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Is the game really as trial & error as it feels?

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Comments

  • ThacoBellThacoBell Member Posts: 7,841
    redline said:

    ThacoBell said:

    In all of these instances, it was still possible to retreat. If one of your frontliners goes down super fast, its an obvious indication that you are not prepared for the fight. Run away, and come back invisible or stealthed to retrieve your companion's body and equipment. When you come back, you know to expect something dangerous.

    One could argue this is still a form of trial and error. Reloading and retreating/healing/prebuffing are pretty similar in terms of the player experience - maybe you have the bonus satisfaction of never having seen the Game Over screen but you still had to take a beating before you could have any idea how to succeed.
    That's called learning. Trial and error wouldn't be affected by gained knowledge. Predicting coin flips or dice rolls is trial and error. Learnign how to flip a coin is learning.

    subtledoctor
  • redlineredline Member Posts: 274
    edited October 2018
    ThacoBell said:

    redline said:

    ThacoBell said:

    In all of these instances, it was still possible to retreat. If one of your frontliners goes down super fast, its an obvious indication that you are not prepared for the fight. Run away, and come back invisible or stealthed to retrieve your companion's body and equipment. When you come back, you know to expect something dangerous.

    One could argue this is still a form of trial and error. Reloading and retreating/healing/prebuffing are pretty similar in terms of the player experience - maybe you have the bonus satisfaction of never having seen the Game Over screen but you still had to take a beating before you could have any idea how to succeed.
    That's called learning. Trial and error wouldn't be affected by gained knowledge. Predicting coin flips or dice rolls is trial and error. Learnign how to flip a coin is learning.
    We're having two different conversations, then.

    Google tells me trial and error is "the process of experimenting with various methods of doing something until one finds the most successful.". You'll never find a "more successful" way of predicting coin flip, no matter how much you try. You're describing something else entirely.

    I'm not saying the game is purely a coin flip, or dice roll, or whatever. I'm saying a player can't be reasonably expected to succeed without first failing, often multiple times.

    And yes, that's pretty much true of all video games. It's a sliding scale. BG I think is a particularly aggressive example of expecting players to fail unless they know what's coming, as opposed to allowing someone with sufficient skill to come in blindly with a reasonable chance of success.

    Permidion_StarkBelgarathMTH
  • UnderstandMouseMagicUnderstandMouseMagic Member Posts: 2,138
    ThacoBell said:

    redline said:

    ThacoBell said:

    In all of these instances, it was still possible to retreat. If one of your frontliners goes down super fast, its an obvious indication that you are not prepared for the fight. Run away, and come back invisible or stealthed to retrieve your companion's body and equipment. When you come back, you know to expect something dangerous.

    One could argue this is still a form of trial and error. Reloading and retreating/healing/prebuffing are pretty similar in terms of the player experience - maybe you have the bonus satisfaction of never having seen the Game Over screen but you still had to take a beating before you could have any idea how to succeed.
    That's called learning. Trial and error wouldn't be affected by gained knowledge. Predicting coin flips or dice rolls is trial and error. Learnign how to flip a coin is learning.

    Predicting coin flips is definitely not "trial and error" as each flip is independent of previous flips.
    The phrase uses "trial" not "guess".

    I suppose one could stretch the "learning by trial and error" to coin flips if you previously believed, before any flips, that were more than two outcomes.

  • The_CheesemanThe_Cheeseman Member Posts: 175
    edited October 2018
    I think what people are seeing here isn’t so much an example of the design of Baldur’s Gate itself, but of 2ed AD&D (upon which BG is based). Back in AD&D, there was a lot more general acceptance of character death. You were expected to understand that if you got a bad roll on your random encounter table, you could get completely smoked by something your party had no hope of defeating. The expectation was that somebody would try to escape and get the party raised, or you’d just roll up new characters and try again.

    Old modules are full of patently unfair traps, or monsters with seemingly-random or nonsensical abilities that could utterly screw you over (looking at you, rust monster!) I mean, try googling “Tomb of Horrors”, you’ll see exactly what I mean.

    So yeah, the designers had no desire to make a game that you had a significant chance of completing on your first try, without dying. That’s just not how RPGs back then were played.

    In short, yes, there is quite a bit of trial-and-error to learning all the proper tactics, supplies, magic, and skills you’ll need to succeed in the game. But that’s kind of why Baldur’s Gate is one of the best games ever made. There is no dominant, first-order optimal strategy that will work for every character or every situation. There’s so much variety in the challenges you face that every character you play will teach you something new or force you to attempt a novel strategy. The game doesn’t pull punches or hold your hand, it doesn’t lay breadcrumbs to the goal or put a big, flashing X on the enemy’s weak point. If you want to live, you have to earn it.

    For those that don’t want trial-and-error, there is always Story Mode.

    UnderstandMouseMagicGrond0Dordledumredline
  • DordledumDordledum Member Posts: 184
    Tomb of Horrors rulez! I DMed the 3.x adaptation once, awesome memories.

  • ThacoBellThacoBell Member Posts: 7,841

    ThacoBell said:

    redline said:

    ThacoBell said:

    In all of these instances, it was still possible to retreat. If one of your frontliners goes down super fast, its an obvious indication that you are not prepared for the fight. Run away, and come back invisible or stealthed to retrieve your companion's body and equipment. When you come back, you know to expect something dangerous.

    One could argue this is still a form of trial and error. Reloading and retreating/healing/prebuffing are pretty similar in terms of the player experience - maybe you have the bonus satisfaction of never having seen the Game Over screen but you still had to take a beating before you could have any idea how to succeed.
    That's called learning. Trial and error wouldn't be affected by gained knowledge. Predicting coin flips or dice rolls is trial and error. Learnign how to flip a coin is learning.

    Predicting coin flips is definitely not "trial and error" as each flip is independent of previous flips.
    The phrase uses "trial" not "guess".

    I suppose one could stretch the "learning by trial and error" to coin flips if you previously believed, before any flips, that were more than two outcomes.
    Its trial and error, because which side the coin lands on is always random. No knowledge will help you predict an untampered coin flip. That is trial and error. Baldur's Gate is a learning process. Knowledge that you learn, will help you be more prepared for future encounters.

    subtledoctor
  • DordledumDordledum Member Posts: 184
    The definition of the term trial and error is a learning process. They are not opposites!

    I have to agree with mouseguy here.

    UnderstandMouseMagic
  • SimulacreSimulacre Member Posts: 102
    edited October 2018
    I'm quite disturbed by the fact that difficulty settings are barely mentioned in this thread. What gives ?

    The gap between the lowest and the highest difficulty setting is huge. While I can accept that a certain trial-and-error is necessary to beat the toughest settings, I really don't see it for those who play on Easy.

    Now, whether we work on the assumption that it's totally normal for a beginner to pick LoB or Insane on his first try - that's crazy imo - or we judge the game based on its lowest difficulty setting which exists for beginners.

    On Easy, there's no real strategy to have. Some people might get confused because they've gotten so used to Insane or even Core Rules that they forgot how tolerant the game is on Easy.

    As a reminder of what Easy mode does :
    - +6 to luck.
    - Fewer enemies.
    - Poor use of their spells and items.
    - Only 50% of normal damage dealt.
    - You can't get permakilled.
    - You get max HP.

    This means one thing : Spells aside, you'll simply breeze through combat in BG1. Use bows, one tank, and you're good for almost the entire game. Yes folks, it's as simple as that combat-wise.

    Anything else isn't trial and error, it's just getting invested. Everything that's been mentioned so far can be avoided if the player tries hard.

    Knowing what enemy to attack or avoid in first levels is shown by Obe's training, knowing the supremacy or archers in the game is shown by Obe's training, using Imoen to cover the map and spot the enemy while invisible is common sense, placing yourself between your companions so they protect you from assassins is common sense, learning how potent spells can be and what they do is learned through the manual or the in-game descriptions and so on. Maybe we'll find some weird ways to die here and there - like Shoal the Nereid's kiss of death - but it's like one in a million. You can't use that to qualify the whole game as "trial-and-error".

    Now that EE is out, it's easier than ever with Story Mode. Really, what else do you need ?

    I really don't see how Baldur's Gate could have been intended as a trial-and-error game since it constantly gives you plenty of ways to go around enemies and escape from painful challenges. That's not trial-and-error, that's "think first before you start doing some nonsense".

    I'll just say it again, because I think it's the main problem : players are more often than not... lazy. How many times did I introduce the game to someone and saw him charge that famous wolf on the first map only to die a few rounds later. Here's how it usually goes :

    - Hey, your game killed me like two minutes after Candlekeep !
    - What difficulty did you pick ?
    - I took Core Rules, that sounded balanced.
    - Core "RULES" means you've taken time to read the aforementioned rules first.. right ?
    - Oh, yeah.. sure !
    - And yet I have a feeling that you didn't read the manual before playing.
    - Oh, come on.. People don't read manuals before playing these days.
    - So you talked to all the tutors ?
    - To who ?
    - The guys in green robes...
    - Oooh... right.. Well, I did speak to the first one.
    - And ?
    - Then I forgot to talk to the others.. Was it that important ?
    - What do you think they're there for ?
    - But I did do that very strict rules guy's training !
    - Did you ? So what monsters did you fight in Obe's training ?
    - I played a little but it was kinda boring so I decided to stop. Couldn't have been very long anyway.
    - What if there was some really interesting stuff to learn ?
    - I don't know man.. I just wanted to get into the action.
    - That training was all about action.
    - Yeah, right.. but it didn't feel like it was leading me somewhere. It's just an illusion, no rewards and all. I wanted something real, pure action.
    - Well, that's what you eventually got. You're dead now too. Not going to get any more action than that, huh ?
    - That wolf was on my way..
    - So you're saying that it couldn't have been avoided ?
    - Of course not.
    - What about stealth ?
    - I'm not a thief.
    - But Imoen is.
    - I suppose that's true. I didn't really pay attention to that. But, man, are you saying that I should have used her from the first very second to start scouting ? That's tedious.. The game should give me a break !
    - More importantly, that's a good way of not dying.
    - Yeah but not being able to kill a single wolf is unfair. You should be able to if you wanted to.
    - Well, you can.
    - I just got shred.
    - Sigh.. How did you handle it ?
    - I charged him. What was I supposed to do ?
    - Did you weaken him first with arrows ?
    - Well.. no, I went out to him with my sword, you know.
    - Arrows are much more effective than swords at first, and bows should be used before melee. If anything, you should run to avoid sword fights as much as possible.
    - How am I supposed to know that, lol ?
    - If you had paid attention to Obe's training you might have noticed that bows are kings in this game.

    And the dialogue goes on.. you get my drift.

    That, my friends, is the real issue behind those numerous first-run deaths. Not the game being unfair, no the "trial-and-error" stuff, just wanting to get into the action before and without thinking first.

    I've tested it, over and over, and it's as repetitive in new players - especially the youngest ones - as it can get.

    Grond0Gusinda
  • ThacoBellThacoBell Member Posts: 7,841
    Dordledum said:

    The definition of the term trial and error is a learning process. They are not opposites!

    I have to agree with mouseguy here.

    If tial and error, and learning are the same thing, why would people complain about it? "Oh no, this game requires you to learn and improve your knowledge of the mechanics!" That's not the impression I'm getting from peple in thread complaining about "Trial and error" gameplay.

    Simulacre
  • redlineredline Member Posts: 274
    ThacoBell said:

    Dordledum said:

    The definition of the term trial and error is a learning process. They are not opposites!

    I have to agree with mouseguy here.

    If tial and error, and learning are the same thing, why would people complain about it? "Oh no, this game requires you to learn and improve your knowledge of the mechanics!" That's not the impression I'm getting from peple in thread complaining about "Trial and error" gameplay.
    Because finally winning because you've gained knowledge of the mechanics is one thing, and winning simply because you've gained knowledge of exactly when and how to prepare for specific enemies/hazards/locations is another. The former is empowering; the latter just feels arbitrary. I characterize BG as trial and error because it leans on the latter. Certainly not all the time, maybe not even the majority of the time, but enough to be frustrating if one doesn't care for that style of game design, which seemed to be the motivation behind the OP.

    I agree wholeheartedly with @The_Cheeseman that this is consistent with old-school D&D, where there were a LOT of monsters that seemed to exist solely to screw the player.

    Grond0Permidion_StarkDordledum
  • DordledumDordledum Member Posts: 184
    ThacoBell said:

    Dordledum said:

    The definition of the term trial and error is a learning process. They are not opposites!

    I have to agree with mouseguy here.

    If tial and error, and learning are the same thing, why would people complain about it? "Oh no, this game requires you to learn and improve your knowledge of the mechanics!" That's not the impression I'm getting from peple in thread complaining about "Trial and error" gameplay.
    The complaints seem to be focused IMHO not on knowledge of the mechanics, but on knowledge of the encounters ahead. Which still amounts to a form of learning by trial and error.

  • SimulacreSimulacre Member Posts: 102
    edited October 2018
    redline said:

    ThacoBell said:

    Dordledum said:

    The definition of the term trial and error is a learning process. They are not opposites!

    I have to agree with mouseguy here.

    If tial and error, and learning are the same thing, why would people complain about it? "Oh no, this game requires you to learn and improve your knowledge of the mechanics!" That's not the impression I'm getting from peple in thread complaining about "Trial and error" gameplay.
    Because finally winning because you've gained knowledge of the mechanics is one thing, and winning simply because you've gained knowledge of exactly when and how to prepare for specific enemies/hazards/locations is another. The former is empowering; the latter just feels arbitrary. I characterize BG as trial and error because it leans on the latter. Certainly not all the time, maybe not even the majority of the time, but enough to be frustrating if one doesn't care for that style of game design, which seemed to be the motivation behind the OP.

    I agree wholeheartedly with @The_Cheeseman that this is consistent with old-school D&D, where there were a LOT of monsters that seemed to exist solely to screw the player.
    ThacoBell is right, the complaint is focused on arbitrary challenges, not the process of learning in itself.

    If you admit that it's not arbitrary the majority of the time then why are you saying that the game leans on arbitrary challenges ? That's two contradictory statements.

    It feels like you were frustrated with some of the challenges the game threw at you so you decided to label the game arbitrary without questioning yourself. I can understand frustration because Baldur's Gate is a DEMANDING game - not difficult, but it requires some effort - and yet it's not a reason to make a fuss over nothing.

    The vast majority of challenges require thinking, preparation, attention and that's it. I suppose we could find a few exceptions but it's barely worth mentioning.

    I'll give you my first death in BG1 : Shoal's kiss of death. I wasn't really paying attention since I wasn't exploring or fighting and I just ended up accepting the kiss. I was like "hey, why not, it's just a dialogue !".

    I got surprised when I saw the game-over cinematic for the first time and I could have been upset about it since it was an out-of-the-ordinary and treacherous death, but I wasn't.

    I just thought about it and accepted that what I did was stupid. Kissing a complete stranger that I had met two minutes ago and that didn't seem really human, what was I thinking ? Truth is, I wasn't thinking and that's what got me killed. Lack of attention was my problem, not the game's fault. Just me.

    If you don't have this kind of mindset then I understand you absolutely want to call Baldur's Gate "trial and error".

    ThacoBell
  • SimulacreSimulacre Member Posts: 102
    edited October 2018

    Simulacre said:

    I'll give you my first death in BG1 : Shoal's kiss of death. I wasn't really paying attention since I wasn't exploring or fighting and I just ended up accepting the kiss. I was like "hey, why not, it's just a dialogue !".

    I got surprised when I saw the game-over cinematic for the first time and I could have been upset about it since it was an out-of-the-ordinary and treacherous death, but I wasn't.

    I just thought about it and accepted that what I did was stupid. Kissing a complete stranger that I had met two minutes ago and that didn't seem really human, what was I thinking ? Truth is, I wasn't thinking and that's what got me killed. Lack of attention was my problem, not the game's fault. Just me.

    If you don't have this kind of mindset then I understand you absolutely want to call Baldur's Gate "trial and error".

    I don't think that is a very good example to support your argument. In BG1 there was no way to protect yourself from Shoal and tactics that would work against other dryad-type creatures (such as using the Greenstone Amulet) were useless in this encounter. If you spoke to Shoal you died no matter what dialogue choices you made. I remember trying all the dialogue options and dying every time before I realised the only way to survive was to have someone other than the CHARNAME speak to her first. If that isn't trial and error I don't know what is.
    Actually, you're right ! I just checked it and did a little bit of research.. it's a TERRIBLE example, possibly the worst of all !

    I got confused with the latest modifications that have been given to this quest - I hadn't realized this was changed - and the fact that I only talked to her twice, the first one being like 15 years ago on my first playthrough and recently because I wanted to talk to her again after all this time. For some reason I remembered that there was always a specific dialogue to barely escape from her kiss - if you refuse to kiss her - and the other one where you would just dive in your grave.. guess I was wrong, although that made sense.

    After my first playthough, I simply shot her on sight because I assumed she was a reference to the Greek mythology and how sirens can be evil and dangerous creatures. Although it does make sense to refuse talking to her, it's far-fetched to say players should know about mythology and shoot a neutral character asap. Not to mention that it's entirely possible for a video game to present an evil character that has some redeeming qualities. It happens with Vic for instance. So, no, since there wasn't a dialogue option to prevent certain death with the protagonist, this time I agree this was not about paying attention or playing realistically. This was poorly implemented, unfair and unjustified.

    I've unwillingly unraveled one of the very few things that WERE trial and error.. how ironic !

    Post edited by Simulacre on
    DordledumPermidion_StarkThacoBell
  • Permidion_StarkPermidion_Stark Member Posts: 4,041
    Even now it has been changed with the 2.5 patch, which has greatly improved the encounter, I have so much residual distrust of it that even when I am soloing I cheat and pick up a character to take along to talk to her first. (I generally use Rasaad as my fall guy; for some reason it amuses me to make the moralising monk say: "Far be it from me to turn down a kiss from a comely lass.")

    Grond0
  • redlineredline Member Posts: 274
    edited October 2018
    Simulacre said:

    .
    If you admit that it's not arbitrary the majority of the time then why are you saying that the game leans on arbitrary challenges ? That's two contradictory statements.

    All encounters are not equal in importance. A player isn't going to remember the thousands of kobolds they mowed down when they think of their experience with the game, but the random basilisk or surrounded-by-bandits-at-level-1 encounter might stick in their mind. Or the duchal palace ambush, or the un-missable (and un-dispellable, in the original game) stinking cloud in the final battle.

    I've been playing BG for 20 years. It's my favorite game of all time. But I think it's easy to point out places where the game design feels a bit dated, and challenges player memory more than skill.
    Some of those places are significant, unavoidable cases of pure trial-and-error, which is why I say the game leans on that concept. It's all the more noticeable in contrast to BG2, which (certain inn-dwelling liches and WK demiliches aside) is far less prone to those types of encounters.

  • SimulacreSimulacre Member Posts: 102
    edited October 2018
    redline said:

    Simulacre said:

    .
    If you admit that it's not arbitrary the majority of the time then why are you saying that the game leans on arbitrary challenges ? That's two contradictory statements.

    All encounters are not equal in importance. A player isn't going to remember the thousands of kobolds they mowed down when they think of their experience with the game, but the random basilisk or surrounded-by-bandits-at-level-1 encounter might stick in their mind. Or the duchal palace ambush, or the un-missable (and un-dispellable, in the original game) stinking cloud in the final battle.

    I've been playing BG for 20 years. It's my favorite game of all time. But I think it's easy to point out places where the game design feels a bit dated, and challenges player memory more than skill.
    Some of those places are significant, unavoidable cases of pure trial-and-error, which is why I say the game leans on that concept. It's all the more noticeable in contrast to BG2, which (certain inn-dwelling liches and WK demiliches aside) is far less prone to those types of encounters.
    Just because some players are biased and will only remember the toughest moments doesn't mean the game should be labeled "trial and error". Remembered or not, kobolds encounters are still there.

    At some point, someone has to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's. Those encounters are scarce, and whether they truly are "trial and error" is up for debate.

    It never removes the fact that the vast majority of the game is playable without arbitrary factors screwing your game experience. Investment and thinking will allow you to go around almost all of them.

    If any game with a few arbitrary elements here and there should be labelled "trial and error", then the debate should move on to "what game ISN'T trial and error" ?

    Video games - made by professionals - are not meant to be perfect pieces of art. They're constrained by deadlines, budget control, marketing and so on. To expect flawlessness isn't reasonable. Labels like "trial and error" should only be attributed to those games who cross the line of being OVERLY and REPEATEDLY trial and error or whatever that label was.

    ThacoBellDordledum
  • redlineredline Member Posts: 274
    Simulacre said:


    If any game with a few arbitrary elements here and there should be labelled "trial and error", then the debate should move on to "what game ISN'T trial and error" ?

    As I mentioned in a previous post, it's a sliding scale, not a definitive is-or-isn't. And I just pointed to BG2 as being an example of a game that is significantly different in that regard.

  • WatchForWolvesWatchForWolves Member Posts: 156
    edited October 2018
    redline said:

    All encounters are not equal in importance. A player isn't going to remember the thousands of kobolds they mowed down when they think of their experience with the game, but the random basilisk or surrounded-by-bandits-at-level-1 encounter might stick in their mind. Or the duchal palace ambush, or the un-missable (and un-dispellable, in the original game) stinking cloud in the final battle.

    That's good. Balance is death of immersion. Kick the player's ass every once in a while to knock him off his pedestal and keep up the illusion he's just another person in the virtual world, not the center of it.

    What a weird thread. Three pages of discussion about "trial and error" in a videogame that lets you freely save and load almost whenever, in a genre where difficulty literally always boils down to random chance.

    Skatan
  • dunbardunbar Member Posts: 1,358
    edited October 2018
    When critiquing BG I think it's important to remember that D&D computer games are 'the film of the book' as it were (and therefore not necessarily a perfect adaptation of the original work).
    D&D rules weren't written for computer games, they were written well before personal computers were even developed, and they included an essential element that can't be replicated on a computer - the Dungeon Master.
    Whilst DM's could vary in personality from the benevolent to the malevolent their main job remained the same - to keep the game running smoothly, which often involved a somewhat loose interpretation of the rules, which is something that a computer programme simply can't handle and therefore leads to a more iterative process.

    Permidion_StarkThe_Cheeseman
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