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February 9th, 2015, 01:33
A continuation of the discussion started on the UnderWorld Ascension topic. I don't know how to properly quote posts from other threads, so I will simply copy and paste:

Nerevarine: Interesting systems > stats. By a wide margin, I would argue. The original Thief games, for example, don't have a single stat to manage, yet the systems in the game are so meaningful and interesting for the player to interact with that I would take a game designed with that methodology over a stats-fest any day.

The technology is so much better than when the UU games came out that they don't need to rely on stats so heavily to represent the design template for the gameplay.

There will always be a place for stat-heavy RPGs, and I don't believe that stats need to be done away with entirely, but it's time for someone to take the ball and move forward with new ideas rather than rehash what has been done to death already.
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February 9th, 2015, 01:34
Fluent: I don't see why people can't take these 'new ideas' and advance stats to the next level. Stats and rehashing what has been done to death already are not mutually exclusive. You can use stats and still have new ideas.

The issue is the trend that is happening. Stats are seen as a dirty word now in game development, so instead of new games trying to advance stats to create something new, you have games trying to do something completely different or opposite of a stat-based approach.

As I said, if I designed a game, I would try to advance the world of stats forward and make progress with them, not throw them out because it's trendy to do so.
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February 9th, 2015, 01:38
I agree, systems and stats don't need to be mutually exclusive. Still, I lean towards the Warren Spector and Looking Glass philosophy that stats were extremely important when technology simply could not represent all of the ideas presented by designers. Now that technology can allow direct interaction from the player rather than an abstraction, I think that really could potentially unlock a much deeper level of immersion than what stats can offer.
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February 9th, 2015, 02:45
I think the trendy idea that I don't agree with is that stats somehow do not equal immersion, but I think they can be very immersive.

In Baldur's Gate, for example, the stats give life to each character. They differentiate each character, and a simple number can tell such a story and have a life of it's own. Knowing my Paladin had 18 Strength, compared to just 14 for my Archer, made a big difference in how I viewed the character and my feelings towards that character. It breathed life into the characters in an immersive way.

Let's look at Morrowind, another system that has lots of stats. The stats all tell a story. Maybe you had a Nightblade character who was good at Enchantment (95) but poor in Alteration (25). Yet, you had your Axe stat at 55, thus you could wield it just well enough to get by, yet not well enough to defeat a Dremora in close combat. However, since your Enchantment stat was high, you could enchant your Axe with a spell of Firebite to do extra damage and fell the mighty Dremora.

In a game without stats, this sort of interplay is not as prominent in the game design. In Skyrim, for example, they removed all of the stats except for the basic three of Health, Magicka and Stamina. Sure, they added perks, which allows for a LOT of customization, but yet we still lose the raw and unaltered feeling that a Strength stat invokes, or a Dexterity stat, etc.

Furthermore, games with stats can get very creative with the highly-praised-in-niche-RPG-circles, the elusive "Stat Checks". Example - You come across a locked door. You can bash it (Strength stat must be 10 to successfully knock it down), or have your thief try to pick it (Dexterity stat must be 8 or higher to successfully pick it), or have your electronics expert bypass the circuit security (Intelligence stat must be 12 or higher), etc. I love that sort of things in RPGs.

I think stats should be expanded in RPGs, not taken away. I don't understand the fascination with streamlined RPGs that supposedly go for 'immersion' and try to deny their pen-and-paper roots, when stats themselves can be extremely immersive and tell a story of their own. I'm also in favor of dice-rolls as well. I think CRPGs can benefit greatly by accepting their roots and building on a strong foundation of stats, dice and immersive storytelling.

Stat-less games are just a trend in RPG and game development right now that I don't agree with, that's all. Personal preference and all that.

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February 9th, 2015, 03:58
Sure, I understand where you are coming from. And in a game like Arcanum - where you don't really have "direct" control over your character - having a wide range of stats to represent certain actions is wonderful, and that is the way it should be in isometric or top-down, party-based RPGs.

However, games like UU, System Shock, Thief, and Deus Ex are a different breed. These were games that were trying to create that "simulation" environment where the player did have more direct control of their character, and more importantly, the world around them. This is where having too many stats becomes…unnecessary.

The whole idea is to give the player a set of tools within the environment, and allowing them to use these tools as they see fit in order to solve a particular problem. In these cases, "skill checks" are more of an annoyance that creates an unofficial barrier, hindering the player's creativity.

In Arcanum, the well-developed range of skill checks are wonderful, and add a lot to the experience and help the player feel connected with their character's identity. In a game like Thief, skill checks would have felt like an arbitrary gate preventing the player from truly interacting with the vast array of systems designed into the game.

So I think we agree in a way: I also am not a fan of "watered down" mechanics in RPGs. But stats alone do not give an RPG depth; it is also the systems. These two don't need to be mutually exclusive, as you said, but some RPGs would be better off accentuating their systems without using stats as a crutch.
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February 9th, 2015, 10:30
Stats have their place, but they have a tendency to turn games into number crunching and they can start to feel less like immersive worlds - and more like spreadsheet managment.

I appreciate that there are lots of RPG fans that really enjoy this spreadsheet aspect of traditional RPGs, and I love it myself in games that lend themselves well to it. To me, that would be party-based games with a significant layer of tactical combat. That's when I start to enjoy the whole numbers game more.

I can also enjoy it in other kinds of games, but I find that if I start focusing on numbers - I start forgetting that I'm supposed to be immersed in a world. That's when the whole experience shifts and turns into something slightly obsessive and it becomes systemic - which was never necessarily what the game was about.

In games like Ultima Ascendant - which is very much about simulating a world in a highly immersive way, and where they intend to go out of their way to make YOU be there - more than your character, a high focus on stats would be a huge mistake. I'm glad they realise this, themselves.

It's possible to have a ton of depth - and complex mechanics - in such a game, but you don't have to present it as numbers and stats. It's better to handle it in a fluid and dynamic way, where the complexity is under-the-hood, and you have to adapt using your real-world intuition, rather than crunching numbers.

Morrowind is a good example of how NOT to do it - as it had a terrible, gamey-mechanics system. It was highly immersive in spite of it, not because of it. So I would argue, anyway.

Another good example of how not to do it, is actually the original Deus Ex - where they opted for a traditional skill system - and made your character, the super sophisticated agent - shake like a child on drugs when trying to aim a rifle at something. It was quite the clash between immersion and mechanics.

The game is still excellent, certainly, but I much prefer something like System Shock 2 - where they tried to create a lore around how your character evolved with "Cybernetic Modules" - and where it was more about doing more damage, than being able to aim. Still not the way to do it, really, but a step in the right direction.

So, conclusively, I don't think stats is the answer for all RPGs. Not by a long shot, but they're appropriate for a certain kind of game, and especially for games going old-school, from a time where developers had no way of simulating worlds or making you suspend disbelief. Back then, visible numbers were the ideal way to represent characters and mechanics - but that doesn't mean it's the only way - or the right way.
Last edited by DArtagnan; February 9th, 2015 at 11:06.

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