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Development Info Josh Sawyer on Utility and Balance in Game Design

Discussion in 'RPG News & Content' started by VentilatorOfDoom, Dec 12, 2012.

  1. VentilatorOfDoom RPG Codex Staff

    VentilatorOfDoom
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    Tags: J.E. Sawyer; Obsidian Entertainment

    In response to a question on his Formspring account, Josh Sawyer talks about what the headline says in this 12 minute video:

     
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  2. Infinitron I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    Grab the Codex by the pussy Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    That's my question!
     
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  3. VentilatorOfDoom RPG Codex Staff

    VentilatorOfDoom
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    OMG now you're famous!
     
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  4. Harold Arcane

    Harold
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    I'm totally buyin' what Josh is sellin'.
    Sawyer: 1 - codexers moaning about balance taking away their god given right to use cheese/exploits: 0
     
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  5. VentilatorOfDoom RPG Codex Staff

    VentilatorOfDoom
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    The more I hear from Sawyer the more I'm convinced Eternity will be crap.
     
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  6. J_C One Bit Studio Patron Developer

    J_C
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    Stop listening to him then.
     
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  7. Harold Arcane

    Harold
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    Care to give some details as to why?
     
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  8. hiver Guest

    hiver
    - If you give players a possibility to choose some option - the content must support that.

    - If i pick "ancient poetry" - who boy, there better be some hot times with ancient poetry coming pretty soon! - because you gave me that choice against something as equally valid (lock picking).

    - If you give options to the player - you should have enough content to present them with. - content must support the options you give to the player.



    And this is bad? It means PE will be crap? Seriously?
    To me... it sounds like anyone thinking this is a braindead moron of epic proportions.
     
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  9. Shadenuat Arcane

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    He hates rogues.
     
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  10. catfood AGAIN

    catfood
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    Fixed.

    The truth had to be told. Sorry tootz.
     
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  11. skuphundaku Economic devastator, Mk. 11 Patron

    skuphundaku
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    I maintain my assessment that F:NV was good despite Sawyer and that he's going to horribly fuck P:E up, and any other game he's going to work on as a lead.
     
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  12. Cosmo Arcane

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    That's exactly what his New Vegas mod was about : enforcing balance and meaningful choices in character building. If you want to judge him, judge him on that, not on buzzwords or some expression that somehow pushes your hate button.
     
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  13. Infinitron I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    Grab the Codex by the pussy Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    Careful now. That's a statement that needs backing up. What exactly in New Vegas did Sawyer damage, if you say it was good despite his bad influence?


    The Codex's own version of the "Awesome Button".
     
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  14. skuphundaku Economic devastator, Mk. 11 Patron

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    If everything is equally useful, then it's useless to make choices in the first place. Making choices is hard because, if you make wrong choices, there is a real possibility of bad shit happening. This "balance in everything, at all costs" thing is misguided, to say the least.
     
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  15. skuphundaku Economic devastator, Mk. 11 Patron

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    I mean that he didn't fuck up F:NV, somehow, despite his retardedness. We could chalk up Sawyer's success with F:NV to that old adage that says "even a broken clock is right twice a day". Unfortunately, the rest of his record is abysmal: IWD2? puhlease!; A string of canceled projects; P:E, which, if he keeps up like this, he has real chances of royally screwing.
     
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  16. Mrowak Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    Mrowak
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    Now that's exactly the philosophy I wanted to hear from Obsidian - to make everything useful in the gameworld and associate certain trade-offs as well as benefits with character builds and classes. Circumstantial approach is the bread and butter of PnP RPGs. This is what more in RPGs - asymmetrical balance.

    While listening to the podcast I had an idea. One thing they could work on is synergy between classes and members of the same class. For example, two wizards may gain some cool abilities when they cast spells together, but would be hopeless against brute force. Two paladins could be better at destroying the undead, but would not do well against mages.

    You could even apply it to "pacifist" skills Josh talked about e.g. two engineers are better at fixing stuff than one and therefore have access to options unavailable to a single enginner. On the other hand that one extra engineer takes place of a diplomat, so your options in conversation become limited.
     
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  17. Infinitron I post news Patron

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    Grab the Codex by the pussy Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    Sounds good. Feel free to post this idea on the Obsidian forums.
     
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  18. Roguey Arcane Sawyerite Sawyerist Sawyer's Bride No Fun Allowed

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    Answered just as I thought he would. :) Though it's not like it was any secret.

    He literally says in the video that if every choice results in the same gameplay, then there's no point in offering the choice. There shouldn't be any bad choices. Making choices should be difficult because everything is good, not because of "Gotcha!" design like Monte Cook's third edition fail.
     
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  19. Mrowak Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    It all depends on circumstances. Josh only claims that each character skill and ability should be useful in certain circumstances. For example, if the player invests points in Medicine and no in Diplomacy, he should become an expert surgeon which will let him find alternative solutions to quests, while not being allowed to take most optimal option on Charisma based one.

    At no point the player should think "oh bugger, investing all those points in Medicine was a waste"... which happened frequently in Fallout and Arcanum.

    Newsflash. The player is not clairvoyant. He cannot know that in the game there are no uses for, e.g. Medicine skill but are plenty for Diplomacy.

    It's ok if the player has made a dumb decision - went into a diplomatic situation with an Expert Surgeon that cannot into social encounters. That's consequential and I think Josh agrees it's commendable, However, the game should provide content for his Expert Surgeon built as well - because that's what the skill was for. Sure out character won't be able to intimidate some bandits, but he will excel in other places a diplomat would be hopeless at. There should be content out there on the virtue that mechanics was implemented.

    It depends. In PnP it is DMs job to tailor the campaign to player's builds. The DM should create problems that are challenging but manageable to his players. In cRPGs you cannot really have that so you need to make yourself double sure all permutations of skills and classes are supported by the content in the game.
     
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  20. skuphundaku Economic devastator, Mk. 11 Patron

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    I know what he says in the video and I think he's dead wrong.
     
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  21. Grunker RPG Codex Ghost Patron

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    Codex 2012 Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Torment: Tides of Numenera Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
    This is the key to understanding J_C. Don't like what you're seeing/hearing?

    Stop watching/listening! (buy anyway ofc)
     
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  22. skuphundaku Economic devastator, Mk. 11 Patron

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    And I'm saying that the way it was done in Fallout and Arcanum is better than what Sawyer is proposing here. The player should be allowed to make, if not even tricked into making, wrong choices so that the choices he makes have meaning and long term consequences. Otherwise, you're just sliding towards Bioware-style choices, whether you want to admit it or not.

    No, the game shouldn't provide valid solutions for all player choices. The player should be thought ( by carrot or, if necessarily, stick ) that making choices is serious business and, if he fucks up, he'll suffer.

    I agree with you that computers don't have the adaptability of human DMs. But your solution is wrong. There are two correct solutions to this problem:
    1. Reduce the size of the game and, within this smaller game, make sure that all combinations are taken into account. AoD seems to me that made this choice and I think the results are very good.
    2. Make the game completely mechanics driven, based on emergent gameplay. What I'm advocating here is, essentially, randomly generating the whole game world and letting the player loose to do as he pleases within the constraints of the game world. This hasn't been seriously tried yet, so we don't have an example of how well this would work.
     
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  23. felipepepe Prestigious Gentleman Codex's Heretic Patron

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    Honestly, he didn't answer the most important part of the question:

    Not only I think it's really dumb to split combat & non-combat skills, just so your little dumb players won't march into battle with an army of philosophers, but how that even works in a party game? If every character will be good at non-combat skills no matter what, a party of 6 will most likely cover all the spectrum of non-combat stuff...
     
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  24. VentilatorOfDoom RPG Codex Staff

    VentilatorOfDoom
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    Yes. It actually doesn't matter what he's on about, clowndowns or regenerating stamina (it's not health regen!) for me it all sounds like cop-outs to justifiy the streamlining they'll employ to make the game more welcoming. YMMV.
    Just take his latest waffling about how challenging combat encounters must have a "variety" of solutions (and the inept and inaccurate comparisons to chess). Let me tell you something: if there IS an ACTUAL problem, odds are the number of solutions is very small.
    If you have a variety of ways to win an encounter, odds are there is no problem.

    For me it looks like Eternity is shaping up fine to become a rtwp, cool-down spamming turd devoid of combat challenge. sry. Hope I do err.
     
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  25. Infinitron I post news Patron

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    Grab the Codex by the pussy Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    Rule of thumb, guys: Usefulness does not imply perfect balance. All skills being "useful" doesn't mean they'll be equally applicable in each and every case.

    The comparisons with Bioware are irrelevant. We're talking about character development here, not plot branching choices and consequences.
     
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