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Default Jeff Vogel - Too Many Words? (Yeah, Probably.)

May 19th, 2017, 13:44
Jeff Vogel shares his thoughts on words in RPGs and thinks there are too many of them.

My whole career has been based on writing very story-heavy games, with lots of words. Our company, Spiderweb Software, is small. We can't afford fancy graphics, so we have to rely on words. Interesting, quality words.

We're currently remastering the series with our most loved story and our bestest words. We also finished a new series, which had a lot of words which I suspect weren't as good because it didn't sell as well. Now we're planning a whole new series, and we need to figure out how many and what sort of words to cram into that.

We have a lot of decisions to make, so I've been thinking a lot about words in games. I have made a number of observations.

For Reference

A decently sized novel contains about 100,000 words. The Bible contains about a million words.

My wordiest and most popular game, Avernum 3, which I am now remastering, had about 200,000 words. At its release, people talked about how very, very, many words it had. Yet, by current standards, it is very terse.

In comparison, one of the best-written RPGs in recent times, The Witcher 3, had about 450,000 words. For The Witcher 3, "best-written" means "One really good storyline and many, many other storylines that were basically OK." (To be fair, I think the Heart of Stone DLC was really well-written.)

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May 19th, 2017, 14:16
Just for my personal curiosity: I am fascinated by the very anglo-saxon stuff of counting words and creating categories of books or sorting games and so on with only this filter. This kind of argument in this blog is just alien to me. Where is that word counting stuff coming from? School?
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May 19th, 2017, 14:31
Avernum 3, which I am now remastering,
It's not much of a surprise, but I think this is the first time I've seen this confirmed. I only played parts one and two for the first time last year, and they were great. Looking forward to Part Three.

Back on topic, yeah I'd take quality over quantity any time.
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May 19th, 2017, 15:09
Sorry, took a brief ride on the Avernum and the Avadon trains, but quickly hopped off due to shitty graphics and gameplay. I like the TB combat, but the graphics were horrid, and the sound fx were just awful. Every damned game looks the same. As well, his writing really wasn't all that gripping, to be honest, but rather average.
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May 19th, 2017, 15:10
I read a lot and I have no idea where on earth the idea of counting the number of words in a book came from. Then again, I don't count the number of cereal pieces in my bowl, I know what fills me, I put that much in and eat it.

Just keep making the games Vogel, and I'll be there to buy them. I'll bring the cereal.
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May 19th, 2017, 15:23
It's funny that Jeff seems to think it his words that are making his games sell less. It isn't. It is his graphics and game systems. They are as outdated as the King James Version.
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May 19th, 2017, 15:45
By "remastering", does he mean swapping out the tileset? Because that would be something.
As far as wordcount goes, I think prioritizing where you put those words is what's important. If the writing's good no one will (or at least should) complain.
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May 19th, 2017, 16:12
Loved Escape from the Pit. Good exploration, solid systems, inferior but cute graphics. Writing in some areas reminded me of Jules Verne. All in all, great atmosphere. Felt almost like a board game honestly.
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Last edited by luj1; May 19th, 2017 at 16:26.
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May 19th, 2017, 16:34
I have yet to see any game that has too many words.
Too many poor words, yea, there are such ones, but those can always cover it with other areas. Lack of enough words, that'd be Candy Crush Saga and I don't play such crap. Why would I. I learned to read.
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May 19th, 2017, 17:01
Let me be a bit of a Vogel supporter on this one.

I think too many words (that is: too many reading) definitely hurts a game.
Fact is, that much too gamers won't bother reading -- in fact, we, RPGWatchers use the dreaded "wall of text" phrase regularly. AAA games pamper us with movie-quality cutscenes, so I don't really see a bright future for text-heavy games.

Many experiments were made for a less wordy storytelling, and there are many successes: Brothers is a recent example. That game is very emotional, without a single word on screen.
On the other hand, the wonderful House of Many Doors (which is text, text, teeeext) left out cold, because it is "tedious".

Now my personal problem is this: a game that has praised by its text (Torment / House …) is still inferior, to say Jorge Luis Borges (my king of high literature), or even Clive Barker (my king of pulp literature)

Sooo… if I want to read something good, I'd grab a book from my cherished library, instead of reading average-at-best video game text.
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May 19th, 2017, 21:36
I would also add: Provide enough significant choice to your cRPG that a player will only be able to read a small fraction of the dialogue text during any one playthrough.
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May 19th, 2017, 23:31
Originally Posted by crpgnut View Post
It's funny that Jeff seems to think it his words that are making his games sell less. It isn't. It is his graphics and game systems. They are as outdated as the King James Version.
I'd agree on the graphics. Obviously those will shy away not only graphics whores, but also those with somewhat lower standards.

But you are just wrong about the game systems being old.
Especially the Geneforge and Avernum series offered some really great character building, precisely because they relied on old and trusted instead of simply not working experiments.

In Avadon, he tried to make things dumbed down, quite honestly. As he said himself, he was inspired by BioWare's latest creations at that time and their "streamlining".
So, he made things easier: Very simple skill trees that - to make things worse - had VERY obvious best and worse choices so there really wasn't much to experiment with. And some of those tree dependencies just made no sense within the setting at all. It was like applying a Diablo 2 like skill tree to an actual RPG, it just doesn't work.

While I found Avadon "fine" in total, the character building was clearly the weakest part. It just wasn't that interesting. Additionally, most challenge came from HP bloat instead of actually interesting combat encounters (except a few).

So if the games' systems are also to be blamed for the smaller success, it is not because they were old, but because he tried to make them fresh and failed at that.
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May 19th, 2017, 23:48
Originally Posted by joxer View Post
I have yet to see any game that has too many words.
First RPG I ever played that I thought had too many words was Shadowrun: Hong Kong. Way too much stuff to read through there that just felt completely unrelated to anything. Even though the writing was high quality, that game overall felt like too much filler text and not enough actual game.
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May 19th, 2017, 23:50
Originally Posted by Pongo View Post
Avernum 3, which I am now remastering,
It's not much of a surprise, but I think this is the first time I've seen this confirmed. I only played parts one and two for the first time last year, and they were great. Looking forward to Part Three.
Avernum 3 was "announced" long ago, supposed to be coming out in the second half of this year. If you piece together all the things he's said (which, granted, could change)…then after Avernum 3, we're getting an all-new engine and an all-new game series, which will be interspersed with remakes of the Geneforge series.
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May 21st, 2017, 15:38
Originally Posted by Aerth View Post
Just for my personal curiosity: I am fascinated by the very anglo-saxon stuff of counting words and creating categories of books or sorting games and so on with only this filter. This kind of argument in this blog is just alien to me. Where is that word counting stuff coming from? School?
Yes. From high school on, pretty much every paper you ever write has a minimum word count requirement. This leads to padding writing with filler. Can't becomes can not, we're becomes we are, sentences are arbitrarily lengthened or added to hit the requirement in order to not lose points, not because they strengthen the paper. Too few professors respond to the minimum word requirement with, "Enough to make your point."
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May 21st, 2017, 21:27
Can't say that too many words have ever been a problem, as long as the quality of writing is to my liking. To much spoken dialogue that I can't read instead though, that can be a game breaker (I believe it was in ME2 when you had read a line and hit space for the next one and it jumped past part of the conversation? Could've been another game though).
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