Party Building and Player Agency

For Bard's Tale IV gameplay-related discussion. May include gameplay details and spoilers.

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Zombra
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Party Building and Player Agency

Post by Zombra » April 3rd, 2018, 10:02 am

This is a broad topic, but kicking off I have a specific question.

It's been quietly stated in a few places that the game will begin with a single character and the player will slowly build a full party. What will this look like? Most importantly, is it still true that the player will have complete freedom to build the party of their choice (e.g. all Bards, etc.)? Can I start off with a weak Elven Practitioner as my first character? It seems like starting with one character they might make you do something weird like start with a survivable fighter type, or something like this.

Tell me I have no reason to be concerned.
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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by demeisen » April 3rd, 2018, 10:57 am

Zombra wrote:
April 3rd, 2018, 10:02 am
Most importantly, is it still true that the player will have complete freedom to build the party of their choice (e.g. all Bards, etc.)? Can I start off with a weak Elven Practitioner as my first character? It seems like starting with one character they might make you do something weird like start with a survivable fighter type, or something like this.
I can't answer the question of course, but some thoughts:

First, agreed 100% about complete freedom to build our own party. That was an important part of the originals, so I really hope it's preserved. I can deal with limited numbers of portraits and voices, but I want to be able to design my own party, even in weird ways if i want.

Since mages tend to start weak and get strong over time, many games seem to struggle with that "pressure to start with a fighter/paladin" if they start the player out with a single PC. I've seen some (E.g, POE) address it with temporary companions you get for a few levels until you can round out your party. In POE they stayed with you through the intro dungeon, and soon thereafter you got to a city to recruit entirely customized PCs or use the "story PCs", as you preferred. No idea what they're thinking for BT4, though.

If the party grows by meeting other characters as you journey, I hope there's a way to customize them when they join. I'm OK with story PCs, ala POE, but that game also let you roll your own from scratch, which fits better with the BT-classics.

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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by PsychicMonk » April 3rd, 2018, 11:35 am

I will be really pissed if I have to start the game with only one PC. I want to plan and create all of my characters at the start of the game so they can properly begin the game together as a PARTY.

Regarding POE:
If this turns out to be some kind of "chosen one" game like POE then I will be pissed off beyond belief.

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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by Zombra » April 3rd, 2018, 12:46 pm

demeisen wrote:
April 3rd, 2018, 10:57 am
First, agreed 100% about complete freedom to build our own party. That was an important part of the originals, so I really hope it's preserved. I can deal with limited numbers of portraits and voices, but I want to be able to design my own party, even in weird ways if i want.
Yeah. I have a bit of a rant about this; I'll try to keep it short.

First, quickly: faith to the classic BT games has nothing to do with why I care about this. This is not a "nostalgia" concern nor a "grognard" concern. This is about the fundamental nature of RPGs.

Second, quickly: I can't deal with a limited number of portraits and voices. Even if I can pick their stats, this would be essentially the same thing as having a premade party. There have to be a lot to choose from.

The critical thing is that the party must be mine. I must feel that I created them, chose who they are, mapped out their statistics and designed their unique tactical strategies; and if I can't invent their personalities completely in my head, at least I selected them from a roaring crowd in the city's biggest tavern. If a couple friends of mine play the game, the odds should be that there is little to no duplication in the personalities we chose when we talk about what parties we made, and there should be zero chance that the ways our different teams solve problems are identical.

As a counterexample, look at Dragon Age: Origins (or any Bioware game since then). Despite "Chosen One" status, that was not a game about my character or my party; it was about Alistair and Morrigan and some dude they traveled with. Aside from the choice of opening origin story (which was great), the main PC could have been replaced with a dog and the story would have scarcely been different. I wasn't the star.

I can see how it would be easy for developers to lose sight of why this issue is so critical to an RPG experience that promotes creative player investment. There are no mechanics to be designed, no numbers to crunch that have to do with the feeling of making characters that are your own. What the devs can control and do need to worry about are practical things, is the combat balanced, does the level design encourage exploratory behavior, etc. They "proofread" the game by running through different batches of test characters; they have to try all combinations and get attached to none of them. What's the difference if we just give them a premade party? If we can get just a couple good voice actors, that's better yet. Who wouldn't want to have a premade team of Troy Baker, Jennifer Hale, Stephen Russell, and Roger Craig Smith? Let's just record one good script with them and be done with it. The problem is that then I'm not playing an RPG with a party that is mine; I'm watching a movie made by somebody else. (I like movies, but a movie is not an RPG.)

The critical thing in RPGs is not just overcoming obstacles, it's choosing how to overcome obstacles, down to what tools you even have available to overcome those obstacles, and what those tools look like and who the people wielding them are, and what it means to them. This is why full party creation or lack thereof is so foundational to the entire experience of an RPG. The fewer choices I have in determining all this, the farther we get from the reason I play an RPG in the first place, and the less I am made to feel every hour and every minute in the game that I am involved. I just don't matter as much in a game where I don't create the protagonists!

OK, I guess that rant was rattling around inside for quite a while. Sooo ... that's that. :oops:
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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by thebruce » April 3rd, 2018, 1:24 pm

Well ranted.

And we agree, because it's consistent with reviving the feel of the classics ;)
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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by ZiN » April 3rd, 2018, 1:33 pm

This was featured on this thread, I just bumped.
Crosmando wrote:
June 4th, 2017, 11:40 am
  • Will it be possible to create your full party right from the start of the game?
  • Will the Adventurer's guild be similar to the classics where I can create new characters, add and remove them to and from the party, at any time during the game?
Obviously, I expect both of these to be true. I want a fully functional Adventurer's Guild, which is a strong signature element of BT, as I have stressed several times before. Alas, the Adventurer's Guild doesn't really fit their strange vision of turning BT into a heavily scripted puzzle game, so I have little hope of it being in, besides they probably want to pad playtime by locking the party at the start, so you have to replay several times to experience all the classes.

About starting with a full party: It doesn't take them any resources to allow that, so I see absolutely no reason not to do so. But then again, it is InXile...

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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by Gizmo » April 3rd, 2018, 1:33 pm

Zombra wrote:
April 3rd, 2018, 12:46 pm
The critical thing is that the party must be mine. I must feel that I created them, chose who they are, mapped out their statistics and designed their unique tactical strategies; and if I can't invent their personalities completely in my head, at least I selected them from a roaring crowd in the city's biggest tavern.
As a counterexample, look at Dragon Age: Origins (or any Bioware game since then). Despite "Chosen One" status, that was not a game about my character or my party; it was about Alistair and Morrigan and some dude they traveled with. Aside from the choice of opening origin story (which was great), the main PC could have been replaced with a dog and the story would have scarcely been different. I wasn't the star.
I just don't matter as much in a game where I don't create the protagonists!
I can understand your preference for it, and the reasons you give. ;)

In my case, these don't really register as that important to me. I'm just as fine with assigned PCs as I am with custom ones... but Bard's Tale utilized (user) custom PCs, so I think it would be quite out of place to force a pre-fabricated party (or party size) upon the player.

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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by Drool » April 3rd, 2018, 1:36 pm

ZiN wrote:
April 3rd, 2018, 1:33 pm
Alas, the Adventurer's Guild doesn't really fit their strange vision of turning BT into a heavily scripted puzzle game, so I have little hope of it being in, besides they probably want to pad playtime by locking the party at the start, so you have to replay several times to experience all the classes.
Well, that and the fact that, apparently, your characters can't die.
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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by Gizmo » April 3rd, 2018, 1:39 pm

I expect an adventurer's guild to make at least a token appearance; if not indeed as a useful location. There is a tendency to cherry pick identifiable names in a sequel, for brand identity... especially if there is little else to tie it to the brand. This is what happened with FO3.

The (rather splendid) TPP Shooter "Armed & Dangerous" by Planet Moon Studios, utilized a commoner's Pub on every map. The party could enter the pub to resupply; (from the resistance movement). I can easily envision an Adventurer's Guild (or a Roscoe's, or a Garth's; and of course a regular Pub) used in the same way.
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*No money changed hands; free re-supply. It was the same as the weapons shop they had in their other TPP Shooter, Giants:Citizen Kabuto.

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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by ZiN » April 3rd, 2018, 2:15 pm

Gizmo wrote:
April 3rd, 2018, 1:39 pm
I expect an adventurer's guild to make at least a token appearance; if not indeed as a useful location. There is a tendency to cherry pick identifiable names in a sequel, for brand identity... especially if there is little else to tie it to the brand. This is what happened with FO3.
Besides pissing off the old-school veterans, there isn't much point to featuring something stripped of the functionality and soul of the originals. The average player doesn't care if it is called Adventurer's Guild, or not.

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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by Gizmo » April 3rd, 2018, 2:28 pm

ZiN wrote:
April 3rd, 2018, 2:15 pm
Besides pissing off the old-school veterans, there isn't much point to featuring something stripped of the functionality and soul of the originals. The average player doesn't care if it is called Adventurer's Guild, or not.
FO3 has bottle caps because Fallout had them; this is me-too-ism on their part. Fallout 2 had abandoned bottle caps—even made jokes about them. Hubbucks (the caps) were a regional peculiarity in the desert, centered around the Water Merchants... but they used them in FO3's downtown D.C.—instead of the coins found in banks. Jet too was a regional plague (an addictive drug) made from a secret recipe of fecal extracts; invented by a local teenage prodigy... They used that in D.C. too; and in unopened pre-war containers.

When they own the IP assets, they will use them; just like they did with the (wiped out) Enclave... resurrected in FO3. Most of the FO3 players probably knew nothing of the series, and the names meant nothing to them... but they tied the game to the series.

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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by PsychicMonk » April 3rd, 2018, 2:33 pm

Back then when Bard's Tale 1 was released on the C64 I was playing the "dark eye" (realms of arkania) pnp with some friends. In this pnp our gamemaster didn't let us freely choose our characters. Instead we had to roll our stats in the exact order (no reroll or modify) and then choose a character we could play with those stats. Most of the time I wasn't able to play the characters I wanted. When I then discovered Bard's Tale the simple fact that I could freely create my whole party of characters in a game totally blew my mind. Since then this is at least in my opinion pretty much the most important and fundamental thing a Bard's Tale game has to have.

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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by _noblesse_oblige_ » April 3rd, 2018, 4:46 pm

ZiN wrote:
April 3rd, 2018, 1:33 pm
Obviously, I expect both of these to be true. I want a fully functional Adventurer's Guild, which is a strong signature element of BT, as I have stressed several times before. Alas, the Adventurer's Guild doesn't really fit their strange vision of turning BT into a heavily scripted puzzle game, so I have little hope of it being in,
During my playthrough of the demo, I noticed that the quest log had a quest which was "visit the Review Board in the Adventurer's Guild". So, it sounds like they are going to have an Adventurer's Guild, but have decided to merge the Review Board with it.
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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by Lucius » April 3rd, 2018, 5:01 pm

Only starting with one character sounds really disappointing. That means all the other characters are actually non created party members? Blah. At least give me 4 to start with and the rest of the party filled out with playable NPC's, Like Wasteland. I think that formula is a good mix.

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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by _noblesse_oblige_ » April 3rd, 2018, 5:01 pm

Zombra wrote:
April 3rd, 2018, 12:46 pm
The critical thing in RPGs is not just overcoming obstacles, it's choosing how to overcome obstacles, down to what tools you even have available to overcome those obstacles, and what those tools look like and who the people wielding them are, and what it means to them. This is why full party creation or lack thereof is so foundational to the entire experience of an RPG. The fewer choices I have in determining all this, the farther we get from the reason I play an RPG in the first place, and the less I am made to feel every hour and every minute in the game that I am involved. I just don't matter as much in a game where I don't create the protagonists!
Perfect. You're saying you want to choose the roles that you play in a role-playing game.
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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by Zombra » April 3rd, 2018, 5:41 pm

Lucius wrote:
April 3rd, 2018, 5:01 pm
Only starting with one character sounds really disappointing. That means all the other characters are actually non created party members? Blah. At least give me 4 to start with and the rest of the party filled out with playable NPC's, Like Wasteland.
Well, back in July 2015 we had this update which stated:
inXile wrote:First off, we have read your arguments regarding expanding the party, and heard you! So we have decided to expand the player party size to six, one of which will be a companion NPC. Additionally, you will have summoned creatures and the like to aid you, which will not count against your party cap. Currently, our plan is to allow you to summon as many additional creatures as there are available grid slots.
So if one is a CNPC, that means the other 5 are not, meaning they are fully fledged PCs. It's been a while since that update, but after all the pain getting there I don't see them going back on it.

I believe that all five PCs will be fully created by the player, because of course they will be and this is the obvious interpretation. We had this same conversation about Wasteland 3, and after much horse-dragging and tooth-pulling it came to light that although there will only be one player-created Ranger at the beginning of that game, as the party grows there will be more player-created characters and it will not be a "chosen one with companions" game. That has been stated in no uncertain terms. It seems reasonable to assume that they're doing the same thing here; the counterintuitive thing is that no RPG ever has done it this way before, so it's weird for inXile to make two games in a row like this.

My guess is that they've started doing things this way as a tactic to increase their player base by easing casual players into RPG systems. Maybe a lot of noobs were intimidated by having to make all 4 characters right at the beginning of Wasteland 2, so making just 1 character at the start and the rest later would be a lower barrier of entry. I can live with that as long as I ultimately have complete control over party creation.

It's possible at this point that they've kind of forgotten the 2015 conversation and will instead throw in a handful of premade characters and call them PCs because you control them, in the same way that Cloud and Tifa are PCs in Final Fantasy VII. I don't believe so and I don't want to believe so, but I would love to see some rock solid red name assurance that this will not be the case.

------
_noblesse_oblige_ wrote:
April 3rd, 2018, 5:01 pm
You're saying you want to choose the roles that you play in a role-playing game.
It seems obvious, but don't forget there are people out there who unironically say things like "Well you play the role of Mario, so Donkey Kong is a role-playing game."
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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by demeisen » April 3rd, 2018, 6:00 pm

Zombra wrote:
April 3rd, 2018, 12:46 pm
demeisen wrote:
April 3rd, 2018, 10:57 am
First, agreed 100% about complete freedom to build our own party.
Yeah. I have a bit of a rant about this; I'll try to keep it short.
... followed by an entire screenfull of text... :lol:

Agreed with most of your rant though. Good thoughts.

About portraits, I can't recall a game where I was satisfied with the included choices, so I've resigned myself to hoping the community eventually provides a larger selection, NWN1 style, for any game I play.
Drool wrote:
April 3rd, 2018, 1:36 pm
Well, that and the fact that, apparently, your characters can't die.
Almost reluctant to post this because I don't want to cause false hopes, but ... am I thinking of a totally different upcoming game here, or did they say something really early on about a hardcore mode that included the ability to only save in prescribed safe areas, akin to how you could only save in inns in BT1? That doesn't directly discuss death, but it's a lot less meaningful if there's nothing on the line, so ... maybe such a hardcore mode could include BT1-style death mechanics? Just speculation, of course. I'd like both things, if possible. Some people complain bitterly about restricted saving, but I think it adds something important, and as long as it's optional for those who don't like it, I hope we see it.

If there's to be an Adventurer's Guild (hopefully with some functionality, not merely a boarded up building), perhaps there may also be a temple, and thus room for semi-permadeath or whatever you call that BT1 mechanic.

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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by Gizmo » April 3rd, 2018, 6:10 pm

Zombra wrote:
April 3rd, 2018, 5:41 pm
It seems obvious, but don't forget there are people out there who unironically say things like "Well you play the role of Mario, so Donkey Kong is a role-playing game."
While that's always unfortunate... (citing non_RPGs as roleplaying), they sometimes tell the truth by mistake... As in, "Well you play the role of Geralt in the Witcher"; and "You play the role of Nameless in Planescape; and of Ahm Shagar in Arx Fatalis". These are excellent roleplaying games; and they have their respective game worlds completely tailored to them, because the developer knows precisely who the character is.

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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by demeisen » April 3rd, 2018, 6:32 pm

Zombra wrote:
April 3rd, 2018, 5:41 pm
My guess is that they've started doing things this way as a tactic to increase their player base by easing casual players into RPG systems. Maybe a lot of noobs were intimidated by having to make all 4 characters right at the beginning of Wasteland 2
Oh, you'd be amazed at how much pushback I've seen from gamers (mostly, but not entirely, the set raised on console games) about this. I've seen games blasted in reviews for being "too complex" in requiring the player create several characters. I've seen similar around expecting the player to manage several characters: they prefer just one. I have friends very much in that mindset: they want one PC and one only. I've seen game forums where the overwhelming sentiment is very much dead set against multi-characters at all, let alone in initial creation. They hate having a large selection of abilities and spells, and post constant demands for simplification to just a few choices. I think a lot of the current RPG player base holds that outlook. I think some of it comes from console land.

I hold with the polar opposite school: I want complexity, choices, and substantial risk. Choices in character creation and development, complex sets of abilities, complex combat tactics, and risk with something tangible on the line, not just reloading a quicksave from 3 seconds before I screwed up. Make me think, make me play wisely and take the game seriously, and punish me brutally if I don't. I'm not much for hand-holding. :lol:

I can deal with starting with one PC, as long as I can have a full crew pretty soon, and don't have to play the bulk of the game with less than a full squad. I'd prefer to start with the full set, but it won't make or break the game for me. It should, however, be heavily front loaded so I'm not half way through the game with 3/6 members.

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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by Gizmo » April 3rd, 2018, 6:54 pm

demeisen wrote:
April 3rd, 2018, 6:32 pm
I think a lot of the current RPG player base holds that outlook. I think some of it comes from console land.
I would say that they are not an RPG player base at all then. They want the game to be called an RPG, but they appear to want only a cosplay simulator, or an arcade game like some sort of FPP Golden Axe. A true RPG seems unpalatable for them.

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