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May 20th, 2013, 19:06
For some reason, I feel like I learned very little after reading that interview…

At some point, even the most completionist of players are going to decide they’ve wrung every bit of reactivity out of an area and move on.

Reactivity is not a word I usually associate with computer games. I think it tells us a lot about Colin McComb's views about proper game design, and for me at least it's not something good. Anyway, this was in response to a question about "…PS:T suffers from a drop in quality from Curst through to Carceri…".

I wouldn't really put it that way, myself. There was a common problem with Bioware and Black Isle games where they front loaded the game, with the bulk of the meaningful content in the beginning portion of the story and the remaining of 2/3 or 3/4 of the game feeling like it's just filler to the string the player along for a while before the grand finale reveal(see, I can do it too). I'm assuming that since this was happening when these companies were at their peak it wasn't a case of them originally intending to do much more than they were ultimately able to and having their development cycle cut short. One of the other explanations is that the designers felt that most players would get bored with the game and wouldn't want to work very hard at finishing it once they decided they were "done". A third explanation is that the design teams thought once the player was godly enough from working all the front-loaded content that they'd want to "enjoy" just being godly and blowing through lots of "trash mobs" and so on and so forth and wouldn't want to have to concern themselves any further with trying to figure shit out. In any case, I don't like it. It's always been one of my biggest complaints with Bioware and Black Isle.

Colin seems to be saying the problem with gratuitous combat is going to be solved by drastically reducing the amount of combat. Basically, fixing it by removing it. I can see how a story guy would think that was the way to go but I can pretty much guarantee that is not going to happen. 75% of the story in the first 25% of the game means that the last 3/4 of the game has to have some mechanic to string the player along for x number of hours. That's going to be trash combat and easy to implement monty haul geewhiz throwaways. It always is with these guys and their interactive fiction. It's too bad they don't fix it via changing the pacing, but that's no accident. Somebody decided front loading the content was the way to go, and they made that decision a very long time ago.

But some choices are mutually exclusive, and we don’t see it as a possibility that you’ll be able to experience the entirety of the game in a single playthrough. In fact, I don’t think you’ll get it on two.

Ah, yes. The infamous "replayability" argument to make people feel better about perceived lack of content. Unfortunately, when all you have is narrative, you don't have much replayability to offer. People don't want to play a whole game through a second, third, fourth time just to hear all the same stuff they've heard before plus a couple lines here and there that are slightly different. It's challenging and dynamic combat that people never get tired of (see Diablo II) and will endlessly keep diving into. Unfortunately, he's already said that they are fixing the boring trash mob combat by removing it instead of making it more interesting and difficult. So… ok… whatever… this is their way and it works well enough, it's just nowhere near as good as they could do if they weren't so hung up on narrative. Narrative is only one tool in the story-telling toolbox.
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