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Geneforge 1 kickstarter?


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Posted (edited)

The important part IMO is this: 

"We have spent a lot of time improving the original game text and then adding to it. We’re adding lore, quests, and bits of conversation that round out the story. "

 

YES! Finally! More lore for the game! I am aware that since I haven't played the first game I am not sure how much lore is there, but from what I've gathered from the future games and discussions in here... not very much. 

For example, we know that the Shaper continent(s) is (are) "big" and that Shapers are "Rare". We don't know if "Big" means "as big as England" or "as big as Europe" and whether "rare" means "1/1000 people" or "1/50000"  (as far as I know). We know for example that Kyshaaks are unsteady by GF4-5, and kinda rushed-out to meet demand for war creations more reliable than the Alphas, but we don't know how easy they are to go rogue compared to other creations, or whether they are herbivores, omnivores or carnivores. 

 

However, I don't know if you people knew that, but now we know that Thands are sexless. The email I got from KStarter shows a thahd (and a clawbug) and the thahd is clearly sexless.  

 

Man, they're different than what I thought they would look like. They are more like sexless Thundercats and less like primates.  

Edited by alhoon
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6 hours ago, alhoon said:

YES! Finally! More lore for the game! I am aware that since I haven't played the first game I am not sure how much lore is there, but from what I've gathered from the future games and discussions in here... not very much. 

Yeah, I mean, Geneforge 1 only has the most lore of the entire series, hardly anything at all.

 

As for the new content:

I'm frankly not sure how I feel about the idea of the cockatrice. A 'chance' to rebound and hit nearby allies? Given that my attacks with an 80% chance to hit miss 80% of the time, I get the feeling I would freaking die if I tried to use it.

 

Thahd looks like... uh... a furry.

 

"The second most popular suggestion was sort of virus, which, well, we decided not to do that."

Very funny.

 

"We have now finished a tenth of the game world, or 8 out of 80 sections."

Frankly, given very recent experiences with making zones from scratch, 8 zones already finished is a quite impressive. If multiple people are working on the game design, then making a zone a day as he mentions is... definitely not slow.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, TheKian said:

"We have now finished a tenth of the game world, or 8 out of 80 sections."

Frankly, given very recent experiences with making zones from scratch, 8 zones already finished is a quite impressive. If multiple people are working on the game design, then making a zone a day as he mentions is... definitely not slow.

 

I agree. Even with the script and maps already made, even if they can just be regenerated from scratch and be there nicely made with new graphics, tweaking a zone is more work than one day. Much more. I don't think he will be able to keep the pace at 1 zone per day, especially when testing and recalibration are added in. And the new zone? Certainly will take more than one. 

 

As for the lore remark: Geneforge was always "lore-light" and "show-than-tell" kind of game. Take GF2 for example. We barely learn what Rotdhizons eat. Whether they are dying faster or slower from old age. Whether they can procreate between themselves or are sexless. That kind of thing. For GF4. We never learn if Kyshaak smell bad for example. How long it took for the Shapers from start-to-launch. 

And I said, we are never given in GF2-5 any notion of the actual size of the world except "big" or the number of Shapers except of "rare". 

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I'm surprised the Thahd is so redesigned while the Clawbug looks fairly similar. Of all the creations, I always thought "giant scorpion" was a little bland, but maybe that's just me.

 

That said, I'm pleased to see that we finally have a creation with fur.

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23 hours ago, alhoon said:

However, I don't know if you people knew that, but now we know that Thands are sexless.

 

In paying careful attention to the lore of a work, I feel it always bears being careful about assumptions and inferences. If you’re using the argument I think you’re using to claim that the Thahd is sexless, that self-same argument would also apply to many creatures: think, for example, of crocodiles, or peacocks, or trout. Just because a creature isn’t obviously a mammal doesn’t mean that it has no physical gender!

 

I feel I should also second TheKian’s comment about the lore of Geneforge 1. Far from being lore-light, that game features a significant amount of information. After all, it was the very first game in the series, so it had to set up the entire world, its inhabitants, politics and history – all from scratch. It also sets up the motifs that are explored in the later games in the series. It’s the strong foundation from which every other game flows!

 

I still maintain that one of the best representations of a war involving shaping magic happens right back in Geneforge 1.

 

Sadly, you are missing out on some critical parts of the world of Geneforge by not playing the first game, alhoon. Not least, your question about whether (and how) creations can reproduce is answered there. However, thankfully, you don’t have too much longer to wait now! And then all will be revealed! :)

 

Otherwise, it’s nice to see a cockatrice appearing in a modern setting! The cockatrice was a common mythological creature during the middle ages, but it seems to have been a little neglected in modern times.

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Posted (edited)

Yeap, I am aware I miss much of it, and I am glad I waited for the story of GF1 to be told in a medium I could enjoy. GF2 was a bit of a chore, just because of the antiquated item system etc.

 

Regardless, I was told several times that GF1 is the most lore-heavy, but I think the developer himself is fine with some things remaining "vague and mysterious". I can understand that for some of the things involved but for things like the size of the world, it is a bit strange IMO. I.e. it seems the developer goes a bit "you don't really need to know that to understand and enjoy the story, so I don't want to be tied down to details" approach. 

Which is fine and I enjoyed the games, but makes me wonder about some of the logistics involved, distances travelled etc. 

Edited by alhoon
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Whether some things remain "vague and mysterious" is on totally different axis from whether a story is "lore-heavy" or "lore-light." Consider magic. In a classic example, The Lord of the Rings is vague and mysterious on numerous points, including what is magic, but it would be laughable to call it a "lore-light" story. On the other hand, Brandon Sanderson writes such meticulous magic systems that readers can predict future revelations about what magic can do by analyzing the rules established at the outset.

It's fine for a story to explain every last facet of the world with scientific rigor, but not doing so isn't necessarily an indication of being "lore-light." Contrariwise, loading up a story with mundane details doesn't necessarily mean the world-building is actually good. It could just mean the story comes across a pedantic fantasy version of my high school biology textbook. So the fact that the Geneforge series doesn't establish what Rotdhizons eat or how Kyshaaks smell indicates nothing about whether the Geneforge series is "lore-heavy" or "lore-light." Geneforge is a lore-heavy game, but it may not deliver on the *kind* of lore you want.

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The first Geneforge was split between lore heavy in what a Shaper was and did and lore light in finding out what happened specifically on Sucia Island. This made sense as the PC was a young Shaper getting training and information was gathered piecemeal as you explored a Barred area. Information was gotten as you talked and read fragments with only a few places where you could get extensive knowledge. That didn't include language problems with the Sholai or destruction of books when the island was closed.

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Posted (edited)
On 5/20/2020 at 7:16 PM, Triumph said:

Whether some things remain "vague and mysterious" is on totally different axis from whether a story is "lore-heavy" or "lore-light." Consider magic. In a classic example, The Lord of the Rings is vague and mysterious on numerous points, including what is magic, but it would be laughable to call it a "lore-light" story. On the other hand, Brandon Sanderson writes such meticulous magic systems that readers can predict future revelations about what magic can do by analyzing the rules established at the outset.

It's fine for a story to explain every last facet of the world with scientific rigor, but not doing so isn't necessarily an indication of being "lore-light." Contrariwise, loading up a story with mundane details doesn't necessarily mean the world-building is actually good. It could just mean the story comes across a pedantic fantasy version of my high school biology textbook. So the fact that the Geneforge series doesn't establish what Rotdhizons eat or how Kyshaaks smell indicates nothing about whether the Geneforge series is "lore-heavy" or "lore-light." Geneforge is a lore-heavy game, but it may not deliver on the *kind* of lore you want.

 

Good analysis but... LotR is totally lore-light when it comes to magic. It's Lore-heavy as it describes the cultures, the language, the history etc. When it comes to magic, it is grossly under-explained. So, while I don't disagree with what you say, the "It is not lore-light, it doesn't deliver the lore you want" (I don't complete agree either though), I kinda find Tolkien's explanations about magic very light.  

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11 hours ago, alhoon said:

 

Good analysis but... LotR is totally lore-light when it comes to magic. It's Lore-heavy as it describes the cultures, the language, the history etc. When it comes to magic, it is grossly under-explained. So, while I don't disagree with what you say, the "It is not lore-light, it doesn't deliver the lore you want" (I don't complete agree either though), I kinda find Tolkien's explanations about magic very light.  

The point is that the lore that actually matters, which is the story lore, is well described. Also, I suspect that if what you want is more lore about Shaping, you'll be greatly disappointed. It's been well-established that basically what they do is magically start and rapidly accelerate embryonic development and then bombard it with radiation to change its genome. More lore would either end up breaking the entire point of geneforging or probably veer off into not very interesting biochemistry that Jeff probably doesn't know in the first place.

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Posted (edited)

Nope, I am not more interested in that. "It's maaagic" works for me (and it's not radiation, it's magic 🙂 ). What I am more interested in is: How many people are within Dilame's walls? What is the percentage of Serviles in the whole Shaper Empire? 2%? 10%? 30%? How many Shapers per ten thousand outsiders? How large is Terrestia? As big as England? As big as North America? As big as Asia? How are the seasons? Is the climate magical or natural? Is the world round or flat? Is there a moon? How is it called? 
And yes, how much food does a Battle Alpha needs compared to a human. 

 

That kind of things. 🙂
I don't have specific questions in mind (aside of population and size) but I am absolutely sure that I will find interesting pieces of lore in GF1 because all of you say that it is the most world-lore-heavy of the games. 

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I don't think we'll ever get quantified lore information about anything in Geneforge (or in any Spiderweb game). The answer to any question like "how far is it in kilometers between these two cities?" or "how many people live on this island?"- or "how many creations can a master Shaper control at once?" or "how many Shaper schools are there?"- is always going to be "as many as are necessary for the story to keep humming along." Avadon is the only Spiderweb series thus far that's had a deliberate effort behind it to do any concerted worldbuilding on topics before they come up; mostly, Jeff's style seems to be to come up with the plot beats of the story, then come up with plausible in-universe reasoning behind why things must be as they are. Geneforge thus has a compelling story, but many lore discrepancies and holes, which probably won't ever be fixed.

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5 hours ago, alhoon said:

Is the climate magical or natural?

 

Well this one I can maybe, kinda, sorta, not really answer.

 

With all the shaped vegetation, the climate is, at the very least indirectly magical.  (if we're assuming that the vegetation has an affect on the immediate land around it (borne out by assorted 'lore' talking about how Shaper 'X' came up with a plant that would reclaim the local desert or how Shaper 'Y's" disastrous attempts at growing plant 'z' created vast areas of distruction,. etc, etc, etc))

.

 

Shapers causing rain/snow/etc in an area ... probably not as their skills don't seem to drift in that direction, but eventually, over time, what they can do seems to impact the area window that you're in one way or another.  IE: Providing/inserting anything other than letting the natural vegetation do it's thing - such as putting a ton of spray shrubs in an area and the acid from them over time turning the area into a more or less barren desert.

 

Or providing a luminescent fungus to cling to the upper reaches of ... oh wait ... never mind....

 

(emilylitella.jpg)

 

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Now hold on just a minute, alhoon. You’re making a huge leap in your logic, here. It’s one thing to say that certain types of information aren’t being included in a work, but it’s quite another to say that the creator hasn’t even thought about it or, worse still, doesn’t care.
 

There are a whole variety of very good reasons why world-building information might not be included in a creative work. As someone who produces creative works myself, I quite regularly don’t include whole swathes of detailed pieces of information about a world in what I produce – and I think it might be helpful for me to explain why.
 

One idea that’s already been mentioned is this: there’s a fine balance to be struck between detail and narrative. If you include too little detail, readers become confused and can’t follow what’s going on, or in extreme cases mimesis itself can be broken. But include too much detail, and the narrative gets disrupted.
 

To give an extreme example of this, imagine a version of Geneforge where, when you first met Monarch, you were presented with 2000 text boxes describing his appearance. You learn about every freckle on his face, every slight imperfection in the weave of his robe, the way the light falls on every strand of his hair. A player might maintain interest for a while, but eventually they’ll become more and more bored. After a while, they’ll start to forget why they even want to talk to Monarch in the first place. If it goes on too long, they’ll quit the program and go and do something else.
 

This is obviously a ridiculous example, but I hope it makes the point. Including too much detail about a world destroys the immersion in exactly the same way as including too little. There’s a really good example of a work that does this deliberately, by the way, that I’d encourage you to look up and read: ‘Report on Probability A’ by Brian Aldiss.
 

But this isn’t the only reason. There’s another very import one to do with the narrator themselves.
 

There are several ways to introduce information into a narrative. One is through an omniscient narrator figure, who simply tells you what you need to know. The other is through the inhabitants and details of the world itself.
 

Video games tend to make more use of the latter style – it makes sense, after all, since you the reader are interacting with the world directly. This is the style that Spiderweb uses in the main, too. If you think about it, how do we learn about who Grah-Hoth is in Avernum, or about the various ideologies of the different Servile factions? We learn that by talking to people, and reading documents from inside the game world.
 

This causes a whole bunch of problems when you consider some of the questions you’ve asked. For instance, in order to learn how big the world is, you’d need to find someone in the Geneforge world who actually knows the answer. Generally speaking, people with that sort of knowledge in a world like the one in which Geneforge is set would be in an extreme minority. Most people you meet might know the rough distance to the nearest town, or the distance they have to march to get to the garrison, but I imagine they’d be extremely unlikely to know how far away the coast is, or the next continent, etc.. There’s no reason for them to know this, and no easy way for them to learn it, so they don’t have the information to hand.
 

This is perhaps hard for us to think about in a society with easy access to information through copious books and the internet. But if I asked you tell me the distance between Cairo and Tokyo without looking it up, would you be able to do so with great accuracy? The same would be true for much smaller distances in a society without easy access to technology and quick and simple long-distance travel.
 

It gets more complicated when you start considering comparisons between the continents of the world of Geneforge and those of Earth. No-one in the world of Geneforge can know that information, since they know not of Earth. And, if the narrator tells you, the danger is that it breaks mimesis – you’re taken out of the world of Geneforge somewhat to think about Earth, meaning that you become less immersed in the fictional world being described to you. For instance, are you still thinking about Monarch and his 2000 text boxes? I suspect not. I’ve been talking about something else, and it’s distracted your attention from that particular point – that’s the same principle as detailed information about something else (in this case, Earth) distracting the reader from whatever world-building the writer is trying to establish.
 

This is all related to information that can be determined simply. Some of the statistical information is much, much harder to determine. For instance, how many people in the world of Geneforge know the exact percentage of people who could become Shapers? In order to know this, someone would have to study the population carefully, and in detail. That’s hard to do with small percentages. The study may not even have been done but, if it has, it would be in the levels of high academia – i.e. in the hands of the Shapers – and it would probably be esoteric information at best. It’s not something that is going to be stored in every renegade’s tower, or easily to hand in a distant output.
 

Think about it this way. What is the exact percentage of people who have green eyes? Don’t look it up. Were you close? That’s the same situation being experienced by the people in the world of Geneforge on many points, not least the numbers of people who could become Shapers – most people just won’t know, and will probably not even produce a very accurate guess.
 

There’s a third, more subtle reason. While there’s a balance between narrative and description, there’s also a balance between creative input from the writer and creative input from the reader. Whenever you read a creative work, your imagination gets to work on it, filling out all the details that the author misses out. You’ll imagine how someone looks, how something works, how big the city is. This is a good thing! It means that each person will have a slightly different, personalised view of the world they are reading – so it will speak more to them as an individual. My Avernum, for instance, will feel like a very different place from yours.
 

The problem is that too much description limits this process. It reduces the amount by which a person can personalise the story as they read it.
 

At the worst, it interferes with the process of reading a story directly. Have you ever read something, and then come across something that disagrees with what you imagined? So, for instance, someone turned out to be much bigger than you thought they were, or the nice stone-built city you’d envisioned actually turned out to be made of brick? This can arise from too little description, yes, but also from too much. To take the example of the person’s height, this only becomes a problem if you encounter a situation where someone’s exact height is important. Avoid that situation, and you avoid the contradiction between the story and the reader’s expectations – you solve the problem by reducing the amount of information contained in the story.
 

So, I’ve given you three reasons why detailed information might not be included in a narrative. There are more, but this is a start.
 

1. Too much information breaks the flow of the narrative.
2. Detailed information needs to come naturally from the writer’s world, else there’s a danger of breaking immersion. This restricts the information that can be described.
3. Too much information interferes with the imaginative input of the reader.
 

To put this into practical terms, when I produce a world, I think very carefully about how it’s put together. I think about its government, how people live, how various forms of power work, why people should be doing this or that thing, why they should be wearing this or that thing. But do I talk about a lot of it?
 

Absolutely not, for precisely the reasons described above.
 

Do I care about my worlds, and the detailed information about them? Do I think about them, and carefully plan all sorts of points that I don’t talk about? Yes, I definitely do. And I imagine Jeff Vogel does too.
 

(If you don’t believe me, read Jeff’s blog posts. He has some very clever things to say about the words he writes into his games – and how careful he is not to include too much text.)

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32 minutes ago, Ess-Eschas said:

This causes a whole bunch of problems when you consider some of the questions you’ve asked. For instance, in order to learn how big the world is, you’d need to find someone in the Geneforge world who actually knows the answer. Generally speaking, people with that sort of knowledge in a world like the one in which Geneforge is set would be in an extreme minority.

 

Conversely, it could be like the real world here & now.  Most everyone (with at least a grade school education & not in some isolated tribe deep in the rain forest) knows that the Earth is round & could probably draw a VERY rough map of the assorted continents.  Some people would struggle with just that while others could give you a fairly accurate map with most countries outlined & named.  Most would fall in between those extremes & most of them wouldn't even think about such knowledge unless directly asked a question about it.  Point being that here is usually a baseline of information that everyone just 'knows' & there's really no reason to talk about/describe it.  The same could be said of the serviles on Suchia (sp?, not going to go look it up) Island in GF1.  They all 'know' that they're on an island, & most 'know' that they don't want to go wandering around the northern parts of that island for assorted lethal reasons.  But, unless directly asked, they don't talk about it among themselves because that's their baseline of what everyone 'knows'

 

42 minutes ago, Ess-Eschas said:

Have you ever read something, and then come across something that disagrees with what you imagined? So, for instance, someone turned out to be much bigger than you thought they were,

 

Gimli in LOTR - John Rhys-Davies is 6'1"... that's some good movie magic right there... (of course he also voiced Treebeard so it could also be argued that he's much tinier than portrayed)

 

And I agree, to say Jeff doesn't care/think about such things is complete nonsense.  Creating a universe/s for us to play in took a LOT of behind the scenes brain sweat.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Wait there friends... There's a very specific thing that I said the developer probably doesn't care about: How much the Shaped plants alter the climate. 

I believe he goes with "it affects the climate to X degree" without going through a deep environmental analysis of the microclimate. 

 

So... could you please put down the pitchforks? :)I didn't say the developer doesn't care about the world. 

 

______________________________________________________________________________

Monarch's robes example: To be perfectly honest, I am in the minority of people that would be interested to know more about his robes. Sure, not a book about it, but I found his description interesting (I vaguely remember there was description of his robes, as they were old - and the description had to hide the all-important baton in plain sight). 

I don't disagree that I am not your traditional player here, and I openly state that I enjoy the games. 

 

 

"you’d need to find someone in the Geneforge world who actually knows the answer." I completely agree. 

Perhaps it would not be accurate, but it would be ballpark. 

Say... a resident in Dilame, say a guard, mentioning how he wants to protect this city of 4000 people - or city of 12000 people - or city of 50000 people, would help.


Or a book in GF3 mentioning that the Ashen Isles have "dozens of small towns" or "just a couple dozen villages". Or a discussion with the fishermen in Greenwood where they throw in that "The quarantine has put hundreds of us out of work!" etc.

For the life of me, I can't tell whether Greenwood had 30 fishermen and just the settlements I saw on the map, or dozens of smaller ones that the game didn't visit.  

 

All I know is that it is: Small (what does that mean?) and backwards. I know it has an academy with a village outside, some mines and a fortified village. 

Whether 300 people or 5000 people live there, I have no idea. Whether it is 50 square miles or 1000 square miles, I have no idea. 

 

Or one of the opening texts, or a discussion with a Guardian telling you "From the 50 Shapers in the Storm Plains, 20 have died in the past 3 years!" ... along with another discussion earlier about how dense the population is. 

 

Saying that it is "too hard" for someone in the game world to give a ballpark figure of Shapers in X province + someone else give another ballpark figure of the size and population (mentioning "a few cities and a couple dozen towns" for example alludes to 200K - 500K people) 

 

There are ways to insert information in the games. And I hope the remastered Geneforge utilizes them. To say that we can't have a precise figure is very different from "We have no idea if Terrestia is as big as England or as big as Asia". 

 

In short: 

"1. Too much information breaks the flow of the narrative."

Agreed, but it can be done with a line here and there. 

 

"2. Detailed information needs to come naturally from the writer’s world, else there’s a danger of breaking immersion. This restricts the information that can be described."

Also agreed, but it can be in rough estimations of a merchant telling you "It used to take us XXX days/weeks to go from the gates in the Forsaken lands to Dilame when the road was safe, but the presence of the rebels changed all that!" or a text telling you "In Greenwood academy, you had 10/200 classmates, juniors and seniors".

Aside from Greta, Alwan, that agent that helps you fight and the dead shaper student, we have no idea how many other novices were there. 

 

"3. Too much information interferes with the imaginative input of the reader."
I understand that, but In my opinion and according to my tastes, we're far from the "too much information" and too close to the "too little information". 

We have discussions with NPCs through the series about how they carefully raise Batons, or with that mine-tending woman in GF5. Those nice, large and detailed pieces of information didn't limit anyone's imagination I think. 

Also, we just saw how Thahds look and they are very different than I had in mind. Do I feel limited? Nope. I am glad we now know how the developer sees them. I also think that the images of how Thahds, Drayks, Vlish etc look like, kinda alludes that #3 is not that much of a motivator for some of the information not there. 

 

And I hope the remastered Geneforge 1 will give me more info about the world. 

Don't get me wrong, all the above were examples. I was told at other times (as mentioned) that things like how a baton grows or how those vats work etc are MUCH more detailed in Geneforge 1. Obviously the three ideologies of the Servile sects will be detailed there as well! 
I hope all these will be expanded and more details will get in. 

 

What I am trying to say here is not that the games are bad. I am saying that I will welcome more information, which is sure to be since it's a whole game I haven't played and I hope that Jeff adds more info in there. 

 

Edited by alhoon
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I assure you there are no brandished pitchforks here, alhoon. I’ll leave that to Dante’s demons. We’re just having a civilised discussion on a point about which we disagree. That’s one of the reasons the forums are here!
 

Just to be clear, I in no way thought that you were belittling the games, or that you somehow disliked them. I was just a little concerned that you were equating a lack of information with a lack of effort on Spiderweb’s part – an idea I’ve seen raised several times by a number of different people.
 

While that might not have been your intention here, I hope it’s useful for you to know that your post did seem to imply that to some degree. It’s an odd language quirk, I think, that when someone criticises some very specific detail about a work, that criticism can often come to be read in a more general way.
 

There are just a couple of points I’d like to pick you up on in what you wrote – you make some very decent comments on the matter.
 

Firstly, I don’t think it’s fair to say that the current design of the Thahd discounts the importance of the balance between imagination and detail on Spiderweb’s part. It might do if it were a purely narrative point, but this is a more complex element – it’s essentially a graphics problem.
 

If you look at the original Thahd graphics, you can see that they’re not very detailed. The Thahd is some sort of muscled biped, but it’s hard to make out much more than that. Such a design simply wouldn’t fly in the modern games market – people these days expect graphics to be complex. Since a generic biped wouldn’t work, Spiderweb has to add some detail to the design. And so they chose to link the biped to a specific creature – in this case, a humanoid feline. Following that line of reasoning, the design of the Thahd is a graphical decision, rather than a narrative one. Of course, it does affect the narrative, so it’s a tradeoff on Spiderweb’s part. It appeases people who want nicer graphics, but breaks mimesis for those who have previously played the games, and envisioned Thahds differently. In enacting this change, Spiderweb will have needed to consider the net good, and how many people benefit positively or negatively from it. I’m sure it’s not something Spiderweb did lightly. You’ll see, for instance, many comments on the Geneforge Kickstarter in which Spiderweb mention their intent of being faithful to the original content and style. This is something they are concerned about.
 

I also just want to pick you up on your point about information coming from characters. It is of course possible to add information in this way, and you give some very good examples that do precisely that! However, there’s a danger too in using this sort of approach too much. Let me see if I can explain why.
 

The problem of imparting complex information this way is that there is yet another danger to mimesis. The very occasional character casually mentioning something of importance is fine, but it becomes problematic when too many people start mentioning handy details like this.
 

You see, what Spiderweb are doing here is trying to build a believable world in which you will be immersed, and in which you will believe, in some fashion. They’re also making a game. These two goals sometimes compete with each other. Ideally, you’ll play through a Spiderweb game not noticing it’s a game at all – everything that happens will feel perfectly natural in the context of the game world. As soon as the game mechanics start to show through, the experience feels less like being in different a world, and more like going through the motions of playing a game.
 

To give you an example, consider a classic problem from Blades of Exile. Scenarios can only be so large, and whole worlds are really big places. So scenarios need to come up with reasons why you can’t explore the big wide world in which you find yourself. It’s hard to do this in the middle of a continent, so you’ll find an unnaturally large number of scenarios set in valleys, or on islands, or in vales. If you play a few, that’s fine. But play a lot, and it becomes quite apparent that some scenarios might be being set this way for reason of the mechanics, not because it makes for an interesting setting. There’s a danger of ‘yet another vale’ feeling less like a living, breathing place, and more like a convenient scenario setting.
 

It’s exactly this sort of problem that can come up when imparting information in the way you suggest. If too many characters start mentioning helpful statistics, it becomes immediately apparent that the designer is placing these characters in the game precisely to give you those statistics. The characters start feeling less like characters, and more like points you need to click on to learn more about the story. Monarch becomes little more than a handy encyclopaedia dressed in a robe.
 

This might sound extreme, but I assure you there are games that feel like this. Losing faith in the characters in this way is another breaking of mimesis.
 

This is a point that Spiderweb makes some interesting comments on themselves. Let me quote Jeff himself – not the game designer, this time, but the curious character in Avernum 3’s Generic Dungeon:
 

“I'm here to tell you my whole life story. What'd you expect? Isn't that what everyone's supposed to do? You walk in, some random weird looking heavily armed people from the Empire's enemy, and I'm supposed to just spill my guts to you. Right?
 

“It's so implausible it makes me sick.”
 

You see, Spiderweb does worry about these points!
 

Now, just to be clear, mimesis breaking is a spectrum, like most things. Your immersion seems to be more solid than others, and that’s great! But Spiderweb needs to cater to whole groups of people. Sadly, then, they need to take account of those whose mimesis is a little more fragile!
 

(By the way, really do read ‘Report on Probability A’ – it demonstrates the point about detail and narrative extremely well!)

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Posted (edited)

"Firstly, I don’t think it’s fair to say that the current design of the Thahd discounts the importance of the balance between imagination and detail on Spiderweb’s part. It might do if it were a purely narrative point, but this is a more complex element – it’s essentially a graphics problem." 

And alhoon has never played GF1 so he doesn't know how Thahds were described. 

 

Ess-Echas, in my opinion and the opinion of a few of my friends that have tried the game, Spiderweb Games put the "describe - let imagination work" pendulum a bit too much into "let imagination work". But the reason I had this discussion (and these friends) is that we enjoy the same things. I.e. my "study group" is one of the most biased you can find, as we're not just talking about people I like to spend time with and have similar background, but people we have the same interests with in games else we would be discussing about their work problems and not "do you guys picked up somewhere how big is Terrestia?"
I can assure you  a lot of interesting discussions followed. This is perhaps another point that you have not mentioned inside the whole narrate-not-narrate thing: We wouldn't be talking about how populous Terrestia is if the opening text in say GF4 said "All of Terrestia's tens of millions people are in turmoil!". 

 

Regardless: 

I have heard people complaining about Robert Jordan's overly detailed work and heroes in The Wheel of Time, if you know of it. I am not one of those people. 

I have read somewhere in Jeff's blog that he believes less text is better and made fun of Pillar's of Eternity's text size and how games with 600K games are too wordy.

Well, I play visual novels and read books...

I have also read about developers (or even worked with one) that said "I don't want to give or think the numbers you ask. I believe the reader/player should make their own mind, their own head-canon." Another group of (Desktop) game developers I worked with in the past sent me back some work with "remove these parts, we don't want to be overly detailed." 

The "world size" (or better peninsula size I think) discussion happened with them too, back then in ... 1999 I think. And it happened again 6-7 years ago. The answer was "We prefer it to be "as large/populous as we needed. Let the people that will enjoy this product to make the decision. We want to give them the "feeling" they will put in the numbers in their imagination." 

It was something like "X state is big. X is small and densely populated". 
"How big? How dense."
"As big as you want it to be. Whether it would be as big as India, or as Korea or a 10th of Italian Peninsula, is up to those that would use it. You won't be on all tables."
"But even ballpark? Like 'it takes 5/20/100 days on horse to cross the big state from one corner to the other, while on the small-and-dense you can hit a city every few hours' or something"
"No. Whether they want to imagine it as 5 days or 100 days and whether the cities are dense, we go for the feeling. The Big state should feel big and powerful. Extending far and wide, with open space mentioned in the descriptions and castles at the edge of one's vision etc etc. The Dense state should feel claustrophobic, with cities in close proximity with each other that you can cross from one feudal state to the other quickly and a large urban population supported by fishing, trade and magic because there's not enough farmland. Whether the dense state has 10 cities of 5-10K people or 200 cities of 25-100K people should be up to the imagination of the reader. The action will be focused on AAA city and the neighboring one, and will then move to a part of the big state, where things would be very different in theme and atmosphere."

And it made sense. It is an approach. One that I don't prefer, but one I understand. It is similar (but not the same), I think, to the Chekov's gun in theatre. If you don't need it for the story don't put it there. 

 

 

The Skyrim comparisons: Do you guys know how big Skyrim is? Because I don't. I don't think the "game time" to travel from one point to the other is lore-representative, especially when in Elder Scrolls 2, they made a smaller state as big as England... and got backlash for it because it was too big and empty. 
Frankly, skyrim is more detail-light than GF series, I think, in game. Not when it comes to what people call "lore", like the gods, the cultures, the history of the places, but when it comes to the nitty-gritty stuff. There's no way that rural population would support so many large cities. Large as in "large". We don't know how large. 

 

 

About the Graphics: That's actually something that I understand but bothers me a bit. The graphics don't go along with the descriptions. We have read about Drayks being large. Well, in the game they show as big dogs, at most. We read about Fyora's being small. Well, they're as big as drayks. 

These limitations of the graphics engine bother me. And I was also "meh" when in the previews they showed the new fyora's being just a bit smaller than the character. 

And let's not pretend that the servile sprites look similar to the servile graphic images in the beginning and end of the game. 

And where did Drakon wings go in the GF5 game? You know, the ones that you see in all load screens? 

The obvious answer of course is: "That's fine alhoon, you can always cough up a few hundred thousand $$$ to get a good graphic engine and a few talented sprite-makers for Spiderweb games." 

 

About changing expectations: 

I am the guy that spends hours to port Battle Alpha GF4-5 graphics and Servile graphics to GF2-3. 
Why? Because in my head I have the Battle Alpha as I saw it in GF4 (the first time I played the games) and unlike Thands that didn't bother me a lot, or Drakons that I actually prefer without wings... I found myself putting in the hours to change the Alphas and the Serviles. 

Edited by alhoon
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  • 4 weeks later...

From the kickstarter update, what I really, really liked: 

 

"I’ve put in a lot of time figuring out how to weave the new material in to make a richer, more complex world, and I’m super-happy with how it’s turning out. There will be a two new factions, many new quest lines, and lots of cool lore." 
Awesome!!!! 

I have no idea what the original factions are, but I love that we will get more factions, more lore and plot-holes filled (he mentioned that earlier). 

 

"The floaty, creepy vlish. It is a controller creation, which blesses your characters and curses and dazes the enemy."
Wow! 

 

 

PS. As some of us have predicted, Jeff didn't manage to iron out 1 zone per day. Simply put, I find it next to impossible to do that, even with the core story and maps and all in place. Just balancing and testing a zone and adding "a few things and more lore" would take more that 1 day. 

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June update

 

Wow, while creating the zones and testing is still slow, there is lots of interesting news.

 

Two new factions to join so more decisions on who to help and take advantage of to gain their benefits. More zones and quests so old players won't get bored when they finally get there. Of course the new creation.

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1 hour ago, Randomizer said:

June update

 

Wow, while creating the zones and testing is still slow, there is lots of interesting news.

 

Two new factions to join so more decisions on who to help and take advantage of to gain their benefits. More zones and quests so old players won't get bored when they finally get there. Of course the new creation.

 

And more lore, and plot-hole filling. So I guess the infamous "second continent" of GF2-3 will be swept under the rug while we get more info about... something. But all lore is good lore in my book. 
I really don't hold my breath on getting info that would help with things like the size of the world or how many Shapers per million but I bet there will be more info on Geneforge itself, the Shapers themselves, Drayks and Serviles. 

Edited by alhoon
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I like the artila and vlish art. It's very faithful to the way they look in the game, not as though there has been any art for a creation from all 5 games that doesn't look remotely like it did in any of them.

 

I also note that he mentions that vlish are able to buff you, which seems to indicate that creations will be gaining secondary abilities instead of just having attack-based powers. Because, of course, vlish needed a buff.

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The small video has Fyora's special abilities and in my opinion, Vlish didn't need to be buffed, but they needed to be able to buff

Also, consider what this means for GF2 and GF3: PC-controlled Gazers would be finally able to do what the scripted Gazers do +  Alwan and Greta will have more abilities than a single attack. 

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New factions, huh. That sounds really interesting, and has my mind reeling with possibilities. The Obeyer - Awakened - Taker continuum seemed very complete in terms of servile rights. I wonder if there will be something like an anti-Shaping, proto-Trakovite faction? (They definitely wouldn't have that name!) Maybe some more diversity around the Sholai? Goetesschhh making his own version of the Barzite/Rising faction from GF2?

 

Very exciting.

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10 minutes ago, Randomizer said:

One could be serving the Shaper Goettsch or the Ornk Lord.

 

There's another Shaper on Sucia island?!?! 😱

 

We've obviously headed to spoiler territory, and that was kinda a biggy. I realize that talking about the remake of a beloved game 20 years later and not expecting spoilers is ... absurd. 

My mistake for delving in here. I should not have read other posts. :(

 

Oh well, let's hope I can manage to stay away from this thread in the future.

 

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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...
On 8/26/2020 at 6:25 PM, Randomizer said:

 

We finally get to see what Serviles look like under the hood.

 

I just deleted something about Serviles being really popular with ... nope, it's a family friendly board...

 

/good to hear that things are progressing along & reasonably on track.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

And now the Geneforge remake page is available on the website and the Steam page is up as well.

Will the remake eventually be getting their own subforum the way the Avrenum remakes did?

Edited by Kennedy
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  • 3 weeks later...

October update

 

The game testing is half over and Jeff plans to finish the world in another month. Plus he's formalized the Pacifist Challenge into a medal achievement. Go through the game without doing a single hostile attack and the game keeps track of that. Plus Jeff is defining what is considered hostile.

 

Just as Jeff mentions secrets being revealed, he's added some new ones. :)

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Honestly, I was kind of hoping to not have the radioactive-vomit-green GUI in the remake. Ah, well.

 

I wasn't sure of it before, but it definitely looks like the remake is going to have the southwestern areas be a lot less green. Not sure how I feel about that. I thought the point was that wasteland was slowly spreading out from

but the southwest of the island was still fairly lush.

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  • 1 month later...

November Update

 

The end is in sight or is that a mirror reflecting the headlights? Now scheduled for February 2021 release. Only 3 more zones to finish the world.

 

"Geneforge 1 - Mutagen is getting very close to done. Five days of work to finish the world. One day for the ending. A day or two more to finish everything we forgot to finish. And then it’s time for the Windows port and pushing the boulder uphill to a February release."

 

Stealth Skill:

 

"We haven’t talked much about ways we’ve changed the game for the remaster. So we want to preview one of the new systems. We’ve been asked a lot about the new Stealth skill and how that will work. We really like how this skill has turned out, and it’s a valuable tool for players who follow routes with less combat.

 

Every enemy has a radius at which it can detect enemies. When you increase your stealth skill, it temporarily reduces this radius by a short distance per point of skill. This delay is temporary. When you see a '?' over an enemy's head, your stealth kept it from noticing you, but the delay won't last forever. Early on, a small amount of stealth will get you past a lot of pests. In advanced areas, evading the defense systems will take much more."

 

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Some interesting things in the stat list. Evasion instead of anatomy, which I suppose makes a lot more sense than parrying kill spells. Essence mastery is a new attribute, which leaves one wondering how it interacts with intelligence. Does it reduce essence costs, perhaps? It would make spellcasting for Shapers a lot easier.

 

Also an actual stat for stealth. Not sure how much of a point it has when running past enemies in combat mode still works. Perhaps he's making it so enemies register you running past them on your turn.

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I'd be surprised if Essence Mastery didn't influence your max Essence, similar to Endurance for Health or Intellect for Energy. I wonder if does anything else, though - maybe it also affects Healing Craft spells since those are in the Shaping Category. Or maybe it passively enhances your creations?

 

Regarding Anatomy - maybe it was rolled into Quick Action? Quick Action's skill point cost appears to be higher than Melee/Ranged this time around (although that's not necessarily indicative of a chance in functionality - a lot of skills seem to have had their costs rebalanced) 

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