The RPG Scrollbars: Just Go Along With It, Okay?

Spoiler alert, RPGs are kinda ridiculous. Most games are, of course. While the Mythbusters may have shown that carrying Doomguy’s loadout into battle isn’t as bad as it might sound, there’s a reason they’ve never done a follow-up about doing it after taking a few rockets to the face. Likewise, we can’t know the effect of glugging down fifty health potions a day, but it must mean a lot of pauses for the heroic knight to hurriedly get his armour off for a quick pee-break.

Like a lot of things, there’s a line here – on one side, things that are interesting to see a game justify, and on the other, things that are probably best handwaved. Where does that line lie?

For example, more realistic RPGs like Darklands are probably better off not trying to keep things realistic to the point that the entire party is struck down with diabetes and liver failure after abusing potions, even though in ‘reality’ there’s a reason why the only thing separating medicine from poison is dosage. Health potions are also the bane of story/gameplay segregation, with one of my favourite ‘doh’ moments being the first Vampire: The Masquerade game, Redemption. Your hero has been wounded and spends months and months being slowly nursed back to health by the compassionate nurse Anezka… only to find out there’s a potion shop just a couple of doors away.

I do like it when games at least consider the details though, especially where other characters are concerned. Knights of the Old Republic II and Planescape Torment for instance are two of the few that offer a justification for why some of the toughest people in the universe have decided to drop what they were doing and go slay and murder on behalf of some passing antihero – the Exile’s subconscious Force Bond in KOTOR 2, and The Nameless One’s mix of drawing souls in torment and unfinished business with party members who just don’t fill him in on specifically why they wanted to join until later in the game. Less mystically, the whole point of Mass Effect 2 is that it’s a recruitment drive where you’re offering people a job, so while it’s arguable that you don’t need half as many rogues and miscreants taking up space on your ship as you end up with, especially with all the DLC, it’s at least easier to treat it both as a win and just assume that details like pay and whatever are being dealt with behind the scenes. The joy of having a very rich patron backing the journey.

When it goes wrong though, it can really go wrong. I remember the painful thunk early in Mafia 2 for instance, which specifically calls out main character Vito’s resilience with “You’ve always been a quick healer – must be your diet or something,” in a way that only draws attention to something that was better handwaved. Anachronox too aimed to be cute with its TACOs, and yes, it’s vaguely fitting for a game that already has its tongue planted firmly in its cheeck to be full of Totally Arbitrary Collectible Objects, but down that path goes most bad game parody – joking about how crap something is, and then straight-up doing the crap thing instead of the trickier task of finding some way to subvert it. One that I’ve always wanted to see for instance is to find a temple whose priests say “You will need the seven rainbow gems to open the portal… luckily, we had a bit of time over the last few decades, so we went out and found them ourselves. You’re welcome. We also learned to make really good chocolate cake.”

The best explanations though are the ones that don’t simply acknowledge a potential issue, but make something of it. If I occasionally get cross with games for not doing this, it’s because… look, it’s one thing to be beaten by Ultima (take a shot) or Baldur’s Gate or World of Warcraft or something, but there is no excuse to fall before the narrative might of Paper Mario 2: The Thousand Year Door. Yet so many games do. Pretty much every game in fact that asks you to collect a weapon or a key or whatever that’s been inconveniently broken into pieces and that both you and the baddies want. If you’re doing that plot, I insist on a good reason why I as the hero can’t just throw the first part into a wood chipper and wander off, content in the knowledge that the villain is foiled and we won’t have one of those embarrassing scenes where I finally reassemble the damn thing only for Lord Darkness to sweep in and pinch it.

What did Paper Mario 2 do? It has a character outright suggest this – or at least, not bothering to go and get the rest of the magic crystals that will free a dark, world-shattering force from its prison. It’s not a long explanation, but it doesn’t have to be. It just clarifies that yes, that would work, however the monster is growing in power all the time and will eventually burst out on its own. At that point it’ll be too tough to have a chance of defeating, so we need to go do it now while it’s still weak enough. Great! One line, problem solved, and hundreds of other RPGs looking uncomfortably at their feet. Admittedly, I’d still probably have chosen to bury one of the crystals until needed at the end of the game rather than walking around with the whole lot of them, but… look, I’ll take it, okay! At least a little thought went into it making sense, and that in a series whose main character communicates his thoughts by jumping.

The current King of all this is of course Undertale, a game I love very much and don’t care if you don’t. As with much of its genius, it doesn’t really come through on the first playthrough when you’re still picking up all of the details. Going back though, it’s wonderful to see how well thought out it all is, and how subtle – that opening boss Toriel doesn’t want to hurt you, so when your health gets low, she switches to a bullet pattern that can’t hit you (though it is possible to die, it’s by accident, and she has a special shocked face for if it does), or that skeleton guard Papyrus, whose job is to capture instead of kill you, will actually do that – lose his fight and you wake up in his doghouse because he doesn’t really know what he’s doing. It also works on its own definitions of terms like Lv. and EXP – Level of Violence and Execution Points, described as “A way of measuring someone’s capacity to hurt.”

Which got me thinking a little about some of the personal canon that I tend to use in RPGs – in particular, often treating what’s happening on stage as being somewhat metaphorical, rather than a literal, hit-by-hit fight. Take Final Fantasy VII for instance. Officially, I’m sure that we’re meant to take the summon attacks and other flashier routines on pure face value, even when it involves a dragon destroying the entire universe and only scratching your opponent’s armour. Or World of Warcraft, where a single boar on one new continent could single-handedly crush everything that came before about as easily as the headline threats like Deathwing and the Burning Legion. (World of Warcraft: Hogger’s Revenge, coming in 2018! Probably!)

In my head, I like to rework this a bit, so that it’s not that the new enemies are really those exponential levels of power greater than what’s come before, but that something like an angry boar is always going to be a threat to any adventurer, even a skilled one. Why doesn’t that apply in reverse when going to older zones? Shut up, that’s why. At least in World of Warcraft, though more recent games like Guild Wars 2 have codified it by applying max levels to areas instead of letting you bring your full force wherever you want.

This might seem unnecessary for enjoying the action, and yes, it is. But it makes it easier for me to accept and let this kind of thing go, and it’s not like the rest of the game doesn’t ask for similar leaps. Most bosses for instance aren’t really ten feet high. They’re blown up because trying to see and target a regular human sized figure in a 5-25 man crush would be a pain in the neck, arse and that twiddly bit between the big and next toe. We’re also expected to pretend that we’re the first ones to ever fight them, and that the fight going bad will lead to dire consequences for the world, instead of just an angry tank shouting “learn to play, noob!” It’s the unspoken covenant, that as long as Blizzard doesn’t push its luck, we give a pass to the stuff we know is a little silly or has to be out of step with the mechanics. Not every boss kill can be Kerafym the Sleeper, the Everquest boss with a zillion hitpoints who could only be fought once per server and whose death was meant to usher in Everquest 2 and a new age for mankind.

Do you have any mental house-rules that you tend to apply to RPGs? A few spare lamp-shades on standby for when something doesn’t make sense, or just an alternate way of thinking about things like character power and death? I know there’s a contingent of Final Fantasy fans for instance who get very cross if you ask why Cloud didn’t just give Aerith a Phoenix Down, as if taking a blade to the chest is somehow worse than taking a Doomtrain or whatever to the absolutely literally everything.

Or on the flip-side, has a game ever done anything to either truly break you out of the experience with some small mistake, or won you back with an absolutely perfect justification? I know I can think of a few that I’m eagerly waiting for, like a shop at the end of the game whose owner stocks you up for free because of the incoming apocalypse… but if I can’t have that, I’ll at least take one who cheekily comments “I’m just that confident in your success!” A little acknowledgement. A wink from the designer. Doesn’t seem too much to ask for politely blanking so much more.


  1. Awesomeclaw says:

    One which goes both ways for me is the Skyrim/FO4 habit of putting a loot chest at the end of each dungeon. In Skyrim, this was at least kind of acceptable – I could believe that whatever big nasty was at the end of each dungeon would have a big treasure chest where they kept all their loot.

    However, the same trick in Fallout 4 really grates on me – why does every school, hospital, police station and sewer have an identical gun-filled box at the end of it?

    • Sakkura says:

      Because it’s America, duh.


    • Richard Cobbett says:

      “Hey, why don’t we just bash in this door that obviously leads to the end of the dungeon?”

      • Awesomeclaw says:

        “Oh no, it’s locked from the other side!”

        “If only we had tools or equipment capable of destroying an old, partially rotten, wooden door!”

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          gritz says:

          *casually ignores ever-growing stock of unused portable nuclear warheads*

        • TobleroneRoloCombo says:

          Nope, destroying a centuries-old wooden door, that’s difficult. Now, using a bobby pin to pick any kind of lock from rustic schoolhouses to zeerusty factories? That’s a skill everybody has, to some degree.

      • Andy_Panthro says:

        Fallout 4 does have a nasty habit of having doors that are chained/barred on the other side, preventing you from reaching the end of the area until you’ve gone through the monster maze beforehand. which politely ignore the vast amounts of military might at your beck and call.

        • natebud says:

          I always love in Fallout games when you go into some ghoul-filled factory that’s supposedly been abandoned for 200 years and only after killing everything and unlocking every door, you come across someone’s 200 year old lunchbox which turns out to be filled to the brim with bloatfly meat. Now I suppose it’s possible that some lone wanderer snuck into the factory, didn’t kill any ghouls, didn’t take anything, unlocked every door and relocked them when he left only to pull off the most daring lunchtime trade in all history, but more likely no one bothered to fix the spawn.

          Also why are there always pipe guns in bank vaults? Whose saving those?

          • khamul says:

            Oh, dear god, the candles in Skyrim.

            Here is an abandoned tomb. It’s clearly been abandoned for many years, and level designers, *thank you* for the wonderful and convincing air of abandonment.

            Except there are candles burning every 5 yards. WHO LIGHTS THEM?!? WHO REPLACES THEM?!? I AM NOT CONVINCED THE DRAUGR ARE THAT INTO CANDLES!

            It’s just the one thing that continually broke my immersion, in what was otherwise a very immersive game. Mostly.
            (Sorry about the shouting. I feel a little too strongly about this).

          • Heliocentric says:

            Magic eternal burning candles you are welcome.

            In D&D I’d cast Continual Flame on all manner of things, pro tip? casting it on your own helmet.head for hands free lighting.

          • onodera says:

            @khamul you should play Far Cry 4, this annoyance is at least partially dealt with by putting a very large and very campy lampshade on it.

      • GameCat says:

        There are worse offenders.
        One thing I hate in Dark Souls 2 is that you need to kill 4 super bosses or collect 1,000,000 of souls to open a path that you could enter by walking through pile of rubble.
        Or you need to go through entire No Man’s Wharf instead of just skip majority of that level if your character could climb 0,5m high wooden pier.

        Dear devs – don’t fucking do that. Give me a giant hole, lake, river, mountain (although without Skyrim’s horses), energy field, burning forest, giant stone doors or something like that as obstacle instead.

        • Palkinator89 says:

          Skyrim horses are one of the few things that don’t give a damn about gravity. Another example would be Winnie the Pooh from Kingdom Hearts. Cast Gravity on him all day, he gives no fucks.

    • epressman617 says:

      The one that drives me crazy is that in any game with stealth, I play very conservatively. I check out each area before entering, clear enemies completely before looting, etc. But no matter how carefully I play, there will always be a cutscene in which my character sees something mildly interesting and breaks stealth to just walk into a room without even looking around. He/She then gets blindsided by some enemy, usually by getting hit in the head with the stock of a gun or the hilt of a sword. I just spend hours making sure every area up until now was completely secured so that the game could take over and get me captured because I saw >gasp!Uses horrific weapon<
      Game: OMG! How dare you do something so inhuman?!? You had a choice! Why would you CHOOSE to murder the innocent just because it was convenient.

      And last, a word about Tomb Raider. I cannot climb icy, vertical cliff faces. I cannot hit a moving target with a bow 100 yards away. I can't jump from one zipline to another or kill hundreds of guys with automatic weapons. I can, however, pull on a piece of rope without needing another piece of rope attached to the first piece with a damn arrow! So why can't you, Lara? Just open the freakin' door already. You don't need rope arrows for that. You just need hands.

  2. NyuBomber says:

    One of my favorite ARPGs, Marvel Heroes, not only allows you to play as X-23/Cable/Spider-Man/etc. with a hundred other such copies running around, but also as infamous villains such as Dr. Doom, the recently added Green Goblin, and coming-this-year Ultron, and allows you to have the alien-bonded serial killer Carnage as a NPC tag-along, all with one simple, canon handwave:

    The Cosmic Cube is messing with reality and we’re all plucked from different points in the multi-verse to handle the events as they unfold in the game.

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      Qazinsky says:

      I’m just gonna sneak in on your Marvel Heroes post with my own tangent based on the ten feet tall bosses mentioned by Cobbett:

      Marvel Heroes do no always do that. Obviously, there’s Sentinels and Manapes and Juggernauts, but there’s also Catwoman and Moleman that’s human sized. When ten players of different sizes, some literally Hulk-sized (and -shaped and -named), half having some kind of energy attack or magic as way of attacking, at least I can lose track of the boss and wander around looking for it.

      I would probably prefer ten feet versions of these villains in public areas.

  3. SMGreer says:

    I’m sure this will be a popular one but Dragon Age Inquisition. Why must I, as Inquisitor, leader of an inter-kingdom holy army go around personally collecting tedious crap? Or helping the local trapper get some pelts? I mean…with the impending apocalypse, I might just have better things to do, no? Didn’t help it was just really booooring quests to do in general, never mind how silly they were.

    By contrast, The Witcher 3 does everything right. It draws from the book sure but giving you a solid profession as well as personal reasons, to justify just about every quest (hundreds!) in the game is stellar. Not to even mention how it creates a more interesting depiction of potion use and typical RPG stuff.

    • Caelyn Ellis says:

      The really annoying thing about that trope in DA:I is that they’d found a good replacement for it in DA2. Instead of picking individual herbs and whatnot, you were just marking resource-rich areas for your associates to come and exploit later. It made so much more sense.

      • ffordesoon says:

        I didn’t like Dragon Age 2 much, but I will forever be annoyed that Inquisition retreated so completely from the most intriguing ideas in that game. Yes, the intriguing ideas were often the ones which came out a bit wonky, but they deserved iteration, dammit!

        I liked Inquisition a lot more, though, so maybe I’m part of the problem. *shrug*

    • Jeremy says:

      Yeah, I really liked the fact that Geralt had a day job, and that each of the quests had a story line to it. Under the surface it was just “go kill a monster, collect and item, and bring it back to the quest giver,” but it was all about the execution.

    • king0zymandias says:

      The Witcher 3 would be better if it weren’t for all that crap in the ocean that clutters up the map in Skellige. The Velen/Novigrad map was absolutely perfect though, it’s like they ran out of time to make the ocean in Skellige really interesting and just decided to randomly sprinkle treasure chests all over the place.

      Still think it’s the greatest game ever made though.

      • says:

        I won’t say The Witcher 3 is perfect, but it’s easily my favorite game of the past decade.

        My main gripe is the skill tree. Sure, it’s flexible in that you can swap skills about to change builds as you desire, but it also feels restrictive. That and the part where I withheld earned skill points to avoid being OP in the main campaign. Even on Death March, it felt too easy. Hearts of Stone’s difficulty feels good, though, and I’m sure NG+ probably does, too.

        Like I said, though, still a huge favorite of mine. It was easily the best emotional connection I’ve had with a game’s characters in recent memory. My desire to play other games was a bit depressed after beating the campaign last fall, and I think that testifies to the game’s quality.

        (Another for-instance: I finally played Mass Effect 3 to complete the trilogy, and while it was nice to revisit old pals and themes, it felt hollow in comparison to TW3.)

      • jerf says:


        Witcher 3 is much better played with the “?”‘s disabled (it can be done in the menu). This way there is nothing tedious about this loot in Skellige. If you accidently stumble upon it, why not to collect it, otherwise no big loss. And it’s possible to accidentaly stumble upon something genuinely interesting this way.

        I don’t understand people complaining about the question marks in Withcer 3 in general. They can be turned off, and it’s a perfectly legitimate way to play; I personally played through the whole game with the question marks disabled.

        • Caleb367 says:

          Best way to play the Witcher 3 is minimap disabled. Seriously. Minimap’s a little bit TOO useful (showing best course for the destination, nearby plants, clues in “senses” mode and so on) and becomes a crutch. I’ve realized that during travels I focused more on the minimap, either following the set course or beelining straight to the destination, than actually looking at where I was going.
          I started a new game with that turned off, and lo and behold… feels completely different. I now navigate by landmarks on the horizons and occasional glance at the map (if only I could deactivate the arrow showing where I’m facing!), get directions by looking at the sun or following rivers and brooks upstream or downstream. And only now I’m really appreciating the care put by CD Projekt in crafting the world.
          (Even found a couple of quests I’ve never ran across before, just because I’ve seen something in the distance while trying to work out which way to Oxenfurt and decided to check it out)

          • tuoret says:

            I did the same in GTA V (well, GTA Online) and it was so worth it. You start paying way more attention to the world, trying to memorize landmarks and roads. All in all it made the game so much more immersive, even though missions were suddenly a lot harder.

          • Tourist says:

            I agree. I find its a problem with many open world games in that I find my eyes are too often glued to the minimap, which means that I miss many details of the world.

            I think open world games should try the method used in Farcry II, a game not without its problems, sure, but its navigation system was perfect. A map you pull up an put on the dashboard, but the game is still going and you can keep moving. Also subtle environmental queues to help you navigate, which have the effect of drawing your eyes to the environment, not a minimap or floating navpoint.

            I’d also like to see, especially for RPGs more verbal directions by NPCs over navpoints. “Ahh, chosen one, a Liche has taken up residence in an abandoned mine, and we need you to evict it. The mine is on the north road, turn off to the right… just after McMurdock farm. If you get to the Dwarven brewery you’ve gone too far.”

          • CdrJameson says:

            This happens in real life too – people constantly using a satnav don’t pay as much attention to landmarks etc, fail to build a useful mental map and so end up unable to make connections, short-cuts and are perpetually ‘lost’.

            You can design satnavs so this doesn’t happen (eg. get them to refer to landmarks, so ‘turn left just past the Kings Arms’) but it’s easier not to, so they don’t.

    • Archonsod says:

      Actually The Witcher 3 falls down the same way most fantasy worlds do – random enemy spawns. By rights civilisation should have failed quite quickly, given the sheer number of random ghoul packs, wraith haunted fields and over-aggressive wolves. In fact I suspect Fishermen are valued for their prime ability of being able to pick out the one fish in the school of Drowners clogging up the waterways.
      In fact that’s probably why Witchers are so reviled in the background – when the average trip to work must necessitate fighting off a couple of wolf packs, one or two curious ghouls and destroying a noon wraith just so you can check on the crops some bloke turning up and demanding payment for offing a wraith just because he has a fancy silver sword would be a bit rich …..

  4. Geebs says:

    Dragon Age: Origins is the ultimate having-a-rather-dull-conversation-while-actually-physically-on-fire-which-nobody-remarks-on-for-some-reason simulator.

    • Grizzly says:

      Also the “Having-intricate-discussions-on-ethics-and-religion whilst-being-covered-in-blood-simulator

      • Chiron says:

        I kind of lost interest in Dragon Age when I was there in my sexy Rogue Armour, covered in blood splatters and my elderly father tells me I can’t do something because I’m young and inexperienced in the ways of war.

        *wipes off blood, lets the castle burn*

        You could have asked for help but noooooo.

        • Chaomancer says:

          My favourite weird moment of DA was in the brothel… the group had been in a fight just before, but I’d gotten used to ignoring the blood spatter. However, after the brothel cut scene, there was my character in underwear… and still covered head to toe in blood. I had to wonder, what did I do after taking off my armour?

      • icarussc says:

        First thing I did was turn off the ridiculous blood splatter. Most immersion-breaking thing since … since … in a long time.

      • CdrJameson says:

        Didn’t get past the tutorial on that one largely because I was covered head to toe in rat blood during a conversation and nobody thought to mention it. They could have at least avoided eye contact or something.

  5. basilisk says:

    I feel the elephant in the room are most EXP/level systems in general, really. “I have killed fifteen wild boars, so I am now 10% more intelligent.” Nothing about this makes any sense at all, but it has become the foundation of the entire genre that has since spilled over to many other genres.

    And… we just go along with it.

    • Sakkura says:

      I liked the Elder Scrolls leveling system that stepped in a more reasonable direction. But they’ve spent the last decade chipping away at it instead of improving on it. Random bandits suddenly running around in glass armor because you spent some time practicing your ability to pick locks, well done Bethesda.

      • Replikant says:

        Oh yes, Level scaling. The main reason I just couldn’t complete Oblivion or Skyrim, as much as I’ve loved Morrowind.

      • Jeremy says:

        Right.. that was the wrong solution to a legitimate problem. Having to fight MORE was not more interesting, just annoying and weird. I’m okay playing in a game reality where 3 grubby bandits living in a cave are not going to pose a threat, or even better, that don’t attack me simply because I walked within 400 yards of them. Threat should go both ways, but Bethesda has never learned how to code a rational fear mechanic into any NPC.

        • Heliocentric says:

          Morrowind actually justified it, because of who you were in the mythology. Your rise had a unnatural push against it from certain forces.

        • Palkinator89 says:

          I live for the day when a bandit says, “I yield” in a Bethesda game and then, oh i dunno, actually yields or runs or does something other than getting up and charging me!

        • Blackfish says:

          It actually was the opposite in Bethesda games, which I think is a big part of the problem. Level-scaling meant you’re still fighting the same three bandits, just with high-level armor, weapons and spells. This is very immersion-breaking when that means those bandits start sporting elven armor or advanced combat rifles. Instead what would have made it both more immersive and more epic would be to retain the same level of gear, but put more enemies in. So instead of three bandits, just spawn like ten of them. There are mods that do exactly that, and it’s great. Encounters aren’t pushovers, and you feel like a badass after slaughtering a party of twelve raiders.

    • Zekiel says:

      Yep, and both KOTOR 2 and Planescape Torment provide excellent in-universe justifications for why this is the case.

      Arguably KOTOR 1 as well on reflection, though I can’t remember this being specified in-game.

  6. TomxJ says:

    I’m playing Pillars of Eternity at them moment;

    Benevolent – 4

    Kill count – IN THE THOUSANDS!

    Baldurs gate 2 is the Only RPG that addresses this that I know of. When you discover you’re the child of Bhaal and you try to justify that you’re a good person to the big bad they challenge your claim by asking how many lives you have laid waste to over your adventure. Where you come to the conclusion that you really must be the lord of murder.

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      I’m also playing Pillars at the moment, and I’m finding it a rather odd experience. Not sure quite what to make of it at the moment, but it almost feels like the game pulls you in different directions a lot (stuff for your keep, your companions, the main quest, loads of side quests, the DLC…).

      It is beginning to get a little tiresome that interesting and mysterious quests end up with lots of combat though (sometimes it seems you can skip it, but a lot of the time there’s just tons of minor enemies to kill).

      Not to mention those occasions when I end up in combat in the streets of the major regional city, and yet no member of the local law enforcement questions why I just killed a dozen people.

      • Zekiel says:

        I entirely agree. Personally I loved the “being pulled in lots of directions” thing, it was one thing I loved about Baldur’s Gate 2 and PoE is clearly modelling itself on that. I enjoyed it by just deliberately ignoring half the sidequests and only doing the ones that interested me and/or felt in-character for my PC.

        The combat thing is a bit annoying. There are a few quests that have very little combat (none, or just one big fight) but many of them have dungeons that could be significantly downsized and make the game significantly better. Shame.

        But I still loved the game regardless.

        • TomxJ says:

          Oh don’t get me wrong I love the game. I’m using it to point out the fact that because in games because combat=challenge you tend to wrack up a kill count that would make tyrant blush, and yet your are similarly revered as a heric savior.

    • mynicksaretaken says:

      Benevolent – 4

      Kill count – IN THE THOUSANDS!

      Maybe they all harboured secret suicide wishes.

    • Ringwraith says:

      On the other hand the game does let you have both a “benevolent” and a “cruel” reputation, and some scenarios account for you having both.
      I think it goes that you can briefly cause hesitation in a group of attackers with your reputation for cruelty, giving you an opening to offer to let them live if they surrender, which they’ll believe as you’ve also got a reputation for being benevolent.

      • Andy_Panthro says:

        The reputation system is pretty good, and it’s a nice reward for being consistent in your actions. I just wish that sort of thing was more prominent, and the combat encounters were dialled down to the more important ones.

        I have just avoided an entire fight (and put someone in my dungeon) using my reputation as both aggressive and honest though, which was nice.

      • icarussc says:

        History suggests that Genghis Khan had a few points in Benevolent to go along with his stash of Cruel.

  7. Sandepande says:

    I simply bypass all that gamey stuff. It’s part of the hobby, part of the experience. It’s almost like breathing, all those familiar systems and traditional ways of doing things, so I don’t really pay any attention to them anymore.

    If I want immersion, I go to a forest and curse at tree roots.

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      phuzz says:

      Yep, I learnt how to suspend my disbelief at an early age and I never looked back (or too closely) since.

    • Cochise779 says:

      This is why I’ll never understand people who complain about game’s breaking immersion so much. I mean, you’re already pretending digital shapes on your monitor represent something real. How precious can your immersion be if you’ve already made that leap?

      • Biscuitry says:

        That leap is precisely why it’s precious. Once it’s shattered, that world you were enjoying being a part of is just shapes on a screen again.

      • Sandepande says:

        It is always just shapes on the screen for me. Which just makes me appreciate all the helpful tools like compasses, minimaps, quest markers and so on…

  8. Jorum says:

    While this is a minor point, I’ve just started playing Black Desert Online and would really really like to know how the antler-head guys get there helmets on (or indeed off).
    The first trainer you meet has antlers that clearly go through holes in his helmet. How? The only explanation is that it was forged directly onto his head and remained there ever since.

    • Sandepande says:

      Maybe the horns were cut off first, and then let grow back.

      Safer than banging his head with a hammer.

    • JakeOfRavenclaw says:

      Heh. Reminds me of The Elder Scrolls–in Morrowind the beast races couldn’t wear closed helmets (or boots, for that matter), but in Oblivion they just gave up and had your face change shape completely whenever you put a closed helmet on. Much more convenient, but still sort of hilarious (where does my snout go when I’m wearing a helmet?!)

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        particlese says:

        Heh! Yeah, I got a kick out of that, and I think I like it better than ESO’s solution of just stretching the helmet. Sure, the latter is more reasonable for reality and your face, but I don’t think it takes spines/horns/ears/eyestalks into account. More importantly, it’s not as amusing to think about.

        As usual, though, Morrowind rules — regardless of “balance”.

  9. VCepesh says:

    And that’s why, depsite being an avid cRPG player all my life, I perefer tabletop RPGs – and when it comes to those, I lean towards level- and class-less.

    I suppose, I’m just used to taking bad with the good – concentrating on characters, or story or enjoyable elements of gameplay (even when they are few and far between), while stoically enduring (or internally criticizing) everything else.

    • Premium User Badge

      alison says:

      Totally with you here. I was introduced to RPGs via my dad, who was an oldskool D&Der from the days when it was just some photocopied pamphlets and ideas in the back of a magazine. My sister and i were still young children, so he created a campaign where we didn’t spend a lot of time with the mechanics, but just wandered around in a world that had lots of recognizable fairytale characters in it. Sometimes we rolled dice, but mostly he was just telling an interactive bedtime story with painted miniatures.

      When i got a bit older i tried “real” RPGs. I adored the world-building in the source books and i loved coming up with wonderfully esoteric characters, but when it actually got time to “play”, all the dependence on dice rolls and combat and leveling and weight allowances really ruined the magic for me. I never got into CRPGs as a result, because imo they place too much emphasis on the least interesting aspects of pen-and-paper RPGs and largely neglect the creativity in storytelling that is the main thing that makes pen-and-paper RPGs more interesting than reading a novel.

      • rlranft says:

        Ah, but the mechanics also brought some of the most amazing situations into our storytelling. Many times failed rolls brought out opportunities to improvise and take the story in an unexpected direction.

  10. Somerled says:

    — The Video Game Guide to Survival —

    Poisoned by a dangerous neurotoxin: it’ll weaken a person slowly over a few seconds at most; wait it out or patch them up with a bandage.

    Comrade fallen asleep: swipe them with your sword to snap them back to reality. Hint: get your smallest, weakest friend to do this, because you have no control over your heroic strength and may severely injure or kill the affected.

    Body frozen to the point of being stuck in place: no lasting damage; try setting them on fire.

    • Nasarius says:

      I’ll give the third one a pass because it’s usually magic. But it is amazing how few games attempt any kind of realistic injury/health system. Or do anything with poison that isn’t just a DoT and a temporary debuff (yay MMO terms which have infected everything).

      At least in Jagged Alliance 2, it took time and medical care to properly recover from being shot.

  11. Monggerel says:

    Reminded of NEOScavenger, where you can only carry what you can fit in your two hands/carrying bags, with severe limitations on both space and weight. You can’t just stuff a Kalashnikov in your backpack, but you can carry two over your shoulder (and two in your hands, which is impractical because they weren’t intended to be used as cudgels). You can definitely hide a pistol in your pants though, and that’s not a euphemism. Taking damage is a nightmare, and even the slightest wound can turn into a deadly infection that rots your leg off and leaves you hobbling in the dead of winter – depending on how strong your immune system is, because if you’re Doomcake McBeefguy (with the right perks including the two hidden special ones), you’ll shrug off most anything short of decapitation. But in return you’re liable to starve to death. It’s lose-lose for everyone, which is great fun. (one slight downside is that the game does have a storyline, and getting through it is seriously difficult with permadeath)

    On the other hand, there’s of course STALKER, a game that heavily incentivizes being a greedy shit, but where carry weight determines your ability to move quick, and you need to move quick on a regular basis to stay alive. In the last game, Call of Pripyat, there’s an extra cake on top of the cake, because the Blowouts (snarf) necessitate being able to bolt for cover at the first sign of an angry sky, which often means dropping everything but your pants and running like a crazy person, hoping nobody nabs your loot before you get back to it. Or engaging in otherwise downright suicidal behavior (remember, this is the game where you bind Quicksave to LMB and Quickload to RMB), like jumping into a nearby hole in the earth (filled with brand new nocturnal predatory friends) with little beyond aforementioned pants, a flashlight, and a rifle liable to blow up in your hands at the slightest provocation, with little ammo to spare. The inventory itself is unremarkable in that it is moderately offensively irritating to use, but the way the game makes you relate to the things you carry (calculated risk rather than belongings) is extremely fitting for the setting.

    • metaphist says:

      Do you write about games often? Cuz you should, I’m going to check both of those games out…

  12. Xocrates says:

    The Bureau did something really weird with this. After spending 75% of the game treating the various gameplay mechanics as just that, it suddenly goes “Nope, all those make sense in the game world”, which make it doubly weird that no-one seemed to notice.

    • basilisk says:

      The game was a victim of its troubled development process. It’s essentially a haphazard collection of bits and pieces that come from completely different development iterations, so none of its better ideas (of which it has a few) fit together in any way. They probably have noticed, but ran out of time, money and energy to do anything about it.

      I remember, for example, how the game makes a huge deal out of the fact that alien weapons disintegrate when they die, and even if they didn’t, they must be researched before you can use them, because this is sort-of-XCOM. Then you come across an alien blaster just lying in the street and everyone goes, wait, this could be a trap! So you pick it up, and… it’s not a trap. And it doesn’t need any research, either. It just shoots. And from that moment on, all dead aliens leave their guns behind, all perfectly usable, and no one ever mentions anything about researching them again.

      It’s fascinating to watch in its own way; the game is a time capsule of its own development and playing it is this peculiar kind of live archaeology. The Thief reboot is pretty much the same thing.

      • Xocrates says:

        Yeah, the game does have a lot of interesting ideas floating around, but never manages to make something worthwhile out of them because it’s trying to be 3 or 4 different games – each derived from a different period of its development.

        The fact that this mess was likely not the fault of the development studio only makes it worse that the game was the reason they got shut down.

  13. Thankmar says:

    The latest disappointnment for me was Euro Truck Simulator 2: did not mind the nice, but generic Landscapes, the generic cities, the much too free streets, but the not-authentic departures from Autobahns killed most of the joy for me.

    • Thankmar says:

      And by that I do not mean authentic location-wise, just that they should resemble some of the standard means by which they connect.

  14. Premium User Badge

    Oakreef says:

    There’s a lot of things that bug me about RPGs (why the hell are games with half-decent stories also the ones that are about the utter tedium of making numbers go up?) but from a believability angle you often have a character going from an absolute novice who doesn’t know anything and would die if they were struck by a light breeze to, in a matter of days, being able to strangle seven demons to death at a time with your bare hands.

    And then on the opposite end of that you have Michael Thorton and JC Denton being highly trained spec ops dudes who start off not being able to hit a an elephant with a pistol from more than two metres away because they need to level up those skills first.

    • Replikant says:

      Didn’t Deus Ex kind of explain that
      a) you are genetically enhanced and
      b) also have a big brother, who is really a hot-shot
      so you are expected to become a superior agent, but are still on your first day on the job when the game starts? It’s been too long, though.

      • Premium User Badge

        Oakreef says:

        It’s Denton’s first day on the job but he is still supposed to have had extensive training prior to this.

    • Zekiel says:

      This is something that feels to me like it really could be justified by simply having some fade-to-black sections where a few weeks pass. That would make me feel happier about my character going from a bumbling peasant to a fireball-launching death machine.

      • lglethal says:

        I have to say I think Deus Ex Human Revolution got this right. You start off as an experienced good shot etc. Then you get effectively crippled by the big bad augs. Cue scenes of you being chopped to pieces (more then just to repair the damage) and when you come out your still a good shot etc, but now you have a whole bunch of new toys to play with.

        I also quite liked the explanation for why you didnt start with all the big toys available, in that all of them were actually pre-installed but your body needed to repair enough to turn them on and that the biomed clinics like to charge you for the pleasure of swithching them on.

        Its not perfect, but I think its about the best way I can think of to explain why you suddenly can level up your augmentations as the game goes on.

        • Sandepande says:

          They clearly put some thought into it, and probably were a bit disturbed why UNATCO’s number two agent is a really, really crappy shot. So, they did the clever thing and rather than make the hammer get bigger, they expanded the toolbox.

      • Hedgeclipper says:

        It really calls for a training montage … but then I guess that’s what the trash mobs are.

  15. JakeOfRavenclaw says:

    Borderlands 2 is my favorite example of this, in that all of the game mechanics are technically non-canon, but the characters still comment on them anyway because it’s funny (i.e. Gaige saying “Aw, I wanna use both!” when comparing guns in the inventory, or Kreig’s “Too…Many…Icons…” when leveling up). There’s also the respawn machines, which are non-canon despite the fact that they are manufactured by an in-universe corporation, have a bunch of dialogue reminding you of this fact, and are directly involved in at least one side quest.

    Fallout 4 also springs to mind, as I’ve been playing a lot of it lately. There’s a point in every Bethesda game where the player amasses enough resources to become virtually invincible, and I’m okay with that, since it’s a consequence of putting enough resources in the world that the player will be okay in the early game no matter where they decide to go exploring. But there are moments when it starts to conflict with the fiction–there’s really no way the Railroad should be able to take on the Institute or the Brotherhood, for instance, and yet they do because the player is an indestructible god-king who can just roll over everything. Similarly, doing the Minutemen quests will make it painfully obvious that the player is the only character in the world capable of actually getting anything done, no matter what the story tells you. This is true of most games, of course, but a good story can find ways to justify it (i.e., while you do play as the “chosen one” in DA Inquisition, that game goes to great lengths to emphasize that the Inquisition is doing a lot of stuff the player isn’t directly involved in).

  16. Blaaaaaaag says:

    I have this habit of blurting out “I’m a hero!” whenever an rpg seems to be unaware of just how horrid the task it’s given me truly is. Commit genocide in the name of returning someone’s lost book? Sure, I’m a hero, that’s what I do. All those happy little mushroom fellas that live in the temple? Yeah, I can kill all those for you, I’m a hero. You want me to sneak into the church and steal a sacred artifact? That sounds like hero business. Kill 200+ of those cows over there to get you a dozen bottles of milk? A hero milks a cow with his battleaxe, obviously. Hero!

  17. Replikant says:

    My personal fifth (or secondary fourth) wall against immersion-destroying BS is usually: :rolleyes and continue.
    I can happily fly through space with atmospheric drag and sounds being transmitted through vacuum. I accept that little red numbers floating away means the PC is wounded but drinking from the red bottle will make him whole again. I can even (to a degree) accept that people who want to talk to me go to the trouble of standing still at a specific spot with a huge yellow exclamation mark attached to their heads.
    And I don’t have any problem whatsoever with most quick-travel systems.
    Theres a few things I can’t ignore, though, first and foremost Bethesdas level-scaling. I can understand it from a design-perspective but it is utterly immersion-breaking.
    Also: How the hell can their game-world function when everyone is assaulted by dire bears as soon as they step outside of the city-gates? The game-world is much too deadly.

    I also despise the quest-design in most MMORPGs and ARPGs. They usually involve some fragile damsels who lost her precious bauble on level 23 of that insanely dangerous dungeon, could I please help?

    In this respect I love the quests in The Secret World, they are amazingly diverse, very well explained and really fit into the game world.
    Speaking of TSW, there is also a nice approach to the “the chosen one” trope: Some NPCs in the game specifically state that, while, yes, the PC is special and is a chosen one, there is actually a small army of chosen ones around, which nicely explains all the other PCs running around on the server.

  18. says:

    You had me until the mention of Anachronox, whereupon my attention was swept away in a wave of turn-of-the-millenium gaming nostalgia.

    To this day, I’m still amazed that someone was ballsy enough to make an RPG on the Quake 2 engine. Sure, it’s an odd duck in being a PC RPG that draws so heavily on RPG mechanics, but still.

    In my view, it’s a flawed classic. You know the type — the ones you hold in high esteem, all the while knowing you’d never have the patience to wade through their tedium if played today. Luckily for us, there’s always the machinima version: link to

    • GWOP says:

      I actually played it just a few years ago after a recommendation from RPS. It’s great, even without nostalgia goggles. Played it on easy to breeze through the tedious combat, though.

    • says:

      Argh, I meant to say it’s odd in that it’s a PC RPG that draws so heavily from JRPG mechanics.

  19. Jekadu says:

    There are a couple of mental adjustments I make to video games (and fiction in general).

    Many stories have a severely truncated timeline — unless there’s a good reason the story needs to take place over a single day or two, I like to imagine the story actually took place over a few weeks or months to allow for characters to get to know each other.

    When it comes to hit points, I like to imagine that hit points don’t represent your literal health, but is rather an indicator of focus, armor strength, minor scratches and bruises, and exhaustion, all rolled into one. When a character loses health, they are just a tiny bit demoralized, or took a small slash that will start smarting in a few moments, or an armor strap came loose and is now impeding movement. When hit points reach zero, the character has either collapsed in exhaustion or reached the point where they can no longer dodge or block enemy blows.

    • Jekadu says:

      Another adjustment: if a story is making a deal out of how heroic I am for saving someone or retrieving something but each gameplay scene is filled with violence, I like to imagine that the mooks I’m killing represent figurative obstacles, and that each group slain might actually be something else, such as an oppressive atmosphere taking a psychological toll, the heroes sneaking by a camp, time spent clearing a corridor of debris, and so on.

      • Zekiel says:

        That is an impressive imagination you have! I’m much too literal-minded to be able to do that.

        • Jekadu says:

          I’ve wondered for a long time if a good RPG has to be about combat all the time. Fallen London seems to be a good counterpoint, but it’s such a unique game I’m not sure how one would adapt its mechanics to a mainstream game.

          • Zekiel says:

            I find it very annoying that most RPGs are 75%+ combat. (Hoping that Torment Tides of Numenara will redress the balance a little bit.)

            But that leads to another issue – why are RPGs always so bloody long? Surely it should work fine to create a game with no trash mobs at all – just leave in all the interesting/difficulty/story-relavant combat, so that the game is more like 25% combat / 75% dialogue and is 15 hours long rather than 40. Why shouldn’t that work?

          • Premium User Badge

            alison says:

            You just described an adventure game. Granted, an adventure game doesn’t give you the opportunity to create your own character, and usually the plot is linear, but it’s mostly dialog and the pacing and story beats are far more structured and interesting than most RPGs. I am still waiting for that CRPG which is largely an adventure game except you get to create your own guy and as a result of the guy you create, your dialog options and path through the world will be different. The only game i’ve played that comes close to this is Deus Ex, and even there it places more on emphasis on leveling than just creating a particular character and letting you role-play his journey. Surely other people must be interested in this approach?

        • Sandepande says:

          Combat is mechanically attractive, because it is both dynamic and unpredictable, but still restricted, and usually features very limited set of end results (win vs. lose). The fine details can get quite finicky, and physics and other eye candy makes it look nice, but in the end it’s really just who’s hitting who more often.

          Not so with social stuff. Somebody has to write all the lines, replies, questions, jokes and all that, and there are a lot more different reactions to even simple questions than there are to being killed with a gun…

          • Tourist says:

            Well said, that is why so many games revolve around some kind of physical activity, eg. fighting, running, jumping, sneaking, etc. movement can be easily modeled and follows very simple rules. All programmers need to do (extremely simplified of course) is create the environment, create physics, add movement and boom… game. Programming social interactions is so much more difficult. Even working out the player input into the game is an almost insurmountable obstacle… which is why the best we have so far is “Yes”, “Yes” but said snarkily, “No”, “No” said sarcastically. That is the emotional range available, and we haven’t even started on NPCs reactions.

    • Premium User Badge

      Oakreef says:

      IIRC there were some comments in the files on RA2 that defined things like player health and damage that explained the devs were thinking of HP hitting zero as the unit’s luck having run out and them finally getting hit rather than a foot soldier actually being able to take seventeen tank shells to the face.

      • Premium User Badge

        Oakreef says:

        RA2 = Command & Conquer Red Alert 2. Just realised other people are not me and may not realise what game RA2 meant in that sentence.

    • Ringwraith says:

      Hit points being a measure of ‘luck/endurance’ is actually something addressed in D&D rulebooks, and it’s neat way to abstract it.

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      There are also those games (pillars of eternity being one of a long line of them) in which you need to rest to regain abilities/spells, which sometimes means spending hours sleeping in the middle of dungeons (days sometimes!), and yet the quests wait for you all the same.

      • Jekadu says:

        Whenever I rest in an Infinity Engine-esque game (is that a genre now? It should be one) I imagine that everyone forms around a campfire, rolls out sleeping bags, spend some time winding down and doing their class stuff before setting a watch and going to sleep.

        This is somewhat difficult to maintain when ambushed, as the games simply spawn enemies on top of your position, suggesting that everyone in your party simply plopped down and went to sleep on the spot. What’s particularly annoying is how the game insists that enemies always attack at the end of the 8 hour period that’s skipped, meaning that vast amounts of time are potentially skipped without your party getting refreshed.

  20. Jac says:

    I always sneak kill the cat in fallout 4 and prop its carcass up at the bar. Lack of reactions from npcs really amuses and annoys me at the same time.

    Then again maybe such things are realistic? If i was talking at someone who was circle strafing me whilst crouched followed by jumping up and down all over my room might be best to ignore it.

  21. kud13 says:

    Witcher 3 has been brought up, and whilst I agree that it’s probably the best game of the decade, I wanted to throttle someone at CDPRED who made me research the same “block arrows with your sword” skill THREE. GAMES. IN. A. ROW.

    Also, my biggest “why? Moment in RPGs has to be the stealth skill tree in Alpha Protocol. Beyond the short-term invisibility (THAT I can hand-wave), the “here, all enemies are now arrows on your screen, and you can sense which way they are facing from half a level away” skill was too much.

    Now, I realize stealth isn’t what AP is all about (it’s about cunningly talking your way into every female’s bed, and repeatedly head-shotting bad guys with a pistol in slo-mo), and I loved that gam to bits, but I could never truly get over that.

    In terms of one thing I really like games to do are in-game “achievements” that actually give you corresponding stat boosts. AP was great at this, but so was Jade Empire. Witcher 2 also did this to an extent, with “traits” you could acquire based on certain choices and actions you took (also, setting yourself on fire repeatedly eventually gave you a permanent fire resistance buff).

    I feel such systems, where progression actually gives you tangible rewards rather than a metagame achievement, or a random skill point make me way more immersed in the game.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      The best part about AP’s achievement-based perks is that the game rewarded you somehow regardless of how you played. You didn’t just get rewarded for allying with people or getting the girl, they also gave you perks for pissing people off or bungling objectives. It made it feel more like a proper role-playing game than systems that only reward you for making the right choices.

    • Premium User Badge

      Oakreef says:

      Alpha Protocol’s invisibility was pretty ridiculous once you release that you can walk into a room of guards who are all facing each other and one by one karate chop them in the face while invisible and none of them will react or be able to stop you in any way.

  22. Don Reba says:

    Had a weird moment in the food store today when a cart was blocking the way, and I could actually push it to the side and walk through instead of taking a detour.

  23. nigelvibations says:

    I really like the concept of the Animus in Assassin’s Creed 2. (Assuming it’s in the others as well, this is just the only one I’ve played.) The fact that your player character is himself playing a video game gets rid of the fourth wall entirely – pressing tab to access a just-in-time dossier about the level boss makes sense, since you’ve met the guy who’s narrating it, and watching each new city render in a laser grid is totally diagetic in a way that unexplained floating cameras aren’t. And the way you show up in the loading screen as hoodie-wearing Desmond at the beginning of each play session, then armored Ezio on every subsequent reload is a really nice touch.

  24. MrObvious says:

    Personally, I am getting pretty much tired of any game with leveling at all. Especially when combined with real time FPS elements. I mean, come on, I literalilly *saw* four 7.62mm bullets hit the guy, why did it say “no damage” just because he is 10 levels higher (come on, Division…)?
    And while I did enjoy leveling my PCs to max back in the days of Wizardry 6-7, as any and all encounters were leveled up in difficulty as well (meaning a flock of phantom vampire crows could kill lvl maxed characters as easily as few feeble crows starting characters), it just lost its magic for me in the modern games.

    I much prefer RPGs where the hero starts as a pretty normal, somewhat trained guy, and never turns into a super-hero capable of slaughtering fifty goblins without breaking a sweat while eating a meat-on-a-stick with his other hand. Something like Realms of Arkania series, where yes, while you still had a lot of numbers and skills, you never progressed so much that any fight with low-level adversaries was infinitely easy. I think I gained like 3-4 levels in RoA:Star Trail over the course of the whole game, IIRC (of course it had other problems with skills, letting you create characters that were almost always successful when haggling or cheating at dice or gathering herbs, making money somewhat easily if you had enough time). And the best “magical” sword in the game was a measly +1…

    I think my preferred turn-based RPG would have no levels at all, PC progress at maximum from untrained civilian to a trained soldier (over the course of the whole game) not a demigod, and even that trained soldier would have a very hard time against several opponents at once unless using tactics or environment (be it setting traps/using poison on weapons/whatever) to his advantage. Making every fight interesting, even if there weren’t thousands of random encounters (that do get boring and repetitive rather quickly).

    Weapons that worked correctly, so if that village grunt connects a hit to your abdomen with a pitchfork, you are probably dead even if a Witcher (vis the Witcher books). Or if you hit somebody with a 5.56mm rifle in post-apo scenario game, and it penetrates (no magical armour, just normal plate carrier at maximum), there is no 1% damage just because of level difference, but a good sized hole with massive exsanguination and a soon-to-be fresh corpse unless the opponent is very very very lucky.

    I would probably like something like Division but with Arma mechanics. Or the Kingdom Come:Deliverance, unless it has too much skills advancement.

  25. benkc says:

    Regarding merchants, I may be misremembering this, but:

    In console game, Lunar: Silver Star (or one of its iterations), one of your childhood friends fairly early on leaves the party to pursue his dream of becoming a merchant. Most of the game he charges you full price, in a “Sure, we’re friends, but I have a business to run” sort of attitude — but once you have access to the final dungeon and it’s clear that the bad guy is a Really Bad Guy, he changes his tune and gives you something like a 90% discount, telling you to go kick that guy’s ass. (And he has some really nice items at that point too, like previously rare consumables.)

    • Sandepande says:

      At least in Dying Light the Quartermaster tosses some free stuff your way at regular intervals…

  26. Tourist says:

    What always gives me trouble is timeframes, in particular, how long ago was it since the mysterious stranger wandered through town, the befuddled apprentice went looking for herbs or the king has been dead.


    To demonstrate, the worst offender is the Witcher III, a great game by all accounts, but It just is not clear when certain things happened. For instance on one hand it appears the the Barons Wife has just left, like within days, her dead horse is still rotting on the road, but she seems to have been living in the woods with the ophans for years. There are other examples where its not clear if Ciri has just been through, or if it happened months or years ago.

    Part of this is because in an open world game, I may and probable did go chasing butterfly’s for awhile, so the game can’t just say this happened last Tuesday, but still, it takes some mental adjustment.

    • Tourist says:

      oops. There was meant to be a Spoiler Warning there, so SPOILER WARNING!!!!!

    • madrak_the_red says:

      I think she was aged artificially by the curse?

      • Tourist says:

        Its not necessarily her age, its the fact the children behave like she has been there looking after them for awhile…. months as a minimum. On the other hand her dead horse looks pretty fresh and its in an infested swamp. It can’t be any more than a week dead… and that’s pushing it.

        The kids don’t behave as though she just popped into the swamp a couple of days ago.

        There may be in-universe solutions. Perhaps the witches magic dilates time, or something. Or maybe she has been sneaking out to look after the kids for months before leaving the baron… altougth the narrative does not give that impression.

  27. ZippyLemon says:

    Skyrim continually snapped me out of the experience by forcefully asserting through the dialogue options how ignorant of Skyrim my character is.

  28. natebud says:

    One thing that always bothers me when I play Fallout 4 is just how damn close different types of enemies bases are to each other, especially in downtown Boston, which sounds harmless enough until you realize that a group of super mutants, and raiders are both peacefully living as neighbours on the same street. You’d imagine both parties wouldn’t be comfortable just staring at eachother from across the road, but apparently this is just fine. At least until you show up, then suddenly you’re public enemy no. 1. At one point in my game a group of brotherhood members landed right in the middle of one of these very diverse neighbourhoods and managed to kick of a fight between a group of raiders, gunners, super mutants, ghouls, synths and me all at the same time. They were all clearly enemies before but for some reason the didn’t realize it until now.

    • natebud says:

      At least in Fallout 3 D.C. was broken up into sections with one or two types of enemies per zone. (And if there were two groups they were definitely fighting when you got there) It just seemed a lot more realistic than having one of each faction bunking together on the same block.

  29. Dicehuge says:

    One thing I always remember that tickled me was from Body Harvest, an old sci-fi game made my DMA that was kind of a prototype for what would eventually be GTA3. In an attempt to explain away being able to carry so many weapons, the manual explained that your backpack had an infinite capacity because it contained “C-90 molecules”. Hence in my mind whenever any game allows a character to carry vast amounts of items, it isn’t being unrealistic, it’s just those amazing C-90 molecules at work.

  30. Premium User Badge

    particlese says:

    Cities, and even the capitals of continent-spanning empires, often have a population of about 10, but I happily extrapolate that out to the thousands they surely represent.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Yeah, definitely, as long as there’s an element of internal scale. I can easily see somewhere like Stormwind as a capital city.

      • Zamn10210 says:

        I get this, but at the same time really do appreciate a sense of scale. Why not just duplicate those backstreets a few times over (after all, what are real cities made up of but mostly identical residential streets?) and suddenly the city feels significantly more believable. Why can’t I spend a few minutes wandering down lanes with nobody around in the city like I can in the countryside?

    • Tourist says:

      Also these big cities/empires often seem to be serviced by maybe one or two farms.

      Quest For Glory II is one of the few RPG(esque) games that actually gave me the impression of a thriving city. Lots of doors (sadly not actually openable, you’d see randoms walk corridors ahead of you and they would also walk in and out of the Plazas.

      Witcher III also did reasonably well I think with Novigrad. Oxenfurt is a tiny though, considering its meant to be a thriving “University town”.

  31. gunnar says:

    while playing Divinity:Original Sin yesterday with a friend: while strolling through the city I accidentially clicked on a container that belonged to the city guard. This resulted in like 20 soldiers attacking us (plus the cook, who wielded some powerful fire magic… comes in handy for cooking, I guess ;) ), followed by an epic slaughter in which all of them were killed. This had exactly zero repurcissions! Nobody, not even the captain of the guard, even commented on it! Totally weird, especially in a game that is so ridiculously detailed in other aspects.

  32. Velorien says:

    I fondly remember the days of Final Fantasy IV on the PSX (SPOILERS). Late in the game, the party confronts the archvillain Golbez in a boss battle. As in all FFIV boss battles, the party is represented by a bunch of tiny, pixellated munchkins on the left, while Golbez is a towering, screen-filling titan of black armour and highly-detailed doom on the right. Upon his defeat, he joins the party for plot reasons – and before the player’s very eyes turns into a tiny, pixellated black-armoured munchkin.

  33. Furiant says:

    Various annoying things in games:

    1. Swimming in plate armor
    2. Animals that “drop” equipment when they die
    3. Regardless of how much what you’re carrying weighs, actually being able to tote it all around is another story.
    4. Stackable loot that really shouldn’t stack. Paper stacks. Potions do not.
    5. “Class”-based equipment restrictions.
    6. Only being able to sprint for a few seconds; being able to run forever
    7. Killing or stealing with no witnesses but somehow all the security forces on the continent instantly know it; completing a quest and being rewarded remotely and instantly
    8. Killing an enemy in while multiple other enemies stand around oblivious to the clamor
    9. Being given choices of what to say, none of which are anything I would say, and not being allowed to continue until I pick one. Because choices.
    10. Space games in which every region of space looks like a page from the Hubble Telescope’s Greatest Hits calendar; also, jumping 1 light year and seeing an entirely different backdrop.

    And about a trillion more. RPG’s are so mired in their own tropes, half of which started as poorly thought out shims to UI issues and somehow evolved into features, it’s impossible to achieve any sense of immersion anymore. The newness of playing video games is long gone, and along with it went a lot of my suspension of disbelief.

    • Furiant says:

      Also, a little area with 8-10 bears milling around randomly, because that’s how wildlife acts. Also skinning a bear in a couple of seconds and now I have leather. Also birds that hover by slowly flapping their wings.

    • Sandepande says:

      You can swim in plate, but not terribly far, unless you’re exceptionally fit and/or have a current helping you.

  34. mishagale says:

    One bit of headcanon I have concerning hit points comes from an old D&D manual, but applies to a lot of games with HP or health bars or whatever. The idea is that HP aren’t literally a measure of how much damage your body can sustain, but a measure of how good (or lucky) you are at avoiding damage. A character with 10HP who takes 9 damage from a sword thrust has just been skewered through the liver and is close to death. A character with 100HP taking 9 damage just sustained a minor bruise or laceration, because they got out of the way faster, or deflected the blow to a less vulnerable part of their armour/anatomy.

    This works well in pen & paper RPGs, but can strain credulity in video games where the attack animations show someone being hit in the face with a battle-ax and then showing no ill effects whatsoever.

  35. Tarnakk4 says:

    With all the other Fallout 3 and 4 remarks here, I’m kind of surprised no one mentioned the two most immersion-breaking moments I ever experienced in a game.

    Very near the original end sequence of Fallout 3, you’ve just escaped a heavily irradiated bunker with a very friendly Super Mutant. If you played a relatively good character the whole time, you probably got there with the option to pick him up as a companion. Ok, so far. But then you get to the Purifier, having almost forgotten about your giant green friend (who, incidentally, *is* almost entirely forgettable as he has only slightly better combat capability than a wet noodle and the pathing sense of a crazed lemming).

    Door is stuck. Chamber flooded with radiation. We’re all going to bite it. Then I turned and looked at the large green elephant in the room. “Hey, aren’t you immune to radiation, since you just got me the GECK out of that much more irradiated chamber?”

    “Yes, I am!” Oh ho! I suddenly thought! Bethesda was tricky and realized some of us might have the immune guy with us! “So get in there!”

    “No, no! This is your moment! I can’t steal it from you!”

    I shot him in the face. Repeatedly. Until he died. Then I more calmly reopened the game and started futzing with dialog options. Then gear. Then console settings. Nope. There was no way to convince him to save both your lives by going in himself. There was so much outcry over that one that Bethesda actually changed the ending of the game so he would go in.

    Second Place goes to Fallout New Vegas. Did anyone else just stop playing the game with a sigh of “Well, that’s all I wanted” after killing Vinnie? I mean, your character is ramrodded into the idea that Vinnie shot you, getting revenge on Vinnie is the Goal. And then you shoot him in a back room. (Or, if you’re me, you planted a live plasma grenade in his trousers) And nothing happens unless you happen to be a megalomaniac and think conquering the world sounds like a fun Post Revenge hobby. It doesn’t even particularly push you to do it. It’s more like, “meh. If you’re bored, why don’t you conquer everything? No pressure, though – I’m not that attached to the idea.”