Mass Effect 3 (Seriously, Use Spoilers People!)

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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby Belial » Mon Feb 06, 2012 4:11 am UTC

omgryebread wrote:The inventory in ME1 did absolutely nothing to differentiate between characters. There were guns, and then there were better guns.


Pretty much! The only real choice was whether to optimize for synthetics or organics and even then that wasn't a character defining choice: everyone pretty much switched between the two depending on whether it was a geth-heavy world.

Ghostbear wrote:I feel this very much depends on your definition of "role-playing game"...Going by a literal interpretation just gives you practically every game being an RPG, just with some of them giving you very little room to define that role.


I don't think what weapons your character is carrying is a terribly important part of their role, nor do I really think anything about how combat is played does. I think having tabletop rpgs as a point of reference is really the deciding factor here. There are plenty of rpgs that don't give a fuck about what your character has in their pockets and some that don't even care what your stats are. The defining characteristic is how much control you have over both story and action. In that respect, saying that Mass Effect isn't an RPG because it *only* lets you control story and conversation...is pretty nonsensical to me
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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby skeptical scientist » Mon Feb 06, 2012 7:02 am UTC

Belial wrote:I don't think what weapons your character is carrying is a terribly important part of their role, nor do I really think anything about how combat is played does.

I disagree completely. Do you want to charge into the fray, guns blazing? Grab a shotgun. Do you want to keep your distance, and take out enemies from cover? Unstrap your sniper rifle. Do you want to disable your enemies so they are helpless to stop you from killing them? Equip a bio-amp. Choosing your combat role is certainly a role-playing choice, and what weapons your character is carrying has a major impact on your combat role. For a video game where you spend a significant fraction of your time in combat, the ability to choose your combat role is an important part of what makes a game an RPG.

In a game where combat plays a very small part, I would agree that what weapons your character is carrying is not a terribly important part of their role. But if combat comes up a significant fraction of the time, the ability to determine how you participate in combat is a necessary component of an RPG.

When I pick up ME3 and roll my first character, the single most important factor in my choice of character class will not be what powers are accessible to the class—it will be which classes can equip sniper rifles.
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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby Ghostbear » Mon Feb 06, 2012 11:23 am UTC

omgryebread wrote:The inventory in ME1 did absolutely nothing to differentiate between characters. There were guns, and then there were better guns. In ME2, a Geth Pulse Shotgun plays way different from a Claymore. A Widow and an Incisor are both valid choices, and really different in the way they play. ME1's inventory wasn't too complicated per se, but it was too complicated for how little it mattered. It reminds me of when I used to play Ragnarok Online and would have endless arguments about literally 2 points in vitality. (Which, to some extent with, I'm fine with in an MMO, but it's ridiculous for a shooter/RPG. I just made that word up.)

The inventory did have some effect- I always outfitted my main squad entirely with Spectre X weapons, even if it was weapons they didn't use, to help define them. I gave the best armor to my favorite characters, I left the characters I hated with their crappy starting equipment, to punish them for not being interesting enough. The clunky inventory didn't add anything, but the inventory did. And yes, they did improve the differentiation between weapons, that was an improvement. ME2 isn't void of improvements, even if I think overall the end result is worse than its predecessor. I would rather that they had improved those weapons and still left in an inventory- a better inventory.

omgryebread wrote:I'm not sure that's so valid anymore. A whole lot of games have levels, skills, experience, and an inventory. Resident Evil has an inventory, and no one calls it an RPG. On the other hand, Monster Hunter also has items but no leveling, and it is indeed an RPG. The definition is pretty arbitrary. I like using "has extensive non-combat interactions outside of cutscenes, some non-linear play, and extensive leveling or gathering elements" but that excludes things people would call RPGs Final Fantasy XIII stands out in particular. Though I'm quite willing to say that particular game is genre-breaking and doesn't fit cleanly into RPG or anything else. Heavy Rain is also a good example of a hard-to-fit game.

And those examples show that you can have some of those things and not be an RPG. Hell, I'm sure you can have all of them and not be an RPG; I was not trying to give a thorough definition of what an RPG is. Most genres are hard to define satisfactorily, and usually fit into a "you know it when you see it" area. I think defining an RPG as "a game, where you play a role" is a useless definition, which was what I was getting at. How many games don't have you playing a role? That's what I was getting at.

If I was forced at gun point to give some kind of a definition for RPG that I liked, I think it would be some variation on "A game where character skill is just as- if not more- important than player skill". And that's something that ME2 almost completely lacked. Your ability to hit things? Player skill. Your ability to make a good conversation choice? Player skill, with some horrible morality meter added in. Even your character skills had little true effect on combat, because all of the fights were scaled to your level (to be fair, this was true in ME1 as well, but due to the larger number of variations in your skills, it still mattered).

Belial wrote:Pretty much! The only real choice was whether to optimize for synthetics or organics and even then that wasn't a character defining choice: everyone pretty much switched between the two depending on whether it was a geth-heavy world.

I disagree, but even ignoring that: so what? That would just mean the inventory in ME1 was a bad inventory. I have never denied this! When you have something that is poorly done, and if done well could add some depth to your game, you don't excise it completely. You fix it. The inventory in ME1 was clunky, and the weapons and armor only had so much separating them, and many of the weapon mods were useless (though I did switch around between the heat sinks and some of the others), but I found the complete lack of an inventory in ME2 to be even worse.

Belial wrote:I don't think what weapons your character is carrying is a terribly important part of their role, nor do I really think anything about how combat is played does. I think having tabletop rpgs as a point of reference is really the deciding factor here. There are plenty of rpgs that don't give a fuck about what your character has in their pockets and some that don't even care what your stats are. The defining characteristic is how much control you have over both story and action. In that respect, saying that Mass Effect isn't an RPG because it *only* lets you control story and conversation...is pretty nonsensical to me

And I haven't limited my argument to just the inventory! They also simplified the skill system rather horribly. Your weapon, your gear, your skills, your past decisions- those all help define your character, giving them their role. Looking at other games- take Fallout 2. My character was strongly defined over his journey by his weapons and armor. When he had power armor, he was a very different person than when he was running around with a vault 13 jump suit. When he had a gauss rifle, that was different than when he had a hunting rifle. And when he went unarmed in San Francisco, that was even more different! If you spec your character in speech, lockpicking and pickpocket, that's going to play very differently from someone with melee weapons, science and throwing. Or we can take everyone's* favorite Bioware game: Baldur's Gate 2. The robe of Vecna helped define my sorcerer, as did his ring of Gygax. The spells I choose for him defined his role in combat, and many helped define his role outside of combat as well. When Keldorn switched from generic full plate +n and some shit two handed sword to fire dragon plate and a holy avenger, that helped define his character, his role, his effect, in the party. If I had switched his weapon skills to mace and shield, he would have played differently, not hugely, but noticeably.

ME1 had a poor inventory, which meant it achieved very little of this. That means it should have been improved, not removed. I also dislike that they removed character skill from combat. Now when you want to hit something, it's all determined by you, completely removing your character from the equation. Your character's skills, abilities, experiences.. they had practically zero impact on the game. That isn't much of an RPG. It might still have been a good game (even if it was less my cup of tea than before), but it had lost that, and I was, and will remain, disappointed. As for control over story, how much control did you actually have over ME2's story? You still went to the same places, grabbed the same people, fought the same bad guys. Your only real choices were which end of the morality meter you wanted to be at, the order you went to those places, and whether you wanted to go and make all of your ship mates happy (and that isn't even much of a choice either, because it's the purely optimal course of action!). Bioware has never been good at letting you control the story; they give you lots of options, but in the end, most of them only change how many emails you get and whether you're a good cop Shepard or a bad cop Shepard.

* Probably not everyone's.

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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby Xanthir » Mon Feb 06, 2012 12:59 pm UTC

WarDaft wrote:I too was glad to see that inventory system go. I was still sad to see absolutely nothing to replace it though.

Agreed. From what I understand, a more limited form of inventory is returning, such that you can customize your equipment somewhat.
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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby Belial » Mon Feb 06, 2012 1:14 pm UTC

skeptical scientist wrote:I disagree completely


Everything you described after this point just points to me phrasing incorrectly: what type of weapon is certainly important. The exact model of shotgun in reference to these 40 other shotguns that you'll need to fiddle with? Less so. ME2 certainly preserved the choice of shotgun vs pistol vs amp vs omnitool. It just didn't let you toy with them endlessly.

Ghostbear wrote:When you have something that is poorly done, and if done well could add some depth to your game, you don't excise it completely. You fix it.


The inventory wasn't excised. You still have a stock of weapons, a stock of upgrade schematics, and a stock of armor upgrades. I feel like that's exactly as complex as an inventory for this game ever needs to get. Remember that Shepard is alternately a government agent or the favored child of a massive galactic organization. Having her pay for any of her own stuff is already a giant concession of story for game mechanics. The only reason to make it moreso is to satisfy the birdmen* of rpgs at the cost of the role actually making sense.

Ghostbear wrote:They also simplified the skill system rather horribly. Your weapon, your gear, your skills, your past decisions- those all help define your character, giving them their role.


Again, I think a grounding in tabletop RPGs is useful here. Specifically, there's a game design rule that is tossed around in D&D that is super relevant here: if a skill or feat is always bought/maxed-out by members of a certain class, to the point where they'd be stupid to prioritize anything else, that is a signal that it needs to be a class feature. You should be giving that class that skill for free, and rebalancing them accordingly. What bioware almost certainly noticed, in ME1, was that *everyone* maxed their relevant weapon skills and the persuade skill, and then spent the rest of their skillpoints on other things. So why even include the weapon or persuade as a choice? Why spend magic development beans on implementing granularity in a segment that no one is going to handle in a granular fashion? Why not concentrate on something else?

To use your own example of baldur's gate, BG (and NWN) are D&D based games, and you'll notice something about them: there's no "swords" skill. No attack skill at all. That is not a thing you can spend skill points on. And there's a reason: everyone would buy it first (except folks with magic). So they give it to you for free at the level they think appropriate.

Ghostbear wrote:Looking at other games- take Fallout 2.


See, this is what I'm talking about. The fallout games are the type of games where a fiddly inventory is 100% justified, because half the point of the game is scrounging for survival in a resource-poor wasteland. The question of "do I even have a gun" is actually incredibly relevant there, and the condition and stats of that gun should absolutely make the difference between dying and being the king of the hill. That's the world you're dealing with and that's the type of role you're inhabiting: no matter what kind of wasteland scrounger you're playing, you're playing a wasteland scrounger.

Likewise, no matter what kind of Shepard you're playing, one part of your role is constant: you're an incredibly well-funded, strongly backed war hero. Making her scrounge around and fiddle over what weapons her team is using is extremely out of character on all fronts: the correct answer is "the best ones available" and the only choice remaining to be made at that point is "well, yes, but the best what?"

Ghostbear wrote: As for control over story, how much control did you actually have over ME2's story? You still went to the same places, grabbed the same people, fought the same bad guys. Your only real choices were which end of the morality meter you wanted to be at, the order you went to those places, and whether you wanted to go and make all of your ship mates happy


Well, at this point you're taking a run at the question of whether a video game can ever even really be an RPG or not. And the answer is "no, not really, any control of the story is going to be pretty illusory". At best in rpg video games the storyline will have a few defined, diverging branches (which is, incidentally, what we've been promised in ME3), most of the rest will have a single endpoint and a few middle points and the question is just what order you do them in and what you do between them and whether you pursue sidequests. What they can do is make you feel like you have control over the pace of the story, how your character reaches her destination, how she interacts with the people along the way, and how she kills time before she gets there.

If you're looking for more control than that, you probably want to grab some dice.

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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby Ghostbear » Mon Feb 06, 2012 4:04 pm UTC

Belial wrote:The inventory wasn't excised. You still have a stock of weapons, a stock of upgrade schematics, and a stock of armor upgrades. I feel like that's exactly as complex as an inventory for this game ever needs to get. Remember that Shepard is alternately a government agent or the favored child of a massive galactic organization. Having her pay for any of her own stuff is already a giant concession of story for game mechanics. The only reason to make it moreso is to satisfy the birdmen* of rpgs at the cost of the role actually making sense.

The armor upgrades were effectively all cosmetic, the only that had any noticeable impact were the ones that let you hold more heavy weapon ammo (another thing I think they fucked up, making all the weapons work like modern ones with "ammo"). The weapons could only occasionally be changed mid mission. By that metric, FEAR has almost as much of an inventory system as ME2 (and more flexible to boot!). If Shepard having the backing of huge governments or powerful shadow organizations, and that's a good reason for there being no inventory, then why don't those organizations factor in at all? You have to find or buy all of those weapons or armor anyway! The poor logic of that scenario isn't helped in the least by this change, and I'd argue it's even hurt somewhat, because at least in ME1 you could buy high end equipment from those organizations.

Belial wrote:Again, I think a grounding in tabletop RPGs is useful here. Specifically, there's a game design rule that is tossed around in D&D that is super relevant here: if a skill or feat is always bought/maxed-out by members of a certain class, to the point where they'd be stupid to prioritize anything else, that is a signal that it needs to be a class feature. You should be giving that class that skill for free, and rebalancing them accordingly. What bioware almost certainly noticed, in ME1, was that *everyone* maxed their relevant weapon skills and the persuade skill, and then spent the rest of their skillpoints on other things. So why even include the weapon or persuade as a choice? Why spend magic development beans on implementing granularity in a segment that no one is going to handle in a granular fashion? Why not concentrate on something else?

While that is true, it's still a useful way of differentiating between characters. In ME1, I played characters that maxed out armor and weapons, and characters that didn't and instead put those skill points elsewhere. Sometimes I only took it halfway, sometimes I brought it to the specific "action skill" upgrade spots... Your example only works if the best course of action is always maxing those skills, which really only applied to the speech branch.

Belial wrote:To use your own example of baldur's gate, BG (and NWN) are D&D based games, and you'll notice something about them: there's no "swords" skill. No attack skill at all. That is not a thing you can spend skill points on. And there's a reason: everyone would buy it first (except folks with magic). So they give it to you for free at the level they think appropriate.

There are feats in D&D however; you can get weapon focus, weapon specialization, etc. And at least in the BG2 interpretation on AD&D (I don't know about AD&D proper), there was a weapon skill system, even if it was fairly shallow. Also, even within that system, there is still variation in your ability to hit things: your base attack bonus (or to hit armor class zero if you're still on AD&D). Your BAB will go up as you level, and that will vary based on your class as well. Every ME2 character is exactly the same skill at shooting from the first minute the game starts until the game ends. Character skill is almost completely removed out of combat between that and the level scaling system. That is a problem if what you enjoyed was the RPGness of it.

Belial wrote:Likewise, no matter what kind of Shepard you're playing, one part of your role is constant: you're an incredibly well-funded, strongly backed war hero. Making her scrounge around and fiddle over what weapons her team is using is extremely out of character on all fronts: the correct answer is "the best ones available" and the only choice remaining to be made at that point is "well, yes, but the best what?"

Your team scrounged up gear left forgotten on alien planets, bought weapons them from pseudo black market salesmen, or was given a shit starting weapon usually left to mercenaries operating on the fringe of space. The best available? Please, Shepard was left with forgotten (and in many cases, straight up inconsistent) scraps of weaponry. Being well funded or a war hero didn't show up in the least.

And, again, nothing says that an improved inventory would need to be fiddly. Improving it would involve removing the fiddly parts, not accentuating them.

Belial wrote:Well, at this point you're taking a run at the question of whether a video game can ever even really be an RPG or not. And the answer is "no, not really, any control of the story is going to be pretty illusory". At best in rpg video games the storyline will have a few defined, diverging branches (which is, incidentally, what we've been promised in ME3), most of the rest will have a single endpoint and a few middle points and the question is just what order you do them in and what you do between them and whether you pursue sidequests. What they can do is make you feel like you have control over the pace of the story, how your character reaches her destination, how she interacts with the people along the way, and how she kills time before she gets there.

Of course a video game will never give you that complete control, but by controlling the presentation and providing options with meaning, they can create that illusion successfully. Maybe I've just gotten too used to the Bioware formula, but I found their attempt to create that illusion a complete failure. All of my options from the first game manifested themselves merely as cameos or some email, and all of but a small handful (e.g. who you picked for the council) had zero actual impact. ME2 didn't even make me feel like my character class mattered at all. Shepard always resorted to his gun for every problem, even if your Shepard was a bioitic or a tech. I remember a particularly terrible moment in the Shadowbroker DLC, where Liara and Shepard are chasing after a biotic asari spectre, and the two of them are constantly using their biotics to their full extent, while my super-biotic Shepard is running along like he's never even heard of the shit. Even the character choices you do get don't even factor in! It's a horrible failing. Just look at Bioware's most recent game in Dragon Age 2. The whole game is supposed to be leading you up to the choice of mages or templars, but the end result is the same. You kill the leader of both groups regardless of what you pick, the mages get slaughtered no matter what you pick.. it's an empty choice, and because it's so empty but billed as an actual decision, it falls flat. Having read parts of the leaked script for ME3, that seems to be what we're going to get, unless they managed to fix all of it in the few short months available.

I have seen other games give me a far better mask of that feeling however. Going back to Fallout 2, practically none of the world was connected except for a few small quests, but they constructed it well enough that you felt like what you did mattered across the wastes. Or take the two Witcher games- you only have so many actual choices in those games, but they have an actual, real impact on the undertones of the story. The ending might be the same, but the reasons for it, the relationships between the characters, all of that, will actually be different. In second one your choices even determined what you did for the entire second act! Even Avadon, a game that gives you almost no choices before the very end of the game handles that illusion better, because it's not constantly stuffing your face with inconsequential options.

So, no, I don't think that the game has to maintain an illusion of choice even if it really isn't there is much of an excuse for ME2 failing in that regard, because other games have handled that illusion just fine.

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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby SecondTalon » Mon Feb 06, 2012 4:15 pm UTC

Ghostbear wrote:
Belial wrote:To use your own example of baldur's gate, BG (and NWN) are D&D based games, and you'll notice something about them: there's no "swords" skill. No attack skill at all. That is not a thing you can spend skill points on. And there's a reason: everyone would buy it first (except folks with magic). So they give it to you for free at the level they think appropriate.

There are feats in D&D however; you can get weapon focus, weapon specialization, etc. And at least in the BG2 interpretation on AD&D (I don't know about AD&D proper), there was a weapon skill system, even if it was fairly shallow. Also, even within that system, there is still variation in your ability to hit things: your base attack bonus (or to hit armor class zero if you're still on AD&D). Your BAB will go up as you level, and that will vary based on your class as well. Every ME2 character is exactly the same skill at shooting from the first minute the game starts until the game ends. Character skill is almost completely removed out of combat between that and the level scaling system. That is a problem if what you enjoyed was the RPGness of it.
You.. realize you perfectly demonstrated the "Removal of crap we noticed everyone was doing anyway" stuff there, with your D&D example, right?

In AD&D, they noticed that Fighters, rather than branching out and learning a half dozen weapons, they pretty much dumped everything into one weapon type because they were more combat effective that way. So you'd end up with Fighters who had mastery of the Greataxe but weren't sure which end of the Longsword they were supposed to stick in the enemy.

3.X got rid of that with the greater assumption that everyone could use weapons from a certain list, and gave you tools to specialize in a single weapon and not at the expense of knowing how other weapons work. So the Fighter who has mastered the Greataxe now knows that the pointy end of the longsword is what goes into the enemy, except not really because the Longsword is meant to slash, not stab.

I didn't play much of 4, so I can't speak of it, but I know that AD&D, 3.X had variant rules to remove single-weapon specialization and make it group weapon specialization, so scimitars, cutlasses and longswords would all benefit as they're all in the same group, and that sort of Group Specialization is built-in to Pathfinder, so there's even further evidence that they know that if 95% of the players do X, and the 5% who do not are deliberately being suboptimal when they don't... you make that a basic part of the class and make the optional stuff optional.

As was said, if I'm given a choice between something that no matter what kind of X I'm playing, I'd be stupid to not take and something that would only benefit... no one, really... Then why do I even have that as a choice? Just give me the good thing, and give me a different set of options for my choice that require an actual choice - not a "Do I want to suck or be awesome" choice, but a real one. One where I have to sit and think about the pros and the cons of it.

So yeah.. if I have two weapon skills (and assorted other skills) and you give me four points a level... why give me four points? Why not just make my weapon skills go up and give me two points a level. It does the exact same thing and saves my clickin' finger a few steps.
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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby Ghostbear » Mon Feb 06, 2012 4:28 pm UTC

SecondTalon wrote:You.. realize you perfectly demonstrated the "Removal of crap we noticed everyone was doing anyway" stuff there, with your D&D example, right?

Yes, but I was trying to highlight how even in removing that crap, you can still allow character skill to matter- such as with mechanics like BAB.

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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby SirBryghtside » Mon Feb 06, 2012 4:30 pm UTC

Belial wrote:
the way I see it the term 'RPG' started out as 'plays like DnD'


I hate that definition of RPG almost as much as I hate the definition of "Fantasy" that goes "reads like Tolkien". D&D was one way to do an RPG, and it was itself an endstage modification of a strategic wargame. If your professed rpg has bits of strategic wargame still stuck to it, all that tells me is that it's very likely you mindlessly ripped off elements of D&D without really understanding why those elements are there and what they're doing. There are a looot of other ways to do roleplaying, and if you've chosen "like D&D" I'm curious to know why that was the best choice for the game you're making.

I really think, for ME1, the only reason was "because that's what we've always done. We still have NWN in our teeth and it shows". ME2 wasn't them dumbing down or losing their way, it was them shaking free of doing shit just because they've always done it that way.

DnD is the best example of a classic RPG with skills and whatnot - which has been heavily borrowed from since the early days of CRPGs in terms of mechanics. I never said I liked that outlook, but bear in mind that a lot of people do. I also admit that it's missing the point a lot, seeing as DnD is an RPG... mainly for the character creation and choice. This is where JRPGs - newer ones especially - tend to fall down.

And just to be clear, I prefer Mass Effect 2 to the first. I liked the removal of the clutter, if a little ham-fisted. But it's not *always* better.
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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby SecondTalon » Mon Feb 06, 2012 4:33 pm UTC

Ghostbear wrote:
SexyTalon wrote:You.. realize you perfectly demonstrated the "Removal of crap we noticed everyone was doing anyway" stuff there, with your D&D example, right?

Yes, but I was trying to highlight how even in removing that crap, you can still allow character skill to matter- such as with mechanics like BAB.
Which is something you don't spend points on. And... really, most of the time it also doesn't really matter. The range with which you can hit certain somethings grow as you level, but there's always some things that only the Fightin' Ones have a chance to hit. It's just that it's easier to do that with a d20 and adding 10 to beat 35 than it is to do with d100 and compensating for the 15% armor increase, 13% dexterity increase (and 0% level equality increase) and your normal 60% chance to hit things of your level equality.

But yeah, misread your bit, so... Nothing to see here.
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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby Ghostbear » Mon Feb 06, 2012 5:03 pm UTC

SecondTalon wrote:Which is something you don't spend points on. And... really, most of the time it also doesn't really matter. The range with which you can hit certain somethings grow as you level, but there's always some things that only the Fightin' Ones have a chance to hit. It's just that it's easier to do that with a d20 and adding 10 to beat 35 than it is to do with d100 and compensating for the 15% armor increase, 13% dexterity increase (and 0% level equality increase) and your normal 60% chance to hit things of your level equality.

I know this is more of a side bit, but I just want to jump back at this briefly. You are right that, generally, it won't have that significant of an impact. What it does do, however, is help define your character. Sticking with the same examples I've used already- in BG2, you start off able to handle some decent sized groups of orcs or ogres, and various other "minor" enemies. You have a good chance of missing, and when you do hit, you probably won't kill them. As your characters progress, you add spells- suddenly your wizard can make all of those enemies that troubled you before explode with a single fireball- gain the ability to hit things- your fighters will now one hit kill most of these enemies- or to absorb or dodge attacks. You can see your character(s) get better at their job as the game progresses. Even games where you start off as a super-ultra-badass, like Geralt in The Witcher, you still see that progress as he gets better with the signs, as he can handle swordfighting better, as he can dodge further.

I don't think you really have much of an RPG if your character doesn't become noticeably more defined as the story progresses. Your character is supposed to what is important in those games. Just look at Fallout 2- each of the 7 stats actually has a pretty decent impact on the game. There are so many combinations of perks, stats and skills available to you, and as the game progresses you can get better at all or just some of them. You can bring your sniper to 200% small guns if you want, but you'll be forced to pay for it by not really being good at other skills. You start off practically incapable of killing anything (even giant rats give you trouble!), but by the end, through a combination of equipment and skill choices, your character is more capable, more defined- it's become your character for real. That's really lost in Mass Effect 2; you start off as a badass and.. stay the exact same kind of badass. You get some skill choices, but they don't have any real noteworthy impact on the game. That doesn't make it bad, but it does make it difficult to call the game an RPG. And for players like me, who principally enjoy RPGs, that's going to make the game worse. Other people might like it more, and that's entirely fine, but it doesn't mean that I can't criticize it.

SecondTalon wrote:But yeah, misread your bit, so... Nothing to see here.

No worries! I'll readily admit to not always being the best at explaining myself, though I do try.

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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby Belial » Mon Feb 06, 2012 5:26 pm UTC

Ghostbear wrote:I don't think you really have much of an RPG if your character doesn't become noticeably more defined as the story progresses.


This is extra funny to me because I was just reading several essays in "WoD: Mirrors" about removing experience and mechanical character progression from tabletop RPGs, how to do it, and why it is sometimes the best choice. Something of a Baader-Meinhoff humor moment.

That said, your character absolutely does get more defined as time goes on. There's a whole level up mechanic wherein you learn to do more stuff and reap constantly increasing mechanical advantages. Just none of those are related to the accuracy of your shooting.

That would be the "shooter" part of "RPG/Shooter hybrid". For all the arguments about how you "Can't call it an RPG if..." you really can't call it a shooter hybrid if there's no shooter elements.

And now "shooter" doesn't look like a word.
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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby SecondTalon » Mon Feb 06, 2012 5:50 pm UTC

Pretty much... I think if you're wanting to argue about what makes an RPG an RPG, Mass Effect is good because it helps define what an RPG is and is not when compared to.. I dunno.. Quake. Or even Undying, a shooter with a plotline, voice acting of sorts, and character development via acquiring new spells.

But it's not a pure RPG, so you can't really compare it to Fallout, the Bethesda Fallout, D&D and so on without it seeming really stripped down and simplified. Because it is.
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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby Belial » Mon Feb 06, 2012 6:01 pm UTC

I would simply make the distinction that "stripped down" and "simplified" do not mean "less of an RPG". RPG is not a measure of complexity. A fact which is, I think, at the base of a lot of the misguided criticisms of D&D 4E.
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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby Ghostbear » Mon Feb 06, 2012 6:08 pm UTC

Belial wrote:This is extra funny to me because I was just reading several essays in "WoD: Mirrors" about removing experience and mechanical character progression from tabletop RPGs, how to do it, and why it is sometimes the best choice. Something of a Baader-Meinhoff humor moment.

Isn't that going to be quite different though? In a tabletop setting, your ability to define your character outside of the base ruleset is only going to be limited by yourself and the people you play with. In a video game, you're limited to what has been programmed in. Which means you're limited in your ability to define your character based off of those rules. So when rules get axed or simplified, your ability to define your character is lessened. Even taking into account the story, I don't think my Shepard was any different by the end of ME2 than he was at the beginning; he started a badass, and ended as the same badass. Whereas I did feel that way about Shepard in the first one; he went from demi-badass to badass proper, with many new abilities, sub abilities, skills, equipment, and even credits in the bank.

Belial wrote:That said, your character absolutely does get more defined as time goes on. There's a whole level up mechanic wherein you learn to do more stuff and reap constantly increasing mechanical advantages. Just none of those are related to the accuracy of your shooting.

That would be the "shooter" part of "RPG/Shooter hybrid". For all the arguments about how you "Can't call it an RPG if..." you really can't call it a shooter hybrid if there's no shooter elements.

The definition is very muddy and practically useless with the way they changed things in ME2. You level up, but so do your enemies. You find a better weapon, but then you find enemies with a little bit more health. You get to double the damage you do to shields with your skill, but now your enemies have twice as much shields... Those problems were still there in ME1, of course, but the extent to which you could customize your character, feel more powerful (and noticeably!) as you level up, find better equipment.. is all much lower for ME2.

My complaint with ME2 is, and has always been, that the shooter half of the hybrid has squeezed out most of the RPG half. It's still there, but so much of it got tossed out or smoothed over to make the shooter part more appealing to shooter fans (because there's more of them). Which might be a valid business decision for them, but I'm still going to be disappointed. I also just dislike that they just tossed out the inventory because it was (rightfully) criticized. I didn't find the planet scanning business to be compelling, but I wasn't bothered by it, because it was an honest attempt at fixing the planet exploration bit from the first game (which did need a lot of work). Something that can actually be a very useful part of your game if done right should be kept in and fixed if it's broken.

SecondTalon wrote:But it's not a pure RPG, so you can't really compare it to Fallout, the Bethesda Fallout, D&D and so on without it seeming really stripped down and simplified. Because it is.

This is true, but I only brought them up as examples of how those mechanics can help make an RPG. I only started by trying to state that I disliked the change from RPG/Shooter hybrid to Shooter/Conversation hybrid.

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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby Xanthir » Mon Feb 06, 2012 6:17 pm UTC

Ghostbear wrote:
Belial wrote:This is extra funny to me because I was just reading several essays in "WoD: Mirrors" about removing experience and mechanical character progression from tabletop RPGs, how to do it, and why it is sometimes the best choice. Something of a Baader-Meinhoff humor moment.

Isn't that going to be quite different though? In a tabletop setting, your ability to define your character outside of the base ruleset is only going to be limited by yourself and the people you play with. In a video game, you're limited to what has been programmed in. Which means you're limited in your ability to define your character based off of those rules. So when rules get axed or simplified, your ability to define your character is lessened. Even taking into account the story, I don't think my Shepard was any different by the end of ME2 than he was at the beginning; he started a badass, and ended as the same badass. Whereas I did feel that way about Shepard in the first one; he went from demi-badass to badass proper, with many new abilities, sub abilities, skills, equipment, and even credits in the bank.

Sounds personal - I had a great time gaining the ability to group-lift, mega-warp, making jack give group warp, etc.
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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby Belial » Mon Feb 06, 2012 6:19 pm UTC

Ghostbear wrote:Isn't that going to be quite different though? In a tabletop setting, your ability to define your character outside of the base ruleset is only going to be limited by yourself and the people you play with. In a video game, you're limited to what has been programmed in. Which means you're limited in your ability to define your character based off of those rules. So when rules get axed or simplified, your ability to define your character is lessened.


Only if the sole source of definition for the character is "what she can do". As opposed to what she chooses to do, or how she chooses to do it. I'm not saying that one is automatically more important than the other two, just that even in the medium that basically defines RPGs, it's pretty much sustainable (if a bit radical) to completely ditch the element you're defining as crucial to the genre.

Ghostbear wrote:Even taking into account the story, I don't think my Shepard was any different by the end of ME2 than he was at the beginning; he started a badass, and ended as the same badass.


Yeah, you played an origin story and then you played the middle part of a trilogy. There's also a reason batman/spiderman went through a drastic leap in power in the first installment of their trilogies, and a much reduced one in part 2. That is just how stories work. Hell, it even happens in D&D: the difference in how much your character can affect the world between level 2 and level 3 is drastic. The difference between level 13 and level 14 is...noticeable but slight.

Ghostbear wrote: You level up, but so do your enemies. You find a better weapon, but then you find enemies with a little bit more health. You get to double the damage you do to shields with your skill, but now your enemies have twice as much shields...


You just described every version of D&D.
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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby Ghostbear » Mon Feb 06, 2012 6:36 pm UTC

Belial wrote:Only if the sole source of definition for the character is "what she can do". As opposed to what she chooses to do, or how she chooses to do it. I'm not saying that one is automatically more important than the other two, just that even in the medium that basically defines RPGs, it's pretty much sustainable (if a bit radical) to completely ditch the element you're defining as crucial to the genre.

And I liked having both options available. And as I said, you didn't really get much choice (even within the limitations of a video game) to define Shepard through actions or methods.

Belial wrote:Yeah, you played an origin story and then you played the middle part of a trilogy. There's also a reason batman/spiderman went through a drastic leap in power in the first installment of their trilogies, and a much reduced one in part 2. That is just how stories work. Hell, it even happens in D&D: the difference in how much your character can affect the world between level 2 and level 3 is drastic. The difference between level 13 and level 14 is...noticeable but slight.

If they can ditch one element, why not a story telling method? Why does Shepard's power have to be mostly flat in ME2? They already used their McGuffin to set Shepard to level one all over again, they already start you off in a weak position, the character progression should be able to surface there, in the environment they created. It didn't.

Belial wrote:You just described every version of D&D.

Only if the DM / level designer is lazy. You can pull monsters from wherever you want in D&D, and from my understanding, scale them up or down as you wish. ME2 had such an over-fitted level scaling mechanic that it was pointless. You never felt any more powerful, because your enemies got exactly as much effective extra power as you did.

Xanthir wrote:Sounds personal - I had a great time gaining the ability to group-lift, mega-warp, making jack give group warp, etc.

If my reasoning is personal, wouldn't that make your rebuttal also personal? I found the enhanced skills far more limited in their influence on the game than they had in ME1.

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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby An Enraged Platypus » Mon Feb 06, 2012 6:45 pm UTC

Xanthir wrote:
Ghostbear wrote:
Belial wrote:This is extra funny to me because I was just reading several essays in "WoD: Mirrors" about removing experience and mechanical character progression from tabletop RPGs, how to do it, and why it is sometimes the best choice. Something of a Baader-Meinhoff humor moment.

Isn't that going to be quite different though? In a tabletop setting, your ability to define your character outside of the base ruleset is only going to be limited by yourself and the people you play with. In a video game, you're limited to what has been programmed in. Which means you're limited in your ability to define your character based off of those rules. So when rules get axed or simplified, your ability to define your character is lessened. Even taking into account the story, I don't think my Shepard was any different by the end of ME2 than he was at the beginning; he started a badass, and ended as the same badass. Whereas I did feel that way about Shepard in the first one; he went from demi-badass to badass proper, with many new abilities, sub abilities, skills, equipment, and even credits in the bank.

Sounds personal - I had a great time gaining the ability to group-lift, mega-warp, making jack give group warp, etc.


Not really (spoiler: subjective material following). in ME2 I did a deliberate run with an Adept at no skill points above level 1 (i.e. bare minimum unlocked her skills and just ran with it). I was able to clear the game on Hardcore with only the SMG and pistol without too many problems (thanks, health regen!) whereas on ME1 my attempted run with useless skills failed tear-my-hair-out-at-wipe-forty hard. The difference between a baseline Shepard in ME1 and ME2 is huge because ME1 Shep's accuracy and specials are utterly dependent on her "skill" and not yours (assuming of course you can aim at the barndoor the crosshair counts as aiming for that Krogan's face).
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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby Belial » Mon Feb 06, 2012 6:52 pm UTC

Ghostbear wrote:And I liked having both options available. And as I said, you didn't really get much choice (even within the limitations of a video game) to define Shepard through actions or methods.


Compared to? Given that most freedom in video games is at best illusory, I find that bioware's RPGs, especially their two original franchises, have just about the most control over those aspects of any CRPGs on the market (Beaten only by bethesda). Compare to, for example, JRPGs where all you get is the RPG-colored paint: all the inventory and level up systems you could ask for, not a trace of actual control over the course of the story.

Ghostbear wrote:If they can ditch one element, why not a story telling method? Why does Shepard's power have to be mostly flat in ME2?


Because if she increased in power along the same arc she did in the first game, she'd be mind-fucking battlecruisers to death by the end of 2, and by 3 she could just literally and physically kick the reapers down the street until they died.

Ghostbear wrote:They already used their McGuffin to set Shepard to level one all over again, they already start you off in a weak position, the character progression should be able to surface there, in the environment they created. It didn't.


1) I do not think McGuffin means what you think it means
2) "Level 1" is a gaming abstraction. It means "the first level in this game". Do you have any reason to believe "level 1" in ME2 is the same as "level 1" in ME1? They look pretty different to me.

Ghostbear wrote:Only if the DM / level designer is lazy. You can pull monsters from wherever you want in D&D, and from my understanding, scale them up or down as you wish. ME2 had such an over-fitted level scaling mechanic that it was pointless. You never felt any more powerful, because your enemies got exactly as much effective extra power as you did.


The CR mechanic in D&D 3.xe, and the monster levelling in 4e, was designed to do exactly this. As you levelled up you became more objectively powerful (assuming a random goblin stumbled across you) but most of what you were fighting was fitted to your level and just as difficult to beat, so that you always remained challenged. What you did get as you levelled up was more versatility, which is true in ME2 as well. Your stuff was still about as powerful as the most powerful thing you're fighting, but you can do more different stuff.
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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby Ghostbear » Mon Feb 06, 2012 7:06 pm UTC

Belial wrote:Compared to? Given that most freedom in video games is at best illusory, I find that bioware's RPGs, especially their two original franchises, have just about the most control over those aspects of any CRPGs on the market (Beaten only by bethesda). Compare to, for example, JRPGs where all you get is the RPG-colored paint: all the inventory and level up systems you could ask for, not a trace of actual control over the course of the story.

Compared to some of the other RPGs I've mentioned? Baldur's Gate 2, Fallout 2, The Witcher 1 & 2, hell Deus Ex is so beloved because of your ability to do things with almost whatever method you can make work.

Belial wrote:Because if she increased in power along the same arc she did in the first game, she'd be mind-fucking battlecruisers to death by the end of 2, and by 3 she could just literally and physically kick the reapers down the street until they died.

That's not true at all. All of Shepard's power gain in the first one was mechanical- nobody ever talked about Shepard being more capable than at the start of their journey. There's zero reason that that mechanical power growth couldn't be the same.

Belial wrote:1) I do not think McGuffin means what you think it means
2) "Level 1" is a gaming abstraction. It means "the first level in this game". Do you have any reason to believe "level 1" in ME2 is the same as "level 1" in ME1? They look pretty different to me.

1. It does, but I will admit I used it wrong all the same. (and you have no other information from which to measure my knowledge of it, so whatever)
2. They're only fundamentally different due to the poor design. Read An Enraged' Platypus' story above, for example.

Belial wrote:The CR mechanic in D&D 3.xe, and the monster levelling in 4e, was designed to do exactly this. As you levelled up you became more objectively powerful (assuming a random goblin stumbled across you) but most of what you were fighting was fitted to your level and just as difficult to beat, so that you always remained challenged. What you did get as you levelled up was more versatility, which is true in ME2 as well. Your stuff was still about as powerful as the most powerful thing you're fighting, but you can do more different stuff.

What versatility did you gain in ME2? After you grabbed all of the base skills you were practically done. The enhancements to them were all cancelled out as the game progressed. ME1 gave you far more ability to do "more different stuff" than ME2 did, some of it in ways that wasn't balanced for (I particularly remember chaining barrier on my adept and being practically invulnerable), but you had far more options and versatility from those options.

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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby Belial » Mon Feb 06, 2012 7:23 pm UTC

Ghostbear wrote:Compared to some of the other RPGs I've mentioned? Baldur's Gate 2, Fallout 2, The Witcher 1 & 2, hell Deus Ex is so beloved because of your ability to do things with almost whatever method you can make work.


I'll allow the witcher, as I haven't played it. Fallout achieved this at the cost of a terribly coherent story, and BG didn't really give you as much control over things outside of combat as you seem to think.

Ghostbear wrote:That's not true at all. All of Shepard's power gain in the first one was mechanical- nobody ever talked about Shepard being more capable than at the start of their journey. There's zero reason that that mechanical power growth couldn't be the same.


If it's big enough to have a noticeable effect on the world, and yet somehow doesn't outside of controlled combat situations, then you have an example of "except in cutscenes" powers, which are bullshit. If it just becomes "I throw you/shoot you/hack your armor better"...how would you tell?

Are we arriving at the whole of your issue being that accuracy is now determined by the player? Because I refer you to "shooter hybrid".

Ghostbear wrote:2. They're only fundamentally different due to the poor design. Read An Enraged' Platypus' story above, for example.


And the explanation for why Cerberus would dedicate an enormous chunk of their budget to resurrecting a Shepard who was reduced to new-recruit levels of competency would be...? Also exactly how many amnesia rocks did Garrus and Tali get clunked over the head with?

Ghostbear wrote:What versatility did you gain in ME2?


I thought the bit where the powers changed functions at the upper levels was pretty much the definition of versatility. Instead of "I throw you marginally better than I did before" it became "I throw ALL OF YOU". The problem with just getting stronger is, as you've alluded to, that it either makes the game too easy, or it is completely imperceptible due to level balancing. This is why standard skill progressions in linear games tend to make me yawn. When your powers learn to do new tricks, that's where I'm interested.
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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby Ghostbear » Mon Feb 06, 2012 8:57 pm UTC

Belial wrote:I'll allow the witcher, as I haven't played it. Fallout achieved this at the cost of a terribly coherent story, and BG didn't really give you as much control over things outside of combat as you seem to think.

I really liked the way the Witcher handled decisions, I dunno if you dislike the RPG mechanics I like or are just fine with the way they're handled in ME2 (it's hard to tell) but if you do like them and good stories, I'd recommend it. You can probably get it for $5 at the next Steam sale or whatever.

As for the others, yeah, Fallout did it at a price, but it still did it. And no doubt, BG2 didn't give as much control as I perceived, but as we went over, all such games are mostly limited to that perception anyway. BG2 did so in a convincing way that ME2 didn't, for me.

Belial wrote:If it's big enough to have a noticeable effect on the world, and yet somehow doesn't outside of controlled combat situations, then you have an example of "except in cutscenes" powers, which are bullshit. If it just becomes "I throw you/shoot you/hack your armor better"...how would you tell?

ME2 already had the except in cutscenes bullshit anyway (hence my story about the Shadowbroker DLC where the game ignored that I was a capable biotic). I'm honestly not sure what you're trying to get at with the rest of this though- how does it prevent the character progression from being mechanical?

Belial wrote:Are we arriving at the whole of your issue being that accuracy is now determined by the player? Because I refer you to "shooter hybrid".

The issue is that it's determined solely by the player. ME1 had accuracy determined by both character and player- hence, the hybrid part of "shooter hybrid". Which hits at the main point of what I'm trying to say: ME2 might have been a good game, but the changes from ME1 to ME2 were too heavy towards the "shooter" part of that hybrid, and I didn't like that. You can like it, that's fine, but that doesn't mean that the RPG bits weren't weakened.

Belial wrote:And the explanation for why Cerberus would dedicate an enormous chunk of their budget to resurrecting a Shepard who was reduced to new-recruit levels of competency would be...? Also exactly how many amnesia rocks did Garrus and Tali get clunked over the head with?

Why would Shepard be at "new-recruit" capability? Shepard was already an experienced and exceptionally capable soldier at the very start of ME1, and nothing I noticed implied that they were noticeably moreso by the end of the game either. In story terms, you'd still be exactly the same power as before, except now there would be more mechanical depth to this. As for Tali and Garrus, why didn't they start with a truckload of skills then? I had them each loaded up with skills, and they had none when I got each of them. Your amnesia rocks would have been needed for that.

Belial wrote:I thought the bit where the powers changed functions at the upper levels was pretty much the definition of versatility. Instead of "I throw you marginally better than I did before" it became "I throw ALL OF YOU". The problem with just getting stronger is, as you've alluded to, that it either makes the game too easy, or it is completely imperceptible due to level balancing. This is why standard skill progressions in linear games tend to make me yawn. When your powers learn to do new tricks, that's where I'm interested.

I felt that those variations were too limited in scope and effect to truly matter. Again, ME1 pulled off a good balance there, I don't see how ME2's setup is better for character progression.

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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby omgryebread » Mon Feb 06, 2012 9:18 pm UTC

The reason that Bioware had to reset you at the beginning of ME2 was because of basic game design. If you throw a player into a game with all options available, it's really hard for them to use their abilities right. You teach them one thing at a time. The retconned ammo system. Then an ability. Then team mate selection. Then their other guns, etc.

The same game design theories apply for Shepard's scaling. She scaled ridiculously hard in ME1. Shepard outscaled enemies hard enough that you could rely on her to beat enemies with her increase in power. It didn't take much more skill to clear the last area of the game than it did Noveria, because while the enemies did get harder, Shepard got much more powerful. In ME2, She does get more powerful as the game goes on (as other people have mentioned, I like how the final skill levels can change the skills rather than just improve them), but not at a pace that outscales the enemies as hard as ME1. This means that the player-skill required for the final area is much more than what is required for earlier areas.
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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby Belial » Mon Feb 06, 2012 10:16 pm UTC

Ghostbear wrote: I dunno if you dislike the RPG mechanics I like or are just fine with the way they're handled in ME2 (it's hard to tell) but if you do like them and good stories, I'd recommend it. You can probably get it for $5 at the next Steam sale or whatever.


Since getting into console gaming, I've let my PC fall by the wayside. I doubt it will run it. And I don't dislike "rpg mechanics" I just don't consider them essential or always positive in rpgs. I like them when they make sense and when they add something to the game, I favor getting rid of them when they're only there for their own sake.

Ghostbear wrote:ME2 already had the except in cutscenes bullshit anyway (hence my story about the Shadowbroker DLC where the game ignored that I was a capable biotic).


This happens in just about any game with any amount of scripting. The first game did quite a fair bit of it as well, as has every other Bioware RPG, even outside cutscenes (let's talk about the druids in both NWN games and the way they interacted with druid PCs. That was my favorite). That said, whether the *nature* of your abilities fails to manifest in cutscenes, the scale of them almost certainly will. If Shepards abilities continued to get better in *actual* ways, she'd be unstoppable. If they continued to get better in purely game-abstraction ways, then with a proper enemy-levelling system, how would you know whether she's getting powerful as quickly or not?

Ghostbear wrote:As for Tali and Garrus, why didn't they start with a truckload of skills then? I had them each loaded up with skills, and they had none when I got each of them. Your amnesia rocks would have been needed for that.


Gaming abstractions. The same way one assumes level 1 in ME1 isn't level 1 in ME2, The first rank of AI hacking in ME1 isn't the first rank in ME2. The alternative would be starting everyone at level 40 and basically hanging a sign that says "People who didn't play the first game need not apply".

This is all getting a bit "who wins in a fight, the enterprise or an executioner class star destroyer" for me.
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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby skeptical scientist » Mon Feb 06, 2012 10:23 pm UTC

Belial wrote:
skeptical scientist wrote:I disagree completely

Everything you described after this point just points to me phrasing incorrectly: what type of weapon is certainly important. The exact model of shotgun in reference to these 40 other shotguns that you'll need to fiddle with? Less so. ME2 certainly preserved the choice of shotgun vs pistol vs amp vs omnitool. It just didn't let you toy with them endlessly.

Fair enough, it seems I was misinterpreting you. I'll add that which model of shotgun/sniper rifle/etc. you carry can be an important roleplaying choice. ME2 actually does this fairly well by having sniper rifles that play very differently (e.g. the viper rapid fire sniper rifle, compared to the more standard widow/mantis), as others have already pointed out.

What you meant to say was that in ME1 the different weapons are all so similar to each other that it prevents your choice of weapon from being an important roleplaying choice. Instead it just becomes one more place where you can watch some numbers go up as you progress through the game.
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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby Ghostbear » Mon Feb 06, 2012 10:39 pm UTC

Belial wrote:Since getting into console gaming, I've let my PC fall by the wayside. I doubt it will run it. And I don't dislike "rpg mechanics" I just don't consider them essential or always positive in rpgs. I like them when they make sense and when they add something to the game, I favor getting rid of them when they're only there for their own sake.

And I think they actually did add something to ME1. Some of them (the aforementioned inventory) were clunky and needed to be reworked. That doesn't mean they didn't add something useful.

Belial wrote:If Shepards abilities continued to get better in *actual* ways, she'd be unstoppable. If they continued to get better in purely game-abstraction ways, then with a proper enemy-levelling system, how would you know whether she's getting powerful as quickly or not?

Your Shepard didn't get any more powerful in actual ways though, not even in the first one. The leveling systems were purely mechanical, and didn't represent your "story" abilities. They repeated that exactly in ME2, and I don't think there was anything, at all, stopping them from doing it properly.

Belial wrote:Gaming abstractions. The same way one assumes level 1 in ME1 isn't level 1 in ME2, The first rank of AI hacking in ME1 isn't the first rank in ME2. The alternative would be starting everyone at level 40 and basically hanging a sign that says "People who didn't play the first game need not apply".

I don't think that's really a fair limitation on the possible alternatives at all- they could have just started new characters at level 40 (just like how new characters in BG2 didn't start at level one). There's numerous ways around it, and gaming abstractions seems like a good reason to keep the same power scale through leveling as the first game. Fun is supposed to trump everything else in a game, right?

Belial wrote:This is all getting a bit "who wins in a fight, the enterprise or an executioner class star destroyer" for me.

I'm sorry you feel that way, but I'm trying my best to present my opinions as best I can.

Also, at the risk of interjecting some humor and pedantry here ( :wink: ): surely you mean Executor class? If so, then that's pretty obviously in the super star destroyers favor. Star Wars is just too over the top of a universe for the baseline technologies to be competitive with each other. I'm not even sure if the energy outputs shown by Star Wars vessels are at all plausible, but if we assume they're each at their full ability (as shown in their works) it'd be a rather one sided fight. Doesn't make either universe "better", but Star Wars definitely packs more oomph in its entities.

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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby Belial » Mon Feb 06, 2012 11:53 pm UTC

Ghostbear wrote:Your Shepard didn't get any more powerful in actual ways though, not even in the first one. The leveling systems were purely mechanical, and didn't represent your "story" abilities. They repeated that exactly in ME2, and I don't think there was anything, at all, stopping them from doing it properly.


So assuming that it has exactly zero setting effect and the powers never broaden, all that happens is the numbers go up. ProgressQuest at its finest. What exactly is the goal, then? And what part is it that you feel ME2 failed to do? I mean, the numbers there...also go up. I am officially lost as to what you're even upset about.

Ghostbear wrote:I don't think that's really a fair limitation on the possible alternatives at all- they could have just started new characters at level 40 (just like how new characters in BG2 didn't start at level one).


The reason that happened was because BG2 was a D&D game. There was a separate system they were appealing to, and a player base who knew what those levels meant. Which meant if they wanted to create more powerful characters they had to start at a higher level, at the risk of alienating players who don't play D&D and didn't play BG1.

There is no separately existing Mass Effect system, and nothing saying that "level 1" means the same thing in both games. In fact, there's very good evidence (Tali and Garrus) that it doesn't. Meanwhile, they got to set a new level 1 for a new game and get around alienating any incoming players. I have tried not to spoil myself much on ME3, but I suspect it starts at level 1 too.

Ghostbear wrote:I'm sorry you feel that way, but I'm trying my best to present my opinions as best I can.


My point is that "power" can only be defined relative to the universe it's in. Numbers don't mean anything unless there are numbers to compare to, and even then all that matters is the delta. Arguing based in anything else is just kindof floating out in nothing.

Just like the enterprise and the star destroyer. (And the real answer involves a question of whether star destroyer ray shields block transporters)
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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby omgryebread » Mon Feb 06, 2012 11:55 pm UTC

Ghostbear wrote:I don't think that's really a fair limitation on the possible alternatives at all- they could have just started new characters at level 40 (just like how new characters in BG2 didn't start at level one). There's numerous ways around it, and gaming abstractions seems like a good reason to keep the same power scale through leveling as the first game. Fun is supposed to trump everything else in a game, right?
There's a reason this is rarely ever done. As a character levels in a game, (or as a game progresses. Almost every modern game has new techniques/weapons/etc as you go on) the player gets more options, and not all of these options are going to be appropriate for every situation. If you started Final Fantasy VII with all the materia in the game, that would be an absurd amount of options and it would overwhelm players. Instead, as they acquire new materia, they can compare it, and they've gained gameplay knowledge to judge how their new stuff could be used.

Dropping a ME1 veteran into ME2 with all their skills and weapons intact would be fine, they'd know how to use all that. A new player at level 40? It will be much harder to get into the game.

But yeah, storyline or whatever concerns aside, I disagree that the power scaling in ME1 was better than that of 2. It was not fun to roll over enemies like a late game Shepard did. I think ME2 had pretty decent scaling, making enemies require more player skill and rewarding gains in equipment and skills. There's been games with better difficulty curves, of course, but ME2 was an improvement.
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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby Yakk » Tue Feb 07, 2012 1:19 am UTC

Belial wrote:Numbers don't mean anything unless there are numbers to compare to, and even then all that matters is the delta.
Don't be silly.

If you add more 0s to the end of a number, it is more awesome.
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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby Ghostbear » Tue Feb 07, 2012 1:35 am UTC

Taking this quote out of sync here:
Belial wrote:I am officially lost as to what you're even upset about.

That the RPG mechanics were axed or watered down progressing from ME1 to ME2. That I found the resultant game to be very lacking in the "RPG" part of the hybrid that was present in the original, and was disappointed by such. That's all I've been saying since the beginning. :(

Not that you can't remove those features, not that ME2 was a bad game, not that those features removed are even necessarily required for an RPG (all this side discussion of what's needed is just a very in depth nit picking, I feel). Just that I thought they weakened the RPG elements of the game.

Belial wrote:So assuming that it has exactly zero setting effect and the powers never broaden, all that happens is the numbers go up. ProgressQuest at its finest. What exactly is the goal, then? And what part is it that you feel ME2 failed to do? I mean, the numbers there...also go up.

What exactly is the goal of any game? They all boil down to numbers. I don't think labeling my comment a call for progressquest is at all fair. The zero effect it has is on the story, not the gameplay. I like both, but the argument you're making against me here already applies to the games as they are. I don't see how it's a valid criticism in the least.

Belial wrote:The reason that happened was because BG2 was a D&D game. There was a separate system they were appealing to, and a player base who knew what those levels meant. Which meant if they wanted to create more powerful characters they had to start at a higher level, at the risk of alienating players who don't play D&D and didn't play BG1.

There is no separately existing Mass Effect system, and nothing saying that "level 1" means the same thing in both games. In fact, there's very good evidence (Tali and Garrus) that it doesn't. Meanwhile, they got to set a new level 1 for a new game and get around alienating any incoming players. I have tried not to spoil myself much on ME3, but I suspect it starts at level 1 too.

None of this means that they couldn't have done it though, does it? Nothing forces it to alienate newer players if they do things right, and nothing about starting at level 1 again means you can't have the same mechanical power progression. Which means "new players are screwed unless they do this" isn't a fair take on their options at all.

Belial wrote:My point is that "power" can only be defined relative to the universe it's in. Numbers don't mean anything unless there are numbers to compare to, and even then all that matters is the delta. Arguing based in anything else is just kindof floating out in nothing.

When have I been arguing that? You always have a point of comparison in your enemies, in your past character, in your teammates, etc.

Belial wrote:(And the real answer involves a question of whether star destroyer ray shields block transporters)

Those have a limited range though, don't they? A super star destroyer would blow the ship up before that factored in.

omgryebread wrote:There's a reason this is rarely ever done. As a character levels in a game, (or as a game progresses. Almost every modern game has new techniques/weapons/etc as you go on) the player gets more options, and not all of these options are going to be appropriate for every situation. If you started Final Fantasy VII with all the materia in the game, that would be an absurd amount of options and it would overwhelm players. Instead, as they acquire new materia, they can compare it, and they've gained gameplay knowledge to judge how their new stuff could be used.

Dropping a ME1 veteran into ME2 with all their skills and weapons intact would be fine, they'd know how to use all that. A new player at level 40? It will be much harder to get into the game.

First, sorry for not responding to your earlier post making this a similar point, my bad (and it was not intended). You're right, it is a factor of game design, but that doesn't mean it wasn't an option, or that they lacked other options available to them. There was nothing requiring them to remove the progression during the leveling system, even to maintain the fun and make it possible for new players to break into the game.

omgryebread wrote:But yeah, storyline or whatever concerns aside, I disagree that the power scaling in ME1 was better than that of 2. It was not fun to roll over enemies like a late game Shepard did. I think ME2 had pretty decent scaling, making enemies require more player skill and rewarding gains in equipment and skills. There's been games with better difficulty curves, of course, but ME2 was an improvement.

Here you're arguing something completely separate from what I am. I'm talking about the power progression, which was very limited- read Platypus' post for a good example. The power scaling is somewhat a consequence of this (though the lack of power progression is not required for good power scaling), but not something I had any particular problem with.

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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby Lucrece » Tue Feb 07, 2012 3:47 am UTC

Well, go figure, they've added more depth and brought back weapon mods. More RPG. Part of what I hate being forced on the RPG genre is the idea that action comes at the cost of RPG, because RPG somehow needs to be about spending more time tailoring your character and strategizing for the fight than time spent actually doing the fight. Some people just want to play at some point, and throwing in statistical minutiae to worry over as an aspect important to success annoys me.

Must be why I like what others derisively call "action RPG". I tend to consider RPG for the first two letters, and nowhere in the definition of the two does it say I have to define that as Spreadsheet/Theorycraft/Numbercrunching galore.
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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby skeptical scientist » Tue Feb 07, 2012 6:16 am UTC

Ghostbear wrote:What exactly is the goal of any game? They all boil down to numbers.

What? Only to the extent that everything on a computer is coded by numbers. The goal of Mass Effect is to save the galaxy from the Reapers, a goal which has nothing to do with what number is displayed after "level" on your character screen.

Personally, I thought that ME2 actually did better in the RP department than ME1. You may have had fewer choices to make during character progression, but the choices you did make had a much larger impact on how Shepard played.
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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby Woopate » Tue Feb 07, 2012 11:55 am UTC

This argument has sparked an idea within me. I'm gonna be throwing two small-denomination legal tender units into the fray in a few hours, but first, to MSPAINTmobile, Robin!

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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby Ghostbear » Tue Feb 07, 2012 3:41 pm UTC

Lucrece wrote:[...] nowhere in the definition of the two does it say I have to define that as Spreadsheet/Theorycraft/Numbercrunching galore.

skeptical scientist wrote:What? Only to the extent that everything on a computer is coded by numbers. The goal of Mass Effect is to save the galaxy from the Reapers, a goal which has nothing to do with what number is displayed after "level" on your character screen.

That's the goal of the story, but why are you playing that game, how do you reach that goal? All of your prior decisions are going to be flagged as numbers somewhere, just the same as your stats and equipment. You can say that there is more "reality" behind a decision you make instead of what items you use, but I disagree there. Many of those decisions, especially with the morality meter present, are something that you can "spreadsheet" your way through to optimize if you want, such as the final level of ME2. Just as how you can do that with equipment and skills. Yes, you can make those decisions because you like them, with no concern for the numbers behind them, but you can do the exact same thing for your equipment and skills! Maybe the best skill option has you focusing on two of your skills exclusively, but you really like this third one, so you take it instead. Maybe this assault rifle is better, but you liked your previous one more, so you stick with the old one. Maybe this armor is better, but it makes you look like a doofus...

It's all numbers if you get down to it, and wanting to have more options to work with in progressing your character isn't a call to turn the game into a spreadsheet.

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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby An Enraged Platypus » Tue Feb 07, 2012 4:30 pm UTC

Belial wrote:Just like the enterprise and the star destroyer. (And the real answer involves a question of whether star destroyer ray shields block transporters)


By way of anticipating an argument, Reapers > anything from any series, ever. Why? Because plot armor.
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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby Belial » Tue Feb 07, 2012 4:34 pm UTC

Ghostbear wrote:Maybe this armor is better, but it makes you look like a doofus...


Man, you know what I loved about ME2? Never having to make this choice ever again. "Oh hey, if I want to get through combat effectively I have to wear armor that makes me look like an asshole, and the armor that makes me look iconic and Shepard-like is also utter crap". When Legion turned up wearing my N7 armor...well, colour me confused because I never fucking wore it. Did my suitcase fall out of the Normandy?

Everyone keeping their most aesthetically pleasing, well-designed armor that makes them look like an actual character rather than a random grunt= yes. I was super-pleased by the similar change in DA2.
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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby Ghostbear » Tue Feb 07, 2012 4:56 pm UTC

Belial wrote:Man, you know what I loved about ME2? Never having to make this choice ever again. "Oh hey, if I want to get through combat effectively I have to wear armor that makes me look like an asshole, and the armor that makes me look iconic and Shepard-like is also utter crap". When Legion turned up wearing my N7 armor...well, colour me confused because I never fucking wore it. Did my suitcase fall out of the Normandy?

Everyone keeping their most aesthetically pleasing, well-designed armor that makes them look like an actual character rather than a random grunt= yes. I was super-pleased by the similar change in DA2.

I actually thought that issue was more present in ME2. The best armor pieces all tended to make you look like a moron. The difference was that the benefits from the armors were all completely marginal, so you could safely ignore them completely. In ME1, the worst an armor could do to your visual style was to be a poor color scheme (I remember there were a few hot pink ones, which looked odd on any Shepard, male or female), but the armor actually mattered. I actually did like what they did with the companion armors in DA2, there were a lot of decent ideas in that game marred by poor execution and short development time (and the ending was just done terribly, at least if you sided with the mages). I think the best combination would have been the basic idea for the armor system in ME2 (consistent basic aesthetics, customized color patterns), with the ability to buy / find / somehow acquire various upgrades for it that would still keep the visuals unchanged. Not the million upgrades from ME1 (again, I have never denied that it's inventory needed improvement! :) ), but not the dearth of shitty marginal side upgrades from ME2.

I thought the N7 bit appeared on all of your armors, and not just your original one?

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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby omgryebread » Tue Feb 07, 2012 5:25 pm UTC

Mass Effect 3 requires Origin. I don't have a whole lot of interest in risking having to deal with EA's customer service, so I'll pass on the game. (Though hey, a roommate might buy it anyway...)
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Re: Mass Effect 3

Postby Belial » Tue Feb 07, 2012 6:28 pm UTC

Ghostbear wrote:I actually thought that issue was more present in ME2. The best armor pieces all tended to make you look like a moron. The difference was that the benefits from the armors were all completely marginal, so you could safely ignore them completely. In ME1, the worst an armor could do to your visual style was to be a poor color scheme (I remember there were a few hot pink ones, which looked odd on any Shepard, male or female)


That's kindof an "Apart from that Mrs Lincoln.." statement, isn't it? The color scheme was far and away the most noticeable aspect of any armor set.

(and the ending was just done terribly, at least if you sided with the mages)


I'm sure there's a DA thread around here somewhere where I can strenuously disagree with you on this point.
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