Comparison can be misleading but...

Discussion in 'Wishlist Requests' started by Hornpipe, Jun 9, 2017.

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  1. Hornpipe

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    First of all :
    • I know that Shroud of the Avatar is still in early access and that there are a lot of things to be done before it to be called a finished game.
    • This message is not meant to devalue choices that have been made, but to put them into perspective.
    • Its sole purpose is to show things that are done elsewhere, and that could help SotA with achieviong some of its goals.
    Let's begin with Divinity : Original Sin. Published in 2015, this RPG is a 3D isometric games with turn based combats and single-player/co-op campaign. This is a game that was funded by conventional means (at start), complemented by a kickstarter campaign. The belgian studio behind this game is Larian. One can say that D:OS was successful. Some of the kickstarter promises were not kept, however. I'll come back to that later.

    Here is the Menu of the game :



    The first thing you will notice is that this menu features a dynamic decor. The first contact with the game is immediately more attractive than with a simple artwork. It is silly when you think about it, but the fact that the menu interferes with us and that the music go with the sound background of the beach already plunges us into the universe. That is something which is missing in SotA.

    The second thing concerns the graphics. Divinity:Original Sin don't use beautiful assets. SotA uses finer models. Portalarium artists are really doing a great job : this is something that is very apparent in the second video below. Yet, the artistic direction used in D: OS places it at a higher level in some situations. One reason is that the game hides its imperfections with the 3d isometric view. The player don't really see the 3d assets with precision. The graphics can be more simplistic and our computers are suffering less. At this stage, there is nothing to be done at this level for SotA : we have a third person view, which is also a good choice. But there is also a second reason for this: Personaly, I feel some sort of harmony between all the graphical elements in D:OS. That harmony is lacking, at least, in the older scenes of SotA. In the video, the town, in front of the beach, seems to have its own identity. Many buildings have been created for SotA but few of them belong to specific architectural styles. Those styles came with the bundles, very late. And among the houses offered to backers, some even have design problems. For example, the windows to the right of the entrance door of the Lord's houses illuminate only... a wall, not a room. Portalarium must continue to build architectural styles and coherent designs for houses.

    The third thing is the music. Kirill Pokrovsky was a beast, really. Here, we are lucky to have very talented people among the volunteers who are creating music for SotA. But with several artists for the same work, one does not easily feel the overall coherence. I will take an easy exemple : When one hears the imperial march, one thinks generally about Darth Vader, or the Empire. When an Ultima 7's fan hears the hymn of the Fellowship, he immediately associates it with the bad guys or Batlin. In SotA, music does not seem to possess this form of identity. Personally, I am mostly confused when I think about this. Do the obsidians have an anthem ? What's the music for each virtue ? You know what I mean...

    Now, the interface :



    In D:OS, you also have a hotbar to place your skills, potions and other usable objects. On top of the hotbar is the action points counter. All windows have a textured border and background, with colors that allow maximum visibility.

    The character sheet and the inventory are gathered in a single window. Unlike SotA, there is no representation of the character outside the main screen but the place saved in the UI is used to allow quick access to all the essential informations (with tips).

    As for the inventory, it leaves more room for the images, which makes it much more effective, in the end. When SotA builds tables with names, quantities, durability or price information, D: OS displays an icon, a quantity and you get the rest by pointing over the icon.

    When I zoom in with this video, you see that the characters are not as beautiful as in SotA, far from it. Also, you can notice the blur thing.



    Let me show you the town of Cyseal. Cyseal is a coastal city, which lives from fishing and naval trade. When crossing its streets, the first thing remarkable is that this world feel like it's alive. However, D: OS does not manage the NPC schedules nor day and night (one of the promises of the kickstarter that was not kept). How is that possible?

    One hears the voices of the merchants but also of all the others. All dialogs have voice dubbing. SotA has ambient sounds (like the sounds of a crowded place) but not the dubbing which is a shame. That said, if dubbing is not necessarily accessible, you may also notice that D:OS brings up merchant and other voices with floating text above the character, not in the chat window.

    Let's talk about the dialogues. Here, no text dialogue, only answers to choose. But when you think about it, SotA takes this path with its list of keywords. It's true that it is really fabulous to see an NPC answer a question written in the chat window. But, overall, the problem is that it requires a crazy time to foresee all possible words that relate to a legitimate request. And then the choice of D: OS for dialogues, which was that of Baldur's Gate, Ultima 7, Morrowind... seems to have multiple advantages.
    And during dialogues, NPCs use emotes !

    Do you see the beggar at 2:10 ? I gave him a coin and, when opening a trading window with him, the coin is here. In SotA, this object persistence exists only between players, not with NPCs. Yet it is something important. Today in SotA, if I want to buy a lot of coal, for exemple, I go to the crafting merchant and I buy 1000 coals, then I go back for 1000 more, and so on. Merchants do not have limited stocks. And their prices are always the same, whether they like me or not. One day I would like to be surprised by going to the blacksmith and finding in his inventory a weapon crafted by another outlander. It seems to me that it was in the initial draft.

    That's all for now :)
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2017
  2. Leelu

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    Your Op is very intuitive. In my opinion 1 game cannot be all things. That is why I play a variety of them. All my hopes and dreams and money are not tied up in just one.
     
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  3. Hornpipe

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    This is what was announced at the beginning, and it is probably still the idea: a single player and selective multi-player game with a strong and deep storyline and sand box features. There is a risk of "Jack of all trades, Master of none" thing, for sure. But this does not mean that they can not succeed. To be honest, I hope SotA will perform in a lot of things and it partialy does, already.

    Playing many games is a valid option. But you'll have to stay invested a lot as soon as you want to enjoy some aspects of SotA, like housing, for exemple. As long as you don't own any tax free deed, you must connect yourself each day to ask the Oracle for gold that you will use to pay your taxes, or loot it on your enemies. With the current tax level, someone who wants to leave SotA aside for a few weeks has to play a lot, or to save his/her house in the property manager and to lose the land lot he/she has chosen. For this reason and for many others (roleplay possibilities, "infinite" leveling, etc...), many people spend almost all their playing time in SotA.

    Let's talk about interactivity, today :




    "acting one upon or with the other". When you play D:OS, you can move everything from your inventory to the world and take everything from the world to put it in your inventory. Like SotA, D:OS can handle multitudes of objects (with short loading times ;)). You can create stacks of things (within certain limits) and move them. You can put things in crates, barrels, closets.... You can put oil on objects and set them on fire with lit candles. You could even cast a rain spell to put out the fire. There is a lot of interactivity. As it is a single player game, there is no limitation as there is no risk some player abuse this interactivity against one other. In a single player game, for exemple, there is no risk that someone else come and burn your house or your trees, or your plants, because it's interactively possible to do so.

    What about SotA ?



    When you are at home, it is possible to do many things: stack objects (within certain limits), move them, put them in inventory (as long as the object is not under another). You can not put them on fire. You can fill a bucket with water but you can only use it for agriculture. That said, you can play music instruments with abc/mml files. You can turn on or off a candle. You can skin dead animals. You can use stones to build big things like Serenite guys did. It is a very honorable level of interactivity for a multiplayer game.

    But when you are not at home, things can be quite surprising sometimes:



    System can handle stacks but not outside of player lots and I don't understand why. Obviously, Portalarium can't simply let every player move decorations in every scenes or they will become messy very soon. Everyone can agree with that. But I should be able to grab a stack of books and put it all in my inventory without seeing levitating books on the shelves.

    Now the interactivity with NPCs :



    With D:OS, every relation with NPC is ruled by his/her attitude towards you. Attitude is calculated on the basis of general informations about you (your charisma, your reputation) and your acts toward the NPC. If you give something to the NPC, freely, his/her attitude will improve. He or she will slowly become your friend. If he or she is a merchant, you will get some discounts. If you put out the fire from a boat, all the sailors will like you, in the harbour. This system is quite good but it has some issues : As you can see, I stole four items from an alchemist in the video and I didn't lose any reputation. I had to look into her stocks to lose some. And after that, the same item in her store costed me 4 gold coins more. Not a big deal, alas.

    In SotA, I heard a lot about virtues but not much about reputation. That's a bit strange because no one should be able to define whether I am virtuous or not according to my appearance or rumors. Virtue is an intrinsic value of my character. The only thing an NPC can define is whether he/she likes me or not (my "reputation). That makes all the difference, because I can do something virtuous that goes against the community to which he or she belongs...
    Think about Vertas or Etceter

    One last thing, it is possible to choose the quantity that one buys from each merchant. You hold shift and drop the stack on your inventory, then you type the quantity. But again, this buying system that works rather well does not work with player owned merchants. In the same way as for books, it doesn't make any sense.
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2017
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  4. Hornpipe

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    Today, I'll speak about another game : The Elder Scrolls Online. TESO is a MMORPG. Its development began in 2007 and the game was published in 2014 by Zenimax Online Studios. The development cost is not know, but there are rumors here and there. Clearly, the resources involved are not the same as for SotA. But there is an interest in talking about this game here.

    TESO is a great source of interest among SotA players, because of its phasing technology. Just imagine : an MMORPG with observable consequences to your actions. A true single-player experience in a massively multiplayer game.
    You save Charlotte and you are happy not to meet her alongside her mother. You kill Min Liang Tan and the Minister of the Lotus Chapter is empty when you come back.
    That's an amazing technology. Ovisously, the goal it to make a multiplayer world more believable. But it has downsides.

    I found videos which present the downsides of this technology :





    To sum those up, the biggest downside is that TESO phasing technology didn't apply only on the environment but also on players. That's an issue which should have been fixed for years, but, alas, it seems like nothing has been done about that yet.
    1. Let's say you've completed a quest and fiery ghosts around a graveyard are appeased now. They are marked as allies for you and don't fight you. Now, let's say you want to help a friend to do that quest. You will group with him or her BUT you won't be able to help because you will disappear for him or her when you enter the cemetary. And he or she will disappear for you.
    2. Let's take another exemple : you enter a tavern for roleplaying with friends, but your quest completion status is different. You don't see them at all. Quite annoying for a roleplay game isn't it ?
    3. Another exemple again : you are a guild recruiter but you can't see nor help the new players...

    That said, SotA actual system has its downside too. With the selective multiplayer thing, every player in solo/party instances are in a different instance. You can't see them and the world can feel empty. This is less serious insofar as the player who is in solo/party has chosen to be in solo/party instance. But the player who is in multiplayer online wants to meet people.

    In reality, the only way to properly manage this problem would be to control what everyone sees individually, to build a technology capable of desynchronizing two players on the same instance, in a way :
    - This NPC should not be there with my quest status ? He or she is here in reality (for the server), but the game prevent me to see or interact with him/her.
    - This NPC should be there because I finished my quest ? The game allow me to see or interact with him/her.
    - Other player is speaking to another NPC that I cannot see ? I can't see his/her emote during the talk, only an immobile player.
    - A scene should be on fire with my quest status ? Allow me to get in a different instance.
    A technology which allow the devs to turn assets visible or invisible on-screen in a single instance (probably client side) would really be the holy grail for Shroud of the Avatar. The whole game was developed on the idea of cohabitation between solo mode and multiplayer mode. I do not know if it's technically feasible, but, in my opinion, it's definitely the goal.
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2018
  5. Time Lord

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    "Oh Yes! Please do! Please Continue!"
    This is really interesting stuff, Great Thread!

    [​IMG]
    I'm really enjoying it allot and learning from it :)!'
    ~Time Lord~
     
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  6. Hornpipe

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    Thank you. I try to argue and document. That said, everyone is welcome to jump in if he/she CAN deepen things further.
     
  7. Hornpipe

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    I have been allowed to try Kingdom Come : Deliverance right after its release, few days ago. And as I wanted to take a small break, it came at the right moment. I was very interested with the Warhorse studio's product for a long time.

    Kingdom Come Deliverance is a RPG game based on a non-fantasy medieval fiction built around true historical facts. It's a single player experience, and an interesting one if you ask me. It's using the Cryengine, and the graphics look really fabulous. With this game, you will be able to explore a small part of the Bohemian territory, and live some of its historical and political plots, a few times after Emperor Charles IV's death. It came to my mind that I could present it here and compare some of its mechanisms to SotA. So, let's begin... But be careful, there are some few spoilers below.

    Story, NPCs and background

    Kingdom Come : Deliverance's background is very appealing. The game really gives the impression of living in the Middle Ages. Political intrigues, NPCs' way of living, the buildings... everything was settled so that one feels like entering these museums or historical monuments which lie all over the old Europe.

    The story is built on historical facts and true political intrigues which induce a complex scenario for the game. They are very motivating to discover, especially at the beginning of the game. To make it short, and without any spoilers, you are the son of a blacksmith, and the events will lead you to take a close look at the quarrels of the sword nobility. But that's also one of the weakness of the game : you do not choose your character, its physical aspects, its base skills, nor anything else. Unlike SotA, therefore, there is no character creation process. This is because the character and his story fit into the scenario to such an extent that customization options were simply not possible. Personally, I was a little disturbed to play a man, although I understand that the choice of a woman would probably have been complicated to implement in such a context (the condition of the middle-aged woman really sucks, and this game shows that very well by the way). That said, in my country, one of the most famous heroes for this period of our history is a woman: Jeanne d'Arc (and by the way, she was born only a few years after the events reported in this game but that's another story)... and yes, she died, burnt alive. But anyway ! Because of its historical origins, KC's scenario sounds more believable that the one of SotA and some of the quests were very interesting because they involved deep reflection and investigations
    to recognize a disease according to the symptoms observed on patients to be interrogated, and according to the indications given on a medical book was a great moment
    . Also, your actions in KC have observable consequences and NPCs react to their environment, sometimes taking and using objects in front of you, sometimes using cheaty animations that don't really move the object but let you think that it's the case, what is sorely lacking with SotA. And KC use voiced dialogues as well as motion capture, which are great assets on top of the rest.

    Personally, I only followed SotA's main quest from start to finish several months ago and I didn't followed most of the new side quests so maybe there has been big changes since that day, so don't blame me if I say something wrong about the current state of the game. But even if I enjoyed the experience a lot when I got my shroud, the story seemed a bit too "esoteric" to me. It seemed to me that the world of SotA lacked a noticeable political system, some real religious institutions and hierarchy around the virtues and wars between lords and families. In Novia, guards don't do anything but sleep, light street candles, walk in the street and it's a special guard who will teleport to you when you violate the laws (the other guards are just walking around). Most NPCs' only concerns is to stand in their store, waiting for the customer, or wandering in the streets. On the other hand, in Kingdome Come, NPCs'behaviour gives a much better consistency to the political system : guards patrol, run after thiefs, ask to search your inventory during routine checks and it is possible to baratinate them when you are working for a great lord.
    That said, fighting bandits again and again, as well as fulfilling tasks for the nobility (generaly, you have to investigate about a murder or something, and a lot of thing is simply about to go from point A to point B to make simple observations or talk to a witness), became boring in the long run in KC, especialy with the few bugs I encountered. So I have not finished the game yet (I will, in the future) and I came back to SotA with pleasure... Hey, SotA has puzzles ! ;)

    This brings me to an important thought : Regardless of what makes up the scenario in the game (investigation, puzzles or whatever), what matters is creating mechanisms that involve the player's reasoning ability and that do not disrupt his or her intelligence/perception. Anything that induces to go from point A to point B without the player having to make a decision that will affect the sequence of events is not worth the effort. When I succeed in a puzzle, or when I correctly diagnose, through my decisions, a plague that kills people, I feel satisfaction. But if succeeding the puzzle does not change anything or if I feel like people will survive the plague anyway or if I get the exact same unique reward as anywone else, it somewhat breaks this satisfaction. @PlagueOfLocust made a great work with the new puzzles in SotA. But I really hope that NPCs behaviour will get more consistancy in this game, soon.



    That leads me to speak a bit more about NPCs and background. If you look at the video here, you will see how beautiful the graphics are. But more over, the video don't really show that every aspect of a believable world has been taken in account in the game : the streets are covered with channels that serve to carry water away, NPCs interact with each object (the miller is wearing sacks from the mill to the barn, domestics are wearing buckets of water, blacksmiths are hammering swords on the anvil, tanners... etc...). Some NPC's even go to the public baths when taking their break and ask you to go away when they surprise you around. They go to the tavern, sit at a table and drink or eat something. And when a beggar is hired as a water carrier, you can expect him to not stay kneeling by the roadside. I know that it's a difficult thing to do in a multiplayer game as it involves that people don't see the exact same thing, because eveyone has to fulfill the same quests (unless of course the quests can be created dynamically and can only be accomplished by one player, but that's another subject). But, for exemple, I always wondered why a NPC that I killed could not be turned invisible to me and visible to others, even though when I use an aetheric vibration amplifier, others do not hear the radio I chosed ? Why people don't perceive the same sound when they should and see the same things when they shouldn't ? Why, in Novia, the beggar chould not be turned invisible to me and the water carrier turned visible, after he is hired because of me ?

    As in SotA, the KC's NPCs appearance is built from models and we end up recognizing the same face model used on several characters. Of course, Cryengine allows a very good facial rendering and motion capture allows very nice facial animation, but the result is not very different from SotA. In the end, it feels like we are always talking to the same people.

    The buildings themselves are exact copies of what was being built in medieval times. The materials used for masonry, carpentry, the tapestries and the furniture inside: everything is such as in the many medieval castles and buildings that I visited. It is really wonderful. On the other hand, there is no customization options for rooms that can be rented or owned (well, not owned, but made available by the lord as ownership was hardly a real thing for commoners, at that time). Where KC shows a credible world, SotA has the advantage of allowing many more freedoms. That being said, the effort to define less fanciful construction styles in Novia would be appreciated. Also, when a window is placed on the facade, it should be visible from the inside, which is not always the case in SotA, unfortunately ! @DarkStarr

    Combat

    When I was a younger person, I have been taught fencing basics (my parents wanted me to know how to do many different things). So when I fought in KC, I was like Wow ! I found things I had learned long time ago with those combat movements. It turns out that when you don't use your eyes and your reflexes in this game, you can get killed easily, like in reality actually. But if you are tactical enough, you can defeat an opponent normally stronger than you are. What I like most about this system is the fact that the fight is felt like it's mostly based on the actions and even if character's skills count, the player has a very big role to play in combat. Of course skills help, like in SotA, but combat is far more dynamical and I will explain why I feel that way.



    A lot of people will probably find KC's combat a bit too static, but I think that Warhorse studios made a formidable work with the specialists who helped them and the motion capture. SotA and, mostly, other games combat mechanisms maybe looks a bit more dynamic because of the animations, but it's not true. It's just faster. When you have to get a tempo in KC and parry at the right time, or use the correct strike at the right moment, it's less the case with SotA, and even far less with other games. Actually, KC feel slower (try to use a 3 pounds sword with a plate armor on top of the chainmail to test if you are really faster yourself), but it's far more dynamic. That said, I should keep in mind that combat based on synchronisation is probably far more easier to have in a single player experience than in a multiplayer experience, for sure. Also @Chris introduced the 2s bonus on some skills, which is a good evolution, towards more dynamism in the game. That said, there is a big flaw with KC : The AI is crap. MEOWY often, your enemy will stop fighting without any reason, standing right in front of your weapon. SotA AI is not quite different, but it's tougher and feels more alive in combat. If only it were not set to flee and become invincible as soon as you get too close to an obstacle, one could say that it is an asset here.



    In KC, I enjoyed a lot being able to fight like a Mongolian horseman, firing arrows at my enemies while riding a horse. Maybe that will be possible with SotA one day as it is mentioned in the 2 years plan, I don't know. But if it is the case, the game will have to be balanced with kiting in mind or everyone will have to use a bow and an horse, except mages, maybe.

    Craft




    When one look at those videos, I think the reaction is to say : "very cool !" Indeed, crafting in KC is based on very immersive mini games, which involve player abilities and no randomness generator. You have to get the proper timing, and the proper gestures to succeed. But keep in mind that KC is a single player game, and your actions in KC won't affect the economy for other players' games, so the mechanisms can't be completely the same with SotA anyway. Also, there is something important here. Crafting in KC look exciting, for the first moments at least. But as your involvement on the process has no influence on the quality of the final product but only on the success of your try, you just stand here, doing the same thing again and again without any excitation, in the long run. As mentioned in the 2 years plans, we can expect such mini games in SotA. So I hope that if such a system comes to be put in place in SotA :
    • developers will allow, given the quantities involved, appropriate batching,
    • they will create a system that will determine the quality of a product on the level of real involvement of the player in the process (timing, gesture precision),
    • will not give up the randomness factor, so as to avoid boting and to ensure that no one finds a way to break the economy to his advantage.
    @Lord British
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2018
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  8. MindBlast

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    Don't have time to read other than D:OS comparison right now but these are all good points. Some of those points may sound just nitpick but when combined together they are quite big whole and when everything is done right, game in overall feels polished and high quality. Example, for me, music and how it changes in different situations + sounds in overall is HUGE deal breaker if not done right.

    I hope SotA will get better what comes to your points. Great effort by you making these, will read others with better time.
     
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  9. Hornpipe

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    I agree. About the music, I heard that Portalarium was working on this right now. I don't know when it will be available through. Also, the "VFX" have been improved over the few past releases.

    Thank you for the kind words !
     
  10. drahn

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    COMPLETELY AGREE! +1 +1 +1

    I am hoping there is a surprise overhaul of the loading / menu / UI coming this month... fingers and everything crossed. But you point out very valid items that the immersion begins at the menu screen. I believe in honesty and currently we have a very alpha looking ui.


     
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  11. drahn

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    Inventory - You identified a great thing there in your review and comparison of the inventory.
    COST: I really don't need to know how much an item is worth in my inventory window. Sure it is kind of a nice perk but it suggests I can evaluate every item in the world and determine how much it might be worth. Which in all terms is always inaccurate. I have never looted a sword worth 200g shown in my inventory and sold it for 200g (usually 30g). So why do we need this cluttering up our inventory view?
    QTY: Sure a quantity is nice, but again could be shown on an icon or image and not a column (although qty doesnt take much room, but it feels like a spreadsheet).
    DURABILITY: Same for durability - that should be on the item itself with a hover. Maybe in the buy/sell screen you could see this detailed list view, but no need for all that in the regular individuals inventory view. @Chris @LordBritish

    Lastly Hornpipe - your length of depth and taking the time here shows you care. I hope it is taken as such as your points are very valid and important.
     
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