Video Game General Comments

So, last week I talked about my frustrations with playing video games, brought on by reading “The CRPG Addict” and remembering all sorts of games that are on that list that I wanted to play at some point.  This pushed me to choose a game from that list to try to play, and also to ponder some general thoughts on what I want to play and how I want to play video games.

Let’s start with the specific first.  I decided that I was going to try to play a Gold Box game, but remembered that Pool of Radiance didn’t have very interesting class and race selections, and so decided to try out the “Krynn” trilogy, starting with “Champions of Krynn”.  That one had left some choices out — like Rangers and Paladins — and from what I read there were some level limits on non-human races for certain things, but I put together a party that seemed like it might work and then if there is a difficulty level chose the easiest one, and started the game. 

And realized that there are a number of things about such games that I didn’t remember how to do and had to relearn.  I couldn’t figure out how to sell items, which is necessary to generate income for the party so that you can buy all sorts of interesting things later.  The menu for the local shop only had a “Buy” option, and not a “Sell” option, so I couldn’t figure out how to sell, since I seemed to recall that most of the time there was a “Sell” option.  After wandering out into the woods heading for a city in case the local outpost wouldn’t buy things, I came across a caravan and couldn’t sell to them as well.  So I abandoned that and went back to the outpost and tried to figure it out.  Eventually, I figured out that I could sell from the “View” menu from “Items” and so started being able to generate money again.

I also had a difficult time figuring out how to rememorize spells that I had cast in battle.  I assumed that when I went to rest the game would rememorize the spells you had, but it doesn’t.  You have to select the spells again and then “Rest”.  The issue I had with that, though, was that sometimes I forgot which ones I had used and so which ones I needed to replace.  What I would end up having to do is go to the “Cast” menu to see what I had left and then memorize the ones I needed to replace.  Although afterwards I lost the bonus spells from my two Fighter/Mages and I’m not sure why.  It could be bonus spells from the initial creation, or else from some environmental effect.  Not sure about that.

Since I took on a Knight, the Knight tithes part of the steel (basically, the money) that they have every time you enter an outpost or city.  When I couldn’t sell things, this was really, really scary to me.  So at one point I had figured out how to trade the steel from that character to others, since they don’t tithe party money, but only the money they have, so leaving them at 0 money before entering those places means you don’t lose anything.  But then when I started my second session, somehow I couldn’t get it to work.  The reason, as it turns out, was that when you select to trade it first asks you who to trade to, but the default for that is “Exit”, which means that what I was doing was asking to trade, selecting the character, and then bailing out on the trade.  I needed to switch to “Select”, and at that point it would let me select how much money to trade.  But it was frustrating for a while.

Ultimately, though, I’m not sure that this game will work for me right now, which was really highlighted when I returned to the game a few days later.  It’s difficult for me to remember what I had already seen, and even the starting dungeon was fairly big and had some complexities — at the end of yesterday’s session I went through a locked door and was sent back to the start — that made me a bit confused.  I was able to rest in the dungeon in the last session, which was good because I picked up a couple of people who said that they would have to stay if I left, so I stayed, and being at full hit points from resting was good, although it would mean that I couldn’t level my characters up.  But ultimately I won’t be able to play for a few days and might be able to remember what I was trying to do, but wouldn’t be able to remember everything I explored to ensure that I get everything.  The way to do that would be to create a map as I go along, but that’s not the way I like to play games.  The futzing around for things that I noted above also causes issues because if I leave it too long I might forget the tricks and get in trouble again.  The game does pretty much let me save anywhere which is good but the issue with that is if I’m in a bad spot I won’t want to save in a case where I’ve given myself a huge disadvantage, but saving in another slot runs into issues where I have to remember days later which of them was the one I wanted to continue from, so what I want to do is push through the game until I get to a spot where I think I’m okay so that I can use the “A” slot, which then forces me to play longer than I’d like if I’m not sure.  I like the game, but with this schedule I run into issues with the delay between plays and also the frustrations of the interface and the potential for suddenly difficult combats that could ruin one of my view slots for playing games.  So I might have to reconsider playing this game.

But playing the game and reading The CRPG Addict made me realize something about my approach towards games in general.  I’m heavily a story-based gamer.  I like stories in games, and that’s why I’m there.  That’s what interests me about this game, and interested me about “Curse of the Azure Bonds” (I had read the book and likely trilogy beforehand).  It’s also why I was never interested in “Eye of the Beholder” because that was more of a traditional dungeon crawl without all that much of a story, or at least a case where the story gets put aside for long periods of time while we plumb the dungeons.  It’s also one of my issues with the Elder Scrolls games where the open nature of the world means that that main plot can be minimized and ignored for a lot of it (when playing Oblivion, I actually stumbled across the main plot again while looking for a place to sell my loot).  So what I want in games in general is a good story — or the ability to invent my own good story, perhaps — and the gameplay aspects are things that I put up with to be able to experience a story.  That’s pretty much the reason that I’m generally an RPG fan when it comes to games.  Given my desire for a really good story, I’d be inclined towards RPGs and adventure games.

But reading The CRPG Addict reminded me of how I’m not really a good fit for those sorts of games, mostly because of the gameplay.  The CRPG Addict always talks about how he likes complex and difficult combat, and that’s the thing that will turn me off of an RPG, especially if it ends up being the case that I can’t get past the combat.  I actually ran into a case of that in “Ring Fit Adventure”, where on NG+ it hit me with a “Complete in X steps” area that I was having too much trouble completing and so gave up on.  So one demand from RPG players is difficult and tactical combat, and that always scares me because I worry that I won’t be able to get past that to complete the game.  On the other hand, adventure games also have stories — although tend to be less personal — but they are based around solving puzzles to advance, and I don’t find that gameplay all that interesting and also fear that I’m going to be unable to solve on and get stuck (although walkthroughs help with that, at the cost of taking me out of the game (I’ve talked about help systems before).  Both of these things are things that take me out of the story and so are the things I need to do to get on with the story, but which I also might not be able to get through, ruining a playthrough and a game for me.  This only gets worse in RPGs (and some adventure games) where some of the things I have to do on my own — choosing abilities when leveling, for example — can leave me in a position where I at my skill level can’t finish the game, but where it is then way too late to go back and redo it.

Now, when it comes to RPGs and adventure games I have finished some off, but when it comes to RPGs the ones that I’ve finished most often are the ones where that’s not really an issue.  Games like “Shadow Hearts” and the “Personas” select attributes for you at level up, and so all you have to do is select what specific Personas or Fusions to carry and use in battle which makes things easier.  And it’s really hard to level up that badly in the “Knights of the Old Republic” games.  “Oblivion” levels up the enemies with you, so it could have happened, but I did manage to level up enough to make things work and think that I was running on a lower difficulty level besides.  I don’t think it’s any coincidence, though, that the games that I’ve been finishing are the ones with the better story.

Which highlights what I feel is missing from video games in general:  games that are based on nothing more than building a story through encounters.  Reading around at The CRPG Addict, I found one game there that really drove home the sort of game that that might be, with “The Black Sage”, where it’s just a set of encounters where you have to select an option for.  Combined with my idea of “No Bad Ends”, this could easily be used to build a story that reflects the consequences of the character’s actions, which could be really, really fun.  You couldn’t do anything like that in a AAA game today, of course, because it would be way too simple.  I think that the original “Vampire the Masquerade:  Bloodlines” game made an interesting stab at this, but the combat was too tricky and constant to make it work as a game where the primary gameplay is using your abilities in creative ways — even down to fighting sometimes — to make your way through the world.  And the Personas have the interesting dating sim gameplay added to it which means that most of the game is spent doing things the way you want and the combat, though important, really is an aside to everything else.

Which does hint that the sort of game I want to play is best captured by dating sims, since for the most part they are about going through the world acting the way you want to act, and seeing how things end up at the end.  Or, at least, you can play those games that way, even if you might not end up getting a good ending if you do.  The most recent actual full dating sim I played was “Sunrider Academy”, which had some interesting points but was one that I screwed up early on.  Also in that post is “Monster Prom”, which is actually probably far more the sort of game I was looking for, but was too short for my tastes.  In general, the problem with dating sims is that they’re hard to find.  As noted, on their own they aren’t going to be mainstream, and so you’re either going to find mainstream games with dating sim elements (like “Persona” or “Conception II”) or have to find indie dating sims.  Or else you’re going to have to look at “adult” dating sims.  As noted before with “Huniepop”, I don’t mind sexual aspects in games, but the risk with those games is that they’ll overemphasize the sex which means that the dating sim and life simulation aspects will be shallow and mostly useless, or else they’ll make it so that the sex is a reward for your difficult work which makes the game grindy.  So it’s hard — and risky — to try to find good dating sims or life simulators.  “The Sims” seems like it might fit, although the problem with them is that the only story is that which you create, which can be fun but also can drag a bit if you have to fight with the game to do the things you want to do (“Medieval” had more of a story, but I ended up not playing it that much.  Perhaps I should return to it at some point).

So, those are my general thoughts on video games from the last week.  I will probably have to choose another game, but don’t know what it will be yet.

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