playing out their own rigid stories, with some variation occasionally with a main silent protag that you might get to make decisions for a little bit.
      In Western RPGs there’s clearly a market for the “needs food/water/sleep” crowd considering all the mods that add that feature to other games and recent games about managing those stats and generally surviving, usually in the wilderness.
      There’s people that want big worlds and ones that want small, though perhaps those are both looking for the same thing, which might be a world rich in options and flavors to delve into.
      Worlds where you make big differences vs worlds where you’re just a part of it and have only as much power to really change things as the average person.
      Group vs solo stuff, like what Shamus mentioned, and that’s still just as a single player experience.
      Turn based and real time action; leveling vs targeted skill training.
      I’m sure there’s more, but overall it seems like a lot of stuff to hang under a single RPG banner.

  2. Wide And Nerdy says:

    So does Fallout New Vegas not fit the bill? Its Bethesda engine with Obsidian writing. I know you like the game but does it still just fall short?

    I’m guessing Witcher 3 falls short because Geralt is Geralt whereas you’d rather have more control over who the character is. Going into it I felt that way but I tend to play the same highly paragon guy when I get to choose the character. Geralt’s focus on what matters to him personally pulled me out of my rut and got me to play something else.

    Still, thats not an argument against what you might want that game to be.

    • Shamus says:

      The Witcher 3 is pretty awesome, but I do find myself wishing I could play as some other player-designed Witcher. I have no idea if long-term Witcher fans would care for that, and CDPR probably should keep those folks happy.

      I liked New Vegas. It was buggy as hell and relentlessly drab looking, but it did push a lot of my buttons.

      • Majere says:

        I guess it would be kinda weird to do a game series based on a book series without including the main and semi-titular character of the series.

        • Henson says:

          They almost didn’t.

          • Wide And Nerdy says:

            Cyberpunk will be good for judging what they do when they’re unfettered by canon characters. On the one hand, giving you the freedom to create your own Witcher would be neat and there are a lot of stories left to be told in this world but if the dropped the existing canon NPCs, would their original replacements lead to a world that feels the same?

        • Joe Informatico says:

          My understanding is that Geralt in the games doesn’t really resemble his book counterpart until the third game. That they resurrected him after his death in the book continuity, and gave him amnesia in the first game to justify his being a more typical blank-slate RPG player-character. Not as outright stupid as killing and resurrecting Shepard at the start of ME2, but a similar mindset. More like the 2009 Star Trek film: CDPR wanted to build onto an existing canon while keeping the original continuity intact.

      • Alex says:

        As a long-term Witcher un-fan, I like the sound of that. Hopefully that Cyberpunk game they’re working on has what I want.

        • Wide And Nerdy says:

          I’ll bet they could create a very Cyberpunk feeling action system using Witcher 3 combat as a starting point (though it would need pretty extensive modification.)

          I was just wondering how they would handle projectiles in that framework, but you could have things always be in bullet time when its time for combat so that you and other augments move at normal speed but bullets are too slow to be useful making Witcher style combat practical in a future setting without having a glaring omission.

        • Attercap says:

          Cyberpunk 2020 was always my preferred near-future dystopian PnP RPG. Failing that, GURPS. (Alas, the only cyberpunk that seems to thrive is Shadowrun.) When I heard that there was going to be a Cyberpunk CRPG and it was being done by CDProjekt Red, I couldn’t think of a better match. Sure, sometimes they equate boobs with mature, but they also equate mature themes as mature. Something good cyberpunk needs, IMO.

          • Joe Informatico says:

            I’m curious how they’ll pull it off. I had fond memories of the CP2020 RPG when I was younger, but I ran a one-shot a couple of years ago and realized the system gets too hung up on small details (e.g., tracking your armour’s protective rating for each limb, torso, and head, while also tracking how much damage the armour’s taken, on top of your own health levels)–it really bogs down what’s supposed to be fast and furious firefights. But maybe a computer doing the math could actually make that system work?

          • StashAugustine says:

            Was Cyberpunk 2020 the setting of OG Netrunner?

      • James says:

        Witcher 4, if and when it happens, probably atleast 9 years off will not be Geralt (probably Ciri) or maby even a design your own witcher.

      • Naota says:

        As someone who played and enjoyed all three games (with the Witcher 2 as a favourite by just a hair), I think I could easily do with a protagonist other than Geralt, as the games frequently enjoy changing perspective and putting you into someone else’s shoes, almost always to great effect.

        What I wouldn’t want, however, is a create-a-Witcher system. The appeal of switching perspectives like I mentioned above is being able to act out your personal interpretation of a character – one with a fixed role and place in the story, but with enough wiggle room to be played as if you’re an actor given screen directions.

        Are you – King Henselt – feeling merciful enough to offer these rubes half of what they’re asking, or will you give them nothing, knowing you have them over a barrel? Have you – Ciri – picked up a few of Geralt’s infamously flirtatious habits, or do you have no time for that sort of thing? Telltale games are a fine example of this sort of roleplaying.

        By making a character from scratch, the avatar in question ends up divorced from the world pretty much by necessity. They can’t have anything but the broadest character beats or arcs, or else the writers end up fighting the player for authorship (ala Shepard). Better to leave open-ended characters to open-ended stories, where the player has the full room to express themselves, like New Vegas or Skyrim.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Playing lambert wouldve been fun.Or ciri.Her sections were nice.

  3. djw says:

    Try Gothic 2 with the Night of the Raven expansion (which is really an add-in, not an add-on). The controls are aggravating, and the combat is murder (as in yours) in the beginning of the game, but you do get a (mostly) open world, decent conversation trees, and you are allowed to kill pretty much anybody that you can kill (don’t get to cocky early on though).

    • Leo says:

      The controls aren’t actually that terrible, just pretty damn inaccessible at first since they’re so different from standard control schemes for no good reason. I recommend playing the game without a mouse, it plays much better like that (in my opinion at least, the mouse controls are indeed aggravating).

      Combat is pretty damn good once you get a hang of the controls, it’s certainly miles beyond anything TES has to offer.

      You can’t actually kill whoever you want, that’s pretty misleading. There are numerous invulnerable characters (so you don’t screw up the main quest) + you’ll ruin basically all quests in the game if you go on a pointless rampage. Gothic 3 allowed you to kill every single character in the game, but it’s also much worse overall than the previous two titles, so I wouldn’t exactly recommend playing it unlesss your focus is entirely on exploration and open world murder freedom.

      Also, Gothic doesn’t allow you to create your own character. You have to play with the predefined one, which means it doesn’t really fit the criteria outlined in the article.

      That aside, Gothic 1+2 (+expansion) are my two favourite games ever and anyone who enjoys real time RPGs should give them a shot sometime if you can get past the awful English dub, the unintuitive controls and the very aged graphics of the first game (I would argue the second one still looks fine, despite being obviously outdated by today’s standards).

      • djw says:

        I wasn’t sure about whether you could kill everybody or not, thanks for the clarification.

        Agree that it is an awesome game. I pretty much like everything PB has made, although I do think their best was Gothic 2.

  4. Wide And Nerdy says:

    I very much want more partially voiced games. It feels like the writer had so much more freedom back then because you could rewrite so much of the dialog clear up till the game launched (and even after). And the characters would use your frickin name.

    That’s something I wanted to comment on when you guys first mentioned what this game does with alien voice acting. The aliens would use your name and because you could see your name in text while hearing the alien speak, it felt like they were actually saying it. Actually, it kind of feels that way even with human dialog in KOTOR where they’ll use your name and the voice acting will just skip that part.

    But no, the frothing fanboy insistence on fidelity robs us of that experience and if we don’t like it we have to go kickstart our own games. Well frothing fanboys, lets see if YOU have that dedication when its your turn to be put to pasture.

    You’re so spoiled and its denied you the joy of knowing what its like to meet a game halfway with your imagination like we always had to.

    (EDIT:Also writers take note, if you’re going to make a text heavy game and you don’t have a font specialist, maybe try this Ubuntu font. It works. It would work especially well in a sci-fi game but I’ll take immersion breaking in my fantasy game if the text is readable)

    (EDIT EDIT: Whats up with Rutskarn’s voice? Its like he went through a second puberty during his week off.)

    • Ringwraith says:

      Using a character’s custom name in voiced dialogue still has some tricks you can pull in games which still have dialogue boxes, which you mostly only see in JRPGs these days. Often slipping the name into text boxes but voiced lines using more generic descriptors or just pronouns instead, and/or giving them nicknames by the rest of the cast.
      Persona 4 is a good example of having multiple nicknames for the protagonist originating from different people. It even helps characterise their relationships to one another.

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        Oh yeah, I forgot about pronoun and title substitution. Those work pretty well. ‘Jedi’ in place of “Darth Porkins.”

        If the protagonist is the only one silent you can still use your own name in your dialog options. “Fool! Do you know who I am? I am Bob Saget!”

        • Shamus says:

          “Darth Porkins.”

          Damn it. Now I need to play through KOTOR again.

          • Wide And Nerdy says:

            Then you should know, Shovel Knight has a Butt Mode. Lots of commonly used nouns in the game are replaced with the word “Butt” such as ‘Shovel’ and ‘Knight’.

            So Butt Butt tells King Butt to prepare for justice. Butt Justice!

            Imagine what this could do for anything ever written by David Mamet.

          • Lachlan the Mad says:

            For my KotOR II Dark Side character, I scrolled through the heads until I found a cheerful-looking redheaded fellow who wouldn’t look out of place in the Weasley family album. I named him Darth Ranga.

        • Ringwraith says:

          Persona 4 comes to mind as the rest of the team have a total of four nicknames for him.
          There’s Sensei, leader, partner, and senpai, and that’s just the party! Each one reflecting the speaker’s personality, and in the cases where the names are shared, the way they use it still reflects their view of him.

          I think what I’m trying to say is that Persona 4 is awesome, and you should definitely play it if you happen to be one of those dozen people with a Vita.

          • James says:

            i am one of the dozen and like the rest of the dozen i allready own P4Golden, also Chie is Best Girl, i will broke no argument on this.

          • Joe Informatico says:

            It helps that Japanese has a lot of terms intended to precisely define the nature of relationships. “Sensei” and “sempai” have so much meaning attached to them that rarely carries the same weight in translation.

            • Ringwraith says:

              Yeah, but they obviously translated a few directly as well. Still works really damn well. Especially as basically “sensei” in this sense is used almost completely incorrectly in every way, but that’s the point.

          • Trix2000 says:

            Golden was most of the reason I got a Vita at all, and I don’t regret the purchase. And that’s after having already played the PS2 version too – it’s just THAT good IMO, and Golden added to/improved the game a LOT.

    • SyrusRayne says:

      What do you mean, second puberty?

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      I wouldnt call someone a frothing fanboy simply because they prefer to hear the characters speak all the time.Its like calling me a frothing fanboy because I prefer rts over sportsball games.I mean there are idiots amongst people who prefer completely voiced games,but I wouldnt call all of them idiots because of those guys.

    • Full voicing (or almost full voicing, I’m not playing much yet) is what I don’t like of Pillars of Eternity. You have this text of what the character says, with few description in between, you’re reading, reach one but the voice has jumped to the next spoken fragment so you either have to listen to the voice and then return to read or you disconnect from the voice to keep reading. Let just the first phrase for the voice to set the character’s way of saying what he’s saying but let us read it would’ve worked better, I think. I was surprised when in the Steam comments some guys said they wanted more voice. No, no! Less!

      • Ringwraith says:

        That’s just more a weird thing when they don’t leave a pause for the text between spoken lines.
        I really don’t know why they didn’t put a bit of dead air in those instances, it’s odd.

      • djw says:

        I have trouble processing spoken words unless I focus my attention on them to an absurd degree, so I always play fully voiced games with the subtitles on. In Pillars of Eternity I barely noticed the voices start and stop because I was reading the text and thus not paying attention to the voiceover. I guess that turns a real life disadvantage into a game advantage.

        To bad I can’t superimpose subtitles on people in real life yet.

        • Wide And Nerdy says:

          I believe they’re working on that. Smart glasses should be able to do that. This would be right up Kurzweil’s alley if he wasn’t trying to build an artificial mind with Google.

          • djw says:

            Smart glasses sound like a good solution, although they would need to include corrective lenses. Hearing aids might also work, although I think the problem is more with attention and focus than it is with sound levels.

            • Wide And Nerdy says:

              Balancing sound levels for different frequency ranges can do a lot for attention and focus. If you’re having trouble with that, it could be that you’ve lost hearing in specific frequency ranges that make speech a little harder to articulate.

        • Syal says:

          I’ve managed to impose subtitles on real life before. The trick is to stay up for three days straight.

          There are… side effects.

          • djw says:

            You could probably get there faster with appropriate dosage of a substance that is legal in four states now.

            (As an aside, if you forget how to spell ‘legal’, like I did, the spell checker is no help whatsoever).

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        That drops off some as the game proceeds. A lot of the opening is voice acted because its establishing the story but from there Pillars is much more partially voice acted.

    • Phill says:

      FFXIV (the MMO) has partial voice acting, and it works fine. Although I don’t know how much of that is due to their big disastrous launch followed by being taken offline and reworked for a re-release. Maybe they kept what they could, and worked around it, or maybe it was always meant to be like this. Having never played the early version, I’ve no idea.

      But it works well now. The key moments of the main story quest are voice acted, which I think helps characterise the main characters in the game. But it’s not all the time, or even most of the time, even in the primary quest line. This actually lets you get through the (often length) quest dialog at your own pace, without having to wait for the talking (or interrupt it), but also lets the main characters address you by name for the most part (i.e. the non-voiced bits). As an added bonus, the sudden presence of voice acting does flag up to the player that one of the more important bits of story is happening, so pay attention.

      They also never have voice acting for the character. I find it easy to get used to the convention that NPCs can ask you a question and then react to your answer without you saying anything. On a practical level, it saves you listening to your character either a) saying stuff you already know (which wastes time) or b) speaking completely unlike the character *you* think you are playing.

      I think it works pretty well. It uses voice acting to enhance the story and characters are certain moments, but doesn’t interfere with you having your own character (well, no more than following the main plot does in total: it’s not like you get to pick sides in this story).

      FWIW I found the Guild Wars 2 version of voice acting really annoying, where everyone referred to you with really clumsy titles. Simply “Hero” if you were playing a human. Which just felt really awkward to me, and every single time someone called me “Hero” it jarred and kept me from caring about the story, to some extent (I’m not sure I’d have cared about GW2’s story much anyway, to be fair, but continually having your sense of immersion broken by weird word choices didn’t help). And the voice acting for my own character didn’t say things how I wanted to say them, and generally didn’t act like the character I was wanting to play. That, for me if the BIIIIIIG downside of 100% voice acting.

      I hated it in SWTOR too.

      • Ringwraith says:

        In Guild Wars 2 it’s because you’re the “Hero of Shaemoor” in the human storyline, they switch to rank-based titles after the racial storylines are over and you join an order (which is level 40). It’s a bit like how you’re the “Hero of Kvatch” in Oblivion.
        Similarly, asura get awarded the title of Savant at the beginning of their questline, sylvari are just called Valiant as that’s what they call their warriors of the Wyld Hunt, and so on. The rank thing makes it lot less awkward later however.
        Their expansion even has ditched the talking heads cutscene conversations entirely, and now characters, including yours, just say their voice lines while acting normally outside cutscenes.

        • Peter H. Coffin says:

          The “no cutscene” approach for exposition does kind of limit how much exposition can be dumped in, because there’s always the possibility that some hostile critter’s gonna show up and leave the characters blathering calmly away while mixing in battle shouts and grunts of combat effort. It’s hilarious, but clearly not what was intended…

  5. Christopher says:

    Except for the reasons you listed, I feel pretty confident that another reason is that a development teams are normally not perfectly rounded and good at all things. I’m pretty sure the Dark Souls director stated in an interview for the art book that lore is vague and you have to hunt it down not only because he enjoys a mystery and that was the way he experienced English fantasy stuff when he was a kid, but also because he isn’t good at writing lots of characters interacting with one another. Bethesda games might be close to what you want, but in addition to the writing they also have a ton of open world jank, look sort of bad and don’t exactly have a combat system that flows or feels great. Everyone’s gonna have their strengths and weaknesses, and a single strength that appeals to my sensibilities might be enough to try something out.

    Cooperation between developers to make games are exciting because they could in theory avoid the problem of only being good at one thing. For instance, Platinum Games, who are character action game experts but nothing special at story, is going to make the combat system for the upcoming Nier sequel. The original is known to be an action-RPG good for a single thing: The story. But even in that kind of dream scenario, it’s no given that every person involved will deliver their best performance. I don’t think many people would say that Shadows of the Damned is the finest work of either Akira Yamaoka, Suda 51 or Shinji Mikami.

    • Shamus had a joke about this a while back. You know, in heaven the game engine is made by doom, the writing by Obsidian, the dialogue by Bioware and so on. I think it’s just that games are made by humans who have specific focus on their favourite things. The people at Bethesda love doing lots of things in an open world and everything else is less important. Bioware loves their stories and branching dialogue, and everything else is less important. This seems to be the case for most developers, and I can certainly understand getting good at one thing. That way the gamers who most like that one thing will like your game.

      But it would be hilarious and probably awesome if one of the above studios hired the lead designer of CS:GO.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        The problem is(usually)because these guys think they have to do the stuff they arent proficient with.Bethesda keeps trying to write “epic” stories and shove their “characters” into your face.

      • Volvagia says:

        My take on the idea?

        In Heaven:

        The Stories are written by BioWare
        The Gameplay is crafted by PlatinumGames
        The Dialogue is written by Namco Tales Studio
        The Cutscenes are designed by Square Enix
        The QA Testing is performed by Valve
        And the Release Schedule is set by Capcom

        In Hell:

        The Stories are written by Capcom (I don’t actually hate Capcom’s cutscenes. They’re so exuberantly executed that they swing the terrible stories they make around to genius from the opposite direction.)
        The Gameplay is crafted by Square Enix
        The Dialogue is written by Valve (Oh, yeah. I know people joke about their “when it’s done” policy, but I don’t really hate that kind of policy. But dialogue that makes a supposedly sympathetic character feel like Mandy from The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy? Not cool.)
        The Cutscenes are created by BioWare (Yes, BioWare is easily the worst of these six at cutscenes. They honestly come off way too passionless for my liking. The best use of an actual cutscene is as an emotional moment, but BioWare’s come off as a robot trying to replicate cinema.)
        The QA Testing is performed by Namco Tales Studio (Yes, I know there’s no big evidence that they have a bad QA department, but they also make the simplest games of the six I chose, so they’re probably the best fit for this slot.)
        And the Release Schedule is set by PlatinumGames (Almost five years for Bayonetta 2 guys? Seems a little much considering how little got changed gameplay wise.)

  6. Viktor says:

    Okay, am I the only one who ran Mission with heavy weapons? That’s one feat, but you don’t have to invest in TWF or Dueling and they get an extra shot IIRC which is what you want for a Sneak Attack Rogue.

  7. RedSun says:

    Damnit. If I had known the wookie planet would let me sell Zaalbar, I would’ve gone there before quitting the game.

    Zaalbar irks me to a ridiculous degree. As a wookie, he’s probably a member of the most iconic race in the Star Wars universe outside of astromech droids like R2D2. He’s also somehow, somehow, the most boring character in the Bioware pantheon. He’s more boring than Carth. He’s boring than Jacob. He’s more boring than the guys in Dragon Age who die in the intro level. He has nothing to say about anything and his reason for traveling with you is one of the dumbest parts of the Star Wars lore. I’m so indifferent to him I loop back around to hating him.

    • Wide And Nerdy says:

      If you hold onto him till the late game and you really want to be a dick.

      You can force persuade Zaalbar to strangle Mission to death.

      • Henson says:

        That is really the only saving grace he has for this game. Everything else is superfluous.

        • Wide And Nerdy says:

          I know. I actually like Mission but that is so hilariously evil I couldn’t resist when the opportunity arose.

          • Henson says:

            For me, it was less hilariously evil and more disturbingly evil. You’re not doing it for the sake of evilness, you’re doing it because a) Mission is opposing you and must be eliminated, and b) making Zaalbar do it strengthens his bond to you by destroying any former loyalties he has or any notion that he is still a good person. It’s not senseless, it’s actually diabolically practical. It gave me tingles on the back of my head.

            • Sleeping Dragon says:

              I really, really like that bit. It’s very dark rather than the usual “asshole without a cause” or “killing for the lolz” of the Darkside choices (or other “evil” choices in most Bioware games). I suppose within the space-fantasy context of the setting it also makes a lot of sense it demonstrates your power, asserts your dominance over Zaalbar and… do you really want a good aligned teenager who has seen you at your weakest and was on the crew when you learned about the source of the Sith military might running around the galaxy? Read some evil overlord tips.

    • Merlin says:

      He’s more boring than the guys in Dragon Age who die in the intro level.
      Those were legit my favorite characters in DA:O aside from the dog. (Not counting Awakening in this either.) Granted that speaks more about how terrible the rest of the party was than how good those intro characters were, but still.

  8. John says:

    Jolee is in the game because “wise old mentor” is an absolute requirement for a Star Wars game. The reason people like Jolee is that is that he’s a subversion of the wise old mentor archetype–but not in an obnoxious way. (Kreia from The Sith Lords is the obnoxious way.) Jolee is old and wise (and basically good, despite his neutral-ish position on the character screen evil-o-meter) but he doesn’t really want to be your mentor. He never lectures. (Instead, he gets really sarcastic if you’re about to do something cartoonishly evil.) He wants to stop the Sith, but unlike the rest of the characters in the game he isn’t caught up in the drama of the situation. Jolee brings a refreshing sense of perspective and history that Star Wars generally lacks–albeit because Star Wars mostly isn’t interested in that sort of thing.

    • Hector says:

      One of the game’s best interchanges occurs between him and Carth. Carth basically says that we *have* to win, or everything may crumble. Jolee replies by saying “Eh, universe’s gonna keep turning one way or another.” It’s a fun bit of dialogue that shows their respective characters, and it’s hard to say which one is right, or if they both might be.

    • SlothfulCobra says:

      He’s less of a subversion than Yoda was. He doesn’t steal your beef jerky and get in a fight with T3-M4.

      Really he’s what you get if you average out Original Trilogy Yoda with Prequels/Expanded Universe/pre-end-of-the-jedi Yoda. He’s bitter, but not really a jerk. He’s wise, but doesn’t go out of his way to teach. He lives in a mud hut in the middle of nowhere, but on a pretty populated planet with spaceships coming and going all the time, so it’s not like he doesn’t still have access to civilization, and he’s not stranded.

    • lurkey says:

      I disliked Jolee so fucking much. He was every way as sanctimonious and judgmental as regular Jedi, only those were openly preachy and nagging, and Jolee was passive-aggressive and insufferably smug. I found that even more infuriating than open preaching.

      I remember I was trying to do good in my first play-through, thinking, “Hey, just because some assholes tampered with my brain I am not going to go stupid evil, I’m better than that”. So, in swoops Jolee with his didactic a la Jedi and passive-aggresive a la Jolee fable “The peasant and the snake”. You know, one about how dude finds a half dead snake, saves it from death and nurtures into full health and the snake bites him in the end because that’s what snakes do. And that was the tipping point. I somehow managed to finish that goodish play-through, but after that? That’s what snakes do, eh Bindo? Alright then.

      • John says:

        Huh.

        The snake story doesn’t bother me. When Jolee finishes, you can ask him “Am I supposed to be the snake?” and he more or less says “That’s up to you.” It didn’t strike me as an accusation, the way, say, Master Vrook’s dialogue does. Most of Jolee’s conversations give you opportunities to tell him how irritating his long, rambling, and seemingly-pointless stories are, and he takes your griping with what I thought was good grace.

  9. Ravens Cry says:

    “It runs both experiences. ” Ruins, I presume, Mr. Young?

  10. Lachlan the Mad says:

    I always thought that “Chunder” was particularly Australian slang. “Aww nah mate, Bruce got a bit too pissed too quickly, he went off to the dunny for a chunder!”

  11. LadyTL says:

    I’ve actually been enjoying Wasteland 2 for depth of story and gameplay quite a bit. It does have a bit of minor voice acting as well. Granted it still does turn based combat but that moves at a pretty fast clip.

    I will admit to playing A Tale of Two Wastelands though while waiting for FO4 but that’s because I need to retrain myself to regular shooters after playing turn based games for almost a year now.

    • Online consensus seems to be that Wasteland 2 is not soloable. I see some people reported enjoying managing a party more than they expected, but I’d say it’s somewhere between XCom classic and XCom modern in slickness, so if you’ve played those, you know what getting into it would be like. It’s definitely is a party affair.

      I found a solo guide, but it’s definitely a self-challenge sort of thing, not a practical first-time style.

  12. Lachlan the Mad says:

    I wonder if it’s possible for Wookiees to get alopecia universalis?

  13. MrGuy says:

    I heard a rumor (which I’m apparently too lazy to verify one way or another) that the forest moon of Endor was originally intended to be inhabited by wookies. Then George Lucas decided he needed something more merchandising-rights-friendly and create Ewoks to live their instead.

    Upon hearing this rumor, most Star Wars fankids I know say “man, that would have been so much more epic!” But after playing this game and hearing a planetload o’ wookies drone on for an hour, I’m losing faith…

    • Henson says:

      Okay, this is a bit of a tangent, but does the ‘forest moon of Endor’ refer to a forest moon orbiting Endor, or a forest moon by the name of ‘Endor’? This has always bugged me.

      • Alex says:

        Apparently the answer is “both” – both the planet and the moon are called “Endor.”

      • Christopher Kerr says:

        Endor is the gas giant, but (mostly through use) it has also come to mean the moon. The handwavey explanation on Wookieepedia is that the forest moon is the only inhabitable one so it’s not terribly ambiguous.

        (I suppose this is a bit like the way many countries are virtually synonymous with their most famous city, but instead of getting annoyed with by it we just rename the city. Yes, now London is England)

        This is annoying, because A New Hope already established a naming scheme – the gas giant is Yavin, and the moon is Yavin 4.

        • Nidokoenig says:

          Looking around, apparently there was another inhabitable but uninhabited moon, where the New Republic resettled the Ixll before their homeworld was destroyed by Mumbles. But who knows if that’s canon now.

        • Henson says:

          Okay, it looks like I’ll have to add ‘inhabitable’ in the category of Really Frickin’ Confusing Words, right next to ‘inflammable’.

          • MichaelGC says:

            ‘In-‘ can be an intensifier, as well as a negatorificationifier. (Like with the ‘in-‘ in ‘intense’.) And it can also just mean ‘in’, like in ‘inside’ or ‘in-ings’. Jack of all trades, is ‘in’! And it’s doing something different again, I think, in ‘interesting’ – which all this of course wasn’t…

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            At least “uninhabitable” exist,so you can still have an antonym.But there is no uninflammable.

        • Wide And Nerdy says:

          So “Thats no moon. Its a gas giant.”

    • SlothfulCobra says:

      The real reason he chose not to have wookiees is that those wookiee costumes are incredibly expensive because of all the real fur. You’ll notice in the trash disposal scene how careful Chewbacca is to stay clean when everyone else is getting drenched in muck.

      They could do it easy in Revenge of the Sith when they didn’t have to actually give people real costumes.

    • Metal C0Mmander says:

      “But after playing this game and hearing a planetload o’ wookies drone on for an hour”

      Let us now remember ewok voices and realise that either way we weren’t really winning. It probably would have help with taking Leila seriously when she gets sad for them.

  14. King Calamity says:

    As someone who loves fighting games but has almost zero interest in competitive gaming, I know the “nobody is making the game I want!” feeling pretty well.

    I just replayed Jade Empire, and since then I’ve actually been imagining making a game a lot like what you describe. I actually think that the only real reason we don’t see many games like that is that there haven’t been many, and so it’s just accepted that story focused RPGs play a certain way. I’m sort of worried this will be exacerbated by the success of games like Pillars of Eternity and Wasteland 2. Just as we started seeing some story RPGs with strong action gameplay like Mass Effect 2-3 and Witcher 3 (apparently? haven’t played that one), these throwback titles swoop in crying “It doesn’t need to be this way!”

    I like the combat in those games, but we have games like that. I want to see the next Jade Empire. I want to see someone do with it what Obsidian did with the Infinity Engine games in Pillars of Eternity.

    • Ringwraith says:

      Have you perchance played Valkyrie Profile at all?
      The combat system is sort-of some weird hybrid of a fighting game, as each character of the party is mapped to a different face button, so you can combo them together by messing with the timing.

      Actually Lab Zero’s new project they’re attempting to crowdfund, Indivisible, is heavily inspired by this, and the playable prototype they’ve got as a proof-of-concept is very playable.

  15. Jonathan says:

    …Before Venturing Forth.

    New website font? Not a big fan of it.

    • Humanoid says:

      Both the blog post and the comments appear to have new fonts, but *different* new fonts. Don’t mind the font in the blog post, but the one in the comments is some kind of futuristic thing – maybe its intentionally commemorating something though. :o

      EDIT: The sidebar is being placed in a row below all the other content, too, but only when viewing a post, not on the front page.

      • Shamus says:

        Re: Misplaced sidebar: What browser? I’ve tried Firefox and Chrome and it seems fine. Any other hints for me? Do you zoom in? Mobile? Unusual window dimensions? Thanks.

        • Humanoid says:

          Looks like this in Firefox: http://i.imgur.com/RvZ2jab.png

          Went ahead and tested Opera and IE11. Opera is fine, IE11 is looking similar to Firefox.

          EDIT: Some extra weirdness in that when I hit “reply to this comment”, the sidebar magically places itself in the correct spot. But then after I make the comment, it resumes its incorrect position.

          Suspect it’s because the “Leave a reply” section at the bottom of the comments is too wide. When replying to a comment, the section disappears and a proper-width version appears below the comment being replied to, which doesn’t interfere with the sidebar.

          • Humanoid says:

            Some further testing shows it’s also related to the zoom level. At default level it’s misplaced, so I tried zooming out with ctrl-mousewheel. Firefox does 10% increments down to 30%, observations are that it’s broken at down to 80%, shows fine at 70-50%, broken again at 40-30%.

            When zooming in, it’s always broken. This is in regular old 1080p. Tested IE11 (only browser available) on my work PC and it’s behaving similarly, again a standard 1080p display.

            • Humanoid says:

              Just realised that because this laptop is an 11″ screen it ships with Windows internal scaling to 150% (“Make text and other items larger or smaller” in the Control Panel). Setting to 100% “fixes” the problem in Firefox (but a 1080p display at 11″ is nigh unreadable), but it continues to be broken in IE11, which matches the finding on my work PC which is just 1080p at 100%.

              EDIT: Width differentials between the post, the comments and the reply box for convenience: http://i.imgur.com/VMx4SXA.png

              Based on that I’d also say that the instructions on how to do a hyperlink are causing the reply box to be overly wide, the maximum width looking like it’s not being clamped.

  16. Nidokoenig says:

    The bit about how cool it would be to have NPCs react to headgear reminds me of this British Army ad from the 90s:

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=TBVAzfpjzGc

    How the hell is Shamus of all people able to make me feel old?

    Having certain cultures cue off headgear that you’re wearing or not wearing would be cool. Some like eye contact, some react poorly to human hair and dander so you should cover up unless you’re bald(extra points for wearing your space gear), lizard people find mammal eyes creepy, that hat comes from a race we like to eat, etc. There’s an abundance of little details you can stuff in to make it a good idea to read the codex entry or ask an expert before setting down on the planet or hailing them, and give some unique touches to different locales.

    • McNutcase says:

      Thank you for that link. I remember that ad as well, but could never find the search terms for it. Now I don’t have to!

    • Sam says:

      That actually sounds like it would fit fantastically in a fantasy styled rougelike. Or maybe a world with separate kingdoms/zones/territories/whatever, so you have your headgear that Race A likes because they’re allergic or whatever to human hair but Race C values a weird idea of “openness” that says not to wear unnecessarily concealing clothing. While Race B eats Race D so wearing D favored accessories is liable to get you eaten if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. Meanwhile B and A are in an alliance/trade agreement so their accessories carry positive connotations for each other but are liable to create animosity with C and D. D is a lizard race that finds human eyes creepy so while there might not be negative reactions towards you uncovered eyes might lead to shorter conversations or they refuse to look at you.
      In the roguelike it could spawn each character with certain accessories that might give you advantageous starts or not.

  17. Warclam says:

    Now that you have purple power, you could always switch Juhani over to being the Christmas Jedi.

    Also, the noise Josh makes when the droid explodes in his face in one of the best sounds ever.

  18. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Wookiees already have the life deabt thing,so they are the perfect race to make into slaves.Those slavers are actually doing them a favor.

  19. SlothfulCobra says:

    Calo Nord is way easier to fight here than on Tatooine. If you go to Tatooine, he brings along an entire platoon of men with blasters that get me every time. On Kashyyyk he just brings along two mooks, and it’s a much easier fight.

    I liked him, even if he does have a goofy hat like he’s driving a Model T.

    • John says:

      I did not realize that four easily dispatched alien mooks constitute a platoon. I happen to think that he’s easiest to fight on Tattooine because you start off at an excellent range for grenades. He seems much closer here. I expect you would run into a similar problem on Manaan, although I’ve never actually fought him there.

      For the benefit of people who want to do better than Josh did, I should point out that Calo Nord’s armor makes him immune to Jedi powers like Stun or Fear. The best way to temporarily incapacitate him is Force Whirlwind.

  20. The Defenestrator says:

    I think a shaved Wookiee is called a “Trandoshan”.

  21. someone says:

    “Which is why I was hoping that the tools will keep making game development cheaper.”

    This is exactly what I’ve been hoping for a long time.

    This is what is stopping all those wildly creative games from being made

    This is the main obstacle for games to become “serious” art.

    Making an indie movie is cheap. Making music is even cheaper. Ditto for painting. Writing is essentially free. To create a game, you need programmers, producers, budget etc. etc. Of course in some cases you can build a game by yourself but you will still need lots of technical competency, and you’re still going to spend a lot more time programming and bugfixing instead of focusing on the “experience”. There’s a high barrier of entry.

    Video games also suffer from the misfortune of having been pushed into the mainstream in the age of profit=everything, quarterly shareholder reports and commercialism. Games are financed by businessmen, not wealthy patrons(kickstarter may change that though).

    The single person in the middle of nowhere(or less so) with a grand sweeping vision cannot express himself via video games. THAT is the single greatest thing holding video games back. A field, any field, requires that sort of maverick genius to keep the innovations coming.

    We need development tools that are simple but powerful enough to let those people realize their visions.

    • Lachlan the Mad says:

      I’m of the opinion — and I’m pretty sure that Shamus has said this in the past — that the cheapening of the Unreal Engine (from $many to $19 to $free) is definitely going to make things a heck of a lot easier for the indies. Quite a lot of decent indie games have been made in Unreal Engine lately; the most recent example I’ve played is Life Is Strange. Life Is Strange is also actually an example of the “missing middle”, being an indie game which was backed by a major publisher (Square Enix), but I digress. Unreal Engine is apparently a lovely tool to work with, not that I’ve tried, and a few more tools like that are going to help the indies a lot.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      “The single person in the middle of nowhere(or less so) with a grand sweeping vision cannot express himself via video games. ”

      Go play Undertale.

      NOW.

  22. Daemian Lucifer says:

    or embrace the action gameplay of (say) the Witcher 3 or the later Mass Effects

    Both of those games have pause in them(well witcher 3 has a slowdown,but its close),and mass effect also gives you the ability to control your team.What you are describing as hating is actually rounds.Which is basically turn based,but with very discreet turns.And I get why,because its basically a crude mesh of a tabletop game and a video game.

    • Mephane says:

      I did not play Witcher 3 yet and only Mass Effect 1. In the latter while the option existed, I basically never used it at all and did fine. Just let Garrus, Tali, Liara or Wrex (I ditched both Kaidan and Ashley the very instant I had an alternative) decide when to use their abilities. I may have used the pause option very rarely, but only to decide my own next move.

      • Humanoid says:

        I didn’t mind the way Mass Effect did it because really all the squad members amounted to was some extra passive damage. Didn’t have to manage their inventories (well, excluding weapons and armour in ME1, and allocating skill points now and then), didn’t have to babysit them or otherwise worry about their survival. Indeed if you exclude their dialogue, the game would have more or less played out the same if you removed them from combat and just boosted Shepard’s damage output and reduced some ability cooldowns.

  23. MadTinkerer says:

    My preferred method of party-based combat is Final Fantasy XII (12).

    For those who don’t know, imagine if the game offered you the option to pause and issue orders at any time in a real-time combat system. BUT: you could also queue up commands ahead of time in a priority list, telling your healers to attack if no one has less than 80% health, your thief character to steal only if monsters have 100% health (I’m not completely sure if this is the specific tactic the designers intended, but it worked for me), and so on. Instead of needing to manually re-input the tactics I was going to use every battle, the game became about planning well enough to rarely resort to manual input.

    FFXIII (13) also had good combat. Unfortunately, XIII’s combat system tends to stick out because it is the only good part of the game aside from the lovely graphics. XIII didn’t let me have as much manual control over tactics and character development (and ultimately, despite how much I liked the feel of the combat, it couldn’t keep me interested through the entire game and I gave up after reaching Cocoon and exploring a bit), but it feels like a really good tag team sport or something like that. XIII-2 has an almost identical system but I haven’t played it enough to say how it compares in the later parts of the game.

    The very first RPG I ever played, Ultima Underworld II, was one of the first RPGs to have realtime combat (simulationist RPGs, that is, not counting action-adventure games like Legend of Zelda and Ys). As primitive as it was at the time, replaying it and comparing it to more modern first person action style combat, I noticed a big dramatic difference.

    Rutskarn was right to criticize dice roll combat in the Elder Scrolls games, but the way it’s done in the Underworld games lends a very distinct feeling of tension to melee combat. You know exactly how much you are hurt, but only approximately how much the monster is hurt. You also don’t know exactly how much damage each swing does, just whether you hit or miss. Because of the way the Underworld games handle melee, you can choose to hold an attack for longer for a chance to do more damage, but that can let the opponent attack faster, so fights that are close (and you can never know exactly how close until the fight is over) feel like a real life-and-death struggle. Skyrim is good, but the HUD tells me too much about my opponents compared to the Underworld games.

    So FFXII is the perfect party-based fantasy combat game. FFXIII can be skipped but try FFXIII-2 if you are curious about the sport-like combat. Ultima Underworld II is not the perfect single-player combat game, but it has a special feel to melee I haven’t experienced anywhere else. Finally, Skyrim is great but gives me too much information about everything, especially whomever I happen to be fighting.

    Oh, and the combat in KOTOR is… adequate. Usually not terrible, occasionally very interesting, obviously designed for consoles first. It’s excused for not having as good combat as FF12 because FF12 came out three years later.

    • MichaelGC says:

      I did like how turn-based worked in FFX, where you had that ‘Up Next in Thumping Each Other’ bar down the right hand side of the screen. So, you could e.g. see that Monster was going to get three attacks in a row in five turns time, and go: “ruh-roh, better swap in all my speedy characters and then start buffing them with hastes,” so that poor Monster kept getting shoved to the back of the queue.

      Obviously there, though, you control each character in turn, so that’s a rather simplified and ‘brute-force’ way of dealing with party-based combat (if indeed it can really be described as ‘party-based’ even at all).

      • MadTinkerer says:

        FFX’s combat was good, but the game around it wasn’t as terrible as FFXIII, so it doesn’t stand out as much to me. :) But yeah, one of the best turn-based combat systems I’ve played.

  24. Mephane says:

    I’m here because I want to play a character, not manage a murder committee.

    Oh yes, so much this. When an RPG asks me to control the entire party, I usually just set up the other characters in whatever way makes them somewhat useful when I just leave them to their own decisions.

    I also do not like having to equip* them and decide upon the abilities of team members. Sure, whenever the latter happens, there is usually an option to let them automatically choose, but I never have enough trust in the game devs that the automatic choice even is something sensible. When a game does not let you choose, the NPCs have some fixed, predefined level progression (or none at all and just gain higher stats), and there is pressure on the devs to properly plan and balance this progression. When the player is expected to pick all their skills, the automatic option is usually just a cheap option for the lazy who don’t care about the effectiveness of the party.

    The thing is, I actually do care about that effectiveness, and I am far from being lazy about picking gear, skills and abilities. But I dislike ever controlling more than a single character, neither in the moment-to-moment gameplay such a combat, nor on the strategic level (beyond the decision which NPC to take with me)). Hence why I also don’t generally like RTS, but do fine in MOBAs.

    *It doesn’t help that apparently every single RPG has at least one gotcha moment where a party member may die or decide leave the party and takes with them whatever highly valuable armour, weapons or trinkets you had equipped them with. This is basically an instant reload moment for me. I’ve long since established the habit to just give them the cheapest stuff that happened to loot from some random bad guy (the very idea of shopping for equipment to give to my party member NPCs feels preposterous to me).
    Hint for all RPG devs: if you make such a situation, let the player demand the NPC gives the gear back (and make the NPC comply, of course), or if the NPC dies, allow me to loot their body for the very items you had given them yourself.

    • Nidokoenig says:

      I had a moment like that playing Xenoblade on the Wii, one character was going to be locked away from the party for a while, wearing ceremonial gear for story reasons. I was worried the neat hat she had would be locked away or something, but no, it was dumped in the main inventory where I could equip it to someone else. It’d be neat to have a framerate police-style tracker for this, possibly with hints like “Strip X when you first encounter enemy Y or enter the flying city” behind spoiler tags.

      I can see some justification in an artist’s mind for including a mechanical loss above just not having that dude’s abilities any more, like how we wouldn’t really argue with a dead X-Com soldier’s armour being lost because she ate a grenade, but if the loss is railroaded for story it’s just not cricket, if you’re taking the oil and water approach then be consistent. I’ve no doubt that with the right build and enough grinding there’s no way Sephiroth could kill Aeris, but that isn’t going to be acknowledged.

      • Mephane says:

        Well, a loss for story reasons is in principle fine, although it’d still create this “if I hadn’t given the NPC this shiny epic weapon 10 minutes earlier” moment. But more often than not, this is just the devs being “lazy” (not actually lazy, it just wasn’t thought of or deemed too unimportant) and not adding a way to demand or take the stuff back from the NPC.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          A way to remove this is to give the npcs specific gear that cannot be removed from their inventory(or from the shared inventory,if you are using the better system),but can be unequipped if you find something better.Then,once Da Twist happens,you just replace whatever they are wearing with their default gear,and move everything else somewhere else(to another character,or drop it in front of them once they regain control,or to the shared inventory).Of course,if you implement this,it helps to have a hint saying “Dont worry about characters leaving mid-cutscene,you will gain all their gear back”.

          • Lachlan the Mad says:

            Your system really sounds overcomplicated, Daemian. Just have it so that, when a character leaves the party, all of their stuff gets dumped back into the party inventory. This will only be a problem if your game has an inventory limit, and inventory limits are stupid so why does your game have one? Putting in a loading screen tip explaining what will happen when characters leave your party is a good idea, though.

            • Ringwraith says:

              Most games that have inventory limits and dump items on you often allow you to ignore the limit temporarily if it’s a numerical limit, or create a temporary space to claim items from if it’s a spatial limit.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              This leads to a problem when you meet that person later,and they are either naked,or have some new equipment on them that youve never seen before.That is why I suggested having default equipment that they can revert to.

              Though seeing how modern rpgs dont let you simply kick someone out of your party and talk to them later like the old ones,those situations have become rare.

              And yes,inventory limits are crap.Also individual inventories are too much of a hassle as well.An unlimited party inventory is the way to go.

  25. @Shamus Have you seen any games that are turnbased but the combat is realtime? In other words between player choices the game uses filler combat.

    That way the “edge” in the fight is provided by the player, and the outcome is based on the stats.

    But if you party/characters have crappy stats then the game will automatically fail (as the party members would be unable to keep the fight going while the player thinks).

    The only drawback to this would be if the party characters and enemies was evenly matched as the game would just keep the fight going forever. Although that could be solved by dwindling resources (health, stamina, ammo, mana, and so on).

    Couple this to a AI strategy system (similar to Dragon Age Origins?) a player could let non-player party members handle themselves if they don’t like managing the entire party all the time.

    • Humanoid says:

      Total War comes to mind. I’ve never played any of them, but have played Divinity Dragon Commander which is structured similarly. I hated the real-time component though so I have no further comment really.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        That game sucked balls.No depth,no strategy.Talking with the characters was nice though.

        • Ringwraith says:

          They admitted themselves they kind of strangled the game to death as they were sinking and placed all their bets on Original Sin instead.
          The gameplay was not great, but dropping ridiculous fireballs on tank columns as a jetpack-wearing dragon was rather enjoyable from time to time.
          You’re basically just there for the writing though, and that’s okay, because it lets you auto-resolve anything, in fact, you have auto-resolve some things as you can only personally take charge of one battle a turn.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Have you seen any games that are turnbased but the combat is realtime? In other words between player choices the game uses filler combat.

      You have just described frozen synapse.

    • Infinitron says:

      Pay attention to game called “Copper Dreams” that’s currently in development.

    • Henson says:

      I suppose Valkyria Chronicles might come close.

  26. Loonyyy says:

    I’d tentatively recommend “S.T.A.L.K.E.R”.

    My personal favourite is Call of Pripyat.

    I can’t say for sure that it’d scratch that itch, and it is missing a bunch of the dot points. You don’t have particularly deep character interaction, you don’t have character creation.

    You’ve got a semi-realistic “hardcore” shooter, in a post-apocalyptic (For the Zone at least, the world outside is fine) setting.

    I find it scratches a lot of my RPG itches, because I end up abusing the looting horribly and stockpiling weapons like mad, and I love the weapon upgrading system, and how deep it feels at the start, though it is actually quite shallow.

    There are some choices, some minor characters, even storylines to follow if you’re bothered, with choices affecting the outcomes. But there’s also the chance to just run off, diving into radioactive anomalies for mysterious artifacts that warp the world around them. Building up to a stockpile of decent gear, armour, weapons, has a similar feel to levelling.

    On a similar note, I wonder if you’ve tried Mount and Blade? Skip the original, Warband is an upgraded version of that (Like, they’re actually the same, Warband just has other features, you’ll feel the time in M & B was wasted when you play Warband).

    You get character creation, recruitment, parties, some levelling, real time combat, with horseback stuff, spears, lances, swords, axes, crossbows, throwing weapons and bows, you can interact with your party, but it’s pretty barebones, and with the kingdom, which work, and it doesn’t.

    You do need to command your forces, but that’s actually fairly simple. In the open, you ask your infantry and archers to stand on the highest point you see, and let the cavalry do whatever (With a couple of exceptions for shield walls), and when attacking fortresses, tell everyone to hold their position rather than letting the enemy fill your men with arrows by charging ahead of siege towers, or getting stuck on a ladder.

    (It’d also make for a great Josh or Rutskarn play like Shogun or Blood Bowl. Pretty please?)

    • John says:

      Warband is indeed awesome but it’s a sandbox game with no story to speak of. Probably not what Shamus is looking for. I believe that there are some story driven mods for the game, but I couldn’t tell you much about them.

      • MichaelGC says:

        This is not the sandbox game you’re looking for. *waves hand*

        (… Sorry. Not sure what came over me. Star Wars thread ‘n’ all.)

      • Loonyyy says:

        Yeah, unfortunately both of my suggestions are relatively light on the story. You can get a bit of story out of it mucking around Josh or Rutskarn style in their personal let’s plays, I always end up with a list of NPCs I feel particular friendliness or animosity towards, but there’s not much there to work with. Character’s don’t so much have character, as a list of possible actions, curtailed by how much they like you, and the game does it’s best to make sure they forget you easily, and that keeping them onside it is quite a nuisance.

        Still, they do some of the best synergy of roleplaying elements, combat and general gameplay.

    • Syal says:

      (you’ll feel the time in M & B was wasted when you play Warband)

      This is hilarious when used to talk about moving from one game about milling around a map wasting time to a better version of a game about milling around a map wasting time.

      …but I second the recommendation.

      • Loonyyy says:

        Milling about aimlessly? Sir, I only mill about with a purpose! When I marshall my Lords, and the armies I have built for them, I can bring thousands of men to bear on a single point!

        Yeah, they are a bit like that, it’s much better if you use a dummy character to get an idea of the game or read a bit of wiki first, so you know what you want to actually do.

        Still, I don’t feel that Vanilla has any merits that Warband doesn’t, and I don’t think they’re both really worth doing, so Warband wins. The only thing I miss, just a little, is the original map, and that doesn’t really matter.

  27. Merlin says:

    Oh good, Shamus mentioned it in the text so I get to vent about it again. Whoever conceived real-time-with-pause combat should be hurled into the sun, have their atoms retrieved & peed on, then hurled back into the sun. It combines the worst aspects of both elements into a giant ball of uninteresting, untactical suck.

    That disclaimer done with, I will say that KOTOR was about as close as it’s ever come to being good, for a couple key reasons. The ability to queue up actions allows you to fire up your usual routine and stop fiddling with things for a bit. The small number of unique abilities means you aren’t choosing the order to queue up Shield Smash, Shield Bash, Shield Thump, and Shield Bump, and you especially aren’t trying to figure out which one does what. And positioning is generally not super important, which helps because movement in party-centric RTWP games is always super clunky. It’s still not terribly engaging, but it’s unobtrusive.

    This stands in harsh contrast to something like Dragon Age: Origins (and presumably later Dragon Ages as well), which wants very much for you to believe that this is very serious, very complicated stuff. And it does so by giving you tons of abilities that do basically the same thing and a clumsy AI programmer where really all you care about is an MMO-style rotation of abilities to fire off in sequence.

    Into. The. Sun.

    • John says:

      It’s a good thing that positioning doesn’t matter too much in Knights of the Old Republic because it’s all but impossible to do it well. You have to try to steer the character you’re controlling to the spot you want to go to rather than just clicking on that spot with the mouse. And while you’re steering one character, heaven only knows what the other two in the party will be doing.

      This is what happens when you jointly develop games for PC and console, I suppose.

  28. Vect says:

    So you like involving action gameplay that happens to be big on story as well as being text-heavy? That sort of sounds like the Yakuza games. Of course, the fact that the games tend to have serious plots while having super-goofy sidequests and over-the-top action sequences is probably something you’ll find incredibly clashing. It’s very Metal Gear in that regard in how it tries to take the main plot seriously while also embracing the more gamey elements.

  29. Tektotherriggen says:

    Shamus, what would you think about using a sidescrolling combat platformer for the gameplay, and adding the other RPG elements to that? Dust: An Elysian Tale and Valdis Story: Abyssal City are two recent examples that feature platforming beat-em-up combat with levelling/skills/loot mechanics, but neither has the scale of story that you’re after.

  30. Decius says:

    Based on the action/strategy distinction you describe as ideal, put The Bureau: XCOM Declassified on your watchlist and get it on a good sale. It looks like a FPS cover-based shooter, but it’s actually a FPS cover-based real-time-tactical game. You can use shooter skills to great effect, but rarely is it the easiest way, and most of the time you can win without firing a shot personally, but both extremes are self-imposed hard mode.

  31. RCN says:

    For the record, the Internet does have several artistic depictions of shaved wookies.

    Because of course it has!

    Generally, they look like sad bulldogs.

  32. Shoeboxjeddy says:

    Well… the heart wants what the heart wants, but regarding Shamus’ ideal game, “immersion” and “all the dialogue is text” are directly contradictory wants. It’d be like if I wanted “visceral, pulse pounding gameplay” but with only “non-violent, dialogue based interactions”. Humans don’t say hello and then communicate telepathically through text dumps. You might be able to make a cool sci-fi robot game where that’s actually how communication takes place, but in a game with humans, TALKING with audible words is instantly more immersive. And no, I would disagree that bad voice acting is a counter point. That’s like saying we should stay with text MUDs because sometimes graphics are ugly or inelegant.

    • Mike S. says:

      While I wasn’t involved enough in the multiplayer scene to say, I remember pretty much that exact discussion going on when adventure games with graphics started to compete with the old text-only sort. With pretty similar concerns: graphics were resource-heavy, limiting, and couldn’t compete with the player’s imagination. The games became shorter and less flexible and couldn’t have as many varied environments or outcomes. Etc.

      We can see a similar process in film: a 1924 column in Film Daily (by DW Griffith!) speculated on what movies would look like a century in the future. It predicted home video, in-flight movies, color, widescreen, 3-D…

      And it spends at least five paragraphs declaring that talkies will forever be a) impossible and b) undesirable:

      …I am quite positive that when a century has passed, all thought of our so-called speaking pictures will have been abandoned. It will never be possible to synchronize the voice with the pictures. This is true because the very nature of the films foregoes not only the necessity for but the propriety of the spoken voice. Music– fine music– will always be the voice of the silent drama.

      http://www.startribune.com/1924-the-future-of-movies/327730361/

      I especially appreciate the implicit claim that it must be impossible, because it’s improper.

      The first talking picture, “The Jazz Singer”, came out three years later. Silents rapidly and irrevocably disappeared from the mainstream, despite the best efforts of Charlie Chaplin and a few others. (There are some great movies about that sea change and its aftermath, notably “Sunset Boulevard” and “Singin’ In the Rain”. But of course those movies are themselves talkies.)

  33. Atle says:

    The problem for me with turn based games is that the turns themselves introduces rules and tactics that are unrealistic. Like counting how many movement points the opponent have and go to the square just outside the reach. While it can be fun, like an alternate game of chess, it breaks realism.

    or ordering a person to travel 20 squares. When the person gets shot on the first square, and continues to walk straight ahead getting shot four more times in the process, that is also immersion breaking.

    Pause – give orders – unpause, as in Bauldurs gate or X-COM: apoclaypse, solves this. There is full control of the situation, together with stats and numbers. As long as it doesn’t turn into too much micro management.

    This reminds of the old Bards tale games, which was turn based like a D&D session. In certain fights, like meeting a Dragon guardian, or a room filled with dozens of monster, everything depended on getting initiative. Using an area weapon on 99 (I think that was max) enemies defined to be in the same area, and getting initiative, would win the day. It was just a case of leaning back, while the game scrolled through the text showing the damage to each monster. If the 99 enemies got initiative, that would be less fortunate.

    Great fun back then, and much more fun that I ever had with Dragon Age 2 or 3.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      The problem for me with turn based games is that the turns themselves introduces rules and tactics that are unrealistic.

      Unlike being able to carry 5 full sets of plate armor in a bag.Or surviving a direct shot from superheated plasma.Or having perfectly square buildings.Or a human being the size of a house.

      What Im saying is that no game is realistic.There are abstractions everywhere.In scale,in time,in speech,in survivability,….And as long as the abstractions are fun and fit with one another,I dont see a problem with them.

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