Author Topic: What I like in videogames and RLs. Also on witcher 3, free roaming, freedom.  (Read 6416 times)


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I just finished playing one very successful non-roguelike game, Witcher 3.
Great graphics and music, thousands of conversation lines, very polished under many aspects.
I only enjoy hard games and it was satisfying to manage to win the game in the hardest mode, "death march".
And that soundtrack.. magnificient! Felt like dancing with eurofolk music while mutilating ghouls with my beautiful long silver sword, dodging attacks with extraordinary agility, feeling the adrenaline.
The ending was so so but the story overall very good with several characters with their own personalities which I felt attached to (in particular Lambert, Vesemir, Keira Metz, and also minor characters such as Thaler, Dijkstra and general Morvran Vhooris or some sadistic villains like Whoreson Junior and his gang and that Nicolas Pastodi whoremonger priest). Let alone how beautiful were some of the cinematic sequences, such as when Ciri gets inside that cave to find the three Crones drinking random body parts soup whilst in form of absolutely gorgeous naked girls, just with blood all over them from their human meat feast. It was great to have choices affecting the game plot and the final ending of the game.
And I could happily disregard minor plot holes, issues and inconsitencies such as potatoes selling for 30 golds each, the freaking horse constantly getting stuck, the whole crafting thing being completely useless for exception of witcher gear, etc.

Having said this, the good parts I have highlighted are all components which I normally could appreciate also in books and movies - it is the artistic part of the game.

However in terms of the "gaming" part of the game, I can't say it was a particularly remarkable experience.
For instance there's stuff like "level loot" which ruins everything.

It completely ruins the free roaming aspect of the game.
It is never interesting to go back to location with low level enemies because only low level enemies will spawn there, which constitute no challenge nor reward to the player.
On the other end, it would be interesting to explore areas where the player knows they are likely to find out of depth enemies, but the problem is that it ends up being unrealistically tough boars or wild dogs which are 100 times stronger than a lower level arch griffin or dragon, and on top of this the loot is capped to the level of the player. There's also minimal experience gain to slay those enemies.

This sucks.
So much effort in polishing all the smallest technical visual and audio details of the game, and such poor design.
It feels like you are locked in a story and all the rpg component is merely a facade.

It made me think that the following components need to always be present together in order to obtain an ultimate gaming experience:

- possibility to find out of depth enemies (possibly alongside free roaming)
- uncapped loot
- no level restrictions for equippable items
- no monsters levels (ok with legendary ones to be tougher but that's about it)

The question is how to then manage to keep the game interesting after an out of depth item is found and equipped.
Well we all know how cool it is to find an eternium double sword of devastation in the small cave in Adom with your level 1 character, or start a Caverns of Qud game and find out that  you have in your backpack an Electro Crossbow or some other ultra powerful technological device.
It feels freaking good!
But does it spoil the game? No way! Because there's always the possibility that either
- that item could break or be stolen or destroyed by some trap, monster, etc
- the pc could develop some sort of corruption, or illness, or anything that could then make being strong in combat go on a second scale of importance
- permadeath is worth mentioning but ok, I understand a 100 hours game such as Witcher 3 would need to find ways around that
- the pc could become cocky and then find himself surrounded by randomly spawned enemies which happen to be not particularly susceptible by that equipment

And more and more could be done! But that is the way to go. "Level loot", equipment level restriction, non randomness of spawns and all of that are very lazy way to circumvent the potential risks of giving freedom to the player, and in my opinion they make that freedom disappear when it comes to gaming experience.
This is a great game for what concerns what should be the quintessential property of it: the actual gaming experience.

Then there's other things I like about roguelikes such as the minimalistic graphic interface, turn based tactics, etc - but the random and freedom components I have discussed above are what I really love the most and unfortunately I have yet to find in a non-roguelike game as of 2017.

Any thoughts?
« Last Edit: December 09, 2017, 05:23:51 AM by Skeletor »
What I enjoy the most in roguelikes: Anti-Farming and Mac Givering my way out. Kind of what I also enjoy in life.


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I don't mind level restrictions for equipment under the condition that either equipment follows some sort of material progression (ie: Iron -> Steel -> Mithril -> Adamant -> Godlikemetalatite), or the character can equip the weapon, but sucks at using them (like Dark Souls, where you can barely swing the weapon, or where you get only a minor attack buff, because you are too ill-skilled, weak, or ill-knowledgeable to wield this material correctly). Hell, if done right, even a crafting system is not a bad choice for handling equipment progression, so long as the necessary materials are qualitatively hard to obtain (requires you to take down a boss), and not quantitatively hard to gather (does not force you kill 100 trash mobs). If I recall, Monster Hunter uses this crafting progression system quite effectively.

The problem with The Witcher 3 is that it takes none of these paths. You either get a butt-load of randomly enchanted loot (after playing hours of Diablo, Torchlight, Borderlands, Dying Light, and even TOME, I sure know I'm sick of such systems), or you grind for a whole bunch of random materials, gold, and diagrams to craft the Witcher sets, which are the best gear in the game, and which make that random loot even less appealing.

The problem with RPGs giving characters super good gear early on is that it kills progression, and would probably make the game tedious. After all, while it is certainly fun to smash through hordes of enemies, at some point, you'll get bored, and will want some kind of challenge to keep you entertained. It also feels good to watch your character go from near-nudity (or perhaps full nudity) to well-equipped (I'm really into the whole rags-to-riches thing), as you get a visual representation of your progression.

Roguelikes get away with giving good gear early because players expect an imminent death, and as a result, are likely planning to replay the game another hundred times over anyway (although perhaps not in the moments directly after death :P). So, it doesn't matter if you give a player an "Eternium Double Sword of Devastation" at level 1 because they won't necessarily win/complete the game with it anyway, and will feel less like that item is theirs for the keeping. In a way, Roguelikes balance progression through their meta, where the real-life player progresses based on their knowledge of the game, and how close they come to winning the game, rather than on the amount of quests completed, or the amount of fancy items they have equipped or are hording.

I hate to say it, but The Witcher's strength — its story-telling —, I feel, is exactly what's holding its gameplay back. When you have a large amount of stories to tell, there isn't much room for randomness, especially as it could mean breaking a big budget game and not knowing how to fix it before the deadline. That said, The Witcher 3 is CD Projekt's first properly open world game, and if their interviews are anything to go by, the designers never previously had to account for the condition whereby a player starts a quest mid-way, or has completed one set of quests and not another, or has overpowered or underpowered gear, and so on. And so their experience making such a game was severely limited. It definitely makes me interested to see how they cope with the even more ambitious Cyberpunk 2077. :D

I definitely agree that gameplay should come before story in games, but I'll give The Witcher 3 a pass since I adored its world. It's nice to have a dark fantasy game where there isn't a cliche orc invasion lead by some Evil! necromancer overlord, and where I have to question morals before making a decision, only to feel awful while trying to be a hero no matter what I choose. :D
« Last Edit: December 09, 2017, 08:57:57 AM by Vosvek »