For most abilities it is trivial to isolate player skill from the game when necessary. Combat controls are naturally very limited and abstract in a computer game, so even in an action RPG with FPS-style controls there should be no problem making a clumsy and unskilled character clumsy and unskilled even when played by a pro - after all the player only tells the character where, when and what they want them to do - how they actually do it can fully depend on the stats.
Another example - perception, finding traps and all manner of small details - even in a highly detailed FPP game it's a matter of flagging whether or not to render something based on a stat check - voila, noticing things skill is now both 100% player skill and 100% character skill in your game.
Yeah, but where is the cRPG that we all waited and hoped for to implement all that? Before, I falsely mentioned that in New Vegas, we can be granted companion perk to spot traps, when in truth it was from a mod, and I vaguely remember it doesn't even use perception to spot traps. Also, like I mentioned, the Gothic games made your character clumsy at combat until he's trained to wield one-handed or two-handed weapons, and even when you've trained your character the players still need to be completely engaged with the gameplay by playing to the rhythm of the mechanics.
But other than those games, where? Until a cRPG product is made that implement all those solution you mentioned to make the gameplay completely rely both on 100% player's skills and 100% character's skills, I still stand by my argument that any proper computer
-RPGs will always rely on ~10% of player's skill of playing the character properly + ~90% a mix of character's skills and gameplay system (of which the influence of the gameplay system can be tilted to player's favor as character's skills increases).
Ironically, the one stat that cannot be isolated this way is intelligence, so it's not twitchy games that are the problem here, but the fact that in a cRPG you have no way to stop a player playing retarded character from playing them as tactical genius.
You know idiot savant is a thing, right? Take a look at one of character background in Arcanum
You were institutionalized at a young age and believed to be mentally handicapped. After several years, the institute lost funding and you were turned out onto the street with nothing more than the clothes on your back. You are brilliant with a keen grasp of numbers and mathematics, but you are barely able to talk. You gain a significant bonus to Intelligence
(+6) and an exceptional bonus to your Gambling skill. However, years of being locked away makes you suffer physically and emotionally. You talk as if you had a much lower Intelligence
and you suffer penalties to Strength
(-2), and Willpower
It's not a direct example, but let's go ahead and use it anyway. In case of Arcanum, an idiot savant character are 'brilliant with a keen grasp of numbers and mathematics', yet they talk as if they had much lower Intelligence and, thus, can only spoke unintelligible words barely understood by anyone. Now, let's turn this example around and take a look at actually playing a retarded character. If it's possible for idiot savant to be a playable character background, who can only talk in unintelligible manners yet for some reason excel at working with numbers and mathematics, why is it a problem for players to play an actual retarded characters that can manage themselves in a combat situation like a tactical genius? Also, what if players want to play as half-ogre characters whose intellect and reasoning are designed by devs to be stunted compared by other race? They'll have brute strength attribute that surpasses all of the other races, and with whatever possible growth they can muster, they can gain experience in combat skill like melee and become dexterous. In time, this kind of character can simply approach an enemy and beat/hack/cleave them to death and survive many combat situation, and while not exactly coming out as tactical genius, isn't it possible for such characters to be played for fun?
For that reason I argue that intelligence attribute has no place in cRPGs, because it's either going to be broken or the entire game will suck as a game. Have an "Eloquence" stat if you want a difference in general ability to conduct dialogue, have all manner of specific stat checks in your dialogues whenever they make sense in given context, have magical affinity for spellcasting, but intelligence, as an attribute, needs to go.
But what if one wants to play as a mad scientist? Or just plain scientist who make all of their equipment by themselves? Can an 'Eloquence' stat substitute an attribute that act as a stand-in to intellect and reasoning, that are required to learn and master advanced skills like crafting your own energy weapon?
If your problem is still, 'a retarded character can still be played like a tactical genius', then simply away with Intelligence attribute will not solve the problem of not having a proper attribute that can act as the main stat for super-smart characters. Instead, one can propose to create a system where 'Intelligence' is divided into several sub-stats, corresponding to different type of intelligence that we know of in real-life, but I'm not sure if the product can be fun to play.
We talk about visible stat checks being a problem since they remove the need to think things logically, and yet skills, ultimately, affect everything else without our say. Lockpicking and hacking determine our ability to unlock a safe or hack a computer, and there's 0 player involvement in that: just character skills.
More reasons why Fallout (and to an extent, Arcanum) is the best cRPG ever made. Why? Because that thing you said about skills 'affect everything else without our say'? Those doesn't exist in Fallout and Arcanum. That is because the decision
to lockpick/hacking something or not is entirely up for the players to choose. Decision making
, as JarlFrank said, is part of player's skills. This is very clear especially in Fallout because you as the player need to consciously bring up skill dex, choose 'Lockpick', and then choose the locked doors or containers where you want to attempt the lockpicking.
Besides, why is 'skills affect everything without our say' a bad thing? Or are you not good with seeing your characters somehow jam a lock at first try or somehow lose an entire magazine of ammo because of critical failures that occurs at the start of the game because of low skills?
I personally refuse to acknowledge "in New Vegas, hacking and lockpicking depends entirely on player skill" for two reasons:
First, because there are skill checks in place to see whether or not you are able to engage in the lockpicking/hacking minigame. A better example would be Skyrim: there, unless I'm mistaken, nothing stops the player from lockpicking any chest on the game, short of the amount of lockpicks you have.
First thing first, I never said anything about hacking and lockpicking 'depends entirely
on player skill', instead, I said, "In New Vegas, you have to go through those shitty lockpicking/hacking minigames with their outcome largely
influenced by player's skills instead of character's skills influencing the outcome of such attempt like in Fallout 1&2."
I worded it that way because I'm completely aware that the lockpicking and hacking sequence of New Vegas were divided into 5 rigid threshold of Very Easy (0% skill needed), Easy (25%), Average (50%), Hard (75%), and Very Hard (100%), and that's it. That's it with character's skills involvement in one of supposedly important moment-to-moment gameplay for certain archetype of character in an RPG. The rest of this sequence is up to player's own dexterity of finding the 'sweet spot'.
Also, gating the attempt to arbitrary numbers such as those is no fun to me because then I can't play a high Luck character who can still try lockpicking a high-difficult lock with insufficient skill, and still succeed; or failed miserably due to a critical failure that lead to the door/container being jammed (and in better games, players will be granted options to brute-force their way through the lock by crowbar and/or explosive, thus eliminate the need for save-scumming).
Second, because as DraQ
has mentioned, nothing stops a dumb character from being played as a tactical genius by players. Player skill is inherently present in this games: we can't do without it, and this is especially obvious in what's arguably the most lauded and memorable feature of the Fallout (and Arcanum, as an extension) games, which are the low Intelligence runs. But these are rendered moot when you approach battles as chess games. Why is it that a hacking minigame, which requires a minimum skill level to access it and is reasonably easy to beat any worse than low Intelligence runs in games where playing a low Intelligence character doesn't mean the player will behave as a retard?
This is a question to you and DraQ. When you guys are talking about 'dumb characters being played as a tactical genius', what do you really mean by that? A high-STR, low-INT character who just punch everything to death? If yes, then.... is that really a problem?
Why not, instead, follow JarlFrank's advice and reward players for playing their character *properly*? If a player is playing a dumb-character with high-STR, and thus the only option available for such character is to punch everything to death, AND they can complete a run that way, isn't that in and of itself could be a reward for players who play such character?
Ironically, you are calling Fallout and Fallout 2 for being the better RPGs as "your stats don't determine your chance to succeed in dialogue", but your stats most definitely determine the entirety of your chance to succeed in lockpicking and hacking.
When did I ever say that?
If an RPG is designed in such a way that you *can't* fuck up just because you have high enough stats and skills when navigating dialogue (or even any other non-combat options, honestly), then people will start calling it CYOA.
That doesn't necessarily mean I'm saying, "your stats don't determine your chance to succeed in dialogue". In fact, I even added that bit about "any other non-combat options", which includes lockpicking and hacking.
If, in dialogue, players involvement is necessary in navigating the options correctly, then in case of lockpicking/hacking it's a matter of whether or not it's wise to lockpick/hack certain doors and terminals. Fallout 1&2 might be lacking when it comes to accommodating rogue character archetypes, but Fallout 1.5 & Nevada sure does achieved it gracefully.
Oh, and also, in Arcanum, players DOES have alternative options when lockpicking attempt failed and jammed the lock; we can simply plant an explosive or brute force the lock by attacking it.