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Pathos

"Spiderweb Games Have Gotten Too Hard"

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I just signed up to say that this statement troubles me intensely. Jeff said it in the third developer diary.

 

Here it is for the lazy buggers:-

Originally Posted By: Jeff Vogel
The opinions of my fans has been nearly unanimous on this point. Spiderweb games have gotten too hard. I am completely revamping game balance with this in mind.

 

The normal, default difficulty will not be tough. Unless you go picking fights with dragons, Avadon will be far less tough that previous games. At the same time, I will make sure that the higher difficulty levels push back at you.

This statement troubles me because Jeff seems to be completely missing the point of what the vast majority of people are complaining about.

 

We're not complaining about the difficulty of the games (which seems to be equal throughout all the games or close to) but the tedium of having to cut through the massive life bars that many creatures have been given in the latest games. I've put off playing Torment in Avernum VI not because of the difficulty but because I really don't want to sit there for hours at a time chopping my way through the massive life bars of late game sliths (I mean, seriously, it's boring enough on normal mode, I can't imagine how much worse it gets when you get to Torment).

 

Early games were considerably less tedious and had far smaller life bars on the vast majority of enemies, which was something I relished. I didn't like the switch in Avernum engines because I was quite capable of just using my warrior to deal with the chaff enemies and switch to full group mode when I got to a difficult encounter / large boss.

 

What I'm trying to say is that it troubles me that Jeff seems to be missing the idea that what a lot of people didn't like about the newer games is not that the games were difficult but that they were dull during a lot of combat. It's one of the weaknesses of the Geneforge engine compared to the early Avernum / Nethergate one.

 

Does anyone agree with me, or am I just talking a load of junk?

 

P.S. I posted this here instead of anywhere else because it was in an Avadon development diary and it's directly related to the difficulty of Avadon itself.

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Jeff still hasn't released the game so I don't know what he actually will do for changes. He had planned to mostly change the way boss fights work.

 

Giving monsters more health was the easiest way to make the game take longer since you couldn't one shot kill things after the beginning of the game. It is really tedious in Avernum 6 fighting the sliths past the Eastern Gallery since you have to concentrate your damage while keeping the rest from attacking you.

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To be fair, the really tough creatures in A6 are the ones you're not actually supposed to fight, or are not supposed to fight in that way. There are several places where Jeff put in some wicked tough creatures with the idea that people would bump them and get scared off, not stick around to slowly wear them down.

 

I guess he thought that just giving them ridiculous amounts of health was better than making them literally invincible. And so you can in fact beat them, and then the game continues as if your beating them were nothing so special. I guess he thought this was gracefully handling a case where the player does something perverse. Well, maybe it was.

 

It's harder than you think to eliminate grinding from CRPGs, because players expect grinding now, and they'll go into grind mode if it looks remotely likely that grinding might get them something they'd otherwise miss. So you have to do more than make grinding unnecessary; you have to make it impossible.

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Late game enemies in A6 that you are supposed to kill do have a ludicrous number of hitpoints relative to how much damage you can dish out. It's very noticeable compared to the Geneforge games, where even late-game you can kill just about any non-boss-fight enemy in 3-4 hits.

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And that is why Geneforge is better.

 

Ok, that was not really meant to be taken seriously, so let's not get into a fight. I don't know what Jeff has in mind, but some more intellectually challenging fights would be nice, so long as there are always alternative ways around them. I never was very good at figuring out how to kill Zelda bosses.

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One of the reasons I stopped playing A5 was the ridiculous amount of HP everything had. A6 seemed to be a lot better in this regard (or maybe I just never went above casual difficulty). So no, you're definitely not alone.

 

The HP of enemies increased as the Geneforge series progressed, so it's a weakness of design philosophy rather than an engine weakness.

 

Hopefully, Avadon will be better. If not, well, there's always easy/casual difficulty.

 

Dikiyoba.

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If the enormous amounts of health bother you, why not turn down the difficulty?

 

—Alorael, who plays on normal most of the time and who has enjoyed the games just fine. He's also noticed that some fights start to drag, though, so torment must be torturous.

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The problem stems from how difficulty selection screens were done years ago. They would taunt you for picking an easy difficulty, and praise you for picking a hard difficulty. Years later, it's still an ingrained habit to start playing on the most difficult setting, and then shifting down only when gameplay is impossible. And winning games on Torment certainly is possible, just tedious, so I simply cannot change the difficulty.

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Originally Posted By: All Caturdom
If the enormous amounts of health bother you, why not turn down the difficulty?

—Alorael, who plays on normal most of the time and who has enjoyed the games just fine. He's also noticed that some fights start to drag, though, so torment must be torturous.


I enjoy difficulty, especially in terms of bosses etc, and I usually get near to no difficulty when I play on normal. =/

Also I'm a masochist like a lot of gamers and I'm willing to inflict much pain and carpal tunnel on myself for a bit of imaginary self-worth. tongue

Originally Posted By: Randomizer
Jeff still hasn't released the game so I don't know what he actually will do for changes. He had planned to mostly change the way boss fights work.

Giving monsters more health was the easiest way to make the game take longer since you couldn't one shot kill things after the beginning of the game. It is really tedious in Avernum 6 fighting the sliths past the Eastern Gallery since you have to concentrate your damage while keeping the rest from attacking you.


I'd personally suggest cutting HP values across the board (from Avernum VI's values) and increasing damage in harder modes. I'm not really sure of what kind of effect that'd have, but I suspect it'd go towards Jeff's current philosophy of "Get it closer to DA:O / old school D&D."

Originally Posted By: Dintiradan
The problem stems from how difficulty selection screens were done years ago. They would taunt you for picking an easy difficulty, and praise you for picking a hard difficulty. Years later, it's still an ingrained habit to start playing on the most difficult setting, and then shifting down only when gameplay is impossible. And winning games on Torment certainly is possible, just tedious, so I simply cannot change the difficulty.


I mean, have a go of I Wanna Be The Guy. tongue You get a pink ribbon in your hair and all additional save points have "Wuss" written on them. If that doesn't encourage you to shift up your difficulty to Hard (the lowest difficulty is Medium), then I don't know what will.

Originally Posted By: Master1
And that is why Geneforge is better.

Ok, that was not really meant to be taken seriously, so let's not get into a fight. I don't know what Jeff has in mind, but some more intellectually challenging fights would be nice, so long as there are always alternative ways around them. I never was very good at figuring out how to kill Zelda bosses.


I'd love that, to be honest.

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The high health bars for enemies did not make anything more difficult. I want something where I have to think, where only certain spells are effective, where my party is split and I have to learn to compensate. That would make the game so much more fun.

 

Even in saying that, I still play on normal 90% of the time. I like the story and min-maxing more than the challenge of the current style of difficulty.

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Originally Posted By: Pathos

I enjoy difficulty, especially in terms of bosses etc, and I usually get near to no difficulty when I play on normal. =/


There's always self-imposed challenges. Play on Casual, but invest no skill points in Endurance, ever. Your enemies will die faster, but so will you.

Hmm. I should try that sometime to see how it turns out.

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Originally Posted By: Pathos
I mean, have a go of I Wanna Be The Guy.
No, I value what little remains of my sanity, thank you very much. Besides, I don't want to develop a phobia of apples. Or the Moon.

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Originally Posted By: Lilith
There's always self-imposed challenges. Play on Casual, but invest no skill points in Endurance, ever. Your enemies will die faster, but so will you.

Hmm. I should try that sometime to see how it turns out.


Try that in Avernum 5 or 6 and prepare to die in a single blow. Avernum 5 was the first game where you needed to make a serious investment in endurance. Before that you could use augmentation and enduring armor to create a decent glass cannon.

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Originally Posted By: Lilith
There's always self-imposed challenges. Play on Casual, but invest no skill points in Endurance, ever. Your enemies will die faster, but so will you.

Hmm. I should try that sometime to see how it turns out.
I already tried it on A6, playing on easy. This is what happened.
Originally Posted By: Randomizer
...die in a single blow.

In other words, dont try it unless you dont mind reloading several thousand times and getting nowhere later in the game.

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Just wanted to say that i agree with the OP: the enemies in recent spiderweb games have too much health. FYI, I play on normal, which is already relatively easy with a well constructed party. Unfortunately towards the later stages of A5, and A6 I've found that the battles sometimes devolve into this repetitive cycle of attacking and mass healing until your enemies health bars slowly vanish.

 

During my playthroughs of both games I decided to take a few weeks break somewhere in the middle because I was getting bored of the combat. After the time away, I did thoroughly enjoy finishing both titles, and would highly recommend them if I knew anyone who was into old-school RPGs besides myself. I would also consider trying the hard difficulty if the enemies health were not increased so significantly (which only makes the battles last even longer, not fun IMHO).

 

Don't get me wrong, I am a huge fan of both the Avernum and Geneforge series (although I have yet to play A1-3, and G1-3), so much so that I have only tried a handful of other RPGs since I (re)discovered Jeff's games. The last thing I want to do is come off as sounding overly negative, and I realize that some of my (admittedly few) posts on this forum probably paint me in that light. Despite the health issues, other aspects of the battles have significantly improved over the course of the last three Avernum games. For example I like the greater emphasis on more unique boss encounters, and grouped as opposed to scattered enemies.

 

Let me just finish by saying that I have been reading the Avadon developer diaries and I am really looking forward to the new series. I like the direction that Jeff is taking, with less of an emphasis on healing and more on damage dealing. Heck, I would put my $25 down right now if it would make the game come out any faster.

 

Anyways, keep on gaming spiderwebbers! And I'm sure I'll be making at least a few posts closer to Avadon's release (yay for getting the mac version first).

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Expectation of grinding is a big part of this discussion. I ran into some huge HP sliths in A6 and ran for the hills. Others said, "Hey, I wonder what will happen if I kill off a few of these guys?" When the answer was "not much," they kept right on grinding. Huh?

 

My advice is to adjust your gaming style to the game.

 

As for difficulty with mandatory bosses? The lower difficulty level is for people who haven't figured out the tricks that Jeff tosses into his games. Optimizing your party is not for (most) beginners.

 

Again, adjust your gaming style to the game.

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Originally Posted By: Soul of Wit
Expectation of grinding is a big part of this discussion. I ran into some huge HP sliths in A6 and ran for the hills. Others said, "Hey, I wonder what will happen if I kill off a few of these guys?" When the answer was "not much," they kept right on grinding. Huh?


I despise interminable (as in, you can't shut them off) infinite respawns with a burning passion. They add NOTHING to the game, create an aesthetic annoyance, encourage grinding, and decrease enjoyment. The only "purpose" they serve is to keep you out of an area, but that could be just as easily accomplished with a wall or an instadeath node, or if you just wanted to make things hard, a superboss.

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Well, you can hardly run away from a instadeath node. And if the instadeath node is not amusing, its just annoying. Walk into a instadeath node, and you have to reload. Trigger infinite respawns, and all you have to do is run. Not all of us like reloading every single time we do something we probably shouldnt have.

 

That and if you decide to stick around there and grind, its your own fault for doing so. Just avoid the area, it's hardly difficult.

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Originally Posted By: Tirien
Well, you can hardly run away from a instadeath node. And if the instadeath node is not amusing, its just annoying. Walk into a instadeath node, and you have to reload. Trigger infinite respawns, and all you have to do is run. Not all of us like reloading every single time we do something we probably shouldnt have.

That and if you decide to stick around there and grind, its your own fault for doing so. Just avoid the area, it's hardly difficult.


So stick in a little script that saves your game into a special slot (like Quicksave and Autosave) if you enter the square before an instadeath node, to avoid losing any progress at all. Shouldn't be too difficult.

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Originally Posted By: Dantius
So stick in a little script that saves your game into a special slot (like Quicksave and Autosave) if you enter the square before an instadeath node, to avoid losing any progress at all. Shouldn't be too difficult.
...First of all, not all of us are genius programmers/scripters. Second, some of us dont like messing with perfectly fine games.
Third, well, I dont remember what third was going to be. UBB must have eaten it.

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Originally Posted By: Tirien
Originally Posted By: Dantius
So stick in a little script that saves your game into a special slot (like Quicksave and Autosave) if you enter the square before an instadeath node, to avoid losing any progress at all. Shouldn't be too difficult.
...First of all, not all of us are genius programmers/scripters. Second, some of us dont like messing with perfectly fine games.
Third, well, I dont remember what third was going to be. UBB must have eaten it.


No, Jeff would add the code, not us. None of his games are opensource except BoE.

And if the games were perfect, thus thread wouldn't exist. We're just commenting on what we think could be done to improve the very good games Jeff releases.

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I think infinite respawns are silly if there's not some time limit etc / indication that you should REALLY be getting out of there. Or a reward for surviving for a certain amount of time / getting everyone out.

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Speaking of infinite respawns, does anyone know what triggers infinite respawns in Formello in A6? What line do I cross that sets it off?

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Originally Posted By: Pathos
I think infinite respawns are silly if there's not some time limit etc ..
Their called infinite respawns due to the fact that they never end. A time limit would mean it ends, thus, it would not be a infinite respawn.
Originally Posted By: Pathos
.. indication that you should REALLY be getting out of there.
The whole "Infinite respawns" thing is a good indication that you should leave.

@Triumph. I have no idea, since I ran for my life when in formello. Having nearly no hp left amongst your party does not equal exploration. It means "run for your life" when you dont want to waste your precious, precious potions.

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Originally Posted By: Tirien
Their called infinite respawns due to the fact that they never end. A time limit would mean it ends, thus, it would not be a infinite respawn.


I meant something that indicated that there was a time limit FOR you to get out of there. Other people running etc.

Originally Posted By: Tirien
The whole "Infinite respawns" thing is a good indication that you should leave.


Except it's sometimes hard to tell if something's doing infinite respawns or not. =p

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Originally Posted By: Pathos
I meant something that indicated that there was a time limit FOR you to get out of there. Other people running etc.
Does a rather large portion of the slith horde running at you (with a large amount of hp) count? tongue

Other than the slith's, there isnt really anyone else up in the formello area who would be running away from the town. Having some random npcs run away suddenly wouldnt work that well, seeing as they would probably end up getting quickly killed by the sliths.

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I don't have such a problem with infinite respawns since it has always bothered me that enterprises like the slith horde in A6 apparently manage to conquer the kingdom with only a few dozen troops. I mean, if that's really the population scale of Avernum, then it's a tremendous surprise that some lucky pestilence hasn't wiped out everyone. And it's a generous reflection on the supposedly tyrannical old Empire, that an entire planet's worth of dissidents only amounted to so few people.

 

So I've been assuming that there are somehow really a lot more people around. You just don't meet them; they're upstairs sleeping, or out working the fields, or whatever. And presumably that goes for sliths, too. So I figure that something like 90% of the slith horde is out of your sight. An infinite respawn site is just a place where some of these guys keep running downstairs from their barracks, or something like that.

 

In Geneforge it was easier to assume that all the extra people and critters lived between the zones. Too bad there was really only that one zone in G5 that explicitly said that you had covered a lot of distance between it and the previous zone. I always thought that explaining clearly to the player that the zones represented isolated sites of special interest, rather than adjacent tiles, would have given a more satisfying sense of scale to those games.

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Originally Posted By: Student of Trinity

In Geneforge it was easier to assume that all the extra people and critters lived between the zones. Too bad there was really only that one zone in G5 that explicitly said that you had covered a lot of distance between it and the previous zone. I always thought that explaining clearly to the player that the zones represented isolated sites of special interest, rather than adjacent tiles, would have given a more satisfying sense of scale to those games.


i always liked the way fallout's world map worked in this regard. more games should do that.

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Originally Posted By: Student of Trinity
I mean, if that's really the population scale of Avernum, then it's a tremendous surprise that some lucky pestilence hasn't wiped out everyone. And it's a generous reflection on the supposedly tyrannical old Empire, that an entire planet's worth of dissidents only amounted to so few people.

Originally Posted By: Exile: Escape from the Pit
A well-maintained sign says:
Passed through portal
117832
Just backing up what you said in the rest of your post.
Quote:
I always thought that explaining clearly to the player that the zones represented isolated sites of special interest, rather than adjacent tiles, would have given a more satisfying sense of scale to those games.
You mean kind of like an X1-3 style world map provides? ^_^

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Incidentally, while only Valorim gets spotlighted, and it's the formerly wild frontier, the Empire doesn't actually seem all that tyrannical. Maybe the decadent, civilized lands of Pralgad aren't as easygoing, but life seems fairly nice except for the rampaging monsters.

 

—Alorael, who could also see that as being the lighter touch of Prazac. There seem to be plenty of quirky people who aren't considered criminally oddball and sentenced to Exile as such.

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I've always assumed that sending people down was more trouble than it was worth, so the Empire saved the punishment for either high-profile cases (like the Five), or in cases where execution would raise a huge public outcry. You don't need to exile every political dissident or rebel or thief or whatever; just exile a few examples and let propaganda keep the rest in line.

 

Also, I've always assumed that there was just one exiling portal (say on Pralgad), so unless you were from there, you would just be executed or imprisoned instead.

 

EDIT: Yeah, 117832 is small compared to, say, the number of people in the GULag. And the USSR was just one country (albeit a large one).

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Originally Posted By: Dintiradan
You don't need to exile every political dissident or rebel or thief or whatever
Yet that's basically what was done at the time you start in X1, otherwise there wouldn't have been enough people to found so many cities.

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Originally Posted By: Dintiradan
Also, I've always assumed that there was just one exiling portal (say on Pralgad), so unless you were from there, you would just be executed or imprisoned instead.

The Empire had the resources to create a separate portal for nephilim. Why shouldn't they have the resources to create separate portals on different continents?

Dikiyoba.

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Originally Posted By: Dintiradan
I've always assumed that sending people down was more trouble than it was worth, so the Empire saved the punishment for either high-profile cases (like the Five), or in cases where execution would raise a huge public outcry. You don't need to exile every political dissident or rebel or thief or whatever; just exile a few examples and let propaganda keep the rest in line.

The trilogy is REPLETE with examples of people who were exiled for reasons of expediency -- common people who speak out in the wrong way -- and even more commonly, for simple prejudice. Lots of people were exiled over their religious beliefs, over their sexual orientation, over insulting an Empire official in some way, and over not following Empire regulations (such as around learning magic), and plenty were exiled for petty theft -- just look at the Abyss.

Quote:
Also, I've always assumed that there was just one exiling portal (say on Pralgad), so unless you were from there, you would just be executed or imprisoned instead.

Also incorrect -- there is evidence in X3 of Exiles from multiple continents. And what Dikiyoba said about the nephilim portal.

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I seem to remember Erika telling you (I think in X1) that Emperor Hawthorne sent people down in droves; I believe a more or less direct quote was that he "poured people down like water" or something similar. Come to think of it, it's entirely possible that he'd sent down an entire town as an example at some point in his reign.

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Me thinking there was just one surface portal was just ignorance. And yeah, on further thought (it's been a while since I've played A1 and A2) there were a lot of 'non-conforming' commoners down there. But still. 117832 people. That's way too small for a systematic purge of an entire planet. I think the average non-conforming commoner would only be sent down if he or she had the misfortune of living by a portal town, or being noticed by the soldier who was friends with the officer who knew the mage who ran one of the portals. No one said deterrents had to be applied equally to be effective.

 

Maybe I'm fixating on the number too much. JV might have just come up with it on the spot, and the rest of the series might indicate that the number should be higher.

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Originally Posted By: Dintiradan
Me thinking there was just one surface portal was just ignorance. And yeah, on further thought (it's been a while since I've played A1 and A2) there were a lot of 'non-conforming' commoners down there. But still. 117832 people. That's way too small for a systematic purge of an entire planet. I think the average non-conforming commoner would only be sent down if he or she had the misfortune of living by a portal town, or being noticed by the soldier who was friends with the officer who knew the mage who ran one of the portals. No one said deterrents had to be applied equally to be effective.

Maybe I'm fixating on the number too much. JV might have just come up with it on the spot, and the rest of the series might indicate that the number should be higher.


That's a pretty giant number. Even with a population of almost 7 billion today, that many people going missing would serve as a pretty harsh example to anything. And since there's no way that a essentially medieval level of technology could support beyond more than one , two billion tops, that would seem to be a fairly large number. And even the logistics of getting them down there would be difficult. You'd need dozens, hundreds of portals. From the standpoint of "I am the absolute monarch of the entire world with enough force to condemn 100,000 people without thinking", the economic decision would be to only use Avernum for the absolute worst crimes (treason, murder, etc), and then just straight up execute the rest. Cheaper and easier than dragging them accross a continent, and maintaining portals is probably a HUGE expense.

tl;dr summary: From no perspective does the concept of an Avernum with a population of over a few thousand make sense.

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Originally Posted By: Dantius
tl;dr summary: From no perspective does the concept of an Avernum with a population of over a few thousand make sense.
Well, maybe a small multiple of 10,000, especially if Grah-Hoth's imprisonment preceded Hawthorne's rise to power. A big, nasty demon on the loose would certainly be a deterrent to creating an underground civilization.

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Hawthorne (any -- there are multiple Hawthornes!) wasn't creating a situation, he was dumping people he didn't want in a pit. Getting rid of them. Nobody in the Empire cared if they survived.

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To give an idea of the kind of numbers we're looking at here, the population of the world at the height of the Roman Empire has been estimated at around 200 million. So if we take that figure as a ballpark number for the population of the world of Avernum in Hawthorne's time, then 100,000 people sent down means 1 in every 2000 subjects of the Empire. Perhaps too low for a "systematic purge", but pretty reasonable if the goal is to make examples of people: most people living on the surface would at least know of someone who had been sent down, even if they weren't personally acquainted.

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You have to remember most of them weren't for major crimes. It meant no need for a major prison system topside.

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On the other hand, straight-up executing people for any crime from grand larceny on up achieved that pretty well too.

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Originally Posted By: Dintiradan
EDIT: Yeah, 117832 is small compared to, say, the number of people in the GULag. And the USSR was just one country (albeit a large one).
And that's just the number of people who passed through the portal, not the total population. Some people were born in Avernum, and of course plenty of people died. I'm not sure what that says for the actual population though...

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Whatever Avernum's population is, it's got to be pretty high to have several cities. I don't recall anyone ever mentioning a census.

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Exile/Avernum doesn't have any proper cities. It has tiny community centers in the middle of areas with lots of farms, which are simply called cities. In X1 and X2 it was clear that the bulk of the population did not live in any of the forts or "cities."

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Was it? I got an entirely different sense: the caves are very hostile, and only the very hardy and hard-headed live beyond the protection of walled cities.

 

Let's estimate the population of the Empire higher. It doesn't have technology, but it has relatively advanced magic, well-entrenched bureaucracy, apparently widespread literacy, and a relatively high standard of living. If the population is rounded to the world population around 1800, it's one billion. That 100,000 doesn't seem so huge now.

 

—Alorael, who also always got the impression that the use of exile as a punishment was sporadic, idiosyncratic, and often not really judicial at all. Hawthorne used it against high-profile dissidents and enemies. Some used it against minor criminals, and given the number of psychopaths loose in Avernum maybe so major criminals as well. Other Avernites seem perfectly normal and well-adjusted; perhaps they were banished as collateral damage in political squabbles between officials, or because someone accused them of poaching and tossing them out was easier than assessing truth, or the easiest way to pacify rebellious territories was to practice decimation by assessing a 10% banishment in the region.

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Originally Posted By: South by northwest
Was it? I got an entirely different sense: the caves are very hostile, and only the very hardy and hard-headed live beyond the protection of walled cities.
Not so; plenty of people live in farmland near the towns and cities. Generally, I think this is areas that are patrolled by guards, such as the Formello cave, the Fort Draco cave, and so forth. It may also tend to be the smaller caves that can be more easily defended at the cave entrances. (And not all the towns even have walls, by the way!)

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Yeah, the trilogy is FULL of farms near (and sometimes even not so near) cities and forts. Draco, Formello, Duvno, Silvar, Cotra, Mertis (obviously), Almaria, and the Castle were all SURROUNDED by farmland.

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Sorry, I wasn't clear. I meant that nobody lives off in the wilderness. Not everyone lives within the city walls, but everyone lives within the range of its patrols, and everyone lives close enough to run for cover when the bandits or sliths or Geneforge fans roll through.

 

—Alorael, who is curious about the unwalled cities. Only Mertis springs to mind, and Mertis has an especially small cave that has walls and gates at the passages in and out.

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Walls and gates? What are you talking about? The Mertis cavern connects directly and gatelessly with caverns containing slith cultists, nephil bandits, and undead -- and that's not even taking the Honeycomb into account. On the other hand, the connection to Silvar is a bridge with a gate, and it's close enough to flee to, presumably.

 

Incidentally, the canonical definition of who was exiled, stated over and over, is just "misfits."

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