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[Mild Item Spoilers] Innacuracy in Magical Item placement in Video games?


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So this is what I pondered today.


I shall be using the Exile series as an Example.



EXILE III: RUINED WORLD. You step into the blinding sunshine and warm summer winds. You watch the trees sway before you for what must be the first, or maybe first in a long time. You let out a grin, wondering what is to come. Because you are only starting your journey on the ever so strange surface.


3/4'ths of a continent away, the Black Halberd rests in the hands of a small but powerful Rakshasi force, in a hidden chest.


Half a continent to the south east, lays a crossbow like any other in a pit of Mutated Giants and giant snakes.


At the very back of the continent, inside of Blackcrag Fortress, lays spells of ultimate powers, ready to be taught by one of Prazaacs friendly wizards.






Lets take a step back. There you are again, surveying the amazing forests of the surface world. Check out where the entrance is. Oh. Near Krizan? I see. Now stick with me for a moment. Imagine if, maybe the Alien blade was inside of Shayder? The Black Halberd is in Fort Emergence, and the arcane spells are taught by random mages.


Because, you know, Powerful items are ALWAYS far far away, no matter WHERE you are?


Or maybe the Entrance to the surface world is in fact, in Midori province. Does anyone notice the pattern within ALL RPG games?



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If someone has sufficient imagination, then they could possibly come with a few variations. All within reason though. You have to consider some sort of balance. As a brand new shiny party you aren't going to fighting in the Ragnorak or anything, so generally you aren't going to have anything to strenuous to fight, nor are you going to have overpower armour and weapons to start with.

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I'm pretty sure if some level 2 adventurers were walking around carrying a Black Halberd some guard will just slap you and snatch it from you. :)


Yet we assume that placing the powerhouse item nearer the starting point means that the player would be able to access it immediately. Presuming that the same Rakshasi hold the Halberd, regardless of location, a level 10 party would no sooner be able to obtain it than a level 2. If it were located, for example, right outside the starting point, and the player were actually able to access the dungeon, that player would eventually either learn that the cave is beyond their current capability and come back later, or grow frustrated and stop playing.


We naturally assume that content further in the game's progress will be harder than currently accessible areas: such is good balance and design, as we understand it. Truly open worlds, which disrupt what we believe to be a natural flow, disrupt our expectations of progressive skill building. and many games built on open worlds and exploration (think metroidvania style) have to reinforce the concept of backtracking very early on in order to ensure that the player gets used to passing areas up and coming back when they're ready. Most games that work with this concept also give some very obvious hints that the player is not yet prepared for what lies beyond, by requiring certain equipment before allowing passage.


Granted, Jeff has safeguards built into his world (reputation, money requirements, sub-quests, and ultimately the maps and associated SDFs) that would easily prevent a fresh party from even knowing about high-end dungeons near the starting point, let alone access them, and so there are few real reasons for there not to be a high-end dungeon hidden near start, which is Trenton's point.



My guess would be real estate. The dungeons in Krizan Province (with a few Orb of Thralni-required exceptions) are designed with the goal of training a fresh party to get out and explore, and in explaining the reactions that the world will have to the actions that the player takes, when relevant.

With all of those starter and intermediate dungeons spread through the area, it seems like a bit too much to cram in that extra high-end dungeon when there's so much space elsewhere.

Further, placing the Black Halberd quite out of the way both encourages and rewards player exploration, which is what E3 is about.

As for only having the high-end spells at the very end... well, in-universe it seems logical for the best mage to be with the Queen. Otherwise, well, again, there's no reason why one couldn't have an arch-wizard hanging around teaching newbies for personal amusement, giving a small taste of the power that can be obtained with a ton of money and experience. That one's a matter of writer preference.


The Silent Assassin points out that the Mystical Item of Doom has to be in a dungeon near the end, or there's no point of having a game in between.
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I think Lenar's covered it. In brief, backtracking isn't fun unless you make your game about backtracking. Having to go over old terrain with a fine comb isn't going to win over a large customer base, so Jeff doesn't do it.


—Alorael, who thinks Jeff also does this for a very sound reason: someone will beat the rakshasi with a level 1 party, or just rush past them and grab the loot if necessary. Only long, slogging distance and many trials can make powerful stuff really inaccessible.

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Agree with what Lenar and Alo said. And furthermore, there is no reason the entrance to the surface could not have been in the Footracer province with the party being immediately mauled by the alien beasts. Instead we get to deal with the much easier slimes, and slowly work our way up to the more difficult challenge. Is this "realistic", or more precisely plausible given the fantasy elements of the world? Absolutely not. Nonetheless, this suspension of disbelief is necessary for the game to be enjoyable to a large majority of players. Almost always, realism goes to the back of the bus when it conflicts with other concerns of game design, most important of which is playability and enjoyment (e.g., the "junk bag" in more recent Spiderweb titles).


Similar arguments can be made for item placement of powerful equipment. Getting access to the most powerful equipment early on (and yes, unless specifically prohibited by plot barriers, clever engine abuse certainly makes this possible), would destroy much of the enjoyment of upgrading your characters and equipment to meet new challenges.

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This is what you need to consider if you are a scenario designer for BoX (or any similiar engine.) You obviously don't want to make items that are overpowered and you don't want to place too many powerful magical items in easily accessible areas in any town or dungeon. Failure to do so removes all the fun and challenge of the combat aspects of the scenario. The phenonomon of this is called Monty Haul, and it is present in many BoX scenarios, My first couple of BoE scenarios suffered a great deal of this problem. The general rule though is that all unique items shouldn't be directly given to the party (unless it's a reward for completing a quest whose is in proportion to the power of the item) or just be placed in an unguarded room. Place monsters, traps, puzzles and other things to make the party work to get the artifact. Fortunately in all of Jeff's games he is pretty good at doing this.

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