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RPGWatch Forums » Comments » News Comments » Ultima IV - Jeff Vogel: "The Ugly Truth"

Default Ultima IV - Jeff Vogel: "The Ugly Truth"

September 28th, 2010, 16:33
I like that blog entry. Quoteed from there is exactly what I meant with "earning the game mechanics" :

I have to wonder though, it used to be that I would consult game manuals in order to know how to play games. I don’t just mean what controls do what, but to learn about the rules of the game and begin to form strategies to be successful in the game.
Somehow, this blogger hit the top of the nail what I wanted to say.

Only that I'm too complex for that.

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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September 28th, 2010, 16:36
Originally Posted by Alrik Fassbauer View Post
I like that blog entry. Quoteed from there is exactly what I meant with "earning the game mechanics" :



Somehow, this blogger hit the top of the nail what I wanted to say.

Only that I'm too complex for that.
I tend to ramble on as well

Despite all my rage.
I'm still just a rat in a cage.
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September 28th, 2010, 16:40
Originally Posted by holeraw View Post
So… not wanting to read the manual of U4 will result in schools not teaching people how to read?…

I'm sure nobody here supported the benefits of extinguishing any form of written language in any medium ever and anywhere.
Read what I have written : And I wrote : "it is a question of how far you want it to boil down."

You can "boil down" (and that quite literally !) humans to a set of genes, to several pieces of biochemistry - or you can "boil down" them on to the level where everything is nothing but carbon, plus a few other raw elements.

It's a question of how far you want to go.

Me, I'm going straight to the bottom of the pit, and that means to me : It might become so - over the course of the next several hundred years - that "reading" might actually considered a waste of time and money. And what we discuss here might only be the first step. Like from DOS to GUI-OS.
It (reading) could become luxury again, limited to a selected few or a few social classes, like so many hundreds to thousands years ago.

It's just a matter of how far you project developments into the future.
And that apart from the question whether the "direction" of these projections are actually "right".

Have you ever read the novel called "Brave New World" ? If not - do so. It is one of the most frightening projections of a possible future, just like Big Brother.

And then read "Amusing ourselves to death" too.

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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September 28th, 2010, 16:53
Originally Posted by skavenhorde View Post
How many people could actually read the runes in the Ultima games? When your a kid that is just awesome that you know a language that only a few others do. It's trivial, but still awesome
I'd say that, if you overdo it, when trying to even figure out that such gibberish actually means "fireball" it distracts from the main point of trying to figure out when and how to use the fireball.

But I won't disagree with what you're saying… Usability is certainly no reason to squeeze every bit of imagination out of the game.

But…

Originally Posted by skavenhorde View Post
Whether or not people agree with the whole manual debate is up to them, but I've tried dumbed down games where you need no manual or any kind of investment to reap some kind of entertainment out of them. I also have tried more complex games where you have to spend some time with it to understand the true benefits like all of the Realms of Arkania games, Dwarf Fortress, Dominions 3 and Armageddon Empires. I enjoy both for different reasons. So why not have both kinds available?
You can put tons of info in the game… you can fit entire encyclopedias into the game and make it accessible from within the game when it is needed!
Not putting info in the game when it would be useful and perfectly feasible to do so is not smart game design - it's just lazy.

And since you mention old complex games here's an example: Civilization 2 - it had all the information you needed inside the game, easily accessible, well organized with links and everything… it had more information than its fat manual had… So you never even needed to read that manual because all that information and more was easily accessible from within the game… was it 'dumbed down'?

Not having a manual doesn't automatically mean 'dumbed down' or 'destroy all written language'. It means 'put the information inside the game' and 'employ elementary usability rules when designing your interface'.

"I am not interested in good; I am interested in new, even if this includes the possibility of it's being evil"
(LaMonte Young, 1962)
Last edited by holeraw; September 28th, 2010 at 17:06.
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September 28th, 2010, 18:05
Originally Posted by holeraw View Post
You can put tons of info in the game… you can fit entire encyclopedias into the game and make it accessible from within the game when it is needed!
Not putting info in the game when it would be useful and perfectly feasible to do so is not smart game design - it's just lazy.

And since you mention old complex games here's an example: Civilization 2 - it had all the information you needed inside the game, easily accessible, well organized with links and everything… it had more information than its fat manual had… So you never even needed to read that manual because all that information and more was easily accessible from within the game… was it 'dumbed down'?

Not having a manual doesn't automatically mean 'dumbed down' or 'destroy all written language'. It means 'put the information inside the game' and 'employ elementary usability rules when designing your interface'.
I shouldn't of said dumbed down. You honed in on that like a hawk searching for it's next meal. I meant games that are easy to understand and sometimes hard to master.

Now as far as having a "civopedia" in the games…well sure why not. Do that in every game. I'm all for it. Why not have both though?

Let's be fair though. You keep saying lazy design, but a lot of these more complex games out there don't have the resources or time to put into it. They're being made by indies. AAA publishers normally don't touch any kind of game that would require an extensive manual (keyword in that sentence is normally. I know there are a few like Civilization, but not many).

Armageddon Empires being a prime example of a great game that requires you to read the manual before you play or you will be hopelessly lost. Does that make it a bad game or is the ONE GUY who is making it lazy? Tycho from Penny Arcade didn't think so. Yes, the UI could be a lot better and he could of included everything you need to know right in the game, but it sure as hell isn't lazy design. The guy went through hell to get the AI just perfect and everything else about the game as well. Even released some free mini-expansion packs. I'll take a better AI over a civopedia any day.

The main point is being lost in all this discussion about better game design. The manual was part of the experience. Hell, even the cluebooks that were sold were part of the experience. Did anyone buy Ultima VII's cluebook or the bard's tale? They unfolded like novels, but that is lost now and will never be found again.

For you that's a good thing. For me, well like I said life goes on.

CRPGaddict has an interesting blog about the old cluebooks.

Some of them were quite well done, though. I remember having the clue book for The Bard's Tale, and it was basically a novel, providing hints and solutions in the context of a larger story about a party of adventurers seeking to defeat Mangar.
I do understand the point you're trying to make, but unfortunately you can't understand mine. I think we'll just leave it at that because no one really makes manuals as artistic as they used to.

Anyways, see the 'lost an eighth' blog I mentioned early if you want to know more of my opinion on this matter. He says it better than I do.

Despite all my rage.
I'm still just a rat in a cage.
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September 28th, 2010, 19:24
I always liked the way the Ultima cluebooks were done. They were written as if by someone in the game world (like the manuals and compendiums). They also didn't just give everything away. Even the U6 one that had a walk through didn't give every single detail in its walkthrough.

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September 28th, 2010, 20:03
Originally Posted by skavenhorde View Post
Did anyone buy Ultima VII's cluebook or the bard's tale?
While I can only barely remember the Bard's Tale cluebook (it came in a baggy!) it gives me a nice warm nostalgia feeling whenever I think of it. That's the only cluebook I still "remember" like that. I also remember loving it for the maps! And the games' gray square flip-open folder-style game boxes were iconic, too. (Sorry, I just love a bit of nostalgia.)
Originally Posted by skavenhorde
How many people could actually read the runes in the Ultima games? When your a kid that is just awesome that you know a language that only a few others do. It's trivial, but still awesome
This brought a smile to my face as well, as, when I was young, this brought me a sense of pride as well, silly as that is. I always enjoyed those "translations" and finding other fans using them here and there on the internet as a kind of geek secret "language".
Originally Posted by blatantninja
I always liked the way the Ultima cluebooks were done. They were written as if by someone in the game world (like the manuals and compendiums). They also didn't just give everything away. Even the U6 one that had a walk through didn't give every single detail in its walkthrough.
You know, when skavenhorde mentioned them they didn't ring a bell initially. But with your reminder as well they popped right back into my head. Those were excellent!
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September 28th, 2010, 20:09
I still have the Ultima VII cluebook (both of them, parts 1 & 2).

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September 28th, 2010, 22:45
Originally Posted by holeraw View Post
Can't all those be presented in-game when you need them? Class descriptions during character creation, detailed skill descriptions etc. Lately it seems to me there are far more detailed descriptions about such things in-game even if there is a manual - and that makes sense to me: I need a class description when I get to choose a class not when I'm in chapter 2 nor before I install the game… why make me search a large document for all the bits and pieces of information I need when I'm definitely going to have a screen with a size and resolution perfectly capable of displaying a paragraph of text and why overload me with information I'm only going to use once in the game - and therefore once in my life?.

That only works for very shallow character development systems.

EDIT: Well, for me, at least. I need to ruminate away from the computer when I'm thinking and planning out character design, and I prefer to have it with reference material in book form.

As Alrik said, why not have both printed and in game?
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September 29th, 2010, 01:49
Apologies if this was already posted, but here:

http://www.phipsisoftware.com/ultima4.html

is a really nice flash version of the game. There are in-game links for the immaculately scanned documentation!
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September 29th, 2010, 10:38
Originally Posted by blatantninja View Post
I still have the Ultima VII cluebook (both of them, parts 1 & 2).
I have ultima IV cluebook somwhere. Remember it was quite thick.

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September 29th, 2010, 21:34
Originally Posted by Thrasher View Post
As Alrik said, why not have both printed and in game?
Money. It costs a LOT of money to print and ship the manuals. And the manuals have to be ready and off to the printer long before the rest of the game is done which means if you make any last minute tweaks the printed manual is useless.
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September 30th, 2010, 07:58
And yet the prices go up for games and we get fewer printed manuals. Something doesn't jive.
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September 30th, 2010, 08:32
Originally Posted by Thrasher View Post
And yet the prices go up for games and we get fewer printed manuals. Something doesn't jive.
Its not about making manuals but increasing profits every year. Besides you do get all kinds of stuff if you pay extra for special edition.

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September 30th, 2010, 08:50
Originally Posted by Thrasher View Post
And yet the prices go up for games and we get fewer printed manuals. Something doesn't jive.
Teams get way bigger to make all the shiny. Salaries go up. Rent and energy prices (thus office and shelf space price and printing costs) go up. Games sell even without manuals… Manuals loose.
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September 30th, 2010, 09:11
The larger the team, the harder it is to keep focus and maintain a proper coherent vision.

It's actually 100% counterproductive to the evolution of games, because with a large team you pretty much HAVE to stay conservative, so everyone "gets it" and is on the same page. That's what you see with companies like Bioware or Blizzard who have "made it". They do this, by developing a strong blueprint - and they're LOATHE to diverge from that. You don't experiment with that many people, and that much money on the line. You need to stick with what you know.

In fact, to keep getting richer - they need to restrict evolution to a large extent, and actually simplify their blueprint ever more.

They get richer, and so they hire more people so they can make even bigger explosions, and reach an even larger audience. This kind of thing comes so naturally to human beings - and it's so dreadfully predictable. The larger the company, the more conservative and the less independent the people working there will be.

They think of getting bigger as the goal, and the actual evolution. If you ask me, it's quite the opposite.

Pretty sad, really.
Last edited by DArtagnan; September 30th, 2010 at 09:30.
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September 30th, 2010, 13:37
Originally Posted by zakhal View Post
Its not about making manuals but increasing profits every year. Besides you do get all kinds of stuff if you pay extra for special edition.
Yes. Just look at what happened to Games Workshop after the sale several years ago.

In a recent newspaper interview, even a seemingly relatively known economy professor said that the way of just focussing on short-term profits just isn't right. It actually destroys much more than it creates, simply because of the short-time focus.

He actually kind of demanded longer-term foci of companies.

In another recent interview, a similar thing was said about politicians : They are thinking only in terms of short-time focussing from election to election. The interviewed politics professor (if I remember correctly) said that we actuall need a much longer attention- and planning-span, so to say.

Just take look at how foresters plan : They do it in fact in terms of generations.

We just need to have a longer-term attention-span of both economy & of politicians in order to survive rather than to exploit, imho.

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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September 30th, 2010, 19:30
Stock market driven economy pushes towards short term gains for those larger investors that need to turn an investmetn profit every quarter to survive.

If the drivers in the economy shifted towards more consumption and production of products rather than paper profits, maybe we'd see a change to a more long term approach to corporate management.
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