[PODCAST Episode 277] Video Game RPGs Should Start Borrowing From Tabletop's Creative Renaissance

I’m currently working my way through HW – happen to be roughly in the same spot Austin is although we’ve prioritized different things (I had no idea I had access to a 24 person raid at the beginning of HW, but have done a number of challenge trials), so I super appreciate the circumspect convo about the various expansions!

If you want a clear example on how dull the RPG mechanics in videogames are, look no further than “Cyberpunk 2077”: a videogame that uses levels and tiered items from a P&P RPG that had neither.
Because nothing says “Next Gen Immersive Environment” like using meta game mechanics from '70 D&D and '90 MMORPGS.


Stormblood is a little unappreciated for how much it streamlined the quest and zone progression, particularly compared to Heavensward which had gargantuan maps and quests that would ping pong you back and forth across huge distances. I stopped playing for about 2 years when I got to that point.

Masayoshi Soken also starts to flex his music writing talent in Stormblood. There are few game soundtracks that execute on a leitmotif as well as the Tsukuyomi fight does.

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I think stormblood zone progression has a definite issue though with teleport costs. Any time i go back and do stb stuff i’m burning aetheryte tickets because of how far apart the zones are.

It does have a very odd pacing where you spend 2-3 hours trying to liberate Not Turkey, then take a massive detour to go liberate Japan-China, and then take another detour to unify the native tribes (big oof) of the neighboring country.

(which means paying a ton if you want to teleport between any of those zones)

The Gyr Abania and Doma stories are both really good and thematically tie into one another, but it’s not a very focused expansion compared to Heavensward or Shadowbringers.

Thinking about how FFXIV players rank the expansions, I’m realizing that largely it’s a ranking of how much did the expansion improve the game. If the ranking was just how good is each expansion in a vacuum, then it’d just be newest to oldest as best to worse since all the expansions are pretty damn good and improve on each other.

The best example of this I can give is with Warrior since, I’m a War main through and through. Heavensward gave warrior the DPS stance, which was huge at the time. Shadowbringers got rid of tank stances entirely when they realized that tank stances reducing damage means that you just try to stay in tank stance as little as possible, so tanking feels bad when you’re NOT in your DPS stance. Those are two HUGE changes that made warrior better. Stormblood mostly just gave us new damage moves and defensive cool-downs. Which is great, but not nearly as big of an improvement as the other two expansions.

But if you don’t HAVE that context, if you’re just diving into the game now. I can totally see why people might wonder why Stormblood is considered the worst. Because you don’t have the context, you just have the current gameplay and some good stories.

I’m wondering breakable guns / weapons is not just about the power fantasy needing durability and invincibility, but also something about how America / the West makes more durable things / guns than Eastern Europe, etc.

“Things” vs. just Guns… Breakable clothing… Hmm… Well, if you’re fighting against guns / claws / swords, the reasonable expectation is that your equipment would need repairs?

Maybe because “eastern Europe is full of trash and in rubbles”, as you’ve said, but I’m thinking it’s more because is that American gunmakers just make more durable guns.

Maybe. … Oh, maybe they also have more practice in gunsmithing due to the larger market for the things?

But what you’re positing about western manufacturing is also a myth borne out of ignorance of Eastern Europe engineering. Eastern designs in many ways were far more robust and repairable than the post-war disposable culture of the West. The fact that you’re presuming American guns are “better” betrays a prejudice against the East borne out from decades of American/NATO propaganda.


Ok, yeah. I’m quite ignorant of the gun manufacturing landscape.

“Eastern designs … were” though. Is that still true, or have American guns moved ahead? And which games are using the old more repairable gun models?

Then there’s setting… In a warzone with logistics support, maybe you can get good new guns relatively soon and then just elide over all the replacement, while in the Zone or umm… Somewhere in Africa, good guns are in harder supply… But at least in the latter, still available in infinite supply in shops, apparently…

Then there’s the “realism” factor… So many factors to talk about… And I’m not sure which to focus on and how much I’m just blabbing…

I feel this is also the expected portrayal of all “things” from Eastern Europe and if you look at the franchises portraying Eastern European things as such are the most successful in the west. See metro, stalker, Witcher. What strikes me as very painful is that western audiences get actively angry when a piece of medium moves away from that. See the newest metro. Even Indy stuff seems affected by it. Jalopy is the most popular Eastern European Indy game I know and it’s about a piece of shit car. And just look as Warsaw ,same collapse esthetic.

Robs repeated description of “isn’t it great how all this is such trash” keeps popping up in my brain thinking about it.

I haven’t taken a look at it in a while but even Drew’s first cloth map episode was to Ukraine to gawk how destroyed it all was. Literally Desaster Tourism.

This is all so frustrating.


I feel compelled to pull my veteran card here and say HW was definitely the “growing pains” expansion. All three new jobs were severely underpowered and took basically the whole expansion patch series to get to a decent point. Eureka may have been a grind but at least it was interesting and different. Compare that to Diadem, which was HW’s large scale content analogue.

And Alexander Gordias (Savage) is considered one of the worst raid tiers in the game. There’s a reason for all the howls of anguish when Living Liquid was revealed as the door boss of Alexander Ultimate and it’s not nostalgia.

Again, that’s not to say it wasn’t good. I loved the story and its overall success was a great indicator for the trajectory of the game. But I think the hate for Stormblood is from misremembering what HW launch was like.

I’m well aware of all this, I was around for all of it. What I’m getting at is that growing pains from the game making huge leaps and bounds is looked at more favorably than just smoothing out what’s already there. Heavensward was a bunch of growth, Stormblood was smoothing those rough edges over.

It’s worth stating for anyone who doesn’t know that both Stalker and Metro are series created by Eastern European developers. GSC Game World (Stalker) is based in Kiev, Ukraine, and three veterans of GSC went on to found 4A Games (Metro) also in Kiev, until eventually moving to Malta in 2014.

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There’s a big difference between Eastern European devs making bleak art set in Eastern Europe and American consumers only ever engaging with bleak art set in Eastern Europe.

Americans relate series like Metro and Stalker to Damaged Eastern Europe, but do not talk about games like Tetris as if they are from any particular place.

It’s so ridiculous and weird of us (Americans who enjoy video games) to exoticize DEE while living in a culture and subculture that produce things like The Road, The Walking Dead, and The Last of Us.


How many recent Eastern Europe Video Games are made and in English?

I’m totally gonna steal “DEE” as a setting descriptor. :smiley:

Playing catch-up on the podcasts. The best way to push through the more crummy parts of post-ARR (which is the beginning, in my opinion) is to do the raids. They’re often the peak gameplay parts of a MMO and this is especially true in Final Fantasy XIV. They’re incredibly good. Not only because the stories in them are really good and self contained but because, mechanically, it pushes you really get the most out of your class and to do so while learning and dodging the mechanics of the fight.

I can’t sing the praises of FFXIV’s raids high or long enough. They’re really something special, in my opinion.