Creator's Intent

  • Hello, your second favorite drunk Psyduck here, reporting on a discussion I've had this week.

    Spurred by playing Fire Emblem Heroes, I wanted to play something with more...meat. I looked to my collection and saw Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest, a game I got fairly deep into but never finished. I recalled why I stopped - I got to a battle where no matter what I did, I'd lose one or two essential characters about 30 minutes into the fight. I pounded my head against this one mission for several hours and never made any progress. I decided to give this game another go.

    Instead of continuing where I left off, I started a new file. Staring me in the face was an option - Casual. Fans of the series tout one of the reasons Fire Emblem is special is because permadeath is a thing. I hovered over the option and with eyes closed, I pressed the A button. There was no going back now.

    With a heart full of guilt, I began my playthrough and I discovered... I was having more fun than the first time I played. Why? Because my character missing that 98% chance to strike didn't hurt as bad. Reinforcements suddenly appearing and one-shotting a character with a crit just made me re-think my strategy for that particular battle, not force me to lose progress. I was still playing with strategy, I just wasn't suffering due to bad luck/bad moves.

    In discussing this with my friend that loves the series, she basically told me I shouldn't play this way, death should be permanent. I questioned what happens if a strong/favorite character dies to which the reply was, "well, then I would load the game." To me, that doesn't mean death is permanent, it's just forcing you to play a certain away until it's perfect - which hey, that works for a lot of people but as someone who values my time, I don't really get enjoyment out of it.

    So the question I have for you all is, have you ever purposely played a game outside of the way it should be played? Did you enjoy it? Am I heathen for liking Fire Emblem more this way? Should Bosman use a guide to complete puzzles in The Witness or listen to a podcast while playing Bloodborne? What would you do for a Klondike bar?

  • Play how you wanna play, but creator's intent is neither casual mode or reloading save when someone dies. Permadeath is supposed to balance how strong your army is getting and make your experience different from everyone else playing the same game. You're supposed to get to the end of the game and be challenged, not breeze through cause you have a dozen units more than you should from reloading or coming back after death. Permanent death introduces risk and builds the tension of playing every turn. It makes you strategize and be patient , and when you do lose a unit to your own mistake or bad luck it punches you in the gut yes, but that punch is supposed to spur you on to growing new units to fill the role you lost and winning no matter what odds you're against. War isn't pretty. It's all about acceptable loses.

    Now if you lose 80% of your army in a fight, then yeah it's probably smarter to reload than to go on. These are things you'll have to judge for yourself however. Creator's intent is neither your way or your friend's way. That's just how players who can't deal with loss have started playing the game, and honestly you're robbing yourself of the true Fire Emblem experience by doing this. That said, playing Fire Emblem without a guide and allowing yourself to lose units normally will mean you get less character interaction from the characters you lost and possibly miss out on recruiting certain units at points in the game, so if the entire reason you're playing is for that stuff, just play in the way that enables you to see that content.

  • @Mbun Yeah true, I just meet very few people that don't reload. I played the "correct" way through Awakening and had a good time, Conquest just really ramped up the difficulty in a lot of ways that doesn't always feel fair - that or I just have terrible luck.

  • @SabotageTheTruth The intention of Conquest was specifically to provide a tougher version for series' veterans. As such, I enjoyed it more than Birthright. I agree that you should play how you want to play. My wife never would have played through a Fire Emblem game if not for casual mode. I just like that there is an option for both her and for people like me who appreciate the permadeath.

    Then again, I do love it when a game is so confident in its design that it does not afford you that option. I just started Darkest Dungeon, and I am absolutely in love with the constant autosaving and permadeath. I think this is crucial to the game's vibe to only be harsh and unforgiving. You can't really please everyone, so I can see merit to both sides. It all comes down to what makes you enjoy the game more, and that answer changes from person to person.

  • @Billy Oddly, I really enjoy that about Darkest Dungeon as well. I think it plays in to what @Mbun was saying - Fire Emblem characters have more personality so there's more of an attachment drawn to them. Even if I name a character in Darkest Dungeon after a friend, seeing them perish doesn't really take much out of me - besides thinking how I'm going to fill that slot.

    One inconsistency I'd like to point out with Conquest is this - in Chapter 8, you can fight and bring Flora down to 0 HP, but she just retreats and is recruitable later. So the enemy can retreat but my troops can't? I'll just think of my troops as a little smarter in Casual, knowing when to back out of a battle before death.

    Another thing that I didn't think of until now is the fact the creators of this game put Casual mode into existence so... it must be their intent to have people play it. No sense in making a mode/option if no one uses it.

    I'm really just trying to convince myself of these things so I'm not wracked with guilt.

  • It's doubtful that "casual" was included in the game accidentally, so it must have been part of the intent.

    Generally, I'd say the purpose of a game is for the player to have fun. If you can very easily make the time you spend playing more enjoyable, I don't see the problem.

    I have on occasion used guides for when I get fully and truly stuck. A great example is when I played through the Portal 2 mod "Mel." There was this one testing chamber that I could not figure out, even after several hours. So I had two options: I could stop playing, or I could look up the solution. I looked up the solution, got through the room, and didn't have to use a guide for any of the remaining chambers. Had I stopped playing, I wouldn't have played those remaining chambers, and I enjoyed playing them, so looking up the solution for that one room was totally worth it.

    As for podcasts, it definitely depends on the game. When I would play Minecraft on a friend's server, I would listen to podcasts because it's a slow-paced game that doesn't require a whole lot of attention from me. There have been times I've listened to podcasts while playing TF2, but because TF2 is a faster-paced game, I usually end up missing details from whatever I'm listening to, so I usually stick to music. Again, though, TF2 is a game I'm comfortable with. I certainly wouldn't listen to a podcast, or even music, while playing a story-driven game or one that I've never played before.

    By the way, who would my first favorite drunk Psyduck be?

  • @Doctor-Professor Well, you're a doctor AND a professor, so your word is basically law around here.

    Back in the days where I played FFXIV, podcasts were great for gathering since it was mostly just mindless drone work. I couldn't imagine listening to them during some of the more intense activities though.

    Also, Misty's Psyduck! Who I can only help but emulate.

    alt text

  • You should play in the way that makes you enjoy their product the most.

    The thing with creator's intent is that they intend for you to enjoy yourself, so it's generally a good idea to play the way the creators want you to. By that I mean that in for example Batman Arkham City you can sort of mash your way through combat on Normal difficulty and below, but on Hard and above you have to pay attention and use the various moves and systems the devs implemented to not die. The former is perfectly fine if you're not good at these kind of games and don't want to get frustrated, but some people complained that the combat in the Arkham games is too mashy and mindless, which makes me think it's strange that they play on Normal. I mean the creators inteded for you to use their various systems and moves in combat to make combat fun, but if you don't use them beacuse you feel you "don't need to" and get bored then it makes sense to bump up the difficulty.

    As for Fire Emblem specifically there are a bunch of things I don't like about those games design wise, so I generally don't play them.

  • @suplextrain The Arkham example is a great one. Same thing with the Witcher 3; a lot of folks complained about you being able to brute force your way through fights, but playing on the hardest difficulty forced me to utilize the bestiary and my signs and alchemy more fully, and I enjoyed the combat immensely as a result. Conversely, my wife played through on Casual and without digging into much side content and enjoyed her time that way.

    For Fire Emblem, I don't play on Casual, but I still restart battles if any unit falls. I get emotionally invested, so I'll do everything in my power to save them. However, I enjoy executing a battle with precision, so Classic forces me to not have a sloppy victory. I absolutely agree that the greatest joy for a developer is for someone to enjoy their game, so we should all find a way that maximizes that for us.

  • Banned

    @Billy The use of all your signs in TW3 is essential on the hardest difficulty. If you're not quening, you're not winning.

    You can ignore bombs and potions for the most part tho.

  • Having only recently jumped into the world of Fire Emblem thanks to enjoying Heroes and making a start on Awakenings I share some of your frustrations.

    My current Awakenings playthrough is in Classic mode and it has its Pros and Cons


    • It has really made me care more about the characters I control in combat and think more tactically on the whole
    • It has lead to some truly tense moments
    • Also some funny moments like a female character (and I'm guessing potential love interest for Chrom?) finally stepping up to save the day only to be "killed" in their first turn
    • It is giving me a unique playthrough of the game


    • So many inconsistencies come about through playing in Classic mode!
    • Characters don't die they just fade into the background but for all intents and purposes for the player they are treated as if they have died
    • You get awkward moments where a characters you no longer have control over pop up in key scenes and it is really jarring
    • It can be really frustrating when random chance screws you over
    • Like REALLY frustrating
    • Each reload feels like wasted time to me

    As for reloading I am only really doing it if I lose a lot of characters in a battle, a favourite character is "killed" or if they are new character and I feel I haven't gotten to know them yet. With the exception to all these being that if it is a cool/entertaining death it sticks. Otherwise if someone falls they fall and are never seen again until they jump in a cutscene or conversation....

    Playing Awakenings makes it clear that Classic is not the default intended way to play the game. Casual is.

    Classic is there for people who have been playing the series for decades, those who want an extra challenge or are curious about the traditional permadeath angle to Fire Emblem.

    If I was playing in Casual mode the inconsistencies and lost time wouldn't be a problem for me anymore. However gameplay wise I am enjoying the dynamic and the pros are outweighing the cons so I'm sticking with it.

    I also think the term Casual has a lot of negative connotations but if the two modes were called Normal and Hard would you feel as conflicted?

  • @Doctor-Professor said:

    It's doubtful that "casual" was included in the game accidentally, so it must have been part of the intent.

    It's more a compromise to grow the audience of the game to people who get stressed and turned away by the concept of permadeath. Awakening and Fates made lots of compromises...

    @thenerdtheword said:

    Playing Awakenings makes it clear that Classic is not the default intended way to play the game. Casual is.

    I'd still argue Classic is undoubtedly the default mode, the one the devs would like you to and intend for you to play, the mode the game is balanced around. Hell, it's called Classic. There's nothing wrong with playing Casual Mode if you really can't handle the stress of losing units and would just be resetting every time you lost one anyways though. Heck, I even encourage it if you're resetting for every unit lost already, because spoiler alert: you're secretly already playing Casual Mode.
    no offense

  • I think you are looking too much into this. You should play the way that will make you enjoy the game the most. Even if it means listening to a podcast during bloodborne.

  • Some good responses and examples thrown in here, I'm proud!

    @thenerdtheword, at least in Awakening, you can grind battles out. The downside (or positive, if you're concerned with pacing) with Conquest is you move from one battle to the next, with no filler in between. It really hurts when you lose someone who has been in every mission - it basically feels like you wasted time/exp on them and trying to find someone to fill the gap just snowballs into more deaths. Awakening just feels better overall than anything Fates did though, so I'm glad you're enjoying it!

    @Mbun To quell all these secret casual players, it'd be interesting if Fire Emblem implemented something similar to Ironman mode found in X-Com. No save scumming allowed.

  • @Mbun I'm happy playing the game as I am, resetting when it suites me depending on who died unless something cool/dramatic happens. But you have to at least admit that playing in Classic Mode can screws with the story because you have "dead" characters popping up in cutscenes and story segments.

    @SabotageTheTruth having a proper Ironman Mode in the game would be really interesting

  • @thenerdtheword said in Creator's Intent:

    But you have to at least admit that playing in Classic Mode can screws with the story because you have "dead" characters popping up in cutscenes and story segments.

    I honestly don't know what you're talking about, unless you mean when the story makes you fight a character multiple times and they just somehow get away before you finish them off, which is nothing new to RPGs, usually explained away with a single line of dialogue like "You're strong, but next time I'll win." or such.

  • @Mbun said in Creator's Intent:

    @thenerdtheword said in Creator's Intent:

    But you have to at least admit that playing in Classic Mode can screws with the story because you have "dead" characters popping up in cutscenes and story segments.

    I honestly don't know what you're talking about, unless you mean when the story makes you fight a character multiple times and they just somehow get away before you finish them off, which is nothing new to RPGs, usually explained away with a single line of dialogue like "You're strong, but next time I'll win." or such.

    I've lost characters I've had control of in battle who have then appeared in story segments and cutscenes at further points in the game. I first noticed it happen when I lost Lissa early in the game when I was just getting started. It irritated me enough to make me reload a previous save. Since then it has also happened with a few minor characters a few times.

  • Global Moderator

    Well, I have played games "as I thought they were intended" to be played. I tend to "RP" in games, like in ghost recon: future soldier I was hardcore stealth, sync up every shot and be uber elite. Then as well I guess it depends on the mood of the game as its sometimes are jus tap fun at going bananas.

  • Just thinking of this when I woke up this morning, but a game that handles creator's intent in an interesting way is Undertale.

    Even in the marketing, it's fairly obvious Toby Fox wants everyone to try a pacifist run of the game. After all, an RPG where you don't have to kill anything is still very rare these days. If you happen to completely go against his wishes and try a genocide run, the game changes significantly, almost becoming akin to a horror game. Music becomes slow and distorted, towns are completely empty, and the difficulty becomes immensely easy to the point where you kill everything with one hit - save the bosses, especially him.

    I almost wish other games would alter the experience significantly if you go against intent. Not to the point of punishing you or being unfair, but providing something wholly unique for you.

  • @SabotageTheTruth Yeah, Undertale's Kickstarter tagline was basically a game you could beat without having to kill anything, which it didn't even entirely live up to. Initially Toby Fox seemed to want people to go in blind and act as they naturally would and have the game teach them through trial and error, but as soon as the popularity took off it became apparent that wasn't going to happen, because people would naturally tell each other about it and not to kill things, then it became common knowledge and anytime someone who still didn't know would stream it and kill something a viewer would chime in with the "you're gonna have a bad time" meme. Toby Fox never expected it to be anything but a cult classic, and it taking off in popular kinda killed the magic some, luckily people still seem to be able to enjoy it despite being spoiled to the overall routes of the game.