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RPGWatch Forums » Comments » News Comments » Chris Avelone - About Planescape, Fallout: New Vegas and Player Expectations

Default Chris Avelone - About Planescape, Fallout: New Vegas and Player Expectations

July 27th, 2011, 22:32
Chris Avelone is interviewed by playable character, of which the resulting podcast you can find on their site. He talks about Planescape:Torment and tells something about Fallout: New Vegas, but more interesting is what his feelings are about the current trend for handholding in RPGs.
The interview starts at 3:50 minutes in the podcast.
More information.
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July 27th, 2011, 22:32
At the risk of sounding like a fanboy, I always enjoy Avelone interviews. Here are a few snippets:

"People want the to play the same character and even the same setting over and over because it's what they're comfortable with."

"There are so many conveniences in RPG's now that you can't subtract from titles without people getting pissed off" Re: setting up bread crumb trails for players, handholding, etc.

Feels that more effort on part of the player leads to a greater sense of accomplishment, important in an RPG.
I wish there was a publisher out there with the cajones to give the guy complete freedom on a project.
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July 27th, 2011, 22:42
It would need to be a publisher everyone hated, because while his game would be awesome to an extremely niche group, it wouldn't sell enough to pay for itself. There's a strong chance that the publisher would go under. I vote for EA

'nut
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July 27th, 2011, 22:51
I wouldn't be so pessimistic about such a hypothetical game's chances. There's a lot of unsatisfied PC gamers out there.

Great interview, thanks for the link, Myrthos.
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July 27th, 2011, 23:31
Originally Posted by Drithius View Post
I wouldn't be so pessimistic about such a hypothetical game's chances. There's a lot of unsatisfied PC gamers out there.
I agree. Such a venture could make money. It would just require a lower budget than someone like Chris Avellone is willing to work with. He's been doing this for a long time and expects to make AAA games now. And, unfortunately for Chris, AAA games end up being the type of games he probably doesn't like to make. It's part of the problem with working an artistic endeavor that is also a business… sacrifices must be made in service to the almighty dollar.
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July 27th, 2011, 23:51
A retro, non-hand holding game, as others are noting, could probably be pulled off if the budget and price point were low enough, but the gaming press would be mercilessly unforgiving of it. (Unless it were done by EA who they are far too afraid to speak out against)

The new Wizardry game that came out recently for the PS3 is basically just an old school style Wizardry dungeon crawler updated with JRPG art and the review sites completely trashed it for not being accessible and being too hard.

An retro style non hand holding game would probably have to rely on word of mouth to gain momentum and even then it's going to get some bad word of mouth from impatient kids (and adults who act like kids) who expect constant instant gratification.

It's doable but it would most definitely have to fight against expectations.
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July 28th, 2011, 09:39
Originally Posted by Falchor View Post
I agree. Such a venture could make money. It would just require a lower budget than someone like Chris Avellone is willing to work with. He's been doing this for a long time and expects to make AAA games now. And, unfortunately for Chris, AAA games end up being the type of games he probably doesn't like to make. It's part of the problem with working an artistic endeavor that is also a business… sacrifices must be made in service to the almighty dollar.
Since when? I must have missed the part where "Dungeon Siege III" was more AAA than NWN2.
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July 28th, 2011, 09:42
Originally Posted by Motoki View Post
A retro, non-hand holding game, as others are noting, could probably be pulled off if the budget and price point were low enough, but the gaming press would be mercilessly unforgiving of it.
You mean like Risen or Divinity 2? Yeah they looked really low-budget and retro to me. Or did those have bread-crumb trails and hand-holding? Last I checked they had higher metacritic scores than Obsidians latest game.

Some of you guys here are incredibly pessimistic…suddenly standards have changed so much that doing a game in a style that was viable in late 2008 (latest NWN2 expansion) is "retro" and must be done with a minimal budget. On Steam, NWN2 is played by more people than either DA:O or DA2 despite only being available since December 2010.
Last edited by TheSisko; July 28th, 2011 at 09:52.
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July 28th, 2011, 09:47
Most people are basically sheep. So, if someone with balls financed such a game and marketed it correctly, there's a good chance people would accept it, because obviously that would be the cool thing to do.

But there'd be no point - and people with marketing power have no reason to even attempt such a thing. They're doing just fine following the current drone-like design paradigms.
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July 28th, 2011, 10:06
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
But there'd be no point - and people with marketing power have no reason to even attempt such a thing. They're doing just fine following the current drone-like design paradigms.
A developer could, for instance (just taking the bread-crumb thing as an example):

Agree to bread-crumbs but design the game without relying on them.
Put in "Hardcore" mode that switches them off.

The problem is created when the developer starts relying on the presence of handholding, I don't see an issue if it's merely put it in as a "hint"-system for people who just play RPG's for "the story and experience".

I could have cared less if PS:T had an optional quest compass. Hell, I might even have used it if I got stuck for a longer period. Optional aids = good. Dumbed down overall design = bad.
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July 28th, 2011, 10:18
Originally Posted by TheSisko View Post
A developer could, for instance (just taking the bread-crumb thing as an example):

Agree to bread-crumbs but design the game without relying on them.
Put in "Hardcore" mode that switches them off.

The problem is created when the developer starts relying on the presence of handholding, I don't see an issue if it's merely put it in as a "hint"-system for people who just play RPG's for "the story and experience".

I could have cared less if PS:T had an optional quest compass. Hell, I might even have used it if I got stuck for a longer period. Optional aids = good. Dumbed down overall design = bad.
All those things are true, but why would they? They're about money - and they've already found the golden goose.

To actually implement those things would require them to care about more than money, and unfortunately the people with the most financial power tend to be the people with the most interest in just that - and nothing more.

That said, the industry can change - ever so slowly - and I think it's inevitable that some AAA houses will experiment with this. If for no other reason, then to simply stand out and be "cool" - because that will eventually generate more profit.
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July 28th, 2011, 10:30
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
To actually implement those things would require them to care about more than money, and unfortunately the people with the most financial power tend to be the people with the most interest in just that - and nothing more.
So you think the publisher would come and say "What are these lines of dialogue you've written here? We have quest compass in this game, erase them!"
I think the developers have a little more freedom than you give them credit for.

Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
That said, the industry can change - ever so slowly - and I think it's inevitable that some AAA houses will experiment with this. If for no other reason, then to simply stand out and be "cool" - because that will eventually generate more profit.
Well, I think all this doom and gloom talk is a bit exaggarated.
Where are all these hand-holding RPG's that are selling billions? Mass Effect and Fallout 3?

DA2 is received far worse than DA:O. Risen and Divinity 2 did just fine and were not exactly low-budget indie titles. Dungeon Siege 3 looks to be bombing critically and commercially. The publisher pressure for dumbing down new games is obviously there , but I'm not really seeing it paying off. What we need is to see some of these "me-too" "AAA" games that cost a billion dollars to really fail hard and brutally in their effort to get the "CoD"-crowd.
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July 28th, 2011, 10:44
So I was thinking.

One of the problems is that games usually relies on Object X to pass a problem. You really need that Object X, there are none more like it in the universe.

In your home, most rooms will have more unique objects in it, than Fallout NV. Each and every place is unique. In Fallout NV the vast majority of all rooms you enter, will have items you seen before and probably carry a load of in your inventory. When this is your usual experience whenever you enter a room, in a game as large as Fallout NV, you will probably resort to approaching rooms quickly because once you went through 100 rooms you can assume the 101 room contains the same kind of loot. That's how you miss the scarce unique objects in the game, including the Object X that you really need to continue.

To avoid this to happen, two steps needs to be taken. One is to introduce alternate plans and substitutes as often as it can be done. Every quest might be ordered this way, so there are none that have 1 solution and if you can't find it you are toast.

If there is to be an Object X, it still needs to stand out. If it exists within a room that looks almost entirely than every other room in the game, it's too easy to skip.

In "reality" you may have to get Object X to continue, but in "reality", every room also looks different.

Now in old 2d games this wasn't as much of a problem as it is today because the rooms were alot less cluttered and it was easy to see what objects you could interact with and not. Also, it was easy to substitute graphics with text. A sign on the wall that said "Pentry" in pure in-game text might be all that it took. Now you need a texture that say "Pentry" that needs to fit the model.

Without a unique touch to every room, it's more likely you get lost than finding Object X. Then you got the problem that Fallout NV is in grey or brown, every object as well. Objects blend in easily, especially after seeing 100 rooms like this one.

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July 28th, 2011, 11:02
There's an easy solution to that problem.

Instead of putting the quest item in an obscure locker in a vault and making you follow the quest compass : Hint to the player that the item is inside a metal locker and give every metal locker in the vault 15% chance of spawning the quest item when opened. If you want the player to explore the whole vault, say "It's probably in section X" and give the lockers in that section 25% chance of spawning the item. Also add a 100% chance of finding the item after 10 tries to avoid the case where the random probability never happens.

The benefit is that the player actually looks for the object and explores the vault instead of staring at a quest compass.
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July 28th, 2011, 11:24
Originally Posted by TheSisko View Post
There's an easy solution to that problem.

Instead of putting the quest item in an obscure locker in a vault and making you follow the quest compass : Hint to the player that the item is inside a metal locker and give every metal locker in the vault 15% chance of spawning the quest item when opened. If you want the player to explore the whole vault, say "It's probably in section X" and give the lockers in that section 25% chance of spawning the item. Also add a 100% chance of finding the item after 10 tries to avoid the case where the random probability never happens.

The benefit is that the player actually looks for the object and explores the vault instead of staring at a quest compass.
I like hints before waypoints. I like "it's in area X, search" better than a waypoint because it makes me think about what I am doing (my brain shut off very quickly if I just follow the HUD). Although I prefer that an item is logically placed to an item that is randomly placed. But on top of that, "area X" need to be better defined than what it is in Fallout NV where most rooms look alike.

Also I believe it's important for the game to have an in-game notepad and the opportunity to set markers on the map. Can't be done as well on consoles since they have no keyboard, but I believe it's important since a player wont be able to play continuously and remember hints that aren't used at once.

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July 28th, 2011, 11:39
Originally Posted by TheSisko View Post
So you think the publisher would come and say "What are these lines of dialogue you've written here? We have quest compass in this game, erase them!"
I think the developers have a little more freedom than you give them credit for.
Oh, I think you're overestimating their "freedom"

It's a subtle and slow development - but if you listen to modern AAA developers, you have the CREATIVE people saying these things. It's not just the people holding the money.

They've actually convinced the artists that complexity, depth, and challenge aren't desirable qualities. Well, at least not in any meaningful way.

Well, I think all this doom and gloom talk is a bit exaggarated.
Where are all these hand-holding RPG's that are selling billions? Mass Effect and Fallout 3?
Ok, so it's a bit exaggerated. But can you blame me? The end-result is that there has never been more potential in gaming as an art-form, and we've never seen a more creatively corrupt AAA industry.

Yeah, yeah - I'm pessimistic and jaded - but it's not entirely bullshit, even from an objective viewpoint.

DA2 is received far worse than DA:O. Risen and Divinity 2 did just fine and were not exactly low-budget indie titles. Dungeon Siege 3 looks to be bombing critically and commercially. The publisher pressure for dumbing down new games is obviously there , but I'm not really seeing it paying off. What we need is to see some of these "me-too" "AAA" games that cost a billion dollars to really fail hard and brutally in their effort to get the "CoD"-crowd.
Dragon Age 2 is the FIRST - and I do mean FIRST example of Bioware stepping over the line in the eyes of the general public. They've taken all their streamlining in every other case so far - and it seems Mass Effect 3 will outsell them all.

Risen and Divinity are not AAA games.

The "middle-market" is very healthy and growing.

I'm exclusively talking about the "top-dogs", and if we talk about our favorite genre - that would be Bioware and Bethesda.

Overall, though, I think we agree. You're just less pessimistic than I am
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July 28th, 2011, 11:42
Originally Posted by JemyM View Post
I like hints before waypoints. I like "it's in area X, search" better than a waypoint because it makes me think about what I am doing (my brain shut off very quickly if I just follow the HUD). Although I prefer that an item is logically placed to an item that is randomly placed. But on top of that, "area X" need to be better defined than what it is in Fallout NV where most rooms look alike.
I played through NV with the quest compass off. Mostly it worked fine, there was quest when you needed to find some items for the BoS.

One of them I found without help - I figured it was logical for it to be in a notable room and so I searched in the room where I had killed some Fiend bosses and it was indeed there.

One of the other items was completely impossible to find without the compass, it was in a random locker in a random underwater room - clearly a case of designing with the compass in mind.
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July 28th, 2011, 13:06
sweet. no detailed interrogation with an unbearable strong light pointed in his face about torment2. another (to me) useless interview.
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July 28th, 2011, 13:20
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
Risen and Divinity are not AAA games.

The "middle-market" is very healthy and growing.

I'm exclusively talking about the "top-dogs", and if we talk about our favorite genre - that would be Bioware and Bethesda.

Overall, though, I think we agree. You're just less pessimistic than I am
I think we agree. One has to keep in mind that the games from Bethesda and Bioware that some of us like best were not "AAA" either (in terms of budget). I highly doubt "Risen" has a much lower budget than Morrowind for instance.

"AAA" games are largely a new phenomena made possible by cross-platform development and deep market penetration of the "next-gen" consoles, it doesn't mean that we can't have incremental improvements in our "mid-market" games going forward.
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July 28th, 2011, 13:22
Originally Posted by TheSisko View Post
I think we do agree. One has to keep in mind that the games from Bethesda and Bioware that some of us like best were not "AAA" either (in terms of budget). I highly doubt "Risen" has a much lower budget than Morrowind for instance.
Morrowind is not the present. I'm talking about the present. I'm pretty sure Mass Effect 3 and Skyrim have MUCH larger budgets than Risen 2.

"AAA" games are largely a new phenomena made possible by cross-platform development and deep market penetration of the "next-gen" consoles, it doesn't mean that we can't have incremental improvements in our "mid-market" games going forward.
No, we agree.
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