A question for Bhagpuss

This is going to be addressed directly to Bhagpuss, but really I think it covers quite a large group of players, so please chime in.

@Bhagpuss: I saw on Tobold’s blog you said you played Dragon Age for 14 hours straight (sick bastard), and previously you stated here you were worried about DA being too linear and that you like to follow your own path rather than being lead down it. You comment often, so I think I have a decent understanding of how you play MMOs, but how does your aversion for linear gameplay fit with DA? Do you find it linear and just don’t mind because the game is great, or are you able to play it in a way that you don’t feel it’s too linear, and can still play it ‘your way’? And if so, how exactly are you playing it?

Just trying to understand my fellow gamer, because to me DA is about as linear as it gets without a loading screen informing me I’ve beaten level 2 and now it’s time for level 3 like old school console games did back in the day. I’ve written why I enjoy that method of delivery in a single player game, but I’m wondering how players similar to Bhagpuss in style are viewing it.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
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21 Responses to A question for Bhagpuss

  1. kazamx says:

    I feel there is a MASSIVE difference between playing an MMO and playing a single player RPG.

    In a single player game I want a tight storyline. I want to be the center of the world. I want to almost feel like I am the hero in a movie and follow my epic quest from start to finish.

    In an MMO I want to be part of a team. I want to live in a living breathing world with a million different people doing a million different things. I want to feel like I change the world but that there are lots of other people changing the world too.

    The best example I can think of is Lord of the Rings. In an single player game I want to follow the heroes along their journey. in an MMO I want to explore the world and go anywhere and meet people all over.

    • Tesh says:

      I’ll second this, whether or not that’s B’s take on things. That difference in storytelling is a fundamental difference between the genres, for better or worse.

  2. Sara Pickell says:

    I think the fact you can clear Haven before Redcliff may indicate that things aren’t entirely linear in DA:O… just mostly.

  3. evizaer says:

    Bhagpuss, I’m also curious about how you abhor decision making in games and yet don’t want linear gameplay. That doesn’t make any sense to me. If you don’t want to do the heavy lifting when you play games, you should want to play a game that leads you through its content.

    • Bhagpuss says:

      Did I say I abhor decision-making in games? I might have – I say a lot of things I don’t recognise when I read them later…

      What I like to do is potter about, doing a bit of this, a bit of that as the mood takes me. Sometimes I might be entirely in the mood to do a whole quest sequence from start to finish and take that degree of direction. More often, though, I’d get distracted by another quest before the first chain had really got going, then I’d spot some good gathering and go scoop it up, leading to full bags and a trip to the bank, which would need tidying up, like it always does… and there’s another evening gone.

      In other words, I like to have some directed content, but mostly as a kind of frame to stop my own gameplay becoming so free-form it falls completely apart.

  4. XorceR says:

    Yeah, Cone of Cold is a great spell, could be considered OP. At least on Normal it will even freeze Revenants (they are immune to cold so won’t take damage, but will freeze often for a short while).

    Blizzard is also great in some fights against lots of enemies.

  5. Bronte says:

    EVERY game is linear. The only one I can think of that is not linear is EvE Online. Aside from that, no matter how many choices you are given, or what plot twists occur, or what moral dilemmas you come across, the PATH is fairly linear. It’s what you do with that linearity and how you present it that sets DA:O apart.

    My 2c.

    • Anonymous says:

      Here are a few MMO’s, that I’ve played, that WEREN’T linear:

      Ultima Online
      Asheron’s Call

      It’s interesting that the first three major MMORPG’s were very much about freedom and playing in a sandbox. Then every game that has come after has become closer and closer to actually playing a game of connect the dots. It seems that developers these days want us to have as little actual control of the direction our characters go in as possible.

      • Malakili says:

        More to the point, It seems that PLAYERS these days want to have as little actual control of the direction of their characters as is possible. Developers have realized that the sandbox doesn’t sell. Most people who log into a sandbox do something like the following:

        1. Look around, press some buttons.
        2. Realize it isn’t immediately obvious what they are supposed to do.
        3. MAYBE ask in chat, what should I do. Usually get a response of “whatever you want.”
        4. Log off and play a game where they don’t have to come up with their own fun.

        Whether or not you like sandboxes or not, this is pretty true. It just doesn’t seem to be a popular model. I also want to be clear than I’m not really being critical of people who dislike the sandbox. Everyone likes different types of games, so I can’t say with what kind of game someone should have fun.

        I love the choice, but then again, I have more time to game than the average gamer, I would guess, and if someone gets home from a job they hate, they probably don’t want to mull around in a “sandbox” looking for waiting for some fun, when they can jump right into something else.

  6. sid67 says:

    Maybe Bhagpuss doesn’t read your blog any more? ;>

  7. Bhagpuss says:

    Bit of a surprise to come home from work and log into Virgin Worlds and see my name staring at me in the Blog entries list! However, since you ask…

    It’s taken a bit of time to get used to Dragon Age. At first it felt much more like watching a movie than playing a game. Still does, on and off, after three days of playing. The script and the voice acting are good enough that I became drawn into the narrative, but after several hours watching rather than doing I was beginning to question whether it was really a game at all. It actually felt like a super-deluxe version of one of those old “Choose your Adventure/Fighting Fantasy” books, which I never saw the point of.

    Once I got through the prologue and opened the world map, that feeling receded somewhat, which was just as well as by then I was itching to take control. I picked the nearest location, Lothering, and went there to see what was going on. I gathered up a bunch of quests and started doing those, then I followed on to Redcliffe Village/Castle and from there to the Circle Tower, then back to the Castle.

    So far, so theme-park MMO. I felt directed to a degree, but I seemed to have reasonable freedom of action. I was interested enough in the plot that I wanted to find out what happened next, but I had several places I could go to follow it.

    First, I had to reacquaint myself with the Baldur’s Gate style of stop-motion tactical combat, which I really enjoy, but which I haven’t done for many years. It finally came home to me when I lost my first major battle trying to open the gates of Redcliffe Castle that just rushing in with a full party and fighting in real-time as if I was playing an MMO wasn’t going to cut it.

    After I’d been through the Fade I was pretty much convinced that I wasn’t playing anything even close to an MMO, in terms of the gameplay at least. It was far more about tactics and planning, plus a huge overload of narrative. Maybe raiders see something a little like this in MMOs, but they don’t have the ability to stop time mid-wipe and change tactics or roll everything back to the last save. I really enjoyed it, but it takes much more thought and concentration than any MMO I’ve played for years (although maybe not more than EQ in the good old days).

    Once I’d got all that done I felt I deserved a rest. It was then that I started to notice what I didn’t like about Dragon Age. I wanted to go back to Lothering and potter around for a while. I was going to make it my base. But I wasn’t allowed. The location on the map had been disabled.

    Now there’s a narrative reason for this, which I won’t give away, but it brought home to me how far from an MMO Dragon Age is, and how much I’d have to adjust my gameplay. I can’t have a hometown, let alone a home. I don’t even have storage. I can choose which order I go to places, but I can’t go there under my own power and once I’ve done what I’m meant to do there I may not be able to go back. I can’t decide to go and gather craft mats for a few hours, because once gathered they don’t respawn (do they?). I can’t go fishing. I can’t sail my boat or ride my horse or drive my ATV. I can’t really explore with any kind of open-ended, “because it’s there” purposelessness.

    It’s a big adjustment, and yes I find it frustrating. The initial thrust of the narrative swept me into the game (and it looks fantastic too), and the tactical planning of the fights is enormously absorbing. But after a couple of days I am finding the degree of direction somewhat tiresome.

    It makes me remember (and I had completely forgotten this) how disappointed I was with Baldur’s Gate 2. Mrs Bhagpuss and I both loved BG1, which allowed you complete freedom to go anywhere, and go back to anywhere. If you wanted to go from one place to another you had to walk across the land inbetween. It also allowed you to put stuff back into barrels and chests, and Mrs B and I both had loot stashes all over the place, with the contents jotted down in notebooks.

    In those ways, BG1 was a virtual world. BG2 wasn’t, and DA isn’t. Iam enjoying DA a lot, and I will play through it to the end (if I don’t get stuck), because it’s high quality entertainment that I’m getting a lot out of, but it would never make any kind of substitute for an MMO.

    • SynCaine says:

      Good thing you commented, this post was starting to look a little silly without you, haha.

      But the above is a good insight into your gaming style, which I think I now have an even better understanding of. Usually when I read your comments, part of me keeps thinking “Bhagpuss is just crazy”, and while that might still be true, you just have a very, very different gaming style compared to everyone else. And at the heart of the matter, we both like similar things (virtual worlds over on-rails gaming), we just like them for different reasons.

      As for Dragon Age, I can understand why it’s not a perfect fit for you, but how that can be overlooked because of the games overall outstanding quality. For me it’s also a good change of pace. I might prefer a sandbox setting overall, but taking an on-rails ride every now and then (when one stands out like DA does) is also refreshing. I love the player-drive ‘story’ of day-to-day DarkFall, but it’s nice to take a break and just watch a tightly scripted one like DA play out.

    • Bhagpuss wrote:
      It makes me remember (and I had completely forgotten this) how disappointed I was with Baldur’s Gate 2. Mrs Bhagpuss and I both loved BG1, which allowed you complete freedom to go anywhere, and go back to anywhere.

      I felt the same way. I played every bit of BG1 I could, but I left BG2 half-finished because I got tired of being dumped into a new area. I think the bit that finished it for me was the underdark area. The much-vaunted romantic relationships also didn’t seem to be working for me, so I was disappointed that I seemed to be missing that bit of the game as well.

      Being an Explorer at heart, I really do like being able to wander around to satisfy my own curiosity. So, I guess there’s no need to go pay full price for Dragon Age.

    • B. Beckenridge says:

      You’ve pretty much exactly described my approach to gaming – and my problems with ‘killer’ titles. (And, I suspect, my problem to be with the upcoming Bioware Star Wars MMO).

      I totally get the ‘Start a ques.. ooh! A shiny! Must get more Shinys so I can make … Wait. I’m only level 4 MakerGuy. I really need some Roots of Making. Let me get some of those and … mmm.. wonder what’s behind that building’ style of play. It’s while I’ll never be in Raider Guild of Ultimate Umbrage Bringing – I just can’t focus enough (or even care enough, to be honest) on getting to the point where my character is ‘perfect’. For me, the journey really is the adventure, to use a cliche.

      And DA is grand, sweeping, top-notch entertainment. What it is NOT, however, is a means to chart my own story in a mileaux that engages me. Too bad, too, because I really like the work done on the game. Still, I notice content coming in DLC like ‘Back to Ostagar’ so perhaps there is hope that as the game ages, more of it might be opened up to story-finding more than story-TELLING.

      It actually would be a bold experiment; to create a linear adventure initially, and through DLC and player-made content, open the world up more fully. Would I buy an expansion pack that let me explore the wilds between Lothering and Redcliffe without the hokey ‘red footprints on the map’ transition? Maybe I would… After all, isn’t that how MMO’s do it? Typically, the EQ franchise opens new Zones for exploration. LotRO is opening up Mirkwood very shortly. The only difference is, for MMO’s generally, the initial landmass is all fully available, not a vague blob on the map.

  8. Bhagpuss says:

    One more thing, before I go back to playing DA. It’s becoming apparent that the extreme reliance on cut-scenes and voiceovers is going to seriously damage replayability for me.

    I can already see that there might be a ton of alternative content waiting to be discovered, and it would be fascinating to try all the different responses and questions. Maybe they just give a different flavor, but maybe some spark off whole different outcomes or quests.

    But think of the time! And the tedium. It’s one thing to do the same thing repeatedly in an MMO, like grinding or gathering or factioning, but you don’t have to listen to great chunks of spoken dialog over and over again. And you don’t have to go through long set-piece combat sequences four or five times just to get to the following cut scene where you get to try out all five possible responses.
    I guess you could ride the Save option to avoid some of the repetition, but not all of it by a long chalk.

    And how I wish I’d made my main character a Rogue. I don’t want either of the rogues I’ve met (the first one has the most annoying bad East European accent and the second is going to make half my party hate me if I take him), but passing all these locked chests is driving me nuts!

    Hmm, wonder if I can just leave the rest of the party back in camp and then go back round all the places I’ve cleared with just my Warrior and the assassin? Now that’s an idea worth investigating…

  9. Wintersdark says:

    I love both types of single player games, sandbox and theme park, if you will. If pressed, I’d say I like sandbox games more – I certainly put more hours into them given much higher replayability. However, I almost never finish them. I get distracted, then eventually bored.

    The Elder Scrolls games? Fallout? I’ve put hundreds of hours into each but finished none of them.

    On the other hand, I nearly always finish themepark rpg’s. I (almost) never put the same hours into them. To me, these games are like interactive movies, and I love that too. Sometimes, I just want to follow an epic story through, and not get swallowed in trivial tasks.

    In the end, all I can say is that I hope both styles of play continue and progress in future games. I can’t speak for everyone obviously, but as with the MMO market, variety IS the spice of life.

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