Ben X

The Big FPS Playthrough MISSION COMPLETE

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29 minutes ago, TychoCelchuuu said:

This guy can be good at inspiring me to be creative with the combat. This isn't his craziest video, but it's the mission you just beat:

 

Wow, that is pretty awesome! I don't have a few of the powers he's using there, though. I guess maybe I needed to be more thorough with hunting for runes, though I did try to get the ones I could unless I couldn't figure out the other way into a blocked room or whatever. The blinking into mid-air for kills is a really good idea, though, I hadn't thought of that. It'll be a big help with the tallboys, I was stupidly always looking for higher ground!

 

The stuff about having to force yourself to go about things the fun way is something we talked about elsewhere on the forums - about whether designers should "protect players from themselves". I think they should.

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Yes, they should. The Uncharted games are a great example of difficulty levels affecting this. On higher difficulty levels you're incredibly fragile so you just keep hiding in cover and taking pot shots and it's really boring and tedious. I always knock the difficulty down in those games so I can run around spraying bullets at enemies, finishing them with punches, swing from platform to platform gunning enemies down as I go along. It's super fun playing this way but the difficulty is designed in a way to force you to use the cover system. It baffles me. Even right now in Wolfenstein the best way to get past a level I was stuck on was to hide behind a box taking pot shots at enemies until they were all gone, not remotely fun but playing it by running around gunning down the enemies just got me killed all the time.

 

I'd say Dishonored does a bad job of getting you to play in the most fun way(a la those videos) with the impact killing enemies has on the story. It's not severe but the game certainly guilts you over it. In fact any game that lets you murder your way through it but tuts at you for it is doing a bad job I think.

 

In recent memory Doom 2016 does the best job of forcing you to play in the most fun way possible.

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Yeah, as previously noted by me, I gave up playing Dishonored basically specifically because I was trying to play it the way it was signalling it wanted to be played (stealth no-kills), but as Ben notes, it's actually not very fun to play that way. (I hear Dishonored 2 fixes this slightly in that there's more powers applicable to stealthy pacifism, as opposed to Destroying Your Enemies With Hordes of Rats or whatever). This seems like a significant problem with the game design, to me. (Although I'm also generally more of a fan of non-fatal progression in games, if they'll let me do it, so I'm also biased that way...)

 

I'm actually interested to know if any interviews with the devs touch on this - I don't remember anything going into that much detail about if they felt they succeeded in their intent re the first game's systems and their impact on the player.

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For me, Dishonored facilitated a pretty satisfying middle-ground playstyle. I'd go into every situation with the intent of being stealthy, but ready to "go loud" when I fuck it up and the shit hits the fan. Then there's a sort of ebb and flow to the action as you flip between those modes. 

 

If I may be so bold as to make a sweeping and probably stupid generalization, I think RPG-style progression mechanics can really fuck up immersive sims, because you can so easily pigeonhole yourself into a certain approach. I'd like to make a mod of Deus Ex (any of them really) where it just awards you with certain augmentations at predetermined points in the story. Then it'd be like "OK, I've been sneaking around for a bit since I got that cool cloaking device in the last level, but now I've got the super duper assblaster, so maybe I'll try that out." It could encourage trying things that you otherwise would ignore.

 

My favorite game in the immersive sim category is Thief, which has minimal progression stuff, aside from getting some new gadgets. I can say pretty confidently that it wouldn't be improved by having to dump experience points into your archery skill. Basically fuck RPGs.

 

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21 hours ago, aoanla said:

 it's actually not very fun to play that way.

It totally is if you're someone else though (like me or Chris Remo)

 

@Salacious SnakeI think I agree to some extent but it's also really cool to be rewarded in something more than points/money for exploring. If those rewards are functional you almost automatically do get some power differential. But the functionality could be lateral upgrades instead, like turning your water arrows into ice patch ones or something.

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I think I... sort of agree with you [Salacious Snake], but with some caveats.

 

Firstly, I think you're eliding player agency in terms of the "RP" bit of RPGs, as they apply to immersive sims. I really wanted to play Dishonored as sneaky-stealth-non-fatal Corvo - both because the fiction implies this is the "right" choice, and because I prefer taking non-lethal approaches in games if they will let me. Even if Dishonored had a set sequence of Outsider powers you got at various points, I'd still have not been using the lethal, messy powers when I got them, because they're not something I wanted to use at all. It's not about "not trying things out", it's about "matching your vision of the character you want to play". In fact, given that Dishonored strongly signals that you should probably not be messily killing people, being forcibly given messy killing magic powers would have been a source of dissonance with the game's own narrative design, for me.

(This does contrast with the more "sandbox" model of how immersive sims work - but surely one thing that makes an immersive sim more of a "game", in the classical sense, is having some sense of drive, or purpose, even if it's vague. For me, having a narrative goal, and preferably a (however vague) conception of how my character should approach problems, is fundamental to the experience. If you're messing around in a sandbox, then what was the point of them including the narrative goals in the first place?)

 

Secondly, I think it's also a matter of degree as to how the "RPG" elements are integrated into the immersive sim. In another forum, I'm involved in a thread about the dissonance between some games' narrative description of the player character (as, say, a tremendous badass, or an impossibly stealthy spy, or whatever), and the player's competence at actually performing that. There's a sliding scale as to how much effect (and at what level) player "physical competence" bleeds into their character's competence, determined mostly mechanically. 
At one end, the "tabletop RPG" end of the scale, my character's skill at, say, fighting with a rapier, or mediating between two hostile forces, or whatever, is determined purely by their own statistical properties. I don't have to try to stick someone with an actual sword - or know how to do it - for my character to be successful. "Classical" CRPGs are basically at this end of the space, as is, for example, Fallout 3 using VATS for combat.

At the other end, the "lasertag" end, perhaps, if I want to shoot someone with a gun, I have to be good enough at shooting people with guns (albeit harmless lasertag guns); if I want to sneak past people, I have to actually sneak past people. This is basically where, say, classical FPS games are, and also where Thief is - if I'm bad at sneaking (and I am), then so is my Garrett.

I think the problems tend to come where you blend the two approaches in the middle - either via abilities which indirectly imply you should be awesome at "approach X" rather than "approach Y", or by direct stat-based interaction between player skill and character skill (my major bugbear with both the original Deus Ex, and Fallout 3 without VATS, being that my ability to shoot stuff is determined by my character's skill with a gun *as well as* my ability to target things with a reticule - fictively, JC Denton with Master-level pistols skill should be headshotting anything he wants, but if I'm playing him, he's just going to perfectly hit where my incompetently placed reticule is instead). Since a lot of RPG-based "definition of your character" comes (mechanically) from skill-choice and any other way you have to distinguish your version of the PC from those of anyone else playing, this is a very difficult place to negotiate.

 

(And, as I mentioned above, there's also the problem of integrating this with your narrative signals, too - which is really where I think Dishonored has a problem. The narrative says "killing people messily is wrong"; the mechanics say "here's lots of ways to kill people messily". )

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The narrative barely even says killing people messily is wrong. The world gets darker and more violent if you kill people messily, but that's kind of a silly thing to get bent out of shape about. Killing people messily is already dark and violent, I don't see what the big deal is with having the world also get dark and violent. I played through Dishonored twice, once without killing anyone and once killing basically everyone, and I don't recall the game telling me I was doing it right one time and doing it wrong the other time. I agree that the tools they give you are mostly geared towards a lethal playstyle (although I had no problem playing nonlethally) so that's a criticism I understand, but I've never really seen what people are drawing on when they say the game wants you to play nonlethally. The nonlethal stuff honestly feels more like an afterthought.

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If you don't see why "the world becoming more dark and violent" is a negative signal for behaviour, then...

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It's only a negative signal if you think that the world becoming more chaotic is bad. Many of the side-effects of killing everything are to give you more stuff to kill.

 

I've never understood this beef people have with the game. It goes out of its way to bend itself in the direction the player is acting.

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Every single voiced character in the game berates you, some repeatedly, for choosing excessively lethal play. Hardened soldiers, who say at the beginning of the game that the throne must be retaken at any cost, verbally recoil at your kill count roughly halfway through the game, begin begging you to kill less people, and call you evil and a monster by the end. There is also a mechanical effect where you don't begin the final mission in stealth if you've gone for the high-chaos route.

 

I agree that, mechanically, Dishonoured bends over backwards to accommodate the player's chosen style of play, but narratively and thematically, its developers take extreme pains to communicate to you that a high-lethality style is the wrong way to play their game. That's fine, whatever, a lot of games have "saint and asshole" morality systems because good and evil are too passe, but when you make a game positively filled with creative and unique toys of death and then explicitly call me a monster for wanting to use them a lot, yeah, I have a beef.

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If anything it made me like the game more. At least people react to you like a normal person would rather than the jubilations your mass-murdering avatar tends to get in most other games. It's satisfyingly logical to me.

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5 minutes ago, osmosisch said:

If anything it made me like the game more. At least people react to you like a normal person would rather than the jubilations your mass-murdering avatar tends to get in most other games. It's satisfyingly logical to me.

 

Sure, but we're talking about negative signals and whether the game communicates that killing people messily is wrong, not whether those negative signals are "satisfyingly logical."

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Huh, yeah, I lost track of that bit. Some rather deft goalposting by me there. Sorry.

 

Well, whatever, I know I'm an outlier about this game.

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1 minute ago, osmosisch said:

I know I'm an outlier about this game.

 

I enjoyed the game itself a lot, I just wish that I could have turned off the mandatory cutscenes full of finger-wagging. I understand that the writing in the sequel and the DLCs is less overt at chiding the player for having too much fun with the killy bits, so maybe I'll play them someday and it'll improve my opinion of the original with it.

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That's the thing I'm an outlier about. It's the way other games let you get away with abhorrent stuff without so much as a finger-wag that bugs me.

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10 minutes ago, osmosisch said:

That's the thing I'm an outlier about. It's the way other games let you get away with abhorrent stuff without so much as a finger-wag that bugs me.

 

Maybe, but I kept track of my kills and roughly three hundred and twenty people died in the course of me putting down a palace coup, which is hardly outrageous by historical standards. Certainly, it's one thing to get scolded by a reclusive inventor or a young girl, but former generals and admirals shouldn't be giving me that shit, not when they're likely responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people themselves. It really felt like the developers speaking through their mouths, and I resented it as a player, even though I understood it in the abstract.

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1 hour ago, aoanla said:

If you don't see why "the world becoming more dark and violent" is a negative signal for behaviour, then...

That's like saying Call of Duty doesn't want you to kill people because when you shoot them, blood flies out, they cry out in pain, and then they die, and all of those are negative signals for behavior. I mean yes if you do dark and violent stuff then you get dark and violent results in Dishonored, but that doesn't mean the game is saying "don't do it."

 

As for the people berating you that @Gormongous is mentioning, this gets into spoiler territory:

 

 

Those people are berating you because they're slowly going insane from all the lying and conspiring and murdering they're doing. They're getting increasingly nervous about your destructive capabilities because they know they're going to betray and kill you, and they're worried about whether that is going to be successful. They are also starting to feel increasingly unsure about this series of events that they've touched off. As the body count piles up, they're starting to worry that the wheels are coming off the wagon and that they don't have control any more. Things are growing more chaotic (this is why the game says it's tracking "chaos," rather than something like morality, which is what everyone accuses the game of tracking). The developers are obviously not speaking "through" the generals/admirals because those guys turn out to be the bad guys all along and in the end you either kill them or they've killed each other. Those guys are the villains, not the developer mouthpieces! The only guy who's not obviously a villain who berates you is Samuel, and he's clearly just fed up with all this bullshit, which I think is pretty understandable.

 

I haven't really thought a lot about this because I never really saw the point behind the criticisms people made, but the more I think about it the more I think this game is really unjustly denigrated for the chaos stuff. 

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6 hours ago, aoanla said:

I think I... sort of agree with you [Salacious Snake], but with some caveats...

This is a thoughtful and great post, thanks for writing it! You bring up a lot of good points, and in response to what was kind of knee-jerky and even a little facetious on my part.

 

The rest of this current discussion is an interesting case study in how people can engage so differently with a game. On the subject of being chided for acting violently, I honestly didn't notice. The narrative side of Dishonored failed to grab me from the start, so I ended up ignoring it and approaching the levels as objective-driven sandboxes. The story was so not a driver for me that I didn't realize until like a year later that I had stopped playing a few minutes before the ending.

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26 minutes ago, TychoCelchuuu said:

 

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Those people are berating you because they're slowly going insane from all the lying and conspiring and murdering they're doing. They're getting increasingly nervous about your destructive capabilities because they know they're going to betray and kill you, and they're worried about whether that is going to be successful. They are also starting to feel increasingly unsure about this series of events that they've touched off. As the body count piles up, they're starting to worry that the wheels are coming off the wagon and that they don't have control any more. Things are growing more chaotic (this is why the game says it's tracking "chaos," rather than something like morality, which is what everyone accuses the game of tracking). The developers are obviously not speaking "through" the generals/admirals because those guys turn out to be the bad guys all along and in the end you either kill them or they've killed each other. Those guys are the villains, not the developer mouthpieces! The only guy who's not obviously a villain who berates you is Samuel, and he's clearly just fed up with all this bullshit, which I think is pretty understandable.

 

I haven't really thought a lot about this because I never really saw the point behind the criticisms people made, but the more I think about it the more I think this game is really unjustly denigrated for the chaos stuff. 

 

 

You're absolutely right, Tycho. Never in the history of storytelling have the words or actions of a villain been a means for the storyteller to convey their beliefs. I know you're really invested in negative critiques of 

Dishonoured being wrongheaded, but stop and think for a bit: if all the chaos and death that you cause in the game drive the villains mad, isn't that the very definition of a negative signal? Not to mention, Samuel is also disgusted by your violent actions and, although not to the extremes of the rest of the conspirators, also takes direct action to interfere with you. If both the nominal villains of the game and an unaligned everyman move to oppose you as a result of what you've done, as the world begins to burn down around you, I think that sends a pretty clear picture of moral judgment on the part of the game and its developers.

Also, the developers didn't just find this story in a book somewhere. They wrote it themselves, and they chose to write it in such a way that many of the game's most plentiful, interesting, and fun mechanics are inextricably tied to a narrative that incriminates you for using them. Whatever the broader fictional gestures being made here, I feel okay criticizing the game for that.

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13 minutes ago, Gormongous said:

 

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if all the chaos and death that you cause in the game drive the villains mad, isn't that the very definition of a negative signal?

 

They get driven mad either way! In the nonviolent path, at the end of the game they've all killed each other. In the violent path, they're trying to kill each other.

 

13 minutes ago, Gormongous said:

 

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Not to mention, Samuel is also disgusted by your violent actions and, although not to the extremes of the rest of the conspirators, also takes direct action to interfere with you.

 

Again, Samuel's the only exception. He doesn't fit in to your earlier point about how it's stupid that all these admirals are getting angry at you. Samuel is not an admiral, he's never killed anyone, and he's never been a huge fan of any of this since day one. If you want to have a big conversation about Samuel, that's fine, but my point was just that if your argument hinges on getting angry that these admirals dislike all your killing, Samuel doesn't fit in, because he has a good reason to be angry about killing.

 

13 minutes ago, Gormongous said:

 

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Also, the developers didn't just find this story in a book somewhere. They wrote it themselves, and they chose to write it in such a way that many of the game's most plentiful, interesting, and fun mechanics are inextricably tied to a narrative that incriminates you for using them. 

 

What do you mean by "incriminate?" I mean obviously if you kill a lot of people the game says that you killed a lot of people. It doesn't lie to you or anything like that. So yes, the game incriminates you in the sense that it doesn't say "Corvo was mostly a pacifist" when in fact Corvo killed lots of people. If by "incriminate" you mean the game judges you and says you're a bad person and you really ought not to have killed all those people, I'm not really seeing that. Samuel says it, sure, but the game isn't Samuel. I think the game is obviously fine with you killing lots of people - as everyone in this thread has pointed out, it certainly goes through great lengths to equip you with all sorts of killing tools, dumps you into levels full of people to kill, and gives you a psychic heart that tells you terrible truths about every single NPC that basically justify killing them right then and there. Everyone seems to describe High Chaos Dishonored like the game is sitting you down in the Clockwork Orange chair and lecturing you about the consequences of violence and so on but from my playthrough I recall none of that. I recall a bunch of nonlethal options that almost seemed crueler than the lethal options in a lot of cases, for instance. Is that a game trying to tell you that killing is bad?

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2 minutes ago, TychoCelchuuu said:
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What do you mean by "incriminate?" I mean obviously if you kill a lot of people the game says that you killed a lot of people. It doesn't lie to you or anything like that. So yes, the game incriminates you in the sense that it doesn't say "Corvo was mostly a pacifist" when in fact Corvo killed lots of people. If by "incriminate" you mean the game judges you and says you're a bad person and you really ought not to have killed all those people, I'm not really seeing that. Samuel says it, sure, but the game isn't Samuel. I think the game is obviously fine with you killing lots of people - as everyone in this thread has pointed out, it certainly goes through great lengths to equip you with all sorts of killing tools, dumps you into levels full of people to kill, and gives you a psychic heart that tells you terrible truths about every single NPC that basically justify killing them right then and there. Everyone seems to describe High Chaos Dishonored like the game is setting you down and lecturing you about the consequences of violence and so on but from my playthrough I recall none of that.

Spoiler

Come on, Tycho - the ending of the game (in High Chaos Mode) is obviously more negative than the ending of the game in Low Chaos Mode. In High Chaos, there's no cure for the rat plague, countless more deaths, and the position of the nation is more precarious. In Low Chaos, the rat plague is cured (and Piero + Sokolov seem to devote themselves to more positive inventions), Emily becomes a wise ruler (if you save her), and there's a Golden Age embarked on.

It's not "just" the environmental changes, the fact that everyone reacts to you with fear and disgust (including, as you accept, Samuel - and the other more neutral NPCs - and even Emily, whose drawings change if you're a brute), but also that the ending is qualitatively worse.

 

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How is it a problem that the game repeatedly and deeply, on multiple levels, tells you that killing people messily is wrong, bad, and destructive to the world you are part of and trying to regain... and yet mechanically gives you mostly tools for killing people messily?

 

I dunno, it seems like that question answers itself.

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I'd prefer if there were fewer deadly and more nonlethal tools (something I'm glad to say the second game and the DLC improve on), but I don't find that sufficient cause to complain about doing bad things having bad consequences. I'd argue that the ways in which other games pretend this is no problem is the issue. For me, seeing someone's head be impaled by my knife is a far, far stronger signal that I'm doing something fucked up than some npcs complaining about it after the fact, or the world in general becoming a worse place. 

 

The game seems at odds with itself if you don't see violence as problematic in and of itself, and it feels like a lot of wasted effort to put all those murder tools in there if you're then going to tut tut about the player using them - but what I find odd is that people don't just agree with the people saying you're doing bad shit (because you are), shrug and move on. At what point did you convince yourself what you were doing was OK?

 

I think my personal biggest complaint is the way you need to condemn people to a fate worse than death to get a completely nonlethal ending, which is just... yuck. The achievement's title (Clean Hands) is ironic at best.

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