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Posted: Mar 30th 2012 10:40AM Space Cobra said

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You know, in early PnP DnD and even in the intro paragraph of 3.0 DnD (I think the DM's guide) it mentioned that while they have rules, the DM should make on the spot decisions that allow the most fun without slavishly following rules and even tables. The storytelling was the thing.

Enter people who want rules so tight (ie: Rules Monkeys) that they want to go to any table around the world and have the same outcome for every situation possible (something not possible iRL).

This exactly doesn't apply to your topic, but more to the people who may unknowingly/unwittingly embrace complexity. I like complex things, too, but when it gets bloated, I tend not to enjoy it. It is human nature to add "expansions" in anything. And really, even in engineering, things can get over-engineered (BMW) for their own good.

You really can't have this "DM control" in traditional MMO (but NWN 1 & 2 sure gave it a good try and wasn't half bad!)

Still, sometimes the problem, IMO, is from differing player's views and their goals/wants/needs/desires. Some grow comfortable with the systems and want things the same and others are just stone-walled by it upon entering.

"Easy to learn, Hard to Master."

Actually, as Eliot points out, that's easier to do in a newer game but hard to do in an older one that has grown bloated with sub-systems and rules.

Posted: Mar 30th 2012 1:22PM Daemodand said

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@Space Cobra That rule didn't start with 3.0, it goes back at least as far as 1st edition AD&D (see Gary Gygax's foreword).
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Posted: Mar 30th 2012 2:48PM Space Cobra said

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@Daemodand

"You know, in early PnP DnD and even in the intro paragraph of 3.0 DnD"

Maybe I shoulda been more clear, but "early PnP DnD" = 1st Ed. DnD.
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Posted: Mar 30th 2012 5:22PM DarkWalker said

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@Space Cobra

I don't remember where I saw it first, but a number of RPGs I've played had an absolute "Golden Rule".

It basically says that any other rule that gets in the way of having fun should be either bent or scrapped.
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Posted: Mar 30th 2012 10:55AM nimzy said

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"Complexity, by default, is a bad thing."

The issue I have with opinions on those in the gaming industry is that the end result is robbing the player of any sense of agency he might have had. The more complexity you include, the more choices you can make, and the more empowered the player becomes.

Posted: Mar 30th 2012 11:52AM fallwind said

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@nimzy but complexity and choice are not the same thing.

I used to play an enh shamman in Wrath. To max my dps I had to find the correct balance of: agility, strength, int, attack power, spell power, crit, expertise, hit, mp5, and weapon speed. A horribly complex system that actually required me to download an add-on just to tell me if ring A had better stats than ring B.

And all that balancing changed as soon as someone casted a buff, and I had to recalculate it all over again.

It was hellishly complex, but there was no choice. Either ring A was better, or ring B was better... that isn't choice.
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Posted: Mar 30th 2012 12:39PM SnarlingWolf said

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@nimzy

You can have depth with out unnecessary complexity. That should be the goal of every game developer. The deepest system designed in the simplest possible way. Unfortunately a lot of developers can't figure out that formula so the only way they can add more depth is to directly make it more complex and/or confusing.


I do agree that a lot of entrenched players have a hard time seeing what changes can be good. In Asheron's Call there was always a portal system to get from place to place. The problem was it was spread around the land with no direction on how to use it/where everything was. It meant that a new player could walk through a portal and.... not get back to where they just came from. They'd have to go look it up or have someone help them figure out the 6 portal hops that would take them around the world and back to their original location. A couple years ago they got rid of this system for a hub that every town connected to. Now you could easily figure out how to get from A to B and you could always go right back where you came from. Some long time players were very mad because, and they literally said this, "They had to learn it so new players should to".

I think as all MMOs evolve they should improve and smooth out the systems to make life better for players. I do think some games go way way way to far. Things like dungeon finder is a great example. Hey let's sit in the starting town, never explore the world, and just click dungeon finder all day. How is that a fun big open world MMO? It isn't, it is now a lobby game and plenty of those already exist.
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Posted: Mar 30th 2012 10:57AM (Unverified) said

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If you thought any flavor of D&D was complex, I guess you never tried Rolemaster or Hero System. Talk about incremental increases in 'realism' for geometrical regressions in playability.

So much complexity is usually just a crutch, either for the rest of the system or to hide other flaws from the players. Even now, the traditional idea of character attributes being something you pick or assign on character generation is largely gone in most modern MMOs and CRPGs, if the attributes themselves aren't missing entirely. Since, instead of picking powers based on what your attributes let you do, why not just let the character have a certain number of powers and skip the intermediate step of assigning attributes?

Of course, the risk is that when you've swept away all that cruft and simplified, simplified and simplified, you've taken away some of the illusion of choice, and some players hate having that illusion removed. Those players like having sub-optimal build options, truly random gear drops and extra numbers to fiddle with because it furthers the illusion of choice by complexity.

However, there's almost always an optimal build, gear and number choice, so those engaged in streamlining the system are general in favor of tossing out the powers, gear and other choices that hardly anyone uses and focusing on making the stuff everyone does use better.

Posted: Mar 30th 2012 11:05AM ntellect said

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I agree with Space Cobra. My perfect mix is a game that looks simple on the surface (easy to learn), but the longer you play the more you learn about the complexity (hard to master). That was the joy of the old school console RPGs. It was very easy to select 'FIGHT' and beat a snake. But as you progressed you LEARNED new skills expanding your actions to the point where you are now throwing magical combos followed by highly critical physical attacks.

Its the idea that you 'grew' this character from a low level, single skill orphan into this master fighter which is the hook for me. The downside to these games (seen now, but not then) was the lack of action. RPGs of old were strategy games. Take your time, think about your actions and make a selection. They were great. But now being older (and having experienced action time bars), I love the added 'complexity' of time into the strategic combat.

What I love about MMOs is the enemy fights in real time, forcing your to perform a quick strategy to eliminate them. Your thoughts against the clock (or your health rather). This shifted focus for me from the skills (which will do damage every time they level) to the build. How do you customize your character and your character traits to imbue your actions with bonuses.

The ones that do it best, provide an engaging story, and easy (and colorful interface to manage all of your assets) and (LARGE) enemies to pit your mettle against, all within in a beuatiful, changing world that begs to be explored.

Sandboxy things like crafting are also great, but not a true requirement as if you get the story and conflict (combat gameplay) just right it makes overlooking whats missing a bit easier.

Perhaps GW2 will be the first iteration?

Posted: Mar 30th 2012 11:21AM Mongo8 said

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Beyond a certain point complexity becomes a burden. That point varies depending on the person in question. However, making a game "more accessable to the casual gamer" appears to be a fairly bad decision as far as subscription numbers goes. The current sinking ship of WoW tells me that people who get the simpler "not like a job" gameplay get bored with that game style rather quickly. The current issue with Cata seems to be that the "hard mode" gamers of vanilla and early BC left during the Wrath AoE fest and then the "pull faster n00b!!!" crowd hated the change back to a more challenging game style. Blizzard's ultimate failure is trying to please everyone at the same time.

GC recently did a blog where he joked about a LFR loot style people requested was "give me what I want so I never have to do this boss again and then ask when new conent will be available". Not an exact quote I assure you, but I reference this as an example of the "I just want to see stuff and get nice things" crowd. That crowd also tends to wander off to another game and take their money with them.

Also, as for character creation, one of the biggest complaints during the SWTOR development was a LACK of character creation options. The issue that comes in with complexity of character creation is not in the sheer number of options, but rather the min/maxing crowd that refuses to have anything less than the most optimized character possible while drawing from multiple sources. The Elitist Jerks site is a fine example of OCD in min/maxing. It's also a fine example of a complete lack of understanding of statistics and probability.

TL;DR Hard mode and easy mode are for different people. You can't expect everyone to like both. For a business trying to make a profit, particularly a publicly traded company, the question is, which crowd will you make more money with?

Posted: Mar 30th 2012 12:03PM CheesecakeBandit said

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@Mongo8 Well part of the problem isn't that they tried to cater to both, its that they tried to cater to one then the other. It is mostly a problem resulting subscription based games. They see anyone leaving and playing another game as a loss of money when with any other game it is expected, they just hope they come back for the next installment/dlc. They may add different content to increase box sales but you aren't worrying about keeping people constantly engaged month after month. The vast majority of casuals(at least from my point of view) don't like the subscription model, especially when those 15$ don't buy anything aside from server maintenance. They want to pay for content and then play it at their leisure. Again, LOTS OF SPECULATION FROM EVERYONE.

Personally I quit WoW when I stopped having fun just after the 4.1 no content patch and felt that 15$ would be better spent elsewhere. If WoW really wanted to win me back, they would have to either drop the Sub or release regular monthly content i found interesting and worth the $15 it costs. As of right now, I only see WoW being worth those $15 after a major content patch and then I want to play for a month and quit. This is part of the reason I look forward to GW2.

However this argument seems outside the scope of the main article. The WoW equivalent is the whole haste, hit, crit, spirit, mastery, resilience system where certain stats are must haves and everything else is just there gumming up the works, along with the talent trees that at most have 1-5 talents that you can actually choose without hurting your character's damage/tanking/healing potential. The illusion of choice doesn't mean much when it is shattered the first time you step into a raid/bg and you get kicked by the raidleader/afkvotekicked out of a bg. Not to mention the whole pubstomp that is unranked pvp thanks to pvp gear giving an insurmountable advantage.

Even GW2 seems to have complexity just for the sake of complexity with its stats/talents system, but I don't know how that will play out in the long run and if they balance it out to where it is REAL choice instead of the never ending illusion.
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Posted: Mar 30th 2012 11:34AM Cyclone Jack said

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While I will agree that simplification in and of itself is not a bad thing, so long as there are still deep core mechanics underneath. However, to simplify things just for simplicity is not a good thing, and I think this is what many people today are complaining about.

Posted: Mar 30th 2012 12:01PM Daeths said

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@Cyclone Jack I agree. Simplicity almost always eliminates choice and between the two choice is almost always the more meaningful.
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Posted: Mar 30th 2012 11:37AM Greyhame said

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I think the key for most games is to make a system that has the possibility of being complex for those who want to do all the number crunching while at the same time making it simple enough that most people appreciate it and can use it without needing to do a lot of reading.

Take, for example, SWTORs moddable gear. It's relatively simple in how it's implemented. You get items you can slot into place, and those determine the stats on your gear. For people who just want to look a certain way, this allows them to keep the same gear for multiple levels. For the min-maxers, this allows them to completely optimize their gear the best stats for their class/spec. Now the initial implementation of ops and PvP gear kind of removed this, but they are changing that in the next update.

Posted: Mar 30th 2012 11:54AM Daeths said

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I loved the massive size and complexity of ADnD. 20 books in 3.0, 3 or 4 open at a time, spending hours seeing how i can craft the best heroes, getting the very last drop of benefit i could squeeze out. Its also why i hated 4.0. It was way too simple, it missed that clement of choice between what kill card i choose at what lvl. A, B or C every 2 or so lvls just was not engaging. Often complexity is a core game element. Some times those "unnecessary quests" are necessary for a person to earn a reward. A dev cant force you not to blow through it with you lvl bajillion friend, but they can refrain from handing it to you because you happened to fill a few bars doing something totally unrelated.

Posted: Mar 30th 2012 12:04PM Daeths said

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@Daeths it missed that element of choice, with the only real choice being what skill card i choose

need an edit button...
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Posted: Mar 30th 2012 11:58AM (Unverified) said

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I don't object to the simplification of systems, and you're right in the sense that update after update eventually results in overcomplicated systems that need distillation.
My objection (to WoW, specifically) is that while I can concede that there's no way they could have projected the popularity of the game in the first version, they should have "gotten it" in the second.
What I'm saying is that while they had every excuse to have non-future-proofed mechanics in vanilla, by the time of TBC they had equally NO excuse.
Moreover, it's not like there was a dearth of combat-simulation mechanics out there - certainly, any rpg gamer worth his salt could have discussed at length the particular vulnerabilities and strengths of table-based hit mechanics, scaling, power inflation, etc. and helped them come up with systems that scaled properly.
Add to this the long-promulgated assertion that "Blizzard plans several expansions in advance" and you have either a) a propoganda-based lie, trying to portray a company 'winging it' as actually acting with great foresight, or b) a company acting with foresight that has then even LESS of an excuse for things like the great stamina buff of TBC, the arpen stupidity, and hard-capped ratings that get constantly tweaked as gear inflation makes their existence increasingly irrelevant.

I truly don't get it. Again, I'll grant them the benefit of the doubt in Vanilla - that wasn't reasonably predictable. But TBC/WotLK/Cata have been littered with broken mechanics, a drop-scaling that can only be described as cancerous and utterly dissociated with challenge level - how can people reconcile this with a company that allegedly is looking years into the future, and believe it?

Posted: Mar 30th 2012 12:10PM (Unverified) said

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I find it hard at times to understand the exact point a soapbox is trying to make at times.

From what I've come to understand, you're essentially arguing against counterintuitive game mechanics, not necessarily complex ones. You want a game's design to be refined to the core essence while keeping both the player's options and the decisions that are made from those options intact. As long as the game presents its systems in an intuitive manner, you're fine with that game having complexity.
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The perfect example that comes to mind is what Blizzard is doing to World of Warcraft's talent system. They're removing the mathematical cruft from the talents; all of the percent-based talents that are not interesting. There are substantially fewer talents to pick and choose from but each choice is made more interesting. (This is just the intent behind the change, not necessarily how it'll actually work out.)

In this example there is less to figure out numbers wise, but in the trade-off, the game is giving the players more thought-provoking options for them to customize their character.
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As for how I feel about all of this, well, from a design and marketing standpoint, I couldn't disagree with you. It's just good game design really.

But I do recognize that many people get great joy from doing complex calculations in order to optimize their gameplay. To them, it's part of the entertaining value of the game, and it can be very rewarding to work through it all. I'm just not sure if good game design always removes that element from the player. If it does, that to me feels like you're ostracizing those players, which seems unfortunate to say the least.

Posted: Mar 30th 2012 12:29PM CheesecakeBandit said

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Its an argument of complexity vs depth. Nearly every circumstance its complexity without depth as there is only one way to go about whatever goal you have be it min/maxing or just getting through an elaborate quest. The last game I played that had a real feeling of depth was Deus Ex: Human Revolution, you could pick and choose how you went through obstacles and no method was any less viable(not counting achievement hunting).

In MMOs you only have one way to kill a boss in essence and that is to out damage him while mitigating and healing the damage he does, there are no hidden triggers or sneak attacks that render him vulnerable unless they are mandatory mechanics to win the fight. Forget talking your way out of it. Instead you have a stat and talent system that people have to game to squeeze out every last bit of dps and any method outside of it is subpar and won't allow you to defeat the top end content. Outside of that, boss mechanics lead to a dance that has to be pulled off exactly right to stay alive if it is not a straight out dps race. There is no choice outside of succeed or die. While this refers to the top end of the PVE scale, lower end raiding and PVP work this way as well, with no REAL choice. While top end pvp may be dynamic, if you dont have the massive amount of whatever the PVP statistic is, all you do will mean nothing as you will just get squished.

Posted: Mar 30th 2012 1:15PM (Unverified) said

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WOW, lots of multi-paragraph opinions! And here I thought I was the only one that spewed paragraphs only to realize how much I typed after I submitted it LOL.

Cheers to the comments section being more entertaining and informative that some of the posts on Massively :)

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