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Josh Sawyer's thoughts on IWD EE

MessiMessi Member Posts: 738
Thought this might interest a few people:

On Beamdog and Baldur's Gate

JS: That's cool! I thought the Enhanced Editions were really nice updates for the old games. It was really cool they came to tablets. As one of the main designers on Icewind Dale, seeing the BG2 kits in there destroy all the balance kind of made me a little sad. The BG2 kits are really powerful and Icewind Dale was kind of balanced around one thing.

But it was still really cool to see it with all the tech upgrades. Trent Oster obviously has a long background with the Baldur's Gate series, so it's cool they'll make more.

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2886976/pillars-of-eternity-josh-sawyer-talks-mods-pc-first-focus-big-head-mode-and-more.html?page=2

MusignyInstantCoffeeelminsterAbeljorge duarteJuliusBorisovHaHaCharadeCrevsDaakBugrat
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Comments

  • JarrakulJarrakul Member Posts: 2,028
    Yeah, I do think the kits add another unbalanced thing, but less so than, say, dual-wielding and some of the new spells. More than that, there was a lot of pretty unbalanced stuff in IWD from the start. I generally agree with Josh Sawyer roughly 100% of the time, but in this case I found his judgment to be... stronger than the reality of the situation warranted. Oh well, I guess he has to do something to avoid offending the gods.

    MusignyAristilliusCrevsDaak
  • MusignyMusigny Member Posts: 1,017
    @bengoshi already posted something similar here : https://forum.baldursgate.com/discussion/comment/600316/#Comment_600316
    Perhaps all those kits are not the primary culprits. Nevertheless I agree on the balance issue.

    JuliusBorisovCrevsDaak
  • DreadKhanDreadKhan Member Posts: 3,563
    @elminster you are aware HoW hugely rebalanced the Vanilla IWD game, right? I might miss some absurdly good gear, (stuff that'd be broken in late ToB) but nobody having looked over the revisions of HoW could believe it unbalances the game compared to unexpanded IWD.

    Don't get me wrong, not saying everything was perfect, but IWD was generally more balanced than BG was. Mages got to be good, but not nearly as good as BG2, though Thieves got the shortest end of the stick In IWD.

    CrevsDaak
  • dibdib Member Posts: 384
    Can't you just not use the kits though?

    atcDaveDJKajuruCrevsDaakBaron_Bathory
  • DreadKhanDreadKhan Member Posts: 3,563
    dib said:

    Can't you just not use the kits though?

    Yes, same for many new spells, though very high level was mighty thin in IWD vanilla. Woo, you can summon stuff! Great for HoF mode maybe, kinda lackluster I found in normal mode. If you use kits and don't maximize your stats, the balance will be much better too.

    CrevsDaak
  • FardragonFardragon Member Posts: 4,371
    I think game designers assign way to much importance to "balance".

    atcDaveJuliusBorisovsmeagolheart
  • DavideDavide Member, Moderator, Translator (NDA) Posts: 1,640
    So, if I got it right, and please correct me if I am wrong, Josh Sawyer thinks that it's cool. Maybe because Beamdog is in Canada?

  • ZeckulZeckul Member Posts: 1,031
    BG2 and IWD were designed very differently and one thing dear to IWD's designers (Josh Sawyer in particular) was balance, way more so than BG2. I haven't done the math but it always seemed obvious to me that there was very little chance that balance would be preserved by adding in all these kits and spells that hadn't been taken into account in the original game design. I'm not sure it's as bad as Josh Sawyer seems to put it though.

    TEMNOZORANMusigny
  • FardragonFardragon Member Posts: 4,371
    Zeckul said:

    BG2 and IWD were designed very differently and one thing dear to IWD's designers (Josh Sawyer in particular) was balance, way more so than BG2. I haven't done the math but it always seemed obvious to me that there was very little chance that balance would be preserved by adding in all these kits and spells that hadn't been taken into account in the original game design. I'm not sure it's as bad as Josh Sawyer seems to put it though.

    I agree. But I think Wizards got a little more "balanced" than other classes. And, because the original game relied on scroll availability, it's balance fell apart completely if you played on higher difficulties, or with a smaller party, or with more than two wizards.

    But it didn't matter, because balance really doesn't matter, whatever some game designers may think.

  • FardragonFardragon Member Posts: 4,371
    If you balance the game so that all choices are equally valid, then you may as well take away any choice.

    If it's not possible to make a bad choice, then the choice is meaningless.

    DJKajuru
  • atcDaveatcDave Member Posts: 1,933
    I think complaints about ruining balance in this case are exaggerated. None of the available kits make a huge mess of things, and a party that has a variety of skills and abilities is still the best strategy.
    I think a few of the kits aren't really in keeping with the spirit of the story (A party led by a Barbarian will have some amusing dialogue choices in HoW) and if I were running this as a PNP campaign I would outlaw certain choices. But I don't believe any of them break the game too badly, and for a CRPG I think it's acceptable to say "don't like? Don't use..."

    JuliusBorisov
  • FardragonFardragon Member Posts: 4,371
    Jarrakul said:

    Contrarily, if you make a game such that one choice is clearly superior, you may as well take away any choice, because once you know anything about the game, you know what the correct thing to play is.

    Rubbish. If players would always chose the "easiest" option, everyone would play on "story mode".


    The point of balance is to allow player choice. The point of balance is to allow variety without arbitrarily punishing some players and not others. In a balanced system, I can play a fighter or a wizard, and they're *different*, but neither is clearly better than the other. When game designers make everything the same in the name of balance, they're doing something wrong, because variety is the point of balance. But when game designers balance things poorly, they're doing something exactly as wrong, because if the game is balanced around one level of power, and I can unwittingly stumble into some other level of power, they've lowered the quality of my experience.
    Judged by that standard, the original IWD is just as broken as the EE, or are you going to tell me that a player who made a party of six wizards would not be "arbiterally punished" compared to a player who made a party of a bard, a druid, a fighter/cleric a fighter/thief and two fighters? That's ignoring the completly valid in game choices of playing on a higher difficulty or with less than a full party totally wrecked wizard spell availability in the original just as much as the EE.

    Given that 2nd edition DnD rules where never balanced, it simply isn't possible to make a balanced game and be faithful to those rules.

    The myth of balance is why I have completly given up on MMOs. I really don't feel like my choices have any meaning.

  • ArchaosArchaos Member Posts: 1,417
    No, a bad choice by design is bad design.
    It's what plagued 3E edition by putting "trap" choices, as I have heard in interviews. Paraphrasing.

    Valid and balanced choices mean that if I want to experiment, I can make something work.
    I make choices based on a concept and experimentation, not based on validity and power.

    If there's a bad choice, then it shouldn't be there in the first place. Or it should be redesigned to make it valid.

    And yes, ADnD wasn't balanced. But, you can make a game around those rules balanced.
    When you introduce new stuff, yet you don't adjust the challenge (like in IwD:EE) you end up with spells and class abilities that steamroll the challenges of the game, because it wasn't changed to take them into account.

    Here's an example:
    Why make a Wizard Slayer and be forced to deal it's Cons when an Inquisitor or Monk is a far better mage slayer?
    Both make the Wizard Slayer useless to what it's supposed to be the best at.

    Or, why make a Shapeshifter, when the Totemic Druid and it's summons (at least in vanilla BG2) are far better and still enable you to cast spells?

    Balanced means that the Wizard Slayer would be best at what it's supposed to be best at, yet it's not.
    So you would have to make a choice not on power on what is best or worse, but what you want to play without feeling that you made a worse choice.

    JarrakulGrumsubtledoctor
  • atcDaveatcDave Member Posts: 1,933
    edited February 2015
    Eh, I'm not terribly concerned about if any given kit is actually any good or not. I think the kits are more about role playing and atmosphere tha flat out power any way. I have no problem with saying any given kit may reflect a certain tradition, training program, philosophy that DOESN'T necessarily relate to being the best at anything.
    It would be like if IRL you had a group of jungle warriors who use spear and blow gun. Maybe they have an elite core of a dozen warriors who have some pretty amazing special attacks from very specialized training with their spears. We could probably classify that as a kit of "spear warriors" or "Chieftan's Guard" or some such. Well if these fearsome and proud warriors are suddenly faced with a group of AR15 equipped mercs hired to clear out their tribal lands this kit might quickly be seen as useless.

    A lot of kits might be a lot like this. Or the opposite extreme, a very capable kit might not be available to everyone. In PNP the Cavalier kit was only available to Paladins who had a 15 in Strength, Dexterity AND Constitution. Like the requirements for Paladin weren't already tough enough! Only a very few, very elite characters could even think of having that kit (maybe like the Navy Seal kit!). I know in my own setting Cavalier was also only available to characters who belonged to a certain order of knighthood; that meant they had a very specific regional aspect to them. In that same setting there was also a "Noble Warrior" kit open to warriors with slightly less extreme ability requirements, that led to some lesser bonuses than the Cavalier had.

    The point of all of this is just that the kit is ultimately about role playing. A player character will reasonably chose a character that will be useful and fun to play. But I never think that means every kit has to be equally viable, or even available to the player character. If someone wants to create the "God-like entity" kit with d20 hit dice; six weapon proficiencies at 1st level, an additional proficiency at every level thereafter and grand mastery available; magic resistance of 25% per level; and the ability to cast one spell per level of any type... Well I don't care. It's nothing to me. Except maybe as a joke, I have no desire to play such a thing. I'll stick with my Undead Hunter and Skald....

    Post edited by atcDave on
    elminsterJuliusBorisov
  • wubblewubble Member Posts: 3,156
    From what I've heard it wasn't too difficult to break icewind dale balance before, the new kits just add a few more exciting ways to do it.

    atcDaveJarrakul
  • FardragonFardragon Member Posts: 4,371
    Archaos said:



    If there's a bad choice, then it shouldn't be there in the first place. Or it should be redesigned to make it valid.

    And yes, ADnD wasn't balanced. But, you can make a game around those rules balanced.

    If there are no "bad" choices, then there are no "good" choices either. The most significant thing you can choose is the colour of your hair.

    If you change ADnD to make it balanced, you have missed the point. It is a story telling game. Characters in stories are not balanced. Frodo is not as strong as Aragorn is any department. Aragorn is not as strong as Gandalf. In a (grown up) PnP game, for every player who wants to be a mighty warrior or powerful wizard there is someone who wants to be the incompetent thief or the hapless academic.
    When you introduce new stuff, yet you don't adjust the challenge (like in IwD:EE) you end up with spells and class abilities that steamroll the challenges of the game, because it wasn't changed to take them into account.
    As I have already pointed out, you could always steamroller IWD, or make it difficult, depending on your choices. The EE changed nothing in that department.
    Here's an example:
    Why make a Wizard Slayer and be forced to deal it's Cons when an Inquisitor or Monk is a far better mage slayer?
    Both make the Wizard Slayer useless to what it's supposed to be the best at.

    Or, why make a Shapeshifter, when the Totemic Druid and it's summons (at least in vanilla BG2) are far better and still enable you to cast spells?
    For the same reason that you don't play on story mode.

    atcDaveHeindrichelminsterdib
  • JarrakulJarrakul Member Posts: 2,028
    edited February 2015
    Fardragon said:


    If you change ADnD to make it balanced, you have missed the point. It is a story telling game. Characters in stories are not balanced. Frodo is not as strong as Aragorn is any department. Aragorn is not as strong as Gandalf. In a (grown up) PnP game, for every player who wants to be a mighty warrior or powerful wizard there is someone who wants to be the incompetent thief or the hapless academic.

    I agree with everything in this paragraph except the first sentence. The thing is, you can have differing levels of power between characters while maintaining mechanical balance. You just have different people be different levels. Frodo is lower level than Aragorn, who in turn is lower level than Gandalf. That way, the power differential is something explicit and controlled, rather than whatever the mechanics happened to create. In other words, the only thing controlling the power differential in a balanced system is the people telling the story. By allowing class power to be unequal actually create the opposite situation, where it's not choice or storytelling but game mechanics that decide who's the strongest. Gandalf isn't the best because he's an immortal angelic being sent to guide and protect the mortal races. He's the best because he decided to play a mage, and that's just better. Which might be fine, I suppose, until you want to write a story where Aragorn is stronger than Gandalf.

  • atcDaveatcDave Member Posts: 1,933
    I disagree strongly with suggesting level is, or should be the sole determinant of power. Characters of the same level can be comparatively powerful or weak based on attributes and decisions made at the creation process.
    And that's how it should be. The experience of playing a character with good scores in all key areas, and specialization in the "right" weapons, and access to the "best" spells will be different from playing a character who is handicapped in one or more areas. That's what makes playing different characters INTERESTING.

    elminsterFardragonJuliusBorisov
  • HeindrichHeindrich Member, Moderator Posts: 2,959
    Whilst I kinda see where @Jarrakul is coming from, I don't feel class balance is necessary in a single player game. If we were talking about an MMORPG or some other type of competitive multiplayer game, then of course class balance is crucial for the integrity of the game, but otherwise I don't feel it's important for a good RPG. In fact I consider "forced mechanical balance" to detract from a good RPG, rather than enhance it, because the world does not feel as "realistic" and organic.

    I'll copy-paste something else I've written on more or less this subject...

    I would love to see an RPG take a risk and give you unbalanced companions and uneven quest difficulty to better reflect a world that isn't set up for you to gradually gain experience against steadily tougher enemies in a linear fashion until you can take on the big bad boss and save the day.

    For example in BG you'd expect that Khalid and Jaheira, being experienced adventurers already, ought to be significantly stronger than Imoen or Charname at the start of the game, though the latter might gain experience faster thanks to their divine lineage. In terms of quests, you should get an idea of the difficulty of the quest from information available, and make your own decision on whether your party can handle it. So perhaps there might be a dragon hoarding a great treasure trove in a mountain near your starting town, but common sense would tell you that you should not annoy a dragon with a group of lv5 characters.

    I think it should be okay that certain characters are always going to be stronger than others, because an organic and realistic world is not going to be perfectly balanced anyway. If you think about Tolkien's Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, neither the Fellowship of the Ring or the Quest of Erebor have "balanced" members, with Gandalf probably stronger than the rest of the company combined. I wish we could see that in an RPG some time, perhaps with a Gandalf-like super party member only showing up occasionally to help you.


    For a BG example, you guys might think this is crazy, but I wish sorcerers could learn spells from scrolls as well as just learn new spells innately, because it makes no sense to me that somebody inherently magically talented is incapable of learning magic through mundane means like ordinary mages and bards. Of course this would make sorcerers no-brainer stronger than mages... but so what? I would still pick a mage if I wanted an learned "academic mage" and pick a sorcerer if I wanted a powerful cocky naturally gifted spellcaster. Similarly I am totally okay with an elf with hundreds of years of combat experience to be simply better than a young man whose martial experience is equivalent to a month in the life of an elf.

    atcDavedib
  • GrumGrum Member, Mobile Tester Posts: 2,099
    @heindrich that sounds like Morrowind. Where enemy levels don't scale to you. I remember going into a cave, seeing an orc with a great weapon...who hit me for 2/3 of my life in one hit and knocked my character down. It was scary. Or entering an area with these creepy octopus-men and not knowing how strong they were, meaning some legit tredilpation. On the other hand, once you leveled up you felt like a god.

    It's a very different kind of gaming experience. And it isn't for everyone. Hence why most games simply make a streamlined story or level enemies to you.

  • FardragonFardragon Member Posts: 4,371
    Heindrich said:



    For a BG example, you guys might think this is crazy, but I wish sorcerers could learn spells from scrolls as well as just learn new spells innately, because it makes no sense to me that somebody inherently magically talented is incapable of learning magic through mundane means like ordinary mages and bards. Of course this would make sorcerers no-brainer stronger than mages... but so what? I would still pick a mage if I wanted an learned "academic mage" and pick a sorcerer if I wanted a powerful cocky naturally gifted spellcaster. Similarly I am totally okay with an elf with hundreds of years of combat experience to be simply better than a young man whose martial experience is equivalent to a month in the life of an elf.

    Well, sorcerers are really a 3rd edition class, and in 3rd edition you could duel class to a mage in order to learn spells from scrolls.

  • JarrakulJarrakul Member Posts: 2,028
    atcDave said:

    I disagree strongly with suggesting level is, or should be the sole determinant of power. Characters of the same level can be comparatively powerful or weak based on attributes and decisions made at the creation process.
    And that's how it should be. The experience of playing a character with good scores in all key areas, and specialization in the "right" weapons, and access to the "best" spells will be different from playing a character who is handicapped in one or more areas. That's what makes playing different characters INTERESTING.

    See, I absolutely agree that different characters should play differently. Any system that doesn't accomplish that (*cough4theditioncough*) defeats the entire purpose of balance. I just don't think power is the axis they should vary on. Of course by necessity, different characters will be good at different things, and that's a good thing, but if one character is almost always (or even usually) better than another, for no reason other than "that's how the mechanics play out", that's a problem. Because, again, it's a power decision made on a level that has nothing to do with the game's storytelling.

    And, incidentally, I am a big fan of worlds that don't scale to your level. I don't think a rogue should be weaker than a mage of the same level, but if either one attacks the world's greatest swordsman, they're gonna go splat. Which, you'll note, is a story-based power differential.

  • FardragonFardragon Member Posts: 4,371
    Of course, what people mean by "balance" varies. For too many game developers, "balance" means "if you drop and equal level Thief, a Mage and Warrior into an empty room, they should each have an exactly equal chance of winning a fight". PnP games, and well designed CRPGs, rely on having a range of different situations in order to to give each character a chance to shine. Your "Diplomat" character might be useless in any sort of fight, but is extremely useful if you have to negotiate a trade deal. But there isn't any real way to "balance" that.

    The real balance problem with IWD has always been the way the difficulty slider worked. It should be "I'm finding this playthrough too easy, so I will increase the difficulty slider". But that increases the rate at which you earn xp, which can actually make things easier. It would be much better if increasing the difficulty decreased the rate at which xp is earned (and visa versa), without changing anything else.

    atcDaveHeindrich
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