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Old 05-21-2006, 07:01 PM   #1
Liquidize105
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[Impression] Gothic 3

Date: Thursday, May 11th
Time: 10:35AM
Weather: Just fine in Aspyr's closet of a booth



Gothic 3 is probably the game I'm most excited to see at E3, before E3. Of course, with these trade shows there's really no knowing what you'd walk away with.

The Gothic 3 demo at E3 is a very tentative look at what the final game promises to fulfill. It's a demo in every sense of the word, meaning it's not a game yet. The player character, Nameless Hero, is still work in progress, hence a burlier placeholder model. The menu and interface are placefolders. The PR screenshots released prior to E3, I've learned, feature the same placefolder assets.

So what's NOT placefolder?

The controls have been overhauled. The default controls no longer have you hold down on the left mouse button and attack with WASD. The left mouse button does the left-hand attack, and the right mouse button the right. Rune magic makes a return and it's simpler than ever to use - just left click or left hold. Gothic faithful need not worry though, the original control scheme is available as an option.

The graphic engine is new too. Since Gothic and Gothic 2 both use the same graphic engine, there's an understandable departure from the traditional Gothic look and feel. I've been assured that once the game is in playable form, this issue would resolve itself. Aside from that, the game itself is colorful, though much of the character animations are still brewing down in Germany.

The issue of balance comes up: Gothic games are notorious for a difficult early game and a pushover end game - as with all freeform RPGs. Oblivion's solution to this problem has been controversial, and regretably, Gothic 3 plans to adopt similar means of balance. The placement of the creatures are static, but their attributes scale to the individual character slates. As for the all-important "how" or how they plan to scale to the player character remains to be seen.

Gothic has a reputation as games for hardcore roleplaying fans. The choices are prone to unknown consequences, they're final, and they elicit visible reactions from the gameworld minutes or hours down the line. NPCs are not keen on easily forgiving player transgressions - they remember forever! Also, quest givers are powerful, but still very much flesh and blood; killing one would result in being hunted down or shunned by other NPCs, but the dead stays dead.

Another important factor in setting Gothic apart from every other RPG, let alone freeform RPGs, is that it's from Europe. The names developers over there come up with are just that much more interesting and authentic than what the North American Tolkienian copycats would think of (Start with the letter A, end with S, fill in the middle and we got ourselves a name for a fantasy world!). Serpentus, Fajith, names you wouldn't know how to properly pronounce lend a strange sense of tangibility to the atmosphere and lore of the game.

It's easy to see that many questions go on unanswered by the E3 demo, things that we'd all like to see carried over from previous Gothic games. I plan to do a follow up to the E3 demo with an interview soon.



CRITICAL UPDATE: CLICK HERE



Story: NA

Graphics: 5

Animation: NA

Music: NA

Sound Effect: NA

Interface and Menu: NA
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Old 05-21-2006, 07:01 PM   #2
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Controls: 4

Replayability: 5

Creativity/Originality: 4

Fun Factor: NA

Difficulty: NA




Final Tally: NA
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Old 05-21-2006, 07:09 PM   #3
Sazime
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I have to say scaling things did little for difficulty in Oblivion for me. Once I got past the lvl 17 plataeu, things became easy to kill again. I hope Gothic will at least keep it level.
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Old 05-21-2006, 07:13 PM   #4
Mason
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Good take, I hadn't heard G3 had adopted enemy scaling. It works okay in Oblivion with some tweaking mods. The problem isn't the concept, just Bethesda's default implementation had weird implications.

That said, I see no reason a massively non-linear game couldn't still have regional static difficulty. Or at least wrap up the scaling into the narrative. Once you reach a certain strength, say, some horrible fish-men could invade a region and wipe out the puny bandits who used to live there, and the game could introduce new content related to that change. It wouldn't be such an awful system if it was expressed with a narrative component (the world falling apart, humanity being beset by increasingly challenging forces) rather than simply having rats evolve to near immortal status.
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Old 05-21-2006, 09:21 PM   #5
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Quote:
That said, I see no reason a massively non-linear game couldn't still have regional static difficulty. Or at least wrap up the scaling into the narrative. Once you reach a certain strength, say, some horrible fish-men could invade a region and wipe out the puny bandits who used to live there, and the game could introduce new content related to that change. It wouldn't be such an awful system if it was expressed with a narrative component (the world falling apart, humanity being beset by increasingly challenging forces) rather than simply having rats evolve to near immortal status.
Very good point. I'll be interested to see how this turns out in G3.
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Old 05-21-2006, 09:49 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mason
Good take, I hadn't heard G3 had adopted enemy scaling. It works okay in Oblivion with some tweaking mods. The problem isn't the concept, just Bethesda's default implementation had weird implications.

That said, I see no reason a massively non-linear game couldn't still have regional static difficulty. Or at least wrap up the scaling into the narrative. Once you reach a certain strength, say, some horrible fish-men could invade a region and wipe out the puny bandits who used to live there, and the game could introduce new content related to that change. It wouldn't be such an awful system if it was expressed with a narrative component (the world falling apart, humanity being beset by increasingly challenging forces) rather than simply having rats evolve to near immortal status.
QFT

The basic idea in Oblivion was innovative, and almost on the so obvious it's brilliant side. It's just story they didn't put there. I almost wondered that there wasn't a "investigate bandit improvements" quest. Could've easily been raiding castles destroyed by the Daedric army, or something simple like that too explain the rapid improvements.
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Old 05-21-2006, 10:02 PM   #7
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In Oblivion I would have been fine with the improvements, if they were logical as well. Such as bandits using Daedric weapons summoned by the Mythic Dawn or something relating to the destruction of the barrier between the world and Oblivion. Instead every bandit has a Dragon Bow and Elven Mithral armor.

I also like the idea of having diffrent regions scaled to diffrent difficulties and some regions capping out early. As goblins should be a pushover no matter what and Giants should be instant death until your a high level, even then they should be difficult.
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Old 05-21-2006, 10:43 PM   #8
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Probably my main beef with the scaled enemies in Oblivion was that you'd stop seeing certain monsters, and that all of a sudden everyone was wearing Daedric Armor or Glass after being in Leather and junk a few hours before. If they just change the attributes in Gothic 3, maybe give them some special attacks, then I think I'd be okay with it.
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Old 05-21-2006, 11:06 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Deadend
In Oblivion I would have been fine with the improvements, if they were logical as well. Such as bandits using Daedric weapons summoned by the Mythic Dawn or something relating to the destruction of the barrier between the world and Oblivion. Instead every bandit has a Dragon Bow and Elven Mithral armor.

I also like the idea of having diffrent regions scaled to diffrent difficulties and some regions capping out early. As goblins should be a pushover no matter what and Giants should be instant death until your a high level, even then they should be difficult.
Yes, and I think that overall this is an area (one of the few) where CRPGs could use some cross-pollination from JRPGs. The quality JRPGs tend to expand the relevant game mechanics, such that at high levels both enemies and players have whole new categories of offense and defense. CRPGs do this to some degree, but not as consistently, and thus stick too much to simple numeric inflation.

This is why games like Oblivion or G3 get stuck between a rock and a hard place. If enemies keep pace with you, since combat feels pretty much the same at level 50 as it did at level 5 (block-counter or shoot-while-running-backwards), it doesn't feel at all like you're getting stronger. If enemies don't keep pace, you just smush them like bugs with your huge numeric advantage, making the specifics of character growth meaningless.

Neither approach is as fun as introducing new mechanics for both sides, and continually challenging the player to adapt to the new systems, rather than simply pick a min-max path and stick to it for 50 levels.
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Old 05-21-2006, 11:55 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sazime
I have to say scaling things did little for difficulty in Oblivion for me. Once I got past the lvl 17 plataeu, things became easy to kill again. I hope Gothic will at least keep it level.
Sazime, just curious. Did you play with the difficulty slider all the way to the right (most difficult)? You may have, I'm just asking.

Scaling can be annoying if you're not challenged. Setting it to a suitable challenge, can make the scaling acceptable, for me at least. I just have to find the balance. I prefer very challenging, although if I get stuck for an hour or so, I usually drop it down a notch to move on...
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Old 05-22-2006, 12:57 AM   #11
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You can't really compare the difficulty in Oblivion between 2 players unless they both played excatly the same character type.

Levelling is very much dependant on your primary skills raising. If some of your primary skills are non-combat and you increase those, then you level up, creatures get harder, but you have not raised the battle skills to beat them. Everyone will experience the difficulty different.

I agree the solution was a little flawed in Oblivion, but it's where games are headed I think. With polish and care it could work alright. I loved the Elite Orc in the Gothic2 newbie forest - it ripped my arm off in 1 hit! When I finally killed it, it was a sweet victory and a sense of accomplishment. You don't have that in Oblivion I'm sad to say. Looking forward to some mod to fix it.

edit: thx for the write-up! I'm also looking forward to this little german masterpiece (hopefully).
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Old 05-22-2006, 01:07 AM   #12
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I agree with many ideas here like regional based difficlutly areas, actually which is what Gothic tried to do to a certian extent, (i.e. the farther off the path you went the more dangerous), I find Oblivion's solution terrible and game breaking wihtout hacking it (i.e. modding).

You can really never challenge yourself with out of the box Oblvioin, so the game is broken.
Accomplishments have NO meaning or value to the gamer/customer, stumble in a cave of Vampires take on an Elder Vampire, of 5th level and get 15 gold and some iron armor.

I just know you guys willl be sending me PMs just to find out about this cave and it's location, right?

Gothic 2 even had the perfect base to do this with Dragon Island, they could have stacked the island with much much tougher creatures, but were forced to throw together something quick as development time was running out and JoWood apparently couldn't wait.

Lets hope Gothic 3 does NOT follow Oblivion's example of releasing 3/4 complete game and expecting the fans to fix it, cause Gothic 3 may not release Tools on inital shipping.
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Old 05-22-2006, 01:20 AM   #13
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Scaling difficulty = I'll pass.

I put up with it in Oblivion because .. It's Oblivion.
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Old 05-22-2006, 02:37 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Jack B
Sazime, just curious. Did you play with the difficulty slider all the way to the right (most difficult)? You may have, I'm just asking.

Scaling can be annoying if you're not challenged. Setting it to a suitable challenge, can make the scaling acceptable, for me at least. I just have to find the balance. I prefer very challenging, although if I get stuck for an hour or so, I usually drop it down a notch to move on...
Problem with Oblivion's scaling was that it primarily gave enemies more hitpoints. They didn't get fancy new attacks and abilities, they just took 5 times as many swings/arrows to kill. Block, swing, swing, block, backpedal, shoot, shoot, same as at earlier levels. If a Minotaur Lord had come out and stomped on the ground, cracking it and knocking me down, then summoned a hammer made of fire or something and proceeded to pummel me before charging/goring and slamming me into a wall... That would have been great. As it is, all the hitpoints in the world aren't going to make the enemy AI smarter, give it new abilities, or stop me from running into the same !@#$ing Gloom Wraith/Nether Lich/Top 3 Daedra that I'll be fighting from level 20 to through the rest of the game.
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Old 05-22-2006, 04:32 AM   #15
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My problem with Oblivion's scaling was not the difficulty (if you worked the system right it actually made it easier than Morrowind) but that it destroyed the incentive for exploration and hurt immersion a whole lot. That's not the only thing I disliked about the game, but it's definitely the main thing. If Gothic 3 can scale without going to extremes like Oblivion I'll be there, for sure.
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Old 05-22-2006, 05:44 AM   #16
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I really hope scaled difficulty is not the wave of the future.
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Old 05-22-2006, 08:09 AM   #17
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I don't know about you, but i'm doing the "lifting the vale/veil" quest in Oblivion, and I'm having a hard time killing those Pale Pass Ogres... I'm a Bosmer Archer, and I'm running out of arrows. So, when I got to the entrance of the Akaviri Fortress and found THREE OGRES, I ran all the way up the stairs and jumped to another battlement where they couldn't reach me, then summoned scamps till they were all dead. Pretty fun, pretty unique, and not possible at all in a JRPG.

BTW, Baldur's Gate 2 battles changed a lot throughout the game. Late game battles were a lot different and more complex than earlier ones. I loved combat in BG...
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Old 05-22-2006, 10:04 AM   #18
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Scalability does worry me as well. When I ran into the elite orc in Gothic 2, when I was around level 4 - and it killed me in one blow - I stayed away from that area for a while. It was such a feeling of accomplishment when I was able to fight him and win. I don't mind that there are areas that I can go and completely kick ass because I am higher level. Even the end game the first time was a challenge because I didn't level myself up all the way like I should have. But if they scale it up like they did in Oblivion, I will be highly disappointed. One thing about Piranha Byte though - they do know how to make things fun, and they will do it right, and so on the issue of scalability, I will have to wait and see.
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Old 05-22-2006, 10:09 AM   #19
Mason
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stormwatcher
I don't know about you, but i'm doing the "lifting the vale/veil" quest in Oblivion, and I'm having a hard time killing those Pale Pass Ogres... I'm a Bosmer Archer, and I'm running out of arrows. So, when I got to the entrance of the Akaviri Fortress and found THREE OGRES, I ran all the way up the stairs and jumped to another battlement where they couldn't reach me, then summoned scamps till they were all dead. Pretty fun, pretty unique, and not possible at all in a JRPG.

BTW, Baldur's Gate 2 battles changed a lot throughout the game. Late game battles were a lot different and more complex than earlier ones. I loved combat in BG...
If that's a response to me, then I'd say you kind of missed the point. There are zillions of ways to game the system in Oblivion, but that's not at all the same thing as continually challenging the player through deeper gameplay. You probably could've just summoned a scamp and run right past the ogres, a cheap tactic which works just as well at level 1 as it does at level 50.

D&D games tend to carry a heavy burden, but thankfully part of their onerous system are magic schools that increase in diversity as you level, and not just numeric power. That helps mix things up somewhat, but such a broadening of gameplay rarely seems like a first-order design goal for CRPGs.

Expanding both PC and NPC tactics really needs to be a CRPG design goal, is my argument, because there's no other effective way to represent the player growing more powerful. Adding and subtracting bigger numbers is just window dressing, and is at best meaningless (if they stay balanced) and at worst detrimental (if one side increases faster than the other).
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Old 05-22-2006, 10:59 AM   #20
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That is a fairly good point about Oblivion. Yes, the monsters scaled, but they didn't scale in any interesting ways.

What was interesting for me playing a primarily archer/thief type character was that humanoids actually got *easier* to kill, as I advanced in abilities much quicker than they did, while most monstrous humanoids got *harder* to kill as their abilities were almost always anti-archer (higher armor absorb---I'm guessing coupled with higher HP, higher speed, more knockback/stun attacks, etc.)

The last 20 levels of the game I played, very few humanoids(mages/necros/vampires/bandits) would survive long enough to attack me. The elite goblin warlords, though, were a nightmare. They run just as fast as me, attack faster, and take over 15 arrows to kill.
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