The Sunday Papers

I have just ate an entire pack of Jammy Dodgers. I feel sick, yet awesome.

The Sun is outside. But not us. We’re inside, hiding from the evil gold sphere in the sky and the pain it creates in our hungover bodies. Instead, we read intelligent commentary on games gathered throughout the week. While we do so, we compile it into a list for your benefit and try not to just create a random selection of highlights from the club night 3 RPS-ites were dancing stupidly in last night. Yes.

Failed.

32 Comments

  1. Alex says:

    That D&D article is making me feel nostalgic – it’s been years since I played the game (I’m a 2nd edition man, myself).

    They are an attempt to address the ‘sweetspot’ that has arguably existed at character levels between around 5 or 6 and 12 or 13, that made adventuring at those character levels much more fun than lower or higher levels.

    Never really thought about that, but I think it’s true. Although I’ve always had a soft spot for playing 1st level characters myself, you know, when a faint breeze could kill your character (“Mith A’aniil!! SHUT that window!!”).

  2. wcaypahwat says:

    Yeah, im a 2nd edition fellow too. There’s always at least one infinity ebgine game installed on my computer, while NWN only gets put on when there’s an interesting new module out. I prefer to think of third edition as the “KOTOR system”

  3. houseinrlyeh says:

    There can never be enough of Los Campesinos in one’s life.

  4. malkav11 says:

    Huh. I haven’t ever really thought of there being a sweet spot, per se. I just found that the first few levels of D&D games were always so underpowered as to be both fraught with instadeath and really boring because you have no options and nothing exciting to fight against. Once you’ve advanced enough in the power curve to have some options (if you’re not a melee class, they never really change up much) and interesting foes, it’s smooth sailing from there on out, to me.

    4th edition really does fix that, though. You start out (everyone does), with a minimum of four powers that you can use (two at-will, two more limited) out of a larger pool available to your class. And then you expand from there, though you replace things as well as expand, so I think your ultimate power list is never too unwieldy. You have a lot more HP to start, also (though so do the monsters). It should be very CRPG friendly.

  5. Wurzel says:

    Had a look through a friend’s shiny new rulebooks today, likd what I saw. Seems to be mostly geared towards making the combat more immediate and fun, with your character gaining a lot more cool things to do a lot more regularly. Will have to see how it actually plays out though!

  6. MisterBritish says:

    Kinda looking forward to a 4th edition crpg, any on the horizon?

  7. Noc says:

    MisterBritish: If I was in a cynical mood, I’d tell you that there already is one, and that it’s called “Diablo.”

    I’m reserving proper judgment, though, until I actually get my hands on the thing.

  8. Dinger says:

    Los Campesinos! == By the way, You, Me, Dancing! winds up with a field of red bricks before blasting downhill on AUdiosurf.

  9. LewieP says:

    I want Mirrors Edge so hard.

  10. Yadayada says:

    The Radiohead song is better known as “Nude”. It was a really long time since I last saw and heard the loading of a ZX Spectrum program. Such a nostalgia chock.

  11. Alex says:

    4th edition really does fix that, though. You start out (everyone does), with a minimum of four powers that you can use (two at-will, two more limited) out of a larger pool available to your class. And then you expand from there, though you replace things as well as expand, so I think your ultimate power list is never too unwieldy. You have a lot more HP to start, also (though so do the monsters). It should be very CRPG friendly.

    So it’s “dumbed down for consoles”, then..?

    ..joking, only JOKING! ;)

    I never had any problem with the rules, really – if we didn’t like something, we’d change it. Anyway, the biggest problem with D&D (or AD&D, then) for me was getting everyone together in the same room, at the same time, to play the bloody game. Is there a new rule for that in the 4th edition? ;)

  12. Stuk says:

    To change the subject slightly: thanks for that article on Mirror’s Edge. I’m loving their art style, and the music in the trailer was amazing (if anyone knows of anything similar, please tell :) ). It’s great to see something a bit different, and as a result, it’s one of the only games I’m looking forward to at the moment.

  13. Noc says:

    Right, so thoughts on 4th Ed:

    It’s very “game-based,” as opposed to “world-based.” Let me try to explain . . .

    I’ve been aware of the “sweet spot” for a while – it was Neverwinter Nights servers full of Level 40 players that made me realize that things were just more FUN at, say, Level 12. Or level 6. For example: Level 6 gives Wizards access to Fireballs, which wreak tremendous havok. Several levels onward, though, everybody’s hitpoints have grown to the point that the Fireball spell isn’t all that useful anymore. By the same token, Wizard hitpoints are still pretty flimsy at Level 6, and they don’t have access to tremendous warding spells. So the balance works best right THEN, then grows away from it.

    The reason this happens, though, is because (using the example of Wizard spells), there’s a wide range of abilities that are present in the world, and players gain access to them by degrees while advancing on their own in terms of hit points and skill proficiency. Wizards, for instance, learn spells from scrolls, then (for the upcoming day) choose which ones they want to be able to cast. And that sort of makes sense, even if it’s not tremendously balanced.

    In 4th Ed, though, spells are gained individually upon leveling up. You’ve got your 1st level spells that you chose a couple of at 1st level, and a different set of spells that you chose one of at 2nd level, etc. They’re segmented, too, so you only get to pick one out of a list of “Utility” spells every four levels. So progress is controlled more tightly, with the result of game balance working more uniformly across the board . . . but EVERYTHING becomes in terms of level progression. At 2nd level, your Wizard can choose to either to learn a speed-enhancing spell, or one that blunts the damage of falls. If he feels like he wants to learn the OTHER spell, he doesn’t have an opportunity until he advances to Level 6 – at which point he’s given another set of spells to chose from.*

    *Upon more reading, that’s not EXACTLY how it happens. But the gist is the same.

    It makes a lot of sense from a gaming perspective, and 4th Ed. is about streamlining the game. And I think it does that very well. But as a system that defines the logic by which the WORLD works, it seems very, very contrived.

    Previous editions were contrived for the sake of balance, too. But they evolved into a Gordian Knot of monstrously diverse rules in an attempt to emulate real-world logic a little more closely. But I don’t think 4th Ed. is an elegantly simplified solution to the problem, in the way that the New World of Darkness was. Instead, I think the 4th Edition just narrowed it’s focus, simplifying the existing elements without actually solving the problems the logic brought up.

    I feel like people looked at previous editions of DnD like they look at EVE: forbiddingly complicated, and arguably not really very fun if you aren’t into that sort of thing. But instead of making a better EVE, they went ahead and made a WoW.

    If that makes sense.

  14. Acosta says:

    The 1up feature is too short, it’s a too ambitious theme to condense it in two pages. I like the page but sometimes they fall into this type of stuff when they don’t want to write too much text for themes that deserve it.

    The interview about Mirror’s Edge was great, wonder who PR do you have to kill to get interviews that are longer of 5 mins. The game has a phenomenal look and a really interesting core idea. I can’t wait.

  15. RichPowers says:

    Yeah, everything I’ve read about 4th Ed. compares it to WoW. I don’t play either D&D or WoW, so I don’t know if introducing MMORPG-like mechanics is helpful or not.

  16. Alex says:

    Sounds like it’s a bit like the leveled monster thing in Oblivion – it keeps the whole thing balanced, but at the expense of logic (and some would say, fun)?

    I haven’t read the 4th edition rules yet, so I wouldn’t know.

    From what I’ve read, it sounds like WotC simply want to make the game more accessible for new players, while still including enough complexity for the more “advanced” player.

    I can certainly see how the 2nd edition rules would have been very user unfriendly to new players, but then it wasn’t called Advanced Dungeons & Dragons for nothing (eventhough it sounded more than a bit silly and prattish) – D&D was for beginning players. Then again, I know quite a few people who immediately started playing AD&D, but then those were already the stereotypical nerdy types (and, more importantly, there were always veteran players around to help new players, which is always the best way to be introduced to the game).

  17. Andrew Farrell says:

    KG: apart from you and me (and indeed dancing), who was the third one there?

  18. major says:

    D&D?

  19. Noc says:

    Rich: I’m not talking about it’s similarity to WoW in terms of character progression, or such. It’s still a DnD system, at it’s core – no skill trees, or anything. I mean that it’s a fun, well balanced and accessible game based on an internal logic that doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny if it’s looked at as the logic by which a world is constructed.

    Like, you know, everything respawning in WoW. Sort of defeats the purpose of having a war, if you bother to think about it, but doesn’t have too much of an adverse affect on the gameplay itself. It’s that sort of thing that bugs me, since ostensibly a Pen and Paper system isn’t bound by the limitations a computer game is. But it annoys me on an intellectual level, which doesn’t necessarily prevent me from having fun actually playing the thing.

  20. Kieron Gillen says:

    Andrew: I wasn’t counting you, man. I meant actual people who wrote RPS – Quintin and Alec were there. Quintin was the taller guy who put on eyeliner later in the evening. Alec was the shorter curly-haired guy.

    Pleasure to meet you, sir.

    KG

  21. Ci2e says:

    I simply hate Sunday’s with a passion, maybe it’s because I’ve been working it for the past 8 months…

  22. Dave says:

    From my experience actually playing it, it’s much more tactically engaging, even though the rules are streamlined. It’s a good thing in terms of game design, more in the direction of “easy to learn, a lifetime to master” than any previous edition.

    I actually enjoyed playing as a level 1, pregenned Paladin… and I tend to hate Paladins.

  23. malkav11 says:

    Mm. I never disliked any of the previous D&D systems because of their complexity. I love complexity. But they’re unnecessarily complex, in ways that are broken and unfun in many subtle ways. I thought 3rd edition was a great leap forward in terms of things like skill points instead of the (impossibly obtuse) nonweapon proficiencies system, logical AC, much greater character customization (feats, prestige classes, sensible multiclassing), making humans useful not because of retarded level limits on non-humans, but because of intrinsic abilities, etc. And I still wound up feeling that it was only really fun in CRPGs, because the actual game flow was terribly simplistic and uninteresting. Melee classes in particular had little variation in combat, and that was only tolerable in CRPGs because you usually have a whole party to manage. (And things happen quickly.) I haven’t played enough 4e yet to say if it’s something I’d want to play regularly, having just played a one-shot quickstart game, but it’s made some promising strides.

  24. Albides says:

    I never actually played pen and paper roleplaying games, but I was always drawn to player guides and monster manuals, and having an ear to the gaming blogosphere means this 4th edition news is pretty inescapable.

    Take this as coming from an outsider looking in – someone passingly familiar with the rituals but who had never taken part in the sacred dances. Isn’t streamlining a good thing, considering the rules are there to facilitate group-based storytelling and what spells you get at level 3 or how difficult it is to kill a goblin is less important than, say, your party’s relationship to the mysterious stranger who hired you in a tavern in Wintermeet or whatever? Because I can see combat as the thing you do to fill in the gaps in the storytelling. Or am I being naive and thinking too much in terms of books instead of games? I’ve always been kind of indifferent to epic fantasy novels anyway.

  25. Alex says:

    Isn’t streamlining a good thing, considering the rules are there to facilitate group-based storytelling and what spells you get at level 3 or how difficult it is to kill a goblin is less important than, say, your party’s relationship to the mysterious stranger who hired you in a tavern in Wintermeet or whatever? Because I can see combat as the thing you do to fill in the gaps in the storytelling. Or am I being naive and thinking too much in terms of books instead of games? I’ve always been kind of indifferent to epic fantasy novels anyway.

    Well, you’re right in saying that in theory the story is more important than the action (and I’m including roleplaying conversations etc. with story, btw – action is the combat/casting/thieving etc.), but in practice the action bits are pretty important too. They have a different dynamic, they break up the flow of a day or evening’s gaming.

    The thing about complex/realistic rules is that sometimes they are annoying, but that annoyance creates friction, which can lead to really interesting roleplaying situations.

    Another thing is, just like older edition players like myself would augment, scrap or ignore rules we thought weren’t fun, 4th edition players can augment the new rules to be more realistic/complex or whatever. Or just ignore the 4th edition altogether and keep playing an older edition. Or mix and match the bits they like of earlier editions with the new one, etc. That’s basically what’s fun about pen and paper RPGs – the flexibility. Do whatever you like. :)

    In the end, the mechanics/rules are just tools, they’re never more important than having fun.

  26. arbitrary says:

    I tried to find out about D&D Insider yesterday cos some friends and I were considering running some online games – was horrible to even try and find out the cost/month, and disappointing that it didn’t seem ready yet.

  27. Andrew Farrell says:

    Oh well, I’d have said hello if I’d thought of it. My fault for being dazzled by the rockstar of RPS…

  28. The Fanciest Of Pants says:

    I can’t help but feel that the “D&D 4E = MMO” vibe is a bit of an overreaction(not saying anyone here has said any such thing, bear with me).

    The main connection I think is the fact that all classes’ abilities in combat have more or less been collected under the heading “powers”. For a lot of classes, especially weapon-based ones this is really a huge change; The fighters/rangers/etc of 3rd edition rarely did anything but fling a stock standard attack(or several, at higher level). Now they get exciting boxes at level one with stuff like “Cleave” and “Furious Smash” written on them, that are available every turn.

    Basically, everyone can choose from a pool of attacks with a pinch of flavor and side-effect that they now use instead of “I just hit the damn thing”. I s’pose the realization that using “Eldritch Blast” or similar every turn when out of other options or trying to conserve resources does seem very reminiscent of the modern mmo.

    Apart from that however, the combat system is still really a world apart, mobility is a huge part of the game, more then it ever has. All classes now have several attacks that as a side effect move either their targets, their allies, themselves or some combination of the three in myriad ways.

    And of course none of that takes into account the roleplaying elements, improvisation and so forth that(with a decent DM) are just as important as any “Punt in the Man-Danglers Strike” ability will ever be.

    Who am I ranting at anyway? I need to lie down

  29. matte_k says:

    link to uk.youtube.com

    The genius that was The KLF self-destructing at the Brit Awards. And STILL people clapped, because they didn’t know what else to do…

  30. cyrenic says:

    We’re [also] using an external agency for the 2D artwork/animation we showed here — we’ll actually be using that in the game, to tell the story.

    So the cutscenes in Mirror’s Edge are going to be 2D? That’s interesting. Mirror’s Edge struck me as a game that would tell the story via interactive HL2ish cutscenes. Hopefully they do some cool stuff with the artwork then.

  31. KingMob says:

    D&D 4th Ed:

    I’ve played three preview adventures at this point, and it’s a brand new, fun game.
    For those of you who’ve been out for a while – pick up some pregenerated characters, get someone who can count to sit on the other end of the table, and play one of the starter adventures, or just a simple combat. You’ll see there’s a lot more fun things to do every round, etc. etc.

    On the other hand, if you quit D&D already because you were tired of combat being a miniatures game, this continues the focus on map and miniatures. Without a map, markers, etc. you really can’t take advantage of all the neat new stuff and you might as well do something else with your time.

  32. Alex says:

    Without a map, markers, etc. you really can’t take advantage of all the neat new stuff and you might as well do something else with your time.

    Really? That seems really strange to me. That would be the first thing I’d try to eliminate when redesigning the game.

    I never used to play with miniatures or markers, it all went fine. Guess I was very loose with the rules.. ;)