The direction that I'd like to see isometric RPGs go...

Posted by granderojo (1778 posts) -

So yesterday I complained in this Path of Exile thread that I didn't enjoy the art style of the game. Art style isn't the end of the world and I decided to sink more time into my Hardcore character. Around the 25-30 hour mark I ran into a desync when I entered a room, and died to mobs that I didn't see. Not the end of the world, it was in fact Hardcore and desyncing is just a fact of life with this sort of game. Instead of starting a race again, I thought I would sit down here and talk about where I'd like to see this genre go in. Totems seem to be all the rage in Path of Exile. Enough that they had to nerf it. Which I see no problem with, these sorts of balance changes are inevitable but I think it illustrates of underlying problem that hasn't been addressed in the genre to this point. The builds in these games that are overwhelmingly popular to most people who play them, which I'm only talking about hardcore because let's be honest if you're not playing hardcore what's the fucking point, right? Anyways the builds that are overwhelmingly popular to those that play them are the safe builds. Builds with a lot of AoE, stun, freeze, health regen, vitality, speed, etc. Now this is a product of people playing with the fear of death but I think it is also in part due to the fog of war or lack of visibility of what's around the other corner. I believe that these games would be better if they incorporated RTS mechanics with a wider field of view.

Now Krater was a game that tried to incorporate RTS mechanics, but it's not exactly what I'm talking about. The camera was no more panned out and the mobs were no where near as large as it should have been. The game had issues but it tried to do interesting things but overall was rather underwhelming in content. I still enjoyed myself but the way it got panned by critics was justified. There were a lot of other games that came before Krater that tried to do this, Homeworld, Demigod and Spellforce but these aren't exactly what I'm talking about either. Path of Exile tries to do a lot of interesting things in it's own way, none of which I will go into here but I'm sure if you read that thread in the beginning I linked to you'll get the point. How long until we get a game where you can control your summons? Or better yet how about the ability to have a party instead of just one main controllable character? Now I understand why this may not have come about yet. Diablo-isometric style action RPGs require a sense of community/economy and taking away the need for roles when playing co-op. It also adds a layer of complexity to the game which segments the potential playerbase. These negatives are probably why this model hasn't come about yet in a real way but I think it could work and there are games potentially on the horizon.

The Wildman project on Kickstarter is probably the most intriguing to me, which bums me out considering that is barely raised over 400k on kickstarter and Project Eternity of the same ilk raised and far less interesting raised 4 million. If there was a way for me to have a 4 or 5 sized party in one of these games accompanied with the skill tree of a game like Path of Exile, having skill compliment each other and just allowing for more variety in play style. Another problem that would come about by incorporating RTS mechanics into ARPGs would be the inevitable simplification of the dungeon layouts. Most maps would be a straight shot and/or geometrically equal from end to end, which doesn't seem like a big problem to me due to the fact that let's be honest with ourselves for a second. The maps that players farm the most tend to be end to end maps that already exist. The maps in Diablo III that have you backtracking are just a waste of the players time and nobody played them. I'd like to make this an open topic, there are a lot more ideas floating around in my head, but I'd like to see what you guys think about what I already think. What do you think about the RTS/ARPG hybrid?

Twitter.

#1 Edited by granderojo (1778 posts) -

So yesterday I complained in this Path of Exile thread that I didn't enjoy the art style of the game. Art style isn't the end of the world and I decided to sink more time into my Hardcore character. Around the 25-30 hour mark I ran into a desync when I entered a room, and died to mobs that I didn't see. Not the end of the world, it was in fact Hardcore and desyncing is just a fact of life with this sort of game. Instead of starting a race again, I thought I would sit down here and talk about where I'd like to see this genre go in. Totems seem to be all the rage in Path of Exile. Enough that they had to nerf it. Which I see no problem with, these sorts of balance changes are inevitable but I think it illustrates of underlying problem that hasn't been addressed in the genre to this point. The builds in these games that are overwhelmingly popular to most people who play them, which I'm only talking about hardcore because let's be honest if you're not playing hardcore what's the fucking point, right? Anyways the builds that are overwhelmingly popular to those that play them are the safe builds. Builds with a lot of AoE, stun, freeze, health regen, vitality, speed, etc. Now this is a product of people playing with the fear of death but I think it is also in part due to the fog of war or lack of visibility of what's around the other corner. I believe that these games would be better if they incorporated RTS mechanics with a wider field of view.

Now Krater was a game that tried to incorporate RTS mechanics, but it's not exactly what I'm talking about. The camera was no more panned out and the mobs were no where near as large as it should have been. The game had issues but it tried to do interesting things but overall was rather underwhelming in content. I still enjoyed myself but the way it got panned by critics was justified. There were a lot of other games that came before Krater that tried to do this, Homeworld, Demigod and Spellforce but these aren't exactly what I'm talking about either. Path of Exile tries to do a lot of interesting things in it's own way, none of which I will go into here but I'm sure if you read that thread in the beginning I linked to you'll get the point. How long until we get a game where you can control your summons? Or better yet how about the ability to have a party instead of just one main controllable character? Now I understand why this may not have come about yet. Diablo-isometric style action RPGs require a sense of community/economy and taking away the need for roles when playing co-op. It also adds a layer of complexity to the game which segments the potential playerbase. These negatives are probably why this model hasn't come about yet in a real way but I think it could work and there are games potentially on the horizon.

The Wildman project on Kickstarter is probably the most intriguing to me, which bums me out considering that is barely raised over 400k on kickstarter and Project Eternity of the same ilk raised and far less interesting raised 4 million. If there was a way for me to have a 4 or 5 sized party in one of these games accompanied with the skill tree of a game like Path of Exile, having skill compliment each other and just allowing for more variety in play style. Another problem that would come about by incorporating RTS mechanics into ARPGs would be the inevitable simplification of the dungeon layouts. Most maps would be a straight shot and/or geometrically equal from end to end, which doesn't seem like a big problem to me due to the fact that let's be honest with ourselves for a second. The maps that players farm the most tend to be end to end maps that already exist. The maps in Diablo III that have you backtracking are just a waste of the players time and nobody played them. I'd like to make this an open topic, there are a lot more ideas floating around in my head, but I'd like to see what you guys think about what I already think. What do you think about the RTS/ARPG hybrid?

Twitter.

#2 Posted by Forderz (247 posts) -

Isometric RPG/RTS hybrid, eh?

You didn't play a whole lot of Wc3, did you? Because I remember at least a dozen quality games based around manufacturing groups of powerful heroes against hordes of monsters for phat loots.

#3 Posted by granderojo (1778 posts) -

@Forderz said:

Isometric RPG/RTS hybrid, eh?

You didn't play a whole lot of Wc3, did you? Because I remember at least a dozen quality games based around manufacturing groups of powerful heroes against hordes of monsters for phat loots.

I know those games existed. I listed a bunch of them, I'm just saying there's room for more of it for sure.

#4 Posted by Nickieroonie (141 posts) -

I don't necessarily agree that fog of war/lack of vision is the reason for defensive, effective builds being the most popular in hardcore, but I think that an ARPG/RTS hybrid would definitely be palatable to a wide audience. Or at the very least, an ARPG with a new camera system that helps the player play more effectively, safely and predictably.

#5 Posted by project343 (2816 posts) -

It sounds like Project Eternity is exactly what you're looking for (or Baldur's Gate, for that matter). I think if you're going to have a party-based RPG though, you need the ability to 'pause-and-issue-commands' (ultimately Krater's largest fault, in my opinion).

Another series that you might want to start looking into is Dawn of War 2. It's the closest thing that I've seen to an RPG/RTS hybrid (akin to Warcraft 3).

#6 Edited by ArtisanBreads (3788 posts) -

You're making me think Warhammer 40k Dawn of War II here, which is a great thing.

I also really think Wildman sounds awesome, shame it's probably not meeting its goal. Taylor has said some publishers have reached out to him but that could easily fall through. The idea of a game like that that's action RPG/RTS/ and has MOBA ish elements is so appealing to me.

#7 Posted by granderojo (1778 posts) -

@Nickieroonie: Yeah most legit deaths come from a boss(for me at least) or group of enemies you didn't see due to camera or the fact that you entered a door and got swarmed as soon as you entered the map. Both these things could be alleviated by changing the structure to an RTS.

@project343: You see I should have been all over Project Eternity but something about their kickstarter really soured me about the whole thing. I don't know if it was all the naming conventions or the fact they didn't show much other than concept, or the fact it was Obsidian doing it. I'll probably buy it day one but yeah, wasn't sold on it.

@ArtisanBreads: I really hope Wildman makes it's funding, such a solid concept.

#8 Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw (6139 posts) -

I don't have much to contribute to the conversation (frankly, I think playing any isometric RPG in hardcore mode would probably give me a heart attack), but I just wanted to pop in here and say this is a terrific write-up. I'd love to be able to switch on the fly from my main character to my summons in games like this - that's a terrific idea, as is the idea of a party-based iso-action-RPG (man, there's gotta be a better name for these things).

Moderator
#9 Posted by StarvingGamer (8128 posts) -

Wildman sounds like alternating between Diablo II and DotA, basically a mashup without even really mashing it up. It doesn't seem like you have any direct control over what your grunt units are doing, and merely interacting with tech trees does not an RTS make.

The problem with trying to make an RTS/ARPG hybrid is the pacing of things. In WC3 things moved along at an engaging speed if you were controlling your hero and a squad of units, managing your base and building reinforcements. But whenever the game stripped all that away and left you only controlling your hero, it always felt painfully boring and slow. By contrast, if you were to take the extremely fast action of Diablo III and try to extrapolate it out to controlling a group of units, it would be impossible to play in a skillful manner without pausing it often enough to effectively turn it into a turn-based game.

#10 Posted by GERALTITUDE (3181 posts) -

Interesting write-up, kinda funny seeing that topic title in 2013 though. Anyways I wonder what you think about pause-combat in regards to this? Or is that too Baldur's Gate? The problem with a real-time party-based hardcore iso is how lame it would be to switch control to your summon and watch your actual PC die, thus ending you run. Could AI management be good enough that we wouldn't have to worry about our PCs for a few seconds in a really frantic mob? Maaaybe. Doubtful to happen soon.

That's a huge problem for me, and I'm not sure you can really negate it. Pause combat helps the situation but you're still handing the CPU control of your character. Making the PC invincible/disappear is clearly not cool so that can't be a solution either. A hybrid solution would just be to have party members who suffer permadeath and have unique combinations of abilities. You can issue orders to them (use x ability on y) but you don't control them.

Like many have already pointed out DoW2 is probably the closest to an RTS/RPG. If only the RPG dial was turned up a few notches I think you'd have what you were looking for. I've got a lot to say about this genre but I'll shut up for a while. Maybe get back to work...

#11 Posted by granderojo (1778 posts) -

@StarvingGamer: @GERALTITUDE: @Sparky_Buzzsaw: Well to me WC3 isn't really about strategy. It's Real Time Logistics, and Wildman is of that same ilk. It's a different thing than I'm talking about here but it's similar enough. I think as you fix certain problems that I talked about by making ARPGs you rightfully get new ones, many of which you guys listed. Maybe you could have multiple player characters, and if one died you could fill them in so. Loot could be far more important than the actual characters. The problem of AI being too dumb and fear of death would be fixed by just having them in a control group and never having the AI take control of the player character.

#12 Posted by GERALTITUDE (3181 posts) -

I really like the idea of having multiple player characters. You could have an unlimited, randomised and generic pool, but it'd be interesting to imagine a game like Diablo where there are, for example, 8 character types to choose from. Except, each of these can only live once, and you control more than one at a time. Like you said you map all their abilities simultaneously, so it's easy enough to shoot a fireball with the sorceress and a hurricane kick with the monk. I think I finally "get" your vision. If this game is not Dawn of War, than is it because you don't control more than one group? Could you position them individually? Or is this DoW/CoH style, where the group automatically disperses near your click point? Loot would be almost more important than levelling as I see it. Obviously the characters would still level but their bonuses for doing so would be class-specific abilities rather than more hp/mp/dmg/def, which would instead be (mostly) controlled at the loot level.

A roguelike version of this game would be great. You'd lose your overall progress in the game after all characters were exhausted. True game over! I guess this would be an optional mode, to be more realistic.

Anyways, I'm on board. Kickstart it dude.

#13 Posted by project343 (2816 posts) -

@thabigred said:

@project343: You see I should have been all over Project Eternity but something about their kickstarter really soured me about the whole thing. I don't know if it was all the naming conventions or the fact they didn't show much other than concept, or the fact it was Obsidian doing it. I'll probably buy it day one but yeah, wasn't sold on it.

Most people who love good RPGs hold Obsidian up with high regard. They have some of the best writers in this industry and, despite my admiration for all of Bioware's work (even the less than stellar stuff), I'd much rather put Obsidian on the writing pedestal over Bioware.

They really give off the impression that they are poorly managed, but hugely creatively and ambitious. If you sit down and do a side-by-side comparison of both KOTOR to KOTOR2 and New Vegas to Fallout 3, you'd see that you have significantly more interesting, nuanced, meaty, and ambitious efforts... even if they could have used another month of heavy QA work. More than that, I know a ton of people who will defend Alpha Protocol 'till their dying breath (personally, the espionage theme doesn't really work for me, but to each their own).

Without the pressures of a publisher, and seemingly no forced holiday-release quota to hit, I'd imagine that we're going to see a significantly more polished game than their prior releases.

Beyond Obsidian, I imagine the other put-off was how... structured it was. They were really milking the milestone philosophy. These milestones were accompanied with some really elaborate and pretentious graphics that felt less like they were trying to reward the community for committing, and more like they walked into Kickstarter with some far-fetched goals in mind. In either case, of the Kickstarter projects that I have backed, the game has by far the best backer support that I've seen. They are crystal clear with their entire process (aside from specific plot beats), they update really frequently with a variety of compelling stuff, and they've got a lot of really good community interaction.

#14 Posted by granderojo (1778 posts) -

@GERALTITUDE: I think it works because of the way people play hardcore, it just allows for more variability.

@project343: I think Obsidians a great company who happen to ship buggy games from time to time, but often times are solid. That said, the problem with their kickstarter to me was it was so obscure, and it got so much money. Those far fetched goals were another thing that turned me off to it but yeah, all they really had was concept stuff. There are teams far more along than they who haven't gotten pennies in comparison and it's disappointing.

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