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Bloat sucks

Discussion in 'General RPG Discussion' started by JarlFrank, May 11, 2020.

  1. JarlFrank I like Thief THIS much Patron

    JarlFrank
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    Bloat is terrible in every type of RPG and leads to minmaxing (which reduces build variety since there's inevitably gonna be builds that are orders of magnitude better than all the others) and tedious endgame fights that rely either on luck or on exploits.

    Bloat can infest everything that has to do with numbers. HP bloat is the most common, but stat bloat can also be an issue. Bloat can affect both the player characters and the enemies.

    Examples of bad bloat:
    - All post-Morrowind Bethesda games. High level enemies get such a huge boost to HP, and the player has high AP at that point too, that each hit only takes away a small amount of HP and fights become tedious grinds.
    - Assassin's Creed Odyssey. HP gets bloaty at higher levels, and the combat is much more tedious than it was in the purely action-based non-RPG predecessors.
    - Pathfinder: Kingmaker. Especially on higher difficulties, enemy stats are so ridiculously inflated towards the end that you have to autistically optimize your character builds or get fucked.

    There are plenty more games that do this, but those few prominent examples should illustrate the issue.

    Bloat, especially when it's taken to extreme levels, makes late-game gameplay tedious and reduces the amount of options a player has to handle any given situation. In vanilla Fallout 4, you're pretty much forced to invest points into the damage-enhancing perks because if you don't, the bloated enemies will be a chore to kill once you reach higher levels. In Kingmaker, you need to autistically optimize your AC and to-hit bonuses and squeeze out every single point you can get, otherwise endgame enemies will be impossible to even hit while hitting you with every swing. When numbers grow exponentially like that, you are forced into certain builds that give you a chance to deal with the ridiculously inflated numbers. Some character builds that the game theoretically offers - and whose abilities can be useful, even - become unviable simply because they can't keep up with the bloat.

    With excessive number bloat, gameplay tactics are reduced to leveling up your character and picking the right skills to increase. It is detrimental to the gameplay of both action RPGs, where player twitch skill should play a role, and tactical RPGs, where player tactical thinking should play a role.

    In an action RPG, excessive number bloat leads to you and an enemy whacking each other for five minutes, with each hit only reducing a small amount of HP. There are zero tactics involved, just keep whacking until the HP bar is down. Special abilities like knockdowns, staggers, etc are reduced in effectiveness because even if you manage to successfully inflict them, there's still going to be a lot of HP left to whittle down. Your own character also tends to have bloaty HP at that point, so any negative effects you suffer can usually be countered by gulping down a potion. Combat devolves to a situation where the character with more health potions wins. Boring and tedious.

    In a tactical RPG, the same problems arise. Ideally, you want to get better positions, out-flank the enemy, use area effect spells/tools like a grease spell or throwing gas grenades to deny ground to an enemy, etc. But when HP is overly bloated, the effectiveness of such tactics is reduced, as it's still going to take 5 turns of whacking until the enemy's HP bar is depleted so dealing damage is more important than anything else.

    Scaling character and monster power level purely by making all the numbers bigger is bad design. It tends to make high level combat less fun than low level combat, because it no longer feels lethal. Where on low and mid levels, one or two critical hits could get you close to death or take out an enemy, at high level a critical hit means you take off 8% instead of merely 4% of the enemy's HP bar. It turns into a boring grind. This is why people tend to prefer mid-level D&D to epic level D&D. Throne of Bhaal isn't as well-liked as Shadows of Amn because it's filled with tons of bloaty enemies that are tedious to fight (especially those giants).

    In bloaty systems, level becomes the most important factor in determining success, so once you attain a high enough level, low level enemies will be a complete pushover who can't even harm you, while enemies just two levels above you can be impossible to defeat. Tactics take a backseat to simply grinding out more levels.

    So what's the alternative? Why, less bloat of course! Fallout 1 does it well enough. HP gains per level aren't so high that you can shrug off a hundred hits at higher levels, and critical hits are potentially so powerful that they can one-shot even high level chars. Combat stays dangerous at high levels and there are many viable tactics and character builds. If you keep the scaling of stats and HP more reasonable, high level characters will still have an edge over low level characters but they don't get an insta-win button.

    Also, you can make character development more horizontal instead of vertical. Rather than simply raising up numbers, levelups could give your chars new abilities instead or improve your character in other ways. Gothic is a good example for action RPGs: rather than just increasing damage, leveling up your weapon skills makes combos easier to chain and the controls more responsive. It actually feels like your character is getting better at fighting! Spellcasters in D&D get new spells on levelup, which often contain stuff that goes beyond merely doing more damage than earlier spells. There are many ways to make high level characters feel significantly more powerful than low level characters without having to inflate all the numbers to ridiculous levels.

    Inflated number bloat needs to stop. It's not fun. It's just tedious.
     
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  2. octavius Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    octavius
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    I found your post bloated, so I didn't read it all.
     
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  3. Deadman Arcane Patron

    Deadman
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    Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    I think there is a big difference between grinding over-inflated hp bars and getting gud at character building.
    Hard games are not bloat, unless you think player skill bloat is bad.
     
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  4. Lord of Riva Savant Patron

    Lord of Riva
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    Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    I agree with you Jarl Frank.

    However i believe, i mean apart from using bloat to help making the game tedious for micro transactions and shit, this is more a question of balance.

    It seems to me that some of the worst offenders are made due to the fact that designers want to retain challenge in the later stages of the game and just fail to do that in an interesting way, this is however also not an easy issue to solve.
     
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  5. Darth Roxor Prestigious Gentleman Wielder of the Huegpenis

    Darth Roxor
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    i dont know what makes you post all these captain obvious-tier threads lately but you should consider stopping
     
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  6. lukaszek the determinator

    lukaszek
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    bloat is answer to issue that rng often brings: random death. If it takes 5 crit hits to die - problem solved!
     
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  7. Thac0 Hopeless Optimist Patron

    Thac0
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    Dnd 5e has a relevant advice in the Dungeon Masters Guide. Unless your enemy is an endboss it should never take more than three turns of focussed party fire to kill anything. A few devs should really take this to heart.
     
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  8. Deadman Arcane Patron

    Deadman
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    Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    Regular encounter shouldnt be more than 3 turns. After that either player party or enemies should be dead.
     
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  9. Butter Arcane

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    Gotta harvest brofists.
     
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  10. Strange Fellow Criminal Lawn Forcement Patron

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    the philanthropy of Falksi heralds a new gold rush, we must mine these platitudes for all they're worth while there is still time
     
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  11. Wunderbar Arcane

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    JarlFrank are you writing an article of sorts, and this is a way to test the water?
     
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  12. JarlFrank I like Thief THIS much Patron

    JarlFrank
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    No I just like posting about RPG stuff.
     
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  13. octavius Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    octavius
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    I wish I still had JarlFrank's youthful enthusiasm after a decade on the Codex.
     
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  14. Tacgnol Shitlord Patron

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    Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire Grab the Codex by the pussy Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    As much as I do hate bits of 5e, the bounded accuracy system with deflated AC and attack values is pretty good.

    It also makes enhancement bonuses on weapons far more valuable.
     
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  15. Tim the Bore Educated

    Tim the Bore
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    I agree, but all of that is rather obvious. You did post a solution though.

    It's rather bare-bones. There is probably a lot of different variables that need to be taken into account. What kind of mechanics that games had, what kind of experience it even is? Plus, that kind of progression should be used on enemies too, to make them more difficult because of theirs abilities instead just pure numbers. Quality over quantity and such.
    The thing is, all of that is pretty simple and straightforward. The real question is why so many developers were unable to reach that conclusion on their own? It's not rocket science, it shouldn't be that rare.
     
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  16. Blutwurstritter Learned

    Blutwurstritter
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    I agree that bloat as described in the initial post is bad but it is not as clear cut as it sounds.
    Large numbers aren't the problem itself but rather the lack of different options to tackle them
    and how you implement them in such a way that it doesn't harm the atmosphere of the game.

    Even Gothic works with number bloat under the hood. The "bloat" is somewhat hidden but
    it is still part of the game. Your progress is pretty much tied to your weapon damage and the
    resistances of your armor. But in the end you can convert the resistances into effective health,
    which means that an armor simply grants you a huge bonus to hitpoints, i.e. bloat.
    But Gothic manages to "hide" that well enough so it doesn't feel like a "bloaty" game.

    Another problem is a continuous rise in numbers. That simply doesn't evoke any feeling of
    improvement. Having fewer but larger, more noticeable "jumps" in power simply feels better in my opinion.
     
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  17. JarlFrank I like Thief THIS much Patron

    JarlFrank
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    I dunno. I made this post because I noticed bloat being a problem in many contemporary games. Apparently devs don't think it's a problem else it wouldn't be this common.
     
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  18. Tim the Bore Educated

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    I think that many games want to show players all the best tricks immedietaly - to catch their attention. So in later parts of these games the only way to increase difficulty is to increase the numbers, because all the skills, abilities, perks or whatnot were already exposed.
     
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  19. lukaszek the determinator

    lukaszek
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    trololo like if end game is ever being playtested. As such its not even about recognising it as a problem, with everyone focused on reviewing 1st chapter and letting consumers report bugs further into the game - its a problem of discovery
     
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  20. Tacgnol Shitlord Patron

    Tacgnol
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    Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire Grab the Codex by the pussy Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    Not really an RPG, but I always liked the progression in the STALKER games.

    Entirely equipment based, but you really got a sense of power towards the end when you were kitted out in an exosuit or a high end regular suit. Early to mid game had quite gradual increments in power as you upgraded your equipment a bit at a time.

    Also plenty of different play-styles available with different weapon types.

    Only problem I found was you tended to be a little bit too unkillable towards the end of most of the games.
     
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  21. ERYFKRAD Barbarian Patron

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    Serpent in the Staglands Shadorwun: Hong Kong Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
    Yagrum Bagarn ain't complaining. Much.
     
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  22. the mole Educated Shitposter

    the mole
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    Because subhumans here like autistic min maxing simulators like kingmaker

    And Age of Decadents, and undertail
     
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  23. Trashos Arcane

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    Min maxing is not a problem. By definition, higher difficulty levels should take away some of the options you had in the lower levels. If everything that works on "Normal" works equally well on "Insane", then what is the point of difficulty levels? The difficulty is exactly the same.

    More later.
     
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  24. the mole Educated Shitposter

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    Over half the forum probably 90 percent basically want more bloat and min maxing

    They miss the old days where you picked a warrior and maxed your axe skill to 20

    Because the devs didnt formulate ways for hybrid characters to win generally

    And you needed to max 1 thing to win
     
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  25. Ol' Willy Magister

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    In Stalker, as you get better armor and weapons enemies get better armor and weapons too. Early game, you have leather jacket, Makarov and some shotgun, enemies have the same and dangerous to you. Late game, you have exoskeleton, some weapons in 9x39, enemies have 9x39 and 5.56 AP weapons and still dangerous to you. One mistake can profoundly fuck you up at any point of the game. It's just that you have substantially more ammo and medikits later in the game
     
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