Sunday, January 30, 2011

On "the Wheel"

In the course of downloading an up-to-date copy of the ACM Wheel Addon for NCCS, I decided to peruse the comments on the file. I saw one that caught my attention, and really sheds a lot of light on the prime difference between me, and most companion users (and makers, as well).

"I don't get why so many people are against the wheel, besides it just being new and different. It reminds me of the Sneak/Activate popup menu CM Partners has for Oblivion.

Instead of: Activate. Let's talk about your tactics. Let's talk about how close you follow me. Follow me at a distance. Let's talk about something else. Let's talk about your tactics. Switch to melee weapons. Let's talk about something else. Goodbye. ...

... you have: Activate. Click Range. Click Melee.

I really like having this stuff be quicker to access.

Personally, I had never looked at the wheel that way. Why? I don't micro-manage.

When I create a companion, I create the companion I want. If I want a sniper; that's how I class them. If I want a support gunner, or a melee scrapper I set them up from the get-go to be what I want.

So, for me, being able to switch follow distance and combat style and combat range is all completely useless. It's worse than completely useless: it's in my way.

My companions? I give them a weapon, and make sure they stay stocked on ammo and stims. Beyond that, they can fight however their little silicon heart desires.

In real life, I'm one of those people that as long as you get the job done, I don't care how you prefer to do it. If it works for you? Great! I'm not going to stand there glaring over your shoulder and railing on you to do it my way.

Similarly, in games I set up the basic behavior to control the role I'd like the companion to fill; some specific actions in the case of special events that may arise... and outside of that I let the AI do its own thing, in its own way.

I've never understood the people who need to issue a command to companions every two minutes.

I fear this will forever hold my companion systems back. Since I don't understand the need; I have a hell of a time implementing features to that end.

I kind of wish I could include the AI that lives in my computer with the mods themselves. Companions so damned good that they don't need to be given orders. But, of course someone would just start bitching that they're not nine year old Asian girls, or that they don't like engaging in combat with a knife when there are guns available. Plus, the AI-spirits would be pissed at me for exposing them to so much stupidity, so y'know... probably not the best idea after all.


  1. I feel the same way. I don't like micromanaging overkill either. I'll give them an outfit and a weapon that suits them and keeps them from being pretty bullet sponges, and after that as long as they're providing sufficient support we're good.

    While it's not the same game, the following example is a good case-in-point:

    As you already know Matt, I've been playing Neverwinter Nights a lot lately and even came across an excellent companion system that I've been using called OHS (OldManBeard's Henchmen System). As you may recall, the way NWN combat is set up, for single-player at least, the scene can be paused and, if you choose to do so, you can use this time to methodically plan and direct every action of your avatar and your companions. However, I choose to take advantage of this system only in very rare cases of desperation. Instead, I let the battles play out in real-time and trust my henchmen to do what they know they're supposed to do. Keeping all the enemies paused takes the fun and sense of urgency out of it for me.

    I've never been in the military, but I suspect real-life combat is quite similar. Soldiers have been trained and given orders before they're sent into the fray. After that there's nobody sitting on their shoulder telling them where to aim or when to pull the trigger. They just do what they're supposed to do.

    So yeah, I also totally don't understand why anyone would want to be forced to micromanage a team of companions to the degrees that some of these players apparently want. Unless of course in RL they're all 40-year-old nerds playing the Fallout games on the PC in their mother's basement and giving commands to animated characters is the only way they feel any power or control in their lives. In those cases yeah, I can see why they'd want such things in a companion system.

  2. "Unless of course in RL they're all 40-year-old nerds playing the Fallout games on the PC in their mother's basement and giving commands to animated characters is the only way they feel any power or control in their lives."

    Ooh, buuuurn. Somebody didn't get her fairy-treats today.

    I can agree on the pausing combat thing. I virtually never used the ability in NWN; save for ambushes and large mobs where I needed a second or two to open my inventory and get at an item for its ability or such. Even then, never issued commands to henchmen. I just let them do their thing; they usually id it passably well, and whacking one troll in the face with a sharpened piece of steel is much like another, so I never saw much point in forcing them on specific targets.

    I'm finding that the companions in DAO are much less stupid when you get into it and take the time to properly set up their behavior slots. It's still not great; but once you set up several abilities for them to use, it gets a lot easier to deal with mobs. Having Morrigan slap a crushing prison on my target to hold them still while an arrow of slaying charges up tends to take out just most enemies in short order. Which of course frees up Shale to go draw aggro, while Zev and the mutt support him.

    I will say that that's one thing they did improve in the engine between NWN2 and DAO.

  3. True, being able to assign their combat behaviors is a nice addition and still keeps one from having to issue play-by-play commands in the heat of it...

    ...but being so accustomed to companions like ours in the Bethesda games, I often forget to take the time to utilize those details to their fullest potential. Since I've been in the realms of BioWare lately I'll likely get back to DAO eventually...

    ...but I just found this really cool mod that enables one to play all their Infinity Engine games in widescreen resolutions, so you know...

  4. I agree on the companions again. Being used to no-orders-required companions of my own devising, I hadn't bothered to dig into the tactics system in DAO. But in the course of trying to not get my ass kicked while using classes other than mage, I started getting into it; and actually putting points into combat tactics slots for them. Having your tank open combat with a knockdown tends to make mobs easier; as well as the aforementioned crushing prison. Setting up Shale to use Stoneheart to draw fire keeps the pressure off an archer-spec rogue nicely, too. Just different systems and all that, I suppose.

    Though personally I'd still prefer having my girls with me. Who needs shield bash when you have "shoot them in the fucking head to begin with"?

    As for widescreen mods... that's the nice thing about not having a widescreen monitor: much harder to get distracted by such empty pretties.

    Although I did recently discover the joys of anime ripped into 1080p widescreen. Even on a 17" square monitor, it surely makes my real TV and DVD player look like shit by comparison. Am so very tempted to blow a couple C bills on one of them lower-end 22" widescreen monitors I've seen in Best Buy.

    Er. When I get some more money, anyway...