Diecast #273: The Mailbag Strikes Back

By Shamus Posted Monday Sep 9, 2019

Filed under: Diecast 102 comments

At this point, I’m not sure who to blame. Do we blame listeners who spam us with incessant questions, or do we blame the hosts for encouraging the practice by answering them? I have no idea.

On an unrelated note, the show email is in the header image if you have any questions for us!



Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.
Diecast273

Show notes:

00:00 Baba is You 


Link (YouTube)

05:54 Pizza Game


Link (YouTube)

Absolutely crazy.

I made the mistake of watching the trailer a second time and could no longer resist the siren call of a dating sim with no gameplay where all the text is typos. I’ll report back next week and let you know how it went.

09:43 Mailbag: Scoring Systems  Mailbag: Game Scores

Here are a pair of questions intended to go together. I read these in the wrong order, got sidetracked and confused for a little while, and then Paul course-corrected briefly before I lost the plot again.

I’m a professional!

Dear Diecastians,

There are multiple ways of scoring games out there.

If you could create your own preferred scoring system, what would it be?

1-9? 1-10? 1-100? 1-5? 1-6?  something like avoid-rent-buy? 1-20? Yes-No? some other option?

Even more greetings,

Gresman

Dear Paul and Shamus,
There is the known issues that games are scored somewhere around the 7 Mark as an average point, whereas in other mediums it is usually 5. Given that all scoring happens on a ten point scale.
Is this fair or correct? Should we get rid of this deviation? Should we change the way games are rated?

Have the maximum amount of greetings while I await a possible answer to these questions and a possible discussion,
Gresman

27:02 Mailbag: Unskippable Cutscenes

Dear Diecast,

Unskippable cutscenes. Why do they exist?

For me, it’s seems fairly obvious that players should never be forced to repeat a non-interactive portions of the game over and over. Even if the cutscenes themselves are fantastic, they cease to being impressive after I watched them 10+ times already – at this point all I am thinking about is how this particular obstacle is preventing me from playing the game. Worse, it makes me hate the story as well, because I associate it with being a waste of my time. Not to mention that even the perfect cutscene wouldn’t be able to survive the amount of scrutiny that our annoyed brains can muster.

The only reason I came up with is that sometimes they can hide a loading screen – in that case the situation is different. Besides that, I can’t think of any excuse.

Thankfully, this isn’t a common issue nowadays, but still – why was this a problem in the first place?

As usual, I apologize for any mistake that I made.

Don’t roll anything but 20s,
Darek

35:57 Mailbag: Broken Game Economies

Shamus,

I have too much money. Again.

I’m playing an open world RPG and I’ve reached the place where I have more in game money than I could ever possibly spend. I always seem to end up in this place in RPGs where money is a resource. In the beginning my character is dirt poor and I can’t afford anything. And then at some point in the mid-game I hit a point where things completely flip and I become so rich that I can buy everything in the game. The best weapons and armor come from bosses and chests and so money becomes worthless after awhile.

Have you seen any open world RPGs actually be good at this? Games frequently give you Renegade type interactions where you can demand more money for your quests. These options just seem so pointlessly dickish. You’re mean to an NPC and get like 10% bonus reward money. I never see the point in this, since money becomes worthless and the Paragon “Aw, shucks, keep it; you need the money more than I do,” option frequently gives you way better stuff. If money were worthwhile, I might choose to demand more payment. But I know in game I can make the money up on the back end by looting and selling more Kobold spears. Early in Witcher 3 money was scarce enough that I demanded what was promised (and getting paid for monster hunting is written into the core concept of the game, so that works well), but by mid-game I was choosing the “keep the money to rebuild your family” option whenever it was offered because I didn’t really need the money and the NPC would give me something nice, even if it was just extra grateful dialogue.

Can you think of any RPG-type games where money is actually a resource that matters? Any ideas for ways to improve it?

Trevor

And yes, I realize that the game Paul and I both failed to think of was Oblivion.

46:03 Mailbag: Non-graphics tech

Dear Diecast,

Ryan Gordon (a.k.a. Icculus) recently posted an announcement about a new debug tool called alTrace, which is a tool that shows debug information about OpenAL.

This got me thinking about how in games we tend to focus more on graphics tech while not talking a lot about other advances, like audio tech.

What is your guys’ opinion on this?

Vale,

-Tim

52:55 Mailbag: Speech Checks

Dear Diecast,

How do you like skill checks to work in dialogue-heavy RPGs? Should there be a D&D-style element of randomness, or a system more like New Vegas where thirty points in Speech is a guaranteed success and any less is a failure? Should games be transparent about the difficulty of their skill checks, or should you have to click on the “Lie to this NPC” button without knowing for sure whether you can get away with it?

Ninety-Three

1:02:34 Mailbag: Gaming Burnout

Hi Shamus and Paul!

Do you experience gaming burnout and how often if so? When I was young I could play for hours and days, but now in my 30s while I still love games and have enough free time there are often periods of days and even weeks when I dont want to play anything at all. I start a game that I know I must like, play it for 30 minutes and stop, being completely bored. Then after a couple of days or weeks it goes away and I again can have fun playing video games. Sadly as I’m getting older this periods happen more and more often. How do you manage to play games and write about them for a living for so many years and not being tired of them?

Regards
Dmitri

1:08:23 Mailbag: Ray-Traced Minecraft

Dear Diecast,

So, seen the ray-traced Minecraft announcement yet? It sure looks pretty. It seems like a very Diecast kind of thing, so I was wondering if either of you had any plans to try it. It seems to require the Windows 10 version of the game and possibly an RTX card.

–John

 


From The Archives:
 

102 thoughts on “Diecast #273: The Mailbag Strikes Back

  1. tmtvl says:

    Obviously the best persuade system is the one from Arcanum, where your persuasive options only work if you have good enough stats, and they aren’t marked at all.

    If your character is persuasive you still have to think of the right way to pull over the NPC’s eyes.

    1. Redrock says:

      Obviously, you meant to say that the best persuasion system is the one frome Divinity: Original Sin, where you convince NPC’s via a multi-stage game of Rock-Paper-Scissors. That’s how I interact with people in real life ever since. Works wonders.

      1. Lino says:

        Hmm… That sounds way better than the Mass Effect system I’ve been using. For some reason, people don’t like it when you yell “RENEGADE INTERRUPT” in the middle of a conversation and punch them in the face…

      2. Matthew Downie says:

        The best system is Oblivion, where you compliment them, threaten them, boast about how wonderful you are, then tell them a joke. Repeat all four in different orders until they start to like you, at which point they will do whatever you ask. It works just as great in real life as you’d expect!

        1. Nimrandir says:

          As a former world champion of Conversation Pie*, I endorse this message.

          *No, not really. Let me have my moment, dang it!

        2. Fizban says:

          Everyone else hates this system, but I maintain that Oblivion’s persuasion mini-game is the only one that has actually ever worked (okay, I don’t actually know of any others, but still). The trick is to stop thinking in absolute terms- when you hit the “threaten” option that doesn’t mean an actual direct threat. That would be silly, and the mini-game is an abstraction. What it means is that over the course of the meandering zig-zag conversation you have initiated in an attempt to increase your influence over the taret, you have put more emphasis on being a threatening/intimidating sort of person, in response to abstracted topics and responses (yes, this means they might make responses as if you had directly threatened them, because you’ve made a joking or “joking” statement). The bars in the middle indicate how much emphasis you put on it, and the fact that you have limited control over the wedge placement and must “use” every “action” represents the fact that you *can’t just refuse to engage with the other person*. They are, behind the abstraction, saying things that prompt you to respond a certain way, and your ability to *play the mini-game* is how well your character manages to respond- properly emphasizing the traits that the target respects, and downplaying the traits that they don’t. All the traits must come up because you’re both trying to influence each other- they’re trying to feel you out and make sure you don’t have traits they dislike as much as you’re trying to present the ones they do, and as an active participant in the conversation you can’t ignore this.

          In short, it’s the only social mechanic I’ve seen that actually represents the NPC as having any amount of agency or input, outside of just having a massive number of dialogue options and event flags and simulating every possible combination. Oblivion’s social mini-game does exactly what a mini-game is supposed to do. It’s a hell of a sight better than random percentile rolls, has more interactivity than flat thresholds and makes more sense than reading a magazine or putting on a hat to edge over the line, and can in fact be applied to every NPC in the world the same way a lockpicking game can go on every lock. It works.

          And even better, unlike the lockpicking you’re not being denied loot constantly. You can choose to use it on NPCs you want to use it on, or bribe your way past and never use it at all, or grind up your skill until you can talk your way past anyone quickly. Choices!

          1. Higher_Peanut says:

            Oblivion’s fell apart when it got tied to the leveling system. The pie game was easy to win but tedious, and the starting cap was so high that level was mostly irrelevant. I did find it far better than arbitrary stat walls though.

            I think each option cycling through Bethesda faces didn’t help it either.

      3. John says:

        The best persuade system is one that lets a persuasive party member do the persuading and doesn’t require the player character to do all the persuading all the time.

        1. tmtvl says:

          Oh, like in Arcanum when you run into the assassin in the beginning and Virgil can scare him off, if you choose to travel with him.

        2. Chad Miller says:

          I could be okay with this as long as it doesn’t turn into Wasteland 2 where I’m playing all of the characters to such a degree that it feels like I’m playing none of them.

          1. John says:

            I was mostly thinking of Shadowrun. Dragonfall and Hong Kong are fairly good about allowing you use your party member’s skills to pass skill checks instead of your own. For example, some dialog options–usually the kind where you’re trying to physically intimidate someone–require Strength checks. When the designers remember to script it in–and, to be fair, they usually do–you can typically substitute another party member’s Strength for your own. Instead of saying “I am a large and threatening person” you can–if you happened to bring her with you–instead say “my friend the troll here is a large and threatening person”.

            1. Chad Miller says:

              Fun fact: I’ve messed around with the level editor and campaign data in those games, and coding a check like “Does one of your party members have Strength > 5?” is pretty much impossible. They’re all brute force checks along the lines of “Is Duncan in the party?” “Is is0bel in the party?”, etc. I suspect it’s no coincidence that Dragonfall also ditched Returns’ gigantic stable of generic mercenaries at the same time they started creating checks that effectively checked for, say, a Decker in your party even if that’s not quite how it works under the hood. I can’t remember a check about having teammates threatening people, though I distinctly remember at least one “have Eiger knock down the wall” moment in Dragonfall.

              1. John says:

                I have never once in my many play-throughs of Dragonfall ever used any of the mercenaries. I keep forgetting they exist.

                The particular Strength check I had in mind was in the Aztechnology run, where you (can) talk to a technician working on an electrical transformer outside the Aztechnology building. There’s a Strength-based intimidate option and I’m fairly sure that Eiger can do it but it’s been a few years so I may be wrong. In any case, I typically approach that conversation with some combination of Blitz’s Decking, my character’s Charisma, and some judicious bribery. I am a friendly, nice kind of murderous Shadowrunnner, apparently.

  2. Joe says:

    Unskippable cutscenes. Possibly the designers are so in love with their creation they want everyone to see it, and not miss it. Sometimes you can appreciate things more on subsequent viewings. However, those are generally voluntary.

    1. Redrock says:

      Personally, I have the opposite problem. I hate it when the skip option doesn’t include an additional confirmation, as well as unpausable cutscenes. I particularly dislike it when the pause button acts as the skip button for cutscenes.

      1. Steve C says:

        Oh man. That is rage inducing. Pause should always be pause!

      2. PPX14 says:

        Flashbacks to F3 meaning Pause! But in what? I can’t remember!

        Hold on are you saying the Pause/Break button on the keyboard allows you to pause cutscenes??

        1. Higher_Peanut says:

          The pause doing something reminds me of the last time I played the first Serious Sam. I alt-tabbed and when I came back it was paused and I couldn’t un-pause it. I had to go check the keybindings to see what was going on. I forgot keyboards even had a pause button since nothing uses it. I felt like such an idiot when I saw pause was bound to the pause button, it was so simple.

  3. Redrock says:

    I’ve been thining a lot about skill checks in RPGs recently, and I think when it comes to non-combat interactions I prefer hard locks to dice rolls. That’s what Shadowrun and Pillars of Eternity use, among other games. Reason being, I feel that dice rolls on speech checks and field skills are relics from PnP, where you can’t really reload a save and try again, and have to roll with the punches. Hard locks just make more sense in a computer RPG. Either you’re charismatic enough to convince the guy to eat his shoes, or you aren’t. Either you know enough about decking to make an observation, or you aren’t. Also, you can’t really reload and instantly reallocate your points – you have to actually, y’know, role play with the character you’ve got.

    1. Syal says:

      Similar opinion. There should always be a point where success is guaranteed, and if there’s any randomness it should be in the player’s favor if they haven’t reached the guaranteed success mark. For all mechanics, not just non-combat.

    2. Chad Miller says:

      I think this sort of problem is what led to the Shadowrun Returns games and their Etiquettes. In short: most speech checks are not Charisma checks. Instead Charisma lets you choose Etiquettes like “Academic” or “Security” or “Gang” which let you pass specialized checks in certain situations, e.g. bluffing your way past a police checkpoint using Security or using Academic to pump a scientist for information.

      My presumed logic looks something like this:

      * We want a mechanic based on Charisma that lets the player talk their way out of certain situations.
      * There’s not really a way to add player skill to the mechanic, as the player is just clicking one button. This tends to create an all/nothing situation.
      * We could avoid the all/nothing problem by giving a random chance of failure and reducing that chance as Charisma gets higher, but players will hate you for making them save scum every time they have an important conversation. If you find a way to prevent save scumming, they’ll hate you even more for not letting them save scum.
      * Since we’re using a point buy system where the player can increase their Charisma as the game progresses, there are really only two reasonable strategies: Buy no Charisma at all, or buy exactly enough to keep up with all the Charisma checks in the game.
      * If the optimal amount of Charisma is too low, every strategy guide says to get exactly X Charisma. If X is too high for everyone to do it, people complain that they feel compelled to sink all their points into going all-in on Charisma, or that character creation encouraged them to put any points in such a useless stat, etc

      The Etiquettes are another attempt to duplicate something important lost in changing to a threshold system in that a moderate investment in Charisma is now useful. You can sink just enough points to get Gang and Security for your Street Samurai, or have a 2-CHA Academic Hacker and have those choices be entirely valid.

      1. Geebs says:

        My preferred option is probably to have speech checks based on information discovered during the course of a game, rather than a stat. That works well as long as the script avoids the issue of having the player know something that the character doesn’t.

        1. Chad Miller says:

          I agree this is awesome. Fallout and Shadowrun: Hong Kong are my favorite final boss dialog trees for this exact reason. I definitely find it a lot cooler to ruin a boss with information earned over the course of the game than to have my Speech 100% character just walk up and debunk the villain’s plan in ten seconds.

          1. Redrock says:

            True, but I think that Shadowrun does a great job with using certain skill checks to for preexisting knowledge. Makes sense that a decker would be well-versed in decker lore and whatever creepypasta is making the rounds on the message boards.

  4. tmtvl says:

    Why is there a link labelled Diecast 273 that links to Diecast 258 under the Hosts and Editor line?

    1. Shamus says:

      You fool! You asked this question, and now you have to listen to my needlessly long rant:

      This is my solution for the The eternally-broken RSS feed. See, WordPress will only add the proper iTunes / podcast tags if it sees a link to an MP3 in the body of the article. I have some shortcode that creates this automatically. In the body, I just type…

      [diecast272]

      …and my theme will expand that into the embedded player and the links to the MP3 and OGG, all formatted correctly. This means that if I need to make some global changes (perhaps I decide to host the audio files off-site, or I want to use a different audio player) I just need to edit the code and the information will be changed globally. I wouldn’t need to manually edit 273 individual posts.

      But WordPress is set up so that it runs my shortcode AFTER it looks for the audio link. You’re supposed to be able to set up your shortcode to run FIRST, before ANYTHING ELSE happens, but WordPress evidently has a very flexible definition of “first”. WordPress sees that there’s no link to an MP3 in the text, just a weird little “[diecastNNN]” that doesn’t mean anything to it. So it concludes that this post is NOT a podcast. THEN it runs the shortcode and expands that into MP3 links, but it’s too late. It’s already decided this post isn’t a podcast.

      I’ve tried to get around this with various plugins, and they’ve been various flavors of terrible, broken, or needlessly complicated for the VERY SIMPLE thing I’m trying to do.

      All I need is a link to the MP3 in the body of the post. So I tried making an empty link. I manually added a link to the body of the post, with the text being a single empty space so it would be invisible on the page. WordPress sees this link, and builds the RSS feed. It’s an ugly hack, but it works. All good, right?

      EXCEPT…

      On future edits, the way-too-helpful WordPress Editor sees an invisible link, concludes that the stupid incompetent user must have made a mistake, so it SILENTLY DELETES the link. So it would work when I first author and publish the post, but if I had to go back and edit the post (for example, if I forgot to add the page break for the millionth time and the whole post wound up on the front page) then when I saved my edits, it would kill my invisible link. THEN it would see the post doesn’t have an MP3 link, and is therefore not a podcast, and would create a non-podcast RSS feed for it.

      The only solution is to place a stupid ugly useless physical link. Now, I could probably use some fancy CSS moves to hide that stupid link, but that means adding a bunch of markup to the post, and the ENTIRE REASON I made the shortcode was to avoid having big ugly blocks of hard-coded HTML in my text.

      And so we get this.

      1. tmtvl says:

        Oh right, you did mention that way back when. I shouldn’t try to do too much thinking on Mondays, it just doesn’t go well.

      2. Steve C says:

        Ok. That explains why there is a link. But that just adds further questions! Why is the link to the old 258 rather than current 273?
        Also if you hate the link, couldn’t you hide it in a period in the byline or something? For example: “Hosts: Paul, Shamus.
        This post had a couple of great Futurama meme links. It got marked as spam. :-(

        1. Taellosse says:

          Nor does it explain why that link has now been edited to point to episode 272!

        2. Shamus says:

          One of the other advantages of using shortcode is that I only need to change one number. Just change the number in the brackets, and it changes everywhere. But now I have to change the shortcode, and change the link, and change the link text. That’s three times as many things for me to forget!

          You’d think it wouldn’t be easy to mess up a process so simple, but I manage to pull it off anyway.

          1. Taellosse says:

            So I inferred, and I don’t actually blame you. But I was attempting to facetiously point out that when you fixed the link in question, you pointed it to last week’s episode by mistake, even though the visible number matches this one.

            1. toadicus says:

              Can confirm — manual link points to 272 as of 0807 PDT.

          2. Eric says:

            My podcast player, AntennaPod, downloads and plays whatever is in the manual link. So for example, when I first fired it up today, it played the file from episode 258 (which I assume it downloaded on Monday). I deleted the file and re-downloaded, so now I have episode 272, which still isn’t quite right.

  5. Arkady English says:

    On unskippable cutscenes:

    A common strategy is to use the cutscene as a kind of loading screen. The cutscene plays while the game loads the next level, because however boring a cutscene is, it’s probably more interesting than just watching a loading icon.

    A dead giveaway for this is when the “skip cutscene” prompt isn’t available at the start of the cutscene, but shows up at some point during the cutscene. But if it takes longer to load the level than to play the cutscene, you’ll just have to deal with a cutscene that is, in practice, unskippable.

    In some game engines (Unreal Engine is often used this way) state changes are based on animations. That means if a building gets blown up in a cutscene, leaving only a crater, the only way to transition like this is to play the cutscene it happens in. (A more common example of this is NPC placement.) Unfortunately, this sometimes means there isn’t an easy way around it to just skip the cutscene. Especially if the cutscene is shown at a particular camera angle to stop the “building falling down” animation looking wrong.

    1. Matthew Downie says:

      “A dead giveaway for this is when the “skip cutscene” prompt isn’t available at the start of the cutscene, but shows up at some point during the cutscene.”
      Sometimes this is because they don’t want you to accidentally press the skip button just as the cutscene starts.

    2. Olivier FAURE says:

      In some game engines (Unreal Engine is often used this way) state changes are based on animations. That means if a building gets blown up in a cutscene, leaving only a crater, the only way to transition like this is to play the cutscene it happens in. (A more common example of this is NPC placement.)

      Huh, that’s interesting. I’m very interested in how different games handle these kinds of state changes, because they’re often a thorny problem. Do you have links on the subject?

    3. Sleeping Dragon says:

      And then there are the infamous ME2 loading screen animations that were meant to just make loading visually more interesting than a static screen. Except for some inexplicable reason nobody thought that maybe the animations should be cut short if the loading is finished and so we have “me2 faster loading mods” that do nothing more than remove/replace the animations.

    4. shoeboxjeddy says:

      Gears 5 notably is using its cutscenes for loading. There was a problem with quicksaves over the weekend, so I was replaying the last battle of the very first part (Act 1, Chapter 1). Then I attempted to quickly mash through every cutscene I’d already watched. Generally, I had to wait about 20 to 35 seconds on each one, on a regular old Xbox One (not S, not X).

  6. Lino says:

    I really liked how the Pizza Game trailer started, but for me, it severely wore out its welcome about 2-3 minutes in. Hopefully, the game turns out fun.

    I actually hadn’t thought of the sheep analogy in Baba is You. Probably because in most Slavic languages, “baba” means “grandmother”, and that’s the only analogy I’ve thought of when it comes to that game (although it looks fun and I can’t wait to play it).

    In regards to RPG hyperinflation, I think Path of Exile deals with it beautifully. The game doesn’t have gold. Instead, it uses a bartering system. There are many currency items that are also used for other purposes. E.g. two of the most basic currency items are scraps of Scrolls of Identify and scraps of Scrolls of Town Portal. Ten of these (or maybe it was five?) make a full scroll. You can use the scraps (or the scrolls themselves) in order to trade with vendors or players, and the completed items themselves can be used for identifying items, and making town portals. There are a ton of currency items, and on the higher levels players use much more advanced ones, but the concept is the same. It also ties into the game’s aesthetic – you’re in a world full of exiled prisoners, surviving in an extremely hostile place, so it makes sense that you wouldn’t have a generally accepted form of currency that has no intrinsic value. I’ve never gotten that far into the game (it’s just not for me), so I don’t know if the system holds up during the endgame, but it’s a very elegant solution.

    In terms of Dimitri’s question about game burnout, I had that happen to me a couple of months ago – I just couldn’t muster the desire to start playing new games that I had previously been anticipating. I was even questioning whether I still liked games anymore. My solution was to play some old favourites of mine – games I had fond memories of as a kid, and ones I knew pretty well. And I had a total blast! I realized that the reason for my lack of interest just stemmed from the fact that I’ve just been so mentally exhausted from my brain-dead job, that I just didn’t have the desire to subject myself to new stimuli. So what I needed to get out of the lull I was in was something I felt comfortable with. Now, I’m much more open to trying new games. I’m even currently playing a few.
    Now all that’s left is the problem that, once I get back from sitting at a computer desk at work, I don’t want to spend my free time sitting at a computer desk at home :D

    1. Syal says:

      I’ve seen a couple Youtubers say it’s a sheep, but the rabbit impression is so strong I’m still not convinced it’s not supposed to be pronounced “Babba”.

      1. Geebs says:

        But, Baba is Ewe

        1. Syal says:

          After a quick ewe image search; that’s still a rabbit.

          Going to start calling it Baba Ewe-man or something.

    2. Higher_Peanut says:

      PoE doesn’t have a barter system at all with other players. The first thing people did was declare a trade currency so noone would ever have to deal with that. Exalted orbs are for high end items and Chaos orbs are for nearly all others and making change. It’s just gold by another name.

      It tries to counter inflation by giving each currency a use, but that only goes so far. It’s nearly always better to buy something off someone else than try to make your own because that’s just the nature of multiplayer. The economy is held together by total resets in each league (3 month ladder).

  7. Dreadjaws says:

    Pizza Game has a demo on Steam, FYI (FUN Your Information), if you want to try it.

    It’s quite a bit of fun. Every time it looks like it’s gonna get old the game throws you something different that’ll make you laugh. I don’t know its value as a visual novel, but as a comedy experience is pretty hilarious. There’s an astounding attention to detail too.

  8. Ninety-Three says:

    On game scoring, I think individual scores are pretty useless because there’s way too much variance due to the taste of the reviewer, but I think feeding all the reviews into metacritic produces something useful. The tool lets you know that, to the average person, Shoot Guy 3 was worse than Shoot Guy 2, or Arty Bighead Puzzle Platformer #47 got almost as many points as Braid so it’s probably pretty good if you liked Braid.

  9. Joshua says:

    Broken game economics goes back to good old D&D. There’s an economy that works fine for a few levels, and then around level 4 or 5 the PCs have too much money for most mundane things to be an issue*, and they could conceivably retire or at least take it easy for a few years.

    Second Edition released a price guide for magic items but said there shouldn’t be “Magic Marts”. Third and Fourth said, “Fine, there are Magic Marts”. Fifth Edition really rolled them back, giving only broad ranges for magic item prices and trying to stipulate that most items would be pretty rare and sold only on special occasions, like precious art in the real world, but then the game once again has the problem that you can get to the point where money becomes a non-object to PCs.

    The original Sword and Sorcery epics of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser and Conan had the characters acquiring large sums of treasure and then somehow spending or squandering most of it so they would go back out on adventure, so I don’t recall there ever being an issue where the main character basically retired from adventuring because they were obscenely rich.

    *There were gold sinks for higher level players in the form of large capital projects like personal keeps and Wizard’s towers that you could customize, but that’s not attractive to every character, especially in games where the players start new characters every once in awhile.

    1. Hal says:

      Wasn’t it the case back in the day that XP was awarded on a 1:1 basis for the gold collected?,

      1. Matthew Downie says:

        Yes. This fixed one issue: “Oh, great, we found another 50,000gp that we don’t want or need,” became, “Oh, great! We found another 50,000gp; now I can level up!”

        But it still left the question of what to do with the gold afterwards.

        There were rules saying that in order to level up you had to pay a trainer, but hardly anyone used those, because nobody wanted to interrupt adventures by looking for a trainer for one particular character.

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      My experience is mainly 3-3.5 so peak “magic mart” and yeah, it’s really kinda messy when you think about it. Essentially the economy works on two levels, the “everyday” and the “adventurer” level, and These Should Never Touch. I’m not at home so can’t check with the actual sourcebook but essentially everyday needs and things that, you know, normal people would use are mostly priced in copper: food, commoner clothes, some non-magical gear that’s potentially useful for adventuring like tents, lanterns, ropes etc. you can generally equip a non-magical adventuring party for a handful of silver at the most. As soon as magic enters into the equation we jump from the “handful of silver for a decent lifestyle” into “hundreds and thousands of gold pieces”.

      Gameplaywise this is conductive to the intended experience, on the one hand players who are on their way to fight a dragon are not supposed to be bothered with a price of a meal, on the other if magic gear was cheap every single peasant would have a +100 Vorpal Scythe of Wheat Slaying. Problems sprout mainly where these two levels are meant to interact. While there is some handwaving that a lot of the price of magic items is for materials or tools at some point money needs to enter into the equation. It is utterly preposterous that a smith would hold thousands upon thousands of gp worth of materials to make gear they would sell with, say, just a handful of gold in profit. Wizards have a similar justification with spell components (the 1000gp worth pearl that gets consumed in an id spell), the price of research materials etc. but ultimately a wizard that does not want a floating island with an interdminensional teleporting tower but would be satisfied with even a moderate mansion can find a couple high utility, low level and cost spells and live comfortably for the rest of their life.

      To illustrate with an example I’ve seen one campaign where a player in the “low thousands” range of gear worth made a habit of tipping people with gold. “The stablehand carries your luggage to the inn” “oh, I tip him 20 gold”… “the stablehand does not need to work for the rest of the year”, “it’s still peanuts to me”. And yes, sure, the GM can compensate with some roleplay, for example swarming the PC with sycophants as the word spreads they’re throwing around small fortunes but ultimately this just draws attention to how broken the system is.

      1. Matthew Downie says:

        Arguably this is no more “broken” than real world economies. A guy with billion dollars could amuse himself by buying you a $100,000 car without it affecting his own lifestyle; it’s only 0.01% of his wealth. A moderately well-paid American can experience something similar by travelling to a country where $500 is a year’s wages.

        Of course, in real life we take the world more seriously than PCs do. So even if we could tip someone $2,000, we’d rather invest it, give it to our favourite charity, or whatever.

      2. Joshua says:

        But if magic doesn’t typically enter the equation of the economy, as reflected in 1st, 2nd, and 5th Editions, you end up with the situation where you’re still going adventuring and acquiring about the same amount of money treasure as in previous editions, but now you have almost nothing to spend it on.

        In the first few levels, you are acquiring wealth at a rate higher than mundane expenses, but only by a moderate amount. My personal mental translation of D&D currency is that a Gold Piece is worth about $100 USD*. So, if you’re first level and getting 100 gold for an adventure reward, that’s about $10,000. That will get you enough money to live at an inn for awhile and get some decent gear, but you won’t be able to stay out of the game for long. However, at just a few later levels you can start getting tens of thousands of gold pieces during a single adventure, which translates into tens of millions of U.S. dollars. The economy starts getting weird when a level 5 mercenary is basically in the 1%, and it’s basically all liquid funds.

        *Like anything, this works well for some translations, but not for others. It helps if you view the cost of an item in how much it would cost for a local to make it, not a cheap import. Some normal, and not so normal examples below.

        A candle is $1, a loaf of bread or mug of ale goes for $3-5. Those all sound perfectly reasonable.
        A set of “Common Clothes” cost $50. Eh, close enough. An unskilled laborer costs about $20/day, well that’s kind of cheap but I guess you’re employing the homeless? Maybe a gold should be worth more than $100?
        Wait, a suit of plate armor now costs $150,000? Maybe a gold should be worth a lot less than $100?
        A vial of basic poison now runs $10,000? Assassins will have to charge a fortune to cover their basic costs!
        And so on.

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          Oh to be clear I’m not advocating for some drastic change to the system or saying that those systems are fundamentally broken in some way that prevents enjoyment from playing (for most people at least). Was just pointing out where I think the major hiccup lies in that specific system since it was mentioned. Personally nowadays I lean towards systems that abstract resources into, at best, broad categories.

  10. Dreadjaws says:

    I don’t think I get burnout playing games. What I do get is “Netflix syndrome”, where the selection of available titles is so large I spend such a long time thinking what to play next that I either end up just picking an old favorite or doing something else entirely for a while until I decide on something. I feel overwhelmed by the increasingly large amount of options. I really do have too many games.

    1. Duoae says:

      Yeah, this is me to a “T”. I sometimes get paralysed by the choice and the decision of whether I really want to invest time in a title that I don’t understand or might not want to navigate. Let’s face it, some games require a LOT of investment (not just in time but in understanding the rules) to get through.

      Unfortunately, that also leaves me with “the pile”… which actually hasn’t been getting bigger for a few years now as I’ve become very selective of what I purchase over time. I think I was ruined by the early Steam sales whereI bought a lot of stuff cheap and then just didn’t have the time/will to play them.

      Saying that i sometimes also get a little way into a game and realise that it’s too tiring to learn the systems. Usually, I stop playing with a vow I’ll come back to it when I’m in the mood…. which is usually years later!

    2. Higher_Peanut says:

      The old arch enemy, choice paralysis. Made even worse as over time people tend to have less time for games and want to guarantee that the time is well spent. So you can end up trending towards what you know is enjoyable rather than dealing with an overwhelming amount of options and taking a risk.

  11. Ninety-Three says:

    Shamus’ comments on skill checks got me thinking. It’s a good point that you swing your sword hundreds of times so the randomness “evens out” in a way it doesn’t for rarer speech checks. But that argument applies just as well to tabletop roleplaying, and I’ve never heard anyone even propose D&D’s Bluff be made diceless.

    I think it comes down to the consequences for failure. In videogames, the biggest* use of speech checks is unlocking quest content. There are lots of games where if you haven’t spent the right social skill points, you can’t complete some of the quests, or you can’t get the best outcome. In a good tabletop game, the players can always recover from a botched speech check, it’s exciting to face the possibility of the rogue’s lie falling apart because then you’ll have to improvise. But a fundamental limitation of the computer RPG medium is that the players can’t improvise, they can only pick from a list of dialogue options. In videogames, failing a speech check just means “I guess I don’t get to do that quest” or “I guess I get to take the combat route the developers created for barbarians with no speech skills”. That’s much less interesting, so videogames need to try harder than tabletop to avoid it.

    *Maybe not the most common, but the most important

    1. Mephane says:

      Add to that how some games attach extra rewards for solving a situation by using that kind of skill check – e.g. in The Witcher 3, any time you use Axii to Jedi-mind-trick someone, you get some bonus XP. So basically every single guide tells ignore every other skill and max out that one ASAP, and use it every time you get the option, even if you can solve the situation otherwise.

      And then this is just a particular case of a common trap in RPGs where the designers decided that certain approaches are more “correct” than others, thus awarding extra XP/loot/whatever for that approach. See Deus Ex HR and MD, where you get extra XP for not being detected in a mission, and also extra XP for not killing anyone, and also extra XP if a take-down is non-lethal… so the optimal way is to sneak around and incapacitate everyone. (It gets worse when you realize you can enter some areas before you have the quest to go there, incapacitate everyone, then do the quest and either you get a new set of mooks to get XP from, or can just stroll through the compound while everyone is still unconscious.)

      In my view the ideal solution is to simply provide multiple approaches to any situation, treat none of them as “correct”, award identical XP and comparable (not necessarily identical, but equally valuable) loot for each, and make them or at least their rewards strictly exclusive of each other (i.e. no convincing the guard to let you through, get some bonux XP, then kill them anyway for another batch of XP). In the grander scheme of thinks, think of it less than individual actions and more as a whole encounter. There is an obstacle you need to overcome, and overcoming (which includes circumventing, e.g. sneaking past something or someone) it is what is rewarded, not the individual action performed in the process.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        To add injury to insult most games have “unavoidable combat, avoidable everything else”, meaning that if you want the extra experience (or even just lore, or the good feeling of solving things “the smart way”) you get by using non-combat skills you have to initially make combat more difficult by not developing it. DX:HR (particularly before they patched in semi-non-combat ways to deal with the bosses), bonus experience for conversations, bonus experience from hacking… enter the bossfight where all you can do is take bullets to the face. The new Fallout games are another similar example, you can develop speech, you can develop science and lockpicking for extra lore, loot and opening non-combat paths… but eventually you’ll have to fight the supermutants or ghouls and even stealthing around (aside from tediousness) may not be an option. Whereas if you develop combat you can always punch your way through a challenge.

        1. Mephane says:

          Here’s hoping Cyberpunk 2077 gets this right…

      2. Duoae says:

        You made me have a thought here:

        In my view the ideal solution is to simply provide multiple approaches to any situation, treat none of them as “correct”, award identical XP and comparable (not necessarily identical, but equally valuable) loot for each, and make them or at least their rewards strictly exclusive of each other (i.e. no convincing the guard to let you through, get some bonux XP, then kill them anyway for another batch of XP).

        What if XP had different types? I mean, okay, you persuade the guard and then kill him but it doesn’t really make sense to provide XP multiple based on achieving the same result (getting past the guard). So, for me, either the activity assigns XP to the type of skill utilised or the result assigns activity – but not for using multiple methods to achieve that result.

        Although games like Dungeon Siege had that mechanic (do this more and so you’re better at it) and it makes sense on a logical level, though in-game it’s a little trite because you necessarily reinforce whichever manner you’re playing in, I think it makes more sense to reward the result and nothing inbetween that and the starting state.

  12. Tomato says:

    Baba Is You is a really cool puzzle game, very challenging. And once you start delving into the optional content it gets even crazier.

  13. DeadlyDark says:

    Shamus, if you want a non-dating visual novel, I recommend Steins;Gate. I played it last year, since the art looked cool. Must say, story, mobile phone mechanics (instead of dialog choices) and music are pretty cool as well. Plus, more or less thought up time travel shenanigans.

    Kinda want to try some other visual novels some time in the future

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      I could see Steins;Gate really annoying Shamus, for the same reasons it annoyed me. The first half is a time travel story that is all about the details and mechanics of its time travel mechanism, and exploring their logical consequences. The second half throws out all of that for a drama-first sappy character piece where even time travel can’t avoid the unexplained force of “destiny” and people can remember things that happened to them in other timelines literally because of the Power of Friendship.

      Either of those could be a good story but I am baffled that an author thought both belonged in the same story.

      1. DeadlyDark says:

        It worked for me, since it made a point of switch is clear, plus the first half made me care about the characters enough to carry the story on their strength.

        S;G0’s story, which I played right afterwards, on the other hand, is hard to parse, sometimes

      2. Retsam says:

        I disagree that the second half throws out all the details and mechanics and logical consequences of the first half. It does cheat a bit for the sake of drama: mostly the memories thing. A lot of people don’t like the concept of “attractor fields” and don’t think the story does well enough explaining why they exist; but their mechanics are pretty clearly explained and I think are important to making the plot comprehensible instead of being like Primer.

        Honestly I feel Shamus would have a bigger issue with how steeped in anime tropes the whole thing is. I know he watched anime back in the day, but it’s been awhile; and especially the VN (from the bits I’ve played) is filled with terms like “chuunibyou”. (The dubbed anime is less bad in this regard; I know the topic here is “visual novels”, but an 8 hour anime might be a better option than a 24 hour VN anyway…)

        1. DeadlyDark says:

          S;G has an in-built encyclopedia for the terms like it (like Mass Effect Codex). Actually, after playing S;G I started to better understand anime-related lingo. So, I guess its also an educational game

          Why go for anime* if it didn’t adapt the full lecture about time travel theories? (I joke, I joke; but I loved the lecture)

          *I only saw the first episode. See no reason to watch it full, tbh

          1. Fizban says:

            On the other hand, I’ve never played the game (heck it only became easily available what, the last couple years?) but I put the Stein’s Gate anime on my list of “anime to suggest to people who don’t watch anime” because it’s just a good sci-fi time travel conspiracy drama whatever story. And if the VN uses more technical science and “science” than the anime, clashing with the rest of the story, then the anime would sound preferable to me.

      3. Higher_Peanut says:

        I watched the anime of Steins Gate and it had the same issue. At some points the whole world is at stake and at others it focuses entirely character drama. They’re tied together in the story so the switch makes sense but it sure as hell causes some major tonal whiplash.

    2. Christopher says:

      Phoenix Wright & Ghost Trick are my favorite non-boning visual novels. Though, I dunno, I think the line between visual novel and point & click adventure game is pretty arbitrary. Do animations and minor puzzles really change the genre if you’re still mostly reading conversations and inner monologue? Is a point & click adventure game that’s streamlined down to almost entirely conversation still an adventure game and not a novel with visual bits to it?

      I have like zero interest in debating where the lines are drawn, but in terms of recommendations, the quality non-datey story games I’ve had a good time with are the Phoenix Wright games, Ghost Trick, Unavowed, To The Moon and Night in the Woods.

      1. sheer_falacy says:

        I haven’t played Phoenix Wright and I suspect most people wouldn’t categorize either of them as visual novels but I definitely do recommend Ghost Trick. It has a really well done story with some fantastic characters and twists.

    3. Gresman says:

      My visual novel recommendation with interesting puzzle gameplay is the Zero Time Dilemma Series.

      I enjoyed them a lot. Had soem interesting twists in the story in the other endings after the first one.

  14. DeadlyDark says:

    Listening to Shamus, about dialog skill checks. Can’t help but remember Age of Decadence. Lots of skill checks (not just speech, but strength, trading, lore, sneak and such). Amount of skill points earned is very limited. It didn’t had dice rolls. Metagame of how to spend points on skills is a problem on itself. I think it was a bit controversial among players? The author of the game had a lot of discussions about it on RPGCodex and his own forum. I do think, that the conversation about dialogs and skillchecks is very fascinating

    1. tmtvl says:

      Ah, AoD. I’ve started it three times and each and every time I end up quitting after the first major chapter because I just don’t find the setting and story interesting.

      It still seems very interesting.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        I recommend rolling a Scholar and playing as a zero-combat skill monkey, if you haven’t already. It’s basically “archaeologist”, and I found poking around mysterious ancient ruins to be easily the most compelling part of AoD.

  15. Chris says:

    As a dyslectic just watching the video of pizza time hurt my head. Pretty much every typo, grammar error and misread line is how i normally read text, then after processing the text’s meaning i realize it doesnt make sense and reread the sentence and realize i somehow misread words.

    As for speech systems. I rather have someone split the combat and speech skills. So every levelup you get a combat exp point to spend, and a speech exp point. You have different methods to increase like intimidation and charm. And you can make different kind of characters. So if you make a knight you can make a people’s hero, who can easily chat with the common peasant, but is seen as a slob by the elite. Or a noble knight that knows all the rules of hospitality and rules of conversation, he can win the king’s favor, but peasants think him a stuck up person. Or a learned person who can impress some people with his sincerity and will to want the truth and understanding, but might be too blunt and theoretical for the social game that most people play.

    1. Thomas says:

      I love this idea of splitting the two up. I could see doing it with something like a perk system even. Sort of like Alpha Protocol or the ‘Black Widow’ perks in Fallout

  16. Moridin says:

    Re: Speech checks There are actually some tabletop RPGs(Burning Wheel is the most commonly brought up example, though I’ve never played it) with somewhat elaborate social combat rules. I wonder how well something like that would translate into a videogame. Probably not too well if you’re going to have the entire thing voice acted.

  17. Joshua says:

    “If the player can defeat them by the hundreds”.

    To be fair, if you went out and killed several hundred people representing a a broad swathe of society from low to high, could loot all of their assets/possessions and sell them for at least half their purchase price, and face no legal or social repercussions, odds are that you would have trouble finding ways to spend your money too.

  18. Will says:

    I suspect the way game scores seem to have a “curve” comes from school grading.
    A=9-10
    B=8-9
    C=7-8
    D=6-7
    F= Superman64.

    1. Gresman says:

      Now this begs two questions:
      1) How come that this curve appears in countries, which have a different kind of grading scale?
      and
      2) Why does this only affect video game reviews?

      I have theories on both.
      ad 1) because each grading scale can be similarily be approximated. But in Austria the breakpoint for the F equivalent is usually at 50%. So I will jug it up to the fact that the american scoring had some kind of influence.

      ad 2) It is due to the fact that games were more for school kids or something like that.

      As a sidenote: I recommend to read up on international school grading systems. It gets bonkers.

      1. Lino says:

        In Bulgaria, for example, we have a 5-tier grading system which is a combination of words and numbers:
        – Excellent (6) – the highest
        – Very Good (5)
        – Good (4)
        – Average (3) – it could also be translated as “middle”
        – Weak (2) – which is the lowest
        Every grade except for (2) can have halves which are rounded up (e.g. (5) and 1/2 is rounded to (6), but a (2) is always a (2)).
        During Socialist times (1945-1989) we also had Bad (1) which was only given for cheating, copying, or very bad behavior.
        This system is a combination of the Russian and German ones, and came about after a history of shifting interests and allegiances. In Russia, they go from 1 to 5, 5 being the highest, and 1 being the lowest, while the Germans have a system going from 1 to 6, where 6 is the lowest, and 1 is the highest.

        1. Gresman says:

          As a fitting sidenote: Austrians have the german system but without the 6.

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      I don’t think it’s school grades, those are based on requirements and what would even be “50% required graphics”? Personally I think it’s because games were such a quickly evolving medium. You hardly could give a game a lower score than something that was released a year before, looked half as good and played half as smooth. I mean, it’s only 10 years between the first Might and Magic (not Heroes of) and Daggerfall, and another 15 years to Skyrim, And then the scores kinda peaked because there is no more scale and we’re in a sense trapped in the 7-10 range.

      1. Gresman says:

        Intriguing idea.
        Would it be possible to make a scale adjustment where our current 7-10 covers 4-10?
        Now would be a good time as Shamus stated somewhere: Hardware has stabilized in the last years so there are currently no great changes coming.
        Or maybe rethinking the mode of scoring migth be nice as well.

  19. Mark says:

    Baba Is You suffers from the same fault most “reprogram the environment” games have: if you could really reprogram the environment, you’d just teleport to the flag like a Super Mario World speedrunner jumping to the end credits and trivialize every level. So as soon as you come up with some awesome way of jumping out of the system (“I can turn the walls into me and move them around!!”) the game then immediately walls it off, usually literally, in every subsequent level, leaving you with ever more fiddly puzzles dependent on doing ever less flashy things. It quickly turns into just a sokoban game where you can swap blocks of certain types from time to time.

    1. Olivier FAURE says:

      Yeah, it’s advertised like an Infinifactory-style sandbox where you use your imagination and there are endless possibilities, but it’s more of a Portal-style closed room game, where there’s one very specific answer to each puzzle and you have to analyze how the game mechanics work together to find it.

    2. sheer_falacy says:

      There are puzzles where a lot of stuff is walled off but there are also puzzles that really let you do some crazy stuff. There’s a level where you pilot around the word “IS” and it feels awesome, though I wish they’d done more with it.

  20. Exasperation says:

    The confusion over whether the Minecraft graphical update was being canceled or not is likely because they had announced an upcoming graphical update in 2017 (the “Super Duper Graphics Pack”), and they just announced they were canceling that in favor of “Render Dragon”, the new rendering engine with the RTX support.
    The best information that I could see about when it will be available is that the Bedrock Beta version will get an option to toggle ray tracing on “in the new year” (so, sometime in 2020, I guess).

  21. Douglas Sundseth says:

    Tennis scoring is not so simple as N/15, the sequence is 0 – 15 – 30 – 40 (not 45). And if both players have 40, then you go to “Advantage – Deuce”. Oh, and in English, 0 is called “love”, of course.

    1. Lino says:

      That makes even LESS sense! This comment prompted me to look up the origins of this bizarre scoring system, and there are two theories – one of them says it’s because the French used clocks to tell the score, and moved the minute hand by a quarter whenever someone made a point, and the game ended when the hand reached 60. But in order to avoid a player winning by just one point, the penultimate point is 40 instead of 45, and if the player fails to score two consecutive points, his score doesn’t advance.
      The other – more plausible theory – states that tennis scoring is based on the scoring of used by the very popular at the time game of jeu de paume (also known as “real tennis”, as opposed to the fake tennis people are apparently playing nowadays). In that, whenever someone scored, they would move forward 15 feet.
      So thanks for that – I learned a very interesting story which teaches us the very important lesson that the French should never be trusted with inventing anything!

      1. Matthew Downie says:

        They invented the Metric system and resisted the temptation to make it go 15, 30, 40…

        1. Lino says:

          I assume its inventor received a lifetime of ridicule from his fellow countrymen.

      2. Philadelphus says:

        I read a theory that it has to do with syllables: according to that theory the original scoring was zero, fifteen, thirty, forty-five, sixty. (I don’t remember why that was the case.) All those words have two syllables, except forty-five, which has three, so it was changed to forty to fit in with the two-syllable pattern.

        I read this a long time ago and I don’t speak French so I can’t say if this also works in French or is a convenient post hoc fabrication, but I thought I’d pass it on.

        1. Lino says:

          I also don’t speak French, but I just used Google Translate on 0, 15, 30, 40, 45 and 60, and the way most of them are spelled suggests that they should have more than two syllables. However, French is a language that hates humanity, and most (if not all) words are not pronounced in the same way they’re spelled. So, using Google’s feature to hear the word, all of the numbers mentioned above sound like two-syllable words. All except 45 which sounds like a three-syllable word :D.
          So this theory also sounds plausible.

          1. JjmaCXIII says:

            To my knowledge, pronouncing these numbers in french: 15 (quinze) and 30 (trente) are one-syllable. 0 (zéro), 40 (quarante) and 60 (soixante) are two syllables. 45 (quarante-cinque) is three syllables.

            I learned french up until the end of high school. Basic numbers are usually one of the earlier things to learn though.

            1. Lino says:

              Thanks for the info! I guess the theory doesn’t check out…

  22. John says:

    I’ve said this before (in the comments on the most recent Baldur’s Gate post) but I like how Knights of the Old Republic handled loot drops, inventory, and the in-game economy. Equipment isn’t a huge deal in Knights of the Old Republic. It matters, certainly, but it, uh, pales in comparison to the power of the Force. Dead enemies drop medpacks, stimpacks, grenades, and sometimes more. They very rarely drop weapons and armor, however. Judging by their character models, mook enemies in KotOR are generally packing blaster pistols, blaster rifles, and vibroblades. But these are the same sort of weapons that are available to the player from the very beginning of the game. It doesn’t matter that the player can’t collect them because the player is already packing as-good or better. When an enemy does drop a good piece of loot, it’s almost always (and possibly always always) a named or an obviously non-mook enemy. It makes sense that an enemy of that type would have something worth grabbing.

    Then there’s the fact that KotOR is a Star Wars game. Star Wars protagonists are people on a mission. For a certain kind of player, it may seem unrealistic or be unsatisfying that he can’t completely strip the corpses of his fallen enemies, but it preserves versimillitude. KotOR isn’t going for realism. It’s going for Star Wars, and, while there may be murderous junk-dealers in Star Wars–I have my suspicions about those Jawas, man–the main characters in Star Wars movies are never murderous junk-dealers. (Unless there’s something about the sequels I don’t know, and if there is then please don’t tell me about it.) They’re people on a mission, not dealers in scrap. They don’t have time for that sort of thing.

    So I’d say that one way to solve the RPG economy problem is to choose mechanics that de-emphasize loot and to use pacing, plot, and theme to discourage a looty playstyle. It should always feel more natural to the player to go on and do the next thing than to go back and re-do the thing he just did. If that means eliminating infinitely re-spawning enemies and random encounters or even getting rid of grind completely, then, well, that’s fine with me.

    1. Mephane says:

      I frankly would prefer loot in story-heavy single player RPGs (i.e. not talking about ARPGs, MMORPGs, looter shooters etc) to be reduced to a system of fixed unlocks the likes of which you find in your typical non-RPG action game. Something like Darksiders, where you have different weapons and various upgrades for them, and tend to just use whatever weapon suits your play style. For example, The Witcher 3 improved for me immensely once I installed a mod that auto-levells all gear to my character level, so once I found a piece of armor or a sword I liked, I could just keep using that and not bother finding something similar every couple of levels (in the process also being able to stick to a consistent and visually pleasing look instead of a suit of armor cobbled together from random bits that are changed swapped out frequently).

    2. Matthew Downie says:

      If Han Solo had looted all that Stormtrooper armor and sold it, he’d have been able to pay off his debts in no time.

      1. Philadelphus says:

        I was going to make a joke about his carrying capacity being too low due to Strength being a dump stat for him, but then in a flash of insight I realized why he keeps Chewbacca around.

  23. Syal says:

    Games with systems that could potentially avoid Infinite Money Syndrome:

    Lisa the Painful has limited amounts of money in the game; the few repeatable fights never dropped money, and the main source of money involves risking character permadeath. Spending money is a big deal in that one.

    Final Fantasy 8 had a salary system, where the gold you got was based on steps taken and items monsters dropped sold for nearly nothing. It being Final Fantasy 8, the system was extremely breakable once you knew what you were doing, and the game had barely anything to spend gold on anyway, the real currency was spells.

    Trails in the Sky enemies didn’t drop gold directly, they dropped seven different kinds of magic shards. You could sell the shards for money, but you couldn’t buy new shards, and everything magic required increasingly large amounts of shards, and specific combinations of shards, and local enemies almost never dropped all seven types at once, so you were encouraged to hoard them all and be poor forever to avoid bottlenecking on your magics.

    Dragon Cliff just exponentially increased costs after a while. The gold required to buy your 11th character slot was enough to buy character slots 1 through 10 combined. Presumably you’ll eventually have more money than you can spend but it’s going to be a long, long time.

    I don’t know of an example that actually made buying things hard, but you can always just make a money cap like in Super Mario RPG. If players have 1,000,000% of what they need to buy the most expensive item… just don’t let them carry that much, cap it at exactly that item’s value.

    Someone mentioned Path of Exile having no money at all, and instead having a pure barter system. Similarly from what I remember, Metro used your ammo as currency. Money As Consumable is a decent solution.

    But of course the follow-up question is: why is a broken economy a problem? Isn’t having more money than you can spend a lot like having outleveled every challenge? Overcoming every challenge is the goal of the game, not a flaw. Now, player skill can overcome a stat disadvantage, so you can still beat every enemy without having overwhelming stats, but what’s the economy version of that? Gold is a binary thing; you have enough money to buy something, or you don’t. If you want to make gold still matter in the endgame, you’re going to need to either design a new system where player skill affects prices, or make some crazy repeatable money sinks.

    (If the economy is a problem for realism reasons, the answer is taxes; every X occurrences, the player has to pay Y% of their total value to leadership.)

  24. Internet Pedant says:

    Pizza Game is a visual novel, but you’re a girl trying to date guys … It’s basically a pisstake on the entire genre

    I trust that these two thoughts are unrelated I still feel a need to point out that girl-dating-guys VNs are a genre unto themselves, called otome, and are basically the digital equivalent to romance novels of the sort everyone’s one aunt still collects– all with pictures of Fabio on the cover and whatnot.

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