I have two more people lined up for Game #2 (to be revealed later), and, since our first game has been such a chore, I’m brainstorming ideas for Game #2 while playing Game #1. I’m also brainstorming more rules, because I like them. Rules make me happy.
Here’s a rule: RPGs should be a once-a-year genre for Gaming Graveyard. Preferably during the late spring or early summer (you know, when, like, nothing is released) or Octember. Yes, Octember – that beautiful, magical month from your childhood
I’m not going to say that Baldur’s Gate sucks (yet), but let’s look at the facts.
1. RPG journals have evolved.
This may seem obvious, but a helpful journal is key. I don’t need exclamation points over people’s heads to play my RPGs, but I do, at the very least, need an organized journal to keep track of my quests. The journal in Baldur’s Gate is in chronological order – like a real journal. Whose bright idea was that?
For instance, two hours into the game, I find a quest hook. This quest is for SW Baldur’s Gate. I figure, “Hey, I’ll get there eventually,” and accept the quest. Fifty hours later, I’m in Baldur’s Gate. “Oh!” methinks, “There’s a quest here!” I open my handy journal. “Now which chapter did I accept that quest in? I’m in Chapter 6, so, maybe 2?” Then I spend the next 30 minutes reading every freaking entry in Chapter 2*. I do find it, though, and that’s what counts, right? Wrong. Now I have to remember where the NPC hook was located so that I may collect my reward. I can’t remember that!
In conclusion, I no longer do side quests. If I need to level my characters, I go to a random dungeon and try to rest. That usually brings out the baddies.
2. Today’s games have voice acting.
Now, as much as I sometimes dread them, actual character voices both move the game along and force you to pay attention. As it stands, I still don’t know my companions’ names.
Example A: I ran into a guy in Baldur’s Gate who approached me for dialogue and one of my response options was, “Are you going to tell me more about Gorion this time?”** Meaning, I’ve met him before. Surprise! Then he drones on about important things, each piece of dialogue filling my on-screen journal twice over. I forgot whatever he said the minute I tried to read it. If I skip dialogue in modern RPGs, I have to do it line by line, forcing me to read at least part of each sentence. Here, I read the first line, look at the behemoth of text, read half of the next line, say, “Screw it,” and randomly select a response.
Example B: I infiltrated a bandit hideout, killed everyone, and lost two or three reputation points for my actions. For killing bandits. Shouldn’t I gain points for that? I definitely missed something that someone in a neighboring town must have told me. Something like, they’re not actually bandits, they were framed, or they have Robin Hood morals. Regardless, they’re all dead, now. I’m assuming this piece of information was hidden inside one of the text puzzles, so, of course, I never saw it.
3. I still have no idea what the hell I’m doing.
I hate to keep coming back to this line, but, because of the first two facts, I’m confused 100% of the time. When someone confronts me in game, I don’t know if my reaction will be good or bad for me and “my” plot. To me, there isn’t a plot to Baldur’s Gate. There are obstacles in the way of my concluding the damn thing, and, because of that, I find myself grinding like a WoW pro, which I most definitely am not.
*This includes useless information like, “The citizens of Beregost fear an Amnish invasion.”
**Please note that I had to stop typing and go through a list of names in my head to remember the name “Gorion.” I should know that. He was my father and died in front of my very eyes.