Achilles and the Grognard: Barrels and Other Sundries

By Bob Case Posted Saturday Sep 21, 2019

Filed under: Video Games 87 comments

Achilles: This game. Is taking. Forever.

The Grognard: That bad, huh?

Achilles: There’s just so much of it! It’s like they finished a full game, and then said “you know what, let’s throw in another sixty hours of side content.”

Firewine Ruins. Yet another mazelike, single-file dungeon.
Firewine Ruins. Yet another mazelike, single-file dungeon.

The Grognard: 1998 was the debut year of the Great Big Honking PC Role-Playing Game, or GBHPCRPG. Baldur’s Gate came out that year, and the series taken as a whole is probably the apotheosis of the form. But Fallout 2 came out just a month earlier, and that was great, big, and honking too. At least when compared to the first in the series. All of the sudden, RPG developers realized it was feasible to make their games almost twice as long as they had been previously.

Achilles: But why? Who asked them to do that? Top Hat Guy’s soul is weary from killing his 43rd spider pull in the Cloakwood. Why couldn’t there just have been 42?

This is Larry the Kobold, who introduces you to his two older brothers, Darryl the Xvart and Darryl the Tasloi. You can get their autograph, which tradition dictates you keep in your backpack until the end of Throne of Bhaal. They're the only thing of interest in the eastern half of this map.
This is Larry the Kobold, who introduces you to his two older brothers, Darryl the Xvart and Darryl the Tasloi. You can get their autograph, which tradition dictates you keep in your backpack until the end of Throne of Bhaal. They're the only thing of interest in the eastern half of this map.

The Grognard: We asked them to do that. GBHPCRPGs are popular. They sell well. We keep buying them, so they keep making them. Didn’t you sink, like, seven hundred hours into Skyrim or something?

Achilles: That’s not something I’m proud of anymore. I don’t remember half of those hours, and now hearing the Whiterun theme makes me break out in hives. Didn’t you say there were normal-length classic RPGs, too?

The Grognard: There were. Fallout, Planescape: Torment, the original Deus Ex – all were relatively short by today’s standards. Baldur’s Gate, though, was the Skyrim of its time. At least in terms of the amount of content.

Achilles: I don’t know how you all did it. I looked for walkthroughs of this game, and found THIS on an actual website. It’s a walkthrough for the entire game, and the expansion, written in plaintext, about a thousand pages long, last updated in 2002.

The Grognard: Ah yes, SWCarter’s walkthrough. I know it well. It’s one of the better ones.

Achilles: Of course you do. It’s weird seeing stuff from the era before the actual internet existed. How could you stand it, alt-tabbing to that thing every ten minutes, in fear of missing the +5 Ultimate Death Sword hidden in a bale of hay? Did you no part of you get bored?

The Grognard: Yes, and we complained then, as you’re complaining now. But we still bought the games. The truth is, as a group, the shortier, artier RPGs never sold as well as the bigger, commercial ones.

Achilles: I guess it makes sense. They make movies that are way too long all the time, even though you can almost never find anyone who actually wants to sit in a movie theatre for three and a half hours. But I thought this game was supposed to be an adaptation of the tabletop experience. If an actual live GM had groups go through this many nearly identical fights against 4-8 kobolds with fire arrows, they’d have an empty table before long.

The Grognard: True. Keep in mind that in 1998, Bioware were still rookies, so to speak. In the second game you’re going to see less filler, less slapdash content, and more polish.

Achilles: So basically, Bioware GM’ed the first two games. Who’s GMing the one that’s coming out?

The Grognard: Larian Studios, best known for the Divinity series.

Achilles: And what are they like?

The Grognard: Well, the founder walks around in a full suit of plate armor.


Link (YouTube)

Achilles: I have to say, that is a promising start. The fact that it’s no longer considered socially acceptable to wear full or even demi-plate in public has always been frustrating to me.

The Grognard: The studio certainly has personality. But is it the right personality? The Divinity games tended towards the tongue-in-cheek, with a sort of “ironic Disney” aesthetic. Baldur’s Gate is different. Of course there’s humor, but the games went to some pretty dark places, which you’ll see for yourself as you keep playing.

Achilles: There was some darkness in the announcement trailer, though. That flaming fist guy turned into a mind flayer, and there was all that Cthulhu-looking stuff floating in the sky.

The Grognard: Yes, but we’ve seen so little of the third game that we have to get our speculation where we can. All hope is not yet lost, however. Do you remember I mentioned another tradition, distinct from the Bioware one, last time?

Achilles: The Black Isle one?

The Grognard: That’s how I described it. Calling it that is an oversimplification, but for the sake of the explanation: a gameplay theme in the original Fallout (by Black Isle) is that every quest has multiple solutions showcasing multiple build types. You know fighter, bluffer, sneaker, that sort of thing. Each has a way they can complete the quest.

Achilles: So not like here, where it’s usually fighting, fighting, and more fighting.

The Grognard: Exactly. In Baldur’s Gate you have plenty of player freedom in the open-world sense of the term – you can go almost anywhere in the game right from the beginning. But for the most part, all it comes down to in the end is freedom in determining what order you fight things in. The things themselves are the same each time.

Achilles: And what does this have to do with Larian? Or are we still talking about that?

The Grognard: We are. By way of prologue, let me introduce you to the art of Barrelmancy.


Link (YouTube)

Achilles: So let me see if I’m understanding this correctly. In the Divinity series, developed by Larian, you can put basically infinite weight into the game’s containers.

The Grognard: Correct.

Achilles: And then there’s an ability that lets you telekinetically drop those containers on enemies, killing them instantly.

The Grognard: You can one-shot anything in the game if you get your barrel heavy enough.

Achilles: Ok… I mean, that’s cool, I guess. It’d be fun to do it a few times. But it’s kind of a gimmick, isn’t it?

The Grognard: It is, but it’s a gimmick that hints at great potential. Packing a barrel full of smaller barrels and then dropping it on the bad guys using telekinesis is exactly the sort of craziness that makes for a good tabletop session. If Larian’s gameplay systems are deep enough to support that, then they may be deep enough to bring that next level of player freedom to the Baldur’s Gate series.

Achilles: The word “may” is doing a whole lot of work in that last sentence.

The Grognard: Hope and cynicism are both ways to keep yourself sane. I’m going with hope on this one.

Achilles: For the sake of balance, I’ll go with cynicism. There won’t be a Baldur’s Gate III. Not really. There’s gonna be a first entry in a series reboot, and they’re gonna to play it safe. They’ve licensed Dungeons & Dragons. They’re working with Wizards of the Coast. Everyone involved is going to want a smooth landing, and this gaggle of friendly, agreeable Belgians are going to give them one with a side of wafflesAchievement Unlocked: Belgian Waffle Joke. And you know what? That’s a good thing! Better a solid game, that you can actually play, than some abstract-expressionist art project where you throw improbably heavy barrels at symbolic representations of your subconscious fear of change.

The Grognard: Not better! I disagree. “Playing it safe” has been an anchor around the neck of the genre for over a decade now. I don’t have a subconscious fear of change, I have a subconscious fear of stagnation. What if this game comes out, and no one even cares? What if it comes out, and it’s an 8/10 that everyone forgets about in three months? What will I have invested all this time and effort into then?

Achilles: I have to ask, does playing these old Infinity Engine games always turn into a therapy session for you?

The Grognard: More often than you’d think.

(Overlong awkward silence.)

The Grognard: So what’s next? The city itself?

Achilles: The city itself. Sixty hours in, and I’ve finally arrived at the city the game was named after.

Baldur's Gate. I hope you like side quests.
Baldur's Gate. I hope you like side quests.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Achievement Unlocked: Belgian Waffle Joke



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87 thoughts on “Achilles and the Grognard: Barrels and Other Sundries

  1. CoyoteSans says:

    Roughly Twenty Hours of Faffing About in Woods and Caves and then Finally Baldur’s Gate

    Yeah, BG1 definitely falls afoul of the Daggerfall “acceptable amount of actually interesting content spread way too thinly over map surface area” school of game design.

    Although, that discussion on “game designers discovering storage limit increases” reminds me of a case where this happened not on a CD-ROM system, but the SNES of all things. The Fire Emblem games (still a Japanese only series at that time) chose to celebrate graduating from the NES to SNES not by substantially improving the graphics (though there was a bit of that), but just cramming more game into the carts. FE3 was actually all the missions from FE1, plus it’s own campaign that was just as long and engaging. FE4 upped the ante by basically stuffing two FE games worth of content and story into one cartridge, in an Actually Epic story spanning two generations and a literal entire continent spread across ten maps, each with about four or five missions from any other FE game worth of content in them.

    1. Thomas says:

      People are unhappy enough about the distance to New Vegas in Fallout.

      1. Chopboxer says:

        This actually bothers me a lot, because trying to satisfy this complaint is what led to the sensation I had in Fallout 4 that I couldn’t walk four feet without encountering yet another bandit hideout. Ironically, the world always felt smaller to me the more stuff was crammed into a smaller space. I like the breathing room of places like Whiterun’s plains in Skyrim. It feels more like an adventure that way.

        I want a good balance between feeling like the world is big and not feeling like the world is empty of things to look at and do. I think Breath of the Wild is one of the recent games to actually hit my personal balance – but I’d still have liked a few more settlements, like in Witcher 3. Being able to climb stuff and engage with the soft-puzzle mechanics of the equipment definitely helped.

    2. default_ex says:

      Interesting you mention SNES and cramming more into the same cart. Star Ocean had a cart that included a hardware codec to handle speech for major dialogues in a SNES cart. Tales of Phantasia used a high capacity cartridge to pack in anime snippets and some voice dialogue. The games themselves are a respectable time to beat as well, 30-60 hours depending on if you do side quests or not.

    3. Asdasd says:

      Great for people who like Fire Emblem, but I think that would be my personal hell. I’ve found SRPG combat always tends to be painfully drawn out, even compared to its JRPG ancestors, thanks to a) the need every turn to manually reposition a b) much larger than JRPG average party, and especially considering c) you will probably be inching them up the map a few squares at a time out of fear of permadeath.

  2. Hector says:

    I don’t think complaining about the length of Baldur’s Gate makes much sense, considering that almost all of it is entirely optional side content from which the player may pick and choose. I like doing the whole map and capturing every treasure, but it’s hardly necessary. There’s plenty of goodies whereever you go, you can find or buy everything you need, and the game doesn’t exactly hide this. In fact, the sidequests tend to offer middling rewards and no item is really unique or powerful enough to be mandatory.

    1. King Marth says:

      Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild found a good balance for this. Every corner of the map has *something* neat, but properly marked sidequests are relatively rare, so you can just follow the main quest without accumulating a sidequest backlog of shame.

      Completionism is a tricky matter.

    2. Chad Miller says:

      What’s the XP gain/opposition strength like in this game?

      I know people earlier in earlier threads were complaining that they “had” to recruit the evil characters to get past one particularly nasty mandatory fight. Do you similarly reach a point where you start having to do sidequests just so the main quest isn’t horribly outleveling you?

      1. Steve C says:

        The way XP is handed out in BG is… exhausting.
        The quest that advances the story doesn’t give XP directly. It is covered by the indirect XP that will be gained on the way. Every enemy defeated and quest completed is a set number of XP. Which is then divided equally between your party. This mechanic has consequences…

        Namely that there is a very real consequence to having a full party. The most efficient way to level is to keep your party of 6 as small as you can manage. Maybe just your character and one or two other characters. Bringing in extra npcs for more difficult areas. This is doubly true at the beginning of the game since the XP required to gain a level is roughly exponential. IE a quest might be worth a whole level for your character at low levels and is significant. Dividing it among a full party means it is only worth 1/6 of your level. At a higher level it is worth only 1/10th of a level. With a full party is it now 1/60th of a level.

        Your npc companions have the same mechanics. With one exception. When you meet them they will be based off your current level. The result is a push-pull with a cost/benefit of having the smallest party you can get away with. Especially in the earliest section.

        Note that the “nasty mandatory fight” that everyone complains about (the one at the inn) is not mandatory. It is not mandatory go to that map at all. The main quest simply suggests it as part of the narrative. However it is a trap both narratively and in the XP mechanics of the game. The reason to go there is to pick up extra companions. Except it is better to gain xp first before meeting those companions due to the mechanics explained above. The better option is to detour to a town *zero hours away* first in order to gain some xp and equipment before maybe heading to that completely optional map.

        BTW each character had a cap of 89,000 total xp in the original game. Hitting that is certainly doable. It takes effort though. But managing to reaching only half that results in a character just one level lower. Not a big difference.

        1. Steve C says:

          What is interesting is I believe the main quest pushing the player towards making the wrong choice was a deliberate design decision. I don’t think it worked. Only because I don’t see anyone else saying this…

          Baldur’s Gate really tried to capture the feel of having a human Dungeon Master. Part of that includes giving explicit information that misdirects players. While simultaneously giving other information that implies other better (or worse) options. Baldur’s Gate does exactly that here. If you were sitting across from a human DM and paying attention up to this point then there is more than enough evidence that a trap is waiting for you along the obvious route.[1]

          Let’s dissect it:
          The game explicitly suggests going north. Except it puts you on the very bottom of the map. It is much simpler to go south than follow directions. Contrast this against every future map where you are put midway on the side you started. If you do follow the road, you will meet companions. They aren’t the ‘right’ ones (plus extremely suspicious/crazy.) They want to go south yet will begrudgingly go north. Why was the game suggesting north? Reason: To gain two companions. Which you’ve just done by random chance. If you do decide to go a little south, then there is a town right there. There is no travel time to get to that town, with zero chance of a random encounter.

          [1] The bad guys know where you are going because *they* won the cutscene battle where you ran away. If you go back to loot the dead, you can find a scroll. The scroll says to go north and meet J & K. The bad guys had every opportunity to read the same scroll. Plus the bad guys are ahead of you. This is a classic move by a DM to make players properly think and adapt. Your mentor’s true goal was to get you away somewhere safe. Not to get to those people specifically. Also there was another helpful NPC (Firebead Elvenhair) the player should have already met and know is trusted. He says he’s from that town to the south. He’s exactly the type who would give aid and shelter in a tabletop game. Which is exactly what he does in Baldur’s Gate. He just doesn’t come along.

        2. Xander77 says:

          I have no idea what your talking about. Having read (and written) a lot of BG min-maxing advice, no one recommends keeping your party smaller except as a self-imposed challenge.

          1. As you’ve noted yourself, there’s more than enough xp to go around. Quest rewards grow progressively larger and there’s a level cap. Merely following the main quest with a 6 person party will leave you a level or so behind the solo min-maxer.

          2. Past level 3-4 (when you’re no longer one-shot by a wolf attack / magic missile), levels don’t really matter than much compared to tactics and equipment.

          3. You *want* those NPCs you intend to keep to join you at as low a level as possible, so that you, rather than the computer, level them up.

          1. Asdasd says:

            I have to agree this seems like a rather idiosyncratic way of doing things. I definitely found many hands made much lighter work in my Baldur’s Gate party, even if the levels came slower. And there’s definitely enough XP to go around. In the sequel you can even switch NPCs in and out of the party to mix and match them with sidequests, and nobody will drop too far behind.

          2. Steve C says:

            I said to keep the party small at the start. I believe I made it clear exactly which part of the game I’m talking about (Chapter 1 & 2) from the context. The question was specifically about the first tough battle as part of the main quest.

            1. Quest rewards do grow larger. Do they grow exponentially larger? No. They do not. They also are nominal amounts and not relative amounts. IE the earliest levels come easiest and fastest.

            2. Specifically talking about levels 1, 2 and 3. After all Jaheira and Khalid no longer exist in the game if you fail to talk to them before Chapter 3.

            3. Ah no. That comes back to which version of the game you are playing. The Enhanced Edition and Modded versions do not level up the characters. (These are the versions played in 2019 unless someone enjoys their eyes bleeding from looking at a resolution the size of a postage stamp.) These versions leave the companions at their lowest level and give them they unassigned XP they would have if auto leveled. The player is free to spend that xp as the player wishes. However even if playing with a classic version, walkthroughs suggest manually renaming and replacing character files so that the version of the npc you want appears. And if you are playing classic you’re going to be looking at a walkthrough since you’ll need a walkthrough to get the game to load on a modern system. Walkthroughs that suggest having NPCs join the party at the lowest possible level was a cost/benefit choice that was debatable back in 1998. Today it is straight up shooting yourself in the foot.

            Specifically:
            (a) The PC can easily get to level 3 by going to the closest town (Beregost) first.
            (b) They easily can get a second NPC (or class) to level 3 at the same time. But not more than that.
            (c) It is only easy because the party is small. Bigger party, more stuff has to be done because the xp is divided up too much.
            (d) All this is possible with the most minor of minor detours (Beregost).
            (e) If the PC is level 3 when they meet Jaheira/Khalid, those two npcs are bumped to level 4.
            (f) If J & K are level 4 they now have 20587 more xp than they would have otherwise compared to their level 1 versions.
            (g) This is a significant amount of xp that you as a player do not have to get. That amount of XP accounts for many many hours from the first 1-4 chapters of the game.
            (h) The difference between level 1 and level 4 is huge in terms of power. Gear/tactics or no gear/no tactics.
            (i) This applies to pretty much every NPC party member in the game from this point on. They are all bumped up based on average party level. Of which the keystone will always be the PC.

            1. Matthew Downie says:

              No doubt this is true if you know the location of all the quest XPs you can get while avoiding fights that will overwhelm a small party, and your goal is to max out everyone’s level, but I don’t think any of this should matter to a typical player who just wants to explore the game.

              1. Steve C says:

                No actually. It is literally just going south one map at the start. IE going to Beregost and mucking about alone without your party while they wait. You can also pick up Imoen, the crazy evil pair and even Kivan too if you want. Just don’t have them in the party while mucking about in Beregost. That’s it. You can even keep Imoen in the party if the PC is single class.

                There’s nothing special to this. Well other than than realizing the consequences of splitting xp.

            2. Chad Miller says:

              And if you are playing classic you’re going to be looking at a walkthrough since you’ll need a walkthrough to get the game to load on a modern system.

              FWIW, my version I got in some GOG sale/bundle has no issues whatsoever running on my Win10 machine. I actually reinstalled it at the start of this series to see if I’d like it better on another attempt (I didn’t)

        3. Timothy Coish says:

          “The way XP is handed out in BG is… exhausting.
          The quest that advances the story doesn’t give XP directly. It is covered by the indirect XP that will be gained on the way. Every enemy defeated and quest completed is a set number of XP. Which is then divided equally between your party. This mechanic has consequences…”

          Star Ocean: The Second Story, a 1997 action JRPG, and my favourite game as a small child, had this exact same problem. The game starts out with you immediately getting a second party member, Rena if you play as Claude or vice versa. You can get up to eight party members, four of which can participate in each fight, and get xp. If you want to absolutely crush it, just stick with Claude and Rena the whole game. Level requirements were exponential, but being 10% stronger meant a whole lot more than a 10% higher chance at living.

          Unfortunately, that’s kind of lame.

          1. Steve C says:

            It’s not quite that bad in Baldur’s Gate. It is more what happens when you add party members over time. Their level is dependent on the average party level when that NPC is first met. The problem is a hidden consequence of adding characters strung out sequentially.

            PC is level 1. NPC1 joins. Average party level = 1. Therefore NPC starts = 1.
            Average party level = ((1+1)/2) = 1.

            Party gains xp. PC is now level 2.
            NPC2 joins.
            Average party level ((2+1)/2) = 1.5= 1. Because we are *always* rounding down.

            Party gains xp. PC is still level 2 (Because exponential tiers). NPC1 = level 2. NPC2 = level 1.
            NPC3 joins.
            Average party level ((2+2+1)/3) = 1.667 = 1. Because we are *always* rounding down.
            Also NPC3 came paired with NPC4. Also NPC4 is multi-class. They level at half rate.
            NPC3 = level 1. NPC4 = level 1/1.

            Party gains xp. PC is level 3. NPC1 = level 3. NPC2 = level 2. NPC3= level 1. NPC4 = level 1/1
            Average party level ((3+2+2+1+1)/5) = 1.8 = 1. Because we are *always* rounding down. Note leveling has slowed way down because it is now split 5 ways, and 6 ways in the case of the multiclass NPC4.
            Guess what, NPC5 is going to join at… level 1.

            It is like having a bad test score at the start of a course that always weights the average down. However in Baldur’s gate If you can just get past the humps and/or trim out the NPCs bringing down the average they start joining at higher levels. For example if you break up the party before appearing on that map with NPC5 it is now just the PC alone, your average party level has jumped from 1 to 3. Now NPC5 joins at level 3. Well because it is Baldur’s Gate, they actually join at level 4. NPC companions generally don’t have a preset level 3 for some reason.

            Sooooo much easier. At the same time, it is also so much fussier and annoying.

        4. Darker says:

          BTW each character had a cap of 89,000 total xp in the original game. Hitting that is certainly doable. It takes effort though.

          Funnily about the only thing I remember from my Baldur’s Gate playthrough is how pi***d off I felt when I reached the level cap, learning that I won’t be able to cast the higher level spells the merchants in the game will happily sell you.

          1. Hector says:

            You can use scrolls though.

          2. Steve C says:

            I never got that far. I know the feeling very well though.

            I played Europa Universalis 4 as the Aztecs. My plan from the start was to sail across the ocean and conquer Spain. Thing is that the Aztecs are exceedingly bad at boats. They have a huge penalty on the resource needed to research ships. It involves banking everything for generations to a comical extent. I finally did it and the game wouldn’t let me. It was hard coded to disallow ships to Aztecs. And it was hidden. I only found out by looking online trying to figure out why it wasn’t working.

            I have never been so angry at a game in my life. Writing about it now still makes me angry. I completely understand if the xp cap is the only thing you remember. That sort of surprise crap is the worst.

        5. GloatingSwine says:

          On the other other hand, you want to recruit NPCs at as low a level possible because then you can savescum their HP rolls and they don’t make stupid decisions with their proficiencies and thief skills.

          1. Steve C says:

            As I replied above, that isn’t a thing anymore. NPCs start with unassigned xp, not levels.

      2. Hector says:

        You don’t need to max out your level, and if you follow the plot you’ll be doing OK. Though I would recommend everyone do some early-game sidequests, many of which aren’t too difficult, in order to reach level 2-3 early. (This edition has different experience tables for each class, a design choice I will defend to the last drop of my gamer girl bathwater.)*

        There are also some areas where you can power-level very easily if you like and learn the tricks, several of which the game will explicitly tell you about if you listen. The basilisk map, for instance, makes it ridiculously easy to level your party.

        *I don’t have any gamer girl bathwater, but I thought it was a funny reference.

        1. Zekiel says:

          I too love that different classes level up at different times. Having your entire party level up simultaneously just highlights the artificiality of the levelling system.

          1. Asdasd says:

            Yes! This is the sort of cruft that gets smoothed out in the name of player experience, but I always felt it’s an example of world-building through mechanics: the road a druid or a warrior travels wouldn’t be of even and uniform length and I liked that the xp table reflected as much.

        2. Zaxares says:

          Not to mention that there’s concrete advantages to having more characters in the party as compared to just one single uber-mensch as well. No matter how powerful you may be individually, you’re still limited to a set number of actions in a round (at least ToB, when high-level abilities kinda throw all the rules out the window). If you’re a lone guy who’s facing a mixed group of enemies (like rival adventurers), there’s a good chance that you won’t be able to do everything possible to neuter the assault that’s coming. Should you attack the enemy wizard before he gets off a spell? But doing so means that the enemy cleric will be able to freecast his Hold Person spell at you and if you fail your save, that’s basically an insta-kill because the enemy Fighters will rush in and hack you apart. Maybe you’ll cast your own spell to try and get the drop on them first, but that’s only if you get lucky and avoid getting hit by their enemy Archer.

          In contrast, if you were also going up against this group with a full party of your own, things get easier because each party member can tackle different things. Have YOUR party Archer snipe the enemy Mage. Stealth your party Thief and maneuver him around in the fight to stab the enemy Cleric in the kidneys. Your Fighers charge and engage the enemy Fighters before they can close with your spellcasters etc. Suddenly the whole fight is MUCH more involved and there are exponentially more solutions and tactics you can adopt.

          Some players may like the challenge of trying to solo their way through the game, which is a perfectly fine way of going about things. But it would be wrong and disingenuous to claim that bringing a bigger party is more inefficient or less fun.

    3. Matthew Downie says:

      I think there are several valid reasons to complain about BG being too long:
      You don’t have to complete all the quests you come across, but if you don’t you feel like you’re missing important stuff, or falling behind the level curve, or acting out of character. “Sorry, my paladin is too busy doing plot-related quests to save your family.”
      Individual quests are longer than they need to be, in terms of mundane repetitive fights.
      Cramming in every possible quest rather than editing out the less interesting ones lowers the average quality of the gameplay experience.

      1. Majromax says:

        Computer games as a genre promote optimization and completionism. Any single game can try to fight that trend, but to do so it needs to make its goals very explicit.

        I believe I first saw this analogy here on 20-sided, but if a game developer applied a completely optional 1% stat-boost to character damage if the real-life player stabbed themselves with a rusty nail while playing the game, then people would universally complain about how the game “makes them stab themselves” to play it.

        In this genre, players are trained that any side-quest can be a starting point for a grand epic adventure, and any rock might hide a +10 ring of awesome. It’s no wonder that players feel the need to rescue every puppy and open every barrel.

        1. Steve C says:

          Pretty much every map in Baldur’s Gate has a literal pixel hunt.
          Map 1= diamond in a tree
          Map 2= ring +1 in a rock
          Map 3= the infamous ring of wizardy

          Other maps in the first three chapters include a suit of ankeg plate+2, a wand of frost, a ring of fire resistance, a scroll of cloudkill, and the list goes on. Most of these are best in slot items! And all are one pixel hidden spots.
          The creation of perverse incentives is real.

          1. Trevor says:

            I don’t know how you translate this aspect of the game into the modern era. The original games were played single player with a minimal amount of internet access. Finding the suit of Ankeg Plate on your own was SO. COOL. It felt amazing and like you’d discovered a secret that no one else knew and now you were so powerful.

            With the amount of online access everyone has now, I’m not sure how this would play out. That there is a super over-powered ring beneath the tree outside the Friendly Arm at precise coordinates (X, Y) would be all over Twitter and everyone would know about it. I don’t know what percentage of players found the Ring of Wizardry in the first game (either by completionists checking every pixel or being told about it. FAQs did exist, after all), but I’m guessing these secrets would be a lot more known and so a bunch of articles like “The 10 Best Items Just Laying Around in Baldur’s Gate 3” would proliferate, and so the inventories of the various players would begin to all look pretty similar.

            1. Steve C says:

              I see your point. It is valid. I don’t quite agree though.
              How modern games handle it is by #1) putting in something special/powerful as a one off. Or #2) lots of unimportant breadcrumbs to find.

              The hidden chest in Mount & Blade is an example of #1. The Riddler statues or the Assassin Creed franchise is an example of #2. Or they do some sort of middle ground like with Golden Bricks in the Lego games. But at that point it is incrementally powerful and you are supposed to find them by design. The last time I found something similar it was the 5 bushmags in Mutant Year Zero. Completely worthless gameplay wise. Collecting them gives is some hidden VO from an npc. Which IMO is the perfect balance of cool, but unnecessary and also quantity.

              I know that back in 98 I know I found that ring. I remember why I found it too. The map before had an odd looking stone. In 1998 graphics it could have been a chest. I found the ring +1. Finding that earlier ring told me what kind of game it was. Therefore I started mousing over anything that looked interesting.

              Inside the Friendly Arm one of the npcs tells a rumor of treasure lost by a wizard in the south on that map. Armed with those two bits of information, pixel hunt time. And I found it. Note the ring of wizardry is NOT in an interesting part of the terrain. So again, with that third bit of info I know what kind of game I’m playing- super powerful items can be anywhere. Similar thing with the wand of frost outside the mines. A fleeing mage says he was robbed in the north. None of that is enough info to find those items. It is enough to know it exists and that you could look for it. From these very OP rewards you are actively encouraged to talk to every single npc and mouse over ever pixel.

              I too found it SO COOL and amazing. But it felt significantly less so 10 hours later when I was still talking to every random npc and mousing over every single pixel. Inside the mines it is really bad the other way too. It is a winding dungeon with lots and lots of containers. Most are empty and the rest have junk in them. And a fair number have useful enough gear to pick up to vendor IF you happen to come across a merchant. Which you won’t, but you don’t know that. Plus there’s a lot of “contaminated ore” which really feels like an important quest item in the context, but isn’t. It’s worthless. Back in 1998 I didn’t know that. I carried it around for a long time until I found a specific spot to store it and made a note where it was case I needed it.

              The problem is that the more any of the above happens the more you need a walk through. Or more you feel you are missing out or wasting time doing unnecessary things. At least for me. I don’t think that part of the experience can be reproduced today for Baldur’s Gate 3 for the reasons you state (ie the internet). But I don’t think it should be. It comes with too much baggage. Modern games have found how to keep the various levels of cool without it becoming a distraction or dominating the game.

              I used a walkthrough when I replayed BG1 this week. I was surprised at how little of importance is in the mines. It feels like there is a lot in it without a walkthrough. The reality is you can just rush through it all without bothering.

    4. Daimbert says:

      Of course, the issue with that is KNOWING that you won’t need the XP or gold or items from them before you do them.

      I was concerned with that in Dragon Age Inquisition, and so was obsessive about doing everything in every area before moving on, which bored me but I felt it necessary to avoid being underpowered. And then I ended up overleveled in later areas which made them less interesting. This is pretty much why I’ve described Inquisition as a game that if I never play it again it will be too soon despite finishing it (taking about 80 hours) and liking in at least some sense the story and characters.

      1. djw says:

        I haven’t been able to finish DA:I. It feels to much like a job.

      2. Sleeping Dragon says:

        And also knowing which of the quests, dungeons, mob groups etc. are entirely optional XP farms and which are story content, not necessarily main story content but story nonetheless. Is this group of goblins just another random enemy pod or are they guarding an item launching a new quest? Is this sidequest just leading you to a monster filled basement and some precious stones, or does it end with a potential companion joining your party? All of these are things that you don’t know on your first playthrough (unless you spoil it).

        Also “me too” on DA:I.

        1. Trevor says:

          I can’t think of a major RPG that I’ve played in the last decade where I have ever felt underleveled. In Baldur’s Gate 1, there’s definitely a sense that you NEED the xp/loot from that cave over there in order not to get slaughtered in your next major encounter. But by just following the bare bones story content of most RPGs these days, including Dragon Age, you’ll have sufficient levels and gear for the next major story fight.

          But, the idea that the trash mob of goblins has a chest that contains a story content piece was one of my major issues with Dragon Age. Inquisition in particular had me googling whether a certain combat was worth it and popping onto your phone in the middle of combat pulls you out of the game world.

    5. Storm says:

      I agree, the first time I played the game (and every subsequent time unless I’m specifically trying to do more than usual) I end up bypassing those early filler dungeons like the Firewine or Ulcaster Ruins, and focusing mostly on the main quest and whatever sidequests happen to present themselves along the way. A lot of it probably had to do with those first couple of instances of timed quests where you need to get to Nashkel right away, which sort of set the tone for me to not trawl the map doing Every Possible Thing, but whatever the reason it always wound up feeling like a pretty reasonable time to get to Baldur’s Gate itself.

  3. Curious, at what level did people get to the final fight?
    I’m starting to get into this style of entry.
    Personally I think BG saga was better left buried and just say “we’re going to make a new game that will be done after BG’s saga, but a new series you could think worthy of belonging to that series”. Though then there are so many games of late that sell under the pretense of being inheritors of BGs I start to see sense in wanting to go “a new game done in the spirit of BG? No! We’re doing a new BG for real!”.

  4. BlueHorus says:

    Heh, never tried that Telekenisis trick in the Divinity: OS games. I’m not usually one for figuring out that kind of exploit.
    Though I did once teleport a barrel full of horribly-mutated, poisonous fish onto someone’s head…
    (not quite as effective as I’d hoped)
    And I clipped a merchant with a barrel I was moving another time, trying to get it out of the way after a misclick made meme to dump it on his stall. 15 measly damage turned the entire town hostile and I had to run away.

    …good times. It was like playing Skyrim!

    1. Philadelphus says:

      That Barrelmancy video made me laugh, a lot.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        I haven’t watched the video but I’m going to have such a hard time not doing this now that I know about it when me and a friend get around to playing D:OS2 eventually.

  5. Steve C says:

    I should like Baldur’s Gate and similar games. Yet I don’t. Each time I’ve lost my will to play pretty early. It has always bothered me that I never understood why. Therefore I gave Baldur’s Gate another shot since I had it installed on a secondary HD anyway. The conclusion I’ve reached is:

    Baldur’s Gate is too fussy. I get too bogged down in minutia while playing it. By that I mean there’s too much inventory management, character management and traveling management.

    With so many options you can basically go anywhere and do anything and do it in any order. What’s best? Should you dual class a character? When? Is now a good time? Should it be waited until later? Should this quest be done first? Or that one? Should you go out of your way for a specific piece of gear or character? If you avoid adding someone to group until later they will have more XP. And not letting them do their side quest makes them angry enough to leave. It is best to wait to pick up a character you want. Except avoiding them is the antithesis of getting them. THEN there’s fiddly versions of the game itself. Classic, modded/patched or enhanced? There are pro/cons to everything.

    Basically there is no end to how fussy you can make the game for yourself. Even something as simple as selling loot is needlessly complex. Only certain merchants accept certain things and they are spaced out. And if you sell too much (like 3 items) to the same merchant they reduce the price they give. Late game you don’t worry about this too much. Early game it is a real pain since you need that money. Got to get those 6 swords onto the same character so they can be sold in single a batch at full price. Want to buy something? Better cast a Friends spell first and make sure the correct character initiates dialogue.

    What doesn’t help is combat. Combat is generally a complete stomp. Or a character dies and it is reload time. Neither extreme is fun. Dying wouldn’t be that bad if it didn’t come with inventory management. Dividing up all the gear that dead guy was carrying is a huge pain in the ass. It is always a reload for that alone. If a character dropped to the ground at 0hp (like in table top paper versions of Ad&d) then it would be fine. Without that, it is always too hard or too easy with no-between. Strangely I don’t mind the identical fights with 4-8 kolbolds etc this article rails against. They are easy yet quick. No muss, no fuss. Well as long as they don’t have any loot.

    After the mines, the openness and minor decisions grow exponentially. It feels like a chore to play and think about. The same thing has happened in every similar game I’ve played. The last one was Jagged Alliance which I didn’t even make it to town before I stopped. The only exception was the original Fallout. Fallout had a single character to manage with a generous inventory system. Companions had so little interactivity it was impossible to get bogged down in the weeds with them. However I did not like the sequels like Fallout 2 and Fallout Tactics. I realize now it was because of the extra fuss of managing a full party.

    I enjoy diving into a game’s strategic layer most of all. Which in Baldur’s Gate, that’s what all the leveling and choices are. There is plenty of depth of that to enjoy in BG. It just comes hand in hand with fuss. That’s the part I hate yet I cannot just ignore it and do whatever. Ignoring it is not fun for me either.

    Note that I’m not saying games shouldn’t do that. I’m saying Baldur’s Gate and similar games are not for me. Similar thing happened in Borderlands. I got fed up managing inventory. I only enjoyed it when I had good gear. Not for the gear itself though. Only because it meant I didn’t have to constantly compare weapons and fuss about. Where as others get that hit of dopimine, I simply feel relief that I can safely ignore something tedious.

    I’m happy this series made me revisit my own thoughts. It’s always bugged me.

    1. Nephilium says:

      I’ve never had the party management issues in Fallout 2, but then again, I’m usually running a solo character with just Dogmeat as a companion. He doesn’t need much.

      1. Syal says:

        I usually tried having party members but they always died quickly, to the point I don’t remember who any of them are.

        Except for the most faithful companion, Pariah Dog. Love that guy / dog / anchor around your neck.

        1. Hector says:

          Sulik, Vic, Cassidy, Marcus, Myron, the AI, Goris, four dogs, and two spouses. Most of them are pretty tough however – they’ll outlive you in most cases unless you’re exceedingly tough.

          Edit: Myron and the two spouses are almost joke characters though.

    2. Zekiel says:

      There’s a frustrating tendency (not a criticism of you, just a tangential thought inspired by your post) when reading crpg player advice, to find people advising you to sacrifice your current enjoyment in service of your future power. E.g. “don’t get a full party now, since you’ll level up faster”. Or the common one you see in character builds “take a few levels of X (where X isn’t very useful or fun) in order to qualify for Y (which is overpowered)”.

      I always find it maddening: in BG half the joy of the game is having a full party – it makes strategic combat more interesting, you get to interact with more party members (not a great deal admittedly in this first game!) and it makes the difficult early-game combat more manageable. So why limit your fun AND make the game harder just so you can get to level 3 a bit faster? Sure, do that if you want, but don’t recommend newbies do the same.

      Rant over :-)

      1. Steve C says:

        I agree with your first paragraph 100%. It shouldn’t matter. I find it sucks a lot of fun out (maybe all) worrying about such things. It is why the more a game rewards that kind of behavior the more I dislike it. It took revisiting Baldur’s Gate in all its glory to make me realize how much it gets under my skin.

        “So why limit your fun AND make the game harder just so you can get to level 3 a bit faster? Sure, do that if you want, but don’t recommend newbies do the same.”

        Because I’m not doing that. Nor was I suggesting that here.[1] I’m saying that all that can be accomplished by doing one single town map first. Which should not limit fun nor make the game harder. It is simply to avoid the mechanics problem of “average level” I described to Timothy above.

        That’s the huge difference doing one thing before another makes in Baldur’s Gate. If you hate Beregost and have every intention of skipping it then /shrug. I understand. I find wandering around a town fussy and annoying.[2] However if a player is going to do Beregost *anyway* then they should do it before building their party instead of after. Beregost consists of ‘quests’ (air quotes) like talking down a drunk from a brawl, and fetching a book. So I can’t agree that this specific example is a case of “limit your fun AND make the game harder” even though that kind of stuff absolutely does exist in Baldur’s Gate.

        It is the fact that this tiny order difference makes such a huge difference to the rest of the game that is root of my problem with the game. Baldur’s Gate is crammed full of this sort of stuff. Where some finicky detail makes a difference. It shouldn’t be a thing to give advice like this for any game! It shouldn’t matter if X is done before Y when they have no impact on each other!

        Like I stored all my vendor trash gems and jewellery in a barrel before leaving Naskel for the Mines. Why? Because I knew the next time I was going to shop was when I returned to Naskel anyway. So I might as well wait to sell my spare stuff. Why? Because I’m going to find loot in the mines and I might as well sell it in one big batch instead of piecemeal for less money. Why even bother? Because I was dumping my inventory of scrolls into the barrel for when I came back and dual classed Imoen to mage anyway. Given that my inventory was clogged I had to do something with it.
        … but it shouldn’t make any difference! I’m annoyed by the nonsense of it all.

        [1]Elsewhere though… Or in other games… (But yes it pretty much always sucks.)
        [2]The city of Baldur’s Gate proper- shoot me now.

        1. Zaxares says:

          And that’s why I have absolutely no qualms about using mods or save game editors to tweak RPGs to my satisfaction. XD

          “Oh, you shouldn’t do the quests in an early town so you can save the experience for when you pick up Awesome Fighter later in Chapter 3.”

          “Orrrrr… I could just play through Chapter 2 normally, pick up Awesome Fighter in Chapter 3, and then edit my save game to bring his XP up to par with the rest of the party AND readjust his feats and abilities to how I like it without needing to gimp my playing experience beforehand.”

          1. MelTorefas says:

            This is how I made it through BG2. Judicious use of savegame editors/the infinity engine editor allowed me to grant my character increasingly strange and ridiculous NPC powers while also changing my character sprite repeatedly. This kept me from getting completely bored and frustrated with the game, which I would have otherwise (for example, BG1 which I never even got to the Mines in).

        2. Zekiel says:

          Apologies – I should have made it clearer that none of my post was directed at you – your post just reminded me of something that annoys me. No criticism intended at all.

          And you are quite right that Baldurs Gate is a very fussy game – there are tons of things to fiddle with and worry about. It hasn’t aged especially well (although it it still playable) and I think spiritual successors like Pillars of Eternity are a better bet these days.

          1. Steve C says:

            It was already clear. I was just adding to what you said since I wanted to clarify what I wrote. (I feel some other replies have straw-manned what I wrote elsewhere.)

    3. Duoae says:

      I kinda feel like the old “this game just isn’t for you” trope works here. Yeah, you’re correct, the game is fussy. ALL games from this time period were fussy to different extents. Furthermore, the game isn’t fussy because it asks you to think about your choices and to make choices – which over a given value of choices in the arbitrary choice hierarchy – can be a boon or a bust depending on the psychology of the person in question.

      Speaking of psychology, you seem to be on the obsessive side of things (I’m the same, though my obsessions are a bit different) so you’re REALLY focussing on the min-maxing instead of enjoying the more “free” flow that games like Baldur’s gate can potentially provide. Like I said, maybe this game just isn’t for you.

      I’ve mentioned before but I’ve played this game countless times and I NEVER get to Baldur’s gate. I get bored before that. I enjoy the game to the point where I get tired of it… of course, I also get tired of most Assassin’s Creeds after Revelations where everything is dragged out soooo much! So, I definitely feel your pain. *insert Clinton gif here* :D

      Some people like making decisions and taking chances and not caring about what they missed. Others don’t. Quite frankly, it’s weird to me that you’re dinging a game for presenting you with lots of choices when that’s exactly why we play games instead of reading or consuming TV and movies.

      Contrary to your experience, I’ve never found that the combat was a cakewalk. Sure, there are the extremes where you kill all enemies before they deal damage to you or they completely drag your ass to the curb and destroy your party. However, I find that there are many conditions inbetween in Baldur’s Gate (and the other similar games like Icewind Dale) whereby you scrape through the fight with minimal health on multiple characters. That’s not extreme but it does add to the choices you need to make – if you survive that particular fight, do you now retreat or do you advance. Sure, your party is greatly weakened and don’t have the stamina to continue on but should you rest, try and return to the nearest settlement or proceed to the next encounter with kobolds or gibberlings that could seriously kill someone in your party!

      Speaking about the fussiness and clean-up after fights, again. This type of game just doesn’t seem to be your particular brand of joy. So why force yourself? Seriously, why are you doing it to yourself? You’ve clearly spent a LOT of time reviewing all the “applicable” tactics and strategies in order to dominate this game as much as possible but you also clearly do not enojy the basic elements of the game. What’s going on here?

      It is the fact that this tiny order difference makes such a huge difference to the rest of the game that is root of my problem with the game. Baldur’s Gate is crammed full of this sort of stuff. Where some finicky detail makes a difference. It shouldn’t be a thing to give advice like this for any game! It shouldn’t matter if X is done before Y when they have no impact on each other!

      And yet there are people who finish and/or complete these games without even entertaining such issues… meaning that they’re really not that big of a deal, are they? You appear to have a problem with a game which is more freeform and full of hidden nuance than the general style of game. You’re speaking of giving advice on making the game easier through min-maxing.. which isn’t necessary to complete the game. What do you even mean, it shouldn’t be a “thing” to give advice about this? MANY games work around the whole conceit of min-maxing in their core game loop but don’t require it (which, just in case, neither does BG). You’re basically saying that ALL RPGs and strategy games shouldn’t have any variance in how they play. That’s a ridiculous position to hold.

      It’s clearly not to your liking but it’s not a “NOR” condition for a good portion of players.

      1. RFS-81 says:

        I’ve mentioned before but I’ve played this game countless times and I NEVER get to Baldur’s gate. I get bored before that. I enjoy the game to the point where I get tired of it…

        Funny, if you substitute Ashlands for Baldur’s Gate, you’ve described my Morrowind experience! I know that there’s some really cool and weird plot going to come if I stick with it, but I just get bored before that.

        Well… I think one time I got to the point where I get corprus and get cured but not really…

      2. Steve C says:

        Speaking about the fussiness and clean-up after fights, again. This type of game just doesn’t seem to be your particular brand of joy. So why force yourself? Seriously, why are you doing it to yourself?

        Because on paper I should love this game and genre. I love AD&D 2nd ed. I eagerly looked forward to this game when it first came out. I got it for Christmas in 1998. Baldur’s Gate was everything I expected it to be. Everything that I wanted it game to be…. And I hated it.

        I could not figure out why. I had a similar experience with other similar games. Again, I could not figure out why. I played Jagged Alliance a few years ago based on a recommendation here. Again, same thing. This series about Baldur’s Gate made me want to play it again. Wanting to play these games has never been a problem. Enjoying the act of playing them has been my problem. So I gave it another shot with a goal of figuring out why. (I already wrote this in the comments and I’m just repeating myself, but you asked.)

        What do you even mean, it shouldn’t be a “thing” to give advice about this? You’re basically saying that ALL RPGs and strategy games shouldn’t have any variance in how they play. That’s a ridiculous position to hold.

        You are strawmaning what I wrote. I like RPGs. I like the strategic layer and making decisions. I *obviously* enjoy min-maxing or I wouldn’t have written a treatise on a single tiny choice (Beregost first) in this thread. I’m saying that there is a point where min-maxing becomes finicky bullshit. Where it is not based on anything sane nor logical. If a player does X –> Y or Y –>X it should matter only if it makes sense to matter. For example WoW questing. There’s a logic to it and there are clear benefits (color coded even) of doing certain quests and exploring certain regions in certain orders. I have no problems with it and even encourage that kind of thing.

        The example I gave is the reverse. It should not matter if you get to level 3 before talking to npcs or not. Yet it does. A lot. Baldur’s Gate is a flat xp system. It is designed so it isn’t supposed to matter. That is the primary benefit of a flat xp system. It should not be a thing to need advice of some ridiculously hidden minutia of a game. Nor some ridiculously finicky minutia of a game. The Golden Pantaloons in Baldur’s Gate are fine as an easter egg and as a joke. But something nutty and as finicky as that to be an actual legit strategy to keep in mind? No.

        I’m not dinging the game (nor the genre) for providing lots of choices. It is the type of choices. It is the context behind the choices. Who do you want in your party is an interesting choice. It’s fun. What order do you sell your gear to the merchant is not. Making a choice not to revisit any merchant because he gives you worst prices after the first time is not an interesting choice.

        Is No Man’s Sky an interesting game of exploration, discovery and neat optimization problems that tickle your brain? Or is it frustrating fussy bullshit of inventory management and busywork that gets in the way of the fun stuff? I’m saying that it shouldn’t be a thing to need advice nor a walkthrough to navigate the fussy bullshit.

        1. DeadlyDark says:

          Hm… As for myself, I did enjoy both BG and JA games but I classify both of them being more of the so-called tactical strategies (like original x-com ufo defense or 7.62mm; and yeah, BG1 closer to a tactical strategy than an rpg in a modern sense, in my eyes). And its likely just my jam. I wonder if your enjoyment just goes in less tactical and more strategic level of planning?
          (and there’s nothing wrong with that, because all people has different tastes)

        2. Duoae says:

          Because on paper I should love this game and genre.

          I can totally understand that. Been there, done that myself with Paradox-style games.

          So I gave it another shot with a goal of figuring out why. (I already wrote this in the comments and I’m just repeating myself, but you asked.)

          Sorry, I didn’t see this in the other threads (if that’s what you’re referring to). It wasn’t clear to me that you’d only tried the game twice because you really had a super deep dive into the mechanics of the game (i.e. how many people who played this game likely know that companions don’t spawn at level 3 and instead skip to level 4?)

          It is the fact that this tiny order difference makes such a huge difference to the rest of the game that is root of my problem with the game. Baldur’s Gate is crammed full of this sort of stuff. Where some finicky detail makes a difference. It shouldn’t be a thing to give advice like this for any game! It shouldn’t matter if X is done before Y when they have no impact on each other!

          What do you even mean, it shouldn’t be a “thing” to give advice about this? You’re basically saying that ALL RPGs and strategy games shouldn’t have any variance in how they play. That’s a ridiculous position to hold.!

          You are strawmaning what I wrote.

          I think we’re going to have to disagree by a wide margin on this point. I’m definitely not straw-manning your position. Think about D&D (tabletop). You might be able to min-max your character creation but you can’t min-max the campaign that the DM has created (or is running) for you. This is what you’re (at least to my eyes) trying to do here. You’re a applying a logic of “I like mastering the mechanics” to “I like mastering the way the campaign plays”.

          Okay, sure, the waters are a bit muddied here because it’s a cRPG but, like I said, games can have variation – not every game needs to signpost the min-max way of doing things or not obfuscate what’s best to do (i.e. see your comparison with WoW).

          That is the primary benefit of a flat xp system. It should not be a thing to need advice of some ridiculously hidden minutia of a game. Nor some ridiculously finicky minutia of a game. The Golden Pantaloons in Baldur’s Gate are fine as an easter egg and as a joke. But something nutty and as finicky as that to be an actual legit strategy to keep in mind? No.

          Again, it’s like we’re speaking about different things. A strategy for WHAT? For min-maxing, right? Well, you know some people also like role-playing as well. And since performing all of these contortions within the game to reach a max level ASAP is not necessary to playing or winning the game, I think I can safely say this is a personal choice and, quite frankly (from my point of view) isn’t necessary advice.

          If you like min-maxxing then fine, it’s necessary advice but, really – that’s a choice and something usually you’d find pleasure in discovering all those little tricks in mastering the game (like speedrunners do).

          Who do you want in your party is an interesting choice. It’s fun.

          And yet the game you describe as being more fun is less fun for me. I don’t find WoW to be fun. Having stuff signposted and obvious is boring for me. We’re just different. I just wanted to understand where you’re coming from with your argument. But, like I said, I can see we’ll never agree on any of this stuff.

          Is No Man’s Sky an interesting game of exploration, discovery and neat optimization problems that tickle your brain? Or is it frustrating fussy bullshit of inventory management and busywork that gets in the way of the fun stuff? I’m saying that it shouldn’t be a thing to need advice nor a walkthrough to navigate the fussy bullshit.

          This is not a good comparison. The fussy stuff in No Man’s Sky is necessary to be able to play the game more comfortably. As I’ve said (and you’ve ignored thus far) it’s not necessary to do all the stuff you’re advocating doing to play and/or complete the Baldur’s Gate – that’s just the way you like to do things.

          1. Steve C says:

            The fussy stuff in No Man’s Sky is necessary to be able to play the game more comfortably. As I’ve said (and you’ve ignored thus far) it’s not necessary to do all the stuff you’re advocating doing to play and/or complete the Baldur’s Gate – that’s just the way you like to do things.

            Ah. I think we are finally digging down to a root misunderstanding here. I’m not “ignoring it”. You are misconstruing what I’m saying, then expecting me to defend that position that I do not hold. I’m not going to do that cause I can’t. Not until you stop advocating for puppy murder and kitten sandwiches. You are thus far ignoring your clear and ridiculous position on torturing animals. (See the issue?) So please put that aside.

            Instead I’ll focus on “The fussy stuff in No Man’s Sky is necessary to be able to play the game more comfortably.” That is exactly the sort of thing I’m talking about. It is *not* necessary. That fussy stuff should not be there. It shouldn’t exist at all! I’m saying there should not be advice about it because it should not have been in the game in the first place. The fussy stuff is not a necessary experience to the game… any game! No Man’s Sky gets the flak it does (especially on this blog) because the problems with it are the type: “Who in their right mind left this fussy bullshit in the finished product?” Defenders can and do provide advice like “X is not an issue because [insert fussy workaround here]”. And THAT is what started this whole discussion off. Baldur’s Gate gets a pass because it is over 20yrs old and was a pioneer. What is Skyrim’s excuse?

            1. Chad Miller (above) asks about infamous problem with Baldur’s Gate that even people who have never played the game know about. It has similar infamy to the inventory system in No Man’s Sky.
            2. I suggest a work around. While explaining the benefits in great detail.
            3. All the while condemning the fact that it is a good idea or necessary. It is a good idea. Yet it should not be necessary. It should not be a thing that exists.
            4. You say I’m min maxing. If so, then it is also min maxing to find a way to deal with inventory in No Man’s Sky that makes players not want to jab a rusty nail into their eye.

            In Baldur’s Gate there shouldn’t be advice about where to find the ring of wizardry because the ring of wizardry should not be a pixel hunt in a tree. A pixel hunt on every other map is fussy nonsense. It should have been cut out of the game. And if there is a pixel hunt, it absolutely should not be the best item on that map (and all of them are.) Anyone who says something like “well then don’t go get it” has completely missed the point!!! There should be no advice about which pixel it is nor advice to avoid it because it was wrongheaded to put a pixel hunt for important items in the game. It is distracting to the core experience and cannot be ignored. The problem is that the rusty nail exists. Advice on how to avoid the rusty nail is a symptom, not a solution.

            Likewise the game used a flat xp system. Which has clear design benefits. However it then made the mistake of using relative xp values for a very important and common situation- npcs. Undermining the benefits of that flat system. It then compounded that error by narratively emphasizing that mistake in the timing of how companions are typically added. The result is a simple and straightforward system that is becomes dominated by the fussy nonsense. And *that* is what Baldur’s Gate is and why I don’t like it nor the genre. These kinds of games are simple and straightforward systems that *always* seem to become dominated by the fussy nonsense.

            A strategy for WHAT? For min-maxing, right?

            No. A strategy for keeping a useless item between three games. Exporting it through multiple expansions and combining it in a ridiculously fussy way with similar fussy items.

            I’m definitely not straw-manning your position.

            “You’re basically saying ______________. That’s a ridiculous position to hold.”
            Tip: That is always going to be a strawman. Doesn’t matter what goes into the _____.

            BTW I’ve tried Baldur’s Gate more than twice. I was also referring to the replies on this page. Search for my name.

    4. Timothy Coish says:

      “Where as others get that hit of dopimine, I simply feel relief that I can safely ignore something tedious.”

      You too? God, it’s always been the absolute most annoying thing in games that the ones that tend to have the best writing, or at least a good combination of quality and quantity, are also the ones that seem to have this really fiddly and tedious “Do the math buddy” gear system. Borderlands really was the worst because you had to write a math pop quiz every time you got a new piece of gear. I have both the compulsion to play the game optimally, yet I hate my time being wasted, so I’m forced to do something that I don’t enjoy at all.

  6. Asdasd says:

    Just wanted to note how much I love that the venerable and storied Gamefaqs is nothing more than ‘an actual website’ to someone of Achilles’ age. It’s almost as if his dismay at the game’s length is a much smaller indignity than the thought of looking at plaintext (plain. text. no video! no animation! not even an emoji in sight!)

    1. baud says:

      I find that, for (some types of game) guides, plain text is way better than videos, just for the ease of navigating: all the info’s one page, no need to load and reload different videos or deal with one big multi-hours videos; if you want information on a specific element, you can just search by name and you find all the occurrences in the guide, which is impossible to do with a video. And it’s way easier to download and backup.

      1. shoeboxjeddy says:

        Plaintext is good for certain kinds of information, and bad for others. For example, where to find a pixelhunt item, a picture is MUCH better than a plaintext description. You can TELL me to aim sort of over the third bush next to the largest tree, or you can show me a picture and I’ll know the exact place to look. For something like an item synthesis guide, yeah plain text is great and a video is pretty much a waste of your time to sit through.

  7. Xander77 says:

    Baldur’s Gate also gave you fairly good latitude about how you can approach combat encounters.

    I would charm entire maps full of enemies with Algernon’s cloak and annihilate entire enemy camps with charmed / summoned creatures.

    Hell, if anything, the enhanced edition probably reduced your options. No more infinite charm with the cloak, and apparently rule changes from BG2 (no more using item abilities while invisible / sneaking, enemies are only charmed for a few rounds rather than a few hours) were backported.

    I brought every single friendly NPC in the game to confront the bad guy at the end. Schlepped them through that long winding dungeon in my party, kicked them out in the final fight room, went back for another haul of 5 friendly NPCs… then eventually charmed them all and dogpiled the bastard.

    Modern games don’t really allow you to do that.

    1. Steve C says:

      ROFL!! I had legit good belly laugh at this! TY Xander77.

    2. Gargamel Le Noir says:

      Modern games don’t really allow you to do that.

      I know it’s fashionable and customary to always say that things were better before, but considering the conversation is about a very modern game that is famous for allowing shenanigans it comes off as weird. Modern games tend to have more complex interlocking mechanics allowing more fun exploits. The Dishonored series is also a very good example. The Spiffing Brit is an entire channel dedicated to this theme.

      1. Duoae says:

        Gargamel, what exactly do you mean by “modern” here? Is Baldur’s Gate a modern game? 1998 was a long time ago…. I mean, you speak about The Spiffing Brit and Dishonored in the same “breath” but he never covered this game series (as far as I can find on youtube) and the games he DOES cover are far more indepth than Dishonored et al.

        The Spiffing Brit is breaking games with RPG elements which can stack. Nothing like Dishonored’s style of gameplay.

        1. Duoae says:

          Worse still, after a cursory glance at this youtube channel it is clear that this guy works through exploits in the games in question. That’s completely different to a game “allowing” you to do a particular thing….. as in, the charm spell is entirely within the D&D framework that the game was written within. It’s not outside of the design.

          e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIma_YaxkIg&list=PLcXPLd_I-oBqnNYc9x-L1Dbi5Zl0Jkzy7&index=48

          1. Gargamel Le Noir says:

            No, Baldur’s Gate is not a modern game, obviously. Modern is “from the last ten years”, and several have complex systems that allow for funny exploits.
            And your example was clearly an unintended exploit (the charm spell is supposed to be limited in time).

            1. Duoae says:

              Okay, I just wanted your clarification on the “modern” part since the conversation is about BG….

              But, really, I’ve checked out a few of the Spiffing Brit’s videos I’ve only found unintended exploits thus far…. i.e. through lack of proper coding. I’d class the charm spell in vanilla BG as the same thing since it was fixed in the remaster by Larian and, as you point out, has a limited duration in tabletop D&D.

              I don’t know much about Dishonored’s exploits but are there examples like this where the coding of the systems was not done properly? Or are they just emergent interactions between different systems?

      2. Xander77 says:

        A different example of old-school sensibilities.

        You can (with the right spells and the use of bugs) recruit every single NPC in Arcanum into your party. They have stats, they can gain xp and level up, they have inventory and (if humanoid) can wield weapons. They’re all just as mechanically “real” as the main character, really.

        Use of items, inventory etc, even when not recruited – they all play by the same rules as you do.

        Show me a modern game that does the same thing, and I will *rush* to buy it.

        1. tmtvl says:

          I think that you can’t use domination on machines, even if you use the Dark Helmet glitch to get insane levels of MA. But yeah, a lot of the Golden Age video games had something that modern games just don’t. I suppose we could call it “the right kind of bugs”.

    3. Zaxares says:

      I gotta say, Xander77, that tactic of bringing EVERY single recruitable companion to fight in the last battle is PURE BRILLIANCE. I HAVE to try that out one of these days. XD

  8. Daimbert says:

    On the Bioware/Black Isle divide, I hated Baldur’s Gate — and never got very far in it — and loved Icewind Dale. I guess I’m more of a Black Isle type of gamer than a Bioware one …

    1. Steve C says:

      Why exactly? What was different? I never tried IWD based on my feelings towards BG.

      1. Zaxares says:

        IWD is less story-focused and more about the dungeon-crawling/strategic experience of D&D, I’d say. In Baldur’s Gate you create a single protagonist and bring him/her on a Hero’s Journey. In IWD, you create up to a party of six, have as much freedom to optimize them into the ultimate killing machine, and then let them loose on the world to see how well they do. A lot of IWD players tend to crank up the difficulty setting and do NG+ runs to really ramp up the experience and turn their party even more into demigods of battle. Because the loot in IWD is also more randomized, it probably appeals more to players who enjoyed Diablo-style RPGs.

        1. Steve C says:

          That sounds wonderful. Except it could also double down on all the fussy stuff I hate. I can’t tell.
          I liked the “Yet another mazelike, single-file dungeon” part of these games. I didn’t like managing a party of six outside of combat.

          1. MelfinatheBlue says:

            There’s a ton of the mazelike dungeons (from what I remember) in both IWDs, and for at least the first one you’re still using AD&D rules. I honestly don’t remember having to do much managing outside of combat, but I haven’t played either in at least a decade.

      2. Duoae says:

        In my point of view, I loved both games and only completed IWD….. I think both games are basically identical but, IMO, Icewind Dale is more focussed.

  9. John says:

    I’ve beaten Divinity: Original Sin three times. How am I only just now finding out about the barrel thing? That’s hilarious! I don’t know if I’d have made a regular practice of barrel stuffing-and-dropping if I had known about it though. It sound kind of tedious. Maybe I’d have saved it for really annoying bosses or that one tree monster who is resistant to very nearly everything.

  10. Bloodsquirrel says:

    As hard as it is for me to find time for 100 hour RPGs nowadays, there’s still something about a game that long that can’t be replicated with a shorter experience. Shorter RPGs just never quite feel complete. The bounds of the world are too easily reached for the world to feel real, the various gameplay systems can’t be explored thoroughly enough, you either can’t have the full variety of places and scenery or the places that you do have can’t have enough content to not seem like a theme park location. You can’t have the same kind of slow-burn lore and plot.

    I get that it’s expensive to make and hard to play, but damn if it isn’t something that I miss.

    1. Gautsu says:

      I just recently finished Torment: Tides of Numenera and am currently replaying Pillars 2, Pathfinder:Kingmaker, and Divinity: OS 2, and I agree. As much as I enjoyed the story in Torment the shorter length really worked against it. While even when I find that spot on the other two where the games drag, I still enjoy just,the abundance of them

      1. Chad Miller says:

        With Tides of Numenera specifically I think the problem isn’t necessarily the length so much as the fact that it feels unfinished, much like with long games the complaint isn’t necessarily “it’s too long” so much as “there’s too much filler.” From the plot angle, the tides themselves aren’t given as much “screen time” as they probably should be and as a result a lot of people see the explanation for the Sorrow and think “that came out of nowhere.” Meanwhile there’s the way the game is linear and doesn’t let you revisit previous areas; in some games that would be fine, but the final area is a network of portals located directly under the starting city. It literally feels like they had a plan to make the Bloom an endgame hub, ran out of kickstarter money, and shoved the game out the door. Compare to something like, say, the Shadowrun Returns games which are short but seem to do everything they set out to do.

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      I’ve found myself frustrated with longer games recently and I thought it was because no longer having that much time for games I was getting annoyed with developers interpreting “value for money” purely as “gamehours per dollar” and padding games ridiculously (particularly open world games), but last year I’ve launched Enderal* because I felt a bit of that Bethesda open world itch but didn’t feel like replaying something I’ve played before. I did most sidequests but I skipped a bunch of unmarked stuff, did not hunt down all of the unique enemies for example and IIRC I finished the game with the savefile clocking in at around 80 hours and looking back I had no idea where the time went, I had a blast through most of it. So that got me thinking maybe the problem isn’t that I don’t love long games anymore but I’m more picky now that time is a more precious resource and while they’re making long games that I’d like in the past they’re not making games that I’d love…

      *It’s a total conversion of Skyrim, essentially an entirely new game made using Skyrim modding tools. Available for download off the project’s page I think and as a standalone game free through Steam for owners of non-enhanced edition of Skyrim. This ad paid for by…

      1. shoeboxjeddy says:

        Well, it’s a question of what was more memorable, three different quality movies (time = 6 hours) or 26 episodes of your random network drama (time = 26 hours). Depending on the quality of the things, it could be very easy to say the 6 hours were more valuable time spent and created a lot more depth of feeling and interest than the 26 hours did. Not because movies are “better” than TV, but because they didn’t take the time they had to tell a story for granted. There was no “filler” moments in the movie, whereas whole episodes of the TV show might have been used to that purpose for budget or scheduling reasons.

        Likewise, a very LONG game like Dragon Age: Inquisition might have tons of “fight a random assortment of enemies to close a portal, no other story threads or consequences occur” moments that add up to 10 hours. But if you played a 10 hour short game instead with that time, that game would probably be full of excitement and development and climax. So the “long games are a good value for my money” is kind of like the thinking of “why would I buy steak for $14 a pound when I could get FOURTEEN ramen dinners for that sum??”

  11. Joshua says:

    “The Divinity games tended towards the tongue-in-cheek, with a sort of “ironic Disney” aesthetic. Baldur’s Gate is different. Of course there’s humor, but the games went to some pretty dark places, which you’ll see for yourself as you keep playing”

    It’s been a LONG time since I played BG2, but I recall the tones of BG2 and D:OS2 to be fairly similar: Combinations of silliness, seriousness, and horror.

    1. Steve C says:

      Combinations of silliness, seriousness, and horror is D&D. Every good game I’ve ever played was some blend of those three. When it focused too much on one of those elements, it would fail. That blend is one of the things BG did well. It felt right.

  12. Don Alsafi says:

    This absolutely mirrors my first playthrough of BG1 twenty years ago. I’d played several of the Gold Box games, but not a lot of RPGs otherwise – I was more of an adventure game fan. BG1 was fun at first, I was playing it with completionist tendencies and exploring every map, running down every sidequest … and after a while, I began to get kind of restless. “How long IS this game?” I thought.

    At which point I *finally* reached the city of Baldur’s Gate! “Aha!” I thought. “Endgame!” Which is (obviously), in retrospect, ludicrous. I then saw how damn BIG the city was. Went into some building with multiple floors, and a sub-basement, and … and …

    And then I checked out. Not generally one to leave things unfinished, but there I did.

    Last year I went back to BG1 and played it through to completion. (At this point I’ve played through the first six Final Fantasy games, and am working on VII, so I had a more accurate frame of reference for RPG length.) I had a much better experience, though by the end I still found it not nearly as deserving of the hype. (I also proceeded onto BG2, which was better.) But then, I might not have been as underwhelmed if I hadn’t played Planescape: Torment some months beforehand, which is pretty much my pick for best CRPG of all time: The length, the fascinatingly bizarre setting, the captivating and haunting and introspective story – it definitely hit all my buttons and then some, and BG couldn’t help but suffer a bit by comparison. ;)

  13. kdansky says:

    As for stagnation: That was what killed Pillars of Eternity for me on arrival.

    1. Mysterious magic happens.
    2. Protagonist becomes chosen one.
    3. Fight some wolves in the forest.

    That was how far I got. It was all so BORING. At least Larian’s D:OS2 had the grace of introducing interesting party characters at the very start, and also have challenging fights. The latter seems weirdly ignored by most CRPGs: If your gameplay is 99% combat, the combat needs to be good, not just filler!

    I just want something as great as the orignal Planescape Torment. Numenera also fell flat because it went too far with its lore: You need a translator to understand it.

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