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Sordid

@Sordid@beehaw.org

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Sordid,
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I unironically wish all controllers were like this. IMO the main way hardware limits game design is the number of buttons on modern controllers; more buttons = more actions that can be performed = more complex and interesting games.

Sordid,
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I don’t know if it counts as a controller per se, but I’ve been using an MMO mouse with a big number pad for the thumb for quite a few years now. I used to laugh at these things, but once I tried one, I couldn’t go back. Those extra buttons come in handy a lot more often than you might think, and sometimes I wish it had even more.

Sordid,
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I have both PS4 and PS5 controllers for use with my PC, and I prefer the PS4 one because it feels more comfortable in my hands.

Sordid,
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I can’t agree with your recommendations of Starbound and Starsector. I spent a lot of time with these games trying to figure out why I wasn’t having a good time, and I think in both cases it boils down to the fact their development didn’t fulfill the expectations that the early versions created.

Starbound has beautiful graphics and music and a charming atmosphere, but the gameplay is incredibly dull, the combat is awkward and clunky, your movement abilities are pathetic, etc., etc. For some reason the devs decided to implement a story, and it’s literally the dumbest shit I’ve ever heard. And even though this is a building game like Minecraft or Terraria, you can’t build your ship or any of the boss arenas, all bosses are fought in special levels that are protected from your mining/building tool with a magic forcefield. It’s like the devs didn’t even know what kind of game they were making.

Starsector has the opposite problem, the dev knows exactly how he wants his game to play and implements mechanics specifically to prohibit other playstyles. You want to spend all your skill points on buffs for your piloted ship and play this like a space shooter? Too bad, your single ship will run out of combat readiness and explode. You want to sit back and just command your fleet without getting directly engaged? Too bad, every command you issue consumes a command point, and once you run out, you can’t give any more orders. Unfortunately the playstyle the dev enforces results in the player’s role diminishing as the game progresses and their fleet grows, until eventually the game mostly plays itself. The game is overengineered, bloated, and the development drags on. I’ve lost count of how many skill system reworks there have been in the last decade. The dev is just fiddling at this point, and a lot of the systems he’s been trying to balance for years could just be removed entirely without anything of value being lost (ECM, capture points & command points, combat readiness, etc.).

Sordid, (edited )
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I’d say that if preventing boss cheese requires turning off the most basic core gameplay mechanic that the game is built around, then the entire design of the boss fight needs to be thrown out and rethought. Boss fights should make use of basic gameplay mechanics, not conflict with them. It’s not like this would’ve been rocket science for the Starbound devs. Terraria does it right, building suitable boss arenas is a major part of that game (the golem being the only exception, and even then only the first time you fight it). They could’ve just copied that like they copied so many other things. The lead dev of Starbound was one half of the original two-man team that created Terraria before founding his own company, so I’m really not sure how he managed to screw this up. He of all people should’ve known better.

As for Starsector, I remember there was a back-and-forth between the players and the dev with respect to the solo playstyle. Some players liked to take a small, fast ship and just solo entire fleets by kiting them around, so the dev implemented combat readiness to put a stop to that, effectively putting a time limit on battles. Players responded by using larger ships with longer combat readiness and making them fast by stacking both speed-boosting hullmods (Unstable Injector and whatever the other one’s called), so the dev made those hullmods mutually exclusive. Every time players found a way to play the game in a way the dev didn’t like, he made changes to make such playstyles impossible, going so far as to implement entirely new systems and mechanics that serve no other purpose than to prevent playstyles he doens’t like. It’s become clear over the years that he simply doesn’t want players to be effective in the game in either combat or command capacity. He wants the game to be a tedious slog where you lose a chunk of your fleet in every battle without there being a damn thing you can do about it.

The fact that combat is only a small part of the game and is all about fleet composition rather than fleet control is kinda the problem, that’s what I’m talking about when I say the game didn’t fulfill the expectations that its early versions created. Starfarer (as it was known back then before some copyright dispute) started out as just a list of battle scenarios, with no overworld map at all. It was all about ship and fleet control, fleet composition didn’t play a role at all because you couldn’t adjust it, you had to win each battle with whatever fleet the scenario gave you. Combat is what the game started with, it’s the core that everything else was built around. Unfortunately subsequent development saw basically no improvements to combat. Just about the only change I’d classify as an improvement was the command rework; in early versions you couldn’t even tell your ships where to move. Instead, the dev added more and more padding between battles, diluting the game to the point where combat is now only a small part of it and is mostly decided by fleet composition rather than the player’s piloting and tactics. The game has become the opposite of what it promised ten years ago.

Sordid,
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Morrowind is the reason I’m in the game industry and has impacted my life more than any other single piece of media. It’s been heartbreaking for me to see the treatment Elder Scrolls has gotten. I was so excited for Skyrim it was the only game I’ve ever preordered, it’s the reason I originally got a Steam account, and the whole game is a let down start to finish.

I feel pretty much the same as you about those games, which makes me very curious what your opinion of Oblivion is. I’ve recently had a bit of a (belated) revelation about it, so I’m interested in other opinions and discussion.

Sordid,
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Eh, Bethesda flip-flop on that kind of stuff all the time. IIRC in Arena, the Imperial City was just in generic temperate woodland, then it was retconned in some in-game books to a jungle, then retconned again in Oblivion back to generic woodland. Same thing with the armor of imperial soldiers. Generic fantasy plate in early games, Roman in Morrowind, generic fantasy plate in Oblivion again, Roman again in Skyrim… They just can’t make up their minds.

I will say this, though: It’s okay to retcon old lore, but only in order to make it more unique and interesting. Retconning stuff to make it more generic and bland is a high crime.

Sordid,
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I agree about the history thing. I’m old enough to remember a time when games were derided as mindless schlock and even stories considered laughable by modern standards were lauded as profoundly impressive. At most one could argue that emphasis on story in games has followed something of a bell curve over time, but I don’t think even that is really true.

But I think your time frame of Bethesda lacking ambition and innovation is a bit too broad. 30 years would include things like first-person shooters with an official Terminator license and groundbreaking graphics and controls (3D enemies and mouselook, which people usually attribute to Quake, but that came later) or hyper-realistic racing games with extensive customization of the car’s drivetrain and suspension. It wasn’t until they hit it big with MW that Bethesda lost their balls and started just remaking the same game over and over with different coats of paint.

Sordid,
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I mean… there’s not holding your hand and then there’s the game not bothering to inform you that you’re softlocked because you failed to notice and pick up a one-pixel item four hours ago in an area you can no longer return to. I remember those old point-and-click adventure games very well, and I have very little desire to go back to those days.

Sordid,
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And also because lore youtubers gotta eat, but there’s only so much lore in each game, so they grasp at straws to come up with far-fetched theories that were definitely not intended by the writers.

Sordid,
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That’s fair enough, but then they shouldn’t make a game blatantly unsuited to the tech they do have. Just make another Morrowind with a fresh coat of paint like they’ve been doing for the last twenty years. It’s what the fans want anyway.

Sordid, (edited )
@Sordid@beehaw.org avatar

Ah, thank you for your thoughtful response. I’ve tried to condense my thoughts as much as possible, but it’s still a giant wall of text. Sorry about that.

I basically agree with most of what you said, there really is a lot to like about Oblivion. But I’ve always perceived a strange contrast in it between its excellent quest design and the way it treats the actual Elder Scrolls lore, and it has always bothered me. How could they put so much effort into one aspect of the game and so little into the other?

When people reminisce about the game, they always mention their favorite quests: The Dark Brotherhood quest line, the quest where you go into a painting, the one with a paranoid elf, the one with a backwater village full of Lovecraftian cultists, the one where all the people in a village got turned invisible, the one where a ship that’s being used as an inn gets hijacked by pirates and sailed out to sea while you’re sleeping in it, the one where an orc gladiator finds out that he’s the son of a vampire, the one were you help two brothers reclaim their family farm… And these really are some of the best and most memorable quests in any RPG ever.

But, with the exception of the DB, can you see what these have in common? They’re not Elder Scrolls quests. They have absolutely nothing to do with the setting, they’re as generic as can be. You could lift them from Oblivion and drop them into any other fantasy game, and they’d work just fine with basically no adjustments needed.

When the game does make contact with the Elder Scrolls universe, it almost always does so in the most halfhearted and perfunctory way possible. The examples that stick out most in my mind are Boethiah’s quest and Mankar Camoran’s speech in Paradise. What sinister task does the Prince of Plots, whose domain is deceit, conspiracy, secret plots, assassination, and treason, have for you? Go into an arena and kill some dudes one after the other. Like… really? That’s a Mehrunes Dagon or Molag Bal quest, not a Boethiah quest! And the baddie, a supposed expert on all things oblivion, gives you a speech near the end of the game, during which he rattles off the names of some daedric princes and the planes of oblivion they rule over. Except that he gets every single one of them wrong. The writer threw in some TES terminology with no regard for what it actually means in the same way that Star Trek writers throw in technobabble.

These are just two examples, but you notice stuff like this all over the game if you keep your eyes open. Most of the people working on the game, with the exception of the DB quest line designer/writer and maybe a handful of others, clearly didn’t give one singular crap about its setting, avoiding it as much as possible and putting in the bare minimum effort otherwise.

Now the revelation I’ve had is not that the game is like this, I’ve known that for almost twenty years. It’s why it’s like this. It finally clicked as a result of combining three ideas:

One, I recently watched a video by Zaric Zhakaron in which he points out that the people who created The Elder Scrolls left the company decades ago. He argues that Starfield’s worldbuilding stinks in comparison to Bethesda’s previous games because it’s the first game in decades where the developers actually had to do some themselves, they couldn’t simply insert new quests and stories into a world that had been made by others and that they simply inherited (TES) or purchased (Fallout). And it turns out they suck at it. There was barely anyone left of the old Bethesda after Morrowind.

Two, modern Bethesda has no balls. Old Bethesda made a variety of different games, some of which were highly innovative both in terms of technology and design (e.g. it was Terminator: Future Shock, not Quake, that pioneered 3D enemies and mouselook in first-person shooters). But then Morrowind became a huge hit, and the price of success was the company’s soul. It spent the next twenty years making the same game over and over with different coats of paint.

And three, I had a brief discussion about Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag. It’s a game I like a lot, but whenever I talk about it, I tell people that it’s an excellent pirate game whose biggest flaw is that it sometimes forces you to leave your ship and play Assassin’s Creed. It’s pretty clear the developers wanted to make a pirate game, but they still had to contort it into the AC straitjacket for marketing reasons.

I’m sure you can tell where this is going. You said Oblivion was made with passion, and that’s only half true. Yeah, the developers clearly did want to make a good game, and in many ways they succeeded, but they had no passion for The Elder Scrolls, because it wasn’t their setting. They hadn’t made it, it was just a leftover from some guys who no longer worked there, and as a result the new guys didn’t know or care very much about it. They still had to make a game in it, though, because that’s what the fans wanted. The result is a rather formulaic game that distances itself from its own setting whenever it can, yet is unable to develop its own identity because it would clash, and mangles it when it can’t.

Maybe I’m just slow and this stuff was obvious to everyone twenty years ago, but I feel a strange sense of closure having figured it out. If you made it this far, thanks for reading.

Sordid,
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I’ve had a similar experience with a lot of early-access games. They always end up disappointing, and I’ve come to realize it’s because the fun comes not just from playing the game and watching it develop and improve but also in equal part from expectations. It’s easy to look at an unfinished game and imagine what it could be in the future, and those fantasies inevitably exceed what is actually feasible to put into the game. I try to steer clear of early-access games now.

Sordid,
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What about games that become less fun as their development goes along? That’s another thing I’ve noticed with some early-access games whose early versions were more… concentrated, for lack of a better term. If there’s progression involved, it tends to go pretty quickly in early versions. Development then doesn’t change how the game plays or where the progression begins and ends, instead it just adds padding between the fun bits and makes everything take longer. Ever encounter a game like that?

Sordid,
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I’d be willing to pay that if it didn’t have Denuvo DRM. Since it does, the price I’m willing to pay is about an order of magnitude lower.

Sordid,
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Oh man… But morally offensive mods are the best ones! I guess I’d better back up my DDDA installer before this plague reaches it, huh?

What's your favorite example of developer's foresight?

My favorite is in the Dawguard DLC for Skyrim. If you somehow get far enough into the DLC to enter the Soul Cairn and you didn’t do the main story quest where you kill your first dragon, you’ll get unique dialogue with a dragon you meet in the Soul Cairn. He calls you Dovahkiin, and you can ask him why he called you that, to...

Sordid, (edited )
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Basically all of NetHack, but if I had to pick one thing, it would be the fact that the devs foresee things that don’t even exist in the game. For example, if you polymorph yourself into a monster that can eat metal and then eat a trident, you get a humorous message referencing Trident bubble gum. A similar message exists for when you eat a piece of flint (referencing the Flintstones, naturally), despite the fact that there are no monsters in the game that can eat rocks. In other words, that message can never be seen in the vanilla version of the game, but the devs prepared it anyway just in case you mod such a monster in.

Sordid,
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Frontier: Elite 2 had it in 1993. There really is no excuse at this point.

Sordid,
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Dang, this is a disappointing read. This might be an unpopular take, but I have been steadily losing respect for FromSoft over the years due to them essentially following the same path as Bethesda - they used to make varied games until one of them randomly became very successful, and from that point on they’ve just been remaking that one game over and over with slightly different coats of paint. I was hoping they’d break out of that pattern with AC6 and do something original for a change, although I was also keenly aware there was a risk that, being the sixth game in the series, it would be just another AC. The fact that it’s apparently just another Souls is somehow even worse.

Sordid, (edited )
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Hyping up old features as if they’re groundbreaking is a proud Bethesda tradition. I still remember laughing at their pre-release hype around the Radiant quest randomizer in Skyrim, which is virtually identical to the quest randomizer that Daggerfall had been built around fifteen years prior.

Sordid,
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Experience. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me, uh, you can’t get fooled again!

Sordid,
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two decades is enough to capture Skyrim and Fallout 3.

So a decent but by no means amazing game and a complete turd? Not really helping your case here very much, IMO. The last truly great game Bethesda made was Morrowind, and I will die on this hill.

What is up with Baldur's Gate 3?

This is not a criticism - I love how much attention this game has been getting. I’m just not understanding why BG3 has been blowing up so much. It seems like BG3 is getting more attention than all of Larian’s previous games combined (and maybe all of Obsidian’s recent crpgs as well). Traditionally crpgs have not lit the...

Sordid,
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It seems like BG3 is getting more attention than all of Larian’s previous games combined (and maybe all of Obsidian’s recent crpgs as well).

Legendary brand name which the game actually lives up to.

Sordid,
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Furthermore, once you ate your burger, if you want more, you have to buy another because it’s a consumables.

The same goes for single-player offline games, though. There’s only so much entertainment you can get out of one before you’ve seen everything, get bored, and look for another one.

you pay once but can play anytime while patched and updates require prolonged work after you purchase

If a studio fails to budget for that and make sure those costs are included in the price of the game, it frankly deserves to go bust.

Sordid, (edited )
@Sordid@beehaw.org avatar

the developers still need to work on big patches, content and fixes even years after release

Why would they need to do that? If it’s years down the line, there shouldn’t be any bugs left to fix by that point. And offline single-player games don’t need regular content drops. Sure, an expansion or two might be nice, but those don’t come free. Only online games need to constantly feed their players new content in order to keep them hooked and coming back to buy more MTX.

Would the average consumer willing to spend more for a game with everything in it? AAA already cost 70$ at launch, would the average consumer accept further price increases, or would selling plummet in comparison with reduced price+dlc or free to play with microtransanction?

Oh sales would plummet for sure, but it would still make a profit, just not as much. If From Soft and Larian can do it, everyone can. They just don’t wanna. (see below)

At the end companies are not inherently “evil” they just look for what works and what doesn’t by trial and error

That really depends on your definition of “works”. Sure, it’s a business, but what’s the goal? To me there seems to be a noticeable difference between companies that want to make good games, for which the business side of things is just a means to an end, and companies that want to make as much money as possible, where the games are the means to that end. Is that latter category ‘evil’? Maybe not strictly speaking, but I have no concern for those companies whatsoever, they can go fuck themselves.

Sordid,
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It looks cool, but frankly I’m far more interested in how it’s going to be monetized. I bought into PoE early access back in the day but stopped playing after a few years because I got fed up with how its game design is compromised in order to accommodate its business model. Specialized stash tabs for currency, maps, cards, etc. are basically a mandatory purchase, since inventory management is hell without them. Maybe this is an unpopular opinion, but IMO deliberately introducing game design problems, such as tedious inventory management, so that you can sell the solutions is a scummy practice. The same goes for drop rates, which are frustratingly low in order to force you to trade instead of finding your gear yourself, since in order to trade effectively, you need to buy a few premium tabs. Even though I actually made all these purchases to overcome these artificial hindrances, being squeezed like that left such a bad taste in my mouth that I just couldn’t enjoy the game anymore. If they keep this up in PoE2, I’m going to steer well clear.

Sordid,
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I dunno, the game seems extremely popular and successful despite this, so clearly a lot of people don’t mind. It’s hard to gauge what the majority opinion is.

Sordid, (edited )
@Sordid@beehaw.org avatar

I also have a lot of playtime in it, but most of it wasn’t really quality time. I tried real hard to like the game, but in hindsight I should’ve given up on it way sooner. Even with all the tabs, inventory management is still a nightmare. I hate the currency system with a passion, I resent the fact that there’s no loot vacuum, I despise having to manually identify items. I don’t like trading, and trying to find my own gear was like being rolled around in a zorbing ball made out of sandpaper. There’s way too much friction everywhere in the system for no good reason. I love the core gameplay, the monsters have cool designs and are fun to kill, the skills feel punchy and satisfying to use… It’s just the overarching structure built around that that ruins it for me. Shame.

Sordid,
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Wasn’t that back when PoE2 was supposed to just be a big update to PoE1? I haven’t followed the development news all that closely, but I know that used to be the plan.

Sordid,
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It’s an online ARPG, the campaign is basically just a tutorial, the real meat of the game is in the endgame. So yes, you’re right that you can finish the campaign just fine without making any purchases, but that’s not saying much. Also, the low drop rates will kick your butt throughout the campaign and forever after regardless of whether you make a purchase or not.

Sordid,
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In modern ARPGs, you automatically pick up currency just by being near it. In PoE, you have to individually click each currency item to pick it up. Given that PoE has a very sophisticated loot filter system, I find it very strange that it requires so much clicking to pick stuff up. You’ve already decided what loot you want to pick up when you set up your loot filter, so the clicking is mostly superfluous and could be automated. IMO that would make the game play much better, since having to stop to pick up loot interrupts the gameplay and breaks the flow.

Sordid,
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You get tens of hours of high-quality gameplay for free when you go through the campaign. How is that not saying much?

Because the high quality doesn’t come in until way later. When you’re playing through the campaign for the first time, you have neither the knowledge nor the resources to make a proper build, so the gameplay is very bland in comparison to what you can do later. Which means that the fact that the campaign is so long is actually a negative. It’s a tutorial that takes like twenty hours to slog through. This seems to be a common problem with free-to-play games. Warframe devs acknowledge and joke about the fact that the game starts getting good a hundred hours in.

Sordid,
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That would require every player even new ones to make very complex loot filters and understand what loot is valuable and not to automate it.

No, it wouldn’t, because it would not be mandatory (just like loot filters themselves aren’t).

Every item in PoE that is automatically picked up doesn’t take up inventory space (Metamorph organs, Expedition fragments, Sulphite, Azurite).

You’re this close to getting it. The extremely limited inventory space in PoE and other ARPGs is a severe design defect, the games would be much better if inventory space was simply infinite. I’ve had a long and complex discussion about this very topic with someone just a day or two ago, so I don’t feel like explaining myself on this point all over again. Feel free to check that if you’re interested.

It also feeds into the dopamine loop, when you get an exciting drop you see it on the ground it doesn’t automatically just get sucked into your inventory.

That would be much better solved by having a pop-up show you the exciting drop as you automatically pick it up. That way the player would still get their dopamine hit without the game also constantly filling their annoyance meter by making them pick up garbage manually.

Sordid,
@Sordid@beehaw.org avatar

In comparison to how the game is once you get a proper build going, yes, the campaign is bland as hell. Basically all ARPGs are like this due to the way their progression works.

Sordid,
@Sordid@beehaw.org avatar

This is probably going to be an unpopular opinion, but I’m more baffled why game devs continue to implement inventory limitations at all. I have yet to see a game that wouldn’t be significantly improved by just giving the player infinite inventory space.

Sordid,
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Filtering and searching would help, but if you’re looking for an item that you forgot the name of, a search doesn’t necessarily do much.

Keywords are the answer. If the player forgets whether the healing item is called “medkit”, “first aid”, or “bandage”, just let them search for “heal”.

Some games use their inventory system to limit the player, making sure they don’t start a level with enough health potions and grenades to cheese every fight.

That’s better solved by just not giving the player that many to begin with. Some games adjust their item drops based on what you already have, so if you’re running low on pistol ammo, they’ll give you some. If you already have five grenades, you won’t find any more until you use some. That achieves the same goal without limiting your ability to pick up different types of items.

In survival games, a finite inventory sets the gameplay loop: you go exploring/mining and then return to base, drop off your stuff and head out again. It makes your base valuable, if only because that’s where you keep most of your resources and moving would be hard.

That’s exactly one of the things that I hate about limited inventory space. It’s effectively the same as hauling vendor trash, and that’s something that I view as an unnecessary interruption of gameplay. “You’ve had fun killing mobs for five whole minutes, time to do a chore!” Yeah, no, that can fuck right off. All the way off.

I played a Minecraft mod that gave me an effectively infinite inventory. I went mining for so long that it started to feel like an awful slog.

But that was your own choice…?

Sordid, (edited )
@Sordid@beehaw.org avatar

Now we bring in what it adds to the game. Player choice and agency. As the player, you get to pick your own path. In any game with an inventory, you are going to get to pick which things you keep and which you don’t. This means you have to actively make choices according to your playstyle. In Deus Ex the question boils down to, do you take the big fuck off GEP gun or do you keep your inventory lean for lockpicks, pistols, SMGs, shotguns, and assault rifles so you can use whatever ammo you come across. In the first Deus Ex, ammo is very scarce. Thus having room for ammo and the tools to use it is very important. a GEP gun only really works on 4-6 enemies and the ammo is huge as well as the gun. Taking up around a third of the inventory, maybe more, depending on if you get inventory upgrades. This is an active playstyle choice.

Yeah, this is the usual justification for limited inventory space, but I’m not buying it. I don’t think it adds choice at all, quite the opposite. You could just as easily make the choice to not take the GEP gun even if you had infinite inventory space, so contrary to what you said, the limitation doesn’t actually add any choice. What it does do is remove the choice of taking the gun anyway “just in case” even if you’re on a stealthy playthrough, and that has the knock-on effect of removing a whole bunch of other choices later down the line. You can’t pull a “surprise, motherfucker” moment on some hapless enemy. You can’t change your playstyle later if you discover that stealth really isn’t as much fun as you thought it would be. And perhaps most importantly, you can’t choose to keep playing stealthily despite having a big fuckoff gun. Choice only exists when alternatives exist. By taking those alternatives away and locking the player into one playstyle, you’re not adding choice, you’re diminishing it.

This is basically the same discussion that occurred around Skyrim, where Bethesda made the controversial design decision of getting rid of character classes in favor of completely free-form character leveling. Some people argued that this meant that you couldn’t choose your playstyle anymore, and I always found that logic to be completely backwards. Of course you can still choose your playstyle, but now you make that choice by actually playing the game in a particular way rather than by clicking stuff in a menu at the beginning. Surely it’s self-evident that this is better…?

Inventory limitations (and character classes) are therefore just one aspect of the larger question of whether or not to lock the player into their choices or allow them to play a jack-of-all-trades or change their playstyle later. Having played a lot of games from either side of that spectrum, I’m very firmly in favor of the latter. It’s easy to point to Deus Ex, regarded by many as the best game ever made, as an example of how to do it right. But the reality is that most games aren’t that good and don’t offer multiple equally well fleshed out playstyles to choose from. What if the game is badly balanced and your chosen playstyle ceases to be viable halfway through? What if it turns out that the playstyle simply isn’t as fun as it initially seemed? If the game falls into the former category of locking you into your choices, you’re screwed and have to start over. That’s just frustrating and disrespectful of the player’s time. Game devs would be wise to eat their humble pie and allow a lot of leeway to the player not just because the player may have made some bad choices when playing the game but also because the devs themselves may have made some bad choices when making it. Only a perfect game is justified in being unforgiving, and precious few are.

Now you might say, “But Sordid, if you allow the players to have everything, they’re going to optimize the fun out of the game and play an OP jack-of-all-trades!” And my response to that is, “So what?” It’s their choice, let them. If adding choice were the goal as you claim, it should be a no-brainer. Yeah, the temptation to optimize is strong, and sticking to your chosen playstyle can be difficult at times, but nothing worthwhile is easy. And some people genuinely enjoy being an OP jack-of-all-trades. Why take that choice away from them when it doesn’t add any choice to anyone else?

Sordid, (edited )
@Sordid@beehaw.org avatar

You’re right about some of the effects that limited inventory space has, like forcing the player to prioritize what they take or to vary their approach instead of just using one gun throughout the entire game, but that’s kinda my point. I was responding to your statement that limited inventory adds player choice, which is not true. These effects are the opposite, they’re restrictions on the player’s choice, specifically on the player’s ability to choose something that might be considered boring or overpowered. I don’t think such restrictions are necessary, but more to the point, I think players deserve to know the true nature and purpose of them. Don’t go around saying that limited inventory space adds choice. Tell your players the truth, that it’s a leash that restricts their choice and that you’re keeping them on because you don’t trust them not to ruin the game for themselves. And that you’re withholding that choice from those who would actually enjoy that playstyle.

You’re also correct that skill systems are another significant factor in locking the player into their choices. That’s what I meant when I mentioned character classes and praised Skyrim’s lack of them. You’re right that switching playstyles in Skyrim requires some effort, but not nearly as much as leveling up in the first place. A high-level character has all kinds of equipment, abilities, and resources they can use to speed up the process (e.g. just using their wealth to pay for skill training), and I really think Bethesda is onto something with this system. It doesn’t let you be great at everything right from the start (too OP), nor does it rigidly lock you into a single playstyle (too restrictive). Other games have also implemented skill systems that achieve a similar effect (Kenshi, Dark Souls 2).

As for the question of how to handle inventory itself, here’s the thing. The issue I have with limited inventory space is that most games slavishly implement it without giving a lot of thought to what happens when you run out. Because that’s the whole point, right? Your inventory capacity is limited so that you can run out, either of inventory capacity itself or of the resources that you carry in your inventory. At which point you need to stop doing what you’re doing and replenish, and the usual ways of handling that are just uninspired and annoying: If you run out of inventory space, you need to make a trip to town and sell your vendor trash before you get back to killing mobs. If you run out of ammo, you need to stop fighting and go pick up some more. Both of those feel like a chore, they’re a needless, boring interruption of gameplay.

And it’s not an easy problem to solve, very few games even make an attempt. Some adjust resource drops to suit your needs, dropping you ammo/resources that you’re short on and not dropping stuff that you have plenty of. That works, but it cheapens the experience, because the entire resource economy is fake. The new Dooms have the right idea of making the player engage enemies even more aggressively instead of backing off to replenish ammo, but even there the glory kills are basically short first-person cutscenes that interrupt the gameplay (which is the reason I haven’t played those games, I find the idea of having to frequently do finishers with canned animations off-putting). The best solution I’ve seen, which unfortunately doesn’t seem to be very popular, is Mass Effect 1’s overheat meter, which is basically equivalent to regenerating ammo. It prevents you from just holding the button down as you might if you had an enormous/infinite ammo reserve, but it also doesn’t force you to stop fighting when you run out and have to wait for your gun to cool down, since you can use that time to reposition, throw grenades, use abilities, etc. It’s a shame this system hasn’t caught on.

Similar issues exist around vendor trash hauling. Some games manage to do away with it completely. For example, The Saboteur and The Bard’s Tale both show you what loot you found and then immediately convert it into money as if you’d sold it to a vendor, only you didn’t actually have to make the trip. It’s basically just a currency drop with some flavor text, and the games are in no way worse off for not forcing the player to periodically visit a vendor. But that only works in these games because actual usable items and weapons are very few and very simplistic, it’s a much tougher nut to crack in games with more complex itemization. Path of Exile actually uses inventory management issues as part of its monetization model, where buying stash tabs is technically optional, but inventory management is hell without them. The Nioh series, which is a soulslike with ARPG-esque itemization, is a prime example of devs not giving any thought to what happens when you run out. They almost give you an unlimited inventory but not quite. You can carry 600 items on you and store 4000 more in your stash, which is a lot. You won’t have to worry about inventory limitations for a long, long time, quite possibly all the way to endgame. But what happens when you do finally run out of space? You probably just give up on the game outright, because now it expects you to manually sort through almost five thousand items one by one, and fuck that, right? Unlike the ammo problem, which IMO is solved quite well by ME1, I can’t recall a game that has a really good solution to the vendor trash problem.

Oh, and as for players finding your game too easy and boring due to unlimited inventory and leaving bad reviews after playing for five minutes, I don’t think that’s a realistic concern. You can make games challenging and interesting just fine without rigidly locking players into their choices. Skyrim’s unlimited leveling doesn’t seem to have made a dent in its success, and Nioh also isn’t regarded as easy despite having an inventory limit that you’re unlikely to reach for a few hundred hours.

Sordid,
@Sordid@beehaw.org avatar

I’m glad I was able to give you some food for thought. For my part, I can see how some games might benefit from inventory limitations. Certainly if you’re making any kind of realistic simulation, infinite inventory space would be inappropriate. Allowing the player to amass huge stockpiles of consumables is probably also not a good idea (though this issue can also be attacked from the other direction, by simply not giving the player too many consumables in the first place). After further consideration, it seems clear to me a distinction should be drawn between inventories used to hold items the player uses, such as weapons and consumables, and inventories used to hold vendor trash. I still firmly believe that the latter should be unlimited and the player should not be forced to interrupt the fun they’re having slaying monsters just to make room for more loot. It doesn’t help that most games don’t in fact make such a distinction and just have one inventory for everything (Kingdoms of Amalur being the only exception I can think of at the moment).

Sordid, (edited )
@Sordid@beehaw.org avatar

Kenshi is a post-apocalyptic sandbox open-world RPG / base-building game with a bunch of lore but absolutely no plot for you to follow.

Sordid,
@Sordid@beehaw.org avatar

That Trespasser LP is what motivated me to play through the game myself, and I have no regrets. That game is insane. It’s awful, don’t get me wrong, but crazy ahead of its time. They basically tried to make a VR game two decades before VR gaming became a thing. Without Trespasser, we wouldn’t have Half-Life: Alyx. Research Indicates’ LP is a fantastic way to experience this obscure but fascinating title.

Sordid,
@Sordid@beehaw.org avatar

The Scary Game Squad is fantastic, and Until Dawn is their finest work. It’s a perfect marriage of a group of guys who know all the horror story tropes and clichés and a game that is deliberately built around them.

Sordid,
@Sordid@beehaw.org avatar

AER: Memories of Old

Feather

Both are very relaxing games about being a bird and flying around a beautiful, somewhat surreal landscape.

Sordid,
@Sordid@beehaw.org avatar

Also, Vane.

Sordid,
@Sordid@beehaw.org avatar

addictive quality

That’s exactly why I stopped playing that. I realized it was addictive rather than fun, and I could no longer stomach the business model based on annoying the player into paying (by deliberately making inventory management a living hell and then selling stash tabs to alleviate the problem).

Sordid,
@Sordid@beehaw.org avatar

Blade of Darkness. If you want to see the true origin of the soulslike genre, this is it. Be warned that the controls are extremely janky, though.

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