Saturday, December 7, 2019

My 10 Most Controversial Opinions

           
Counting down to my ten-year anniversary in February 2020, I offer this quick retrospective on my 10 most controversial opinions. I base this on the number of comments I've received arguing back at me when I've made certain statements, as well as what people have said about me on other web sites.

I was originally going to title this article "10 Reasons to Despise Me," but I feel like we have enough invective slung back and forth about fairly trivial issues. Indeed, if you find yourself "despising" me for any of these opinions, I would suggest that you're taking the entire subject too seriously.
         
10. I think there's a "right" way and a "wrong" way to play even single-player games.
        
In my entry on "Cheats & Liars," I used an analogy with crossword puzzles. The "point" of a crossword puzzle is not to fill in the blocks with letters; it's to use your knowledge, intuition, and puzzle-solving skills to interpret the clues and derive the only possible answer. Thus, you are doing crossword puzzles wrong if you use a crossword puzzle dictionary or some other source to help you finish the puzzle. An unfinished puzzle is preferable to a puzzle that you finish by cheating, because at that point you've sacrificed the ability to ever finish it properly.
           
No one disputes that people should follow the rules when it comes to competitive sports. I can't ride a bicycle along the route of the Boston Marathon and expect the same recognition--or any recognition at all--when I have the fastest time. Nor is there any other aspect of life where we say that it's okay to break the rules if no one else is watching. A practitioner of a religion, an alcoholic in recovery, or someone on a diet does not get to argue "but I was alone!" when he (respectively) neglected his morning prayers, drank himself under the table, or ate an entire cheesecake. 
        
Playing single-player RPGs may be a solitary activity, but that doesn't mean there are no rules. Sure, breaking them doesn't harm anyone but you, but then neither does breaking your diet. That doesn't mean it isn't at least a little shameful when you do it.
        
9. I wouldn't mind if modern RPGs still made us take notes and make maps.
            
The other night, I was playing GreedFall with Irene. Some NPC was giving instructions to a character about a potion, and she said something like "note the ingredients carefully." Irene immediately reached for a piece of paper and a pen, and I laughed. I don't care what the NPC said, I knew there was no way the game was going to make a player depend on an external note to properly finish the quest. I was right, of course.

But I wouldn't have minded if the game had required us to write down the ingredients. I would have welcomed it. I miss the days of gaming with a notepad and graph paper by my side. Quest markers have ruined modern RPGs. Even "hardcore" modes generally don't turn them off.
                 
8. I don't like music playing during my games.

That's not the same thing as saying "I don't like game music." I very often admire the compositions; I just don't want them playing during the actual game. I think this is largely because I'm very music-oriented generally, and I see listening to music as an active experience. I only want it playing when my primary task is listening to music. To me, "background" music is like having someone constantly talking at you while you're trying to focus on something else.

So I play my games with the music off. Sorry. I know--I miss so much.
         
7. I don't like games about rape.

You wouldn't think that one would be so controversial, but on at least one site it makes me a laughingstock.
           
6. I don't like Japanese graphics.

I don't know if it's because I was born too early or because I never owned a Nintendo, but for whatever reason I missed out on the era where Japanese animation and tropes became normalized among American youth. I look at the result and I'm baffled. (There was a time when I would have said "disgusted," so perhaps I've made a little progress.) Part of the issue is the artwork itself, perhaps more of it has to do with what the artist chooses to depict--and what players are apparently okay with. If I'm going to play a racing game, I want to race racecars, not goofy little go-karts piloted by mustachioed plumbers. If I'm going to pit monsters against each other in gladiatorial matches, I want them to look like monsters, not characters from the Island of Misfit Toys. And if I'm going to play an action-adventure, I want to play a classic hero, not an effete little elf with bare legs and a pointy hat.

I have a lot of readers that want me to play Chrono Trigger. I've watched videos of it. It looks like a bunch of children running around. If I was a fan of the game, I would not be clamoring for my review.

5. I think computer RPGs are superior to console RPGs.

The primary issue is the nature of the input. A controller naturally limits the possibilities of a game. You cannot offer the complexity of NetHack's or even Ultima's interface with a controller (at least, not without annoying nested menus), nor can you move, look, and click with the same precision as a keyboard and a mouse. Entire styles of gameplay, such as Ultima IV's keyword-based dialogue, or text-based inputs for adventure games, or even most point-and-click adventure games, become impossible on the console. Nowadays, because successful games must be offered on both computer and console platforms, these limitations functionally inhibit even computer RPGs.

Then again, I do occasionally like playing a game on the couch, with my wife, next to the fireplace. If a keyboard is better than a console controller, a console controller is better than any attempt I've ever seen to make a keyboard, mouse, and PC setup work from a comfortable position with a television. So there are situations in which the console is better than the computer. I just prefer action games in those situations.
             
Even I admit: time for a console RPG.
          
4. I don't care about voiced dialogue--in fact, I wish it would go away.

I'm convinced that voiced dialogue, more than any other factor, is keeping modern games from greatness. The necessity of getting an actor into a studio to voice every possible line of dialogue is what prevents developers from creating more quest dependencies, creating alternate endings, fixing bugs, and including a lot more NPCs in games that feel very sparse without them. It also keeps the character's chosen name from ever appearing meaningfully in the game.

The Infinity Engine games had the perfect balance. Key dialogues were recorded with voice actors, but most of the time the text was unvoiced. It shouldn't have progressed beyond that.

3. I don't mind about re-use of engines.

I mostly want new content, not an entirely new gameplay experience. I grant you that a few series have taken it too far--the Gold Box comes to mind--but in general I think developers should be getting a lot more use out of interfaces and mechanics already developed. It never bothered me for a second that Might and Magic VIII had basically the same interface as Might and Magic VI. I doubt any fan agrees that the "upgrade" in Might and Magic IX did the series any favors. I think it's basically insane that developers only issue two or three expansions for titles like Fallout 4 or Dragon Age. I would pay as much as the original game for a new story set in the exact same world using the exact same locations. Surely, I can't be the only one.

2. I don't hate Bethesda--or, at least, I don't hate them for the same reason you do.

I love nonlinear, open world games, and there's no one that's shown they can do them as well as Bethesda. I don't mind if some of their other features are a little rough around the edges. Many, many years ago, in the midst of the most addictive period I spent with the game, I opined that Skyrim was "perhaps the best CRPG I have ever played." That got quite a reaction from my own commenters and commenters on other sites.
              
I later had reason to regret the statement; I was basically high when I wrote it. It was the equivalent of telling some guy you practically just met, "you're my best friend, and I love you, man" when it's 3:00 AM in a bar and you've both been drinking gimlets all night. But having qualified the original statement somewhat, I have to admit that it's still one of the best CRPGs I've ever played. If that upsets you, I'm sorry. It gives me what I'm looking for.

That said, I do hate Bethesda a little. Not because of what they produce, but because of what they don't. Skyrim sold over 3 million copies in its first two days. It won "game of the year" from practically every magazine and site that offers that award. It ultimately made over a billion dollars. What the hell kind of management decision delays the next game in the series for over ten years?! I've rarely seen a company that financially irresponsible with its intellectual property. George Lucas before he sold Star Wars to Disney comes to mind, but even he allowed a generous Expanded Universe.

Sometimes I wish I didn't have my chibi hangup and I could be a fan of Pokémon or Zelda instead. Lovers of those franchises must lose track of all the main series games, expansions, off-shoots, and remakes. You know who knows how to run a brand? Marvel Studios. In a decade, they issued 23 films and 11 television shows, plus associated web series, comic books, and novels, and still none of its fans are complaining of "oversaturation." Bethesda needs to sell to Disney, hire Brandon Sanderson, or otherwise do what it takes to get their heads out of their asses and start producing.

1. I not only think Fallout 4 is better than Fallout: New Vegas, I think it's much better.

I say this believing that New Vegas is already an excellent game. But I listen to its fans describe how much better it is than Fallout 4 and I don't know what they're talking about. How can they argue that it has more factions, when 4 has essentially the same number? How can they argue about role-playing choices when all your choices in New Vegas collapse into the same battle at the same location? Do they honestly think that Boone and Cass and Gannon are more memorable than Nick and Cait and Deacon?
        
One of the 10 best NPCs ever.
         
Every time I get into an argument about this issue with someone, I offer basically the same list of why I think 4 is a better game:
            
  • No ridiculously low level cap--no level cap at all, in fact
  • The ability to keep playing after the end of the main quest, with bonus content depending on what factions you went with 
  • A much larger, more open world with more locations to find; the game really rewards unfettered exploration
  • Boston is a huge, dense city rather than Vegas's three buildings
  • The Settlement/building/settlement defense system
  • A perks system that actually encourages different character builds
  • Better item crafting
  • Much cooler power armor (with jetpacks!)
  • No invisible walls
  • An excellent "survival" mode; I can't imagine playing without it
  • Flying around in vertibirds
  • Along with the jetpacks and vertibirds, just a more "vertical" game in general; there's a lot to find on building tops and elevated highways
  • Behemoths and mirelurk queens
  • A gun that shoots actual cannonballs
  • The ability to call artillery salvos on enemy fortifications
  • Can blow off enemies' individual body parts, allowing for more interesting combat tactics overall
              
Against this, I accept the arguments that the dialogue system isn't very good and that whoever nerfed the deathclaws ought to be fired. Beyond that, Fallout 4's superiority is so obvious to me that I feel like I must be living in another universe when I get into a discussion with most fans of the series.

So there we are: my 10 most controversial opinions. Everyone will probably be enraged at something. Even if you don't agree with me, I hope you admire my honesty and the risk I'm taking with my Patreon account. 

Coming up: Ten years of upsetting people with more controversial opinions, starting with fans of the Arkania series.


222 comments:

  1. Skyrim is still selling in good numbers today, in new ports on new systems, and it's not like Bethesda haven't been releasing games in the meantime. And despite it all, fan awareness of the brand, and demand for a new game, remains incredibly high.
    You know whatever the next Elder Scrolls game is will sell Skyrim numbers. So you can complain about the lack of a new game, but I don't think you can criticise it on financial grounds.

    (I mean, sure, we have't seen Bethesda's financials, maybe the delay is haemorrhaging them money, but on face value with a well-managed company, the financials should be very sound.)

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    1. That sounds a bit like saying Marvel Studios didn't need to release Endgame because Infinity War was still selling well on DVD.

      Skyrim made a billion. Akavair, if it's released in 2021, will also make a billion. Those facts would remain unchanged if Bethesda had released an intermediate game in 2016, except they would have made a third billion off that game.

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    2. Battlespire and Redguard were made to fill the gap between Daggerfall and Morrowind, and both were terrible. They might not consider it worth their time to release "filler" games between titles.

      Either TES6 will represent a leap as big as the one between Daggerfall and Morrowind, or it's stuck in limbo ala Duke Nukem Forever. Both seem unlikely, but they're the only scenarios I find plausible, unless they just haven't started.

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    3. I think EA and Ubisoft models of releasing a sequel every year is stupid and leads to sloppy sequels and brand fatigue (both publishers dialed that practice down because of it), but Bethesda is taking a bit too much time.

      Yes, Skyrim is still selling well. As are Oblivion and Morrowind on Steam and GoG. And even Daggerfall is popular enough to get fan remakes. But all of that just means that a new Elder Scrolls game would sell just as much if not even more. Right now (or even two, three years ago) is the perfect time for a new game. Arena was released in 93 or 94, Daggerfall 96, Morrowind 02, Oblivion 06, Skyrim 11. The gap between Skyrim and whatever its sequel will be is already longer than the gaps between previous Elder Scrolls games.

      And while they don't make Battlespire or Redguard style spinoffs anymore, Betheda did release an Elder Scrolls mobile game recently (using typical mobile game mechanics of "pay real money or wait for hours before you can progress", meh), and the multiplayer spinoff of Fallout was also a desaster.

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    4. Or maybe they don't want to ruin Elder Scrolls Online yet.

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    5. The experience of the industry is that taking your time with a franchise, getting it right, and having a reputation for quality is worth doing, even if that means it's a decade between main-series games.

      The contrary experience of Ubisoft with Assassin's Creed and Bioware/EA with Mass Effect is that you've only got so many A-class team members, and when you try to step things up to yearly or two-yearly releases by having contractors or B-teams do much of the work, you get inferior products, burnout in your most valued staff, and it eventually wrecks your studio and devalues your brand.

      Ubisoft and EA love money more than anyone in the industry, and if even *they* are willing to take a step back from titles like Assassin's Creed and Mass Effect and go, "Okay, we just can't do these that often," it's probably a good sign that Bethesda's stance is pretty justifiable from a business perspective.

      (And obviously Bethesda have the experience themselves, after releasing Fallout '76, which can most generously be described as fundamentally misconceived and poorly managed on every level but which a few hardy souls have managed to scrape fun out of anyway.)

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    6. Addict, I think they were trying for the MMO money with Elder Scrolls Online. That's probably where the development resources went that would have made a sequel to Skyrim. The thing about a subscription game is that the money just keeps flowing in, where purchase games have a huge spike and then almost nothing for ages, unless you've got one of the very rare 'evergreen' titles. MMOs, at least in theory, look very attractive to beancounters, and beancounters have been running Bethesda for a long time.

      Of course, this was before the big shakeout in MMOs and the transition to F2P for most of them. Turns out there wasn't so much an "MMO market" as there was a "World of Warcraft" market. Elder Scrolls Online didn't appeal very much to that crowd, and the game as a whole has been only modestly successful.

      That said, AFAIK it's still profitable, which is better than many companies do. It might well have been better for them to make Skyrim 2, but at least they're making a profit, and aren't going to evaporate.

      Plus, Fallout 4 sold like crazy, so maybe they just don't want to grow the studio enough to tackle two huge projects simultaneously. They may feel they're about as big as they can safely become. Burn rate is maybe the central problem in making games, and scaling up another big dev team is a huge financial risk.

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    7. Elder Scrolls online was made by a different team than the mainline games though. The main team made Fallout 4 while ESO was being developed

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    8. Okay, so they felt they could do two projects then, but not three. Plus, if they made a Skyrim, that might take thunder away from the game with ongoing revenue, so there's no way they'd develop both simultaneously.

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  2. It's obvious you aren't the target market for Japanese RPGs. That's cool. I mean, all kinds of games such as FIFA or Minecraft I would never enjoy. But I'm not sure if you should bother to review them same as I would never review say the next UFC game.

    BTW, Dragon Quest is a great game. Lol.

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    1. In my reviews, I've deliberately not said much about graphics and tried to focus on the gameplay and mechanics instead.

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    2. Even mechanically, you wouldn't be wrong in generally deeming them less interesting. Console RPGs have traditionally been aimed at a younger audience, after all. Even the ones on the PlayStation, I think, come off as being gimmicky rather than having actual "crunch" (though I'd be happy to be proven wrong).

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    3. In the end, console games could only be so complex due to both running on weaker hardware and having to appeal to a much broader and less computer-savvy audience. One of the things that make this blog unique is its devotion to the 80s and 90s home computer side of things, a side that the "gaming" heritage we have today is all too quick to dismiss on the basis that the monetary price to entry was too high for anyone to care.

      In all honesty, while I was happy to see Xanadu and Sorcerian covered, I'm not sure covering more console games would really help the blog much. They simply aren't part of the same world.

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    4. Being complex doesn't mean it's more interesting though. Most JRPGs don't even have role playing. The western RPGs were derived from D&D etc. and the early JRPGs only inherited things like levels and exp but are basically Adventure games with fixed narratives. Games like Chrono Trigger have a great narrative and are relaxing to play that's fun without having to worry about all the complexity. Hell, I even enjoyed cookie clicker. Too much complexity can be a hindrance to having fun.

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    5. It's not like there isn't a wide range in crunchiness (aka mechanical complexity) in western RPGs. And this isn't particularly new, either -- Ultima started off pretty simplistic, accumulated some complexity over time, and then started veering back toward simplified mechanics. Ultima V is probably the crunchiest game in the series, at least in terms of combat, and it's a lot less mechanically complex than even the most mainstream '90s and '00s JRPGs.

      And, of course, Skyrim was regarded as "dumbed down" compared to Oblivion at the time, which itself was "dumbed down" compared to Morrowind. No class creation? No spell creation? An increasing reliance on action rather than RPG mechanics in combat? Quest markers? Generic "fast travel" rather than buying access to modes of faster travel (like wagons, boats, Stilt Striders, etc.)? Might as well be Doom! What, did Bethesda hire Warren Spector while we weren't looking?

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    6. For me it's not about complexity vs simplicity. I can enjoy a simple Diablo clone and a complex 8 character turn based dungeon crawler equally. It's more about style and design philosophy. As much as I try, most JRPGs just don't appeal to me. The linearity feels restrictive, while western RPGs try to fool you into feeling like you have a choice even when the story is linear. The encounter design often relies on grinding trash mobs and having boss enemies with 5 different forms whose huge HP pool you have to slowly whittle down. Ant the anime style graphics don't appeal to me either.

      And when we're talking PC RPG vs Console RPG in the 80s and 90s,we're pretty much talking western vs Japanese RPGs.

      It's just a very different style of game design and just like how many CRPG fans can't get into JRPGs, many JRPG fans can't get into CRPGs.

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    7. In some ways (notably in some of the things he says he's looking for in game economies), I think he's exactly the target audience for some JRPGs.

      That said, that would obviously not be, by itself, worth playing them if the graphics bother him that much.

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    8. Actually, JRPGs are really diverse too. You can find ones which feature advanced economy systems, bartering for resources, open-world JRPGs, JRPGs with customizable vehicles (Metal Max comes to mind) etc., but the problem is that many of them came out in Japan only. It's still one of the most impenetrable languages for machine translation (and it will be that way for a while), which limits their appeal considerably.

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    9. Japanese game development has a long history of intensely deep and complex games, particularly in the strategy space, from right back in the 8-bit era.

      JRPGs aren't simpler than western RPGs of the era because of technical limitations - they're simpler because they're feeling less obliged to ape the needless and gratuitous complexity of AD&D.

      Western RPG design is overwhelmingly influenced by that shared cultural experience of AD&D - either directly through attempting to implement or approximate its rules, or indirectly through AD&D's assumption that RPGs should be simulationist and sandboxy, rather than focused and gamelike.

      While you certainly get Japanese games that draw from that AD&D influence, the difference is in their assumption that it should be a game and a story first, and a simulation and sandbox second (if at all). That's the "simplicity" you're seeing.

      And of course almost immediately - certainly in the 16-bit age - those abstracted gamelike systems begin to evolve and interact in their own ways, leading to the progressively more complex Final Fantasy mechanics, the Monster Rancher-meets-Dragon Quest feeling of stuff like Shin Megami Tensei and Persona, and then the ridiculous and amazing level of depth of something like Disgaea...

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    10. I wouldn't call AD&D needlessly and gratuitously complex. It's one of the simpler systems out there, actually, and most custom CRPG rulesets are more mechanically complex, as well as many pen and paper systems. Just compare D&D to GURPS, or to the German Das Schwarze Auge. Or take a look at games like Fallout, Arcanum, Daggerfall. D&D rules are as simple as it gets when it comes to RPG character development and combat resolution.

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    11. AD&D is very much on the "very complicated" scale of playable TTRPGs. There's a tendency of RPG designers to mistake complexity with depth, and thus churn out systems far more complex than AD&D, but those are almost universally so convoluted that they can't be played without a computer.


      GURPS is simpler than any AD&D edition other than possibly 5 (which I have no experience with). It looks kind of complex because of the combinatorial explosion of the huge number of possible options, but in play it is nothing more than "Roll 3d6 and try to get under the relevant number on your character sheet". It has nothing approaching the complexity of choosing and casting spells or managing spell-like abilities in 3e D&D. Compared to some of the arcane rules in 1e, it's downright juvenile.

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    12. JarlFrank, I recently replayed the Baldur's Gate series, and looked at AD&D 2E with relatively fresh eyes. I definitely played and loved those games back then (and still love them now), but AD&D is ridiculously complex, and often needlessly so. It started as a simple system for simulating medieval combat, and gradually morphed into a fantasy adventure game. The creativity in it is brilliant, but the various subsystems are almost all bolted onto the sides with no real view toward the game as a whole. Each new idea was implemented with only loose ties to the others, and many suffer from real design problems.

      My favorite example is the core of the system, combat. That's where it all started, and new ideas kept getting tacked on. In 1E AD&D, the DM had a set of charts on screens that gave hit numbers for characters... if you were a 7th level fighter attacking Armor Class 5, then you'd cross index that row and that column and come up with a number. Then you'd add any plusses on your weapon or from strength to your roll, and if you met or exceeded the required total, you hit.

      But that required a bunch of computation all the time, and people looked at the tables and realized that they weren't really necessary. They noticed that if you needed a 15 to hit armor class 5, then you'd always need 16 to hit AC 4, and 17 to hit AC 3, and so on. So they simplified the whole system down to a single number for each character: "To Hit Armor Class Zero", or THAC0. If you computed your THAC0, then you could just offset the monster's armor class from that, and you'd instantly know what you needed to hit.

      So that was a lot simpler in play, but it is ridiculously over-complex for someone just starting out, primarily becuase you never know if low numbers are good, or if high numbers are good. Armor Class is the first big design problem, where AC 10 is unarmored, and adding armor makes AC go down, not up. So if you've got chainmail, that's AC 5. If you've got +1 chainmail, no, you don't have AC 6, you have AC 4. AC 4 is better than AC 5.

      THAC0 is similarly backward: the lower it is, the better. And then positive armor classes subtract from THAC0. (eg, if I hit AC 0 with a 15, then I hit AC 5 with a 10.)

      That system, taken as a whole, is ridiculous. It is utter nonsense. It does make the calculations easy during combat, which was its purpose, but everything is all twisted up and backward. And that's just one subsystem; there are several, almost entirely divorced from one another. Magic is off into other tables called "saving throws". Spell memorization is weird. The spells are weird. Strategies to use them tend to be quite complex and arcane. By 2.5E, the spells and counterspells were practically Magic:The Gathering level of complexity.

      For all the hours I put into it, and for all the fun I had, AD&D 2E was a terrible set of rules. It was an addictive game with terrible mechanics. But it was the only one when it was invented, and all those mental gyrations were what you had to do in order to play. And, as GregT points out, it has been an extremely powerful influence on Western RPG thought. In general, Western thinking became, the more complex you made it, the better it must be.

      The Japanese didn't have that influence, and were starting from first principles. Between that and their smaller systems (consoles instead of computers), they went in a different direction.

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    13. A pal started his first pen and paper campaign a year ago or so, with his girlfriend and her mom, both of whom have zero RPG experience. He mostly has CRPG experience so he went with 2nd edition because he was familiar with Baldur's Gate. His players - who had zero prior RPG experience - understood THAC0 and AC quite easily. It's a bit weird, sure, but if your DM explains it well even a noob can understand it. High number is good for THAC0, low number is good for AC, just remember that and it's easy sailing from there. Everything is just additions and substractions.

      Generally, I find D&D to be too simplistic for my simulationist tastes. Playing a fighter is too simple, you have basic attacks and that's pretty much it. No active defense options (dodging, blocking etc), no special attacks or maneuvers, even flanking isn't that useful. Also a simplistic hit point system for your health.

      It's really very simple when you look at the options players have in combat. Disregard the way things are rolled and calculated, and how you need several different-sided dice and everything has its own rule. When it comes down to "what kinds of maneuvers can a character perform in combat? What kinds of character skills are there outside of combat?" D&D is very simple. Heck, non combat skills only became a thing in 3rd edition. Before that, things like climbing were just done with a simple stat check!

      The only classes that had more complexity when it came to the amount of options were casters, and that's just because of the huge amount of spells.

      For pen and paper, D&D's simplicity is quite perfect. For CRPGs, I much prefer higher complexity of character systems and combat simulation.

      I'd love to see a system like Aftermath! used in a CRPG. That pen and paper system has locational damage and armor with about 30 different hit locations (!), wound effects when you're hurt instead of simple HP pools, etc etc.

      D&D is highly abstracted, while I prefer more simulationist systems (which are, by design, much more complex).

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    14. Jarlfrank said:

      >High number is good for THAC0, low number is good for AC, just remember that and it's easy sailing from there. Everything is just additions and substractions.

      See, even you, coming up with your own example, got that partially wrong. THAC0 is better when it gets lower, not higher.

      I rest my case.

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    15. If a system needs to be well explained to be understood, it is probably not easy ;)


      Personally I found the bigger issue that D&D doesn't really fit CRPGs well, so the better games always adjusted the rules one way or the other.

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    16. "Before that, things like climbing were just done with a simple stat check!"

      Alas, it was not that simple. Of course there was a subsystem for climbing that worked in percentages. Thieves would improve in climbing, others would not. And there were modifiers for armour and dexterity and ropes and surfaces and so on, because these are important things to account for!

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  3. 10. Ya gotta realize that for a lot of people, playing games gives them a sense of control over their lives. They get cheated day in and day out by the powerful, and getting to take shortcuts and cheat back feels sweet. It's not about winning the game fairly or overcoming a challenge. It's a deep-seated psychological need to feel control over *something*.

    9. Yeah, I sort of agree. Mapping Dungeon Master with graph paper and a pencil was hardcore. But I don't miss writing down pages of coordinates and clues like I had to do in Star Control 2 and Starflight.

    8. If music wasn't so damn repetitive, I would leave it on a lot more. As it is, I turn it to Roland/MIDI if available, listen to it until it starts bothering me, turn it off, and never touch it again.

    6. The Island of Misfit Toys is one of my favorite parts of any movie, ever. It's such a metaphor for my life.

    5. I remember being completely baffled reading an account of someone playing a Goldbox game on console. How could you even do that? Or Wizardry. Gah. I eventually got the idea that these poor benighted souls didn't even begin to fathom that there could be a better way. Let us all say a prayer for the years of life wasted slowly navigating menu after menu.

    4. Agree completely. Unfortunately games reviewers have fixed ideas about what games should be and will go absolutely apeshit if they don't get what they expect. They'll say things like "the modern gamer demands fully voiced dialogue and if you didn't have the budget to hire voice actors for every word, you shouldn't have made the game in the first place." Reviewers being of low status themselves, it makes them feel great to look down on creatives.

    3. Developers want to constantly create new engines so that they can learn new languages and put new projects on their resumes. "Skillfully tended well-loved series and didn't change a winning formula" doesn't get you your next job and a $20k raise. "Innovated attention-getting and controversial input system" does. Creatives are high in a personality trait called Openness and looooove new things. New for the sake of being new makes them feel happy inside, even if it's demonstrably worse than what came before. Old, familiar things make them feel bored and disappointed because there could have been something new. Like attracts like and high Openness people hire other high Openness people.

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    1. A new engine will rarely be written in a different language. I don't think games development is the right field to be in when you want to use many different languages.

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    2. > Developers want to constantly create new engines so that they can learn new languages and put new projects on their resumes.

      Developers want to create, yes, but they don't decide, at least not in AAA studios. See for instance how Bioware had to use Frostbite since they were acquired by EA.

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    3. Developers don't update or create new engines for the fun of it. They do it because players or the game developers demand changes to do things that couldn't be done in the previous version, most notably improved graphics and animation. Unity comes out with several updates every year because each one fixes bugs and enhances parts of the system.

      This was especially true in the 1980's and 1990's. Sierra went from AGI to SCI in several variations to custom 3D engines over the course of 10-15 years. Graphics tech went from 4-color to 16-color to 256-color to 24-bit color over time. Sound and music went from beeps to square waves to multi-track and midi to sampled sounds. Interfaces went from joysticks to typed 2-word commands to full parsers to menu-based point-and-click to "coin" and other systems that were compatible with joysticks. :-)

      When I started at Sierra in 1988, the "half-life" of a game was 18 months - It sold half of its lifetime copies in the first 18 months, the rest over years. By 1992, once the 256-color and then CD-ROM games started coming out, the half-life was down to 6 months. The back catalog, which used to provide 75% of Sierra's sales, was down to 10% of sales. Nobody wanted 16-color games with typing and a parser.

      Of course, that last isn't quite true. Even today, we have many fans lamenting the lack of parsed games. Those same players miss pixelated 16-color art. They're very vocal. But they aren't enough of an audience to make retro games successful...

      Or I could be totally wrong. Thimbleweed Park has done very well. And the graphics standards of cell phones are similar to the 1992 level of Sierra games in terms of pixel density.

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  4. What the hell kind of management decision delays the next game in the series for over ten years?!

    Heh. Skyrim came out the same year as George R. R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons. I've often wondered why Bethesda doesn't get anywhere near as much grief as Martin does about that.

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    1. Cos Skyrim doesn't say "Book 5 of 7" on the cover.

      If the book had said, "Book 5 of 7 but I'll never write any more in the series," it probably wouldn't have sold as well.

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    2. On the other hand, Martin is just one guy. I mean, I think he deserves a lot of the grief he gets, but I can also understand how one guy might simply not be able to bring himself to work on something. If that's Bethesda's, problem, they just need to hire more (or different) people.

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    3. For whatever reason, that doesn't seem to actually work in the game industry. As mentioned above, Ubisoft and EA have tried to use the "hire more people / use subcontracting companies" to do regular releases of titles, and it's fairly inevitably led to a decline in quality, burnout, and in Bioware's case basically wrecked the company and destroyed the base of creative talent that defined the studio.

      I'm not remotely close enough to the industry to say *why* that is - why you can't just scale up in that way - but a string of high profile examples of failure from companies who should have had all the resources available to get it right seem to evidence the truth of it.

      There's also a question of, why does there need to be more? If the company doesn't need the money, and the last one is beloved and still selling strongly on new platforms, is there any inherent need to make another one? Particularly if *they* don't feel they have a game to show you yet?

      We have an expectation of sequels in videogaming, because of the industry, but in every other medium we tend to be fairly critical of making sequels purely for the money or to keep an IP hot.

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    4. It also depends on the type of sequel, I would say. The Elder Scrolls has no direct sequels that continue the same plotline as before. Each game is its own story, kinda like Pratchett's Discworld novels. You can pick any novel he wrote and read it as a standalone.

      Games mostly (but not always) operate on that level, too, and that's why getting sequels isn't a thing people are skeptical towards. A movie franchise reusing the same characters and continuing the same overall plotline by pulling out ever more threats for the protagonists? Starts becoming silly at some point. But in an RPG franchise featuring a huge world of which every game only explores about 10%? Yeah, bring on those sequels and let us explore another region!

      (Sadly, Oblivion completely killed the lore I loved in Elder Scrolls, and we'll never get to explore the rest of Tamriel as it was envisioned during the late 90s and early 00s)

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    5. See, *my* controversial opinions would include that the lore of the Elder Scrolls franchise is generic, unmemorable, poorly explained, and rarely has any meaningful interaction with anything you actually do in the games.

      I know there's enough people who'll fight to the death over lore changes between Morrowind and subsequent games that this is clearly not a universally-held opinion, and I'm super glad that people find their passion in this and get joy out of it, but I just don't personally understand where they're coming from. I'm not saying they're wrong - just that *I* personally can't understand how they're right. :-)

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  5. For my own interests, I'm going to be playing and writing about "Leather Goddesses of Phobos" soon. That's a famously risqué adventure game by Infocom and their only true new "hit" during their declining years under Activision. (It also happens to have been written by Steve Meretzky, one of the best designers that Infocom ever produced even if he misses the mark on more than one occasion.)

    As part of this, I began to research some of the darker corners of adventure gaming starting with the "first" pornographic adventure that I have been able to locate, a little POS called "Drive-In" from 1981. The game is terrible, the parser is terrible, the story is terrible, and if I decide to write it up it will be the worst game that I have ever played. And yet, the damn thing has been remade at least twice by people that clearly saw some potential in it. I can only assume they were 14 because it's almost impossibly clear that the original designer had only the vaguest idea what sex was actually like.

    To make a long story short, there are several versions of this game floating around and I played the DOS version first. That version ends with the protagonist being told "no" several times by his date and then finally consummating the evening anyway, which she immediately starts to enjoy. The end. I was disgusted. I struggled whether I should write it up as a product of its time. How many 80s teen romances have "date rape" in them? How many James Bond films? I have no idea. We know better today.

    To be clear, I didn't even work that out myself. I just assumed that "no meant no" and had to read the game's source to figure out what I was supposed to do to get to the ending screen.

    The only reason I will write about this at all, if I ever do, is because it appears that the Commodore 64 version of the game is slightly later and the writer replaced the final "puzzle" of the game to remove the rape. (Instead of having to push past your date saying "no", she asks you to warm her up a bit more first. Consent is sexy.) The game is still a total broken POS with a parser that lies to you and an author that isn't completely sure how making out works, not to mention that he believes that "f**k" and "f**k p***y" are two narratively distinct actions. But at least now I feel okay about writing about the whole thing. Maybe.

    And that is my experience with #7.

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    1. That's more a sad story than anything else. The author was completely cut off from women and took cues from society about how it all worked. And as we've seen from people like Roman Polanski, back then consent was not considered a necessary requirement of a sexual relationship. Neither was age.

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  6. "I have a lot of readers that want me to play Chrono Trigger. I've watched videos of it. It looks like a bunch of children running around. If I was a fan of the game, I would not be clamoring for my review."

    They are a bunch of children. Literally the first thing that happens in the game is Crono getting woken up by his mom.

    I always thought I disliked JRPGs, specifically the market-dominant Square ones, until I played Crono Trigger... at which point I realised perhaps I'd just been playing the wrong JRPGs. I think that it's an interesting, perhaps CRPG Addict-worthy, case study due to the many little ways in which it is exceptional. But of course if you don't study the norm, then the extent to which an exception deviates will not be obvious.

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    1. And that's true of a lot of JRPGs, to the point that the running joke is that an "old man" in a JRPG is maybe 35. The lead character of Final Fantasy IV, the Lord Captain of the airship fleet of the world's greatest military power, is 20. His best friend, the commander of that power's most elite infantry corps, is 21. The ancient sage who is so addled with time that he can barely cast which spells he still remembers? 60.

      This is more or less because JRPGs are as heavily influenced by shōnen manga and light novels (adventure stories for teenage boys) as western RPGs are influenced by sword-and-sorcery and high-fantasy novels.

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    2. "They are a bunch of children. Literally the first thing that happens in the game is Crono getting woken up by his mom."

      *Millennials glance around nervously.*

      Chrono Trigger's main cast are clearly teenagers who are still living at their parents'. I think bringing your party members back to your house to introduce them to your mom is one of the most charming things about the game.

      Although there are moments of cartoonish humor in the game, Chrono Trigger's serious treatment of its characters, their problems and motivations and how they step up to confront their world's problems are crucial strengths. There is a lack of item-based puzzle solving and dialogue choices, which seem to be things you like. Other than that, I can't imagine what Chrono Trigger lacks that, say, Baldur's Gate has.

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    3. Chrono Trigger also has barely any player driven character development, and barely any side quests. Characters get fixed bonuses in levelup. Baldur's Gate lets you distribute weapon specialization points, and you can pick which spells your casters get to learn. In Chrono Trigger, character development paths are entirely pre-defined.

      No sidequests and choices either. You won't get to pick between hiring the Shadow Thieves or the vampires in Chrono Trigger, nor will you spend hours exploring different dungeons and doing tasks for people you meet in town. You'll follow the main story and that's that.

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    4. "No sidequests and choices either. You won't get to pick between hiring the Shadow Thieves or the vampires in Chrono Trigger, nor will you spend hours exploring different dungeons and doing tasks for people you meet in town. You'll follow the main story and that's that."

      While Chrono Trigger is quite linear, i don't think it lacks sidequests. After certain important event, the game stops being linear and you are allowed to travel anywhere you want and make sidequests (they are somewhat varied, from the "go to the past, store item, retrieve item in the future", to the "save the mother of a party member by preventing her past accident") and some of them also require to explore dungeons and beat enemies.

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    5. Character development is only kind of linear. Each character has a predefined path, but your party will develop new techniques based on which characters you use. If you don't use Frog much, for instance, you might never see his combo abilities with the other characters. IIRC, every character has at least one combo with every other character, and sometimes two or three. I believe there are numerous 3-character combos as well. (Those take a long time to unlock, playing with the same characters for an extended period, so I haven't seen that many, but I know for sure there are at least three.)

      There are also quite a number of sidequests in that game, and they will influence the final outcome. There are something like 16 possible endings to Chrono Trigger, many of which are dependent on which of the sidequests you found and completed successfully. A number of the endings are only a little bit different (additional or missing characters in certain scenes, for instance), but there's a fair bit of variance across all the possible outcomes.

      It looks pretty and shiny and simple, but there's a lot of depth lurking there. There's some really good bits centered around time travel; I don't want to be specific so as not to spoil the Addict. Let's just say the game rewards both exploration and thought. It benefits a great deal from a second playthrough, and is the first JRPG I personally played that supported New Game Plus.

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    6. I think that if someone is able to enjoy Pixar movies as an adult,he would like Chrono Trigger.

      Characters, story and graphics have a certain timeless charm that always made them appealing to me, even when I played it the first time (emulated) as a teen, when I was fully in PCMasterRaceRulesConsoleGamesAreForLittleKids mode.

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  7. I just found my Ultima IV notebook the other day while looking through some old files! I could probably pull it out and win the game much more quickly with it. I have notes and notebooks with several other games in the mix as well.

    I do wish they had made a second game with the Ultima V engine... it was the best of 8 bit gaming!

    #7 makes me worried for humanity. How disgusting... you are the one on the right side there Chester.

    I can't comment on the newer games, as I haven't spent significant time playing since around 1994 when I became serious about going to graduate school. I did spend a couple of days on a binge for Tunnels of Doom, but have just tinkered here and there for the most part. I have started Might and Magic I (a game I never managed to play back in the day) and have it penciled in as a serious go for the New Years!

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  8. 10. I banned cheating after my newbie days. It's much more satisfying to win on my own. Also, modern games have a very low difficulty option, so every player can beat them. There are no excuses anymore. If a game allows cheating like Skyrim, I only use it to get around major bugs, but I don't consider that cheating, just helping myself out of a plotstopper.

    9. I don't miss notetaking, and I suck at mapping. What I really miss is exploring on my own. Games are so handholding these days, I always find myself looking at the tiny map window or the compass for interesting locations instead of paying attention to the game world itself. And I hate that.

    8. There are people who listen to other music while they'replaying an RPG?

    7. Neither do I.

    6. That's just a matter of taste. I don't mind them, but I can see why others can't get into anime style graphics.

    5. That depends. I can imagine that some action combat systems like the ones of The Witcher 3 or Kingdoms of Amalur work better with a gamepad, but I'm rather a PC gamer.

    4. It can be nice, but voice acting is so expensive that the amound of dialogue suffers from it. RPGs were in their prime during the era of Baldur's Gate, Fallout 1 and 2, etc. because dialogue was cheaper, so developers could implement stat based extra options. I miss that.

    3. I don't mind the re-use engines either, but there is a very loud bunch of people who proudly claim not to touch any games that are older than 6 months, because the graphics are "giving them eye cancer." Unfortunately, developers are catering to them.

    2. I can't hate Bethesda, I love The Elder Scrolls way too much. I just wish they'd finally tell us more about Starfield.

    1. I haven't played Fallout 4 yet, but I like Fallout 3 and New Vegas almost equally, so I'm going to give it a fair chance after I've finished NV.

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  9. I like cheating in games once I've beaten them legitimately if I think it would be informative or entertaining. There's a lot of fun to be had in Skyrim and Fallout 3 by messing around with the console, and cheating in Deus Ex eventually got me into modding it. But that's because I like picking apart how games work. I haven't felt particularly tempted to cheat at a game solely for the sake of beating it for many years.

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  10. 10. Is that really that controversial? I can see people getting upset if they're powergamers or casuals, but usually there's some kind of respect if you go through games legitimately.
    Also, there are cheats that make games wackier, not easier. Like big head mode.

    8. I think people would whine a little less about music (and also by extension, graphics) if it didn't come off like it affects the rating so much.

    7. I find it very amusing how people are so quick to strawman each other's points when it comes to a sensitive subject like this.

    5/6. I feel like this isn't controversial as much as an issue of clashing cultures ever since console gamers and anime fans found the internet.

    4. As I recall, this is different than your first opinion on the subject, where you felt that having all voiced dialog would be the only way to get a 10 in a particular category.

    3. I have a feeling that not all of the heat directed at an opinion like this is necessarily referring to things like Might and Magic. More like things like RPGmaker or that engine Bioware used for a while, where they have trouble coding in things that would be a breeze in other engines.

    2. Uh, The Elder Scrolls: Online? I mean it is The Elder Scrolls: Online, but it is another TES game...

    1. From what I've heard people mocking about FO4, people had issues with the story and the depth, essentially feeling it was a shallow ocean.

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    1. 8. Nothing to do with music affects the rating at all. I don't know where people would get that idea.

      4. My original description of the GIMLET has a line about voiced dialogue, but I meant it more to mean that if a game HAS voiced dialogue (which almost all do these days), it needs to be well-acted. Voiced dialogue at all is not required for a perfect score in the category.

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    2. I could have sworn that both of those were definitely in the GIMLET in the past. I distinctly remember that's why people gave you crap over 4 and why there are so many arguments about 8.

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    3. I think the objection is that a game with no music or terrible and repetitive music will get scored the same as one with excellent music because it doesn’t get factored in at all.

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  11. The bits about Bethesda and Fallout 4 would get you flamed to death on Reddit, but your point about console RPGs is hardly controversial at all in some circles.

    The PC gaming community, especially on Reddit, is basically nonstop back-patting (you can imagine the ruder word I would use) about how much smarter/savvier/more authentic PC gamers are. The term "PC master race" was originally a cynical joke by Yahtzee, but there's a huge demographic of gamers (including its own subreddit) that take it deadly serious.

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    1. Not following the field, I just assumed that as time went on, PCs would be locked out of gaming as dedicated consoles just got better and better. Instead to my surprise the opposite happened, consoles became PCs inside.

      Then PCs, being upgradable, (another surprise, I assumed they'd be unopenable appliances by now) are just plain better than consoles. The hardware is undeniably superior. Then the jokes started.

      Not surprised it turned out like that. PC gamers are usually low status males who we all look down on. Having been taught that's how you treat people lower than yourself, they naturally assume that's what you do when you finally have the upper hand. It's one of the points made by the Joker movie, we should stop being so cruel to each other for entertainment, it just comes back on us worse.

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    2. This is such an analogy of the real life. So now console gamers are the chased minority, the ones being mocked about.

      Instead of the ones that are rewriting gaming history ignoring each one of the crpgs when we talk about pioneers. For example.

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    3. "So now console gamers are the chased minority, the ones being mocked about."

      This annoys me so much. My opinion is about the superiority of the platform, not the superiority of the people who use it. Nobody deserves to be mocked or insulted--beyond a general collegial ribbing--about their opinions on anything as trivial as video games. This is why I can't go to RPGCodex anymore. I don't understand the perspective of a full-grown adult who calls another adult a "f&@#$* retard" because of how he feels about Skyrim. Given the amount of time I spend on this blog, I have as much reason to take the subject as seriously as anyone, but it would never occur to me to openly speculate that someone has autism because they think that Ultima III is better than Ultima IV.

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    4. You're taking the debating culture of the Codex too seriously. Yes, people there will call each other names over disagreements about which games they like, but that's just the normal tone there.

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    5. That's precisely the point, though. Normalized immature and insulting tone is why possibly the most common advice on the internet is to 'not read the comments'. Conversely, the comments section here bucks that tone and is thus a very rare exception to the rule about not reading them.

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    6. That being "the normal tone" is exactly what makes RPG Codex a terrible site full of manchildren who identify too much with games to behave like normal functioning adults. It's not "debating culture" to say somebody's mentally handicapped for liking a game, it's just grown adults acting like 10-year-old bullies who learned their first swear word.

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    7. See, it all depends on what kind of tone you like. If you're not easily offended and enjoy banter, you'll feel right at home over there. The debates can be heated but also very insightful and interesting. You might just get insulted occasionally - sometimes jokingly, sometimes for real - and so you just insult people right back.

      Since we tend to do the same in most of my friend groups (jokingly insult each other while everyone knows it's just for fun), I feel very comfortable with it. There is a certain maturity to being able to just shittalk each other without taking it personally and getting offended. It's refreshing compared to many mainstream online places where you will get banned for using bad words, or people will bear serious grudges for heavy disagreements. It's like the old 00s internet, when people didn't take everything so personally yet.

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    8. I'm sorry, Jarl, but to me the comments I got were a lot more mean-spirited than just "banter," certainly nothing like what happens in friend groups. I wasn't just teased for my thoughts on Rance; I was ridiculed. But whatever--if that's the "culture" on that site, that's the culture. I'm the one who doesn't fit in, so I stopped visiting, and I suppose I should just let that be that.

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    9. Depends on your friend groups. In some of mine, we routinely call each other retards, fa%#@ts and various nationality-based slurs, and it's all in good fun. Some people would probably think "what the hell kind of friend group is that?!" but we're having a good time with each other and don't even consciously notice it most of the time.

      It's certainly not for everyone, and to outsiders it will always seem crude, but it is what it is and people from the "in group" tend to not get it when others find it offensive.

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    10. That's what they said about 4chan. Look how well THAT turned out.

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    11. Perhaps it seems crude and offensive to outsiders because it is, in fact, crude and offensive.

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    12. I mean, my friends and I say some pretty crass things to each other. The difference is that we're close friends who have earned that level of respect between eachother, and not strangers on an Internet forum.

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    13. I'm not easily offended and I enjoy banter.

      But I have no interest in people trying to out-edgelord one another, no interest in jokes that punch down, and if I want a conversation I don't want to have to scroll through high-school tier insults to find it.

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    14. RPG Codex has a very useful Ignore function. I must have about a hundred edge lords and metabolism discharge matter posters on my Ignore list.
      Much better than forums where you can be banned for the slightest offenses, and be at the mercy of arbitrary moderator rulings.
      And if there's a better forum than the RPG Codex for discussing older (pre X-Box) CRPGs, I'd like to know.

      It's one of the few forums where you have real freedom of speech, but of course freedom has a price, as "undesirables" will tend to gravitate towards the few places that are will not kick them out.
      I used to be active at the Bethesda forums, but I had kind of an eye opener when we were having a nice, friendly, but off-topic discussion, and some over zealous moderator butted in and in all her benevolence declared that "I will allow this". Definitely not the kind of forum I'd contribute to, being at the mercy of a moderator's whims. Then I much prefer the scum and villainy of the RPG Codex.

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  12. "No one disputes that people should follow the rules when it comes to competitive sports."

    Rules are important when multiple people are interacting, as in competitive sports, to make sure everyone gets what they expect. But if everyone agrees that things would work better differently, then they change the rule, as they often have in competitive sports.

    So this doesn't really transfer meaningfully to a solitary activity. In this case you are "everyone" so if you think a different rule would work out better, then you should change it. Would you argue that we should still be using Naismith's rules for basketball?

    That said, there is something to say about trusting the designer initially who has spent more time thinking about this task than you have. And that people can definitely rob themselves by taking the easy way out.

    But that's just a default approach that you should depart from with caution, so as not to miss out. But rule-breaking is absolutely about betraying others, and that doesn't apply here. The designer can be wrong, and it's nuts not to improve things if you can.

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  13. I agree with almost all of your controversial opinions, except for the music and Fallout 4 vs New Vegas.

    A game not having music at all is missing something essential for me. I can accept it for 80s DOS games due to the technical limitations of the era, but even then some games had soundtracks, heck, most even had PC speaker music if you didn't have a soundcard! One thing that makes the Spiderweb games feel like they're cheap and of low production value is that they have no soundtrack, not even the newer ones, even though RPG composers are a dime a dozen. I have to play the Avernums and Geneforges with instrumental fantasy music mixes in the background. I also tend to listen to music during work.

    When it comes to certain features of modern RPGs, I fully agree with you. I don't like quest markers at all. For me, the peak of the Elder Scrolls series was Morrowind with its detailed descriptions of where to go, and no markers appearing on your compass to show you every single nearby dungeon, like Oblivion and Skyrim do. For me, following a marker around isn't exploration. And usually, when you disable markers you don't have any clue where to to at all because the devs didn't write descriptions on how to reach your destination (why write a description when there's a marker?)

    Console-centric interfaces are annoying on PC. I really dislike it when a game doesn't even let me click on items in the inventory with my mouse, instead forcing me to scroll through all the items with the arrow keys (or WASD) because that's how you do it on controllers. Especially bad are games that can be played with mouse and keyboard, but the tutorial messages give you the controller buttons. Seriously, Dark Souls? I have to press the "A button"? I don't even have a controller plugged in, and your options menu even allows me to rebind keys, can it be so hard to display the proper keyboard key in the tutorial message? This isn't helpful in any way!

    I'm also not a big fan of full voiceover. In some games it's more appropriate than others. Deus Ex, Gothic - there it makes sense to exist. But in games like Divinity Original Sin 2 or Pillars of Eternity 2, I really don't get it. Why spend so much budget on it? They even had a narrator voicing all the descriptions, like "You stand in front of a cave, the light barely illuminating etc etc". Having descriptive text voiced by a narrator reduced my immersion rather than increasing it. Why is a disembodied voice telling me what I see? In Div OS2 I switched off the narrator's voice acting immediately. Halfway through the game, I also switched off the rest of the voice acting because I found it too distracting. I read much faster than any voice actor can talk, and when I'm reading the second paragraph while the voice actor is still speaking the first, it can really mess with my concentration.

    I like partial voice acting the way the Infinity Engine games did it, or more recently Disco Elysium. It gives you a nice image of the character's voice and can contribute to characterization, but it's not so excessive that it becomes intrusive. Full VA however... please no.

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    1. I get the point on music. I don't like dance & party music either, which seems like it has to be stupid enough to be not listened to by drunk people at a party, or while browsing their facebook messages. I don't like it either if a song is constantly blaring at me at full loudness, because it assumes the people listening to it are all too distracted to notice it otherwise. Can't have some quieter sections, the party noise will drown them out...

      And yet, I love a good computer game soundtrack, even if it plays "in the background" during the game. It's not strictly necessary, but e.g. the city of Yvel in Lands of Lore would feel cold and empty without that lovely tune playing in the background. It's hard to imagine either Dune game without the wonderful soundtrack.

      But I realize that this is partially because I grew up with early/mid 90s DOS games and Soundblaster music. I often find that technically better music technology, like Roland sound cards or a full orchestral soundtrack in modern games, just don't do it for me. So it would be silly for me to suggest someone has to "play with the music on" or "with a specific setting".

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    2. Buck, I really cannot see the connection. I live for electronic music and club every weekend, but I think you don't get that the music in a club is the star, that the chatting and the socialising is mostly what should not be there. That dance music is NOT background but something you have to pay attention to... to get the subtle changes. It is the same mindset as minimalism.

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    3. Sounds like you should be staying in with a beer and headphones instead of going out to the cloughb, Carlos.

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    4. Honestly, I can take or leave Voice acting in video games. It's not a deal breaker, but I prefer to read the dialogue for the same reason I prefer older games. I like using my "mind's eye" to fill the blanks.

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    5. Halligan39, there are many people that tell me that after 30 I should be home sat down and waiting for Death to come at me, but I do think that is sad. Go clubbing. Play video games. Learn an instrument and play songs. Write. Do sports you never did. And never ever tell people stop doing what they enjoy.

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    6. Regarding quest markers, some apparently see them as dumbing down, but allow me to speak for the less gifted when I say I've spent 15 minutes or more trying and failing to find my way to a Skyrim quest marker, on multiple occasions. Morrowind-style directions would lead me to simply not even try quests, and/or be convinced, even when I'm doing it right, that I might still be in the wrong place.

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    7. Well, you can't simply remove them, of course. They would need to be replaced by a system where the player has a reasonable chance of figuring out out locations on his own through a combination of NPC dialogue, maps, and other clues.

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  14. I think the opinions of NV being better than 4 are probably mostly down to rose-tinted glasses. I thought both were excellent when I played them, with maybe NV having the edge, but about 6 months ago I replayed NV for the first time since the original play through, and it just didn't seem that great to me any more. Maybe has a slight edge in the story and plot options department, but gets thoroughly trounced by 4 in pretty much every RPG/mechanical/game aspect.

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    1. NV is just the better Fallout game if you care about the lore. Bethesda's titles never felt right in the way they handled the factions, story, themes etc. New Vegas does. It also has the more interesting quests, better dialogues, etc. It just suffers from using the clunky Fallout 3 engine and not having had a very long development time.

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  15. 10. I used to cheat pretty liberally in games but now I only do so to fool around after I have finished a game, I realize I took a lot of the joy out of playing without realizing it.

    9. I actually really prefer not to map games, I like automap, but I do wish I had to keep notes and have less quest markers and better directions. I loved Morrowind's way here more than more modern games. Loved The Messenger even though it wasn't a RPG, gave you clues about what to do next and if you wanted a quest marker you could buy one in game.

    8. I can't imagine playing without music but if that's how you play that's how you play. Even if playing games in front of the TV I have at least one headphone in listening.

    7. I Agree.

    6. You sound like my wife, she can't stand the look of Japanese graphics either, can't even get her to try an anime, but I think it just comes down to what you grew up with. I would still love to see your takes on some of the better known JRPGs, I don't mind you complaining about the graphics because it's your honest opinions, people need to lay off you about it but that is just my opinion.

    5. You're right I think, some console rpgs can still be fun but yeah dumbed down in general.

    4. Yeah, some great games I've played lately like Pathfinder: Kingmaker and Wasteland 2 did what you said here, some voiced dialogue but more to read, it really is the best way.

    3. Yeah engines don't concern me, as long as a game is well made I'll play. Wish the Gold Box games more consistently improved but the engine was fine. Wish they would reuse the engine for Kingmaker honestly for other adventure paths but doesn't seem likely.

    2. They have done a couple spin offs, like ESO, and Blades and Legends I think is what they called there card game but overall, yeah. They should have a main series game released by know, and while I dislike some of what they changed from Morrowind and even Oblivion, I do like there games and still think they are improving, I just hope they bring back some of what people missed while keeping the improvements.

    1. I only just bought New Vegas and haven't played 4 yet so no comment.

    Got to say as well that I haven't have time to comment lately but I am really enjoying your posts lately, glad you're at Arkania as I've been trying to get into that game for two years now without success and I hope you can get me into it like you have with so many other games. And as somebody who played a lot of Dragon Warrior growing up, thanks for covering it even if you didn't enjoy it. Too bad you didn't have me to grind for you, my brother used to set me up in a safe place with instructions as to when to go save and when to run or fight and I grinded for him for hours. Loved it when I was 5, not so much any more.

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    1. Owlcat just announced a new PF AP game, Wrath of the Righteous like 3 days ago or so

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    2. "I just hope they bring back some of what people missed while keeping the improvements." I agree 100% about that. Just because I liked Skyrim doesn't mean I liked all the changes they made from the previous two.

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    3. The Elder Scrolls I loved is officially dead. Luckily, the Tamriel Rebuilt and Project Tamriel mods exist.

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    4. Personally, I miss a lot of the skills from Daggerfall that are no longer present. Bring able to scale walls adds so much to the experience, especially when playing as rogue types.

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  16. I love that even though I disagree with most of those opinions, reading your blog has been one of my greatest pleasures for almost a decade. It's great that solid, interesting writing and a love of video games can bring together people of all different types.

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  17. For anyone arguing that some of these opinions aren't all that controversial: I only said that they were MY most controversial, not that they were objectively very controversial. Each one of them has prompted argumentation in several threads, so I know that some people disagree even if the majority of readers do not. I'm not going to make up controversial opinions I don't hold just to make the list edgier.

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    1. Surely your most controversial thing is your final rating score of Dungeon Master.

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    2. I'm preparing another series called "10 Things I Was Dead Wrong About," and that's one of them. Not so much the final score--it actually isn't that bad, especially once you understand how my GIMLET works. But I approached the game all wrong without sufficient appreciation for its place in the history. It really led me to change my M.O. when starting new games.

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    3. Are there really that many arguments about 10 here? Maybe I missed most of them, but I've rarely seen anything but the odd hint about upcoming ones. I've seen more negative comments about your opinion on action games and graphical elements than on how you play games.

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    4. I gotta say, Addict, it's nice to see how much respect you've retroactively developed for Dungeon Master. You talk about it now much the same way that those of us do who lived through it, back then. I find that validating, that it wasn't just a bunch of young people being overly impressed with garbage, that it really was a superb game.

      I think it's one of the earliest games that's unambiguously playable, even for a modern gamer. The mechanics are brilliantly simple, and it helped define what a mouse interface in games would even look like, so it's quite painless for a current gamer to pick it up and play it. That's remarkable in a game that old.

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  18. In a few years, if technology keeps progressing, we might have good enough computer generated speech to eliminate the need for voice actors, and you could have fully voiced dialog by just storing the text information plus the configuration of the algorithm. But I doubt it will lead to the complexity in quest design you are looking for.

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  19. 10. Mostly true, I'd say. However, sometimes game devs come up with really obtuse solutions, or triggers that are next to impossible to guess. Games which rely on those are generally not particularly good though, so I'd say this statement still holds true.

    9. I personally like the middle ground here - you don't have to draw your own maps, but you need to find things on your own - kinda like many of the '90s RPGs worked.

    8. I see your point, but as someone who only got his first computer in the early 2000s, I disagree. I really hate the 'sound-effects-or-music' choice offered by the early games. I have no nostalgia for Spectrums, Amigas and the like, and music was mostly much better/more catchy in Japanese games of the era, anyway.

    7. Wouldn't say this one's controversial, hah. You won't be playing any PC-98 games here thankfully (all of them are Japan exclusives), but they frequently featured porn and rape, which are IMO unnecessary in games of this nature mostly, unless it's reaaaally well justified (usually it isn't).

    6-5. While Japanese RPGs can be very complex too at times, including open-world games, games with customizable characters, spells you input manually etc., for the most part they were, indeed, made to be simpler. Many of the best ones only came out in Japan, and since this is one language where machine translation goes nuts, most of them will never be accessible to Westerners. Either way, it's mostly about what you grew up with. Nowadays anime and stuff like this is much more ingrained in popular culture than back then, and so more people seem to be playing it. I didn't care about PC gaming until the 2000s, so to me they're still fun (and waaaay less time-consuming than Western games, even in spite of the grind), but I can see why someone would not like them that much. Their accessibility also made them sell way better in the 80s/90s, that's for sure. Either way, it's fun to learn about PC games as well, considering that I missed out on pretty much all of the ones from the 80s/most of the ones from the 90s. I do agree that consoles are better for action games, platformers, racers etc. though, on average.

    4. I liked it in some games, but on the whole it's not necessary IMO. Nowadays it's mostly decent, in the 90s/early 2000s it was mostly awful, but there was so little of it that it didn't really matter. Still, I wouldn't miss it that much, personally.

    3. Not sure if it's that controversial. It worked in the RPGs from the 90s, and they were still fun and memorable... sometimes they take it too far, sure, but nowadays the mobile phone gaming is taking over - and it "will" grow even more, due to Asian (mostly Chinese) influence.

    2-1. That's kinda what fans of Half-Life must be feeling, haha. I didn't like Skyrim very much, it's just a huge open area with lots of busywork and almost no meaningful quests, so I hope they take the cue from The Outer Worlds this time. As to Fallout 4, I loooved the Far Harbor DLC, it was exactly what I was looking for in this game... but other than that, I vastly prefer New Vegas's plot, characters and DLCs. Neither of those is a patch on FF 1 and 2 though, in my book.

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    1. "7. Wouldn't say this one's controversial, hah." Read the comments on that entry, then.

      "That's kinda what fans of Half-Life must be feeling, haha." That's another perfect example. When you have so many fans of your franchise lined up at the gates waving money, what POSSIBLE excuse do you have not to give them what they want? Valve and Bethesda are living offenses to the basic rules of macroeconomics.

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    2. Well the question is what is the alternative. If Valve can choose increasing Steam sales by 5÷ or releasing HL3 which is a series that didn't sell that hot on consoles, will never live up to expectations and could destroy the IP, what is the better choice?

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  20. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  21. 6. That is one of the reasons why people bothered you so much about playing Shin Megami Tensei, which has no super-deformed or chibi characters.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IP2W_6b7zJI
    Personally, I'm OK with such characters, but wish there were more games with the more serious character designs.

    4. I have the same opinion about it.

    P.S. Sorry, I posted a wrong video in the deleted post.

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    1. Fire Emblem has anime-style graphics, but they're not chibi/super-deformed. I do hope that at some point Chet gets a chance to play FE or some other Japanese SRPG. I think he would find the combat interesting, although there are other aspects (limited opportunities for grinding, usually) that he tends to dislike. And they tend to be more thematically and aesthetically 'mature'.

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  22. Please continue your blog another 10 years, or more. In a way it´s like you´re this historian. I don´t have a problem with your opinions, as long as you can document these games that the rest of us may not see otherwise.

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  23. Isn't engine re-use very common these days? A big criticism Bethesda often has is that they've been building all of their Elder Scrolls and Fallout games on iterations of the same engine for years. And I think even the Dragon Age engine was a more advanced version of the Neverwinter Nights 2 engine, rather than a completely new one. These days it seems like every other game is either in Unreal Engine or Unity or something.

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    1. Yes, it's relatively common, but my controversial opinion is that I don't mind it. Indeed, I want to see more of it. Indeed, I want it to go farther and have them not just re-use the engines but the assets as well. While we're waiting for a new Elder Scrolls game, is there anyone who wouldn't purchase a title set in Skyrim, using the same engine, maps, items, NPC models, etc., as the first game, but telling a brand new story with a new hero?

      What I really want, and have never seen--someone tell me if this exists--is a hybrid between an MMORPG and a single-player RPG. One in which there's a single character (for each player) but a persistent universe. I'd happily pay a monthly fee for a game like Skyrim in which the story and quests were constantly changing, but I didn't have to interact with other real people.

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    2. You're completely right here.

      A Skyrim-engine game set in the 200 YEARS (for comparison, Arena through Oblivion covers a 34 year span) between Oblivion and Skyrim would be an excellent reuse.

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    3. What you describe there Chet is not only already in existence but is the current hotness of the industry, though there have been more notable failures than successes. "Live services" seems to be what people are calling them, open world multi-player games with (usually) single player content. Bethesda had its flop with Fallout 76 and EA/BioWare squeezed out the Anthem stinker. Probably the most successful of the batch is Bungie's Destiny 2 which has been reliably releasing new content every 3 months (seasons) for over 2 years now, though it has only the thinnest veneer of RPG on its shooter frame.

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    4. From a technical perspective, a video game engine can fall in various points on a sliding scale between purpose-built and general-purpose. Unity and Unreal are both very general purpose engines; they focus on providing lighting and physics and an event loop. This means that when you're working with them there are more pieces you need to do yourself, but it also means there aren't many ways that show to a consumer that "oh, this is an X engine game". Conversely, the Gold Box engine is very purpose built; it's easy to swap out the maps for other maps and the story script, if you wanted to use it to create a real time game you would basically have to rewrite the fundamental code. Playing the Buck Rogers games are very obviously still Gold Box engine games, even though they aren't AD&D games.

      With a purpose-built engine you can more quickly knock out something approaching a finished product, but that last 10% can be incredibly painful if you aren't fitting within the original design. And then you have engines that are more in the middle of the spectrum; things like Frostbite are reasonably general purpose, but still have biases in their design for the first game they were designed for. The original iterations of the Unreal engine had a similar thing, before Epic realized that it would be better business to make their engine team their number one priority, and then use games as a way of showing it off. So the Unreal engine no longer shows roots of being an arena shooter engine. But if you haven't taken the time to really make your engine general purpose then you start to see what we saw with the later Might & Magic games; there were rough edges still existing from the first game on that 3D engine because smoothing them out would require rewriting large chunks of the fundamental code. While the core gameplay loop of the mixed turn-based and real time might still have been fun they couldn't incorporate learnings about how players interact with the games to deliver a better user experience. A good example of developers getting a user experience wrong initially is the control schemes for System Shock and Terra Nova; they're both successors to Ultima Underworld and keep the same basic control scheme, but while that wasn't too bad for a slow paced RPG they are extremely clunky for a fast paced shooter.

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  24. I think it's very important for you to vent some of these nonsense opinions and look like a gibbering crazy person in front of everyone from time to time, because it helps remind us all that you're not some objective arbiter of good and bad design in RPGs, but just a normal person with his own weird, inexplicable, just plain wrong idiosyncrasies like the rest of us. :)

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  25. 10. I generally try to not cheat and win most of my games "legally", but feel no guilt if I have to break out the Cheat Engine to skip a boring grind or something like that. My free time is finite and I'd rather not spend it on too much repetitive, tedious busywork if I can help it.

    9. I'm way too lazy to do these anymore. In today's cinematic games, I would also find it immersion breaking to stop the game and start writing on paper or alt-tab to take notes.

    8. Depends on the game, but generally I turn it off in first person RPGs and keep it on in others. In a game like Fallout 4, playing with music feels like walking around with headphones: you miss a lot of audio cues that warn you of nearby people, and you can easily stumble into danger you would've noticed otherwise. Otherwise I don't mind background music, I even have something on most of the time while at the computer.

    7. While I'm obviously not fond of the subject, and would never choose it as an action in an game if possible, I can tolerate (more like skip) rape scenes if there's good gameplay and/or story underneath. It's really too bad for the Rance series, for its later games are pretty good (in particular Sengoku Rance is an excellent strategy/RPG hybrid), but the constant raping is a major turnoff. Thankfully, there are very few such games in the RPG genre -- the truly depraved stuff is more of a visual novel thing, I think.

    6. I don't mind them, though I wish they'd offer adult, well defined protagonists more often instead of the usual dense, indecisive, self-insert high schooler. Though this part should get better a few game years later when technology will allow realistically proportioned people instead of the NES/SNES-era GLCM.

    5. Agreed, but unfortunately money talks. The worst offenders in my book are console exclusives, though. If I had my way, anyone who makes their game console exclusive should be given a life sentence.

    4. Yeah, that's true. I wonder when we'll start seeing automatically generated, maybe AI-powered voices in games. Something like the Vocaloids, but for normal speech, with proper inflections and tone, indistinguishable from real voice actors.

    3. Very much agreed. Way too much emphasis is placed on producing something new, shiny and awesome looking all the time, instead of delivering solid, well playable games.

    2. Elder Scrolls Online might have something to do with that. Well, at least we're getting a new game. Way too many game series have attempted to create its newest entry as an MMORPG or a cheap mobile game, flopped hard, and were discontinued entirely. My personal hatred is directed mostly at Bioware and their Knights of the Old Republic series here. Two excellent games, and then... a damn MMO? Screw them.

    1. I wouldn't go that far, but I agree that Fallout 4 is a way better game than its reputation leads you to believe. Sure, the dialogue system is utter crap, but otherwise the game is as solid as ever.

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    1. "Elder Scrolls Online might have something to do with that." Perhaps, but that's like saying you forgive George R. R. Martin for taking 10 years between books because you admire the Wild Cards series. Bethesda is letting too many side projects take the place of what they do well.

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  26. 9 I agree with SO strongly. Maybe not so much for automaps and such (I don't really want to manually map anything that isn't grid-based), but quest logs / quest markers are the goddamn bane of modern games. Not only for the fact that is eliminates player thinking / memory / perception but also for how it makes every piece of information a boolean "this is a quest" / "this is just fluff you can ignore".

    And 4 oh god so true.

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    1. I liked the approach of realms of arkania 2, you have a feather+book icon next to the NPC dialogue and when you click it it puts that section of the dialogue in your quest log

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  27. Hey, let's have an opinion on your opinions! I love this game

    10 Ok, but this is actually what I don't like about so many RPGs: you don't know if you are playing them right after much trial and error. Maybe you are 10 hours in the game and you have to start it over because you didn't know that you should not carry so many things around, so little, that you should not invest in this skill to talk to this guy, or you should, or that if you wanted to join this faction you should not be doing that thing. Maybe this is not what you meant but I cannot help thinking of that, the many times I have had to start over a crpg.

    9 Ok, great, but personally I am already a mess and have things all over the living room and I cannot have the luxury of having more papers around. And about the excel mapping, I have tried it but no. So, no for me. Last game I was taking a lot of notes was when I played Myst for the first time (not long ago) and well, I was not enjoying it so much though the paper where I took notes is funny to read.

    8 Yes, agreed, and I usually end up switching off the music, not only because the background one is a bit tiring but also because I take the opportunity to listen to music when there are not enough hours in the day to do so. I mean, I really love music. I love electronic music, and do you know how many releases are during the day? I love electronic music but also I want to keep up with the more pop scene and I like to dig in composers and operas my father was and is obsessed with. So yes, totally with you on this point. I used to - like many of us - play albums when I was playing dos games in the late 90s, so for example the soundtrack of "Until the end of the world" is in my mind tied up to Eye Of The Beholder 2.

    7 Jeez, agreed on that one. I would extend it to exploitation in general. I don't like games that forces me to be an trashy human being.

    6. What I don't like about anime is that the characters are usually totally serious with no sense of humour or in the ridiculous face, as if the two things could not live together. Chrono Trigger is cool though, probably the only classic Squaresoft game I enjoyed (but expect linearity and all that stuff).

    5 Duh

    4 OH GOD YES. I credit voice acting to the awful decline on the quality of writing of adventure games, and I HATE, I tell you, HATE, to wait for the actor to finish their lines. But of course then I am replaying the first season of Sam&Max and that is so extremely well acted that I find myself enjoying every phrase and punctuation as a cat rolling in the sand.

    3 Yeah, absolutely. Why not. So many beautiful FPS were done with the first Unreal engine, so many cool adventure games were done with scumm, and you know the list of RPGs. I mean, I cannot understand a criticism about this.

    2 Bethesda is the "too much of a good thing is too much" design in a gaming development company. Skyrim is fun but it is the most blatant example of "this part of gameplay works, so let's make the player repeat it 1 million times". Also, they popularised crafting in Skyrim. Ew.

    1 To each their own. I loved Fallout 3 because it was 100% the kind of western pioneer post apocalyptic story of David Brin, or what the hell, the better Kevin Costner adaptation of "The Postman" - I can fight whoever disagrees with me, I can deal with all of you haters - and in particular there is a mission where you have to protect a caravan that was 100% John Ford. NV is pure spaghetti, and as I don't like spaghetti that much (it is a dumbed version of the western that sometimes is compensated with the marxist overtones in Leone or Corbucci but usually is all about the shock value) I did not enjoy the setting that much, though the mission design was very complex (and buggy). Now, Fallout 4? Tried it, did some missions, crafted some shit and got so bored. Sorry for disagreing.

    Yeah, that's it

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    1. . Now my controversial opinions

      * Bethesda is killing the crpg genre with tedium

      * Without good writing, you can have the best rpg system but your game will be crap.

      * When I say writing is also being able to write characters apart from white guy that is exactly like yourself or your neighbour. I could complain how queer BAME characters are missing from the main stars of videogames, but bloody hell, most of rpgs cannot even properly write about women characters. WOMEN.

      * Nerds are the worst

      * I don't like killing animals in rpgs. I don't like killing rats, but with wolves it's even worse. Every time I have to kill one in a Piranha Bytes game and it yelps, something also dies inside me. But I need the experience. I feel really awful doing that. I don't like to roleplay to be awful.

      thanks

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    2. I recently got Gothic and I was delighted that animals don't attack you unless you come too close, and back off if you move away. Unfortunately, I soon found out that you need to kill them anyway because you need the experience to survive other parts of the game.

      I don't have a problem with killing wolves, though. So far, they've always killed me.

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    3. Still. That yelp. Pierces my soul.

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    4. "Ok, but this is actually what I don't like about so many RPGs: you don't know if you are playing them right after much trial and error." I deliberately didn't put a specific code of conduct in my comments above because I agree that it has to be customized for every game. Sure, there are times that using an exploit or cheat or even a hex-edit is an ethical thing to do when overcoming a bug or blatantly unfair element of the game. My comments were reserved more for people who say "Yeah, I create 20 characters and take all their gold and then delete them every time I start a new party" with no sense of shame. Or those who openly brag about using console commands, or those who reload to try every option and then go with the one that gives them the most experience points or the best item. Even if I did that, I wouldn't talk about it in public.

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    5. Oh, personally I would not judge you for that.

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    6. I don't think anyone wants queer BAME characters in more of their games, buddy, particularly as main stars.

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    7. Oh, don't leave it at that. Tell me why you don't think that ANYONE wants queer bame characters, please do, Anonymous.

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  28. Hmm, about your FNV vs Fallout 4 arguments:

    -No level cap -- Agreed, but F4's leveling system is pretty lousy. I don't like the low level cap of FNV (but it goes up to 40-50 with expansions) but the F4 perk tree system sucks (arbitrary level caps on everything, most perks are worthless, etc).

    -Keep playing after the end - eh, I guess. It just shows how main stories aren't Bethesda's focus. I prefer a more central plot. F4's story is insultingly stupid.

    -Bigger world - yeah, Obsidian didn't have the resources. But Boston is pretty sparse in terms of unique content. Just endless ruins of mutants, raiders, and ghouls.

    -Vegas is tiny - Engine limits and console restrictions. Totally agree.

    -Settlment system - hard disagree. While settlement building is a neat idea it's completely unnecessary and goes nowhere in the game. There's no greater purpose to it, meanwhile there are like 3 other actual towns in the game because it makes you build them all yourself. I would have taken 3-4 more pre-made settlements with real NPCs and quests instead of endless generic settlers and Preston Garvey.

    -Perks system - this has more to do with Bethesda gimping the skill system in Fallout 3 (limiting you to 100 in each skill) but I honestly don't thing Fallout 4 has "builds" at all. Every character does everything, the only perks that matter are the damage ones. So it's just a question of what weapon you pick. The game also has the incredibly stupid distinction between single-shot and automatic weapons; oh look I'm shooting on full auto, the bullets do 1/10 the damage now. WTF.

    -Better crafting - yeah, F4's gun modding is great. FNV has ammo reloading and more gun variety though, strangely enough. No using stupid pipe weapons for 30% of the game.

    -Better power armor - Agree! Changing power armor into it's own thing and not just a suit of plate mail is a cool idea and I think Bethesda gets too much flak for it. However I know a lot of players find the constant fusion core drain so stressful they never use it (wrongly IMO, but that's how people are).

    -No invisible walls -Yeah they don't cordon off the center of the map. Obsidian was still stuck in old non-open world game concepts.

    -Survival mode - I never played it but how is F4's better than FNV? They both have it.

    -Flying around - I never bothered.

    -More vertical - yeah the city terrain is neat. You get sucked into exploring and end up halfway across the city when you're supposed to be doing a quest. Exploration is the best part of F4.

    -Behemoths and mirelurks - eh, I've never been impressed with Bethesda's monster design, and their super mutants are an insult to the lore.

    -Artillery - another cool idea but when do you ever need this? Around level 30-40 all fights become effortless.

    -Body part targetting - FNV has this, not sure what you are talking about.


    The story in FNV at least is sensible, even if it's underdeveloped and the Legion content is very truncated. The factions in F4 make no sense. Brotherhood of Steel is "evil" for no reason, Railroad are defending infiltration robots who are murdering people, The minutemen can take over the wasteland and no one even notices, and the institute is beyond dumb. Really the story should have been Institute vs Minutemen, with the faction system acting as a war between them, and the BoS and Railroad acting as potential allies for either side. Bethesda was trying to copy Obsidian and failed miserably, making four factions with zero intelligence.

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    1. In most games, "hardcore" mode just means really hard. Skyrim comes to mind. FNV added some elements that make it a bit DIFFERENT rather than just harder, but mostly it's just harder.

      In F4, on the other hand, "survival" mode means you're playing a completely different game. It has most of the elements of FNV--ammo has weight, stimpaks heal over time instead of instantly--but it has some major differences, too. One of them is that combat is paradoxically EASIER for both you and your opponents. Gunshot damage still isn't "realistic" the way it is in a FPS, but it's a lot closer than in a vanilla game. You can and do die in one shot, but you can also kill a lot of enemies in one shot. It also forces you to find a bed to save, so you have to play very carefully.

      As for the perks system, what I mean by "builds" is that you have more options for crafting a unique "class" for the character. For instance, you can go the "blacksmith" route and max your perks in armorer, blacksmith, demolotions, and weaponsmith to compensate for lack of skill with better gear. There are numerous perks that make a melee character a more viable option than previous games. You can take perks that maximize your ability to take advantages from the wilderness itself, like "Lead Belly," "Cannibal," "Ghoulish," and "Solar Powered."

      I simply don't agree that most perks are worthless. The last time I played, I rolled random numbers to determine what perks I picked and then forced myself to play in a way that made use of those perks, and I had a great time finding advantages with things I wouldn't normally have chosen.

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    2. Thank you, by the way, for actually engaging my points instead of just expressing incredulity at the opinion and leaving it at that, which is what I get 95% of the rest of the time I talk about it.

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    3. I always look forward to getting a new perk in Fallout 4. There's always some upgrade I want that's one perk level away, always some safe that I can't crack yet, always some ability that would have come in handy during that last encounter.

      I love the settlement system because I like any kind of customization in games. I like building apartments, making sure they're well lit, having distinct flavor areas like restaurants and dining rooms, and building my own separate "house" away from where the settlers sleep. In fact, I wish there was MORE--I want to pick settlers' clothing, for one thing.

      One thing I prefer about New Vegas to FO4 is the setting. I don't know anything about the East Coast and I think tricorn hats are goofy. I loved New Vegas's wild west motifs with cowboys, deserts, Native American-esque tribes, cacti, ritzy casinos and small backward villages. The Commonwealth is a very bland concept in comparison, even if it's executed much better.

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  29. Well, you picked the right #1. (Though I take some issue with using 'effete little [bare-legged] elf' as an insult to classic heroes; Conan was running around bare-legged all the time and 'effete little elf' is not a bad description for Elric of Melnibone. But art preference I'm not going to argue with.)

    Anyway: I like Fallout 4 better in a lot of ways. The survival feature combined with settlement-building meant I enjoyed the first part of the game more than most any other Fallout - whatever other missions I had going on, I was constantly scrounging and building to extend my reach by founding settlements in new areas of the map. Loved it, until I had built out the map and starting seriously questing... at which point I started seeing the flaws.

    The key area that hurts it for me was in the R part of RPG.

    - The dialogue system. You called this out, but dear lord. The 'vague idea of what you will say' pulled me out of my attempt to roleplay a million times when it turned out that the actual dialog my character spoke was drastically different than I had expected or intended.

    - The dialogue system, again. Man, I hated it.

    - The inability to resolve the main plot (or pretty much all side quests) except with annihilation. One of the things that made the first Fallout games stand out was that you could run a Persuasion build that essentially talked their way through the game. Most of them had a couple of enemies you had to kill, but most of them also let you resolve the main plot with words instead of weapons. (New Vegas being notable in that it was possible to do a full-pacifist run out of the box.) In F4, there are situations where Persuasion checks help, but for the most part your only true option is to murder your way out. Now, I love murdering my way through situations in RPGs! Most of them let me do that! But one of the big things that made earlier Fallout games amazing was that you didn't have to most of the time, with stealth and charisma being fully viable alternatives.

    - To add insult to injury, and building on the complain above, the ending. ROT13 covers majors F4 endgame spoilers:

    Lbh pna rira trg fryrpgrq nf gur arj urnq bs gur Vafgvghgr orsber orvat ybpxrq vagb n snpgvba sbe gur raqtnzr! Ng gung cbvag vg FUBHYQ unir orra cbffvoyr gb tb sbe n va n 'chfu gur Vafgvghgr gb fgbc hfvat rafynirq NVf nf zheqreobgf / va snpg yrg'f frg gurz serr naq ohvyq bhe arj shgher jvgu jvyyvat urycref / choyvp rkcbfher vf varivgnoyr fb yrg'f or fzneg nobhg vg' raq-tnzr. Ohg abcr! Tbggn hfr n AHPYRNE RKCYBFVBA gb qrfgebl gur cynpr, juvpu vf n jubyr 'abgure guvat gung obguref zr nobhg gur S4 raqtnzr - vg qbhoyrq qbja ba gur 'ahxr nf ab ovt qrny' geraq juvpu svtugf ntnvafg gur onpxfgbel bs gur ragver senapuvfr naq unf tbggra jbefr fvapr.

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    1. V nterr fbzrjung ba lbhe ynfg cbvag. V gubhtug gur SAI "Ybarfbzr Ebnq" rkcnafvba jnf gur jbefg bssraqre urer, ohg lrnu, gur tnzr vf n yvggyr gbb pbby jvgu zvav-ahxrf naq bgure hfr bs ahpyrne grpuabybtl sbe n senapuvfr gung rzcunfvmrf ubj zhpu vg fhpxf gb yvir haqre n "snyybhg." V qba'g xabj ba gur fcrpvsvp raq bs gur Vafgvghgr oenapu, gubhtu. Nera'g lbh whfg oybjvat hc gurve ernpgbe, juvpu vzzrqvngryl trgf pbirerq ol gubhfnaqf bs gbaf bs ehooyr? V'z abg fher gung'f gur fnzr nf qebccvat n svffvba obzo va grezf bs ybat-grez qnzntr. Gura ntnva, V qba'g xabj n ybg nobhg ahpyrne fpvrapr.

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    2. Regarding series lore, both Fallout 1 and 2 erdhver n ahpyrne qrgbangvba gb pbzcyrgr gur tnzr (oybjvat hc gur Pngurqeny naq gur Rapynir Bvy Evt, erfcrpgviryl). Lbh pna gnyx fbzrbar vagb qbvat vg sbe lbh va obgu tnzrf, ohg vg'f fgvyy tbaan oybj hc. Fb Snyybhg 4 raqvat jvgu n znaqngbel ahpyrne rkcybfvba vf pbafvfgrag jvgu cer-Orgurfqn frevrf genqvgvba.

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  30. This is the third or fourth time I’ve seen you mention RDR2 as if it’s an RPG. Do you see it as such?

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    1. No, but it's a good example of an open-world game, so I use it when I'm making a point about open-world content.

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    2. I ask because sometimes it seems like you're more addicted to sandboxes than RPGs specifically. No offense, but would a true "CRPG Addict" have spent time playing RDR2 at all?

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    3. Bob, that's kind of a stupid thing to say. It's like arguing if my favorite food is pizza, I should never eat anything else.

      I love RPGs and I love open-world games, so it's natural that the games I love the most are going to be where those two genres intersect. But the RPG part is important, and I would never prize RDR2 above a game with strong RPG mechanics and in which I could choose the outcome of the story.

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    4. Bob's definitely got that dopey Codex logic going.

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    5. You can still be a heroin addict even if you do other drugs.

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  31. Ooh! I have things to say about this...

    I'm convinced that voiced dialogue, more than any other factor, is keeping modern games from greatness. The necessity of getting an actor into a studio to voice every possible line of dialogue is what prevents developers from creating more quest dependencies, creating alternate endings, fixing bugs, and including a lot more NPCs in games that feel very sparse without them.

    In my experience, you're wrong. Or, to be more nuanced and accurate, you're noting a valid issue but oversimplifying it enough that I think it's worth digging in.

    Having worked on a range of both big budget RPGs with VO and mid-tier RPGs without, I've rarely encountered VO itself to be the biggest thing blocking more complicated branching, extra quests, bugfixing, etc. It can be a factor, but other elements that've played a role include:

    a) The overall "cinematic" experience. This is where you're essentially right--but it's not the cost of the voiceover that's prohibitive at all. It's the cost of building the art and animations for an NPC. It's the cost of having a director choreograph and pick shots and choose animations for every conversation. It's the engineering cost of lip-syncing tech and procedural facial animations. An Infinity Engine-style game with full VO is simply an unpleasant experience, and a cinematic, movie-like game without VO feels bizarre. A Mass Effect mission might only have two endings because building out a third complex cutscene is prohibitive, not because voice actors are expensive. So long as we're making games that feel like films, VO is a drop in the bucket.

    b) Quality assurance time. I've had lengthy discussions and arguments on even mechanically simple games about reducing the number of narrative branches because they're incredibly time-consuming to QA properly. I've seen large chunks of content cut from AAA games for the same reason. QA is a crazy difficult discipline and content complexity can increase your QA time and bug count exponentially.

    c) Perceived importance to the customer. I'd say that broadly speaking, there's a perception that the average customer doesn't really care about the difference between a game with a single path with some minor branching and a complex knot of quests with alternate outcomes and dependencies. The former's a lot cheaper to do than the latter, so... why do the latter? The thing of it is, I think the perception has some truth to it--there are a lot of reasons why a game like Dragon Age has never sold in numbers similar to a game like Halo, but clearly complexity of narrative content isn't a requirement for success. Why throw $100 million at a project that'll sell 7 million units when you could throw the same budget at a project that'll sell 12 million?

    (Yes, there are reasons, but my point is it's an uphill battle.)

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    1. I allow that perhaps "voiced dialogue" is only one element of the overall "cinematic experience" that you talk about, but it is the only element that imposes a fixed order, timeline, and other restrictions based on availability of resources. Anyone can create, edit, or add other cinematic elements to a game, but you can't functionally keep calling a voice actor back the studio to dub more dialogue in perpetuity. Eventually, you're stuck with what you have.

      I feel like we have to control for genre on c). In general, RPGs don't sell as well as FPSes or other action games, right? The question is whether players reward the best-selling RPGs by favoring the ones with the most role-playing elements. I don't know the answer.

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    2. I had a nice response to this typed up and then clicked the wrong button. Recreating as best I can...

      You're right that VO locks down content to a certain extent far enough into the pipeline--though even then, bringing back voice actors (particularly ones with major roles, who are coming in to record across many months anyway) isn't all that hard. You know you'll need a pickup session, so you just plan on addressing those 100 changed lines across 40 different quests all at once near the end in an hour or two of recording time.

      More to the point, most of the major decisions about things like branching, quest interaction, alternate endings, etc., are decided long before voice recording begins. When it comes to games with VO vs. games without, I've seen roughly the same number of changes after the writing and design phase is finished. Rerecording simply isn't the biggest factor.

      Regarding genre, you're of course correct. But it's rare that a publisher says, "We want a great RPG for this small, underserved audience." If you're looking for the best possible investment, you want to appeal to a broad audience--which is how you end up with RPGs that serve the RPG audience while designed to bring in the FPS crowd, say. And ultimately, if you need to lose 10% of the RPG fans to gain 10% of the FPS fans, you've made a solid business decision.

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  32. I would have thought that the infamous Vote for Hillary Post would make the list.

    But while we're discussing controversial opinions, here's one personalized for the Addict: Classical music is in every musical way (rhythmically, harmonically, melodically, dynamics, variety of forms) more interesting and superior to jazz. Discuss.

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    1. "About RPGs" was the intended qualifier. If I offered my 10 most controversial opinions about ANYTHING, we'd be having a much different conversation.

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    2. As for your opinion, I can't argue with you at all on the issue based on the terms you laid out. My only three counters would be:

      1. Jazz feels a lot more personal to me; one thing that classical music lacks, even in the Romantic era, is an appreciation for individual vocals. There is no "classical" equivalent to Billie Holiday.

      2. While agreeing 99% with your point about variety of forms, I would challenge you to point to any classical or Romantic era composer that exemplefies non-imitative polyphony (PARTICULARLY improvised non-imitative polyphony) better than the best jazz ensembles.

      3. I love the "story" of jazz. It wasn't invented or even perfected by Middle- and Upper-class people with years of conservatory training and apprenticeships. It came out of the dirt, a melange of people and themes only possible in America. Some of its greatest players couldn't even read music. It was made possible only because of the worst moments in our history, the worst vices of our society.

      But overall, you'd be asking me to argue something I rate 1000/1000 against something I rate 997/1000. There isn't a lot of room there.

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    3. Thanks for the response. To make a confession – this is not an opinion I hold, but at one time I did, and if you run in classical music circles it’s not uncommon to find people who subscribe to this. I long ago abandoned the idea that one can logically deduce aesthetic principles like math or logic; ultimately it boils down to personal taste that is a priori not subject to rational inquiry. For instance, you mentioned that you like jazz vocals – to my ears it sound like they are using poor intonation or are off-pitch, whereas a jazz lover will say they love the “earthiness” of the timbre and the use of ambivalent micro-tones. Is anyone right? Nope – de gustibus non est disputandum and all that. I still give jazz a go every once in a while. Maybe I’ll catch on someday, though thus far it hasn’t grabbed me.

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    4. Oooh, this is too good to not comment on. A couple of things:

      1. A "Classical" equivalent of Billie Holiday could potentially be someone like Maria Callas. In "Classical" music tradition is so important that the individuality of the singer does seem to necessarily be watered down in favor of interpreting and realizing the composer's intent though.

      2. I find it funny that "Jazz" and "Classical" are often pitted against each other. Notice that "Jazz" has only had a hundred years to evolve, whereas the other has had centuries. Yet jazz has evolved to such a high level of complexity that only classical stands a chance in comparison (unless we open and the floodgates and bring in other rich traditions such as Indian Classical and Chinese Classical).

      3. I keep putting jazz and classical in quotes because of course they have both evolved to a point where they or no longer genres. Stravinksy vs Bach, Louis Armstrong vs Bill Frisell, the music is so vast that these comparisons are all pointless, and I personally find it impossible to reasonably answer questions like "what is jazz?" without laying the grounds for a college level thesis. OK that was fun, thanks guys!

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    5. Too good a comment to be attributed to "Unknown."

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  33. I'm assuming you posted this wanting to spark commentary and debate, and I'm happy to oblige. :)

    10. I used to feel this way pretty strongly, but as I've gotten older and have had less and less free time to truly enjoy games, so too have I become less fixated on this. Nowadays, I feel like gaming can mean different things to different people, and who am I to dictate to someone else how they should have fun with a game? At the end of the day, I find myself playing games in ways that I have the most fun with - which, to be clear, tends close to your style, though I'm more amenable to savescumming and similar behaviors than you.

    That being said I still have a really harsh opinion of cheating in multiplayer games for obvious reasons.

    9. I do miss mapping somewhat, but I've never been able to competently draw freehand, non-grid based maps well. I'm ambivalent on note taking and quest markers.

    8. I'm the opposite here, I have a hard time focusing on a game without music playing generally. Exception for games of old enough vintage that they didn't have music in the first place. On a similar note, I get unreasonably worked up when I see other people playing games and playing their own music over the game's music for some reason, unless it's a built-in game feature to do so.

    7. Like another commenter, I'd broaden this generally to "I don't like games that force my character to do vile things", including but not limited to rape.

    6. Art is inherently subjective, and invariably some styles of art will work for one person but not another. Nothing wrong with that. For what it's worth, I do want to see you play Chrono Trigger, but mostly because I really want to see someone come at the game with the kind of objectivity I've come to expect from ten years of your blog and with a different perspective from the sort of person who usually writes about classic Japanese RPGs, and think it would spark some interesting critical discussion.

    5. I don't have a strong preference either way for control schemes other than that, like you, I hate mice. I tend to find the UI of most console ports of games originating from the PC bad, but UIs specifically designed for console from the ground up tend to be better. (Not always.)

    4. I generally agree with you on voiced dialogue.

    3. I definitely agree here.

    2. I have very unpopular opinions about Bethesda games. I'll leave it at that ;)

    1. Haven't played either, so I can't comment.

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  34. 10. I agree. If I would "win" a game with cheating, it would not feel like a victory at all, not even like a small one. But if I am stuck, it's ok to peek into the walkthrough, if the reason I am stuck is "bad" game design (like missing a skill without the game giving me any clue that that's the problem). In this situation it does not feel like cheating, but like manually correcting an insufficiency of the game. Unfortunately, I only know afterwards if looking into the solution was justified and if it wasn't, for me the game isn't winnable anymore.

    9. True. The often-mentioned Legend of Grimrock (and probably some other games I am not aware of) allows the automap option to be turned off. Although it isn't really necessary (you could simply not look at it), I like the acknowledgment that mapping is, or can be, part of the CRPG experience.

    4. I think the same way. In addition, I don't want to wait for the voice actor to finish his speech, if I already read a minute ago what he is going to say next. And accelerating the dialogue by click-interrupting somehow feels to me like rushing through the game.

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    1. I often wonder if the Addict would like or hate the Etrian Odyssey games, given that on the one hand, they have the controller-driven interfaces and Japanese aesthetics he doesn't like - although EO monsters are, at least, properly monstrous usually - but also have elements he does like a lot (relevant economy, little handholding, having to draw maps in-game as a game mechanic).

      Of course, it's a very, very long time before the question could come up as long as the blog continues in chronological order, and none of them have come to PC yet.

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    2. I guess our dear Addict would not mind about Etrian Odyssey, would be kind of irritated by the mapping thingy but would like the strategy on character build and how tight the game is on its beginning.

      I mean, EO is basically Wizardry streamlined. Or a roguelike without the random elements. Though the game it reminded me most of was Mordor: The Depths of Dejenol.

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  35. I don't think any of these are particularly controversial given the name of the blog. Well, except maybe the music one, but then you're still in the era of ten second MIDI loops for the most part. (Incidentally, do you play Bethesda RPGs with the music down? The sudden transition into battle music is usually the first indication I get that something has spotted me and is bearing down fast.)

    It'd be more controversial if you used this opportunity to say you were only interested in covering Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy from here on out. Followed by a video clip of you ritualistically burning a graph paper pad with the caption "never going to need this again".

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    1. Maybe a short video of him uninstalling Excel?

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  36. Can we at least agree that Fallout 1 & 2 are better than 4?

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  37. Let me get this straight. "I don't like rape games" is a controversial opinion?

    WTF kind of world are we living in?

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    1. Well, the Rance series has a dozen games and there's at least six other games which have the word "rape" somewhere in the title.

      Welcome to the hell world we're all trapped in.

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    2. I think the good faith version of the argument goes something like this:
      * Fiction isn't reality and we're pretty well agreed on the idea that enjoying a fictional action movie like Rambo doesn't mean we want to slaughter real people with a gun.
      * Adults should be free to consume the fiction they want to.
      * The reaction of people who don't like these games can result in censorship or market forces that prevent others from accessing them.
      * And regardless of all of the above, there's a certain historical impetus to faithfully translate and preserve the games of this sort that *have* been made.

      And I don't really disagree with any of that, but on the other side:
      * There's a difference between "explicit erotica, marketed as erotica" and "normalising sexualisation of women by making it the default mode of mainstream media".
      * A lot of these games aren't coming from a place of deliberately servicing a non-consent fetish, they're coming from a complete ignorance of how consent works and how to appropriately interact with a woman, and teaching that ignorance to their audience.
      * The games exist in a real-world context of prevalent and normalised sexual assault and while artistic freedom is important, any reasonable person would say that addressing cultural attitudes that lead to sexual assault is more important.
      * Regardless of the line between reality and fiction, it's content that will inevitably be incredibly distressing for many people due to their real-world lived experience, and an abstracted discussion about artistic freedom risks trivialising that reality in offensive ways.
      * The people making the arguments on the top side of this post unfortunately include plenty of people using them as the "reasonable opinion" cover for a campaign of actual misogyny, or at least for an overwhelming sense of entitlement.

      And beyond all of the above, Chet is entitled to like what he wants; disliking rapey games is hardly an uncommon or unreasonable position; and there's no reason in the world he has to give them a free pass on their content choices in opposition to his own personal reaction. Others are welcome to feel differently and review them differently on their own blogs.

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    3. while artistic freedom is important, any reasonable person would say that addressing cultural attitudes that lead to sexual assault is more important

      I'm a fairly reasonable person and find rape-oriented games repulsive, but I've been bothered for a couple days by this assertion of yours, and I think I've put my finger on why: it implies that the primary duty of art is to propagandize for a particular worldview, and it puts two things (artistic freedom vs. cultural attitudes that lead to sexual assault) into an implicitly zero-sum, "you must choose" equation without justification.

      It reminds me uncomfortably of the "Yes, we all agree that civil liberties are important, but security is more important" arguments of the early 2000s -- the counterargument to which is that the very premise, i.e. that one has to choose between the two or that those things are in some way in opposition, is faulty.

      Of course, I'm not a big believer in the idea that "addressing cultural attitudes" will make too much of a difference in sexual assault rates, because I've known too many people who do horrible things because they're horrible -- not in spite of the fact, not because they don't know better or needed to be better educated or deserved a better upbringing. They just enjoy cruelty, and enjoy giving the middle finger to anyone who would tell them what to do, for any reason whatsoever, in even the smallest way. I've been unlucky enough to know a handful of sex offenders and murderers -- some convicted, some never even arrested -- and the majority of them wore a perennial smirk that was far, far beyond any hope of being reached by "addressing cultural attitudes".

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    4. PK Thunder - You've misunderstood me. I'm not saying that art needs to be turned in service of whatever society's issue-of-the-day is. I'm saying that anyone who's spending their time defending the cultural significance of RapeMaster 3000 who hasn't spent three times that long on actively working to reduce the societal factors that lead to rape and domestic violence is a person who's got their priorities wrong and needs to have a long think about that.

      And yes, combating sexual and family violence is both a significant part of my professional work, and the focus of my charitable giving this year, AND I'm prepared to stand up for the basic right of adults to consume the media they want to consume (and in fact have run for political office on that platform).

      The position isn't "we can have art or safety but not both, and we have to choose". We can absolutely have both, but one of them actually needs our passion and activism right now, and the only real danger to the other is people who are giving it a bad name through needing to pick reductive online fights about it.

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  38. My controversial opinion is that there aren't enough Gold Box games. Even with Unlimited Adventures and fan-created content, there still just aren't enough.

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  39. Makes me sad when I see modern and semi-modern versions of games (KOTOR, Xcom, FF7) on my touch screen phone, but no ports of any Gold Box games

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  40. I know this technique. It's called 'Windows-FU'.

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  41. Perhaps it is YOU who's taking the whole affair a bit too seriously.
    Oh, and 7 does not make you look foolish or someting. It makes US proud of YOU. :-)
    And you are totally right concerning japanese RPG's. Watching kids with straw-thin arms wielding tons of steel is somewhat unsettling.
    Also, I don't think many of us really 'hate' Bethesda. I for one would just wish they'd stop to stubbornly waste resources to keep F76 alive and start something new. If something doesn't work, then, for god's sake, scratch that!

    You see, we're still with you.
    We are even willing to forgive you the music thing.

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    1. Hey, this is his blog. He is the centre of attention.

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  42. I really dislike voiced dialogues, too, and don't see the point in it. It's okay to voice cutscenes, where something happens, or to voice the side comments of my party, or to voice the greeting or first sentence to etablish the tone of the conversation. But I don't need anyone to read plain dialogue text to me, I can read much faster and the voice is distracting.

    Looking at you, Pillars of Eternity 2.

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    1. Fully agree. Had to switch off the VA in Pillars 2 at some point because it got on my nerves.

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  43. Most of these opinions don't seem to be very controversial to me. Well, except #1, which is why you put it in the top spot, I presume.
    However, it comes as no surprise, since you've often been singing the praises of Bethesda titles, disregarding the fact that their RPG "meat" has been on the decline ever since Daggerfall.
    But until the day that the rpg list reaches FO4, I guess I'll just pretend I never read that. :P

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  44. Well, I only disagree with the music one, and Fallout I have never played either so I don't care.

    But I actually 100% agree with everything else on this list. I guess that's why I have been reading this blog for 10 years... ;)

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  45. For crossword puzzles, you learn a lot more and improve your skill if you look up one or two things to complete a hard puzzle, than if you just give up. Someone who can complete a Saturday New York Times puzzle looking up one thing is still very good at crossword puzzles.

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  46. Re: #1, my big issue with Fallout 4 was that it felt like a bait-and-switch. Once I started to think of it as Farcry: Post Apocalypse, I enjoyed the game a lot more.

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  47. Disliking hentai games is one thing, being offended by boobies in Wizardry is another.

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    1. It seems more to me like that he hated them because they came out of nowhere and did not fit in with the game's general mood; same for the party member in Fate: Gates of Dawn who refused to wear clothes. He probably would have had similar reactions to superheroes, anime-inspired, or furry-esque designs showing up in Wizardry. He even dislikes games that present a serious plot but pepper it with jokes. Heck, the humor thing is probably the best analogy for why Chester feels lewdness was a bad fit for the tone of Wizardry.

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    2. I think the boobs fit the cheesy 80s/90s fantasy quite well! Just look at fantasy art of the time. Plenty of boobs there!

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    3. It's just the usual puritanic boobophobia so prevalent in Amiland.

      (and that's just my pathetic attempt to post something controversial too here)

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    4. Y'all need to learn the difference between "offended by", "didn't enjoy in this context" and "had criticism of", especially when Chet's been pretty clear about it several times.

      He doesn't have a problem with boobs. He doesn't have an inherent problem with *depictions* of boobs. I don't *think* he has a problem with games that have boobs *in* them. I suspect there might be games with, for example, topless female monsters that he's fine with, where it's in the context of a consistent and striking artistic direction.

      What he's consistently said about the games he's criticised is that the nudity in them is:
      * not consistent with the tone and audience of the game generally, and/or
      * it's gratituous or immature, and/or
      * it's in the context of rape or sexual violence, and/or
      * it's aesthetically offputting or disturbing.

      That's not a position of "games shouldn't have boobs", it's a position of "THIS game shouldn't have had THOSE boobs".

      People having a critical opinion of art isn't an attack on your right to be heterosexual, guys.

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    5. Funny thing is that I never noticed the nymphs in Wizardry 6 were naked until Mr. Addict pointed it out. And I didn't quite see the problem with the topless Amazulus. Women still go bare breasted in parts of Africa.

      Personally I find chainmail bikinis more stupid or, or offensive.

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    6. The thing is, I doubt Wizardry was going for a National Geographic sort of realism, and more likely just wanted some sexy naked women. Notice how there's very, VERY rarely any *male* nudity in games of any genre or time period.

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    7. Well, bare breasted males are nor considered nudity, while a bare breasted female is.

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    8. In general with sex and erotic in games: if you can't do it well, don't do it and it is damn hard to do well. I mean those pixel breasts are not appealing in the first place and don't add anything, so why do it? does anybody start the game and think 'yeah pixel boobs, this is awesome?'.

      Hentai games at least fulfill a purpose for their audience.

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    9. There's a difference between art and smut. Nobody calls Michelangelo's David pornographic, nor are breasts inherently sexual. It's all about the context.

      On a side note, I gotta agree with on number 7. While I feel if implied through subtext it can be a powerful narrative tool, there is a fine line to walk, and I don't wanna have to schedule a Therapy session after I get done playing a game.

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    10. I don't see a difference. "smut" is art, or rather, it can just as well be percieved as art as anything else. It doesn't matter if it is done for commercial purposes, or if it was primarily created with the intention to entertain. I think any definition of art that tries to exclude "smut" will exclude many things that most people would clearly consider as art.

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    11. I find the bare breasted women in Wiz 6 fit the atmosphere of the game very well since the Wizardry series was going for and 80s to 90s sword and sorcery vibe, and just take a look at the artwork of Boris Vallejo, for example. That's the kind of atmosphere the game was going for, in my eyes.

      Also, Alex, there are plenty of bare-chested muscular barbarians a la Conan in games. It's just that bare male chests aren't considered nudity in the same way female bare breasts are.

      And when it comes to those male body parts that would be considered nudity... well, neither men nor women get their nether regions exposed in most games, unless it's an erotica game (or Daggerfall).

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    12. I think everyone misses out on important context here. While neo-puritanism is certainly becoming a big problem today, I think we don't understand why, exactly.

      The problem with the boobs in games like Wizardry is the audience that was intended to enjoy them. Lower status men. We don't like these men enjoying anything, and when we see it happening, our impulse is to put a stop to it. If we can't put a stop to it, we shame them and anyone who defends them. Just look at the comment above: "The thing is, I doubt Wizardry was going for a National Geographic sort of realism, and more likely just wanted some sexy naked women."

      What's wrong with sexy naked women? Well lower status men like them, for one. All that's allowed is National Geographic realism, as that's not enjoyable. Puritianism is hostility to the pleasures and indulgences of others. Especially those unfit to receive them. Puritans can't feel good unless everyone else has been denied pleasures.

      Deciding that these people were insane and we shouldn't listen to them was a good move, and it's troubling to see the movement coming back with so much support.

      Delete
    13. Harland, my comment was in response to PetrusOctavianus's implied assertion that the nudity was in pursuit of some sort of realism ("Women still go bare breasted in parts of Africa").

      You've built a nice strawman of some high-minded Puritan art snob reeling in disgust at the idea of nude bodies, when the most anybody's said is that they found that part a dumb non-sequiter. There's a wide gulf between disliking something you find dumb and juvenile, and the kind of puritanism you're alluding to.

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    14. As Chet said repeatedly, he was expressing a personal preference about that particular expression of 'nudity' because to him, it felt like DW Bradley saying: "Hey kids, wanna see some titties? ;)".

      Chet isn't telling people to get that sense from Wiz VI, or not to enjoy that aspect of it, or to care about that aspect of it. He's just providing his reaction (which I largely share).

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    15. So, the nudity thing belonged on the list but I left it off specifically because I didn't want to have this discussion again, and because I don't really have an "opinion" about it in general--just that, like any element in any game--there are ways to do it badly. To comment on it at all, especially when it seems to come out of nowhere, is hardly to express "offense."

      I'm otherwise too exhausted with this subject to comment in detail. Thank you, Tristan and GregT, for accurately representing my position. As usual, I don't know if Harland really believes those things, is off his meds, or is actively trolling.

      Delete
    16. Oh, and also thanks to Alex for a line that I could have dropped into just about any thread when this subject has come up: "There's a wide gulf between disliking something you find dumb and juvenile and the kind of puritanism you're alluding to."

      Delete
  48. I generally agree with you on the Bethesda things. I've often said that if they just released "modules" for FO:3, FO:NV, and FO:4 I'd be buying them up as they came out. Still.

    I'm not sure the huge time between Elder Scrolls and Fallout releases is a bad thing. On the one hand, I'm middle-aged and I sometimes wonder if I'll even be alive by the time a new ES/FO game is released. It's strange to think that way.

    On the other hand, by the time the next one comes out, people are practically frothing at the mouth for the next installment. If they came out every year or two, I don't think the expectations would be that high. With less of a gestation period, I'm not even sure they would be as good.

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    1. "On the other hand, by the time the next one comes out, people are practically frothing at the mouth for the next installment." They were frothing at the mouth by Year 5. You take this long, you run the risk of losing too many fans of your series to the vagaries of time.

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  49. Though Borderlands is not an RPG, it is a great example of #3.

    When Borderlands 2 was still actively producing story-based expansions, I told my brother I would keep playing Borderlands 2 if they just made new stories and characters using the same tech so we didn’t wait 5+ years for another game in the series. Then they announced the Pre-Sequel and I happily played it. I thought it was an excellent re-use of that engine and those assets to tell another silly story with silly characters and lots of jumping, exploding action.

    In my first hour of BL3, I was relieved that they remembered BL2's FPS mechanics weren't "outdated".

    PS I still miss the Infinity Engine; replaying BG and IWD games on modern systems does not equal new game. Though I will be happy to force BG on my son without having to go through tech hoops...

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  50. "starting with fans of the Arkania series.
    I`m sooo looking forward to this. I am huge fan series. Been a P&P player in my youth. But I am well aware of its flaws... But it was my first love. My introduction to rpgs and crpgs...
    But sometimes it felt like a bureaucracy simulation. Even more rules and tables than D&D.
    Typical german i would presume...

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    1. I'm curious too. I'll admit I did like Blade of Destiny when I played it as a kid in 1993, but you gotta max/min the game to death to do well in it. I've tried to play it again but I just don't have the kind of time I had when I was 14 to do that anymore.

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  51. Not sure how you hold Skyrim in such high regard when the last TES game with decent writing was Morrowind.

    I have basically ignored books since then, in both Oblivion and Skyrim because the prose became atrocious.

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    1. "Not sure how you hold Skyrim in such high regard when the last TES game with decent writing was Morrowind." Oh, that one's easy: I don't agree.

      Delete
  52. I love this post! My thoughts, almost certainly echoed somewhere in the 150 or so comments below mine:

    9. Please, please, please bring back note-taking and map making. I'm replaying Morrowind now, and one of the best parts of it are the vague directions: "go north until the intersection, then east until you hear the beehive" or whatever. Notetaking, mapmaking, no or limited fast travel... these are GOOD things in RPGs. When everything is laid out for you it starts to feel like it's barely a game.

    I don't agree with your heresy about Fallout 4, but I do agree that Survival mode in F4 is fantastic, the best part of it.

    5. Computer RPGs are far superior, but (like you allude to) it's mostly because "keyboard and mouse" gives a player a lot more flexibility than a controller. Nested menus and imprecise cursors are nobody's friend.

    4. Agreed, but I see this as a corollary to #9. Sometimes less is more.

    1. Fallout 4 is better than New Vegas? It's like I don't even know who you are anymore.

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  53. 5. I think computer RPGs are superior to console RPGs.

    I wonder what would be lost if this statement were modified to "I think computers are superior to consoles as a platform (or delivery vehicle) for RPGs". It'd certainly be a harder statement to dispute, at least for some time periods, and hints at the tradeoffs that can be involved (since consoles have, at times, been capable of things that PCs of the same period didn't generally offer or only offered on the highest-end models, but you don't care about most of those things).

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    1. Sure, that works, particularly since my argument rests predominantly on the nature of the input. I'd be happy to phrase it that way in the future if it causes less grief.

      Delete
  54. On a personal level I find the idea of a 'right way to play' rather pointless. That already assumes that everyone wants to get the same thing out of a game as you do. If I look at myself, my 3 year old daughter, my 14 year old nephew, a let's player and a speed runner then each of those people will have a completely different perspective on what they want to get out of a game and for each of us the right way to play' will be different.

    That even holds for crossword puzzles. My parents consider crosswords a community activity. Other people do magazine crosswords to participate in contests. Neither of those will feel your approach more satisfying.

    As with everything in life, all is good as long as you are having fun and you don't hurt anyone else ;)

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  55. I personally love good Video Music, of course, I'm a musician and aspire to compose video game soundtracks myself. Unfortunately, the games themselves never got made.

    For me, music is part of the overall presentation. Half the reason I love Final Fantasy games is due to Nobuo Uematsu's amazing compositions, and I routinely listen to music from Chorno Trigger (my pick for Best game ever made) for pleasure.

    On the opposite side of the coin, crappy video game music is crappy. I'd rather have no music then crappy music.

    Then you have games with no music, The gold box games and the like, which I love. These games don't really need music, but I usually have something else on in the background (Some other music, or my wife is watching something while I fiddle around on the laptop with "our" party.

    It all comes down to personal preference. Part of the reason why I read your blog is because yourpersonal preferences are different from mine.

    Edited for profanity. Sorry. ;p

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  56. Totally agree about reusing the same engine for more games. If the Infinity engine had been churning out new Forgotten Realms games for the last 20 years I'd still be buying them. For me Neverwinter Nights was a completely retrograde step. It was like Menzoberranzan after Eye of the Beholder.

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  57. 9: I hope you get a chance to play bard's tale IV - it lets you disable various modern conveniences.

    5. KotOR, Mass Effect, Skyrim, Dragon Age: Inquisition, The Witcher 3?

    1: I think the world building and major story arcs are much better in NV, I think the combat and the crafting are much better in 4. Nick Valentine is great, and the arrival of the brotherhood is a fantastic video game moment, but 4 offers nothing as immersive as Freeside.

    "Sometimes I wish I didn't have my chibi hangup and I could be a fan of Pokémon or Zelda instead."

    Have you played Breath of the Wild?



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    1. Sure, Breath of the Wild. Addicted to it. I was just playing some last night while eating some soft-serve ice cream and enjoying some Kenny G on the stereo.

      I don't know what your list in #5 is responding to. As far as I know, they all had Windows releases, so are you arguing that the console versions are notably better?

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    2. Mass Effect and KotOR are console RPGs ported to PC. I thought the other 3 were as well, but it turns out they were codeveloped for console and PC.

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    3. The console version of Mass Effect 1 is definitely better. The PC version performs terribly and has glitches depending on your graphics card. Otherwise, PC and console versions are pretty comparable (I have the whole trilogy on both PC and Xbox.)

      Delete
  58. Personally, it’s funny for me about the seventh point. Don't get it wrong, I agree with Chester's words. Simply, I want to stir up something similar to his for my language segment when I finish with the already planned Ultima and Drakengard Series Histories, but with more emphasis on the history of development and the impact on the genre in particular and the industry as a whole. But scrolling through the "Top 101 PC RPGs" on rpgcodex, I saw that Spin-Off of Rance series - Sengoku Rance ranks 75th, I realized that I WOULD HAVE to go through this series. At least for the first, to tell where the series began, and about Sengoku Rance, because IT WAS ADDED TO THE LIST OF THE BEST RPGs (?)!

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  59. I was recently watching a video on the development of the Oddworld series, and the director Lorne Lanning made what I thought was a pretty salient point about video game music. The de facto standard at the time was that music could always be turned off - it was just pleasant background noise. He wanted music to be an integral part of Oddworld's soundscape, much how music is used in feature films, and it was a deliberate design choice that you could not turn it off, for much the same reason that feature films don't usually offer a "no music" track on DVD. Leitmotifs and cues signify gameplay events, sometimes before you see them. Tempo quickens during chases, intensity of the beats correspond with intensity of action, and when there is no action, there is no music. Oddworld's far from the first game to use these techniques, but it wasn't common back then. Nowadays, with so many video games trying desperately to be movies, it's hard to find games that don't use them. I think the earliest CRPG to use context-based music cues well was Ultima Underworld (Ultima 6 tried earlier but IMO wasn't very successful with it).

    When CRPGs just use loops to fill the relative silence, and I do often find that monotonous, especially when dealing with a 100+ hour epic CRPG and listening to the same tracks over and over again. Morrowind was particularly guilty of this - listening to Nerevar Rising during the opening chapter was one of the most defining moments of all the games I ever played, establishing Morrowind as a strange, vast, and somewhat intimidating world, but hearing it for the third time after two hours of playing made me reach for the mute button. I'm not sure Morrowind had ANY kind of context-based music except for a single battle theme, which is kind of pathetic considering Arena and Daggerfall at least made a distinction between dungeon tracks, town tracks, and outdoors tracks.

    I also really don't care for games that use licensed soundtracks. It automatically means the music lacks that authorial touch, and you're just listening to songs that some guy likes rather than something crafted specifically for the moment.

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    1. Good points, and in such cases, I mind game music least--even going so far as NOT to turn it off in Quest for Glory, say, because it mostly introduces characters and places without droning on endlessly.

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  60. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  61. Chrono Trigger is probably the best RPG ever. Chrono Trigger is 100% (10/10) for me, for example Baldurs Gate is 60% (6/10) of less.

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