Random gaming thoughts and questions

Think of this like a gaming version of the random thoughts thread, for those random gaming issues that might not deserve their own thread.

The main thing that prompted me to create this thread today is my growing dislike of in-game store merchants. More and more I find myself dissatisfied with their inclusion, and the gameplay loops they encourage. Some of the biggest offenders to me are those merchants that sell absolutely nothing you would ever buy. They’ve got pages of utter junk that players will never have an actual use for. I mean, sure, technically those weapons might have stats on them, but they’re still only half as good as the generic loot you could get from level 1 spiderlings in that very first infested basement quest you tripped and fell into the moment you talked to that NPC running the tavern.

In some games the entire player economy all comes down to forcing players to frequently stop adventuring while they make a loot run back to town. Then they have to spend the next 5-30 minutes running place to place restocking supplies and emptying their bags. And because the game’s economy might be balanced around players regularly making these sorts of runs in order to have enough money to go and buy these supplies or upgrades, a player must continuously and actively take part in this repetitive loop of kill, loot, teleport, sell, teleport back, rinse repeat. And limited bag space is a huge contributor to my dislike of these types of requirements, as it only increases the frequency with which I must return. But most of the time I’m just not ready to return, because I’m having fun, damnit. Screw town!

Even worse are those horrible games that have merchants that won’t simply buy all the junk I bring in. Oh no, because that would be too easy. So the weapon guy only buys weapons. The armor guy only buys armor. And the butcher guy only buys human cadavers (yea, I don’t get that one either). And even worse from here is when they each have extremely limited gold on their persons, forcing me to teleport and run around trying to find some jerk that has enough gold on his person to pay me for all the damn yeti snouts I busted my ass collecting.

Why, oh, why must they do this to me? Cant they just balance the economy around my adventures, instead of forcing me to balance my adventures around the economy?

I understand that a lot of these issues are put into games for ‘flavor.’ Those games that load me up with hundreds of useless spoons, buckles, candlesticks and such that can all be sold by slamming a big fat “SELL JUNK” button in the store? All horrible. If this shit is all junk, why even itemize it? I hate picking up a bunch of crap I later find out has no use at all, and is worth a whole lot of 0.0 at the damn merchant. GAH. The only flavor this adds is regret.

And don’t even get me started on those games where, I, the heroic-yet-ill-equipped protagonist who has been commanded by the King himself to go out and save the world, is stuck haggling with a stupid poop farmer over the price of rusty weapons.

My favorite new merchants are the ones that aren’t really merchants at all, but glorified skill trees. The player goes and kills shit, goes back to town, and doesn’t have one damn thing to trade or sell because every single thing they killed just gives them some sort of intangible monetary unit. Then they take this unit to the ‘merchant’ and go train in some new weapon class or eating style. My only complaint here is that I’d rather just have an experience bar and skill tree, so as to cut out the oft-sagely middle-man.

All that being said, I don’t hate all merchants. I was always fond of Wirt in the original Diablo game because he would give me a peek at some of the huge and fantastic items that I could look forward to as I progressed through the game. And though I could never seem to get enough money to buy any of his crap when it was actually relevant to me, I did manage to somehow grow tolerant of his greedy opportunism.

But aside from a few instances where mercantilism didn’t just get in my way all game, I could totally do without most of this stuff.

In a way, I kind of agree. In game merchants suck, for the most part. Your character / party ends up with huge quantities of gold because there is nothing to spend it on. In fallout 4, they tried to fix this, by simply making the sale price of anything ridiculously low, and the buy price ridiculously high. Still, you ultimately end up 1000s of caps because there is nothing worth buying.

My solution to this is to simply have an algorithm that would examine the character’s gear and make sure the merchant always had a few things better and a few odd ball items that would be valued slightly above the players gear value.

This does mean that whatever game will have to have a procedural loot generator, which oddly enough doesn’t seem to be a standard thing in games.

Another option is to have a super useful consumable, that is also super expensive. There is a mod in skyrim which gives the alchemist lady in whiterun a perk point potion for like 50k gold. You will never have too much gold again.

I’m currently deep into KCD and this thread speaks to me on a level you can’t even imagine lol.

Stone Soup (a modern true roguelike) got around this problem by having absolutely no way of selling anything. Just don’t pick up any loot you find unless you’re going to use it.

The prices at in-game merchants are then balanced around the small sums of money you can find lying on the floor of the dungeon.

It’s pretty liberating in some ways.

Diablo 1 had a spell to turn shit on the ground to gold. I think made a lot of sense and I don’t understand why more hack&slash games don’t have this spell.

In action RPGs like Diablo the reason for the inventory limit is because going back to town is the only time most players actually look at the items they’ve picked up. Otherwise they’d continue through the game until they completed the whole area or started dying, then would have to filter through ten pages of stuff looking for the three items that actually improve their character, which would feel tedious and make people quit. The get loot -> read about loot -> sell/equip loot -> repeat needs to cycle at a frequent enough rate to keep engagement.

In many other RPGs it’s mostly a combination of developers thinking it’s more “realistic” while not thinking it through gameplay wise. There’s nothing gained from Bethesda RPGs having an inventory limit, for example. You walk to the exit to the cave, you fast travel to town, you sell everything, you fast travel back to the cave, which hasn’t changed at all and still has all its loot waiting. It doesn’t have the Diablo thing because loot is too simple and anyway the amount of time from entry to exit is indeterminate because of the factor being item weights. It’s completely pointless. Now, if thieves could strip the cave, evil cultists flee, etc while you were out selling stuff, it’d be different.

Just curious what game or games prompted these latest thoughts. Are you playing Kingdom Come: Deliverance, like Bateau?

Different experiences in different games.

I haven’t played KCD, but there are a variety of other titles like Bethesda & EA RPGs, the entire Witcher series, Neir Automata, vendors in RAGE, the Metro series with its military grade ammo currency, Dark Souls, a multitude of MMOs that have now decided to introduce a brand new currency every damn expansion that only works on certain vendors (or like the Neverwinter MMO that had something like 3-4 currencies right out the gate!); but MMOs are their own thing so I don’t like comparing them to other genres too much.

I mean hell, I hated the cluttered store in LoL so much I just stopped playing. Thankfully Heroes of the Storm addressed that problem. But, like MMOs, I wasn’t really talking about DotA clones when airing my grievances.

Inventory and vendor mechanics can make or break certain RPGs and ARPGs for me, but I’ve come to expect them in pretty much all of these titles. But, man, when it’s done in the most annoying way possible I just don’t see the benefit. Plus these sorts of things are starting to creep into shooters and other things. I just don’t like the systems. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve always felt that these types of gameplay loops were distractions in anything that wasn’t just a Diablo clone. And even those often manage to fall short, even though I do understand the developers reasoning for wanting to put these sorts of systems in place in these types of games.

Related to these thoughts on minimizing the time spent going to town, I think the console version of Diablo 3 is best-in-class in this regard. Everything you pick up is automatically sorted into its own bucket. Pants are all together, chest armor is all in one tab, all swords are in the same tab, all hammers in the same tab, all shoes in the same tab together, etc. And whatever you picked up that’s new is clearly marked both in that the tab is clearly marked and then within the bucket, the item that’s new is clearly marked. If you want to sell the item when you get to town, you can mark each item as junk. Then when you get to town, you can walk to any vendor and sell junk. Or you can walk to the blacksmith, and convert all the junk into ingredients.

I still think the ARPG The Bard’s Tale (not to be confused with the old ‘80s dungeon crawlers) did this best - all loot was immediately converted to cash when you touched it. You would occasionally find incrementally better weapons but mostly stuff is junk, you don’t need it. How about the cash equivalent?

Worldness vs. gameness. Depends on genre & context.

Itemizing stuff without a direct value to the story or character advancement is silly in a Diablo type game, but in Ultima VI it worked fine because there was no expectation that everything in the world existed for you or had to be useful to you. In fact, the absence of that expectation was itself a design feature.

Wait, you mean the 17 buckets and piles of stolen silverware I’ve been carting around in Skyrim don’t have a use later??

You can build silverware golems.


Don’t get rid of them. They’re all essential to the final boss battle, but I won’t tell you how.

There have been a few games I’ve picked up only because I wanted to play the DLC/Expansions while having no interest in the base games themselves. Forza Horizon 3 was one such game. After playing Forza 2 and 5 (which both came as console pack-ins), I just had no more interest in the Forza series. Tuning the cars was always a pain in the ass for me, and the entire exercise seemed more like trying to get the damn cars barely drivable moreso than actually tuning them to peak performance. I just sucked at that whole thing.

But then when that Hot Wheels expansion for FH3 came out I just couldn’t pass it up, because those tracks and gameplay just looked awesome, so I grabbed it… and boy did that pay off. Turns out I love Horizons a whole lot more than the standard racing series.

Another game is one I picked up on sale today , and another example of a highly praised title that just looked terribly uninteresting to me, but when I read the description of the DLC then I knew I JUST HAD TO HAVE IT. Today’s game is Prey, and the DLC is Mooncrash. The reviews for the DLC seriously piqued my interest, especially with the roguelike elements. Today’s Xbox sale sealed the deal. I’m hoping the game pays off as well for me as others have experienced. It did make quite a few GotY lists last year.

It’s not often that dlc will be the deciding factor for me, but I do tend to enjoy it when it promises to take certain games in new directions. Tiny Tina’s D&D dlc for borderlands 2 is another good example of that.

THQ Nordic keeps snapping up all these older properties…I wonder if someday they’d snap up the Kohan IP and make a new game in that amazing series. Man, I love THQ Nordic already, but they’d have my undying love at that point.

When Gordon Freeman presses ‘E’ and the security guard says ‘Catch me later, I’ll buy you a beer,’ are we to imagine that Freeman says some dialogue we don’t hear, or is he just staring balefully at Barney?

I’ve been having the same thought about the silent protagonist in Dragon Quest 11. Did he just leave behind the adorable blonde townie girl so obviously in love with him who literally just rushed from her house where she’s been crying all day long to give him a cherished trinket to remember her by… Without saying literally anything???

Yeah, the whole silent protagonist trope has always rubbed me the wrong way. It’s even worse when all the NPCs respond by rephrasing what the protagonist would have said if he were a functional human being – it’s like you’re playing Lassie or something.

I kind of get it when the protagonist is a create-your-character blank slate, but it’s mostly used for characters that have a clear personality and visual style to them, and that supposedly form relationships with other characters in the plot.

Man, there’s a great spoof video to be made if someone had the time, the interest, and a time machine to go back to 1999 when there was no Youtube for people to see it on.

“What’s that, Freeman? You’re saying the experiment opened up a rift in space-time through which thousands of hideous aliens are invading earth and swarming across Black Mesa? You’re saying the whole thing seems to be orchestrated by a mysterious guy in a suit who resembles the Cigarette Smoking Man from X-Files? Is that what you’re saying? Oh, never mind. Billy’s just in the well again.”

Incidentally, I think the concept worked well in HL1 because the idea of having all actions take place through your character’s POV (as opposed to cutscenes) was so effective, and you could argue that giving Gordon some actor’s voice might reduce the player’s identification with him. Still, it’s a funny conceit.