Putting aside the tedious whining, I really do want to talk about turn-based UI.

A lot of games feature turns, and UI is almost universally crappy.

Almost... but there are some good examples that we never seem to learn from.
The basic premise of most turn-based games (combat-focused or not) is to choose from a set of equally-weighted moves from a menu.

Sometimes the menu with submenus listing everything you could conceivably do.

Sometimes the menu is a random selection of things you can do.
The latter is what card-UI RPGs do.

You have a selection of actions you can take, and you get a random set of them to choose from via menu.

Now there's obviously some play to managing your deck long-term due to this mechanic, but from a UI perspective, it's just a menu.
I don't particularly respect menus as an interface.

To me, it feels like a way to say "I didn't plan the progression or mechanics out very well, here's every possible thing that might be useful, whatever."

And I can sort of back that up?
CRPGs with action menus are usually closely inspired by TTRPGs.

Fundamentally, the idea of the menu is to give the player the same feeling of choice they would have gotten if the game were a TTRPG.

IE, it's completely unsuitable for a CRPG.
This trend continues because TTRPGs keep licensing themselves out for CRPGs, so that's where the budget goes and that's why they're so normalized.

But... it's bad.

If you want an example of a good interface, you see Into the Breach recently?

How do you play?

Did you notice something missing?
There's no combat menus!


I wonder what people thought of that game. Let's check.

Oh, right. It's considered a classic and won spades of awards despite being a low-res pixel mech game.
You can argue that the interface is just a part of it... but that's kind of the point. It's literally a part of it.

The interface is literally part of how you play the game. They made the game play in a way that doesn't require you to stop and hunt in a menu.
What's another classic of the genre. Oh, XCOM2?

Notice... something... missing?
These games aren't about having a million options at all times, because they know they're not TTRPGs and they know there's no human GM.

So they focus on giving you more expressiveness with fewer options.
This holds true in very funny places, too.

Like... have you played Skyrim?

Did you notice how the menus are the worst thing about that game, and the game struggles mightily to make it so you don't use them much?

Does that mean all menus are bad?

Well... no. Obviously not. Hell, Disco Elysium made a game out of menus.

But the play of Disco Elysium happens behind the menus. Around the menus. The menus are the battlefield, not the move set.
Now, I've made my case that classic RPG combat menus are... clumsy at best. They're trying to pretend to be something they cannot be.

But there's a burgeoning set of card-based RPGs. Surely that's a better interface, right?

... Well, it's not a worse interface, I guess...
It's clearly the same kind of "pretending to be something you're not" situation, at least on a literal level. The game literally cannot be a card game, because it does not exist in physical space.

But that's overly literal.
Fundamentally, the card deck visual exists to order, weight, and obscure a set of content - combat maneuvers in this case.

I personally recommend finding another way to do that, as cards specifically come with a lot of baggage. But as a concept...
They essentially help to connect the out-of-combat stat grind to the in-combat performance.

You don't gain levels or buy a sword for +2 damage. You mix in new cards, or upgrade a card.


I'd argue the result is weaker for a few reasons.
First, I'd argue that the fantasy is weaker.

What do you think packs more of a fantasy punch? "I have the sword of Mithrinor, every swing lights an enemy on fire" or "I have the sword of Mithrinor, there's a 5% chance I'll draw a card that will allow me to light someone on fire"
Second, I'd argue it's a statistical dead end.

Restricting the player's actions to a randomized set puts a tremendous amount of weight on handling that randomization, which is fundamentally not as satisfying as making abilities improve.
This is especially true in party-based games where you need each party member to be transparent enough to come to grips with.

Having to try to remember the exact balance of cards for any given party member is obviously going to interfere with your enjoyment.
... well, that's true of most menu-based CRPGs, too.

Having a full party of full TTRPG-complexity combat characters SUUUUUCKS.

... anyway. I'm saying that using decks of cards is not a shallow choice.
You are specifically choosing to make your players focus on grooming randomization instead of improving abilities.

Is that really what you want?
If you want to see a game do that right, play the excellent Fights in Tight Spaces.

Which is ENTIRELY about that.

And doesn't pretend to be an RPG... because it's not an RPG.
Different fantasy, different focus.

... Please don't just use card-based presentations because you're nostalgic for a tabletop game you played when you were ten.

Think about the impact.


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More from @craigperko

3 May
Watching a very long video on Elder Scrolls games and I'm happy to report that I disagree with most of the points he makes!

I actually got to watch a video that makes points! And has reasonable opinions!
Being able to watch a video and go "hmm, good point, but I think-"

is so much nicer than watching a video that grinds down your resistance by spending the first five minutes pretending to be about a stupid joke skit.
Skits are a way to recontextualize the body of your video. They allow you to bypass most of the critical thinking your audience might do because, hey, it's just me, Fartdog. It doesn't matter whether Fartdog is right or wrong, so you might as well not think too hard.
Read 14 tweets
3 May
So, let me talk about how "close to the pain" stories are.

I've noticed a rise in the number of video games which are literally about trauma, as in they flat-out say "here's representations of this character's trauma, use cards to beat it up and win!"

These are "close" stories.
However, many video games are about the same kind of journey, but abstracted.

For example, Outer Wilds is not "here's the terror of death, here's some cards to battle death with!"

It's still a game about coping with death.

This is a "distant" story.
There's not necessarily anything wrong with either option, but the medium does matter.

See, if I read a three-page comic about someone personally coping with something, it's one tweet and takes twenty seconds.

But playing a game about it takes hoooours and requires downloads.
Read 8 tweets
3 May
Well, I'm thinking about Ogre Battle before sleeping. What makes it so much better than modern autobattlers?

Let"s talk about it on my tiny phone keyboard.
The first thing is that there's some complexity. There are five slots (most autobattlers have three) and front/rear rows as well as left/right positioning mattering. Modern autobattlers don't do that for one bug reason: gacha.
The driving force of gacha means things need to boil down to raw stats, to drive you towards the five stars and the stat-up purchases.

Having actual strategy involved would reduce the gacha pull!
Read 10 tweets
2 May
Hm. I'm very sleepy, looking for a game I might like. There's a new game out in a genre I sometimes like, but it... looks really terrible.

I mean, the art quality is great, but every screenshot screams "we didn't include any gameplay".
It looks like a phone game. Not in terms of art, but in terms of play.

"Here's two squads of three autobattling", "here's a clickable map", "here's a talent tree", "here's cards"...
They proudly assert it's a mix between Dungeon Defender and Roguelike, which is a bit like proudly asserting your newest dish is a mix of pudding and beefsteak...

But it has pretty good reviews.
Read 9 tweets
2 May
I was thinking about Pokemon games.

Well, not specifically. Games in the genre, in vague.

See, they lie at an interesting place halfway between two genres I like, and in turn I can't stand them.
In an RPG, I enjoy growing the party members, both statistically and narratively. By the end of the game, I've got some really kickass cool friends.

In a construction game, I enjoy making the absolute best version of a think I can make, always learning new techniques.
In a trainer game like Pokemon, I deeply enjoy beginning to train the Pokemon.

... and then I despise the rest of the game.
Read 7 tweets
29 Apr
RNG is a fascinating topic. Charles has some strong insights in his thread, but I come at things from the other side. Let me explain.
Randomization serves two fundamental purposes:

1) It allows the dev to offer the player several pieces of content that the dev thinks are equally interesting.

2) It allows the dev to keep information hidden from the player.
Hidden information is a strong tool. For first-time players, nearly all information is hidden. What's that enemy? What's this weapon? Where's this go?

As you learn those things, you un-hide the information. And eventually you know how everything goes.
Read 11 tweets

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