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#739508 27/11/20 03:37 PM
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dotmats Offline OP
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Long time lurker, first time poster. Hi!

Since I’m quarantined with nothing to do, this feedback is also available as a video. While I’d obviously appreciate any validation of the stupid amount of time it took, there’s a text summary as well as timestamps if you want to check the moments I’m referencing. The video is in 4k with most screencaps etc. upresed with the expensive software I use for work, in case you’re into that.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BLxnjHTi77Q

The video begins by talking about concepts and history because I think it’s important, but I won’t summarise it. It’s just me trying to contextualise what kind of feedback is useful, what kind of thing Baldurs Gate 3 is, and how to approach feedback in general. It’s long because I’m hoping to do more videos that make it proportional eventually. Like the Shire in LoTR. Exactly like that…

The video focuses on two main areas: cinematics and writing.

Cinematics [11:00]:
1. By film-standards, they’re awful. You would not watch a film-version of BG3. Scenes are poorly constructed, badly edited and often just plain dull. In the video, I focus on the scene as you approach the grove, where characters stand around talking to each other until goblins suddenly appear. Instead of the obvious dramatic chase scene that builds tension, threat and momentum as the three adventurers race desperately to safety, we get a surrealist theatre play where characters stand around talking to each other instead of ducking under an increasingly “open enough” gate. [12:30]
2. Compare The Witcher 3, where cinematics are used far more successfully and require far less suspension of disbelief. The difference is night and day, in my opinion. [14:52]
3. The point here isn’t that the content is necessarily bad, but that there is no reason for the game to take away control of the camera if it’s not capable of using the camera well. This is reinforced by focussing on a dialogue scene between three Tieflings. The main takeaway: why bother making this a cutscene? What does taking control away from the player achieve? [15:14]
4. In addition, cinematics create tension specific to Baldurs Gate 3 and similar role playing games in which you make your own character: by taking away control of your character and having them act in front of you. [16:36]
5. Queue hands on hips, raised eye brows and pantomime shock.
6. They will never be able to cover the infinite variety of characters that players might want to play. They try and get round this by mostly sticking to neutral, stoic expressions, but even this doesn’t work. It would be better to never cut to your character and let imagination do the rest. Like in Dungeons and Dragons...
7. This is one of the points where it becomes clear that the game is designed around playing one of Larian’s pre-made origin characters.
8. I also wonder if Larian aren’t making a similar mistake to games before the “RPG renaissance” where cinematics intrude too much, with reference to Mass Effect 3. [6:23]
9. And try to understand what makes BG3 players so horny. Is it having to look at so many intimate close ups? [17:41]

Writing [19:34]:
1. Not wanting to go on forever, I focus on the kind of companions written for us and problems shared by all of them.
2. Mainly, that they’re generally all versions of the same idea of what a cool character is, and this idea is straight out of YA fiction/ reality TV: overwritten backstory, disinterested/aloof, “dark secret”/mysterious stranger, “cooler than you” and trying too hard in a teenage way. Similarly, they have a history, but it’s always from somewhere else. No one is attached to the place you explore, like tourists. [21:12]
3. I have a section on the “I’m not here to make friends” trope that I’m quite proud of. [20:36]
4. The problem isn’t that some of them are like this, but that they all are. I compare them to the “bob the gatekeeper” concept I’ve seen on reddit/forums of a character really thrown out of their depth with the whole “alien probe” experience and how their completely understandable freaking out makes them a more interesting companion. As is, it’s death by backstory. [21:47]
5. Small extra point on how the word “companion” is ironic with characters not at all interested in “companionship.” Maybe self-employed freelancers is more apt?
6. In the video, I don’t talk about fetishism, but there’s a lot to say about “what romance is” in Baldurs Gate 3 and I think it influences character writing a lot. Everyone has to be a fetish, basically.

I was trying not to reiterate too much of what has been said before, so apologies if this is mostly old to you. I put a lot of effort into this because I care about the game (quarantine might be an influence…), so hope it’s helpful.

Here’s to the imminent patch solving all problems and making this a waste of time!

Last edited by dotmats; 27/11/20 03:38 PM.
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Sounds like there are some interesting points. I'll watch that.


Hoping we'll be able to create great assumptions-free Custom Characters and be given great roleplay options.
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Some good points were made for sure.
I would argue only about that general take on companions at the end. But that's more about personal preferences plus keeping in mind that Larian intentionally gave us most "evil" companions first.

Last edited by Zellin; 27/11/20 05:48 PM. Reason: "plus..."
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Originally Posted by Zellin
keeping in mind that Larian intentionally gave us most "evil" companions first.


I like it how you put evil in quotation marks. Yeah, two of them are not evil.
Just that pale gloating sadist is one and thinks that is funny.
But one is a machoman from space and the other one a smug sasspool. ^^
And those are the most?
We almost have as many good characters as we have evil characters.

I hope that does not indicate only two more evildoers but like 4 more jolly cooperators. wink
Otherwise
Praise the suuuuuuuuun!!!!
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Originally Posted by Zellin
Some good points were made for sure.
I would argue only about that general take on companions at the end. But that's more about personal preferences plus keeping in mind that Larian intentionally gave us most "evil" companions first.


Yeah, that's true. On the other hand, there's a variation in evil, so while they're more likely to be similar than "good" characters, I don't think them being evil requires them to be this similar. I expect the rest to be similar, to be honest, judging by the one we've seen already and D:OS2.

Still holding out some hope tho.

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Well, even goodish companions are ready to kill enemies so the division is mostly artificial. Well, beside vamp, apparently he enjoys suffering of the others.

@OP
Gonna watch the vid, agree with feedback on grove gate fight cutscene already.

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I generally dislike everyone making a video out of everything, because I can parse and digest information in a much more time-efficient manner if it's presented to me in writing.
So thank you for the summary, it actually made me curious enough to check out your video.

I find myself agreeing with your comments on cinematography and the issue of BG3's cinematics in general. They're poorly made, often unnecessary, and their presence is generally more jarring than helpful. Less is indeed more, as they say.

Your take on the companions strikes me as more personal and therefore more contestable. In particular, their similarity, as presented, only really holds up when generalization and broad strokes are used to describe them. What is certainly true, though, is that they're taking the spotlight away from a non-origin character, something that remains just as true as it was in DOS2, despite Larian's self-professed attempt to rectify the issue.

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I agree with you on cinematography, I think it's very awkward how the main character strikes itself into all these poses for us and how much camera time he gets. I think it's a big problem with modern RPG that the MC is supposed to be fully voice acted and part of the world instead of being your own tool of self-expression within that world. I also think that the writing could be much better, but a good story can really work on the basic concepts.

However I really don't understand your gripe with the companion characters and I would be happy to understand why you don't like them?
I only like Shadowheart and the vampire guy and I even agree that all of the characters are narcissistic and totally self-involved egomaniacs.
Of all companions Astarion seems to be the most appealing because he is obviously trying to manipulate you and he is only with you in order to survive. He doesn't actually care about you one bit and if it comes down to it he will kill you without a second thought. However there is obviously more to the guy then simply being an evil asshole and I just want to peel back his layers and figure it out for myself. Ofcourse, this would require good writing, and as you said, that is not a strong point of RPG.
I would love to know why you hate the characters, because you mentioned something about melodrama, but then you also criticized them for not being emotionally broken up over being raped.

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In one of the videos from Larian, dev says that the companions would not join us under other circumstances. they are not with us because they are "looking for a friend" but because of the need to deal with the worms in their heads. All of them have to grapple with something more than that tho, hence their personal quests. But I'd blame game logic, they have to be special as origins. Fingers crossed they will deliver better custom feeling than DOS2.

Last edited by Verte; 27/11/20 07:25 PM.
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Originally Posted by Eldath
I would love to know why you hate the characters, because you mentioned something about melodrama, but then you also criticized them for not being emotionally broken up over being raped.


That's a good point. In retrospect, I should have been a lot more careful. When I say melodrama, I mean petty soap opera/ high school drama, and I meant to contrast that with how unaffected they are by an extreme traumatic event. And when I say freaking out for "Bob," I guess for me it's possible to be obviously freaking out but still kind of keeping it together, in a "I just need to keep going" way. So he can freak out without being "melodramatic" in the way I use it.

In general, I think it ties into the lack of companionship/ working together to get through this. Certain characters will remind you of the plot urgency, but their failure to try to work together suggests they don't really care that much.

All in all, much weaker, you're right. I'm an editor not a writer and I suppose that's showing through smile

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Whaou ! You hit hard in your video. Yet your points are accurate.

During the cutscenes, emotions and intensity are not there and most of the time our "mime low artist" main character seems pretty ridiculous.

And indeed, building the "team spirit" with the companions is boring, frustrating, irritating, exhausting ... It's a "if you're not with me, then you're against me" syndrome, black or white. It comes to a point I would prefer to play solo with the "lone wolf" ability. Btw it's possible in some RPG.

For the story, I remember in BG2 Throne of Bhaal, at a point of the game, you were able, if desired, to resurrect Saverok (the big bad guy of BG1). You could add him in your team (or kill him again for fun if you were evil) and through several discussions in the game, made him realize his past mistakes and make him evolve from a chaotic evil character to a chaotic good (if you had a good alignment character). That was great! And discussions really had an impact on my companions.

In BG3, I still don't see the point to discuss with them. Bla bla bla, disagree, bla bla bla disapprove... Ok, you know what, just go back to the camp and wait for the tadpole to eat your brain. In fact I just "need" them for their stats and abilities. And of course they are also good pack mules due to the tons of useless items in the game. Instead of disagree / agree / approve / disapprove I would prefer a discussion following a strong disagreement on an event that just occured, and through discussion we can come to an agreement or a neutral position or a reinforced hostility (even a fight, why not, with/without killing) that could be exploited later in the game. In the end, less black and white relations and more greys if you see what I mean.

Even if we are still in early access, I'm unsure these points (cinematics quality and companions relationship) can be improved as it seems to be a huge amount of rework.

But in the end, these details will make the difference between an average good game surfing on the BG legagy and a f*** epic game remembered as a new reference of the BG series!

Last edited by Killdren; 27/11/20 11:56 PM.
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I refuse to watch your video, but your points are decent.


I don't want to fall to bits 'cos of excess existential thought.

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Originally Posted by Killdren
Whaou ! You hit hard in your video.

[snip]

Even if we are still in early access, I'm unsure these points (cinematics quality and companions relationship) can be improved as it seems to be a huge amount of rework.


Hah, it's hard to get the tone right on video. Believe it or not, when I co-taught documentary filmmaking workshops at a university, I was the nice one. But I guess it's a bit different here because Larian are now a really big AAA studio taking on a sequel to a classic, so the gloves are off.

To be honest, BG3 seems to have been a project management nightmare. It has an EA but it simply wasn't made with future changes in mind - they've over-invested in specific things (e.g. voice acting) too early, so now it's a lot of effort to change (dialogue, for instance).

Originally Posted by Tzelanit
I refuse to watch your video, but your points are decent.


Totally fair. The video is mostly for me, to get to film something and to occupy quarantine time.

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Good points. I mostly like the way the cinematics are being done when they are not bugged and working, though i agree Witcher 3 in general had more smooth and enjoyable camera handling during these scenes (although it has a fixed main char which i guess makes things easier) and i also think the cinematic camera is not necessary for one-liner npc-s, it just breaks the flow. Regarding points 5 and 6 (body language, expressions) i see your point: it worked in some cases really well when these were matching my expectations of the character's possible reactions to something but mostly it was really strange to see my character reacting not the way it was in my head. the reaction was also kind of contradictory with some of the upcoming response possibilities i had to choose from.

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Interesting. Doesn't surprise me that you teach film making because I was more impressed by your use of imagery to make your points than the points you were making. Not that I disagreed with many but som

Rolling your own smoke and the unshaven face tell me that this is guy who is just telling like it is. No pretense, just facts delivered by someone you would meet out back for a smoke. The sweater and glasses tell me "this is someone who has thought this through" The use of imagery that simultaneously conveys thoughtfulness and lack of pretense was very effective especially when you make they point that the democratizing promise of EA is something of illusion.

So it was with the switch to the couch -- there the bowl of crisps, the forward viewing angle conveys your point about the 'player' being a passive watcher of cinematics very effectively. I'm watching someone eat a bowl crisps and in doing so seeing my own reflection. This is passive entertainment.

Then the coffee cup appears when you talking about other games -- tells me you are going to dig down into the details. Coffee cup to right of laptop is work mode for people who are working from home. Got my cuppa stimulants, I've cleaned my workspace, let's get something done. I should be listening now. Then the angle switches some and I'm looking from an angle that suggests I'm sitting down and talking with you. We're talking as friends and we talk about potentially embarrassing issues, right? Makes the point about autoeroticism -- which I think is you best insight -- that much more effective.

I was truly impressed by a video you say you just threw together -- I'm sure I could have learned a great deal in your class.


Points of disagreement:

Other points about the quality of the writing and such I found less compelling -- even if I did enjoy the video montage. Yes, the writing is YA-like. But that's what's advertised on the tin. Right? Why would we apply a different set of criteria?

Likewise I think the fact that you weren't a big fan of the Baldur's Gate series and wanted something something more innovative and genre breaking like Disco Elysium is all fine and good but I doesn't seem like a good criteria to bring to a sequel. I thought HBO's Watchmen was brilliant -- it deconstructed the hero narrative, offered some brilliant commentary on racial politics, had something to say on the complexities of populism and the role of increasing unaccountable secret state entities -- but that's not what I want from the next Star Wars movie. I felt like I reading the commentary on a paper that was graded with the wrong rubric.

I have mixed feeling about you the facial expressions -- I guess you can say that I play aspects of myself but I always feel a bit alienated from my toons and so the disconnect between her facial expressions and mine don't bother me much. At the same time I think you've put your finger on why this matters to some.

Point of agreement:

Now I think you make good points about how the cinematics make the 'player' seem a viewer and not an actor and how this design decision will always make the custom character experience seem an afterthought. I also think think you are right about how the full voice acting limits the ability of the devs to change the story. I wish we had more walls of text and fewer cinematics.

And, again, I think you've solved the riddle of why BG3 players are so horny.

TL;DR Even I only agreed with half of what you said I was impressed by the video.

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Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed the imagery. A lot of the choices were about undermining authority, which seems to have worked, so I'm happy about it. I'll probably do things differently next time - this came out a little bland for me.

I think the horniness is here to stay now that graphics have reached real-doll levels. It's getting to that weird hyperreal stage.

As for YA writing, that's a good point. I don't really need ridiculous writing, just intelligent, and I think there's intelligent YA writing (at least I remember some like that, who knows!). Out of the "renaissance," I liked the writing in Tyranny quite a bit, which was a lot less high-concept than Disco Elysium, and often trashy in a fun way.

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Your video was good and in general I agree with the points your raised. However, I don’t think the issues are as big a deal as you present.

The Witcher 3 example sets a high bar as it has some of the best cinematics ever done in a cRPG (and even it has plenty of poorly constructed scenes and weak story and dialogue). And your examples of waiting 5 or 10 or 20 minutes for cinematics to play out was very exaggerated. The longest scenes in Baldur’s Gate are no more than a minute or so and usually punctuated with multiple dialogue choices and skill checks to make, which certainly keeps me feeling engaged.

As for having cut scenes for simple NPC dialogue . . . its been pretty well established that the vast majority of players would prefer to see even a bland auto generated cut scene rather than just hear or read the dialogue. For example, this was a major complaint of Dragon Age Inquisition and caused much outcry because they didn’t include cut scenes for normal NPC dialogue.

The market for text only RPGs is very small, voiced RPGs is larger, and full Cinematic RPG’s larger still. No company was going to take a strong brand like Baldur’s Gate and not try to make a game for the largest market possible.

I do expect Larian to improve the cinematics and animations by the time the game is complete. Several cinematics have already been revised and dialogue changes made in just the first couple patches. And I hope they will expand the main PC’s range of expressions which will go a long way. Larian even went so far as to completely rewrite and record the games narration (just before the release of early access) to change it from first person to third person, so they aren’t afraid to make some significant changes if they feel it’s necessary.

As for the writing, again, it’s on par with the better computer games and the actual voice acting is uniformly excellent. The animations are really the only thing holding it back. And I think its too early to judge the companions. They aren’t all here and Larian specifically included just the neutral/evil ones to elicit feedback and see how players reacted to them. I would expect them to make some changes based on feedback.

I agree Baldur’s Gate 3 is most comparable to Dragon Age Origins, which was a very successful and much-loved game. I think it holds up very well and I’m excited with the full game’s potential.

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Originally Posted by trengilly
snip

The 5/22 thing was in reference to ME3. Of course BG3's scenes are shorter, but we're still often in "passive" mode. My argument was that it should have a good reason for this. A good reason would be that they had enough mastery of cinema to back up the "film" parts. I don't think "other games do it" is a good reason, because other games also don't; or "it has to appeal to a larger market" either, because that's an argument for accountants, not players, and games can do well without cutscenes anyway.

BG1 sold over a million, as did D:OS2. BG2 sold 2 million+. The market's big enough to make arguments about sales more about greed than necessity.

I talk about animations improving in the video, tho just as a throwaway really so it's easily missed. It's hard to say what Larian will or will not change really because they won't tell us. My biggest criticism for them is the way they handle EA, to be honest, because they would get much better feedback if they communicated. D:OS2 was a mess when it was released, and still kind of is, because of an Act 1-only EA, lack of communication and waiting til release to change systems (like initiative). Most things they just didn't act on, and a lot of those return with BG3 (UI, bartering, chain-system, origin > custom, fire everywhere). I'm less optimistic, sadly, but happy to be proved wrong.

I definitely disagree with the writing being good on this, and there's a lot more to that than characters. Pacing/ plot design, for instance, or the whole "evil path" and interpretation of evil in general. Although I'm not saying it needs to be thrown out, because it's too late for that, but if we're noticing it, it's fair to say it needs work. I would be satisfied with good enough at this point, although obviously it's a shame to keep lowering standards for big budget projects.

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Pacing/ plot design, for instance, or the whole "evil path" and interpretation of evil in general. Although I'm not saying it needs to be thrown out, because it's too late for that, but if we're noticing it, it's fair to say it needs work. I would be satisfied with good enough at this point, although obviously it's a shame to keep lowering standards for big budget projects.


Pacing I agree with -- it's strange that the plot tells us that our heads are going to explode in 7 days but the camp dynamics are designed for 10+ days of activities. But the evil path? What would you differently?

The complaint I've heard most often is that the evil path is bad because is evil is stupid -- but that's just the Forgotten Realms. The realms are setting where heroes defeat evil and, contra Darth Helmet, evil loses because evil is stupid. In this setting, people do stupid things because they fail to see hook hiding in the bait or the bait is just so tasty that one forgets about the hook.

Selling your soul to a devil = stupid. You will spend eternity in hell.
Worshiping an evil diety = stupid. You will spend eternity having your vitality sucked out by a demon-spider-goddess.
Joining an evil organization = stupid. Name an evil organization that hasn't been burned to ground in the last 100 years or so.
BG 1 & 2, killing people as lamprey faced monster = stupid. Do that often enough and your soul will be destroyed when Papa Bhaal uses you as fuel for his rebirth.

In the realms evil is always a path to self destruction, the question really becomes "why do some travel that path"? And the answer in BG3 is a lust for power. The tadpole, the Absolute will give you power that the druids can't offer.

I'm interested to hear if you have a novel critique but I suspect that the fact you aren't a fan of the BG series becomes a problem.

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I find that the most -- the only, really -- convincing argument for siding with the goblins is that it is very soon clear to you that the Absolute have everything to do with your condition and the goblins ought to be the quickest way to find out more about her and the tadpoles and possibly do something about them, whether you want to get rid of them or indulge in them.

But this viewpoint doesn't have any expression at all in-game, as far as I noticed when I played a goblin-side character.


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