Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Games Have Too Many Words: A Case Study.

In this chapter, I unwisely critique the work of my betters.

I recently wrote an article about how video games have too many words. We designers don't properly edit our writing to make sure our words are worth a player’s time reading them.

I want to do a case study where I go through a wordy game, step-by-step, and show what it's doing right and wrong and how it could be doing better. Most game criticism frustrates me. It tends to deal with generalities and floaty ideas, instead of dirtying its hands with specifics that could actually help make for better games. This is my chance to egotistically provide a different approach.

This breakdown will be long and gritty, but I'll try to include a lot of solid pointers. I'll throw in some jokes along the way.

The Subject

Let's look at the very beginning of Pillars of Eternity, developed by Obsidian and released in 2015. This game was a huge hit, critically and financially, taking advantage of a shortage of quality Baldur's Gate-style, gritty, isometric-view, story-heavy titles.

I really wanted a game like that, so I bought it. I finished it in a little over 20 hours. The combat was fine, though really chaotic and hard to follow. (The best description I read was "clusterf***y".) The story was OK, but the game is loaded with words, many of them written by Kickstarter backers. I ended up getting through all the conversations in the back third of the game by typing the '1' key as fast as I could.

I did play Pillars until the end, which is rare for me. Overall, it was pretty good. It made a lot of money, and the crowdfunding for the sequel is doing quite well.

I don't usually like being negative about the work of other sincere, industrious creators. Luckily this game got enough cash and acclaim that its creators can comfortably ignore the nattering of a non-entity like me.

This is how I picture the devs of Pillars of Eternity. They walk everywhere with big clip art watermarks floating over their chests.

"So What's Your Complaint?"

Too many words.

Pillars of Eternity wants to have a really elaborate world and story, which is fine. It wants to have a creative game system, with new, innovative sorts of character classes and spells, which is great.

However, it doesn't do a good job of communicating stuff to the player, because there's no editing and care in giving out information. The game just floods the player with text, important bits buried in gushes of irrelevant detail, practically training the player to think that the words aren't really important. (Again, I played a huge chunk of the game without reading anything but the quest log.)

To illustrate this, I'm going to go, step by step, through the introduction and character creation, the stuff anyone who tries the game is sure to see. Let's see what the game thinks is worth the player's time and how good a job it does splitting up vital knowledge from static.

"So What? You're Just Scared of Words, You Sub-Literate?"

No, I have a problem with the pacing. The human brain can only absorb so many random facts about game systems and lore at one sitting. This stuff needs to be carefully paced out, or it'll just slide off of the brain.

But character creation in this game floods the player with tons of facts, both about the game and the world. I came out of it feeling numb and confused, and almost none of it stuck.

So. You start the game. You pick your difficulty. And then you begin the eleven (!!!) steps of character creation.

I. Introduction.

A pretty graphic and some basic text saying what is going on (you're on a caravan going to some fantasy town, you feel sick), read by an old guy. About 140 words. It's fine.

II. Pick Your Sex

And now the troubles begin. You need to choose whether you are male or female. Here's a description:

Describing the sexes is about 160 words total. But look, it mentions a bunch of different countries. Let's mouse over one of them and see what their deal is.

Yikes! That's a lot of words. All the descriptions together are about 330 words, much of it references to random game locations the player has no knowledge of. "Ein Glanfath" "Dyrwood" "Glanfathan" "Ixamitl" "Naasitaq" How can anyone get anything coherent from this tangle? This is literally the second thing the game shows you.

Seriously, try this: Read the description of "Eir Glanfath" above. Then close your eyes and count to ten. Then say everything you recall about Eir Glanfath. I'll bet you retained very little. And that's setting aside whether this stuff is actually necessary to play the game. (Not really.)

And, worse, it's all irrelevant to the actual choice the player has to make, because the vast majority of players will know whether they want to play a man or a woman before they even launch the game. If a woman only ever plays female characters, telling her, "The men of the Derpaderp Tribe of Sirius XII are in charge of all of their basket-weaving!" isn't going to turn her head around.

My Friendly Suggestion - Go through all these random facts and see if there are one or two of them the player MUST know. Pluck them out and put them in the Introduction. Cram the rest of the lore in books the player finds in the game world. Then make Male/Female be a toggle in the next screen.

III. Pick Your Race

OK, we're into solid fantasy RPG territory now. Here are six races to choose from:

You've never heard of three of the races. This is good. Pillars's desire to create new, weird things is one of its good points. Each race has about fifty words of description:

Now, this is a description of a "dwarf." But, if you have even the slightest familiarity with fantasy, you know what we're talking about here: Standard-issue, Tolkein dwarves. Short. Stocky. Like digging holes, gold, and ale. Grumpy. Scottish accents. We get it. All you need to say here is, "Strong, durable, great warriors."

For each of the races, the description mainly says the lands they live in. Let's be clear. This is useless information. If I tell you dwarves come from New Jersey, whether or not you've heard of New Jersey, this tells you nothing about whether you want to be a dwarf in your adolescent power fantasy.

It's a total cliche to say, "Show, Don't Tell," but this is a PERFECT example of why this is a key concept in writing. If I say, "Dwarves come from New Jersey," and you've never even heard of New Jersey (or dwarves), you won't care. But if you go to New Jersey, look around, and see nothing but dwarves, you'll instantly be all, "Oh, I get it! I'm in Dwarfland!"

But it gets trickier. This is the first choice you make that has actual impact on the gameplay. There are six statistics in the game, and your race affects what you start with. Each statistic description is 50 more words. Let's take a look at one:

What "Might" means is important information. The player needs this. This text needs to be punchy and clear. Something like, "Improves damage from all attacks. Gives a bonus when healing. Helps intimidate people in conversation."

And this description does that, but messily and with lots of extra words. Pillars tries to do a lot of things differently from other RPGs, so it needs to be extra-clear about the surprising stuff. Having the strength skill also improve spells and healing is neat, but it's also really unusual. ("Dwarves are better wizards? Wut!?")

My Friendly Suggestion - Editing pass. Shorter and clearer. Ask, "Why does the player need to know this?" If you don't have a good answer, save this lore for much later.

IV. Pick your Sub-Race

This is where the seriously over-designed quality of Pillars starts to show up. Picking a race isn't enough. You have to pick your sub-race:

So about 160 words (not counting rollover text), to learn about the woods dwarves and the mountain dwarves:

None of this lore has anything to do with the actual game.

What bugs me here is that this choice has gameplay significance. One choice gives you resistance to Poison & Disease (though you have no idea how serious these conditions are or how often they appear in the game), and one gives you a bonus against "Wilder" and "Primordial" creatures (though you have no idea what on Earth those are, let alone how often they show up in the game).

Giving a player seemingly high-impact decisions with no ability to tell which one is correct is stressful and confusing.

My Friendly Suggestion - Ditch sub-races. Instead, give Dwarves BOTH of these bonuses. This creates more distinction between the races and getting multiple bonuses helps the player feel more powerful instead of confused and stressed.

"Cutting Out Lore? What Is Your Problem With Lore In Games, You Jerk?"

Lore in games is great, as long is it's not thrown at the player too quickly and without any gameplay context that makes it mean something. Anyway, let's keep going. There's a LOT more screens to go.

V. Pick Your Class

Hokay! At last, this is the big one! This makes a huge difference in your play experience. Here are your eleven choices:

One of the coolest things about Pillars is that they tried to make some weird classes unlike anything in other games. The cost of creativity, however, is that you have to be extra-careful when explaining to the player the weird stuff they've never seen before.

When I started the game, my eyes were instantly drawn to "Cipher". That sounds neat! And here is the description ...


The main description of the class is four long sentences, but only the second sentence actually says much about what the class does. Then a very vague description of the powers, which involve something vitally important called a "Soul Whip," with no explanation of what that actually is. Then a bunch of algebra.

That's about 120 words, for one class. You have to go through all of it to get a vague idea of how the class plays. The other ten class descriptions are comparably complex.

This is just too much stuff to muck through, too early, for a choice so important to the play experience. Bear in mind that we are still less than halfway to actually playing a game.

My Friendly Suggestion - For each class, only show the stat bonuses and two or three carefully written sentences describing what it's like. Move all the weird lore and mathematical formulae to a different tab that can be opened by those who care. When the player starts using the class in the game, bring up some tutorial windows saying the key details of how to actually use it, like what a "Soul Whip" is.

VI. Pick Your Class Details.

If you're a priest, you have to pick your god. If you're a caster, you have to select a spell or two from the starting list. For the Cipher, the list looks like this ...

The spell descriptions look like this ...

Again, a ton of reading, referring to statistics, distances, statuses, damage amounts, damage types, etc. that mean nothing because you've never actually played the game.

My Friendly Suggestion - Lose this screen entirely. Pick one basic, useful ability (the best one) and give it to the character automatically to get through the tutorial. Then, after the first bunch of fights, have the player meet a trainer and be able to choose new abilities in an informed way.

VII. Edit Your Character Attributes.

Figure out how many points of Strength, Constitution, etc. you have. The game, to its credit, says which ones are most important for your class. Standard RPG fare.

VIII. Pick Your Culture


Yeah, I know you aren't reading all of this. This post is wayyyyy too long and gritty and nit-picky and tedious. But reading this article takes much less time than actually picking through all of these windows in the game. Which is too long. That is my main point. Now scroll to the end and call me an idiot in comments.

Anyway, yeah, pick some country you're from ...

Each of the 7 contures has about 70 words of description.

None of this has anything to do with playing the game.

This is the most unnecessary step in the whole process. When making an RPG character, you need to build two things: Its stats/abilities and its personality.

Knowing your character is from "The White that Wends" tells you nothing about its abilities, and it's a lousy way to determine his or her personality. If you read the description of "The White that Wends," and learn that people from there are mean and selfish, that's still not the way you want to player to create a mean, selfish character. You do that by giving play options in the game that are mean and selfish and letting the player pick them. Show, don't tell.

My Friendly Suggestion - Lose it entirely.

IX. Pick Your Background.

Choose from one of nine backgrounds.

The main thing this affects is that, every once in a while, it will open up a new dialogue option. This never makes a big difference.

My Friendly Suggestion - There's a real lost opportunity here. Once again, "Show, Don't Tell." Instead of having me declare that my character is a Slave or Aristocrat or whatever, why not, once you’re in the game, make every conversation option for all of these different nine backgrounds available to me when the game starts.

Then, if I keep making the "Aristocrat" pick, start removing the other options, so that I end up always talking like an Aristocrat. Then my character's personality emerges organically from the sort of dialogue choices I make in the actual game.

X. Choose Appearance and Voice.

Standard appearance editor and list of different voices. It's fine.

XI. Choose Your Name.


X. The Game.

And, finally, the games starts with the tutorial. Which begins with a long conversation. Which I barely pay attention to, because my stupid brain is tired.

It's all way too much. Too many words, too many irrelevant choices, exhausting when it should be informative. Not that they will listen to me, but it might be an improvement to look for in Pillars of Eternity 2, because the market is not what it was in 2015.

"But Who Cares? The Game Was a Hit, Right?"

The real test of how good a game it is, is not how it sells, but how much its sequel sells. And it is entirely fair to ask what business a pissant like me has criticizing a hit game written by a bunch of big names.

Let's leave behind the idea of craftsmanship and a desire to always keep improving our work.

Lately, sequels to hit RPGs have been selling far worse than their predecessors. Obsidian's successor to Pillars, Tyranny, by their own words, underperformed.

Also, I looked at the Steam achievement statistics for Pillars of Eternity. According to those, fewer than half of players finished the first chapter. Only about 10% of players completed the game.

Now granted, this is not unusual. Most games remain unfinished. But that still invites this question: If the vast majority of players didn't want to experience the Pillars of Eternity they already paid for, why think that they will want to buy more?

Everyone should keep improving, if just for their survival in this mercilessly competitive business.

Video games are a new art form, and there is still so much we have to figure out. That's the terrifying and awesome thing about making them. And now, having already written way too many words, I will take my own advice and cease.

Edit (6/19) - For fairness, I want to point out that Josh Sawyer of Obsidian did write a rebuttal to this piece.

It is an extremely dignified and thoughtful response, and it makes me really interested in seeing how Pillars of Eternity 2 turns out. (And, of course, I wish them every bit of good fortune.)


  1. I read the whole thing (except the screenshotted text, I'm not a masochist). Thanks a lot for writing so much text :)!

    This might be a bit obvioius, but the quality in which words are written is also important. I'm reminded of Isaac Asimov's autobiography:

    “There is writing which resembles the mosaic of glass you see in stained-glass windows. Such windows are beautiful in themselves and let in the light in colored fragments, but you can’t expect to see through them. In the same way, there is poetic writing that is beautiful in itself and can easily affect the emotions, but such writing can be dense and can make for hard reading if you are trying to figure out what’s happening.

    Plate glass, on the other hand, has no beauty of its own. Ideally, you ought not to be able to see it at all, but through it you can see all that is happening outside. That is the equivalent of writing that is plain and unadorned. Ideally, in reading such writing, you are not even aware that you are reading. Ideas and events seem merely to flow from the mind of the writer into that of the reader without any barrier between.”

    I think games, especially tutorial and starting sections, need to use "Plate glass writing" almost exclusively. "Stained-glass writing" should be used for highlights, not as the default.

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  2. This post has too many words! Wait. I see what you did there! Well played sir.

  3. I loved Pillars despite agreeing that it desperately needed an editing pass and happily backed the sequel. Unfortunately, I think Jeff is right about how well it's likely to sell.

    Lots of people hopped on the isometric RPG revival bandwagon without knowing (or remembering) what those games were, and relatively few liked the end result. Most won't be back.

  4. One the one hand, this all sounds about right. On the other... Well, PoE, and many other recent isometric RPGs try to evoke the feel of pen-and-paper RPGs. And all this gender/race/background descriptions written in the same way they are written in D&D Player's Handbook. And players who are familiar with tabletop games probably want that!

    Now, pen-and-paper games go this verbose route because the player is going to create a character many times, and verbosity can help him to create a _different_ on every time, simply because your mind can snag on a different part of the description, and build from there. Like, maybe last time I played mountain dwarf, because I just wanted a classical dwarf, but now I read carefully about forest dwarves, and it sets my mind working, like, how would my character live in woods, what would he do, why would he go adventuring etc.

    To be fair, you probably won't do that in a standard RPG. I mean, I replayed Arcanum around 7 times with different characters, but that was because they were mechanically different, and not by a small margin. But... Still, people who are looking for tabletop-like experience from a CRPG probably _want_ this many words.

    Also, while you probably won't care about sub-races and choosing the ability when creating your first character, it all comes into play when you try the game the second time. You already know all about ciphers etc., and it's great to be able to build a specific character you have in mind from the start. So I disagree with the idea of removing this choices, especially initial ability choice! However, highlighting "the best for first-time players" would probably help.

    1. I'm one of those players that love all this extra detail... it's one of my favourite things about this game. It's not that Jeff is wrong above... but there are those of us out there that really love this sort of thing.

      To illustrate the point a bit, PoE dwarfs are NOT typical Tolkien dwarfs; there are some similarities, but they don't push the tropes nearly as closely as most fantasy games. Instead, the Aptapo have kind of an 'explorer' shtick, and the Inuit-like Boreal Dwarfs have very little in common with Tolkien's breed. I don't say this to be disparaging, but it's something that would be evident if the story and dialog drew Jeff in the way the writers intended.

      Personally, the first time I played, I read a little bit about all the races, then dug into the one I played (human, go figure), and read all of their fluff. I kind of learned about the others organically throughout the game, then dug into all the other stuff more for my second playthrough. I never really felt like it was too much... but I also didn't feel compelled to read every linktext they had embedded in the descriptions, especially the mechanic information. This undoubtedly made the game harder for me the first time through, but I did finish it (still not knowing how hit chance was calculated exactly).

      Now I'm rambling, but my point is that PoE maybe caters a little bit more to my tastes than Jeff's. It's probably not the most marketable way to do it, but I'd also argue that they went into making PoE knowing it was specifically for a niche market.

    2. Of course, some people like all this lore. And, as I explicitly stated, there's nothing wrong with having it all there. You just need to pace it out and make it so that the large number of players who get overwhelmed by this trivia can avoid it.

      Two things I suggested: Put the extra details in a separate tab so that players who don't care know it's optional. Put lore in books in the game world that can be avoided.

      You like this stuff, and I'm glad you like it. But a lot of people really don't. Both sides can be made happy. So why not do that?

    3. I don't know if fluff texts in character creation is really a big issue for people, but I concede that they might be move.

      However, as for moving lore to books, I feel like I want to object. This is just a personal anecdote (but what in game design isn't?), but I gladly read PoE/Planescape/Numenera amounts of text in dialogs, but tend to skip books & codex entries.

      I guess I like to be forced to read all that stuff, but if it's optional, I'd rather skip it :) I think the reason for this is that it breaks the game flow for me: to read a book, I must first find it, then drop whatever I was doing at the time, open inventory, used book item and then delve into several-pages-long text. But when the info-dump is inside the dialog, I'm kinda expecting it.

      For Codex-like system, its even worse: I must open a completely separate interface, find unread entries (and scroll past a large number of already read ones) and then read. Even Witcher 3, a game where I almost never skip a line of dialogs, failed to make me read its codex entries (although it's approach to books is better, with short, but interesting excerpts instead of several-screen texts).

      What I'm trying to say here, is that "make both sides happy" is not as easy as it seems at first, and may even be impossible.

  5. Come on jeff, fix the comment spam, spammers are using your blog to get their bad links higher up on google.

    1. I've used Blogger forever. Its spam filtering sucks. I hope Google fixes it someday. Until then, I'm afraid that comment spam on older articles will be an unavoidable flaw of this free blog.

    2. I had this issue with my blog and install Disqus comments on it. The good thing is that it can be enabled only for new articles so you don't lose the old comments. All in all it's a better comment manager but some people don't like it I think :S

    3. Perhaps turning off comments for old articles?

  6. Halfway through this post I went to see who is behind Pillars of Eternity and wasn't surprised to find Josh Sawyer as Director of the game. I'm familiar with Sawyer's aesthetics ever since he rose up to designer level during the Icewind Dale 2 days, when he was surprised that fans were preferring Black Isle to fix the pathfinding issues inherent to Infinity Engine Games rather than be pleased with the amount of D&D 3rd Edition rules they managed to implement.
    He was also very much in favour of the Item-description-as-lore camp as I recall.

    In short, whatever criticism Jeff has about Pillars of Eternity, it's not only justified, but probably is there by choice.

  7. As you rightly state, everyone has their own opinions on this and it's quite a subjective topic. Personally, I feel there is a point of comparison between overly descriptive text (yes, PoE is such an offender) and horrible, non-immersive voice acting (Geralt in Witcher 3). Then we have the specific dialogue complaints people raised about Fallout 4, which centred on the dumbed down options. This all may be a bit 'apples and oranges', but these issues seem interrelated. They're about an inability to effectively disclose narrative in natural (fun, interesting, etc.) ways. By the time I was actually playing PoE, I was tired and saved after the intro. I played another couple hours of the game eventually and never returned.

    My problem is, I'm such a sucker for isometric RPGs, I keep backing these things. I finally bought Tyranny a couple days ago and was overwhelmed by the confusing UI and couldn't bring myself to continue, though the basis of the story is at least fresh. It suffers a bit less from the problems of PoE, but it still takes AGES to actually begin playing the game. Anyway, that's my contribution to this discussion. Thanks for the post, Jeff.

  8. You said in your own post that problem isn't really with to much text but rather piecing, and while I agree I think it is mistake to complain on "Too much text" when problem is actually with what that text is. Like when it comes to character creation, there is so mach information and lore about it, and I read it cerfuly to memorize all, just to realize that it doesn't really matter as none of it ever gets mentioned in an actual game and it doesn't seem like your options make any difference other then for characters parameters. People have a really easy time memorizing things witch interest them, and because they find it interesting reading it doesn't feel like a chore but as an interesting addition, but in POE most info seems to be about background witch never gets mentioned or has impact on a main story witch on the other hand simply doesn't have enough text explaining what is going on and simply isn't really that interesting. So if you ask me it is not problem with amount of text but rather of it's quality.

  9. So whilst I agree Pillars lore dumps too much, I don't think the detailed character creation (CC) is the issue at all. People love the detailed CC - the vignettes on races, classes etc. Just read the comments section in the Pathfinder: Kingmaker kick-starter for a few minutes if you want proof! People want way *more* sub-races, sub-classes, and generally complexity in CC! Also, having to make character decisions before you get to test them out is absolutely essential. Its like that in pen and paper which is what these games are trying to simulate on some level. You shouldn't always know the consequences of choosing a given skill/ability. This is just like real life! I wasted so many level ups learning violin that I now never use :/

    The problem in pillars is the exposition in dialogue - it doesn't feel natural. Villagers literally give you history lessons! Some of the characters like Grieving Mother suffer from this too. Others like Durance are outstanding. His dialogue in lengthy but very natural - he's an awful human, he stops talking to you if you ask too many questions. He's secretive. Reveals happen gradually and are interesting and plot relevant. As the user above says, the key point here is its way too simplistic to just say TL:DR too many words. (Note Tyranny improves on these aspects quite a lot with its lore hyperlinks, although the combat is nowhere near as good).

  10. I was one of those whom never got past the first chapter. It was for exactly the reasons you outline. To many words. I like to read a lot but when they serve no purpose.

    I'd click on characters and there was huge reams of text, it was some ability you had, the game didn't explain whether it was important or if I should be reading this stuff. How was I even to know I wouldn't be quizzed on this stuff later. I eventually figured it wasnt, but it became to much effort. I wont be buying any sequels.

    1. Those characters were not actually part of the game as such. They were perks offered to high-level Kickstarter backers, to be allowed to write basically whatever they wanted and have it put into the game. They're one of the most-criticised parts of the game, a major unforced error.

  11. Sorry, this article had too many words, so I skipped through most of it. Perhaps some other time when I'm less tired...

    First of all, let me just say that I generally agree that editing is an important part of storytelling.

    But what I wanted to say is that how I feel about detail is greatly affected by age and lack of time. When I was younger, so much younger than today, I loved reading RPG manuals, soaking in all the details, optimising stats, etc. I still like that stuff, in theory, I just don't have the patience to go through it.

    So yes, I'd rather go through a good story now than learn all the background. That said, the young me might have liked to have all those words. So in the end, it may be that Jeff and I are just too old for this. It's not that the games have too many words, it's that we lost the ability to absorb so many words.

  12. "IX. Pick Your Background.

    Choose from one of nine backgrounds."

    It's actually even worse than this, Jeff: there are SEVENTEEN backgrounds, and half of them are locked out by any given Culture choice (Aedyr, The White That Wends, etc). But they don't tell you which Backgrounds are available by Culture unless you click through into every one and compare list by list!

    So not only do you have to read through all of those Culture options and pick one that makes almost no difference, you have to go back-and-forward and change the Culture just to see what the available Backgrounds are. Horrendous.

  13. Having now read the article, I tend to disagree. The problem isn't the amount of data, the problem is organisation. It's great to be able to know about the background of a race, sub-race or class, it's just annoying that this data is displayed in the order it does and as hover text.

    I imagine this as a wiki, and I think I'd love that. I could go an view the map of the land, the places where dwarfs live, what nations are there, what their male and female members do, etc., and that would be very interesting. I could go into the game knowing a lot about the land, and make interesting choices instead of semi-random ones.

    If, in addition, the game effects are clearly marked, that would allow me to optimise a character.

    The way the data is presented now, however, it's much harder to build a real picture of the world or the rules. That's the problem, not that the data is available in the first place. It's perfectly reasonable for an P&P RPG player to read the player manual. It shouldn't be required, but many would read it. It's just that they half-way measure in which you read small nuggests of info with no good way to arrange them in your mind is problematic.

    A game isn't a story. In a story, the character is distinct from the player. In a game, the player plays the character. The character has done stuff, has learned stuff, whether at school or from stories. The character might not know a lot about the world, but some characters might know quite a bit. Let the player choose whether to be this or that character. I think it's much better to let the player dig into information than force the information on the player in a certain way, or, worse, as is suggested here, give the player only basic data.

    Sure, a nice way to go about this is to add data to the wiki as players discover it (for example through books), but there needs to be a basic subset of data that's available up front. It should be easy to access, well organised, and not force on the user. That would serve much better than going either the way Obsidian went or Jeff is suggesting.

    1. Plus there should be a way to correct typos after posting. :)

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  16. Came here from The Sunday Papers on RPS, great article.

    I agree with your criticisms regarding a lack of editing in PoE, although the game would definitely lose quite a bit of its DnD-inspired charm if they took all of your friendly suggestions to heart for PoE2.

  17. I backed Pillars on Kickstarter. I downloaded it on Steam the day it was released. I tried to play it, but I couldn't get past character creation - for the reasons you say in this article, Jeff.

    One day I'll play it. This article has shown me that most of the text doesn't matter, so that day is probably closer than it was before I read this.

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  28. Josh Sawyer makes a fine rebuttal about how they're trying to make it feel like old pen and paper stuff. I think the compromise is as Jeff suggests, tucking some stuff away. Keep that flavour, but organize things in a way that anyone can glance and get the gist, while lore seekers can hunt.

    You basically need a TL;DR below all of this stuff that the non-lore players can scroll to.

    On a related note, I think this is the exact same problem I see everyday in public and in the workplace. There are loads of signs with information, warnings, procedures, events, advertisements. There is so much, and we're so used to ignoring the ads, that we don't read any of it anymore as there is no good way to tell what is important. Only the warning symbols have enough familiarity to grab our attention, and yet there can still be parody of those used on a band poster or some other piece that trains us to continue ignoring.

  29. I agree completely with this article. The best writing in POE was when you entered someones mind and saw their other lives. The problem was that I wanted to see and-or play those events. Even though they were well written, I just skipped them after a while. It is the typical problem we see in gaming when games try to be something other than games. Games are not movies and they are not books, which isn't to say they can't be cinematic or full of good writing, but it has to be presented in a way that makes it part of a game, not a game with a book that keeps interrupting, or pretty cut scenes where I'm not actually playing a game, but watching one.
    This is where I think Bethesda's real strength's lie. They have mountains of lore in their games in the form of books that you read if you want or ignore if you want, and even those I would prefer to see quick videos or have a narrator read them out loud. Reading on a computer screen can be physically exhausting and it doesn't have much to do with gaming.
    My only rebuttal to Jeff would be that the exact things he is defining as problems in POE are also why I've found it hard to get into his games. Avadon has been a hard series for me to get into for the same reasons that it seems to imply that the player knows the world already instead of gently introducing you to it and too often I'm reading walls of text instead of playing a game. I realize that show don't tell is easier with a big budget, but it wouldn't hurt to modernize Spiderweb Software's rpgs a bit. I would like to see a more advanced engine along the lines of Ultima 6 with that type of interaction with items and the world, npc schedules, and some voice acting. There are plenty of talented voice actors out there especially among the modding community for games like the Elder Scrolls. I'm not expecting an open world 3D RPG from you, but I hope that there is a plan to advance the games a little bit in terms of technology, because often I feel like I'm playing the same game over again.

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    Note: I think this kind of problems is also in Bioware games, like for example Mass Effect Andromeda

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