Sunday, 28 January 2018

Commentary on Beamdog's January 26 Livestream Recap: NWN:EE

Commentary on Beamdog's January 26 Livestream Recap: NWN:EE





Here is a transcript of an excerpt from Beamdog's latest livestream. What the brief exchange below amounts to is an "argument" against full party control employment in Neverwinter Nights.

Trent: Neverwinter Nights 2 was like, "Hey, let's take this Neverwinter thing and let's drag it back towards Baldur's Gate." That's not what I had originally intended Neverwinter Nights to be. NWN, to me, was D&D in a box. I sit down, I've got my character sheet, I'm playing my character. Baldur's Gate is: I sit down, I have my character sheets of my party, I play Charname and the supporting cast that is written—

Phil: —It's RPG football manager—


Trent: —It's novelesque. There was a written, scripted world to play on. To me, NWN was much more about: "I'm playing my character and I'm jumping in on somebody else's adventure and we're going stream-of-consciousness on it". And it's just fun stuff.

Phil: I agree. NWN1, I think when we're done, is going to be a more extensive platform if we get to everything we want to do. I think it'll be an improvement over NWN2.

Trent: Yeah, and I mean, there's some overlap there between what the two games do, and, I think in some areas they [Obsidian] did well and I would like to borrow that kind of concept but, in other areas, I disagree with the direction they set.

Phil: So, that's kind of an interesting thing to talk about: what separates NWN2 from NWN1 in your mind?

Trent: Well, to me, NWN2 really came down to: it was more about the adventure that was crafted for you to control a party through.

Phil: Because the two expansions towards the end were very much like Baldur's Gate and that was a party-driven experience at its core.

Trent: To me, NWN was always about the D&D core experience. Like, when you go to play D&D with your group, you play with your character, you don't have your sheet and five others, because if everybody showed up with like five companions and their main character, they would spend the entire time just talking about what their companions were doing. I really want that story to be about the player.

/excerpt.

In opposition to this unconvincing exchange, I have already posted my Argument for Full Party Control and suggestions for Electronesque implementations. In relation to FPC, Beamdog are just going with the blanket argument that:

• Aurora is a multi-player platform, first and foremost (as per BioWare's initial pitch), and that;

• D&D - at its core - is a game in which the player controls just one character.

This of course ignores such key points as:

• How the single-player game has evolved to become a prime mode of play as well (see Core), and how BioWare eventually acknowledged that fact and scrambled to address the lack of companion control with hacks, trickery and their own modules (e.g, HotU);

• How the vast majority of computer role-playing games have employed Full Party Control to bypass the need for companion AI, which demonstrably isn't up to snuff;

How D&D has always been about a party of adventurers rather than one hero and one or two useless sidekicks. We control our companions in most every D&D computer role-playing game because companion AI is as dumb as rocks. Adjustments have to be made: tabletop players don't have to put up with companions doing tactically stupid things. More to that, D&D itself is derived from the wargaming tradition in which players controlled entire armies. Moreover, there are many instances where one player will control more than one character. On EN World, I have seen DMs run lengthy campaigns in which one player controls multiple characters: it's still a party of adventurers;

How even persistent worlds have sought to add compromissary hacks in an attempt to give their players more control over their summons, familiars and animal companions (Balkoth's Minion Control and Numos' Minion Command Tool - which, of course, are no substitute for tried-and-true FPC);

• How FPC doesn't preclude role-playing one-character modules and soloing, and how PS:T and MotB are the greatest role-playing campaigns ever made despite employing FPC (did anyone not feel like The Nameless One just because they also controlled Morte, Dak'kon and Grace; did anyone not feel like the Shard-bearer just because they also controlled Safiya, Gann and Kaelyn?), and;

How the lack of FPC employment has adversely affected the quality of modules on Aurora throughout its life-cycle. Rather than attracting the noble Infinity player-base who actually understood what D&D is (hack n slash, with threat of death around every corner: see Gygax), FPC omission instead nurtured the building of lame "story-based" modules which might as well have been adventure games for all the tactics and obstacles they employ. Swordflight is the greatest exception to this rule but, that masterpiece and one of two others aside, the authors of these modules, with a penchant for twaddle, by and large, don't have the foggiest idea what D&D is (95% of the so-called "Hall of Fame").

These abridged points, and others besides, are detailed here and here, in-depth.

In disagreement with what Phil is assuming, I don't think that NWN:EE could ever replace NWN2; not in the light of Beamdog's comments on Electron feature employment. There is just too much that Electron and its toolset offers that Beamdog are doubtful to employ. Thus, NWN2 will always be an attractive option for certain builders and players. See Electronesque implementations for prime examples such as FPC, real-time OLM, XML and painted terrain.

***

20 comments:

  1. Frankly speaking, this feel less like "we have a vision" and more like "we don't want to write extensive code for FPC". Even if not implementing FPC in campaigns, builder would have been happy to have additional tool in the box. Existence of FPC does not prevent single player solo modules and nwn2 is a good example there as there are still single player solo modules like Grimm Brigade and Birthday

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep, they are just sweeping FPC employment under the carpet. Doesn't matter, though: we still have future installments of Swordflight to look forward to on the original NWN. I look on the bright side: saved myself some money by not buying the EE.

      Delete
  2. As it happens I do share Lilura's viewpoint. And I'm not interested in buying the game only because of simple facelifting. I'll stick to original NWN 1. I've started to regret that Beamdog acquired NWN1! As an (nearly)abandon-ware, left to community, it stood some chance for FPC
    DrA

    BTW: I respect other points of view, but comments like "Anonymous - January 30" are just trolling. When somebody lacks arguments, the name-calling begins. And Trolls aren't worth nurturing Personally, I wouldn't bother to respond..

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  3. Very well done commentary Lilura. Agree completely on FPC. I think the main point FOR it, if you have to try and justify it to a Single Char fan, is your point that FPC doesn't preclude single char modules. So if anything, building FPC into the game is a way to bring an even bigger audience the game. Which naturally means more revenue for Beamdog.

    It might be true that they might not just wanna open up that can of worms. However, based on their comments it's looking simply like they have different visions for the game. As popular as the IE games were as well as PoE and other FPC rpgs, it's hard to understand why they're so stubborn on this.

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Mustawd. RPGs that have companions, summons, familiars etc. and don't employ FPC in this day and age (or at least ensure its unhardcoded potential) are just a joke.

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    2. I would disagree there. For example TES series has both but no FPC at all. No FPC can work with correct rpg system and dnd is not good for single player(unless we drop skill checks completely and make diablo style game). If we compare it to classic tes or gothic system - its never too hard do get skills you want. Once you understand that you need to boost security skill in Morrowind - all you need is a bit of money. While in nwn1 without 1 rogue level there are traps that you CANT remove no matter how high your skill. Nwn1 is restrictive, yet too dependent class choice. Compare to Gothic 1 and 2 where mage character can be as good in melee as actual melee character(couse its more dependent on player abilities then class) and opening locks is just one level up away

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    3. Both TES and Gothic are action RPGs; apples and oranges.

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    4. If we talk about Oblivion\Skyrim - then yes. But original Gothic and old TES are much better rpg then many classical isometrical games dew to well developed and well written settings. Of course unless we setup rpg as being strictly being tactical maybe even turn based\round based games.

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    5. Gothic, Morrowind, Daggerfall and Arena are still action RPGs. Deus Ex and System Shock 2, as well. Regardless of to-hit and damage stats, success in combat in those games is still largely based on player reflexes and perception. That's the difference between RTwP/turn-based and full real-time. Turn-based is of course the best combat system because it doesn't rely on reflexes at all, like being quick to hit the space bar to pause the game. My opinion is that games with companions and other forms of minions should employ FPC (and 95% of them - from the past and present - wisely do because it's common sense). Even Fallout 1 would have been better with FPC.

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    6. I agree with this, and I speak as one of those who was initially quite disappointed in NWN for not being Baldur's Gate 3. As a broad general rule, I tend to prefer IE-like FPC systems in RPGs.

      However, the advantages and disadvantages of FPC, turn-based etc., in the abstract are really beside the point. Implementing anything like that in NWN, assuming it is practical to do it at all, means radically altering the existing game system and it is completely unrealistic to think that such a radical change to the game's fundamentals could be done without significant consequences for existing modules. It would destroy the existing game and the functionality of the existing modules, which are the main reason to actually bother with NWN in the first place.

      To repeat the analogy I employed in one of my Codex posts on the subject, even if we grant, at least for the sake of argument, the superiority of FPC games in general, calling for retrofitting such a system into a game never meant for it is like arguing that because helicopters have some advantages over cars, it makes sense for me to disassemble my car in hopes of constructing a helicopter out of the parts.

      To be sure, FPC is hardly the only idea being floated that would have unfortunate consequences with regards to backwards compatibility, so if you simply want to flood the Trello board with so many impractical suggestions it cannot be taken seriously, then have at it.

      If you actually want a FPC game, though, then it would make a lot more sense to call for Beamdog to make a completely different, more IE_like, game that also employs a toolset. Whatever tools they used to make Siege of Dragonspear might well provide a beginning to such a project. They might well not have the resources or competence to actually do so, but the same could be well be true for a lot of the things people are calling for them to do in NWN too.

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    7. David Gaider has left Beamdog: onwards and upwards, Dave!

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    8. Wow. That didn't take long. Almost as short a stint as Sapowski and the Netflix Witcher gig.

      Delete
    9. Two years as "creative director" at Beamdog in a consultative/training role? What a waste of time.

      "We've all learned a lot from Dave and we hope he picked up a trick or two from us as well."

      Doubtful the writer of Baldur's Gate 2, Hordes of the Underdark and Dragon Age: Origins picked up any useful tricks from the creators of "Siege of Dragonspear".

      Delete
  4. Approaching one year since the announcement, here are the visible "enhancements" that Beamdog have released:

    https://neverwintervault.org/project/nwn1/model/beamdog-enhanced-workshop-items

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    Replies
    1. Well, it was clear from day 1 that the majority of the "enhancements" will be back-end ones.

      Delete
    2. I am referring to their lack of "back-end" enhancements (over a period of eight months). That said, Ossian are apparently involved now, so the quality and quantity may improve.

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    3. But the patch notes are filled with what they on the back-end side of things. Don't get me wrong, I am not defending them. NWN is the last game that ever needed an EE version in my opinion, but they are not just sitting on their asses and just laugh in their weekly livestreams.

      Delete
    4. And I'm not attacking Beamdog, to be clear. I am just commenting on their slow progress in regards to visible changes, which you will note is one of the prime complaints about NWN:EE on public venues (especially Steam).

      In eight months, they have only redone 4 out of 40 weapons, one tileset out of 30, and two models out of a few hundred. And not only does the new Aribeth not adhere to her original design (not in geometry, not in texture, and not even in color), but it's also as ugly as fuck. And this despite Beamdog stating an intention to adhere to original art asset design (which in some cases not even Project Q has been able to outdo).

      To be fair, the normal maps/specular maps are a definite improvement over the original, though the other "advanced" frame-buffer effects are of dubious merit. Also, the framerate and multi-tasking stability is improved (at least on my system).

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    5. That much true. The majority of the EE players are not PW developers so a good percent of the changes escape their sight. They only see a few extra checkboxes and many times unnoticeable graphical changes for their money. From that standpoint I get all their complaints.

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    6. I would have delayed the release for one year. First do the x64 rewrite, UI refactor and visual enhancements along with FPC-for-builders, NWMaster and NWSync.

      With the UI refactor and visual enhancements, you can exhibit decent before and after shots. Bang, sales and good feedback from the plebs.

      You have also pleased the PW crowd and SP gamers. Bang, more sales.

      After that, you just pump out an overhauled OC and DLC adventure modules and campaigns to keep the ball rolling.

      The only crowd they have pleased so far is the PW one, which isn't as big as that crowd would like everyone to believe.

      Delete

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