Reply To: Character Generation

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Going to quote some parts of my own posts in the other thread:

Min-maxing is always going to happen, but that doesn’t meant that it’s a good idea to make it easier to do. The degree to which this is possible and what form it takes is very important to how a player learns to play the game. Right now, looking for the best possible synergy in traits and backgrounds isn’t really a thing, because it would take a long time to get it right and then your starters might die anyway. Making it easier would suddenly make it much more of a factor in how the game plays and how it should be balanced.

The point of mentioning Dark Souls is that it is a great game that doesn’t allow everyone to play as they like. Take for example how it has no save at will and no multiple save slots for the same playthrough. You could argue that putting it there for people who want to use it couldn’t hurt, because they just want to try to play in a different way and everyone else can choose not to use it. However, this would result in a fundamentally different game with a different atmosphere to it, even if you don’t use it, because choices that cannot be taken back are different from choices that you could take back if you wanted to. You cannot skip out of restarting at a bonefire if you die. You cannot take back attacking Gwynevere. You cannot see both endings without playing the game again. This adds a weight to the actions that you take that is only possible because of how the game does not offer you a reset button, which would result in the game undermining the sense of inevitability build up with the games overall design.

Jagged Alliance 2 is a very different game in terms of setting and how it handles recruitment within that setting. Custom characters there are essentially the player using their network to call in mercenaries that fit their needs, because you as a person are larger than the conflict that you are now a part of. It’s the difference between a player that acts more globally and a player who acts more locally. It fits the setting and kind of conflict that is central to the game (hiring foreign mercenaries), so it doesn’t clash with the design. A rough equivalent of this would be to have the player in Battle Brothers be a noble who’s sending out a mercenary company to handle the situation of the area where the game takes place, which would be a different kind of game.

Mods are fine because they aren’t part of the core game. In fact, I’d say it would make for precisely the kind of thing that modders should make. Modders don’t need to think about whether or not what they’re making fits the design, because what they’re making is not part of the core experience, so they can make things that the developer can’t. The developers, however, are the ones actually responsible for this core experience as conveyed through the design of the game. They make what everyone will play and what mods can build on, so they have to be consistent in what tone they set. They are also just a small team and need to carefully decide what features are worth the effort of implementing, because that means not spending time on something else. Custom character creation is simple nowhere near as worthwhile as some of the other things that I’ve seen them mention of considering and would undermine the tone of what they have so far.

You are free to do anything you want within the framework of the game. However, that framework has to be set up by the developer. The job of the developer is then to accurately assess what freedom is meaningful to the game and what isn’t. I’ve yet to see anyone talk about how they want accurate defecation mechanics, because they want the freedom to role-play an incontinent hedge-knight who soils himself in combat.
That something is convenient also doesn’t neccesarily make it a good feature. Fast travel is convenient, but putting it into this game is a bad idea.

What I’m emphasising is the need for good, tight design. That’s how you make a great game, rather than a forgettable one (people still play HoMM 2 and 3, while HoMM 4 is barely mentioned). A feature that seems fun on its own can ruin the kind of play experience that you’re trying to create. I’ve yet to see anyone actually address my arguments regarding that, just that they think it would be a fun addition. There’s tons of things that I think would be fun to add on their own, but that I wouldn’t want to see implemented because they don’t suit the game, would take too much effort and ultimately make it less enjoyable. Stuff like having a group of eldritch abominations drive the populace of a city mad, so you have to kill them or the city turns into a new faction of twisted monstrosities. Having party members who turn undead be recruitable. Recruitable werewolves. Recruitable necromancers. Undead Roman legions rising from their graves to cull the living. Language mechanics for all the different spoken dialects. Orc mode – work your way up to chieftain of all the Orcs and make the human lands burn. Necromancer mode – carefully build up your undead horde; levels and skills of the raised transfer to your minion so finding powerful graves to use or slaying mighty enemies becomes vital. Ally yourself to one of the enemy factions and defeat both the humans and the other factions. Undead Alexander with his army wants to conquer the world once again – highly tactical and well-equipped undead that are always at confident morale, with a powerful leader. Long play games – games that take decades of in-game time and that can have you play as the descendants of your original band; new technology gets introduced as time goes by and new cities will rise and fall. Be a freedom fighter who has to balance undermining the rulers, while stopping the enemy from killing you all (intentionally letting bandits kill a caravan transporting a noble). Start as a small company and build yourself up until you are an army, with scaling gameplay (from individual control to unit control). A far larger world map that shows multiple nations which function as separate factions. Far more diversity in the enemy units – different Orc tribes should actually be different from each other and have different units and fighting styles. Cultural effects that spread and affect things like unit choice, aggression and gear worn (an Orc base that has been next to humans for a long time establishing minor trade and using some human style weapons and tactics, or humans that taken to the hunter-gatherer ways of the Orcs). Lots of other stuff that I think would be really cool, but you get the point.

XCOM is a pretty different game (you are a global player, not local) and in my opinion also not nearly as good as the X-COM games (though Long War helps a lot). The way they added character customisation was also pretty lazy. They could have had you do it while recruiting (you are a world wide orgnisation, it’s to be expected that you can pick from a wide range of recruits), but instead you do it afterwards.

Solving this issue by modding would of course be a good solution. The only downside is, that we cant yet say when we will be able to implement the mod support.
Cosmetic customization is still on our discussion agenda by the way. The only thing I really want to avoid is hand picking your perks and traits etc. Cant give you any more information at the moment unfortunately.

That makes mod tools getting added sound a lot more definite than the last time I heard about it! :D