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Evolution of CRPG's gameplay

Discussion in 'Playground' started by kaucukovnik, Dec 16, 2007.

  1. kaucukovnik Gems: 1/31
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    I've been dstracted from playing BG2 by various gaming or non-gaming events, latest one being the discovery of the Eye of the Beholder Trilogy deep in a shelf full of old CDs. I have finished the first one, and now I'm playing EoB2: The Legend of Darkmoon.

    EoB games use AD&D rules like BG series and also take place in Forgotten Realms. Despite such similarity, I couldn't have not noticed some major differences:

    EoB has MUCH easier battles than any IE game, especially if you spend some time rolling your chars or even edit their stats (it's possible without any cheating, the game offers the possibility freely). Every enemy so far is dead after a few succesful hits (well, Xanathar, the EoB1 boss took about 15 or 20 hits before he went down, and there's a trick to kill him even easier, suggested a few times through the plot). A bit of mindless hack&slash, sometimes dispelling a negative status effect and that's all. And I don't use any buffs - there aren't many though. Well, the battle is not only about the stats and equipment, you need quick fingers as well, but I find this to be a good part of the gameplay.

    On the other hand, I can't imagine finishing these games on my own without looking into some walkthrough from time from time. There is no automapping so you either get maps someone has made or you actually draw your own maps - trying to play without any maps is a good start for insanity. The puzzles are quite hard - secret walls (and no thief ability to find them, you must do that yourself), hideen small buttons and quests for items based on a riddle, while you must pick the right item - having it in your inventory isn't enough. Holes in the ground, while sometimes it is good to fall through them to get to a lower level quickly.

    In nowadays CRPG's, all you have to do is visit all accessible places, pick up all the quest items (which are mostly well recognized from the regular ones), then trying to click all active areas and trigger all quest dialogues. Repeat this a few times and voila...location solved. Well, I'm speaking about BG series mostly, but most games act in similar way. The game thinks for you and lets you only have the feeling that you solved the puzzles/quests. With some bright exceptions of course (like some Spellhold puzzles in BG2). If you have to answer a riddle, you pick from a few options, one of them being quite obviously the right one.
    The battles are a different story. Sometimes you try ten times, and not only luck determines whether you win or perish. Interesting equipment giving you combat options that are really enjoyable.

    What's the point of my long speech? Playing the newer CRPG's I got used to quite complicated battles, but I have become very lazy regarding any puzzle solving - it seems that having piles of papers with handwritten notes is outdated. And I don't know if it's good.

    Being stuck at one place without any clue what to do is definitely not good, but rushing through all game areas with puzzles being solved automatically isn't good either. Simple combat like "Strike, Strike, Sidestep, Strike...) is not the best, but watching your party die for the fifth time because of not having (or overlooking) a certain spell is no greater fun. All these situations are good occasionally, but not as a standard gameplay.

    Eh, maybe it's just nostalgia... ;)

    Have you noticed something similar yourselves? And does anyone know a game having these aspect somehow well balanced?
     
  2. Taluntain

    Taluntain Resident Alpha and Omega Staff Member ★ SPS Account Holder Resourceful Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) BoM XenForo Migration Contributor [2015] (for helping support the migration to new forum software!)

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    Yea, and I think it's understandable, because the adventure game genre has mostly died out. 10, 15 years ago almost everyone who was playing adventure games was also playing CRPGs, and the approach with puzzles and running around without the solution being obviously pushed in your face was a common gaming experience. But slowly and surely, adventure games have declined in popularity, and so have most of the approaches to anything that don't simply require brute force. I believe that game designers have purposefully been dumbing down and simplifying the games on this level so that the increasingly larger non-hardcore gamer audience would not be scared away by the amount of thinking required to get ahead in the game.

    Mind you, this didn't really make the games much easier, it has only shifted the difficulty into repetitive tasks, like reloading a dozen times so that you could beat a certain battle. My guess would be that game developers have figured out that intellectual puzzles that people couldn't solve were likely to turn them away (giving them the feeling that they're not smart enough for the game), whereas difficult combat situations can in most cases be beat simply by repositioning your troops and trying different approaches (not necessarily using much tactical planning), which is easier to do (just reload) and less frustrating than being stuck with a puzzle you can't solve.
     
  3. Blackthorne TA

    Blackthorne TA Master in his Own Mind Staff Member ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    Yeah, and I find it unfortunate because I still do like adventure games, and I look forward to puzzles.

    Like Tal, I don't find it surprising because every time there is a puzzle in a CRPG that isn't immediately obvious to everyone, it gets complaints online that the game is stupid and what a lame puzzle that is and I hate all these damned puzzles.

    IMO in this day of walkthroughs on the internet the day after the game is released, I would welcome more cerebral challenges in the CRPGs again because those that don't like it can get their answers pretty easily if they want.
     
  4. Blog Gems: 23/31
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    Yeah, gone are the days where you got stuck in a game because you didn't know what to do or how to solve a puzzle. I remember times when I had to put a game down because I was stuck for weeks, think of something to try or explore, and then replay the game to try it. You even had to read journal entries in the manual to figure out what's going on and how to proceed. Now I get stuck in games because I need to level up or find a way to beat some monster in a battle. That usually takes a few reloads or some hours of gaining XP. But you knew in a matter of time, you'd survive his xxx attack and be on your way. Like Tal says, cRPG's have made a transition from adventure-based to action-based puzzles.

    Information online spoils both type of puzzles; it's hard to say which gets spoiled more though. It does make me lazier though. When I played EoB 15 years ago, there was no internet so I explored in great depth and even mapped some dungeons out on graph paper for EoB2. Eventually I solved the game without help, but it took months since I'd quit sometimes. Now, I just tried Dungeon Master 1987 on DosBox (similar gaming style as EoB but more dungeon crawling than RPG), got stuck, but sadly decided to read a walkthrough in less than one week of trying. Sigh, where did my persistence go, the reason I was stuck was so trivial too.. argh

    As for a game that balances the two, I'll have to give that one some thought. Actually, I started Dungeon Master last week in an attempt to find a more adventurous game, where I can put my automapping skills to work again. I'd like to find an online game like EoB or Dungeon Hack, with random dungeons and treasures, but maybe a better combat system.
     
  5. Enagonios Gems: 31/31
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    Old-fogeys ;)

    I never played the games you guys are talking about but from the description you guys give, I probably never would've been able to finish them :O I needed a walkthrough to solve the puzzle portions in Prince of Persia and the Final Fantasy games :|

    I love riddle type puzzles but when it comes to general puzzle solving, count me out :/
     
  6. nior Gems: 24/31
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    A general observation of mine regarding CRPGs, I find that the younger generation (yeah, I admit I know and played some of those old games mentioned) have lesser patience. Most would choose to use brute force rather than think of a more creative solution. Turn-based used to be great but now, probably old guys like us can appreciate them. We used to draw our own maps, jot down formulas, stuffs, quests, and characters, now, it's a standard feature. And just recently, I've heard a lot of complains that The Witcher took from 10sec to 2min to load. They obviously never played CRPGs in a PC-XT. But of course, I'm not complaining, I enjoyed the old games as much as these new ones.
     
  7. dmc

    dmc Speak softly and carry a big briefcase Staff Member Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Resourceful Adored Veteran New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!)

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    I miss the Zorks, the Scott Adams adventures, and good old Colossal Cave. I don't miss playing them on a C64, Apple II or the old PDP-20/20 with reams of paper at 110 baud.

    Gee, am I dating myself here? :geezer:

    I first noticed this dumbing down of games consciously with the absurdly easy "riddles" in BGII. Not only were they easy, the answers were given to you in the form of multiple choice responses. (Then again, the answer to the riddle at the end of Wizardy 2: The Knight of Diamonds was, wait for it, "The Knight of Diamonds"

    I also don't remember there being any difficult puzzles in the original Might and Magic.
     
  8. jaded empath Gems: 20/31
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    Yeah, Zork III and Planetfall, as well some of the n Quest games got me started. Adventure and sim games abounded, but I was an AD&D holdout - I didn't bother with Wizardry or Bard's Tale or other CRPGs until TSR/SSI brought out Pool of Radiance. The 'Gold Box' games were rather hit-and-miss for 'puzzle' or 'combat'; some were pretty flat and were more like tactical wargames that involved planning and prep (and constant reloading) like the BG's, yet others had plenty of interesting puzzles akin to the hairpulling of say King's Quest III or EoB.

    And back then, the Internet was still the domain of university and military researchers, and Compuserve, Genie & The Source were unavailable in the hinterlands out here...without a huge LD phonebill, so we had to rely on this unusual hint system:

    Friends

    You'd install the game, and play it until stuck, then (usually after several days of fruitless effort) you'd either invite a friend over to 'take a look' - the second pair of eyes might come up with what you missed - or even loan the game to the friend to play through (sometimes providing help for earlier problems (s)he got stuck on that you breezed past).

    After in-game copy protection died off (the original Pirates! was amusing - not only needed a 'bad sector' original disk, it booted it's own O/S off that floppy :D ) my circle of friends would share our games and play them concurrently, providing advice and ideas to each other as we went...and we usually got 'stuck' less often.

    I do remember having to buy the Invisiclues for Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy for the dang Infinite Improbability Drive sequences (where you're 'replaying' events as other characters) but that sort of thing felt like admitting defeat.

    And then again, now I'll download a demo of a game, and immediately snoop around GameFAQs to see if there's anything there about the demo before playing as almost a 'preemptive strike' against puzzles; we really HAVE spurned puzzle-solving in games, haven't we? :(
     
  9. chevalier

    chevalier Knight of Everfull Chalice ★ SPS Account Holder Veteran

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    I remember some of that from older games, but much of it I do not mourn. One doesn't have the time and sometimes the nerve to push the walls. Some riddles are not merely difficult, they're exclusive and restrictive, making you come up with something without much clue, making you wonder if walkthrough authors didn't obtain the information from the devs rather than from playing the game themselves.

    Yes, that looks like farming. On the other hand, quest items do need something to make you hold on to them. I don't like unmarked quest items which don't stand out in any other way either. You throw away something monetarily worthless and visually plain and then voila, it turns out you can't accomplish your mission.

    Or reload and finally something works. Looks like an interactive film or perhaps an extremely easy adventure game equipped with some growing stats for (scaled, obviously) combat.

    Well, I actually like realism. This means having to plan the battles for which you're prepared, but not forcing you to reload over random encounters. When you realise, "wow, without the reload button, I'd be dead ten times already in this adventure," it's not that fun. Especially not fun when 500-1000 XP (per 3E terms) enemies are pushovers and 15 XP (Challenge Rating Effortless to Easy) can deprive you of half your hit points. This is the fault of many new games.

    Depends. I just want immersion and realism. "Undue complication" doesn't always mean challenge to me. Sometimes it's just grief. On the other hand, I'd certainly rather there were more dialogue and less hack & slash.

    Yup. You had the book in your inventory and the game applied the content of it to the puzzle, so you've solved it without actually having to solve it. A bit easy, I'd say.

    Not really. NWN 1-2 modules are laden with combat imbalance. BG1-2, how many times can you play? Besides, lack of balance is present there too. Older games are not really up to date on graphics and therefore they don't provide the incentive to play. That is, my brother did play Might & Magic 4-5 some time ago, but he's hardcore about it.
     
  10. kaucukovnik Gems: 1/31
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    There would be a way like a hint system you can turn on or off (being rewarded apropriately when using no hints), but again, who will make a game feature that only a minority of players is going to use and enjoy...

    The general problem with difficulty is common for both combat-based and puzzle-based games. What one finds insane, another one calls a piece of cake. If a puzzle is too easy, you can solve it by an accident. If it is too hard, you can miss one clue (or a certain idea doesn't occur to you) and you get stuck literally forever. The same with combat - if there's a chance to succeed with brute force alone, a couple of reloads is all you have to do. If there is a required strategy/spell/item/whatever, some players may never get through the particular battle.
    The solution could be diversity of games, but the market tends toward cloning and expanding only the most succesfull (=best selling) concepts :(.

    EDIT: chevalier: I agree that sometimes the old games' puzzles were more frustrating than enjoyable. But the feeling if you defeated them finally... True is that if such situations occur regularly, whole game becomes frustrating. The graphics isn't that important to me (VGA 320x200, 256 colors can look really nice), but an old and non-intuitive interface can ruin game's playability for me.
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2007
  11. Blog Gems: 23/31
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    ah, Might and Magic has some decent puzzles but the combat system isn't spectacular. The one that hit the spot for me was Might and Magic 3. You'll need to take notes manually, but there is an automap I think.

    Ultima Underworld 1 & 2 have puzzles, automapping that lets you take notes ON the map (as opposed to scrap paper on your desk), a better combat system and even a good storyline for role playing. It plays like EoB but not on a grid (the movement is continuous), so you could still do the swing, back up, swing, back up thing. But if a monster is too hard for you, this tactic won't win you the battle. There's more guidance (in UW2 at least) if you get stuck, as you can talk to Lord British and people.
     
  12. Aikanaro Gems: 31/31
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    Eh, puzzles generally annoy the hell out of me. Sure, it's a pretty good feeling to solve them on your own, but it's not a good feeling to be staring at a brick wall with no idea how to continue. 'Interesting puzzles' is never a reason for me to pick up a game - if I'm playing a game with puzzles it's because I've heard good things about the atmosphere, or the writing, or the whatever else.

    Multiple solutions to a situation would probably fix this. A puzzle will get you past this door ... but so will going to the king and asking him to lend you a battering ram and some soldiers...
     
  13. AMaster Gems: 26/31
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    Or casting Meteor Swarm. 'You seek to bar my way, door? DIE!'

    aka the Deus Ex approach. You wanna run and gun, have fun. You wanna put on your thinkin' cap, have fun.
     
  14. Blog Gems: 23/31
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    oh just thought of another one: Lufia 2 for SNES! It plays like a Final Fantasy except in dungeons / caves where it feels more like Legend of Zelda. There are some original puzzles in that game. But most of them are like Zelda dungeon-style puzzles, if you can call those puzzles. Things like using hookshot, pushing blocks to weight pressure plates, bombing switches etc. I think you're more likely to get stuck in a puzzle rather than a monster battle in this game. There are enough combat skills, spells and limit breaks to make for boss-killing strategies.
     
  15. joacqin

    joacqin Confused Jerk Veteran

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    I hate puzzles. Even the simple ones in BG2 I prefered to just mindlessly clicking the options and reloading and repeating until I got it right. I played through that game at least six times completely and I did the shadow dragon dungeon up towards 20 times and I still dont know the ritual sequence. I cannot be bothered. I like a tactical challening, I like spending thought and time into optimizing my stats. I do not like being frustrated by silly puzzles. I have tried many of the old adventure games, most of the time I didnt get out of the first room before I gave up.
     
  16. Splunge

    Splunge Bhaal’s financial advisor Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    Same with me, joacqin. I haven’t learned the temple ruin sequence either. Heck, I never even bothered to try figuring out the circus tent riddle (ages of the prince/princess), and I'm pretty good at math.

    I had heard really good things about Grim Fandango, so I downloaded the demo. Ugh.

    And don’t get me started on Myst. I got it as a present, along with the game guide. After about an hour, the guide was a permanent fixture in my lap (well, while I was playing the game, that is).

    It’s all kind of weird. I loved Colossal Cave and Zork. I enjoyed the puzzles in Might & Magic. But now, I just don’t have the patience for them.
     
  17. Merlanni

    Merlanni ★ SPS Account Holder Veteran New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!)

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    7th guest anyone? nice puzzle, not to hard accept 3 of 4. I also remember a sort puzzel in Icewind dale 2 whit boulders.
     
  18. kaucukovnik Gems: 1/31
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    Aikanaro:- multiple ways to overcome a certain problem (open a door, defeat a powerful enemy,...), this seems to be the best option.

    AMaster: Deus ex has no classic puzzles, but the gameplay itself is a kind of puzzle, which is fun to solve. There was a couple of good game mechanisms, for example that killing evil opponents doesn't make you good, and after all - who or what is evil?

    Blog: I had a SNES emulator some time ago, so I could find it and give that game a try... And yes, Yes, I have played Ultima Underworld 2: Labyrinth of Worlds and I managed to get quite far on my own. This game was really ballanced regarding the amounts of combat and thinking. I could replay it along with the first one now...

    I recall a spot in Simon the Sorcerer 2, where you had to >wear a dog< :confused::eek: in order to advance in the game. How is anyone supposed to figure this out before becoming completely mad?
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2007
  19. Ziad

    Ziad I speak in rebuses Veteran

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    Two words: freeing Ogg. That one was HARD! Took me ages to figure it out (and that was after finding the items I needed), but it was extremely rewarding when I did.

    I do get occasionally tempted to peek at walkthroughs and it usually really annoys me when I do, as the answer to my problem tends to be something very simple that I overlooked. Then again I've not been stuck in a game in a LONG time, which means I've either learned from playing a lot of games or new games are much easier than they used to be (at least on the puzzles front)
     
  20. dmc

    dmc Speak softly and carry a big briefcase Staff Member Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Resourceful Adored Veteran New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!)

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    OK - I freely admit it has been forever since I played M & M (since I only played it on my Apple II). But I really don't remember any tough problems at all. You found bits of gibberish that you copied down until you could put it together into an alternating cipher pattern to find the inner sanctum or whatever it was.

    I remember a really hard battle with multiple dragons and a demon/devil or something like that, but the rest is a blur of, I think, 20x20 outdoor area squares and similar indoor/dungeon squares. Are we talking about the same game?
     
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