I’m still slowly working my way through Pillars of Eternity, but this is starting to irk me greatly:
Pillars is not, of course, the first game to tie your in-game dialog responses to statistics or skills. Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas come immediately to my mind, for example. But on reflection, I don’t really like it in those games either. I find Pillars a bit worse in this regard though, due both to how much more difficult it is to actually raise your abilities, and how this game is supposed to be a spiritual successor to, you know, stuff like this:
Ironically, Plansescape Torment also required certain attributes to be above an arbitrary threshold to unlock dialog options, so perhaps it is not the best of examples.
Or maybe it is. After all, the attribute breakpoints were invisible.
And I guess that is what annoys me the most: I do not understand the point of showing me dialog options I can never select. I don’t care that the other options would have only increased my quest payout by 100 copper, or saved me from one additional encounter, or given me an extra potion.
As a designer, what are you trying to communicate to me? The fact that I made poor decisions on the character select screen hours before actually playing your game? Are you trying to signal that certain skills will be important in the future? If so, are you giving me any tools or resources to achieve those thresholds later? I mean, clearly I can do nothing about these forbidden choices in the middle of the conversion, or even after I reload the game really. Or am I supposed to simply keep this in mind for some hypothetical second playthrough?
Truth be told, I was a bit miffed back in the day once I realized that most of the best dialog options in Planescape Torment were locked behind Wisdom 18+. But the game never rubbed my face in it, or otherwise treated dialog so… gamey.
Speaking of which: why are we all tying dialog to abstract attributes in the first place? For roleplaying purposes? To cause players to handicap themselves with useless Feats/Skills/Talents so players can’t be good at fighting and not fighting? Just give me my dialog choices and let me work things out from there. Or don’t and just not tell me about it.
This middle way is the worst of all worlds.
[Blaugust Day 13]
As you might have noticed in the sidebar, I am finally getting around to playing Pillars of Eternity. The problem I am encountering though, is finding the motivation to play it for any particular length of time.
This is not an indictment of the gameplay or overall quality of the game necessarily. I loved the Baldur’s Gate series back in the day, and a return to isometric graphics is just fine by me. I’d say the most annoying thing I’ve encountered so far are all the useless Kickstarter NPCs which you can “talk” to but have nothing to do with anything. I have been trained by generations of RPGs to put a high importance on named NPCs, which makes these particular NPCs worse than useless. Luckily, I’ve finally recognized that these NPCs have a special colored nameplate and thus I can safely avoid being disappointed.
No, the primary problem is how… efficient I play games these days. If you present me with an isometric RPG map with a fog of war and a Tab key that highlights all the clickable objects, I am going to start at the edges and clear out the map 100%. I honestly don’t even feel like it’s a choice to do so – it’s a compulsion. What if there is a party member in that little patch of darkness? Or something to loot? Or some mobs I can kill? I’m not a completionist by any means, nor do I particularly care for achievements, but I just can’t seem to help myself here.
The end result is that I clear an entire map, face every possible encounter therein, and then head to a new one. And upon seeing that big square piece of darkness laying before me… I balk. “This is about as good a stopping point as any.” So I stop. Even if I’ve only been playing for 20 minutes.
As I mentioned, this compulsion seems unique to this type of game.
In my estimation there are a few likely causes that feed on one another. The first is basic min-maxing: there doesn’t appear to be respawns, so every missed encounter necessarily leads to a weaker party. No doubt there is more than enough mobs available to hit the level cap eventually, but I want to be more powerful now. The second is the fog of war mechanic itself, which is a pretty self-explanatory OCD itch to scratch. The third is actually related to the first, in that gold (or copper in this case) is a limited resource in a world without respawns, thus the majority of your gear will be found. Or missed, if one does not scour every inch of every map.
Breaking this habit will be tough, especially considering I did not even realize it was a habit until I starting playing Pillars of Eternity. Well, I knew beforehand that I dislike certain pattern-based puzzles simply because I can’t bring myself not to complete them in a ruthlessly logical (e.g. brute-force) way. If you show me something like the Minecraft crafting grid, I will start with one stick in the upper-left square, and continue moving that stick through every possible combination before adding two sticks, and so on. It’s like guessing luggage combinations by starting with 001 and working my way up.
Anyone else play games this way? And if so… how did you get yourself to stop?
Went to two major panels on Saturday, one after the other. First was FF15 and the second was Pillars of Eternity.
In regards to FF15, I actually haven’t been following the already-released information close enough to tell what was breaking news. The panelists mainly drove home the “road trip” and “Buddies” aspect of the game. Which, if I’m honest, probably wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting if I were not hearing their passion in person.
There was a moment while watching the gameplay that I asked myself “is this a Final Fantasy game at all?” I never really played 12 or the 13 series, so I’m not sure if there’s a huge precedent for the sort of Action RPG gameplay I watched on-screen – especially the bit where he hook-shotted up a telephone tower to wait for his MP to regen. The panelists did sort of address this subtly as they mentioned the kind of themes common throughout the series, such as the hero never being alone.
It’s not that seeing the party run down a highway avoiding traffic or that the lack of an ATB gauge is throwing me off; FF7 and 8 had a number of similar high-tech elements, and they are amongst my favorites. Honestly, it could just be that the last Final Fantasy game I completed was FFX-2. This series went from being the single most important thing in my gaming life – I jumped on the original Playstation precisely because I was following Squaresoft – to something I pick up on Steam sales, like everything else. And so “Final Fantasy” to me is/was a game that defines a particular gaming epoch, or it isn’t one at all.
Baggage aside, the game looks great, the road trip thing could be interesting, party banter is always welcome, and the remixed music was pure nostalgia.
The Pillars of Eternity panel was pretty much the devs just playing the game for about twenty minutes. Which certainly isn’t the worst kind of panel, and there wasn’t much they needed to sell for me to be onboard in the first place. They even had an Oprah moment with the whole “check under your chair for a prize.” Everyone got a free upgrade to the Champion edition, assuming you purchase the base game, and a few got upgrades to the highest tier.
While Pillars is a guaranteed purchase by me at some price-point, the pause-based tactical combat really hit home how much I prefer the FFT or other Tactics game type. It’s fun queuing up that initial volley of attacks in these sort of CRPGs, but things quickly end up coming down to micromanaging one or two characters, at best, and hoping that a third character is actually going to finish their attack animation and drink a potion before they die. The devs mentioned that there wasn’t going to be anything much in the way of AI, so you are kinda left with the worst of both worlds.
One day to go.