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duff
05-06-2011, 04:20 PM
Originally, imported saves carried more 'trivial' information, such as the stats and abilities of a character or romance options. More recently though RPG's are giving players choices with consequences of much more significance, and then allowing the player to import his decisions into a sequel. Mass Effect 3 for example will allow you to import decisions made from both the first and second games.

The Witcher II has something like 16 different endings, and from what I understand the differences can be quite large. How are RPG developers going to be able to cope with the potentially vastly different decisions that players will make? Without spoilers, some of the choices you make can fundamentally change the setting of the game world, potentially changing the whole shape of a possible sequel. Surely it can't be possible for CDProjekt to make a sequel that caters specifically to all of the possible endings?

It seems like a fine line between giving the player substantial choices which actually make a difference to the game world, but which could spiral out of control. Or giving hollow choices which only marginally effect a pre-determined plot, but are much more managable. I love the ambition of CDProjekt but I can't see how they can continue to give the player such significant decisions without the consequences spiralling into completely different sequels.

Wizardry
05-06-2011, 04:37 PM
Obviously they will drop or merge paths, forcing fake choice. You can't let the state space explode when it comes to the narrative as it creates an impossibly huge amount of work to keep up the development. What it ends up doing is forcing the developers to limit the effects of each path, as in what BioWare do when they add in only a single line of reference to the big choices in previous games.

Also, why are statistics trivial? Statistics are the most important part of importing a character. They are also the easiest to deal with. It's a shame modern games force you into being level 1 after importing. It demonstrates how wrong developers are when they place an importance in carrying over narrative choices instead of statistical choices.

vinraith
05-06-2011, 04:52 PM
You can't let the state space explode when it comes to the narrative as it creates an impossibly huge amount of work to keep up the development. What it ends up doing is forcing the developers to limit the effects of each path, as in what BioWare do when they add in only a single line of reference to the big choices in previous games.


Ironically, this problem is exacerbated the higher production values become. When every line of dialogue must be voiced, choreographed, and animated, giving players real choices becomes downright expensive.


Statistics are the most important part of importing a character. They are also the easiest to deal with. It's a shame modern games force you into being level 1 after importing.

Agreed. I don't understand this new tendency among RPG's with an import function to restart you at level 1. Why not simply balance the game for a new starting level, and give new players a choice of pre-existing builds (or free choice in making their own, of course)? Narrative continuity is nigh impossible, mechanical continuity is fairly straightforward. If you're going to bother to do the former (which is nice to the degree that it can be done, but is necessarily limited) why not also do the latter?

TillEulenspiegel
05-06-2011, 04:56 PM
Minor choices are probably manageable. Take a few non-plot-critical NPCs, and let your actions influence their destiny and whether they'll be around in future. But if you present world-changing choices, you're going to have to cheat a lot to avoid creating whole new games around each choice, whether by negating one decision, transporting you to an entirely different world for most of the game, etc.

The only sensible way of having genuine long-term influence on a game world would involve open-world emergent gameplay. An actual simulated world, instead of a paper-thin illusion of one which relies on a developer churning out masses of scripted content.

Wizardry
05-06-2011, 05:04 PM
Ironically, this problem is exacerbated the higher production values become. When every line of dialogue must be voiced, choreographed, and animated, giving players real choices becomes downright expensive.
Yep. There's a reason why Baldur's Gate II and Planescape: Torment contain so many lines of dialogue.


Agreed. I don't understand this new tendency among RPG's with an import function to restart you at level 1. Why not simply balance the game for a new starting level, and give new players a choice of pre-existing builds (or free choice in making their own, of course)? Narrative continuity is nigh impossible, mechanical continuity is fairly straightforward. If you're going to bother to do the former (which is nice to the degree that it can be done, but is necessarily limited) why not also do the latter?
It's because barely any modern CRPGs contain proper rule systems. Nearly all modern CRPGs contain horrible developer creator rules, and then their sequels contain different rules entirely. The systems aren't strong enough to stay consistent through multiple games.

Fiyenyaa
05-06-2011, 05:15 PM
It's a shame modern games force you into being level 1 after importing. It demonstrates how wrong developers are when they place an importance in carrying over narrative choices instead of statistical choices.

Apparently Mass Effect 3 will start with you being the level you were by the end of Mass Effect 2.

Although of course it is all relative, and you'll still increase in level and face more powerful enemies, thus making it cosmetic. I assume.

Flint
05-06-2011, 05:20 PM
Carrying the same save through games is a great, fun thing as a concept but it does carry the risk of offering an inferior experience in the sequels for those who do not have a prior save in store (whether it's because they're newcomers or because the saves got lost one point or another). Bit of a double-edged sword in that regard.

cowthief skank
05-06-2011, 05:27 PM
Statistics are the most important part of importing a character.

Not sure I agree with that. I admit it feels a little off if my imported character appears to have lost some skills and must relearn them. However, I am pretty sure it would feel much worse to find NPC X alive and well in the sequel after I shot them in the face in the first.

Wizardry
05-06-2011, 06:09 PM
Well then, don't include NPC X in the sequel. Problem solved and no decisions brought forward.

duff
05-06-2011, 06:10 PM
Also, why are statistics trivial? Statistics are the most important part of importing a character. They are also the easiest to deal with. It's a shame modern games force you into being level 1 after importing. It demonstrates how wrong developers are when they place an importance in carrying over narrative choices instead of statistical choices.

Trivial was probably the wrong word, I simply meant that they tended to have a more marginal impact on the game world. That said I'd much rather have imported narrative choices than character statistics, though I can't see why we shouldn't have both.



The only sensible way of having genuine long-term influence on a game world would involve open-world emergent gameplay. An actual simulated world, instead of a paper-thin illusion of one which relies on a developer churning out masses of scripted content.

Absolutely and that would unfortunately cost way too much for single player games.


Carrying the same save through games is a great, fun thing as a concept but it does carry the risk of offering an inferior experience in the sequels for those who do not have a prior save in store (whether it's because they're newcomers or because the saves got lost one point or another). Bit of a double-edged sword in that regard.

Yeh possibly, (slightly unrelated but) on the other hand you could say that having imported saves with player chosen narrative decisions could boost sales of other titles in the series. So by making player choice more important could developers sell more games in the long run, which in turn funds the extra resources needed to support potential diverging narrative paths? For example alot of people on these forums seem to have got The Witcher 1 in order to get a save to import into TW2.

sinister agent
05-06-2011, 07:39 PM
I actually wondered about this - what happens in a game that does this when you haven't played the previous game(s)? I've played Mass Effect 1 and 2, and while a lot of big decisions had very limited impact (understandable, given some of the problems mentioned above), there are loads of smaller decisions that are called back to, to the extent that it's hard to imagine there'd be much background left if the callbacks were removed.

What happens if you play Mass Effect 2 in isolation? Are all those decisions defaulted for you, or are the callbacks just removed, or what?

cowthief skank
05-06-2011, 07:41 PM
Well then, don't include NPC X in the sequel. Problem solved and no decisions brought forward.

Of course. Similarly, why bother continuing the story of the player character either? Why even bother with the same world? Just start afresh, all problems solved.

Except, of course, you know... People actually enjoy stuff like the continuation of stories they are interested in.

Grygus
05-06-2011, 07:43 PM
They're defaulted. You can see it for yourself quite easily; play the first half hour of Mass Effect 2 as a new (i.e., non-imported) game and you'll see a lot of assumptions about your contributions to events that happened in the first game.

Wizardry
05-06-2011, 07:49 PM
Of course. Similarly, why bother continuing the story of the player character either? Why even bother with the same world? Just start afresh, all problems solved.

Except, of course, you know... People actually enjoy stuff like the continuation of stories they are interested in.
Exactly. People enjoy the continuation of a story they are interested in. That's why developers bother with the continuation of the story in sequels. NPCs that you previously had the option to kill, though? Why bother if it causes you grief? You can continue a story without them.

duff
05-06-2011, 07:58 PM
Well sure you can but what if the NPC in question is a major character in the game? In TW2 some crucial characters can die because of your actions.

Wizardry
05-06-2011, 08:02 PM
Then either don't let the player kill them, or don't make them a major character in the sequel. It's not hard to design a story around it. You're basically talking about games where this problem may be present. I can tell you for a fact that you can write just as great a story without running into this problem.

duff
05-06-2011, 08:11 PM
Then either don't let the player kill them, or don't make them a major character in the sequel. It's not hard to design a story around it. Those are some pretty big restrictions. In an RPG I want my character to be able to make his own decisions and to have to live by the consequences. Nothing shatters immersion more than the game overwriting the players decisions for a canon narrative, except not being able to make your own decisions in the first place. Balancing player choice so that it is managable is a big task, but I don't think removing any meaningful player choice in the first place is the answer.

Wizardry
05-06-2011, 08:15 PM
What? I never said that at all. Games should be self contained, with self contained choices and consequences. That's one of the many reasons Mass Effect is a terrible CRPG (if it is one). Whatever decisions you make have no effect on Mass Effect, only some slight alterations to Mass Effect 2, an entirely different game.

duff
05-06-2011, 08:27 PM
Sorry if I misinterpreted you, but you said that if the player has an option to kill an npc (why are we all obsessed with murder!?) that the npc should not feature in the sequel to avoid any conflict. Either that or don't have the option to kill the npc.


Then either don't let the player kill them, or don't make them a major character in the sequel.

I'm not sure if I'm misunderstanding you but that kind of choice isn't much of a choice at all, my actions will have no consequences because the event/npc are written out of the sequel to avoid conflict? When you have 'self-contained' choices and consequences you can run very close to not having much of a choice at all. I would say that the Mass Effect series is actually a prime example of self-contained choices.

Wizardry
05-06-2011, 08:33 PM
No. Your choices will have a consequence. Consequences in the game in which you can actually kill the NPC. Shifting the consequences onto the sequel causes all sorts of problems as mentioned already in this thread. If a character will be important in the sequel and it's too much work to cater for him being dead, don't make him killable in the previous game. If a character is potentially killable in the previous entry, don't bother conditionally putting them into the sequel as it causes too much grief. Choices and consequences should primarily be self contained within a single game. I'm not saying that developers shouldn't carry over your choices into sequels, but it's a terrible idea to only make the consequences of your actions apparent in later games only.

duff
05-06-2011, 08:40 PM
Aye thats all true, but theres something thrilling about playing the game and knowing that your decisions are going to have a big impact upon the rest of the series. I guess moving decisions across games is an inevitable consequence of developers/publishers being very keen on pushing out single narratives (i.e Shepard v. the Reapers) over a series of games rather than just one game (and possibly an expansion). When you have a narrative set out in such a way your bound to end games on cliffhangers, leaving the player waiting to see the consequences of their previous actions (DA2, W2, ME2).

Wizardry
05-06-2011, 08:55 PM
The problem is that a sequel ends up having multiple paths without any branches leading to those paths, because those branches happened during choices in the previous game. So basically the developers waste so much of their time catering for all these paths that they have to limit the amount of branching that the sequel itself does. If a developer can only cope with developing 5 paths in the sequel, and those 5 are based on choices from the previous game, there's no room to branch in the sequel itself. It's pretty simple. Plus you screw over people who never played the previous game or who don't have the time to play the sequel. If Mass Effect boasted having lots of consequences, I'd feel pretty robbed as those consequences only happen in Mass Effect 2. When I buy a game I want it to be self contained and complete. If I cared for choices and consequences then I'd actually want my choices in the game to affect the later parts of the game rather than a sequel I don't own.

Vague-rant
05-06-2011, 09:11 PM
If a developer can only cope with developing 5 paths in the sequel, and those 5 are based on choices from the previous game, there's no room to branch in the sequel itself. It's pretty simple. Plus you screw over people who never played the previous game or who don't have the time to play the sequel. If Mass Effect boasted having lots of consequences, I'd feel pretty robbed as those consequences only happen in Mass Effect 2. When I buy a game I want it to be self contained and complete. If I cared for choices and consequences then I'd actually want my choices in the game to affect the later parts of the game rather than a sequel I don't own.

Why can't you tie some of those narrative endings together? Is it so hard to have a 2 minute scene of quick exposition which joins them?

And because of that, why can't you have consequences in both the game in which you make a choice and the sequel? All games have to rely on that illusion of choice anyway, why not, if it can be well written and feel natural, make some of those choices lead to the same path.

One of the things I liked about Kotor 2 was fighting Kreia at the end as both the good and the bad guy. It didn't make my choice to be good or evil any less meaningful, but much could still be "recycled".

Wizardry
05-06-2011, 09:50 PM
Of course you can join paths, and that's usually what happens. However, like I said, having paths that can only be reached by making decisions in a game's prequel cuts out content and limits the amount of branching within the game itself. If I had a choice between developing a new branch in the narrative or developing another path in the narrative based on a flag carried over from an imported save, I know which is most worthwhile. The former can be experienced by people who imported their save and people who didn't play the prequel. The latter can only be experienced by people who imported their save. In other words, it's far more advantageous to spend time branching within the game itself rather than carrying over lots of flags in final saves and branching on those.

Sh33p
05-06-2011, 11:02 PM
Perhaps we're getting to the point where people should expect to have played through earlier games in a series before playing the sequels. You can't really expect to get the same out of watching the 4th season of a TV show having never seen anything else from it as someone who's been watching since the first episode. It's the same for books and films. Especially what with Mass Effect 3 purporting to be the first 'true' gaming trilogy and the fact that you will be able to play all three games on the same machine, the storytelling would probably benefit a lot from making assumtions that people had played the last two games.

Wizardry
05-06-2011, 11:18 PM
Especially what with Mass Effect 3 purporting to be the first 'true' gaming trilogy...
What? Is that what BioWare are saying? Fucking hell.

Shakermaker
05-06-2011, 11:26 PM
What? Is that what BioWare are saying? Fucking hell.

They have been saying that ever since they announced the first installment.

TillEulenspiegel
05-06-2011, 11:52 PM
Oh dear:

I would argue that this is the only trilogy in games. There have been games where there were three, but in terms of planning it out from the beginning, with a story that was meant to span three games, and actually finishing all three games – I don’t know if that’s ever been done before.

Certainly bringing your character across and those decisions, that hasn’t been done before.

http://www.pcgamer.com/2011/05/13/tali-returns-as-a-full-time-squadmate-in-mass-effect-3-wrex-probably-doesnt/

If you're really generous with nuance, there are probably a few grains of truth in that. But there's heaps of prior art in any games that allowed importing characters. Mass Effect distinguishes itself by having quantitatively more plot choices carry over, but that's about it.

duff
05-06-2011, 11:56 PM
Well I can't think of any games that were planned from the outset as a trilogy. I didn't think Mass Effect was, if it was why did they only release it on 360 first, seems a bit odd to me?

Kadayi
06-06-2011, 12:47 AM
Well I can't think of any games that were planned from the outset as a trilogy. I didn't think Mass Effect was, if it was why did they only release it on 360 first, seems a bit odd to me?

Because the initial game was published by Microsoft Game Studios and MS wanted it to be a 360 platform exclusive. However Bioware jumped ship from MS to EA and brought the IP with them. That is why the PC version of ME1 came much later.

duff
06-06-2011, 01:17 AM
Makes sense. They also did a good job at making ME1 relatively self containing with decent standalone story.

Wizardry
06-06-2011, 01:33 AM
Eh? There are loads of trilogies out there that were planned. Ultima IV, V and VI were planned to make up The Age of Enlightenment trilogy, for example. That's why they all deal heavily with the virtues and the Codex of Infinite Wisdom. Baldur's Gate I, II and Throne of Bhaal also make up a trilogy, but I doubt that was a planned trilogy from the onset, and the last game was merely an expansion pack.

However, I think the real question here is whether there was ever a trilogy of games, specifically CRPGs, that allowed you to import your characters along with their choices across each game. Well, guess what? Wizardry's Dark Savant trilogy did just that, from 1990 to 2001, Wizardry VI: Bane of the Cosmic Forge, Wizardry VII: Crusaders of the Dark Savant and Wizardry 8.

Wizardry VII: Bane of the Cosmic Forge contains three possible endings. One of them is to take the Cosmic Forge. A second is to side with the King and ally with Bela. A third is to side with the Queen and kill Bela. Depending on the ending you choose, Wizardry VII: Crusaders of the Dark Savant starts off rather differently. If you took the Cosmic Forge you are transported to Lost Guardia by Aletheides and dumped near Dionysceus. If you sided with the King and allied with Bela, you chase Aletheides to Lost Guardia and land near Ukpyr, the location of the Umpani, friends of Bela, who you can then team up with. If you sided with the Queen and killed Bela, you are captured by the Dark Savant who dumps you outside Nyctalinth, the location of the T'Rang who the Dark Savant puts you in charge of.

So basically, each of the three endings of Wizardry VI leads to a different starting location and a different starting scenario (mission briefing) in Wizardry VII. So what happens if you skip Wizardry VI altogether and start at Wizardry VII? Well, you start at a fourth location, outside of New City, with a completely different introduction and mission briefing. However, the great thing about this is that you are free to make and break alliances as you please. In other words, no ending from the previous game ties you down to a path through Wizardry VII. If you want to you can follow the introduction you received based on your choice of ending and stick with that for the rest of the game, such as allying with the Umpani if you sided with Bela. Alternatively, you can break off that alliance entirely and side with another faction.

Wizardry 8, the final game in the trilogy, has five possible starts (with one being an ending too) depending on how you completed Wizardry VII. If you tell Vi Domina that you couldn't find a spaceship, the Umpani and T'Rang get into a skirmish. If you side with the Umpani and destroy the T'Rang, you leave the planet in a spaceship in pursuit of the Dark Savant, along with Vi Domina and the Umpani. Similarly, if you side with the T'Rang and destroy the Umpani you do the same but with the T'Rang instead. When your ship crash lands at the start of Wizardry 8, you start near Mt. Gigas near the Umpani base if you sided with the Umpani, or Marten's Bluff near the T'Rang base if you sided with the T'Rang. If, on the other hand, you tell Vi Domina that you found a spaceship, you pursue the Dark Savant and crash land on a beach outside the Monastery. If you told the Dark Savant to fuck off at the end of Wizardry VII, you end up floating around in darkness forever. Upon importing this save into Wizardry 8, the game basically tells you that you are still floating around in darkness and can't continue (though I haven't tried this, personally).

Of course you can always start a brand new party in Wizardry 8 with a different starting scenario, though you crash land on the beach outside the Monastery again. Wizardry 8 itself has three different endings, though they are merely endings as Wizardry 8 completed the trilogy and Sir-Tech went bust so they couldn't expand it to four or more games.

Another interesting thing is that items import from one game to the next. In fact, the diamond ring that you can get in Wizardry VI has a use in Wizardry VII and Wizardry 8. It's sort of the precursor to the golden pantaloons in the Baldur's Gate series of games.

So, the Mass Effect trilogy definitely isn't the first CRPG trilogy. Nor is it the first CRPG trilogy to carry forth your choices when importing from one game to the next. Therefore, whichever BioWare employee was interviewed is completely clueless.

deano2099
06-06-2011, 01:53 AM
But after you leave those intros, does your choice of previous ending have any bearing on the rest of the game?

Wizardry
06-06-2011, 02:01 AM
Well, if I can remember correctly, the Umpani are initially hostile if you started on the side of the T'Rang and vice versa. But as you can make or break alliances however you want, you aren't held down firmly by anything at all. However, two things to note. One is that this was 1992 (and 2001 for Wizardry 8). Another thing to note is that it was never the developers intention to lock you out of content because of things you did 300+ hours (or however long the games take to complete) of near constant combat earlier in a previous game. The games were largely self-contained, but with different starts and branching finales that linked together to reflect your actions.

In other words, it definitely feels like a trilogy, therefore Mass Effect definitely isn't the first.

thegooseking
06-06-2011, 02:18 AM
Why do people insist on treating computer game narrative as those old Choose Your Own Adventure books? We've come some way since then. We can still use plot nodes and branches, but we require a lot fewer branches because (unlike in the books) plot nodes are mutable: they can be altered at run-time, so the same node can stand for several branches. Perhaps more significantly, in the books, context had to be carried by the nodes themselves, whereas in a digital game, you can disassociate the contextualisation mechanism from the plot nodes (for instance, in the system I'm working on for my PhD, context is carried by the characters' AI itself). All of that actually goes a long way to reducing the combinatorial explosion problem.

What that requires is essentially writing plot nodes to a lesser degree of detail, and letting the game fill in the rest, which sounds exactly like what Skyrim's Radiant Story is all about. Although I have doubts that Skyrim will do it the best it can be done, I definitely think it's a step in the right direction.

soldant
06-06-2011, 02:29 AM
Why do people insist on treating computer game narrative as those old Choose Your Own Adventure books?
Probably because all of these attempts at filling in the gaps between plot nodes come as cookie-cutter quests or result in a game that lacks structure. There's no real middle ground because the amount of content required to dynamically create such events is huge, hence there's a compromise that ends up with dynamic events which are more or less the same in context, or events that are static and similar to every other quest but have greater context. It's the difference between Oblivion's FedEx Assassin quests and Mount and Blade's fights. The Oblivion quests all have a storyline with actors and everything (such as they are) but ultimately have the same general structure so they could be churned out quickly. Mount and Blade's events are driven by the game world's current state but they have very little context or structure outside of the game world (one battle is much the same as any other).

I really don't think you can strip context out of plot notes and expect characters to carry the burden, at least not in modern games where people expect (demand?) voice acting, full animation, and all that flashy stuff. Back in Morrowind days when everything was text-based I suppose it would work well, but not today. There's just too much content, the game would never get finished.

Ashima
06-06-2011, 04:44 AM
They had no problem invalidating my choice from the first game making Geralt and Shani be in love. They seem to be willing to make firm decisions that invalidate player choices for the sake of the story they want to tell. While I was disappointed that there wasn't even one mention of Shani at all I actually prefer that they'll cut some choices for the sake of a more consistent story, even if sometimes it affects me.

mpk
06-06-2011, 07:23 AM
Also, why are statistics trivial? Statistics are the most important part of importing a character. They are also the easiest to deal with. It's a shame modern games force you into being level 1 after importing. It demonstrates how wrong developers are when they place an importance in carrying over narrative choices instead of statistical choices.

It could be argued that Shephard is the same level at the start of ME2 as he was at the end of ME1, but as there's a different levelling structure and a new skillset, it's hard to reconcile it. The fact that the combat has evolved (thank god) and his team mates are far more efficient also lends to this theory - they're a higher level than his ME1 companions.

deano2099
06-06-2011, 09:33 AM
It could be argued that Shephard is the same level at the start of ME2 as he was in ME1, but as there's a different levelling structure and a new skillset, it's hard to reconcile it. The fact that the combat has evolved (thank god) and his team mates are far more efficient also lends to this theory - they're a higher level than his ME1 companions.

Given that in ME1, Shephard could barely shoot straight until you'd stuck points in to the relevant skill, whereas in ME2 weapon accuracy and damage is entirely divorced from progression, I'd say you're right.

Wizardry
06-06-2011, 02:08 PM
No. Mass Effect does not do this. The Gold Box games and the Baldur's Gate series do it right. Mass Effect? No. If you change the entire set of rules behind the level system then it's very hard to convert from one to the other. If Mass Effect were to feel like a true trilogy then there would be consistent rules between all three games, starting off one game as you finished the previous game, with all the same skills and abilities.

TillEulenspiegel
06-06-2011, 02:28 PM
"Code Red (http://zzt.belsambar.net/zu/wiki/index.php?title=Code_Red)" by Gregory Janson (http://www.digitalmzx.net/wiki/index.php?title=Alexis), for ZZT. 1993-1994.

Not a CRPG, but a trilogy of adventure games with a massive array of branching storylines and eight completely different endings. Extremely impressive, particularly because it took a lot of effort to work around the limitations of the ZZT engine. You couldn't import a saved game, so you were given a string of numbers which represented choices (items acquired, characters you annoyed, etc) to enter in the next game.

It might be a bit obscure outside a certain community, but there you are. I doubt it's even the first of its kind, but it's the one I remember. The story is pretty simplistic stuff as imagined by a suburban American teenager, but it's got all the mechanical complexity you could wish for.

Wizardry
06-06-2011, 02:34 PM
"Code Red (http://zzt.belsambar.net/zu/wiki/index.php?title=Code_Red)" by Gregory Janson (http://www.digitalmzx.net/wiki/index.php?title=Alexis), for ZZT. 1993-1994.

Not a CRPG, but a trilogy of adventure games with a massive array of branching storylines and eight completely different endings. Extremely impressive, particularly because it took a lot of effort to work around the limitations of the ZZT engine. You couldn't import a saved game, so you were given a string of numbers which represented choices (items acquired, characters you annoyed, etc) to enter in the next game.

It might be a bit obscure outside a certain community, but there you are. I doubt it's even the first of its kind, but it's the one I remember. The story is pretty simplistic stuff as imagined by a suburban American teenager, but it's got all the mechanical complexity you could wish for.
Never played it, but it sounds like it could be a great example to use when battling the people who think branching stories make an RPG.

EndelNurk
06-06-2011, 05:55 PM
Is not the real question to be answered here what we each think an RPG is? Wizardry has been arguing for the statistics and systems behind the game being vital. The argument regarding game systems is important as if we believe that our character is the product of their statistics (X character is very strong but stupid, Y character is weak but charismatic, to take a hoary old D&D style example) then that game system and those statistics are vital to link two separate games together. If our character starts the next game with different statistics and is exploring a world with different rules then can they really be argued to be the same character? By this line of reasoning, Mass Effect 2 is certainly not a valid sequel to Mass Effect and, to take a likely less controversial example, Deus Ex 2 is certainly not a valid sequel to Deus Ex. This is a perfectly valid way of reading games as in a very real sense all games are the product of the mechanics underneath them.

However, the viewpoint that appears to be being proposed by mpk also works, if in a different way. Shepard in Mass Effect 2 is the same as Shepard in Mass Effect because of her actions and her temperament rather than because of her abilities. This is certainly not a classic viewpoint as Wizardry's is. It requires more care of the personality rather than mechanics and possibly could only be achieved in a game where the main character is voiced and is therefore clearly separate from the player's persona.

Perhaps that would be an interesting thought in the discussion of whether player characters should be voiced or indeed ever seen to act without direct order from the player. Does embodying the character with its own persona mean that the player becomes more concerned with personality than mechanics?

As I say, both are perfectly valid viewpoints but which cannot truly be argued against one another as each viewpoint likely has its own preferred style of game. I find Mass Effect to be one of the most blissful experiences I have ever had in a computer game and that is largely to do with how much I enjoy the character of Shepard. I care little for shonky shooting or inventory mechanics but care greatly for her and the galaxy's struggle to co-operate against the Reapers. Wizardry apparently does not identify with pre-written characters in such a way. That's fine and as Wizardry has mentioned, this treatment moves Mass Effect away from the classic form of the computer RPG. I don't think it means the game is invalid as a member of that genre though. I'm not even going to claim it's an evolution of that genre either as clearly there are a multitude of proponents for the older style. I will just say that it's different by a matter of degree. I do not think we can effectively discuss what is interesting about games by declaring that some games are categorically different from others. I do not think it's helpful.

Back to the specifics of game saving:
I want as much as possible to be saved. If this means that major characters in one game can only be minor characters in others because of the problems that Wizardry has discussed then so be it. The presence of that character even in a minor stuff is enough to make me very happy. Seeing Ashley in Mass Effect 2 was very important to my enjoyment of that game. I could probably have done without the whingey email from her afterwards though, to be fair.

Wizardry
06-06-2011, 06:26 PM
As I say, both are perfectly valid viewpoints but which cannot truly be argued against one another as each viewpoint likely has its own preferred style of game. I find Mass Effect to be one of the most blissful experiences I have ever had in a computer game and that is largely to do with how much I enjoy the character of Shepard. I care little for shonky shooting or inventory mechanics but care greatly for her and the galaxy's struggle to co-operate against the Reapers. Wizardry apparently does not identify with pre-written characters in such a way. That's fine and as Wizardry has mentioned, this treatment moves Mass Effect away from the classic form of the computer RPG. I don't think it means the game is invalid as a member of that genre though. I'm not even going to claim it's an evolution of that genre either as clearly there are a multitude of proponents for the older style. I will just say that it's different by a matter of degree. I do not think we can effectively discuss what is interesting about games by declaring that some games are categorically different from others. I do not think it's helpful.
Well, this is where I disagree. Enjoying Mass Effect because you enjoy the character of Shepard means that you aren't enjoying the RPG aspect of Mass Effect. This is because you enjoy the actions, manner, behaviour and dialogue of a character that you can very loosely control (paragon or renegade). There is no way that a protagonist heavily developed by the game developers themselves is on an equal footing, in terms of RPGness, with player created protagonists. It's just not the case.

And I do enjoy pre-written characters, because I like adventure games too. All RPG protagonists are technically pre-written (dialogue choices are written by the developers), but far less so that Shepard is in Mass Effect.

EndelNurk
06-06-2011, 06:36 PM
Well, this is where I disagree. Enjoying Mass Effect because you enjoy the character of Shepard means that you aren't enjoying the RPG aspect of Mass Effect. This is because you enjoy the actions, manner, behaviour and dialogue of a character that you can very loosely control (paragon or renegade). There is no way that a protagonist heavily developed by the game developers themselves is on an equal footing, in terms of RPGness, with player created protagonists. It's just not the case.

It's an interesting point and if we use a narrow definition of RPG then I cannot argue. I've never been a fan of leveling up. I care about personality progression rather ability profession. I would only say that I enjoyed playing the role of my Shepard. That makes it an RPG for me as it us a game that involves playing in a role Choices are restricted but ,barring Arrival, I do not remember feeling like I could not make a choice that I wanted to make. This is why I argue that any fine definitions of genre are not helpful to discussion. Even the Guns and Conversation title, which is admittedly something of a masterstroke, is too restrictive to be helpful.

[sent via phone. Please excuse any spelling errors, for the moment at least]

mpk
06-06-2011, 07:46 PM
No. Mass Effect does not do this. The Gold Box games and the Baldur's Gate series do it right. Mass Effect? No. If you change the entire set of rules behind the level system then it's very hard to convert from one to the other. If Mass Effect were to feel like a true trilogy then there would be consistent rules between all three games, starting off one game as you finished the previous game, with all the same skills and abilities.

That would mean that they'd have to have all three games written and good to go, and be happy with the systems in place in all three games. That removes the possibility of improvement and evolution - carrying over the ruleset from ME1 to ME2 would negate the improvements in the combat system, would mean that we'd be stuck with the fucking Mako again instead of the Hammerhead and would mean the hacking minigame still being there in ME2 - although I'm not sure that that's not the lesser of two evils.

Baldur's Gate had a consistent, tried and tested ruleset that wasn't written by Bioware. It was locked in and they couldn't change it. They've since shown that, given a propriety system, they'll do what they must to make improvements.

Let's be honest: would you rather there be no changes? Is that preferable to a streamlining of systems and improvement of the structure of character progression. It's not something I'll lose sleep over, certainly. and it's definitely not something that detracts from the game.

vinraith
06-06-2011, 07:50 PM
@mpk

You're forgetting that between Baldur's Gate 1 and 2 they switched versions of D&D, which resulted in some fairly dramatic alterations. BG2 gave you a screen to remake your character in the new system, using your stats from the old system as a guide. It seems to me it's completely possible to have statistical continuity and still make updates and upgrades to the system between games, you just can't completely throw out your old mechanics and replace them with something completely different (which is what ME2 did, practically changing genre in the process). Honestly, if your old skill system is so bad it has to be totally done away with, how did it ever get released in the first place?

mpk
06-06-2011, 07:52 PM
And I do enjoy pre-written characters, because I like adventure games too. All RPG protagonists are technically pre-written (dialogue choices are written by the developers), but far less so that Shepard is in Mass Effect.

The more "cinematic" the storytelling becomes in western RPGs, of whatever stripe, the more they move towards the Final Fantasy style, where you're just a passenger in someone else's story.

mpk
06-06-2011, 07:53 PM
@mpk

You're forgetting that between Baldur's Gate 1 and 2 they switched versions of D&D, which resulted in some fairly dramatic alterations.

Ah, no, I'm not forgetting that. I wasn't aware of it. D&D wasn't my game back in my PnP days.

EndelNurk
06-06-2011, 08:06 PM
You're forgetting that between Baldur's Gate 1 and 2 they switched versions of D&D

Which versions were used? I've only ever seen references to both BG1 and BG2 being made in the 2nd AD&D ruleset.

vinraith
06-06-2011, 08:12 PM
They went from 2 to 2.5, essentially. You could argue that they actually just implemented 2nd edition rules differently, but the gist is that they reworked and added proficiencies, introduced kits, added several classes, etc etc. I confess I don't remember all the details, but I do remember having to significantly rebuild my character in the importer.

EndelNurk
06-06-2011, 08:15 PM
They went from 2 to 2.5, essentially. You could argue that they actually just implemented 2nd edition rules differently, but the gist is that they reworked and added proficiencies, introduced kits, added several classes, etc etc. I confess I don't remember all the details, but I do remember having to significantly rebuild my character in the importer.

That's interesting. I remember it seeming more straightforward to me in BG2 but I hadn't made a link to there being a different set of mechanics underneath.

Wizardry
06-06-2011, 08:38 PM
That would mean that they'd have to have all three games written and good to go, and be happy with the systems in place in all three games. That removes the possibility of improvement and evolution - carrying over the ruleset from ME1 to ME2 would negate the improvements in the combat system, would mean that we'd be stuck with the fucking Mako again instead of the Hammerhead and would mean the hacking minigame still being there in ME2 - although I'm not sure that that's not the lesser of two evils.

Baldur's Gate had a consistent, tried and tested ruleset that wasn't written by Bioware. It was locked in and they couldn't change it. They've since shown that, given a propriety system, they'll do what they must to make improvements.

Let's be honest: would you rather there be no changes? Is that preferable to a streamlining of systems and improvement of the structure of character progression. It's not something I'll lose sleep over, certainly. and it's definitely not something that detracts from the game.
Well, if anything it shows the advantage of developing an RPG system independently of the games. Just look at how piss poor Dragon Age: Origins' RPG mechanics were, and then look at what they did in Dragon Age II to attempt to fix it. They just can't hold up to well tested game mechanics.

And of course I want mechanical changes. But mechanical changes don't have to be the same thing as a huge mechanical overhaul. You can add things or even take some things away in sequels. You can even alter just what the statistics affect. As long as you don't change too much between games then you can still create a successful character importer that does the appropriate conversions and approximations. However, changing entire rule systems should be reserved for new franchises or series of games. Pool of Radiance came out in 1988 and in 1989 the second edition AD&D was released. However, all Gold Box games remained first edition so that you could carry characters over properly without too much hackery.


They went from 2 to 2.5, essentially. You could argue that they actually just implemented 2nd edition rules differently, but the gist is that they reworked and added proficiencies, introduced kits, added several classes, etc etc. I confess I don't remember all the details, but I do remember having to significantly rebuild my character in the importer.
Pretty much, but it was still just second edition AD&D at its core. They reworked proficiencies so that you could specialise in individual weapon types rather than weapon groups, you had proficiencies for fighting stances and styles such as dual wielding and sword and shield style, they modified the effects of proficiencies to make them far less powerful (though there are mods to revert this), they introduced high level abilities, kit classes, and weird classes like monks.

In other words, they changed things quite significantly while allowing for straight forward importing from one game to the other. The changes were subtle enough that you could understand just what has happened to your character. It was done the right way.

deano2099
07-06-2011, 08:27 PM
To be fair to ME2, it has in-universe explanations for most of the changes. Most importantly the whole fact that Shepard is literally rebuilt from scratch. And if you don't chose to change class, most of your initial abilities are the same.