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Thread: Rolston's Reckoning Roundtable Revelations

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    is not declawed RPGamer Staff Ocelot's Avatar
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    Rolston's Reckoning Roundtable Revelations

    RPGamer had the opportunity to participate in a Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning roundtable Q&A this week. Read on to learn the answers to our demo-related questions, plus chatter about the game's development process, the Amalur setting, and gnomes. Yes, gnomes. They're adorable!

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    RPGamer Staff RPGamer Staff 7thCircle's Avatar
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    I don't envy designers who have to answer tough questions in realtime, knowing a variety of writers are listening and the internet could rage-explode over any little thing. Hearing Rolston vaguely assure everyone that passive upgrades are exciting would have been made me laugh. The way he dodged the voice work question and answered it from a project management perspective makes me think he hasn't actually heard much of it, or he has heard it and it sucks. I very rarely replay games and I prefer ones that let you do everything in one playthrough (although I think Reckoning takes it a bit too extreme in this regard), but it is interesting that "not replayable" sounds like a positive coming from them. Usually designers grasp at straws to reassure everyone their RPGs are replayable.
    The lesson here is that dreams inevitably lead to hideous implosions.

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    Ysy St. Administrator Macstorm's Avatar
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    Very good points, 7th. One thing I really have trouble with is why they feel the need to have Ken answering these questions, other than for he sheer entertainment value. He was not the lead designer on the game, so while he knows about the game, does he really have the best grasp on why these decisions were made.
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    is not declawed RPGamer Staff Ocelot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 7thCircle View Post
    I don't envy designers who have to answer tough questions in realtime, knowing a variety of writers are listening and the internet could rage-explode over any little thing. Hearing Rolston vaguely assure everyone that passive upgrades are exciting would have been made me laugh. The way he dodged the voice work question and answered it from a project management perspective makes me think he hasn't actually heard much of it, or he has heard it and it sucks. I very rarely replay games and I prefer ones that let you do everything in one playthrough (although I think Reckoning takes it a bit too extreme in this regard), but it is interesting that "not replayable" sounds like a positive coming from them. Usually designers grasp at straws to reassure everyone their RPGs are replayable.
    While Ken did the lion's share of the talking, there were actually a few other team members present at the roundtable. It was one of the sound folks who answered the sound question from a project management perspective. He also said a few things about working to remove uneven emotional situations (like a guard who greets you aggressively but then has a pleasant-sounding good-bye), but I glossed over that part a bit in my write-up. It was getting long.

    And yes, Mac, I like when Ian Frazier (the actual lead designer) is available for interviews, as he has a more on-the-ground understanding of why decisions were made, but he wasn't at this one. Ken is entertaining, though, and it's fun to listen to him theorize.
    Last edited by Ocelot; 01-26-2012 at 09:54 AM.

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    Staff Healer RPGamer Staff TwinBahamut's Avatar
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    I'm just disappointed that they don't consider race to be anything more than cosmetic option. If they wanted it to be merely cosmetic, why not just remove the race system and give characters a much broader range of flexibility in the look of their characters? Unless it impacts the story to a reasonable extent or has a large mechanical benefit, it is rather meaningless.

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    is not declawed RPGamer Staff Ocelot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TwinBahamut View Post
    I'm just disappointed that they don't consider race to be anything more than cosmetic option. If they wanted it to be merely cosmetic, why not just remove the race system and give characters a much broader range of flexibility in the look of their characters? Unless it impacts the story to a reasonable extent or has a large mechanical benefit, it is rather meaningless.
    Yeah, the race question was one of mine, and I was a bit disappointed by it, too. Though I'm also one of those gamers who likes making big, dramatic choices and having NPCs react to both who I am and the choices I've made. In other words, I'm a BioWare gamer. I understand what the Reckoning folks are trying to do, though, so I figure I'll go into this with an open mind.

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    Ysy St. Administrator Macstorm's Avatar
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    I'm hoping this gets a good foundation for what works for Big Huge Games and what doesn't, so that for Reckoning 2 or whatever they can skip the broad approach and go with what works while adding in new features.
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    RPGamer Staff RPGamer Staff 7thCircle's Avatar
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    I'm fine with race not mattering in NPC interaction, as long as there isn't a Dragon Age racial situation where some races are so severely shunned, it would be weird for a king to greet me with the same "Nice to see you" that he'd give a human. The justification for not having NPCs react to your race was only unfortunate in the wording because Skyrim just did what they said they couldn't do: race doesn't affect gameplay choices, but NPCs still react to it. I'm cool with what Reckoning is doing here, but they could go back to Project Manager mode and say "NPC reactions to race were deemed out of scope in this release." That's probably the truth.
    The lesson here is that dreams inevitably lead to hideous implosions.

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    I actually find race being more cosmetic and less trait defining to be refreshing. This way I can choose the race that appeals to me aesthetically, and still use whatever playstyle fits me the most. It's frustrating to have to be the burly race to be a fighter, or the scrawny one to be a mage.

    Played the demo last night, and I'm sold. Combat was fun, challenging, and the enemies A.I. was quite impressive. That and I was able to spend the entire demo time running through dungeons instead of questing, which goes to show that they do have a lot of optional content available from the get go.

    I think out of all the games coming out this year, my opinion on this one has changed the most. I've gone from "Oh boy, R. A. Salvatore, time for Drizzy Drizzt Drizzterton the game!" to "This looks awesome and I really want it!"

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    is not declawed RPGamer Staff Ocelot's Avatar
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    Well, Salvatore wrote the lore, not the in-game text, which I think worked well for everyone. And hey, it's single player, so people can make a dark elf named Drizzt and nobody will ever know.

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    Great info - I'm really looking forward to this game.

    I really don't get the great "jump debate," though. I mean, have you ever seen people going around jumping as a method of movement? The real way you'd get up a mountain is by, I dunno, climbing it. And, even with games with a jump function, you still typically don't have the ability to actually climb a sheer wall (without a ladder or rope or something).

    I guess I sort of see that people want to have some ability to move in the third dimension, and a jump button is one way to do that. But, it's also an extremely silly way, it seems to me.

    I'm more bothered by games where you accidentally fall off cliff edges - that seems less realistic to me than a person jumping around all the time (because a real person has peripheral vision so doesn't have to be staring at his or her feet to avoid falling off a cliff). Not having the ability to move in that third dimension is one way to avoid that. Another advantage is that minimaps tend to do a terrible job of showing contours, so those of us who are directionally challenged can have a hard time getting around in a game that allows jumps.

    Okay, end rant.

  12. #12
    I really don't get the great "jump debate," though. I mean, have you ever seen people going around jumping as a method of movement?
    Ever play a multiplayer shooter? Insert obligatory Penny Arcade strip here ("Ein jump!").

    But yeah, I totally agree. Outside of platformers and the occasional need to jump out of annoying geometry, which you would not get into in the first place if you weren't trying to jump all over the place, there's no real need for jumping. I was thinking about starting a "Jump" thread just so I can see why everyone wants a jump button so badly.

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    is not declawed RPGamer Staff Ocelot's Avatar
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    I kinda like jumping around... I've probably played too many MMOs. But then I thought, "no jump button in Reckoning means no JUMPING PUZZLES in Reckoning." And lo, all was good.

    (The jump question wasn't actually ours, it was from one of the other two sites who were in on the session. It was a good question, though, since I've heard a lot of people complain about the lack of jumping in the demo.)
    Last edited by Ocelot; 01-26-2012 at 01:25 PM.

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    That Guy You Hate RPGamer Staff omegabyte's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TG Barighm View Post
    Ever play a multiplayer shooter? Insert obligatory Penny Arcade strip here ("Ein jump!").

    But yeah, I totally agree. Outside of platformers and the occasional need to jump out of annoying geometry, which you would not get into in the first place if you weren't trying to jump all over the place, there's no real need for jumping. I was thinking about starting a "Jump" thread just so I can see why everyone wants a jump button so badly.
    There are lots of places where jump functions actually do play a role in games, mostly where you have to jump from one ledge to another. I suspect part of it has to do with the fact that jumping has been part of the gaming vocabulary since the original Donkey Kong arcade game. As a method of getting around it certainly is silly, unless you're going for something like Assassin's Creed, Prototype, or InFamous.

    Personally, I like games where jumping and climbing is context sensitive and only used when it's really necessary. Skyward Sword did a great job of creating 3D environments that felt real, because Link's climbing and leaping abilities were well spelled out. Anything that you felt like you should be able to reach you can.

    In the case of Reckoning, the lack of a jump button makes the 3D environments feel less three dimensional. Let's say that Path A leads upwards, and then path B also leads upwards, parallel to Path A. As it stands with Reckoning, it may feel like you should be able to climb from Path A up to Path B, or at the very least drop down from Path B to Path A, but you can't. That breaks immersion.
    Last edited by omegabyte; 01-26-2012 at 01:30 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by omegabyte View Post
    In the case of Reckoning, the lack of a jump button makes the 3D environments feel less three dimensional. Let's say that Path A leads upwards, and then path B also leads upwards, parallel to Path A. As it stands with Reckoning, it may feel like you should be able to climb from Path A up to Path B, or at the very least drop down from Path B to Path A, but you can't. That breaks immersion.
    Fair enough. But, a lot of that has to do with game design. True, if I can't go from path B to path A without taking a huge detour, that would be irritating. But, the use of jump points in Reckoning makes me feel like the designers won't be forcing that on me.

    To me, I won't have a problem with, say, being forced to take a path that winds down a mountain, even though I could theoretically leap from one part of the path to another and take less time - going down the path would be a more sensible way to move around, anyway. So, being forced to go down the path just limits me from doing ridiculous things in the game.

    After all, while it does break immersion in a game to realize that I can't suddenly break out in the macarena if I'm truly hit with that urge, I don't really fault game designers for not giving me that option. Because that would be silly.

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    In an earlier Q&A, the team said that NPCs would react to your race, and I can't imagine they removed it.

    "Will people react differently to you depending on the race you choose? – By Bones

    A: Yes, definitely. One of the most satisfying features of any good role-playing game is getting to explore a rich world that reacts to your choices, and that includes the race you choose for your character. In fact, the race, gender, and religion are all aspects of your experience that can illicit unique responses from the people of Amalur.

    Just the other day I was playing a quest that involves a character with very strong opinions about the Alfar. Halfway through the conversation he paused, remembering that I was Dokkalfar, and tried to retract his comments for fear of offending me. It was a wonderful little moment of surprise, one that once again grounded me in the role-playing experience.

    We don’t stop at the basics either. Your path through the game can have a powerful influence over how others view them. A good example of this is the Gardens of Ysa, a majestic—but cloistered—city that you visit during your journey across the Faelands. As an outsider and a mortal, the typical player will be met with suspicion by the city’s Fae inhabitants. However, if you've spent a good portion of time completing Fae quests and becoming a part of that race’s story, they won’t be greeted as strangers."

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    Ysy St. Administrator Macstorm's Avatar
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    Insider note: They react to your race, it just doesn't change anything.
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    In the case of Reckoning, the lack of a jump button makes the 3D environments feel less three dimensional. Let's say that Path A leads upwards, and then path B also leads upwards, parallel to Path A. As it stands with Reckoning, it may feel like you should be able to climb from Path A up to Path B, or at the very least drop down from Path B to Path A, but you can't. That breaks immersion.

    Fair enough. But, a lot of that has to do with game design. True, if I can't go from path B to path A without taking a huge detour, that would be irritating. But, the use of jump points in Reckoning makes me feel like the designers won't be forcing that on me.
    I looked up a couple dev blogs. Turns out the only real purpose of jumping in games that don't really need it is to create the illusion of speed. Apparently there are a lot of hyperactive gamers out there who feel restricted if the game doesn't feel "fast" and jumping is a quick and dirty way to create a sense of freedom. Sure, they find other ways to make jumping useful, but the long and short of it is...some people just feel wrong if they can't jump.
    Last edited by TG Barighm; 01-26-2012 at 10:19 PM.

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    RPGamer Staff RPGamer Staff 7thCircle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Macstorm View Post
    Insider note: They react to your race, it just doesn't change anything.
    We should have a roundtable where we ask you questions about Reckoning and you answer them. You probably know more details than Rolston. So... how's the consistency and quality of the voice work?
    The lesson here is that dreams inevitably lead to hideous implosions.

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    is not declawed RPGamer Staff Ocelot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Macstorm View Post
    Insider note: They react to your race, it just doesn't change anything.
    Man, I tried to clarify that with a follow-up question and everything. :-p

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