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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Extremely minor spoilers for plot points in AC: Odyssey

Butch:

Don’t have much cuz my soul got crushed, as it does, but I did play some. Spent FOREVER trying to get into a silver mine to get a cultist clue (no cover, long mine, unfair), found out he was level 22 and I’m not (more on that in a second), did a timed quest (that, too), discovered a bunch of places, and killed a really tricky cultist and his friends.

Here’s what I wanna talk about: XP. I wanna talk about XP.

XP, I believe came about in D&D, right? They were supposed to represent your character gaining EXPERIENCE. Knowledge. Skills. You earned the points for doing things that meant your character was learning stuff about the world, getting better with swords and hammers and spells with practice, working towards the next level by learning, practicing and growing. Right? That was the point.

Games took that and ran, and fine. It’s a good system! It explains why a character has more skills now than before: Because that character learned by practicing and doing stuff over time.

Which brings us to this game, that obviously doesn’t understand what XP are and has no idea why it’s giving them out.

So see above what I did. The silver mine hard. It needed stealth, combat, and special abilities. You know, the stuff Kassandra has to practice to get better. Lots of question marks? She’s learning about the world. The Cultist? Both practice and learning about the cult. These are EXPERIENCE. But each thing? A hundred. Couple hundred. 900 for clearing the mine. 1200 for killing the cultist.

And then the timed quest, for which I got 3200 3200! Must’ve been hard, you say. Well, here’s what I had to do: give a lady 50 drachmae. That was it. And for that, 3200 XP.

Now, I’m happy to have the XP. I am. I need them, as I am way behind you. I feel I earned a fair amount of XP for the stuff I did in the playing session, when you total it all up. But I should’ve gotten far more for doing the stuff that got Kassandra relevant experience and far less for just giving someone some money. What experience did that give her? How did that teach her anything that she’d need to learn more stuff?

I sorta feel games have forgotten that XP are really EP. When they do that, they stop making any sense. Skill progression stops making any sense. And, while I accept the story of AC makes no sense, at least the skill progression should.

And how they’re handing out XP does not.

In other news, my hotmail side ad is for a hemodyalsis machine.  Seriously. 
I liked it better when Mrs. McP shopped at Victoria’s Secret.  FAR better ads. 

Feminina:

I’m with you–the XP on some of those little timed quests is completely disproportionate to any kind of effort required. Unless you learned that helping people is good, and that helps Kassandra grow as a person? Grow A LOT? But man, that’s a stretch. In reality, it’s obviously just a quick way to let people boost their progress towards the next level.

“Here’s 50 bucks, gimme more HP and damage please!”

I did play! I even went back to Athens and talked to Perikles! Only partly to prove you wrong because you bet I wouldn’t. I was probably about to get around to it anyway.

Major story event! Romance! Fancy dress ball! And guess where I need to go now?

That’s right: Korinthia. The very place I just spent 20 hours clearing of question marks while avoiding a return to Athens. (Incidentally, Perikles made some dry comment about how it was nice I’d finally made it back. I don’t know if he always says that, or if it’s actually based on the amount of time you spend doing random other stuff before you go see him again, but it was kind of great. I recommend you hurry back ASAP and see if he says it to you!)

Anyway, no worries, now Korinthia is all neat and tidy and I can focus on the mission!

My sidebar ad is for the NYT. At least it’s not hemodialysis!

Butch:

Still not as good as Victoria’s Secret.

I dunno. I think it undermines what XP are for. XP are for making progression make sense. And it isn’t necessarily the timed quests themselves. There was one where I had to kill a bigassed bear. That I don’t mind the XP. Killing bigassed bears is good practice for fighting things. THAT deserves XP.

But XP is really a way that RPGs try to use stats to replicate real life as well as RPGs can, and I say this going back to pen and paper D&D. Whether it’s that, or skill checks, or the wealth system in D20 Modern, the whole point of stats is to make the game make some sort of realistic sense, as much as that is possible. When you abandon that for…no real reason…then not only is the player confused as to what to do next, you get rid of the small bit of realism that the stat was there to provide. Games should be working towards some sort of immersive realism, not backing away from it.

Re: Korinthia I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU!

Dude, why magpie when you’re going there anyway?

Ok, fuck it. I have one more cultist clue to track down in Attika, I will do that, then off to Perikles. That’ll give me a level or two. If not, I’ll do a timed quest or two where I have to pet a dog or eat a sandwich and I’ll be fine.

Feminina:

Enh, it’s fine. I was going to get to all those question marks in Korinthia at some point anyway, right? What difference does it make it if I do it now or later?

I magpie BECAUSE I know I’ll be going there anyway, and I want to be prepared when I do.

And you’re right, huge XP awards for no effort do contradict the stated meaning of XP within the game. If we get rewarded more for handing someone 50 drachmae than for actually using all the skills we’ve been working on, what does that reward even mean? Should we be spending ALL our time on the tiny side quests, since that’s what the game values?

I was in a conversational setting last night when I happened to fulfill an objective that put me over the top to 29. It was funny to be standing in the middle of a group when suddenly the soaring triumphant chords sounded and the golden light suffused me… I swear some people nearby started back in astonishment and made as if to cover their eyes, and although it was probably just part of their conversation animation, I thought it was pretty amusing.

Butch:

HA! That is pretty great. Though it reminds me of another complaint with this game and, frankly, lots of others.

There’ll be times you finish a quest or level or both and the triumphant chords happen and all the other sound effect at the very time Kassandra is saying something about what just happened and/or what’s gonna happen next. Like, game, seriously. You KNOW there’s gonna be sound after a quest. Do not make her talk then. Have her wait five seconds.

This happens ALL THE TIME.

Feminina:

YES! That is true. Stop doing that, games! Level-up effects need to force an auto-pause on all other activity! Either that, or they can wait until you’re actually ready to deal with them. Some games just tell you “hey you leveled up!” with a discreet ping or something. Which is not nearly as exciting as the chords and the golden light, I grant you, but no one wants to miss out on dialogue for that!

I do appreciate the games that will let you level up mid-combat and heal you at the same time. I’ve had some happy instances of being almost dead until I happened to strike the blow that did it, and then I was full health AND stronger, and that saved the battle.

It is a very artificial measure, though. It’s pretty well baked into games now, and I understand why, and it obviously serves a very important purpose in game progression and character development. I don’t object to it. But it’s artificial and takes you out of the game to some extent, however they do it.

More so, though, when there’s not even any internal logic to what it is you’re getting rewarded for.

Butch:

See also: don’t yell “SLOW DOWN” when Barnabas or Herodotus is talking. Like, we know. Slow down.

I haven’t leveled during combat yet. Each time it’s at the end of a quest and, it seems, each time I miss something.

You probably miss her saying “Why the fuck am I here? I’m going to have to come here later.”

Feminina:

I actually think it’s kind of funny that they yell at me to slow down if I’m too busy hopping around looting in the area while they’re talking. Sure, I already know I should, but if I don’t, I don’t mind them pointing it out.

I think I miss her saying “excellent, another question mark I won’t have to come deal with later!”

Butch:

No, when Kassandra yells it. On the boat.

Herodotus: Have I told you about this place that will be crucially important to the story later?
Kassandra: You have not my friend. Please do.
Herodotus: It all began long ago, when the old ones-
Kassandra: SLOW DOWN! OARS!
Herodotus: ****silence****
Kassandra: You were saying?
Herodotus: Sorry. The developers only let me say it once, as a set piece.
Kassandra: Seriously? That was important!
Herodotus: You were the one that slowed down.
Kassandra: There were boats that could’ve been pirates! C’mon, one more chance.
Herodotus: Fine. Fine. I suppose. Long ago, there were crucially important-
Kassandra: FULL SAIL! SING SHANTIES!
Herodotus: Man, fuck this.

Feminina:

Oh, right! Yeah, she needs to keep out of her own conversations sometimes. I haven’t been on the ship in a while, to be honest, so I’d forgotten that little quirk.

RDR2, to its credit, handled dialogue during travel pretty well. I remember sometimes I’d outrun someone and start shooting at a deer or whatever and they’d just break off and then pick up the thread once we were riding close together again. “Anyway, as I was saying, this oaf wandered out to California…”

Butch:

Yeah, that made sense. But shit, in this game, it isn’t even they talk over each other. Even the subtitles just say “More oars!” or some shit. Herodotus is lost to time. And dialog.

Feminina:

Not helpful, subtitles! Be more informative!

I mean, unless it’s all a clever plan to make us think there’s more story than there actually is. Maybe it’s intentional!

“And so the one piece of information that makes this whole thing make sense is–”

“MORE OARS! And good point, Herodotus. That DOES make perfect sense!”

“All those people complaining about the bizarre twists just need to understand–”

“SAILS! SAILS UP! Very true, my friend. Once they know that one weird trick, it all becomes clear AND they can melt belly fat with no effort!”

Butch:

That would make sense….

Can’t tell which is worse, just cutting off subtitles, or what Shadow of the TR did, which threw every damn word ANYONE said into the subtitles. You’d be walking though Paititi, and EVERY NPC saying anything would pop up. Like, five, six lines at a time, most of them not in English, all in different colors. Somewhere in there was plot….I think.

Again, maybe that was a smokescreen, too.

Feminina:

We may be underestimating the sneakiness of the writers. Because you know what’s easier than crafting a consistent, compelling narrative over multiple installments composed of large, complex games?

NOT doing that. And then using subtle tricks to suggest the existence of such a narrative in ways that make players blame mechanics for not catching the details, rather than noting the absence of the details themselves.

Butch:

We’re so onto them.

“Hey, let’s just mumble and then put a bunch of gibberish over it! We can say the gibberish is Greek! Like anyone speaks Greek. No one will know!”

Makes perfect sense now….it’s all so clear to me.

Feminina:

We’ll be melting belly fat while we sleep in no time!

Butch:

Behold the power of gibberish!

T SHIRT!!!!!

Feminina:

Of course! It’s so obvious! It was [mumble mumble] all along!

 

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