Do you enjoy it when games let you break them?

Avatar image for atheistpreacher
AtheistPreacher

540

Forum Posts

1

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

I think this post is going to be a little meandering and disorganized because this is a complex question and there's a lot I want to get across, but I'll do my best!

Having played a lot of Elden Ring over the last month and getting into a lot of conversations on these boards about difficulty and the way it's handled, I started to think more about one of the reasons I like its open-world structure, despite its drawbacks: it really allows you to break the hell out of the game if you want to. Sure, you could play the game along its suggested route and be power-appropriate for all the content. Or you could run to a late-game zone, pick up some amazing late-game weapon with high stat requirements, find a good XP grinding spot and level up for a while, and then start mopping the floor with everything. I'll let you guess which one of these I did.

It made me think of an old Kirk Hamilton Kotaku piece titled "Why Everybody Loves Final Fantasy Tactics". It's a fun article and you should read the whole thing, but here's the most relevant bit for the point I'm making:

“Saying Final Fantasy Tactics is your favorite Final Fantasy game is like saying Jed Bartlet is your favorite U.S. president,” said Darius Kazemi, game designer at Bocoup, in an email. “It is at once obviously correct, and obviously cheating.”

In particular, Kazemi loves how Tactics is so unbalanced. “The thing I like best about FFT is how it’s not afraid to let the player power up and essentially break everything,” he said. “While it’s important to have a balanced combat system in a multiplayer game, it’s not nearly as important in a single-player game. FFT says “to hell with balance!” and gives you a set of fascinating systems that you can bend to your will.

He continued by detailing an exploit likely well-known to most hardcore Tactics players: “My fondest memory was building the ultimate Calculator (the coolest mage class ever), who would cast Holy on every character standing at an elevation that is also a prime number. This would often one-hit kill every single enemy and ally on the map, including the Calculator himself, the only survivor being the one party equipped with an item that absorbed Holy damage.”

And, well, yes, this exactly.

I think there's something here that a lot of people including myself really enjoy, but that is also just very dependent on personal tastes and what you're looking to get out of the game. One could easily argue that if you're using the OP thing or are grossly over-leveled, then you're sort of cheating yourself out of the experience the developer intended you to have. But speaking only for myself, I enjoy breaking games in this sense as long as it feels at least somewhat earned.

E.g., getting the Calculator class in FFT required a lot of straight grinding, hours and hours of it. Some people hate grinding, but I am at the extreme end of the bell curve in terms of not really minding it at all. For me, grinding is an opportunity to put on a TV show or something on another screen and just enjoy that while I'm doing it. In some sense, to quote Jeff G, I just like seeing the numbers go up. And then when I return to the "real" game, i.e. the non-grinding critical path, and wipe the floor with my opponents, I don't feel like I've cheated myself out of anything, I feel instead like I've earned what the game is willing to give me.

It can go too far. My favorite example of something that broke a game that I thought was just plain terrible design was the Bee shield in Borderlands 2. This thing added a ginormous damage boost to every one of your shots that amounted to something like ten times the damage of a normal bullet as long as your shield was fully charged. As a result, the only attribute that mattered for any of your weapons was fire rate. Slow-firing weapons immediately became useless, and the difference between a common (white) and legendary (orange) SMG was negligible, aside perhaps for the associated element. I mean, Borderlands 2 at its core was a loot game, and here was a shield that largely made all other loot irrelevant. Nothing about that felt good to me.

Everyone has their own line, I think, when it comes to that stuff, when it stops feeling like the OP equipment/class is earned and just seems cheap, or maybe just limits you into using a playstyle you don't like in order to exploit it. That's part of the complex nature of the question, and why a good balance--or a good lack of it--can be hard for designers to achieve.

But another related issue is that I think there is also just something I like about increasing the power of my characters in games. Again, people play games for very different reasons, and some don't care about this aspect at all, but this is a driving factor for me (it's part of why I'm really looking forward to the 1.0 release of Rogue Legacy 2, which has just a ridiculous ton of progression to do, and why there are parodies on the whole concept like Progress Quest). If there's no mechanic for progressing your character in a game, I am inherently less interested. Maybe it's all just liking the power fantasy.

It's why I dislike systems like the ones in Bethesda's Elder Scrolls or Fallout games that scale enemies up with you when you level up. The idea is that the entire open-world map be approachable at any time, so players can do anything in any order. But I hate leveling up and feeling like it's a lateral move, or in some cases might even hurt me overall. I'd rather a game put unbeatable higher-level enemies in front of me and challenged me to come back when I'm strong enough, just as games like Elden Ring or Dragon's Dogma do. Again it feeds into my love of feeling like my character is getting stronger and more capable.

So, at the end of all this nonsense I've spewed, what do you think? Do you enjoy breaking games in this manner, or do you prefer a smooth difficulty curve and not exploiting the game for all it's worth? Do you hate grinding, or do you sort of like it? And is your brain broken in the same manner mine is, so that you somewhat unreasonably love watching your in-game character get stronger and the numbers get bigger? Is there a line for you with these things? Can you think of any good examples of stuff like this you liked vs didn't like?

Avatar image for brian_
brian_

991

Forum Posts

11325

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 1

#2  Edited By brian_

I always play games the "suggested route", for lack of a better term. I'm just a very boring gamer. I like being on a line and progressing down it. I don't get a whole lot of satisfaction out of exploring a game world. My need to see everything in a game comes more from a place of checking off a list of things to do, then any sort of wonder of exploration, if that makes sense. So doing something like going to higher level areas first doesn't even cross my mind as a thing to do. I'm always just thinking about the thing that's immediately in front of me.

Avatar image for justin258
Justin258

16568

Forum Posts

26

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 11

User Lists: 8

My brother and I played through Divinity: Original Sin 2 last year. One of the most fun aspects of that game was the way I sort of just stumbled into an overpowered archer build for Sebille. See, that game basically gives four action points to every character to use during a turn. They can get up to 6 AP through various means. You can also get 6 AP for every turn if you take the Glass Cannon perk, which gives you 6 AP but makes your magic and physical armor useless against status effects. You can then take the Stench perk, which makes enemies much more likely to hit someone other than the character with stench (note: you will still get hit, it's just less likely). Archers also get high ground bonuses and those can get pretty intense. Being an elf, Sebille also gets a skill called Flesh Sacrifice, which allows her to sacrifice some Constitution for a damage boost and an extra AP. I also gave her Adrenaline, which is a skill that gives you two extra AP now in exchange for losing two AP next turn (which, I should remind you, puts her at normal AP) and a perk that gives you two AP if you get a skill. And on top of that, Fane has a skill called "Time Warp" that's kind of expensive to use but grants an entire second turn right after you finish the one you're on, and he can cast it on other people. All of this means that Sebille could deal a disgusting amount of damage in one turn. I played through the entire thing co op with my brother and there were several battles where Sebille got the first turn and he just went to browse Reddit while she wiped the field. It was so, so much fun to wipe the floor with that character.

I said all that to tell you that Divinity: Original Sin 2 can a very challenging game at times, but it's also not afraid to let you just go fucking nuts and I think it's a vastly superior game for it. In most cases, I do agree with you, but I think that any developer actively trying to go for this gameplay style needs to understand that it can very much go the other way as well. The above was the playthrough where we finished D:OS 2 and the third time I'd seriously tried playing it. For the previous two tries, I felt like the game was impossible and there was nowhere I could reasonably do anything. I was being hard-headed and playing on Classic difficulty, not the easier two available ones, but it's still something a dev needs to keep in mind - balance your game such that there's always something a player can go do, and such that there are no unviable builds, not necessarily such that a player can't figure out a way to steamroll an entire game. When you can do that, you feel like you've mastered the game, or found something that not even the developer thought of.

(For the record, I do still strongly recommend D:OS 2 to basically anyone who likes turn-based combat and crazy character builds).

To tackle the multiplayer side of things, I think it's also very much possible to balance the fun out of a game. I spent a lot of time playing Rainbow Six: Siege and lately I've picked it up again, but one of the reasons I play far less of it now than I did then is because of the way Ubisoft balances it. They look at a "pick rate" chart and decide what changes need to be made based on that and seemingly nothing but that. If a Siege operator is getting picked very often they nerf him or her somehow, seemingly without thinking about why that character gets picked so much. This results in operators that get picked a lot for good reasons (Jager for his ability to intercept grenades, Zofia for being able to do basically everything adequately but nothing well) getting the fun nerfed out of them while operators that didn't get picked much because they're more specialized or difficult to figure out getting buffed even if they didn't need it. I'm not saying that Ubisoft should have let Ela continue to run around with a fifty round laser gun, I'm saying, nerfing Jager's speed and the recoil for Zofia's assault rifle really sucked.

Both of these things have made me think about balance in video games a lot more than I can really elaborate on in this post. As you might imagine, though, I think that fun should generally be a bigger priority than balance, as long as it's still fun for everybody.

Avatar image for atheistpreacher
AtheistPreacher

540

Forum Posts

1

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@justin258: Funny that you should mention DOS2. My brother had played it through with a friend of his and done the Lone Wolf thing where it was just each of them playing one character but getting some buffs. They liked it so much that they convinced me to do another play with them. And, well, long story short, my brother said he enjoyed it less the second time around, and it's partly because we ended up with pretty busted builds (helped that they just knew more about the way the game worked at that point). I was Fane, who I had picked mostly for story/lore reasons but also had that really good Time Warp power you mentioned. I basically went pure fire+earth mage and just tore through everything. Worm Tremor + Torturer locked everything down and then crazy strong shit like Mass Traps or Pyroclastic Eruption would just kill anything that wasn't dead already. Like, no joke, I killed Adramahlihk in one hit with Pyroclastic Eruption.

But I definitely admired the way that game was just a bunch of complex systems and they were fine with you breaking it. My favorite moment by far was when we ran across this giant or troll or whatever who was immune to a lot of stuff and would I think heal to full at end of turn or something. It was starting to look like there was just no way we could do enough damage quickly enough to kill him before he just got it all back. Then we noticed that there was some lava below us and off to the side a bit. My friend wondered if I could just use Terrain Transformation to switch the dirt under his feet for lava and kill him instantly. Surely that wouldn't work, I thought. But it did. We laughed ourselves silly. It was really stupid in the best way possible, just insta-gibbing this guy.

Avatar image for facelessvixen
FacelessVixen

4008

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

#5  Edited By FacelessVixen

If an RPG lets me farm, let me find a podcast and call me Old MacDonald.

Enchantment in Skryim. Reduce the cost of destruction spells to 100%. Could have sworn that I was using a mod.

Avatar image for shiyamiro
shiyamiro

140

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

#6  Edited By shiyamiro

It depends I think. For RPGs and Tactics type games I like grinding to become overpowered because it feels like all those incremental upgrades matter, but I also appreciate games that level up with you to always keep you on your toes. But for action games I think I enjoy them more when I feel like I'm constantly close to death; Breath of the Wild's ending would have been less epic if I brushed off guardian hits instead of using all the mechanics I learned in sync to finally grapple with them.

Avatar image for nodima
Nodima

3712

Forum Posts

24

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 13

User Lists: 0

Oh yes, for sure. I don't ever seek strategies out intentionally or anything like that, or if I do and it seems a bit too complicated for my taste (ie. the path to getting a major leg up in the first half hour or so of Demon's Souls) I'm more than happy to forget about it, but my favorite moments in games are when I wind up in situations that seem super intense only to realize I've got a character who's just gonna trash the whole scenario. It's partially why I love Horizon's combat so much, between all the side content, weapon upgrades and rock/paper/scissors aspects of the damage types and the robots' armor and critical points you can pretty easily be both overleveled and overprepared for everything, which for me encourages more experimentation and freewheeling gameplay.

It's probably rooted in the amount of JRPGs I played in the summer as a kid, the goal was always to get to a point where the random encounters were so trivial that I wouldn't mind farming the materials I needed from them, at which point I'd farm way more materials than I needed at the time so I'd (hopefully) never have to farm again and it was usually at that point that you knew whatever boss(es) you were going to encounter next weren't going to be too much of a threat. And that tendency still creeps up in me from time to time - all three times I've started a game of Bloodborne, my first night with it is pretty much entirely spent clearing out all of the Yharnam map, from Central to the Sewers and back up through Gherman's cemetery farming materials and XP. Grinding that out for six or seven hours is no hassle for me, particularly thanks to the knowledge I'll also be oppressively strong for just about anything coming my way until roughly the midway point of the game.

Avatar image for peezmachine
PeezMachine

658

Forum Posts

42

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 6

User Lists: 2

#8  Edited By PeezMachine

Inscryption is so wonderful because it's all about sanctioned game-breaking. Every time I bent the rules or scammed a system to create a comically overpowered card I felt like I was getting one over, even though I was just interacting with the game as designed. And after using my ill-gotten goods to eke out a narrow win in a tough fight, I often felt like this was the only way that would have been possible, how would you even DO that battle otherwise? So it was a lot of fun comparing notes with a friend who broke the game in entirely different ways, carving an equally valid one true broken path.

My other favorite "game-breaker" also happens to be encouraged and blessed by the host game. I'm talking, of course, about the Mechromancer class in Borderlands 2, who can combine an accuracy-ruining insane damage buff with the ability to make missed shots ricochet toward the nearest enemy to create a playstyle that involves just blasting any nearby surface with the biggest shotgun you can find while everything around you keels over dead, all while the character shouts about how incredibly broken this is.

Avatar image for bladeofcreation
BladeOfCreation

2388

Forum Posts

27

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 3

It sort of depends on the game. To give an example of a game mechanic that I immediately break: carry weight in a game that expects me to pick up a lot of things. So in Fallout or Skyrim, I'm gonna either get a mod or use console commands to let myself carry what I want. Gonna do the same when I play the Witcher sequels later this year.

I like games that encourage "breaking" them. To use a recent example, Inscryption allows the player to make really "broken" card decks that are a lot of fun to play.

Avatar image for atheistpreacher
AtheistPreacher

540

Forum Posts

1

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@bladeofcreation: I mean, you're sort of talking about a different thing with using mods, I'm more talking about things that the base game allows you to do in order to somehow trivialize portions of their content. But on the other hand, I certainly have used mods for games before, and I agree that carry weight limits in games are almost always more annoying than they're worth. I mod stuff like that out to if I have the option. But I tend to play more on console than PC, so that's not often the case.

Avatar image for laughingman
laughingman

111

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 4

#11 laughingman  Online

The Shin Megami Tensei/Persona games are my favorite ones to break. It's possible to create some absurdly powerful demons/personas through fusion, although that's usually a late-game activity. Early on, you can trivialize most boss battles by using the proper demons/personas. There's also a chance that you'll accidentally create a demon that's higher level than you are, making it much easier to handle the next few hours.

Avatar image for atheistpreacher
AtheistPreacher

540

Forum Posts

1

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@laughingman: Oh God, you're right. I actually re-played Persona 5 recently... or, well, I had played the original and played through Royal this time. It really is fun to hit a new character level and know that there are several more personas you can fuse, and what cool combination of abilities can you get on them this time? I've definitely been overleveled as hell on some of those games because I just keep wanting to get the next persona in line.

Incidentally, I keep hoping that as part of the Persona anniversary celebration Atlus will announce a remaster of Persona 3 that combines the epilogue "Answer" portion and the 3d social environments of FES with the alternate female protagonist and gameplay improvements of Portable, but I'm just not sure that it'll ever happen. Makes me a little sad.

Avatar image for shiyamiro
shiyamiro

140

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

The thing I liked about Persona 5 specifically was that increasing bonds with everyone outside dungeons helped you with buffs and strategic benefits inside, so by the end you would literally be powered by friendship

Avatar image for laughingman
laughingman

111

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 4

#14 laughingman  Online

@atheistpreacher: a Persona 3 re-release or remaster is on my wish list, too. It has my favorite setting of the series and a legitimately great ending.

Avatar image for av_gamer
AV_Gamer

2355

Forum Posts

17819

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 15

User Lists: 11

I think some of you don't understand what breaking a game is. It's not grinding and leveling up until you overpower the enemies and bosses by the end of it. That's the game working as intended by the developers. You can become powerful, but on their terms. Breaking the game is going outside of the scripted playthrough and getting over, like what a lot of speed runners do when they find exploits and use them to get through a game as quickly as possible. Which is why many developers are constantly in a battle with the speed runners trying to patch the exploits out. Personally, my favorite thing I used to do when I was a kid, was input versions of game genie codes that were different from the cheats that was listed for a game. This would often lead to all kinds of crazy discoveries, like levels in games that weren't completed and wasn't accessible, among many other crazy things.

Avatar image for imhungry
imhungry

1619

Forum Posts

1315

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 3

@av_gamer: You can argue semantics if you want I guess but the definition of what is being discussed was laid out pretty clearly in the long OP so it's a little weird for you to come in and say that actually we're discussing the wrong thing.

My favourite example of this still continues to be FF8 and the ridiculous things you could do with the junction system and refining items. Even outside of junction shenanigans just being able to abuse Aura and Zell's Armageddon Fist was its own delicious nonsense.

Avatar image for efesell
Efesell

7193

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

#17 Efesell  Online

@av_gamer: I think it’s much more broadly understood as the former than the latter but either way it’s not some documented fact or anything it’s very flexible terminology so there’s no real position to Well Actually this.

Anyway I’m a fan of a long process that ends in this sort of thing and far less so in straight exploits or like being led to some high level specific spot to pick up an overpowered weapon I shouldn’t have.

Avatar image for eccentrix
eccentrix

3062

Forum Posts

12355

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 4

User Lists: 15

I like most game breakers, including AV_Gamer's definition. I don't think there's a line for me. I find grinding fun and I think most of my enjoyment of Far Cry 5 came from having an overpowered DLC weapon that negated most of the combat.

I agree that open world scaling is disappointing, because relatively you're not getting any more powerful.

Avatar image for efesell
Efesell

7193

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

#19 Efesell  Online

1:1 level scaling is boring but I enjoy when games scale things up to at least be in range of you. Like if you roll a level 50 in then everything could scale to 45 so you clearly have the advantage but can still fuck around and find out.

Avatar image for monkeyking1969
monkeyking1969

8983

Forum Posts

1241

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 18

Twenty years ago, as young man, I would push at the limits of any games, find the hidden corners and try to break the walls that confined the game world - now I don't have time of that! I just want to play that games and I hope teh games doen't break, so I can finish the damn thing. If I'm shown a neat trick that I can do -that doen't break the game- I might do it; but I no longer acttivily search for such things.

Avatar image for prolurker
prolurker

96

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

I like "breaking" a game for the sake of replayability. I.e. in BotW you can go to specific locations early on and grab OP equipment so you can obliterate the competition. To me, this is extremely fun. The entire DLC focuses on adding OP abilities and armor pieces so you can cheese fights. The trick is to hide those items and make OP equipment not easily attainable.

On the other hand, I don't like it when some games "force" you into immortality/god mode, i.e. in Control when you learn how to fly/hover. To me, the whole point of a shooter-type game is placement. And when you decide a character can simply hover to high ground via. the press of a button, then you've removed a core component of what makes a game fun. You've lowered the skill ceiling, and I can't simply ignore this mechanic once I have it.

This concept plays heavily into PvP games, and why games like Halo or CS:GO succeed for such a long time imo. These games don't have power creep. The skill ceiling is high, but not too high, and the core playerbase is dedicated to these ideals.

So it really depends on the game and whether it's PvP or not. This is why I question NFTs, how are you going to balance the use of an OP helmet in a single-player game which suddenly is placed into a PvP game? The entire system would need to be rebalanced for every single game. I digress.

Avatar image for imunbeatable80
imunbeatable80

602

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

So it obviously differs from game to game, for instance I hate breaking FF8. The fact that breaking that game essentially means gaining as few levels as possible and doing weird junction tricks to be overleveled feels cheap to me. But if you want to spend 20 hours over leveling in FF7 in random battles So you can smash bosses, feels different and acceptable to me.

That may be semantics, as both instances are using the systems differently in your favor, but one just feels wrong to me.

Avatar image for wollywoo
wollywoo

905

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

#23  Edited By wollywoo

I also really hate level scaling. It just makes everything less rewarding unless it's so subtle you never notice it. I remember in Skyrim facing my first Dragon and taking it down in about a minute. What's the fun in that? It really defeats the whole point of leveling. Even worse was in Homeworld where I was finding it extraordinarily difficult until I discovered that it was so hard because I had done too well on the previous level by capturing a ton of enemy frigates. Don't punish me for playing your game well.

BOTW actually does this fairly well, though, giving you better weapons but not changing the enemies' damage to you. It feels like you're using the tools at your disposal rather than having the whole world adjust to you.

Avatar image for rentarousensei
Rentarousensei

45

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Between loving WH40K Mechanicus, the aforementioned Final Fantasy Tactics, and Disgaea games I'd be lying if I said broken stuff annoys me.