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Interview Vault Dweller interviewed about The New World and more at GoHa.Ru

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Tags: Age of Decadence; Colony Ship RPG; Iron Tower Studios; Vault Dweller

The Russian gaming forum GoHa.Ru has an interview with Vault Dweller about his upcoming colony ship RPG, The New World. It's a long and in-depth Q&A, apparently made up questions solicited from their community. Many of the questions concern the evolution of Iron Tower's design philosophy compared to The Age of Decadence. Here's an excerpt:

2 The most common complain about AoD that I've stumbled upon is that it's all about min-maxing. You either have a "perfect" build or you cannot do this, that and that. Many people want to get as much content as possible with a single character, which requires the above mentioned "perfect" build. What are your thoughts on it and how do you plan to deal with it in The New World?"

These are two separate issues. When a player struggles to beat the first few opponents, he assumes – incorrectly – that the only way to beat game is to max the physical stats at the expense of everything else and put all skill points into two skills (weapon and defense). Stats and skills do matter, of course, but tactics matter more.

The max content build is a more complex issue, driven by the player’s desire to get more content in the course of one game, which requires a whole lot of meta-gaming and a carefully researched build, calibrated down to the last skill point. Needless to say it’s not a fun way to play the game.

There are two ways to fix it: either remove most checks, leaving only “cosmetic” checks that give you minor rewards but ultimately change nothing OR replace manual distribution of skill points with an ‘increase by use’ system.

Naturally, the former isn’t an option for us, but the latter is something that fits our overall design (and the party-based setup) better. Now your skills will be determined by your actions and choices not arbitrary distribution of the skill points.

Instead of counting how many times you did something, we’ll assign a certain value (let’s call it learning points) to each activity (attacking, killing, fixing, sneaking, convincing, lying, etc). So killing a tough enemy or repairing a reactor will net you more points than killing a weakling or fixing a toaster. Basically, it will work the same way as XP but go directly toward raising the skill that did all the work.

6 Back to AoD, the uniqueness of each playthrough is based on the fact that the player character is only good at one thing (meta-hybrid builds aside). But TNW is a party-based RPG and we as players will have an option to assemble a party of specialists: a fighter, a talker, an explorer and so on. How would you make us want to replay it for the 10th time?

That’s easy – choices.

While your party would be able to handle more than a single character would, when it comes to choices and picking sides, you’re still limited to one outcome. So if we do a good job with the setting and story, you’d still want to see how things would play out if you make different choices.

Keep in mind that since we’re going with an ‘increase by use’ system, creating specialists won’t be as easy as simply spending skill points on whatever you see fit. If you want your infiltration specialist to be good, you’d have to provide opportunities to practice that craft – at the expense of other skills.

For example, in one of the early quests you’re tasked with acquiring energy cores from one of the scavenger crews. Naturally, you can kill them all (everyone’s combat skills go up), bullshit them (your talker’s skills go up), kill the leader with a critical strike (your CS skill goes up), or sneak inside, pick the lock on the strongbox, and get the cores without raising suspicions (your infiltrator’s skills go up). Before you ask, you won’t be able to sneak in, steal what you need, THEN kill them all to get max points.

18 Name 3 biggest mistakes current RPG developers (both indie and AAA) make while developing their games? Including your own if you'd like.

Such things are awfully subjective. I didn’t really like Legend of Grimrock that much, but I loved Legend of Grimrock 2 because they went open-world and did it really well, in my opinion. Yet LoG2 sold a third of what the first game sold and some people believe that the open world thing is to blame. So one man’s design mistake is another man’s best design ever.

As for our mistakes, the list is long so it won’t be hard to pick top 3:

We balanced combat around ‘specialists’, which made playing a ‘hybrid’ the hardest difficulty mode. The idea was that the players would beat the game with a specialist first and then play with a more balanced but more challenging character. Turned out everyone wants to play a hybrid but not everyone can figure out the combat system on the fly. That’s why “too difficult, can’t play it” is the #1 complaint.

To be clear, the mistake isn’t that the game is too difficult but that playing a hybrid character (fighter/talker) is nearly impossible for the first time players.

Inverted difficulty. Teron is the hardest town, mainly because your skills are low and your gear is shit. As you progress, the game gets easier and easier because your skills and gear improve but you’re still dealing with human enemies (whereas in most RPGs you’d have switched to higher level monsters a long time ago). Granted, there is a difference between some low level thugs/guards and highly skilled soldiers but that difference only goes so far.

Not enough content in Ganezzar (the third town). While Ganezzar has as many faction and side quests as any other town (and even has the siege event), most players walk away with an impression that there isn’t enough content. Why?

We underestimated the amount of content it would require in general. Ganezzar could have absorbed twice as much content without making you feel overwhelmed;

We overlooked the fact that many side quests required certain past events like making a deal with Marcus Valla to get the power armor, surviving Miltiades’ attempts to kill you and then saving his ass in Maadoran and helping him, etc.

Worst of all, we made an easy to miss 5-quest fork, instead of adding five stand-alone quests available to everyone. As a result, if you missed the fork and didn’t do the pre-requisites for other quests in Teron and Maadoran, you will have fewer quests available, especially if you were kicked out from your faction.
Read the whole thing, it's Codex-tier material. Bravo, GoHa. There was another interview with Vault Dweller earlier this month at the website of a writer named Chris Picone, which also included Iron Tower's composer Ryan Paul, but it's more of a general interest piece.
 

Iznaliu

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Such things are awfully subjective. I didn’t really like Legend of Grimrock that much, but I loved Legend of Grimrock 2 because they went open-world and did it really well, in my opinion. Yet LoG2 sold a third of what the first game sold and some people believe that the open world thing is to blame. So one man’s design mistake is another man’s best design ever.

I think LoG2 sold poorly since the dungeon-crawler fad was over; nothing fancier is needed to explain its sales.
 

Shadenuat

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Sure, Arcanum, being a proper role-playing game, didn't treat the party members as mindless meat bags. They could object to questionable actions and disagree and even leave you - unless you pacify them with gifts, which made the entire concept pointless. You could do whatever you wanted as long as you had some earl grey tea or absinthe or sweet cakes. Apparently, women will let you get away with murder (literally) if you ply them with sweet cakes. True or false?
I don't get it, is that supposed to be a trick question
 
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Drog Black Tooth

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Can't wait to play my "die over 9000 times to figure out the EXACT stats needed to proceed" RPG except this time with a sci-fi reskin. I mean, relying on meta-knowledge as a fake difficulty crutch is so hardcore!

Get HYPED for VD's next bout of autism.
 

Drowed

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I would say that what VD need to do is give more options/choices that aren't directly dependent on the concept of your character.

Some choices based on attributes, that's great, but what about more choices that are simply choices - alternative solutions based only on a different opinion, clever way of using an item, knowledge gained from exploring the game (information on a computer that allows you to blackmail someone or reveal something unexpected), or previous events. AOD has some of these, that's true, but not nearly enough. Then again, it is difficult to require a greater number of options with a reduced team - there's only so much that one or two people can write. Interestingly, despite the large number of choices in there, AOD's design makes it feels like a more 'limited' game rather than a 'freer' one.
 

Western

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Anyone have a link to the English interview? Whenever I click the English interview link on the page it just links me back to the Russian interview.
 

VentilatorOfDoom

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Some choices based on attributes, that's great, but what about more choices that are simply choices - alternative solutions based only on a different opinion, clever way of using an item, knowledge gained from exploring the game (information on a computer that allows you to blackmail someone or reveal something unexpected), or previous events. AOD has some of these, that's true, but not nearly enough.
Yes, being held hostage by your characters humble statistics instead of being able to choose what you like no matter the skills/stats of your char - the eternal problem with RPGs like AoD for players who really should be playing adventure games instead.
 

Ismaul

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Some choices based on attributes, that's great, but what about more choices that are simply choices - alternative solutions based only on a different opinion, clever way of using an item, knowledge gained from exploring the game (information on a computer that allows you to blackmail someone or reveal something unexpected), or previous events. AOD has some of these, that's true, but not nearly enough.
Yes, being held hostage by your characters humble statistics instead of being able to choose what you like no matter the skills/stats of your char - the eternal problem with RPGs like AoD for players who really should be playing adventure games instead.
That's rather reductive man. This is an RPG. You make choices. Those choices have consequences. It's only logical that some of the next choices you have depend on those consequences. That's implied behind what's being proposed here: use an item (requires choices to find it if it's gated), use information (requires choices to access it), use previous events (determined by choices). What is wrong in all that? Some stats/skills had to come into play at some point anyways.

Plus, don't tell me that this choice is great: "[Speech] Win the conversation." Sometimes, it's better to have a choice that's not only dependent on stats/skills: "[Speech] I think you should do A." OR "[Speech] I think you should do B." There are also "stats" that are not what's usually thought of as stats (aka attributes), such as reputation, kill count, etc, that could influence choices. We had some in AoD.

Other times, it's okay to have something else than stats/skills determine a choice, because choices shouldn't always be about what you can do. Sometimes, it's ok to make choices based on what matters to your character. You know, shit like values, principles, how you like the NPC in front of you, etc. Context could also play a role.
 
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There's this type of stat check obsessed CRPG player that if they had their way you could just add a quality of life feature to the options of auto-selecting at random the 1 or 2 courses of action that their character actually qualifies to so the player can just watch the game unfold before him like a novel.
 

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Really?

Stat check obsessed, yet wouldn't select a course of action? What kind of ass-backwards RPG player would that be?
 
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Excidium II

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It's not like it matters. You know you're gonna pass and be rewarded. How often do CRPGs screw you for passing a stat check? AoD does have a few instances were you are punished for being dumb iirc.
 

Morkar Left

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Some choices based on attributes, that's great, but what about more choices that are simply choices - alternative solutions based only on a different opinion, clever way of using an item, knowledge gained from exploring the game (information on a computer that allows you to blackmail someone or reveal something unexpected), or previous events. AOD has some of these, that's true, but not nearly enough.
Yes, being held hostage by your characters humble statistics instead of being able to choose what you like no matter the skills/stats of your char - the eternal problem with RPGs like AoD for players who really should be playing adventure games instead.

There's a difference of giving you choices (actual decisions) and doing everything stat dependent while at the same time allowing you only a very small amount of skill points.
At least for solo rpgs. In a party rpg where you can use every party members skills it wouldn't be a problem. That's why I'm really looking forward to The New World.
 

HeatEXTEND

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a carefully researched build, calibrated down to the last skill point. Needless to say it’s not a fun way to play the game.

Oh......
Sad-Cat.jpg
 

FeelTheRads

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Can't wait to play my "die over 9000 times to figure out the EXACT stats needed to proceed" RPG except this time with a sci-fi reskin. I mean, relying on meta-knowledge as a fake difficulty crutch is so hardcore!

Get HYPED for VD's next bout of autism.

AoD is a rogue-like, dude, didn't you know?
 

Drowed

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Yes, being held hostage by your characters humble statistics instead of being able to choose what you like no matter the skills/stats of your char - the eternal problem with RPGs like AoD for players who really should be playing adventure games instead.

The interesting thing is that even if you create a super-character with 15 in all attributes (but 10 in intelligence and charisma, otherwise the game breaks), with all skills maximized - someone who can do everything and anything you want in the game... The feeling still remains. I did this in my 4th playthrough. AOD offers several choices for characters with specific skills, but few of them are choices based on "personal opinions" or clever/unexpected ways of dealing with the quests. If feels more like a puzzle game sometimes, where you need to discover how you need to place the pieces.

Perhaps for some, this is really the pinnacle of RPG design. For me, I regret that VD don't have a team three times bigger, with two or three more writers on the same level as him.
 

Merlkir

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I enjoy stat and skill checks in games, but it's frustrating to run into walls i can't get around unless i either grind for that specific check, or start the game over. I quite like systems that incorporate a gradient of success/failure, rather than a hard fail/pass result. So maybe i'm not amazing at the skill, but i manage to further the story, get into the area, or get the companion. Even if i also suffered a material or resource loss, or if the companion does't like me very much, or if they don't bring some cool gear to the party, like if i aced the check better. It's a bit more work for the designer, but it removes much frustration.
 

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