Originally Posted by The Old Soul
God I still feel so stupid every time I tell a companion to wait in camp.
This is it. This is the whole reason there should never be hard party size limits. There is just no way to do it that doesn't shatter immersion. In every game that has one, from New Vegas to Mass Effect to Pillars of Eternity to Dragon Age, any game you can name, it's dumb and forced and makes the opposite of sense. "OK gang, we're going to go fight an entire ship full of geth, so we should probably all be going on this mission." "Not so fast, Shepard. You see, it just so happens that every single friend you have ever made in the entire galaxy has a peccadillo about traveling in groups larger than three. You know how some people don't like cilantro? It's like that. Every single one of us hates being in a group of more than three."

If I never again hear a companion character say some variation of "it looks like you're already traveling with a lot of people" or "I just prefer a little less company on the road" or whatever, it'll be too soon.

I can accept party size limits if they're tied to something the player can influence. As far as I know this was only done in Fallout 2 and no other game that comes to mind. Your party size limit was directly derived from your Charisma stat. Simple, elegant, makes perfect sense: it takes a charismatic person to keep a group of so many strong and often conflicting personalities together. They still had companions saying dumb lines like "you already have a full party," so that could have been improved on, but conceptually it's perfect. You could even iterate on it and have certain Charisma levels required for specific pairings or groupings to be together in a party.

Originally Posted by Ikke
That would be difficult to do, because the number of companions can vary wildly.
Choice and consequence. The best games incorporate choice and consequence even into the mechanical aspects, and party composition should be one of those aspects. It's not the developer's responsibility to balance a game around literally every possible choice you could make with your party composition. You could respec all your characters into clerics with the exact same healing spells and equip them all with armor and weaponry that they aren't proficient in; should the game be balanced around that? That's an extreme example, but I'm not just talking about out-of-universe, video-gamey considerations. I'm also talking about in-universe factors. If you're roleplaying as a character who did some light genocide in Act 1, then your character should have to live with the consequences! And not just the consequences of "I don't have this companion as an option," but the consequences of "my party will not be as large as it would have been had I not done this." If your character goes through life being a dick, they're going to have fewer friends, and maybe that's not a great idea in a world where hobgoblins and evil wizards are common problems.

The greatest trick Starcraft ever pulled was indoctrinating gamers into an obsession with balance, this fervent and almost unshakeable conviction that players (in all genres and styles) should have distinct options, but all of them should be exactly as good or bad as the others. They shouldn't! That's the whole thing about choices, is they impact your life! We're roleplaying as characters who are living a life, right? Well in life you make choices and they materially affect the rest of your life and the world around you. They don't just make numbers on a character sheet go up or down, they don't make someone's approval score go up or down, they don't unlock the good ending or the bad ending. They meaningfully impact your life, including how much support you'll have when you go through hard times.

The premise of RPGs that have parties is that you are explicitly gathering allies for a fight, or to help solve a problem, or so you can all help solve each other's mutual problems, or just that some of the people you meet like you and want to help you out. Every single one of those options implies that you are going to have an easier time of it if you try not to alienate people. If you want to roleplay as someone who alienates people, that's great, but you should absolutely have a harder time as a result.

Originally Posted by Ikke
Originally Posted by The Old Soul
As for contriving a narrative reason to limit to 4, it had better be a VERY good reason, because if it's not leaving people in camp will still come across as narratively profoundly stupid.

Indeed it is. And every time you come across lines like "it looks like your party is full at the moment" the profound stupidity is rubbed in again. But is this really a problem for Larian to solve? The lack of explanation for fixed party size is a problem for all CRPGs. Shouldn't some organisation come up with a solution that can be applied to all present and future fantasy RPGs? For SF RPGs the solution can always be that your planatary landing craft only has four seats, so that's covered.
Of course it's a problem for Larian to solve. It's a problem for every developer who makes an RPG that has companions to solve. Come on, imagine if Larian (or any other developer) approached other problems that way, just doing the same obviously dumb things because fixing it isn't their problem. That's what Bethesda does, and no one should be emulating them. Also, there are easy solutions that take zero intellectual rigor:

1) No party size limit, balance the game for full parties and let players live with the consequences if they don't want a full party.
2) No party size limit, combat difficulty and skill check difficulty scale with party size.
3) Party size limit based in some way on Charisma or a similar stat.
4) Just don't have more companions than you want people to play with! If you really think good adventures only happen when you have a group of four people, then just don't have me meet more than four people! And don't tell me that limits player choice, because you're already limiting player choice by insisting that I only have three companions.