Friday, May 1, 2009

What's Important in a Game?

I'm just curious today if a game like BG2 would be as popular today as it was in its time. Is a toolset necessary for a crpg to sell, or would people go for a game that did not have a toolset attached?

Essentially, game development only has so "zots" to spend. If a ton of those zots are spent making a new engine and an associated toolset, the campaign must get less time. I think that's a big reason why official campaigns have become much shorter recently. On the other hand, if someone were to purchase the rights to use an existing engine, more time could be devoted to the story or companion development. In other words, perhaps a sixty to eighty hour campaign with fifteen companions would be possible versus a forty hour campaign with only eight companions if the engine had to be built too. I don't know if the community would support that anymore, so consider this my way of unscientifically polling the community.

Oh, and this is just for my own information. Don't read too much into this.

15 comments:

Chaos Wielder said...

I think people would be very willing to buy a game without a toolset, but PC gaming seems to be moving towards a direction of involving the community more(one can look broadly and see Valve adding in user made maps into official "Team Fortress 2" patches, for instance, and essentially open design games like "Spore").

The interest is to involve the community more in the game process/world, as development costs are quickly reaching an outlandish level for most "A+" games. Companies hope to make people continually use an old(er) IP to save money on future investments.

So, to answer your question, I think people would be willing to do so, but it is perhaps against the design philosohpy of certain trends(if, says BG3 were released, I'd suspect a great deal of DL content and things of that nature).

Chris said...

If you were going to use an existing engine, why wouldn't you pick an engine with an existing toolset?

Tiberius209 said...

Chaos Wielder,

I suspect you're right on all counts, and I also think Chris hit on a point I hadn't really considered (sadly).

Chris,

I actually should have researched this a bit more. I know, for example, that The Witcher used a spiffier version of the NWN1 engine, but I have no idea if they also purchased the "rights" to a community toolset use so that community mods can be loaded in-game. I have no idea if such rights even need to be purchased, though I suspect so. I guess I was relating it too much to MoW, in wnich we essentially were allowed the use of the engine exclusively to build a particular adventure and nothing more. I know it isn't an exact parallel, as we were working within NWN2's framework.

In any case, it wouldn't stop the community from doing it anyway, but it would stop official support for it.

Anyway, if that's all included with the Witcher, then it's a no-brainer.

Overall, it should be apparent that I'm simply rolling some thoughts through my head. I really haven't thought through everything yet.

Liso said...

I will buy games with no toolsets. But I am not a builder. so I assume that doesn't even apply to me "ponders" However, maybe it does? I love community modules.

I bought Mass Effect "no TS" As well as Assassin's Creed, and several others over the years,

I reason I think a toolset is a good idea though. It keeps followers. Companies can keep players around longer, more devoted if the game and tools are good, also, awaiting up coming new projects. :)

just my .02

Regards
Liso

Liam said...

A point only tangentially related to your question:

One thing with Baldur's Gate II is people tend to idealise it and remember it with some kind of rose-coloured haze. Having modded it for several years, I've become rather familiar with a lot of the content in the game... and from what I've noticed, a lot of people tend to remember it as better than it actually is. Don't get me wrong--it was a great game for its time, and I believe it's still one of the better cRPGs out there--but I'm not sure if BGII is the best example to use, as the quality varied rather dramatically from section-to-section.

While there were 16 companions, not all of them were terribly well fleshed out. I think these days, people would prefer fewer companions with more content and better quality.

I'd honestly prefer a 20 hour campaign with 6-8 fleshed out characters than a 60-80 hour campaign with 16 not-so-fleshed out characters, regardless of engine and toolset.


In answer to your question... that's a toughie. I think I would prefer an excellent game without a toolset/new engine than an average game with a toolset.

New engines are great, but IMHO, it would be better to have one game with a new engine, and then have two successive games use that same engine. A lot can be done with just the one engine; look at what CDProjekt did with the Aurora engine.

Using existing resources is good--but I'd still rather see a polished 20 hour campaign than a long, not so high-quality 60 hour campaign.

Raith Veldrin said...

I'd opt for a game with toolset over one without hands down. Although for me, the development IS the fun.

I'm sure a great majority of players are just that...players. The inclusion of the toolset for a one shot adventure is a moot point.

Those who derive their enjoyment from creation on the other hand have already tasted the power that comes with a toolset/scripting language, and thus will only be looking for an improvement to such.

Wyrin said...

I don't thinkthe presence or absence of a toolset would be a big factor in my choice. True, a toolset will now mean I'll probably be less drawn in toa game and the community. But then the level of competition to attract me has different considerations for the gameplay vs. the toolset. E.g. i'll spend ages on fallout 3 campaign and only glance at the toolset, but the NWN2 toolset (being D&D, fantasy) is the focus of my time on NWN2. I seriously doubt I'd have time in mylife to be heavily involved in more thn one modding toolset/community.

To be honest, and I might be in the minority here, I don't see 15 companions as a selling point for me. That's too many. Sure, choice is great, but hell, how many times can I play through a 60-80 hour campaign to actually benefit from the choice and variety. And each play after the first loses some of it's shine, particularly in story-driven campaigns. The first time thrill counts for a lot. MotB is a great story-driven rpg, but I struggle to play through again and explore e.g. One of Many that i didn;t have first time round - because I know the story path too well. Plus, I like to stick with a 'party' as it's built. It's no use giving me a new companion 20-30 hours into a campaign when I've become attached to the ones available earlier and we have our own 'story' together. Why drop your childhood friend companion that you fell into danger with because some gnome stranger with a funny accent pops up and wants to trsvel with you? BG wasproblematic for me with this - all the companions you could only get once in BG itself - you'd already been playing 50% of the game and had a party dynamic established by then. (ANd I agree with Liam - I think the companion interaction of the BG series is remembered more fondly than it maybe deserves)

So for me, what use are 15 companions when I'll only ever see 3-4 of them in my party. And the difference between 40 hour and 60 hour camapaign isn't much. Give me a great story with great characters. If that captures my imagination, then the toolset's a bonus

Starwars said...

I would gladly buy games that re-use engines so to speak. I am not one to particularly care for the latest technologies and whatnot. At least in how the industry seems to use them, because as I see it, there is very little innovation and forward momentum in developing the gameplay. Most of it is shiny new effects.

As far as toolsets go, I'm happy if there is one included, but it's not really a dealbreaker for me. I find games such as NWN2 appealing though because so much of it is *built* on community participation. The Witcher was brought up before, which is a game that I liked, but I never loaded the toolset or made use of any community made content. It doesn't feel as geared towards community building.

Also, the more I think about it, the more do I realize that length of the game is of very little consequence for me. I always wish that more developers would shorten down the "first playthrough gametime", and point those efforts towards making the game *broader* instead. Make the game have more depth, more meaningful choices, more layers, more player character recognition.

I think the BGs suffers a bit from this as well. What's nice though is that there is a fair bit of exploration thrown in which helps. But as far as the main plot goes, I actually think they're not to good. In BG2 for example, I can usually play until the part where you leave Athkatla. After that, I just don't feel it's very good anymore.

I always liked the BGs though. They're fun adventures and definetely Biowares best effort so far, but I do think they are quite overrated as RPGs.

Anonymous said...

I voted for the game with the toolset. Though I prefer a single adventure with depth and a good story than many lesser ones, I find that in the end the community content surpasses the official.

About the number of companions, I prefer few well developed than many mediocore. I can't play a game again just to pick different companions, and even when I replay a game, I usually choose the same as in my first playthrough because they are the ones I like best.

Tiberius209 said...

To comment on a few things:

The choice to me was always about the amount of quality gameplay you could achieve. If you have to build the engine and toolset, you can perhaps then have a 20-30 hour quality campaign. Without having to do that work, maybe you can get twice that amount at the same level of quality. So I'm not really trying to make the choice either 60 hours of garbage or 30 hours of gold. I think everyone would pick the latter in that case.

As to BG2, I fully understand that the same game today wouldn't be viewed in the same way. BG2 and the companion interaction was great - even groundbreaking - for it's time, but so much more would be expected now. My assumption in the inclusion of companions would be that they would all be drawn to the same level as those in MotB, MoW, or even better.

BG2 did fall down after Chapter 3 because it became highly linear. Therefore, the replayability from that point on was low. But in the earlier chapters, the multiple ways to finish quests, different strongholds, and unique quests and interactions associated with various companions made the game almost infinitely replayable. A game with that kind of choice from start to finish would be the ideal IMO.

Of course, more companions to me was always a plus, especially as the interaction between them became more complex and the combat scenarios began to require the use of actual tactics. Different companion groupings made the game more replayable, but I was interested to see that Wyrin didn't actually see that as a plus. I might have to make another poll about that.

Anonymous said...

I think there has been some awesome work done with the NWN toolsets, but BG2 mods are very common and many are of great quality. I suppose the difference is that the NWN ones mostly center around different stories, whereas the BG2 ones enrich the original game.

BG2 didn't, and doesn't, have a toolset, but it's one of the most heavily modded games I know of.

As to the party interaction - unmodded, it's not so great in BG1, but IMO BG2 party interaction is still far above what NWN1 and 2 have. Not only is it evident in NPC-NPC convos, but also in NPC-PC interaction (romances). Most newer games don't even come close in that regard.*

*Though some NWN user-made mods do.

So, even though I enjoy things people make with the toolset, I'd rather see another BG2 type game in the future, myself.

Anonymous said...

As a player of RPGs, of course I would love more contents over toolset. I would personally prefer more contents than toolset.

However, I recently play around with toolset of NWN1 and found that building modules could be great fun, and they can offer endless possibilities, whereas a campaign, however long, will always have a certain limit on it.

So it seems that both approaches have its own advantages. If you build a game with more contents and no toolset, players who doesn't build mods would be happier for a little while longer. But if it is a shorter campaign with toolset, communities such as seen for NWN could be created. The game's life would be extended for so much longer. However, I am not sure that from the total number of game players, the percent of those who participated in the community is not that great. At least I don't think it is enough to greatly increase the sales of the game.

That is what I think only. I don't have actual facts of this. If anyone knows differently, please feel free to correct me on this.

Anonymous said...

I would buy either, as long as there was a Mac version. I hate using bootcamp.

Argoyne said...

The thing is a toolset versus no toolset might not be such a big issue, depends on company structure of course if your big enough to have a tools department and the game is paying well enough to pay them to work on a toolset then its not detracting from the game or its content.

Also if you have a middle-ware engine thats freed up your programmers not so much your artists or designers who are the folk that make the content. The time spent on the engine isn't generally wasted by the other folks and art direction and development prototyping can be done as the engine progresses.

Anyway I guess I just think the game development process is too complex to even guess what you'd get if say NWN2 didn't have any toolset or the Witcher had an original engine etc. My best guess would be you'd get a better optimised NWN2 if there was no toolset other than that I'm not so sure.

Tiberius209 said...

Argoyne,

The point is the budget. I have little doubt that you could get different people working on the various aspects and push the game out on time, but to have that many people working that long on the project would require a price point that I'm betting would not support a good sales volume.