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Persuasion - Should it or should it not?


Hentai-chan

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I am posting this thread to discuss whether how Persuasion can be improved in RPG games.

 

I think Persuasion systems are shitty. Wasting precious points you earn during level up. I am just tired of wasting those level-up when I can improve my character combat effectiveness so she will have a silver-tongue. But having grown accustomed to it, I just can't stop it. Because it is useful, but only out of combat and when you have no alternative. So I have been thinking how it can be improved, eliminating the need to waste any number of points so the character is sociable.

 

But before I tell you what exactly I have in mind, let me tell you of the various persuasion mechanic I have come across based on my gaming experience of several RPGs over the years. You can skip all of it and get right to the end if you want to. It's kind of a long read.

 

Neverwinter Nights 2

Persuasion was not bound to single skill but scattered throughout several skills, which were Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate and Taunt. As long as you kept a reasonably high score of either of these skills, you could easily convince just about anyone. The problem in this game was lack of customization. That is to say what skills you could pick up were defined your class. So a druid can pick up diplomacy, and a warlock can pick up bluff, intimidate and taunt. And some classes did not even have access to to any skill of coercion. And had you tried to pick them up it counts a cross-class skill, as I recall. That means you can only be partially good at it, which means if the current cap for all originally assigned to that class skills is say 24, which is defined by +4 of current level, cross class skills can only be 12. I didn't have much trouble with this considering that combat efficiency was related to 'feats' you acquired and I simply adored being an Aasimar Chaotic Good Warlock. Ah, fit me like a glove.

 

 

Dragon Age: Origins

Persuasion was bound to Coersion skill, divided into four levels to achieve full mastery. New skills could be acquired every four levels during level-up. The skill, by itself, did nothing. Cunning or Strength needed to be high enough to pass through Persuasion or Intimidation checks, respectively. It is not exactly horrible but I still don't like it.

 

 

Dragon Age 2

No persuasion. Whatsoever. Well, none that required you to pick up a skill. Some fights are decided by actions you took, companions you have with you and the decisions you made through the course of the game or, in rarer cases, by your class. How can I forget Hawke throws that knife at that slaver!?.

 

 

Mass Effect (all three games)

This game, I Ilke. You didn't need to pick up any skills to persaude. You only needed to be the  badass you want to be, rack up those Renegade or Paragon points and people will do what you want. Even if you didn't have them, you may still an avoid unpleasant situation. For example, killing Wrex when wants the cure for his people. You may go for the Paragon, Renegade or the neutral option if you don't have enough points in either.

 

 

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

Persuasion was never an importance in KoA. I mean, it can be useful in optional quests but as the name implies they're optional. I'll go ahead and explain how it works anyway, though. KoA had a nasty persuasion system that used your Persuasion skill to give you likelihood of success. It is nasty because it was never 100 likelihood only 95. I can hear you say "Well, that is not so bad." I am not saying it's bad, it's just nasty, Because if Lady Luck's fast asleep, Miss Fortune smiles on ya, you will hit that 5% chance failure and bam! It failed and you can only hate that mechanic. But again, Persuasion is not essential in KoA so... It is still nasty, though.

 

 

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

This game has one the worst Persuasion mechanics I've ever seen. First of all, given the immersive leveling of Skyrim you can only get it up by succeeding those checks and selling items to vendors. Second, Speech skill is such a bitch to get it up unless you are hauling. Even if you did, you are literally kicking your own ass to do it. You can't sell just anything to merchants. Blacksmiths only buy weapons and armor, alchemists only buy potions and poisons, food vendors only buy food, if you have Merchant perk, which you need 50 lvl in Speech to get, and in order to get it, I say it again, you have to kick your ass.

 

 

Fallout 3

Fallout probably possesses the worst mechanic I've ever. To gain access to Little Lamplight through coercion, you get 50% percent chance of success with a Speech skill of 85. Eighty-Fucking-Five.  What the fuck!? I wasted all those points thinking it'll be useful. And I don't even get a decent chance of success. So not only is this system nasty and everything boils down to that particular female I mentioned in my impression of KoA PM - that is Persuasion Mechanics - I didn't go through the entire game to say it really is the worst but the way I see it now... Even an clueless idiot can see that it is bad.

 

 

I think Persuasion should be eliminated, entirely. 'Cause, subjectively, I don't really - I mean, really - mind crushing a few skulls to make a point and assume the mantle of the Grim Reaper even if it's for a little bit.

 

The only reason I care for persuasion is because it's useful. So if it must stay...

 

- Intimidation should be bound directly to the level of character and succeed every time against those of lower level. The higher the level of the NPC, the less the likelihood of success. Kill count should have direct impact on effectiveness of Intimidation. If Intimidation is higher than Bluff, it will cause it to decrease.

 

- Diplomacy should not merely bound to skill but knowledge, how familiar the character is with the subject matter. Also it is a social skill. So as the character interacts with people, talks to them, they should be better with Swaying people with just words. Sparing the life of another impacts Intimidation. Skill with Diplomacy impacts Taunt.

 

- Bluff is all about acting. If the character's skill lies in manipulation of mere words, their jestures and the tone of their voice, then they can sway people and make them believe everything they say. Skill with bluff defined by the character's skill in acting, how well they can sell it. Be it in front of a mirror or going out there putting their skills to the test. Skill in bluff increases proficency with all persuasion skills

 

- Taunt is for people who never got around to the idea of changing and simply being their blunt, and in some cases their asshole, selves. Skill with taunt typlcally defined by being blunt, in most cases annoying them in the process. Or they can use clever word play to get on their nerves. It impacts Diplomacy.

 

So long story short, persuasion should be a skill that's defined by the personality of the character. And not a skill they pick up. It should be an interactive choice the player can opt to or not. Or it can be a skill that's pick up but at the very beginning of the game.

 

That's what I think, anyway. How do you think Persuasion should be? Should it even exist?

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I think the real problem with it is a combination of engine limitations and the imagination (or memory) of the developers.

 

These games are really hardly even RPGs though; they're 3rd person shooters with nearly meaningless stats, if you approach them as an FPS player. What is needed is direct engine support for such checks in all or nearly all situations, and developers that remember to check for skills/perks/whatever in as many conversations as possible.

 

I prefer to NOT play an RPG as a 3rd person shooter/stabber, but unfortunately, you have little choice. Combat is "the way" to level up (contrary to a real pen & paper RPG), and if you neglect those skills, completing the game is impossible.

 

So.. no. I do not think they should be removed or dumbed down, I think they should be improved. You should be able to complete a game like FONV without ever lifting a hand in violence. The story supports it (until the end, anyway), but the game mechanics do not.

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I think there was a news report about a guy completing FONV without ever killing something, back in the day when FONV was still relevant. But I agree, the game mechanics don't support a persuasive pacifist playstyle at all, lest you skip 3/4 of the game or are running away most of the time. Which kind of makes sense in a dangerous post-apocalyptic world setting, but it could have been handled in a much smarter way than it is now. For example, there should be experience gain for avoiding a fight by sneaking around an enemy or persuading them to let you pass (partly there, if you're given the option), etc. If I want to mindlessly kill everything on sight, I could almost literally play any other game. :D

 

But to the point, I think it is infinitely harder to make a persuasion/dialogue system that is not oversimplified or isn't based on random numbers that is as "fun". Dialogue is always predetermined, with voice-acting and cinematic cutscenes being its major restraints. FO1/FO2 dialogue was way better than what we have now, simply because they didn't have to voice every line of it.

I think it would be really hard to come up with a procedurally generated dialogue system that would be believable and make sense on one hand and would still be fun on the other. I don't think that it can't be done, but it would require a major paradigm shift for design philosophies.

For example, the way BEAware advertised their "dynamic dialogue" in ME2 and what it actually turned out to be was just mindbogglingly bad. Skipping part of the dialogue by either giving hugs or face-punching isn't dynamic at all if they only let me do it when they want me to. It was just a fancy way of saying: "We have QTEs in dialogue now, deal with it!"

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What about the speechcraft minigame in Oblivion? Something like this could be a realistic replacement for picking perk points when you level up (although in Oblivion it was still a "skill"). The game would only need to remember that NPC's disposition towards you.

 

I guess it would just take some imagination to make a system similar to that so you wouldn't need to waste perks. Are the devs lacking in imagination in this regard or do they just not care about persuasion/coersion?

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Imo, that is the one of the worst examples of a dialogue system there is. It has nothing to do with actually having a conversation with someone and the sole purpose of it being there is to hide the fact that dialogue in Oblivion is super-bland, awkward and in a lot of places just superfluous. You can't actually lose the minigame as well (= piss people off), which makes it utterly useless, since you just can go at it until you hit your skill ceiling. 

If a dialogue system is well made it wouldn't feel wasted if you are investing perks/skill points/whatever have you in it. One of the better examples here is the new Deus Ex, where you actually have benefits for getting the dialogue perks, which make an actual difference on how certain scenes play out. Sure, it is still predetermined, but in the current culture of on-rails, "narrative" driven games, that's probably the best you can get.

I genuinely believe that triple-A devs just don't care enough to deviate from the tried-and-true systems they've established. Most of the time dialogue is just there to give a bare amount of context in between the mindless shooting sequences anyway, so there really is no need for them to improve on that. 

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You actually can lose the Oblivion speechcraft minigame and lower someone's disposition. But once you learned the game and your speechcraft went up it was harder and harder to lose. Maybe add a feature to make it harder after reducing dispostion and maybe even deducting skill points?

 

 I do agree that the dialogue (and even NPC behavior in general) was pretty bland in Oblivion, though.

 

I'm not suggesting that game as an alternative. Just something similar, a minigame of sorts or even more dialogue options, that wouldn't require skill perk points.

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I think the real problem with it is a combination of engine limitations and the imagination (or memory) of the developers.

 

These games are really hardly even RPGs though; they're 3rd person shooters with nearly meaningless stats, if you approach them as an FPS player. What is needed is direct engine support for such checks in all or nearly all situations, and developers that remember to check for skills/perks/whatever in as many conversations as possible.

 

I prefer to NOT play an RPG as a 3rd person shooter/stabber, but unfortunately, you have little choice. Combat is "the way" to level up (contrary to a real pen & paper RPG), and if you neglect those skills, completing the game is impossible.

 

So.. no. I do not think they should be removed or dumbed down, I think they should be improved. You should be able to complete a game like FONV without ever lifting a hand in violence. The story supports it (until the end, anyway), but the game mechanics do not.

 

That is pretty much the point I am trying to make here. I think that games like Skyrim or Fallout should be games that adapt themselves to your play style. They're both games that provide you non-linear character development. You can literally develop your character in any way you want. But when it comes to mechanics they're both heavily combat. The engine of such games should be designed in such a way that it supports all playstyles. Be it pacifist, sneak, or combat. For example, in Skyrim, why must I fight a dragon or make way through any army of Draugr to simply learn a shout? Why can't I sneak around a dragon that is not sleeping? Both games possess mechanics that allow you to stealth, why litter rooms or dungeons with a **** ton of dudes and make stealth impossible? I mean, take Thieves Guild questline for instance, has anyone tried to stealth the ruins of Irkngthand?

 

I guess that the big question is: If they really do such a thing, would it be good or just a mush of everything that doesn't make the slightest sense? Failure is an inevitability in this case. But it has to start somewhere. I, for one, would relish sneaking through FO3, some enemies are better to avoid than engage  and in that game its most enemies.  :D  The technology we have today, or more importantly the mindset of the players, might not support this idea. But it has to start somewhere.

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Guest Ragna_Rok

levelling speech is a problem in skyrim? since when? ... the amount of xp for trading that your speech skill gets depends on the profit you make. and here comes a little handy side info: if you lets say forge jewelry, and sell that one, you gain much more xp than when you find the jewelry as loot and sell it then. especially works with potions. even on low alchemy settings. paralyze poisons are a nice way to boost your trade skill very fast. as for smithing goods, also enchanting weapons with banish grants a nice bonus. once youre over the 50 level mark, go for merchant perk and sell whatever you want to whoever.

 

ps: orc level 242, speech is on level 100 ... legendary 14 ... after all i need also to sell all those items i forge / enchant / mix, not mentioning all the loot i collected when goin berserk ... :D

 

pps: id even bet im the richest regular skyrim char ever. i put my gold everytime in my safe when i have like 200 - 300 k in my inventory, i think im on sth between 6,5 and 7,5 million septims now :) ... we germans are greedy :D

 

 

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levelling speech is a problem in skyrim? since when? ... the amount of xp for trading that your speech skill gets depends on the profit you make. and here comes a little handy side info: if you lets say forge jewelry, and sell that one, you gain much more xp than when you find the jewelry as loot and sell it then. especially works with potions. even on low alchemy settings. paralyze poisons are a nice way to boost your trade skill very fast. as for smithing goods, also enchanting weapons with banish grants a nice bonus. once youre over the 50 level mark, go for merchant perk and sell whatever you want to whoever.

 

ps: orc level 242, speech is on level 100 ... legendary 14 ... after all i need also to sell all those items i forge / enchant / mix, not mentioning all the loot i collected when goin berserk ... :D

 

pps: id even bet im the richest regular skyrim char ever. i put my gold everytime in my safe when i have like 200 - 300 k in my inventory, i think im on sth between 6,5 and 7,5 million septims now :) ... we germans are greedy :D

 

And...!? Is it really fun to have to buy materials to have forge something so you can sell it? Just to increase your speech? I have been down that road, dude. It is not. Over several playthroughs of Skyrim, I forged armor and weapons, enchanted more iron daggers then I care to count, and brewing over-priced potions so you can visit merchant to merchant only to sell no more than a few pieces of items because some dick thought it'd be funny to put a perk that increases total amount of gold available to every merchant at the very ****ing highest of the skill. Best of all is that by the time you get there, you realize you don't even need that much money, Because whatever you want you can make them. Even better, actually.

 

Perhaps I should have added that it is not a bitch to get it up, it is down right useless by the time you do it. I am not criticizing and I don't mean to annoy you but I wouldn't expect you to understand my predicament if you'd been sticking with the same character all this time.

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FONV came this close to nailing how any sort of dialog-related shortcuts should work. Speechcraft is a skill, as well it should be, but it relies on what it says on the tin - speechcraft. No intelligence-based answers relying on it, no intimidation checks relying on it, no speechcrafting your way through a Guns-related check (that didn't involve bullshitting like a champ), etc.

 

My issue with Speech in NV is that it's a flat check. That makes sense with things like Strength and Intelligence where you're simply checking your baseline to see if you're strong/smart enough, but when you're talking about the art of being suave or bullshitting, it suddenly stops making sense. IMO, Speech should be weighed against whoever you're trying to Speech past's Speech stat. It should be easy to Speech past the check of an ilerate druggie, but a lot harder to talk your way past an experienced smooth-talker.

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