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What drove BG3's success, game mechanics or emotional engagement?

agris

Arcane
Patron
Joined
Apr 16, 2004
Messages
6,869
AAA cRPG is an oxymoron, what we have now has more in common with daytime soap operas than cRPGs.

Emphasis on relationships, vocal delivery, realistic cutscenes involving actor movement and camera work…
There's a myopic denial of Larian's focus on core gameplay, honed through three successive titles, in comments like these.

I believe that BioWare failed as a game company because they never cultivated an "identity" in terms of gameplay. Their signature narrative style was all they had and it wasn't enough.

In BG3, the cinematics are still just the cherry on top, even if it's an increasingly large cherry.
1453385.512.webp


your back must hurt from carrying all that water

you aren't stupid, so lets be real: why is BG3 so commercially successful? I think there's six or seven big factors to consider.

  • D&D name recognition
  • Baldur's Gate name recognition
  • Larian / Original Sin name recognition
  • Local or online Co-op play
  • Audience flattery / emotional connections (dress up, companion bonding, romances, sex, cutscenes)
  • Recognizing player narrative/quest choices via visual consequences
  • Game mechanics, i.e. itemization, character building, TB combat, full party control, encounter design, map verticality

We could squabble over how sub-components are grouped, especially the final bullet, but roll with me for a bit.

So what separates this iteration of pulling the larian toilet chain from their earlier releases?

To ground this discussion, lets look at some stats of how larian's modern releases have performed.

mIu96rP.png


Looking at the above, we see that BG3 has ~1 order of magnitude more max players than DOS 2, and a factor of ~39x more than DOS 1 ever got. Using median steam owners, we see BG3 is owned by ~3x (vs. DOS2) to ~12x (vs. DOS1) more than earlier games. Note that these are very conservative estimates, as the original sin series has gone on sale and been offered in bundles throughout the years, while BG3 hasn't dropped below $50 USD since release. It also doesn't include console data, which I expect would push BG3's multipliers even higher.

TLDR: a very conservative estimate is that BG3 is 3x to 12x more commercially successful than earlier iterations of the larian formula.

There's a myopic denial of Larian's focus on core gameplay, honed through three successive titles, in comments like these. I believe that BioWare failed as a game company because they never cultivated an "identity" in terms of gameplay. Their signature narrative style was all they had and it wasn't enough.

I agree with you that the numbers put up by BG3 are due to factors beyond name recognition / IP / brand. Those things are good to get eyes on the product, but not enough to make it successful the way BG3 has been - you need the gameplay to actually be good. This sentiment is reinforced by the numerous, high-name recognition AAA flops excreted out by Warner Bros, Bethesda, Squeenix, etc. So let's remove points related to name recognition from our list of items possibly responsible for BG3's success. We are left with:

  1. Local or online Co-op play
  2. Audience flattery / emotional connections (dress up, companion bonding, romances, sex, cutscenes)
  3. Acknowledging player narrative/quest choices via conspicuous consequences (CnC for those in the back)
  4. Game mechanics, i.e. itemization, character building, TB combat, full party control, encounter design, map design (verticality)

From the list above, the item that receives by far the most attention in casuals' discussion of BG3 is the production values, specifically those surrounding companion interactions. I understand that co-op play is not significantly refined vs the original sin series, so scratch 1 out. Is BG3's CnC responsible for mass market success ~39x that of DOS1? Get real, the market isn't sensitive to that kind of nuance at BG3 sales' scale. Scratch item 3.

So now we're discussing what moves the needle at mass scale:, flattering the audience through well-known effects of emotional engagement via reinforcement theory, or... barrelmancy at the edge of a cliff?

I can not believe - with all your knowledge of the industry and their use of the psychological sciences to drive commercial success - you think a game that is most notable for everyone in Faerun wanting to bone the main character owes it success to the refinement of mechanics outside of player ego-massaging and emotional engagement. You know, kinda like a soap opera?

Truth be told, you're mostly right. Larian has cultivated an identity. One that is principally derived through social reinforcement. Players are told how special and fuckable they are, reinforced by dramatic camera angles (including bokeh effect!), realistic looking NPCs with full voice over... and occasionally pushing barrels around a game board or genociding some druids.

I think it degrades the audience and I find it disgusting, especially done at scale in the name of a hobby that I enjoy.

I was aware of audience reinforcement in news media: to buttress subscriptions and audience retention by confirming their beliefs - including their superiority over "the other" in political press.

What I was less aware of was the science behind it and how it's been widely adopted by media producers as a whole, including entertainment.

There's a wiki on Reinforcement Theory here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reinforcement_theory

Note that it doesn't mention audience flattery or emotional engagement. For that, you need to look at the hacks marketing those things in the name of Reinforcement Theory. Some select links below.

  1. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/6-ways-use-psychology-reinforcement-theory-make-your-content-demers/
  2. https://www.inc.com/larry-alton/how-to-flatter-your-target-audience-and-why-you-should.html
  3. https://www.quora.com/What-is-reinforcement-motivation-theory/answer/Leopoldo-Perdomo-1
  4. https://www.productmarketingalliance.com/value-marketing-how-to-resonate-with-your-customers-values/#<strong>best-practices-for-effective-value-marketing</strong>
  5. https://www.techtarget.com/whatis/definition/reinforcement-theory
  6. https://courses.lumenlearning.com/wm-introductiontobusiness/chapter/reinforcement-theory/
A lot of this coincides with how the game flagrantly supports certain social stances, the audience is primed to understand that the game "gets them". It's all consistent with reinforcing the audiences beliefs that they are special, they are right, they are seen.


final note: I don't think Larian engineered their game to exploit the psychological tendencies of players specifically. I think people at the studio understand what drives engagement, like this type of presentation, and rolled with it. Good for them, it's a huge success when dovetailed with the production qualities of BG3.
 
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Larianshill

Arbiter
Joined
Feb 16, 2021
Messages
1,776
Cinematic cutscenes, voice acting, high production values, good graphics, sex. BG3 is a spiritual successor to DAO, and is popular for the same reasons DAO was. Venn diagram of BG3 fandoms and the Dragon Age fandom may not be a circle, but it's up there.
 

Jvegi

Arcane
Glory to Ukraine
Joined
Nov 16, 2012
Messages
5,121
Marketing.
Haven't played the game, but I suspect this is correct. Marketers made gullible consumers believe it was a popular game, and so they all had to play it to fit in.
Deep. I bet you were popular in school. Anyway...

Original Sin 2 was popular and this game seems to be better in most respects. ergo: more succesful.

I don't know of it's good, have not played it, but I see nothing weird about it being popular. There are worse things that are popular.
 

Iucounu

Educated
Joined
Jul 4, 2023
Messages
649
Marketing.
Haven't played the game, but I suspect this is correct. Marketers made gullible consumers believe it was a popular game, and so they all had to play it to fit in.
If it were just marketing, there wouldn't be AAA flops.
That's certainly true, if a game is poor in every way (like Starfield, supposedly). But marketing is usually what makes one mediocre product succeed over the rest.
 

__scribbles__

Educated
Joined
Jul 5, 2022
Messages
324
Location
The Void
I'm not sure if you are serious but there was opinion that Larian's previous games profited from good mp (as far as TB crpg can). Is it really the case in with BG3? I seriously doubt it but i'm not following this... thing so i ask.
It seems natural to me that a AAA game using the most popular pen-and-paper system today would benefit from being able to be played with other people. I've seen both IRL and online people saying something along the lines of "D&D on the computer is finally here". And regardless of how true that statement is it's clear to me that, for normies, being able to fuck around with their friends in a computerized version of a TTRPG is one of the core appeals of the game.

Note that I haven't played the game myself but from what I've seen and heard, multiplayer is one of the reasons the game succeeded that hadn't already been mentioned earlier in the thread.
 

Baron Tahn

Scholar
Joined
Aug 1, 2018
Messages
345
Actually now I'm wondering...

What ARE the statistics for actual playtime of most players? Usually very few people finish games, especially rpgs.

Be interesting to know the sales vs completion ratios for this.
 

Strange Fellow

Peculiar
Patron
Joined
Jun 21, 2018
Messages
4,049
Steve gets a Kidney but I don't even get a tag.
I can not believe - with all your knowledge of the industry and their use of the psychological sciences to drive commercial success - you think a game that is most notable for everyone in Faerun wanting to bone the main character owes it success to the refinement of mechanics outside of player ego-massaging and emotional engagement.
That's why I bought it. It's also why my friend with whom I co-oped the D:OS games bought it, and why that friend convinced a third friend to buy it so he could play co-op with us. Other people I know bought it because it's a DnD product, and DnD is massive these days. If Larian has cultivated a reputation, it's one that begins with D:OS 1 and is based on a combination of world interactivity and intuitive turn-based combat which leads to fun co-op shenanigans. The first Original Sin didn't have a trace of Bioware degeneracy. The second game had some, which no doubt helped it sell, but even so I never saw it gain a reputation as a storyfag dating sim or anything like that. Even here on the Codex the focus was mostly on the (bad) systems. The idea that Larian were always degenerates is some serious revisionism. The truth is that they've built up a strong brand over a period of years, and were lucky enough to recieve the opportunity to combine that with the DnD license at the perfect moment. Courtesy of their shitty new writers they were able to rope in the Bioware diaspora as a bonus. I don't doubt that the latter group contributed to BG3's sales figures, but your sweeping dismissal of the idea that its success could be a compound of factors is bullshit.
 

Hagashager

Educated
Joined
Nov 24, 2022
Messages
549
Is it really that hard to believe players, even casual players, enjoy games that challenge them slightly? I think the sex, and emotional engagement most definitely got eyes on the game. "Sex Sells" is a coined phrase for a reason. I 100% believe that pulled the numbers it did.

The maintained engagement though I think speaks to the fact that people *want* a product that's long lasting, crunchy and indulges in a power fantasy at the end of it.

Nobody en-masse is going to BG3 for their porn. It's the same reason you'll never see a math problem prompt be triggered before Ron Jeremy blows his load on Alexis Texas. The crunchy gameplay, no matter how soft and seemingly wasy it is to a Codexer, is cerebral for most consumers.

I also think graphics goes a long way. Similar to old Adventure Games being very beautiful and funny to offset the puzzles, the beautiful and adventurous spirit of BG 3 makes the crunch feel really rewarding.
 

agris

Arcane
Patron
Joined
Apr 16, 2004
Messages
6,869
I can not believe - with all your knowledge of the industry and their use of the psychological sciences to drive commercial success - you think a game that is most notable for everyone in Faerun wanting to bone the main character owes it success to the refinement of mechanics outside of player ego-massaging and emotional engagement.
That's why I bought it. It's also why my friend with whom I co-oped the D:OS games bought it, and why that friend convinced a third friend to buy it so he could play co-op with us. Other people I know bought it because it's a DnD product, and DnD is massive these days. If Larian has cultivated a reputation, it's one that begins with D:OS 1 and is based on a combination of world interactivity and intuitive turn-based combat which leads to fun co-op shenanigans. The first Original Sin didn't have a trace of Bioware degeneracy. The second game had some, which no doubt helped it sell, but even so I never saw it gain a reputation as a storyfag dating sim or anything like that. Even here on the Codex the focus was mostly on the (bad) systems. The idea that Larian were always degenerates is some serious revisionism. The truth is that they've built up a strong brand over a period of years, and were lucky enough to recieve the opportunity to combine that with the DnD license at the perfect moment. Courtesy of their shitty new writers they were able to rope in the Bioware diaspora as a bonus. I don't doubt that the latter group contributed to BG3's sales figures, but your sweeping dismissal of the idea that its success could be a compound of factors is bullshit.
I didn't say they were always degenerates, or sweepingly dismiss BG3s success through a dismissal of the sum of its parts

Mind quoting the relevant sections so we can have a discussion? re: sweeping dismissal, I don't know how to analyze it through a sum of the parts is less than the total lens. I can only focus on what is consistently discussed wrt the game, and that is (a) production values, and (b) companions.

I don't say it's a bad game, yet what is at issue in my OP is why it is such a commercial success compared to previous games when it shares many of the similar elements to the much-less-successful by comparison DOSs. Contrary to your point, I don't claim the amount of player-centric emotional engagement in BG3 is the same as in the DOSs, I highlight it as a contrast to the previous games.

Finally, the scale of success may be due to millions of people wanting to play co-op D&D with their friends, but if we look at indices of interest like mods or fan discussions, the content is mostly focused on dressing up, making the game easier, or having more/different sex with things.
 
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scytheavatar

Scholar
Joined
Sep 22, 2016
Messages
449
93701 peak concurrent players is super impressive for DOS2; Pathfinder WOTR in comparison had 46563. It is clear that Larian has been able to build up from the momentum they had starting with DOS1 and not just get people coming back to their games, but also to attract new audiences. The likes of Owlcat and Obsidian wasn't able to do the same, Obsidian is sold to Microsoft because Pillars 2 had negative momentum. This shows that Larian is king not just because Swen is the best game director ever, but also because he's the best businessman in the CRPG space ever.
 

Baron Tahn

Scholar
Joined
Aug 1, 2018
Messages
345
Concurrent players doesnt mean they stuck, it means the marketing was strong. Wonder how many stuck with it past Act 2. I didnt, although I might go back with some gay avoidance/heterosexual mods and available time.
 

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