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July 28th, 2018, 19:28
I don't have a lot of time to play cRPGs these days. Mondays and Fridays are particularly taxing. On these two nights, it's my family shift obligation, as I trudge through these long nights with dad, who has advanced stage Parkinson's, to help him along as he needs to get up every 20 minutes all night long. I can't sleep, but still too tired to do anything but lay there awaiting for his next stirrings to help him up and to the bathroom. My mind sometimes wonders into gaming. Such was last night.

I was thinking on what exactly is it about a new cRPG that is the most fun. Is it the fact that it's shiny and new? That it's mechanics and gameplay are unknown first-hand? That it's setting happens to be a favorite? That choice and consequence is touted to actually exist? That the writing is so good, I'll think the characters are standing right next to me? That the UI will be elegant, informative, and the opposite of cumbersome? Or that I read somewhere it will solve all of humanity's problems, starting with Parkinson's Disease?

For me, what I find most thrilling about a new cRPG is the beginning of the game. But not really for any of the reasons from above. It's the beginning of the game that is most exciting because it's the game's best chance, however brief, to present it's most mundane offerings (bare with me here), against enemies such as "tropey" rats in the cellar, which WILL kill you if you're not attentive and careful. This makes whatever you find during those early minutes actually matter and highly useful.

Find cloth armor with 1 point of armor defense, well it's better than the 0 armor underwear you start the game with. Get a rusty dagger, well it's better than using your unskilled fists. Survive enough of the early games toughness to reach level 2, at last you can finally get +1 in attack.

This initial experience however, only just opens the door to the broader idea here which is that gear, attributes, skills and so on need to matter and for these things to matter, the game's challenges need to be tough. This is the fuel that can make character development and progress in a game exciting from beginning to end.

Too often however, a game will provide all manner of gear, attributes, and skills and then take them out back and shoot them dead because the challenges in the game are not commensurate with the tremendous offerings of awesomeness along with a quick road to them. Too many games, including games I still enjoyed despite themselves, do exactly this.

It's arguable that cRPGs of the 80s and 90s had the same trajectory to awesomeness as the Wright Brothers first test flight… a brief stint a few feet off the ground only to be clobbered to death by Murphy's Ghost with your noob party in Wizardry 1. But today, the zeal by developers to propel you to awesomeness is a short vertical line from which the player is at the top within the hour.

Now I'm going to name names so let me get my helmet on so the bashing can begin. Skyrim, Witcher 3, D:OS2, Diablo 3, Dragon Age Origins, Kingdoms of Amalur, Assassin's Creed (Black Flag & Origins [cRPG-lites])… these are all games I played in recent years that qualify under my arguments (I could list some more, but this is already a great big wall of text). I enjoyed all of them for what they offered but they all quickly propel you to awesomeness way too fast causing much of the mid to end game gear/skills/attributes to become unexciting. When this happens, character development becomes uninteresting as do the "challenges" as they aren't really challenges but rather soft white bunnies for you to hop over along the rails to the end of the story (sometimes referred to as scaling).

Witcher 3 was particularly egregious in this department since there were way too many locations of interest, each offering some kind of gear reward that became useless 30 hours ago. Skyrim's highly marketed, highlighted, and underscored Shout system went largely unused because I was already way too awesome by the time shouts showed up. Diablo 3 is a little different, they offer a lot of great gear leveling up but once you get to end-game activities, potentially useful new gear shows up only after hours and hours of grinding and is awarded the Seal of Boredom since that game is all about gear. The Divinity Original Sin games offer a robust but useless crafting system that you'll rarely engage with in part because what you can craft is mostly useless but to a greater extent, you won't use it because you'll be too busy selling junk you found or anguishing over how to assign that recent talent point which you'll later conclude made absolutely no difference since you became awesome by or before hour 3.

So the next new game you start, be mindful that the first hour will likely have the best challenge to reward ratio thus making that early game play the most exciting and most satisfying part of the game, even when the game is one giant trope in an elvish land and you find yourself fighting rats in a cellar… but those rats are damn hard to beat, thank God you found that rusty dagger beforehand.

At this point, I'd like devs to include an auto-click to toss the next piece of junk into my off-site stash that triggers whenever I slightly wiggle my left pinky so as to make it as automatic as possible. And if devs are going to offer a bazillion attributes and skills to pick from, auto-assigning them perhaps isn't as bad as we thought it would be in Diablo 3 since you hardly notice them after the first few hours anyway when you've already far surpassed the challenge the game has to offer.

Yes, I'm slightly grumpy, I didn't sleep last night.
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Last edited by TheMadGamer; July 28th, 2018 at 20:39.
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July 28th, 2018, 21:07
Sorry for not being able to sleep TMG.
I think that a game that might help with this element is Battle Brothers. It's a game whereby (if played in Ironman), any fight could result in the end of your campaign.
Gear is extremely valuable in the game, but your brother are infinitely more important.

It might be an interesting one for you if you haven't tried it yet.
The only negative, from my perspective, is that there is no actual story. However, there are some "late-game crises" and once you finish those, you can essentially have beaten the game. However, that's not an easy feat.
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July 28th, 2018, 21:26
Originally Posted by Pladio View Post
I think that a game that might help with this element is Battle Brothers.
Thanks for mentioning it, never heard of this game and I'll definitely check it out.
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July 28th, 2018, 21:42
I, too, prefer the beginning of most RPGs to their middle or end parts. The first couple of hours, when you are scavenging for copper coins and rusty daggers, are the most fun for me. But unfortunately it usually doesn't take long and then you'll end up with more gold than you could ever spend, a totally screwed up economy, and a backpack full with Adamant Longswords of Doom +99.

Which makes me wonder if there are actually any decent RPGs out there which have scarce but meaningful loot throughout the entire game?
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July 28th, 2018, 22:52
Originally Posted by abharsair View Post
Which makes me wonder if there are actually any decent RPGs out there which have scarce but meaningful loot throughout the entire game?
Right now and certainly for the past recent years, the trend has been in the opposite direction. Introduce a huge amount of items (for the sake of items really) and statistics along with the requisite terrible UI (D:OS PC UI is far better than most though) to make management and information gathering as obtuse as possible.

I'm not inherently against vast itemization and dozens upon dozens of attributes and skills. What I don't like is when these things become largely irrelevant and become so earlier rather than later.

I'd venture to guess that most of us, after having spent perhaps hundreds of hours with a cRPG want to feel awesome by then because that is the reward after carefully crafting your character and overcoming challenges during all those hours.

But I do think the easier solution to the Becoming-Too-Awesome-Too-Fast problem is rarity. For example, in Witcher 3 I stopped caring about much of anything in terms of armor or weapons during the first 1/3 of the game. Pretty much the same thing happened with Character Development (Attributes etc.). I stopped caring because I could get through most fights just fine by the 1/3 point in the game. Why? Because I was already awesome and finding the next sword of uber +100, of which there was an endless supply in a variety of flavors, didn't matter. Nor did another point in some attribute.

Imagine the game where the middle and ends of the game have that same relevant impact upon discovery of some kind of gear as when you find the rusty dagger after having gone with fists for the first few fights after the game started.
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July 29th, 2018, 01:49
I really like a lot of the thoughts I’ve read in this thread. I’ve been having the same issues with a lot of recent rpgs and I don’t play as much anymore. For instance, the first few hours of KCD were really good but now it’s getting a bit boring. I guess I should progress the story more though. It’s better than a lot of the other examples you mentioned though. DOS:2 was terrible with gear and abilities / skills. The last half of the game I didn’t care one bit about the above, only finishing the story. A shame really.

Sorry to hear about your father.
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July 29th, 2018, 02:06
I think the part of problem is it takes away sense of "progression" if your character don't end up more powerful, covered in awesome gears + piles of gold as the game progress.

I don't know any game that has "scarce but meaningful loot" throughout the whole game, but in my mind a number of games handle that aspect better than others.

NWN module Aielund Saga does an excellent job in early chapter 4. It's a huge spoiler in terms of the plot, but basically you will be in a situation where you have to take anything you can find.

In Pathfinder: Kingmaker, you can't loot everything due to rather harsh weight restriction + harsh economy. You can't carry back most of loots to sell, and even if you do, you will be selling them for a dirt cheap price while anything you want is very expensive (even foods).

And very sorry to hear about your dad
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Last edited by purpleblob; July 29th, 2018 at 09:50. Reason: typos
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July 29th, 2018, 03:43
Ouch - real sorry to hear about your situation. Huge kudos to you for staying with your dad overnight!

Lots of games have been doing this for a pretty long time. I first noticed it with Mass Effect and it's been irking me ever since - though not as bad as it seems to be bothering you. I certainly have gotten my share of "oh, guess I should spend my 30 skill points now" situations.

It does have a nice cure: the ability to change difficulty mid-game.

Originally Posted by Lemonhead View Post
DOS:2 was terrible with gear and abilities / skills. The last half of the game I didn’t care one bit about the above, only finishing the story.
Are you kidding?? Enemies even one level higher than my party were a challenge for me in DOS2! (Not so much in DOS1.) The open landscape actually seemed like a maze. If I went the wrong way, I would run into death's icey grip at the hands of a +2 spawn very quickly.

Originally Posted by purpleblob View Post
I think the part of problem is it takes away sense of "progression" if your character don't end up more powerful, covered in awesome gears + pilies of gold as the game progresa.
Yeah, it's definitely about progression for sure. They want to give you something that makes the quest feel "worth it." To do that, the enemies you are fighting need to get noticeably easier to beat. Thing is, a lot of those quests are optional. If they set up the enemy progression around somebody who's doing most of the quests, the folks doing few of them get slaughtered. If they set up the progression around people who don't do many, the folks who do most get bored. There's more folks in the former category (I think) and getting slaughtered tends to lead to more bad reviews than getting bored so we get the situation we have.

Maybe it isn't difficulty, then, maybe it's a "completionist" slider?
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July 29th, 2018, 04:55
That initial climb, when you're first fighting to simply survive, then start to slowly acquire items and skills/abilities/powers/whathaveyou, is what usually keys me into a game and the system. If that is done well, with a decent story, I can overlook many other problems. And, of course, interesting and varied combat is a huge plus for me.
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July 29th, 2018, 05:37
Originally Posted by purpleblob View Post
NWN module Aielund Saga does excellent job in the beginning of chapter…In Pathfinder: Kingmaker, you can't loot everything due to rather harsh weight restriction + harsh economy.
I'll have to dig out my old copy of NWN and check out that module. Never looked much at Pathfinder:Kingmaker but I'll give it another look. Thanks for mentioning these games.
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July 29th, 2018, 05:45
Originally Posted by Zloth View Post
Yeah, it's definitely about progression for sure. They want to give you something that makes the quest feel "worth it." To do that, the enemies you are fighting need to get noticeably easier to beat. Thing is, a lot of those quests are optional. If they set up the enemy progression around somebody who's doing most of the quests, the folks doing few of them get slaughtered. If they set up the progression around people who don't do many, the folks who do most get bored. There's more folks in the former category (I think) and getting slaughtered tends to lead to more bad reviews than getting bored so we get the situation we have.
You point out a real world marketing problem facing developers, and I'm sensitive to that. Make a great cRPG to critical acclaim but go bankrupt… that dev won't be making games for long.

A "completionist slider" is interesting. How a player would set that value could make internal adjustments that could help out in this area.

The main message still is that all the gear/attributes/skills lose meaning when the challenges in the game are vastly outpaced by the number and frequency of awesome. When those things lose meaning is when I tend to get bored.

I played D:OS2 on the 2nd from the hardest setting. The reason for that though is that I'm not a huge fan of the tactical style of combat in games like D:OS, PoE, Baldur's Gate and so on… I like it enough that I play those types of cRPGs, but it's not my favorite. That is the reason why I didn't play the D:OS games on the hardest setting, because that would have added a lot more game hours than I'd want to spend with that kind of combat and all the reloads I already know I'd go through because I'm just not a great tactician.
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July 29th, 2018, 05:48
Originally Posted by Carnifex View Post
That initial climb, when you're first fighting to simply survive, then start to slowly acquire items and skills/abilities/powers/whathaveyou, is what usually keys me into a game and the system. If that is done well, with a decent story, I can overlook many other problems. And, of course, interesting and varied combat is a huge plus for me.
The first two Gothic games fit your description fairly well. I view G1 and G2 in the opposite way as many of the games I mentioned in my original post. It is sometime after 2/3s of the progress in those two games when gear and stats begin to peter-out.

For a long time in G1 and G2 though, I was compelled to find and use every advantage I could muster and that's a big part of what I love about those games.
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July 29th, 2018, 07:28
I agree completely with what you said, especially regarding Witcher 3 - where the loot design is particularly terrible contrasted with the excellence of the story and ambience. Almost like two different companies were in charge of the story and the gameplay.

DOS2 definitely had a crap loot and scaling system, too. But I found the actual gameplay excellent enough to compensate for the most part.

But, you're very right - loot mechanics and design are generally terrible. Not that I remember a time when it was that different in a general way - just less elaborate.

To me, the junk loot design was always a problem in CRPGs - with a few exceptions.

Yes, the PB design is superior in this way - but then, I find the loot itself terribly boring. But PB also are very nice in how they allow for an infinite inventory - which goes a long way to alleviate the pain.

I actually enjoy sophisticated loot design, where it's not just a bigger number - but additional effects. It's just that most game designs don't handle it very well.

Diablo 3 is a special case, which you also touched upon - and it's obviously not a traditional CRPG. It's essentially a loot hunter - and therefore it'd never work with rare, significant loot drops.

But D3 still has a terrible loot design in the early game. They did improve it significantly with patches and the expansion - but it's only really noticed in the end-game, where the interesting loot starts dropping.

I'd argue that Warframe almost completely alleviates this problem, due to the nature of its loot design - but I really don't consider D3 or Warframe CRPGs that would appeal to most of the Watch members. Hellgate London is another fantastic loot game, but it's still full of endless crap. But, like Warframe, HGL features so, so many weapons with a distinct function and personality that the allure of loot drops never gets old. It's utterly fantastic and satisfying in this way - but, again, a very different genre.

Personally, I think games like Baldur's Gate and Pillars of Eternity are doing a very good job overall - though still far from perfect. You still find a ton of junk - but it's easily discarded for the most part. But you do find very distinct and powerful weapons on occasion that you're not likely to throw out.

The stash in PoE is a godsend - because it makes so much of the juggling trivial.

I wish DOS2 had a stash, too.

Also, as much as I hate to say this - Dark Souls handles loot in a very good way. It's essentially what you're asking for - because each weapon handles differently and most of them have a use for a specific build or playstyle.

Personally, I have my own vision of how to handle loot - which will always depend on the genre and what you're trying to do. So, to give the best examples - I would have to know which particular subgenre we're talking about - and I'd be able to give you what I consider to be the best game in terms of loot.

As I said, for the "traditional" isometric CRPG - I think NWN (some mods), BG and PoE are probably the best - because they all feature very strong loot design in terms of keeping you interested in upgrading, having weapons with distinct features - and with relatively manageable ways to sort and discard unwanted loot.

For traditional CRPGs, I also absolutely prefer hand-placed loot - which is another area in which DOS2 utterly fails for the most part.
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July 29th, 2018, 08:14
So, the question is which RPGs have the best progression.

Dark Souls games. Every item is viable for the whole game. You can keep that Longsword, enchant it to +10. Heavy armour is good for taking damage, but no armour at all gives you longer dodge rolls, faster stamina regen. There's even a ring that adds bonus physical damage based on your equipped weight.

In fact, you can win the game without leveling up at all. There are weapon enchants which change which stat the weapon gets its bonus damage from. Dex, for eg. Then there's a "Raw" enchant that takes away all stat scaling and raises the base damage. Perfect for players who want to stay level 1 so they can invade players who just started.

Also, there's no carry weight limit. You can have unlimited things in your inventory.
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July 29th, 2018, 11:27
Originally Posted by TheMadGamer View Post
For me, what I find most thrilling about a new cRPG is the beginning of the game.
I agree to that for a very big part. Everything that's new easily grasps my interest, but all familiar and normal things make me … getting bored, kind of.

Maybe that's how my perception works.

But, on the other hand, I once read in an article that our modern "western" societies are more and more driven into individuality, strongly favouring everything "stands our [from the mass]".

So, maybe, this perception phenomenon isn't so unique after all ?
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July 29th, 2018, 13:34
The most exciting part for people is the absence of role and associated roleplaying.

Players might get more or less excited about combat, story, exploration but overall, they are excited by the absence of roleplaying in a RPG.
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July 29th, 2018, 13:46
Originally Posted by ChienAboyeur View Post
The most exciting part for people is the absence of role and associated roleplaying.

Players might get more or less excited about combat, story, exploration but overall, they are excited by the absence of roleplaying in a RPG.
I think you missed out on people RPing in Skyrim in completely different roles and not even looking at combat.
I know people even RP as traders in Mount & Blade for a while.
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July 29th, 2018, 18:50
Originally Posted by Darth Tagnan View Post
Personally, I think games like Baldur's Gate and Pillars of Eternity are doing a very good job overall - though still far from perfect. You still find a ton of junk - but it's easily discarded for the most part. But you do find very distinct and powerful weapons on occasion that you're not likely to throw out.
I agree, Baldur's Gate and other games similar to it get this aspect well. Unfortunately, Tactical combat is not a favorite of mine. I still play games like BG, but long tactical battles wear on me. Probably because I just don't have all that much time and I get anxious to see more of the game and story, but get bogged down in tactical combat that many times I lose and have to start over. A totally subjective thing.

Originally Posted by Darth Tagnan View Post
Also, as much as I hate to say this - Dark Souls handles loot in a very good way. It's essentially what you're asking for - because each weapon handles differently and most of them have a use for a specific build or playstyle.
I did another replay of DS2 recently and for the first time learned about Darklurker, which I somehow never knew about in my other play throughs of the game. Having a soul level of nearly 200 and gear crafted to the max, I became humbled by how badly that boss could wreck me. Just getting to the boss is hard for me. Probably took me a good 5 hours to beat that boss… most of the time just trying to get to him. I can see how this boss would turn off a lot of people. I was intrigued however by how noobie this boss made me feel and I looked into all the enhancements the game offered to help me beat it. It was a lot of fun if you like that sort of thing.

Originally Posted by Darth Tagnan View Post
For traditional CRPGs, I also absolutely prefer hand-placed loot - which is another area in which DOS2 utterly fails for the most part.
Same here. There's nothing like the thrill that you could stumble upon some location to find some gear that you can use that is far more effective than what you'd normally come across. I miss this a lot in modern games.
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July 29th, 2018, 18:53
Originally Posted by SirJames View Post
So, the question is which RPGs have the best progression.
I like the Souls games and except for Bloodborne, I've played them all.

However, Souls games are not really sandbox games in the sense of Skyrim, Gothic, or Ultima.

I'd love to see the combat of Souls games brought into the sand-boxy world of a Skyrim like game. Provide meaningful challenges and some hand placed loot and we're on our way to a very fun cRPG.
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July 29th, 2018, 18:55
Originally Posted by Alrik Fassbauer View Post
I agree to that for a very big part. Everything that's new easily grasps my interest, but all familiar and normal things make me … getting bored, kind of.

Maybe that's how my perception works.

But, on the other hand, I once read in an article that our modern "western" societies are more and more driven into individuality, strongly favouring everything "stands our [from the mass]".

So, maybe, this perception phenomenon isn't so unique after all ?
If I follow you correctly, I ruled out the "shiny and new" aspect of a new cRPG. When I first played Gothic 4 it was "shiny and new" but in about an hour I knew it was a pretty bad Gothic game. Shiny and new can present a distraction for a moment, but it passes.
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