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KarmaQU_EU

More dire thoughts on Total War: Arena

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[FAME]
Beta Tester
803 posts
4,376 battles

TW:A, though heavily based on WG logic, marks a departure in certain areas. Whether these are improvements are yet to be seen. The most prominent is the 3-unit under player control. This is possibly to increase more units on the battlefield. It is also possibly to provide more "tactical complexity". Lesser concerns may be to lessen the impact of unit losses to the player, or to provide more overall joy of killing units to other players, without infringing on the base enjoyment of players. These concerns were likely conclusions drawn from past WG game design, and player feedback as well. 

However, the benefits they confer, do not work in the same purpose and structures they were meant to address. The feedback and research was based on other WG titles, not TW. Now before I am accused of rhetoric, the feedback and drawbacks of other WG titles, in their own sense, widely varied as well. Some "drawbacks" in WoT might be of little negative concern for WoWs. And vice versa. However, to WoWp, for example, it may consist as part of the critical failure problem of "much ado about nothing", which means as bluntly as possible, it's not fun. In short, overarching problems were disassembled, then minor components were transferred over to a completely different project and reassembled in new, untested configurations, and were expected to work in their pre-determined ways. This is a gross oversimplification of all the dynamics, depth etc. of what constitutes a "good game", and runs the danger of mishandling as well.

For instance, these designs are already constituting their own problems. The 3-unit control, is honestly not a varied experience early on, while players are progressing up the tech tree, and are focusing on single unit types. Later on too, only specific roles are suitable to take varied units, pretty much only the front-line footsoldier commander, to swap out whether pikes or shields are wanted in front. This is further limited by commander abilities, encouraging specific focus on a single role. In short, this boils down to "stack medium tanks and rush" all over again. It might lead to interesting tactics such as "cascading use of infantry rushes while buffed", but it reflects a much deeper problem, whatever gimmicks were designed into the game structure, just as consumables, abilities, and other non-qualitative variations of units on level up, the game is bland. Not by design, but by failure of all its designs to work together, coherently, to amount to something more. Something deeper, or something beyond the mechanics of its gameplay. Every time it tries, it is forcefully, and sometimes roughly, pulled back into reality. A "convergence of logics". Exemplified by the medium-tank stack-rush. Doesn't matter what you can do, or even should do, with a unit, the reality is the gameplay is boiled down to very dull, repetitive, business-like mechanical operations.

Which is why this may mean dire for TW:A. In exchange to be different from past WG titles in design, it was giving up as well many established benefits. This, it knew. Though whether it knew the full risks, difficulties, and what must be done to overcome these, I'm not sure. In one example, both WoT and WoWs allows, to moderate extents, "agency", in players putting faith in their choice of vehicle, the embodiment, an avatar, a physical (mimicked) form in a digital world. This is a key part of their allure and association. But what does "character" have to do in game design, mechanics-wise? In TW:A, all symbolic embodiment is much more ... symbolic. It was designed to be tactical, now it is too well designed, too tactical. All the player, and their assets, not their personification anymore, is primarily recognized and operated as a tactical figure, calculated for their tactical value, reflected in the match scoring, gameplay results, etc...in every aspect of the design, whatever last bit of randomness, loose space, serendipity, was sterilized. It has finally been designed into the ground. A game designed for machines, not for humans. Though seems not at first stance, as it pits humans against humans ... but in an uncanny valley kind of depressing, limited, dead-end kind of way, a death of both logic and dreams, neither rigorous nor exploratory. 

The players cannot be always expected to simply bring their own humanity into the game to fill up its spaces much anymore. Even if so, due to diminishing returns on qualitative structures, the same configurations will not confer the same qualitative benefits as they once could, significantly. It means by being faithful to some WG configurations, it is not bringing up nostalgia, or being a comfortable structure. It's simply not improving when it could, and it's using the same tricks on a dead playerbase too, which will not buy that. This isn't a simple problem which can be addressed by simply adding more game modes or introducing war elephants to ram through the shield-wall, it's in-depth, sub-logic level investigation of all the core elements of this logic called a game. While WG did show a bit of attempt at that, by clearly showing the scores conferred from killing, helping, and capping, it is too little too shallow. It is too easily drawn back and "converged" into the same dull logic of reality. And this will be magnified a hundredfold from the realistic reactions of players in hard-pressed, stricken, dog-eat-dog world of that eceonomic-depressed progression system.

Ideally, with every little change in the game mechanics, a thorough investigation of what it means, what if impacts, as if a tiny gravitational anomaly against a great fabric of logic of the whole construction of the game, down to its symbolic and human feeling ...  should be done. It feeds in to what I believe as part of the theory of art; that for every logical configuration there is, there is a more, possibly most, "singular, definitive, decisive, final" configuration for it. Where it is most potent and as close to perfect as it could be. This is furthermore amplified from diminishing returns, and general diminishing effects of how simply existing another close configuration of this logical structure on the market (for example), already puts it down many notches. And how if it was truly well made, it would be so singular, definitive, that it could almost "defend" against other effects by taking such a prominent place in the existing sphere ... and the ethical and moral concerns too, from how it is almost one's duty to ensure that something brought out this way should be "up to standards", less you unwittingly put something less deserving, in such a prominent place, and "interfere" with the unbiased exploration of others on the same topic or even outright bar others from exploring the same space simply by it pre-existing ... now this is a bit far and obviously society doesn't run on such standards and fidelity yet, but theoretically, these standards have effect, and every expression of a game would (optimally) vary by its designer in a sense, though if only games were less "engineered, designed, developed" and simply more "created". How to reverse engineer this to only apply to the "diverse expressions of players, possibly singularly optimal solution per single player only", and how to do that under a corporate project, is the science of the era, and all the big game companies are right at it ...

Ahem. In short, whatever TW:A wanted to express to me, ultimately, it failed. Now this may just be my problem, but I am quite sure it's definitely not strictly that. It may be only to a few people, problem, but I think it's past argument that it not just could be, but is, a problem. (So is my rant, but no one really waits until their skill level catches up to do anything right. Whelp it's much ado about nothing, anyways, and no one will read nor care yet so meh)

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[FAME]
Beta Tester
803 posts
4,376 battles

Now wait till someone jokes how my text-wall is denser than a grecian phalanx. Now that's what we come on forums for. But since I made the joke already, it can't be made to the same degree by someone else (at all). See, now this is a live example of one of the points in the text. That superb, dense rant of a text XD

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