this game made me sad.

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Hunbaar
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this game made me sad.

Post by Hunbaar » March 26th, 2017, 12:45 pm

First about me, I am a random guy from the internet who writes in the forums of a video game that only other people like him cares. It is by its nature an echo chamber, if you are here then it means you do care about this game as well. Putting this aside I am a mid-30s guy who grew up playing D&D CRPGs from Eye of the Beholders to Baldur's Gate and beyond, my favorite, not to anyone's surprise is Planescape: Torment, I spent days and weekends to decipher the plots, talk to everyone *know* all there is to know about it. It was not a perfect game but it made me feel things; sense of discovery, curiosity, melancholy, and even unrequited love.

As some who lived enough to experience many let-downs of the game industry, I was cautiously optimistic about Torment ToN. My self imposed news embargo worked and I knew nothing about the game up until I hit newgame. Disclamer: I own a Numenara corebook so I was not totally alien to setting, weird and fantastic do not distract me, I can read abstract text, also I can handle poorly written essays and grade them on their merit and aims since I am an instructor in a university this pretty much what I *endure*. All in all, I felt like I can enjoy this game immensely even if it was half as good as PS:T.

Nevertheless, this game made me sad, not disappointed, just sad. The overall setting and the scenario is quite excellent, I could not be happier with the concepts, so many possibilities. But the writing in TToN is over inflated, "Brevity is the soul of wit," I encounter this all the time, too many words and adjectives describing so little. "It is not the word count that counts" I tell my students, few get it. But TToN also has moments of brilliance, a sign of multiple layers of effort and multiple pens in the work.

The game aspect, however, I have to judge as an armchair developer. Yes the graphics are bad despite using Pillars engine, which is as we seen, capable of projecting beautiful imagery. I agree that animations are bad, all npcs are wooden, there are no portraits of important npcs to incite our imagination, combat is a chore lack of a codex is inexcusable etc. etc.

But what made me sad is mere laziness and I select this example to illustrate my point: So, Rhin, is a character that I did care about, and there was an opportunity to send her home, what required was someone who had a strong connection to you, not the person but the connection itself. I immediately liked the idea, so many possibilities! I summoned all my companions, no dialogue option concerning Rhin, that's OK what about my enemies? How can I get them to do something for me? My imagination was running wild, but hark there was a NPC two meters away who happens to have a strong connection with you, no build up, no payoff, so I sent Rhin home, it did not feel earned, just a check in quest log. Just like the ghoul boy that you find in Fallout 4 whose parents also happens to be ghouls and they happen to be just 20 meters away for some centuries. Rhin is not a side quest, a miscellany, she is a companion, that moment should have been something. This is just an example, there are many like it, you get the idea.

What about the ending? It feels incredibly rushed, four years is a healthy amount of time to finish a CRPG with established engine and setting.

Why I am sad? It seems Planespace Torment was a fluke, an improbable occurrence, an oddity. I feel stuck in nostalgia, unable to enjoy new games that I consume. I feel that I will not be able to enjoy new games, not because I have grown or matured, but simply they do not make'em that good anymore. Sometimes a pipe is just a pipe.

Thank you for reading.

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Re: this game made me sad.

Post by acm » March 30th, 2017, 6:08 pm

Yes, something seems to be missing from the "good old times," where they had to write their own memory management to squeeze stuff in, to today where there is an abundance of tools that (should) let you concentrate on the content. Personally I think game development got too complex, in Ultima 7 for example all that was needed were a few coloured tiles stitched together and a midi keyboard to make a living and believable world, and it turned into man-centuries of placing scrubs and stones into an area. Larger team sizes probably also play a role, the "sole genius" doing a game from A-Z is a history long past.

I don't know what happened exactly with ToN, but if you l search for developer interviews online you will find that they had lots of interesting ideas and story, but it was fading as development progressed. This game had the potential for greatness from the onset, at the result is still a OK to good game, but there are too many scars from cut content.

... That would have it a great tribute to the Nameless One at least.

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Re: this game made me sad.

Post by Rink » March 31st, 2017, 2:41 pm

Non, ce n'est pas une pipe.
I am about your age, have a similar history with RPGs and like you I struggle with enjoyment of new RPGs.
After having replayed a lot of RPGs from the late 90ties (Final Fantasy 7, 8, 9, Baldur's Gate 1 and 2, Planescape: Torment, Chrono CrossI in recent years I would say the following to you:

I think we tend to overrate past experiences, if they were the "first". Our memories do not state fact, they state a very subjective picture that is influenced by who you were back when you experienced it, what experiences you had before that point and what memories you accumulated after that. You will never be able to play a game from your view as a 18-year old again, that just got his heart broken for the first time after his first relationship, just as you will be never be able to enjoy ice cream the same way a 3 year old child can enjoy his first ice cream. So having thought about philosophy, about life, about love, will make you experience all information that include such information in a very different way.
If you are a writer, then you can obviously see that if you just read something you wrote 10 years ago. It will be boring, plain, colorless and you will remember how proud you were when you wrote it, how fresh and emotional it felt and no longer understand why. It doesn't mean what you wrote back then was bad at all, just that you thought about that philosophy, about that emotions for a long time and thus your reception of those experiences will be different. And because revisiting information you already know is useless to you, it will feel less original and emotional or interesting to you. The same thing happens with music, most people will just prefer the music they liked in their late teens and early 20. And even the bands they loved back then only produced (subjective) crap after that time period. Weird that this happened to all of us, huh?

Does this mean our lives are just a decline where we are doomed to find less and less enjoyment with age? Yes, but it depends a lot on if and how you compare new experiences. When we take a past experience that we glorify because of reasons that may not only stem from the originality of the source and compare it to a new experience, then this will never be a fair comparison. The only way to fairly compare this is to get parallel universes, send a copy of the new game to you back in 1999, let the past you experience the new game instead of P:T, make sure he never plays P:T and let him play P:T in 2017 and then compare the experiences with the ones you have. And maybe do this with 30 different "you"s, to make sure the findings are statistically relevant for other dimensions. So if the comparison has to be flawed anyway due to stupid limitations of science in our lifetime, why not stop comparing and just trying to enjoy what you are currently living the best we can?
If you really cannot stop comparing, then try to see through the nostalgia. If you do this, then you will also see the things that ToN did better than P:T as well as the ones where the high target may not have been reached. What about the items and their stories? What about combat? What about the skillsystem? What about the tide-system compared to alignment? How about the number and quality of sidequests? The writing of non-party-NPCs? The total creativity in the game compared to the pnp-ruleset? Maybe you should compare the graphics if they matter to you, or how the ending "feels rushed" etc.
I feel sad too, sad for you, because you seem not to be able to see the gem that is in front of you. If you can stop comparing, just enjoy the game for what it is. The best written RPG in a VERY long time. The only one that really dares to touch philosophy in 17 years.
And if we all are able to do that, then maybe there will be another game made in the future, another game that is similar to P:T, that maybe may again not be able to live up to your expectations, but maybe still give you pleasure for 50+ hours.
Is that not worth it?
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Re: this game made me sad.

Post by Gizmo » March 31st, 2017, 4:37 pm

Rink wrote:
March 31st, 2017, 2:41 pm
The same thing happens with music, most people will just prefer the music they liked in their late teens and early 20. And even the bands they loved back then only produced (subjective) crap after that time period. Weird that this happened to all of us, huh?
This didn't happen to me. ;)
The computer games and music I played and listened to in my teens are not something I would typically play or listen to now; and in fact, most of what I prefer in music, is [or is almost] older than I am... And this is from finding out about it years later, either having missed out on it when it was new, or having not even been born when it was released. It comes down to an appreciation of craft over novelty; and I just don't see that much craft in the last few decades [in music or games]. It's there in every decade, but it seems awfully rare to me, and I think it's in industry wide decline for both; and has been for years.
If you really cannot stop comparing, then try to see through the nostalgia.
When we take a past experience that we glorify because of reasons that may not only stem from the originality of the source and compare it to a new experience, then this will never be a fair comparison.
True, but it doesn't have to be a comparison where we glorify either of them. Simple side-by-side comparisons can reveal the merits of each. It's a common argument by some to suggest that 'nostalgia goggles' are clouding one's perception of the past... but that only holds when the past is unaccessible. We can load Fallout and FO3 for direct comparison, and spot the cracks in each, and the same with PS:T & TToN; and even WL1 and WL2.

It's interesting to me just how often the later games fall short in this age. There is a game from 1998 called 'Die By The Sword', by the company now known for making 'Call of Duty'. I had never heard of the game before GoG began selling it, but I was hopelessly hooked on it within five minutes.
One would have to PAY me to play Call of Duty. DBTS offers software calculated melee attacks with full 360° weapon control, and calculates damage based on the force of impact; and impacts can sever the opponent's limbs at every joint; death with decapitation. DBTS shipped with an animation macro recorder that allows the player to devise their own hotkey-able attack moves, and evasions. Has anyone here ever even heard of the like? Or know of any game in the last eighteen years that even comes close to that ambition? It was before its time, and suffered terribly on the then current desktops; but it was a playable non-accelerated 3D title that I have not seen surpassed yet.
The only way to fairly compare this is to get parallel universes, send a copy of the new game to you back in 1999, let the past you experience the new game instead of P:T, make sure he never plays P:T and let him play P:T in 2017 and then compare the experiences with the ones you have.
This doesn't hold up in my experience. I find ancient games that I'd never heard of before, and often find that I like them better ~not for arbitrary preference, but for side by side compared reasons with modern titles ~falling short. In Elderscrolls for instance, I like their games in reverse order... but I'd never heard of Bethesda until they acquired the Fallout license. The first Bethesda game I bought was the Oblivion CE ~because I wanted to see what they could do with an in-house IP ~before they tackled the Fallout IP.

By common opinion, Oblivion would be my favorite ~being that it was my first exposure to Elderscrolls; but what I found out was that I like Morrowind even better (I had never heard of Morrowind before). Around that time I discovered the game Ravenloft: Stone Prophet. I had never heard of that before either; but I liked it more than Oblivion; specifically the NPC conversations, and voice characterizations. Side by Side, ten years apart, and Oblivion lost in my book.

The idea of sending one's past self a modern game to play, reminds me of this (parody, one that is all to true in a way):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1ZtBCpo0eU

______
There is a sliding scale with the appreciation of computer games & graphics; for those that understand a bit about them. I can appreciate the appearance of a well made EGA title that runs in a half MB ram on an 8086 CPU; and I might appreciate it more than a 16-bit 3DFX title; or even a DX12 title. It depends on the game, but this is akin to appreciating a masterful pen & ink sketch equally ~or over a photo-realistic 3D rendered work using purchased assets, and built in scene shading. Both images might look wonderful, and each even have tremendous merit... but the pen sketch was done using nothing but a pen, and the EGA game is a relative equivalent of that when compared to a 20+ gigabyte game that requires several APIs, dedicated video hardware, and 512 times the system RAM, just to be able to load; and all that doesn't guarantee a better game.

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Re: this game made me sad.

Post by Rink » April 1st, 2017, 12:49 am

Gizmo wrote:
March 31st, 2017, 4:37 pm
It comes down to an appreciation of craft over novelty; and I just don't see that much craft in the last few decades [in music or games].
I would argue that this again is a (very) subjective view that wouldn't survive a scientific analysis for almost all aspect of games. However it is possible that some people just prefer old-school graphics over new one because the nostalgia has burned so deep into their brains that just the old-school-feeling will make them feel good. In my opinion this clearly is the case if someone like the OP isn't able to enjoy any new games like the games from the 90ties.
Purely scientifically: what aspect of games is lacking in new games that you can measure objectively and was higher in games of the 90ties in general than in games today?
I think your comparison between Die by the sword and call of duty falls short. Not only is the first call of duty from 2003 and thus not a new game, the games are also in very different genres and thus not comparable by any standards. What aspects of DBTS were in other games of the 90ties in your view (or in P:T for that matter)? If you liked the challenging fights in DBTS, have you for example tried to compare them with the dark souls series? And compare the first call of duty with newer shooters maybe?
Gizmo wrote:
March 31st, 2017, 4:37 pm
There is a sliding scale with the appreciation of computer games & graphics; for those that understand a bit about them. I can appreciate the appearance of a well made EGA title that runs in a half MB ram on an 8086 CPU; and I might appreciate it more than a 16-bit 3DFX title; or even a DX12 title. [...]; and all that doesn't guarantee a better game.
I agree with you, but better graphics also do not make a worse game, unless you are fundamentally nostalgic. But for your case I would ask the question: How are new games that use retro graphics (Stardew valley, darkest dungeon, Always sometimes monsters, to the moon, pixel piracy, Terraria, gone home - just to name a few from recent years) any worse than the games from the 90ties in general?
Gizmo wrote:
March 31st, 2017, 4:37 pm
True, but it doesn't have to be a comparison where we glorify either of them. Simple side-by-side comparisons can reveal the merits of each.
Usually a side-by-side comparison is hard to do. It isn't possible if you already glorify one of them before comparing. But I agree that this would be a good start, if people that loved P:T went back and played the game again at least and tried to look through the nostalgia before overly bashing new creations and thus (maybe unfairly) contribute to suppressing that new creation with all the future offspring it could cause.
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Re: this game made me sad.

Post by Gizmo » April 1st, 2017, 3:44 pm

Rink wrote:
April 1st, 2017, 12:49 am
However it is possible that some people just prefer old-school graphics over new one because the nostalgia has burned so deep into their brains that just the old-school-feeling will make them feel good. In my opinion this clearly is the case if someone like the OP isn't able to enjoy any new games like the games from the 90ties.
I think that you've misunderstood my post; it was never about graphics.
It mentions EGA graphics as an example of esteem for the results achieved under such limitations. This is akin to ~say... appreciating a portrait done using a type writer, because of the skill involved; not that the image itself is thought superior, or is even preferred above others.
Image
Purely scientifically: what aspect of games is lacking in new games that you can measure objectively and was higher in games of the 90ties in general than in games today?
I think the video link I posted just previously gives the broad gist.
I think your comparison between Die by the sword and call of duty falls short. Not only is the first call of duty from 2003 and thus not a new game, the games are also in very different genres and thus not comparable by any standards. What aspects of DBTS were in other games of the 90ties in your view (or in P:T for that matter)? If you liked the challenging fights in DBTS, have you for example tried to compare them with the dark souls series? And compare the first call of duty with newer shooters maybe?
When did I compare the two? I was lauding DBTS as ahead of its time, and said I'd need to be paid to play CoD, but I didn't compare them. Neither offers or does what the other excels at; they don't directly compete. However... I have seen no modern equivalent of DBTS. AFAIK, it's never been surpassed.
I agree with you, but better graphics also do not make a worse game, unless you are fundamentally nostalgic. But for your case I would ask the question: How are new games that use retro graphics (Stardew valley, darkest dungeon, Always sometimes monsters, to the moon, pixel piracy, Terraria, gone home - just to name a few from recent years) any worse than the games from the 90ties in general?
Yes they can make it worse, but it depends upon what is meant by 'better'. Artwork is (to an extent) subjective, but efficiency is not. Bloated graphics do increase the system requirements; while they may ~or may not actually look better.
A game that uses 24-bit color retro-art sprites (with art that would fit in 8-bit space) is needlessly demanding, and not as impressive ~even when compared to the exact same artwork done in an EGA game; but again, this wasn't about graphics, it was about the gameplay.
Usually a side-by-side comparison is hard to do. It isn't possible if you already glorify one of them before comparing. But I agree that this would be a good start, if people that loved P:T went back and played the game again at least and tried to look through the nostalgia before overly bashing new creations and thus (maybe unfairly) contribute to suppressing that new creation with all the future offspring it could cause.
I say that comparing is trivially easy to do. These days the platform can often run both games side-by-side at the same time, on the same screen. The issue is not the imagery; the imagery is expected (and assumed) to improve with the passing of time. As John Carmac said of programmers, "Anything that an extremely clever graphics programmer can do at one point can be replicated by a merely competent programmer some number of years later."; and the same holds true for artists ~with the advent and endless advancement of software drawing and modeling tools.

But what I meant before, about side-by-side comparisons was the mechanics and scope of the games, not their visual art. Alas, I haven't played TToN enough to speak from experience, but what I gather here is that it falls woefully short of PS:T in several aspects. What I have personally seen of the game (to me) seems on point and fairly appropriate ~so far, except for the 'Knight Rider' UI; but I've only just entered the first town, the one with with that cephalopod thing in the trap.

But Planescape was the type of game (RPG) where the PC can level up over lunch; (ie through inter-party conversation while standing around). It also made efforts to turn trope & cliche on its end; like omitting swords from the setting, and making rats one of the most dangerous enemies. It also rewarded return visits to locations ~I take it that TToN doesn't even allow return trips? I have heard that combat in TToN is sparce, and often optional. Planescape didn't seem to encourage combat either. Combat always seemed the lesser of any set of options.

To those that have played both Planescape and TToN: Graphics aside, does TToN compare favorably or on par with PS:T in the aspects that PS:T was exceptional at? That's the yardstick IMO. To give an example where I'm familiar with both games, and can speak from experience: Fallout and FO3, where FO3 falls way short of par in what Fallout was known for. In Fallout, the PC's actions and conversations often lead to immutable consequences; the developer motto was, the ability to do what you wanted ~but have to live with it. In FO3, there is almost no concept of consequences, and the PC can do numerous atrocities, and buy back their good name by donating dirty water to vagrants. In FO3 the PC can shoot NPCs in the face, and converse with them on friendly terms afterwards. The PC's father will even give them more ammo whenever they ask ~to continue shooting him in the face; only chiding and saying, "Cut that out". In Fallout the combat is fair; in FO3, the enemies have unlimited ammo, and the PC gets free (I win) attacks via that awful VATS system ~which is not derived from turn based mechanics, because the enemies never get their turn.

Fallout and FO3 are polar opposites where gameplay and RPG priorities are concerned, and none of Bethesda's 'sequels' are worthy of the name that they bear simply by fiat. They exploit the series reputation, but offer no evidence of it in play. So does TToN do the same?
(No outright spoilers please.)

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Re: this game made me sad.

Post by Lord of Riva » April 2nd, 2017, 1:17 am

Why are we even talking about scientific analysis when it comes to design?

there are certainly measurable things in this game, length for example or the amount of foci but that is besides the point.

Game design in itself is a highly subjective thing, there is no objective true way for designing games, at the same time though that means that it should definitely be scrutinized not scientifically but subjectively.

The problem here @Rink is that you try to discount critique with statements that say these critiques arent objective but that is kinda pointless on a subjective matter. Hunbaars post is eloquent and clear in what it wants to convey and there isnt really a point in trying to say hes wrong, objectively.

How about just saying that you disagree with him instead of trying to wear the mantle of truth that does not exist?
This isnt math, this is taste and arguing about that IS pointless ;)

just my two cents.

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Re: this game made me sad.

Post by Rink » April 3rd, 2017, 5:37 am

Gizmo wrote:
April 1st, 2017, 3:44 pm
Yes ["better graphics"] they can make it worse, but it depends upon what is meant by 'better'. Artwork is (to an extent) subjective, but efficiency is not. Bloated graphics do increase the system requirements; while they may ~or may not actually look better.
I don't compare games by efficiency, because the only thing about efficiency of a game that I personally can see is if it works on my computer or not. Since I had no problem in running any game since about 10 years, I don't care about efficiency if I rate the quality of a game, and imho this also shouldn't be an important factor, unless people cannot run the game, a problem ToN doesn't have.
What I wanted to say is that better graphics do not make a game worse, just as it doesn't necessarily makes it a better game. The quality of a game is largely defined by other factors.
Gizmo wrote:
April 1st, 2017, 3:44 pm
To those that have played both Planescape and TToN: Graphics aside, does TToN compare favorably or on par with PS:T in the aspects that PS:T was exceptional at? That's the yardstick IMO.
Fallout 2 and Fallout 3 were two very different games because the game changed the genre from a pure RPG to a shooter-RPG.
TTon in my view excels on P:T on things like writing quality (there is simply nothing in this game that is boring to read), number and quality of sidequests and npcs, reactivity (you can chose your own way and it has it's consequences in the game), combat (it's far from perfect in ToN, but better than in P:T) and the tide-system over the good-evil-system.
It is on par with the main quest quality and graphics (if you compare the quality with the quality P:T had 1999 compared to other games back then), bugs (both games had significant bugs when released) scenario (both have weird and creative worlds) and philosophy (both games ask philosophic questions in an interesting way).
It is falls short with the companions (two are very good, but it is impossible to replace the charme of Morte), the ending in P:T was more impressive as a climax (that may be nostalgia on my part as well though) and humor (both games have humor, but the exclusions of some themes also took away a lot of possibilities to take situations less seriously).
I tried to make it without spoiler but thus also cannot specify in more detail.

So does ToN excel on things that made P:T special: yes.
Does it fall short on some things that made P:T special: yes.
Are both games very good games on their own: yes.
Is ToN the game that is most similar to P:T: yes.
Is ToN the best game since P:T: depends on your preferences, for me yes.

@Lord of riva: But if people really think that every game in the mid-90ties was vastly better than everything that is produced today, then they usually will (like here in this topic) not want to discuss specifics, objective factors, reasons, because -as has been said by you as well- they prefer the games in the mid-90ties because of subjective terms. I am a scientist. If it really is a subjective matter that cannot be measured by any objective terms, then it is -from a psychological viewpoint- also a subjective reason that makes people believe all new games are crap (or with other words the subjective nostalgia I proposed). This would also mean that it is from a scientific standpoint wrong to say that new games are worse than old games. I have nothing against it, if people say they don't like games from today as they liked games in the mid-90ties, as it includes the awareness of their subjective standpoint on the matter.
The "ceci n'est pas une pipe"-analogy shows that very well. It's fine to be subjective and have a subjective view, but one should be aware of the subjectivity of the standpoint, and not try to sell it as fact, because if it is only you as a recipient that is the cause for you not being satisfied with new games, then maybe with the awareness you can also change that point of view and learn to be satisfied again, if you want to.
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Re: this game made me sad.

Post by Gizmo » April 3rd, 2017, 10:59 pm

Rink wrote:
April 3rd, 2017, 5:37 am
...
I tried to make it without spoiler but thus also cannot specify in more detail.

So does ToN excel on things that made P:T special: yes.
Does it fall short on some things that made P:T special: yes.
Are both games very good games on their own: yes.
Is ToN the game that is most similar to P:T: yes.
Is ToN the best game since P:T: depends on your preferences, for me yes.
This was a great post!
I was glad of the positive review; it's heartening, as I start to play the game again.

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